Today, five criteria for forming catechists. Are the criteria themselves inspiring? Or does the formation of catechists itself require inspiration?
237. An adequate conception of the formation of catechists must always take prior note of some of the criteria which inspire and configure with varying emphases relevant to the formation of catechists:
– Firstly, it is a question of forming catechists for the need to evangelize in the present historical context, with its values, challenges and disappointments. To accomplish this task, it is necessary for catechists to have a deep faith, (General Catechetical Directory 114) a clear Christian and ecclesial identity; (Cf. Guide for Catechists 7) as well as a great social sensitivity. (Cf. Guide for Catechists 13) All formation programmes must accommodate these points.
– In formation, account must also be taken of the concept of catechesis, proposed by the Church today. It is a question of forming catechists so as to be able to transmit not only a teaching but also an integral Christian formation, by developing “tasks of initiation, of education, and of teaching”. (General Catechetical Directory 31) Catechists must be able to be, at one and the same time, teachers, educators and witnesses of the faith.
– The present catechetical moment being lived by the Church requires catechists who can “integrate”, who are capable of overcoming “unilateral divergent tendencies” (Catechesi Tradendae 52; cf. Catechesi Tradendae 22) and who are able to provide a full and complete catechesis. They must know how to link the dimension of truth and meaning of the faith, orthodoxy and orthopraxis, ecclesial and social meaning. Formation must contribute to the enrichment of these factors lest tensions arise between them.
– The formation of lay catechists cannot ignore the specific character of the laity in the Church, and cannot be regarded as merely a synthesis of the mission received by priests and religious. Rather, “their apostolic training acquires a special character precisely from the secular nature of the lay state and from its particular type of spirituality”.
– Finally, the pedagogy used in this formation is of fundamental importance. As a general criterion, it is necessary to underline the need for a coherence between the general pedagogy of formation of catechists and the pedagogy proper to the catechetical process. It would be very difficult for the catechist in his activity to improvise a style and a sensibility to which he had not been introduced during his own formation.
These points are all sound, wouldn’t you say? The first may be overlooked–the need for an evangelical approach. Catechists have faith, they have an identity, and many have the social sensitivity mentioned. I don’t know how often this is directed at evangelization. One of the Church’s problems may stem, in part, from the assumption that everybody who sits at a desk, or who inhabits a regular Sunday pew, is already evangelized. That may not be the case.
Criterion number two is pretty basic: live the faith you teach. This leads somewhat into one of the problems we see with criterion number three: the occasional disconnect between orthodoxy and orthopraxis–in other words, people who do not practice what they preach.
The last standard is also important: train catechists in effective methods of communication. It is disappointing to have absorbed the message, but then be unable to transmit it with fruitfulness.