GDC 261-262: “Associations, movements and groups of the faithful”

What can we say about various associations and movements? Let’s keep in mind this runs the whole gamut: associates of religious orders, associations like the Knights of Columbus, more radical groups like Pax Christi, live-in lay communities, and the like. Pope John Paul II said a lot in his post-synodal apostolic exhortation in 1979:

261. The purpose of the various “associations, movements and groups of the faithful” (Cf. Catechesi Tradendae 70) which develop in a particular Church is to help the disciples of Jesus Christ to fulfil their lay mission in the world and in the Church. In such associations Christians devote themselves to “the practice of piety, the direct apostolate, charity and relief work, or a Christian presence in temporal matters”. (Catechesi Tradendae 70 mentions those associations, movements and groups of faithful in which the catechetical aspects of their formation are attended to but which do not give rise, properly speaking, to environments of chatechizing.) In all of these associations and movements it is always necessary to provide formation of some kind, in order to cultivate the fundamental aspects of the Christian life: “In fact they have the possibility, each with its own method, of offering a formation through a deeply shared experience in the apostolic life as well as having the opportunity to integrate, to make concrete and specific the formation that their members receive from other persons and communities”. (Christifedeles Laici 62) Catechesis is always a basic dimension in the formation of the laity. Usually, these organizations have “special times for catechesis”. (Catechesi Tradendae 67) Such catechesis is not an alternative for Christian formation. Rather it is one of its fundamental aspects.

Note that among confirmed believers, we might be talking more about a “cultivation” of aspects that perhaps are already known, but for whatever reason, are difficult to live out in the world.

262. When catechesis is given in the context of these associations and movements, some important aspects of it must be regarded as fundamental:

a) The “proper nature” (Catechesi Tradendae 47b) of catechesis must be respected by developing the richness of its content through the threefold dimension of word, memory and witness (doctrine, celebration and commitment in life). (Catechesi Tradendae 47b) Catechesis, whatever the “way” in which it is given, is always a basic organic formation in the faith. It must, however, include “a serious study of Christian doctrine”, (Catechesi Tradendae 47. In this text Pope John Paul II speaks of diverse groups of young people: groups of Catholic action, prayer groups, groups for Christian reflection… he asks that in these there should also be a serious study of Christian doctrine. Catechesis should always be considered an essential part in the apostolic life of the laity.) and it must constitute a serious religious formation “open to all the… factors of the Christian life”. (Cf. Catechesi Tradendae 21)

b) This is not an impediment to accomplishing the objectives proper to the various associations and movements—with their own charisms. With different emphases, catechesis must always remain faithful to its own nature. Education in the spirituality proper to a particular movement or association enriches the Church and is a natural continuation of the basic formation received by all Christians. Firstly, it is necessary to educate in what is common to all the members of the Church, before educating in what is particular and diverse.

c) It is necessary to affirm that movements and associations, as far as catechesis is concerned, are not alternatives to the parish since this is the educational community to which reference must be made by catechesis. (Cf. Catechesi Tradendae 67b-c)

The parish is primary, but associations support and enhance by assisting members zero in on aspects particular to their state in life and their apostolate. A Catholic Worker House will focus naturally on social justice. Associates of a religious order on the monastic traditions and the charism of the apostolate. Any thoughts on this, especially if you are a member of such a group? What sort of catechesis are you involved with?

About catholicsensibility

Todd lives in Minnesota, serving a Catholic parish as a lay minister.
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