Get with the program:
281. Following close study of the situation, it becomes necessary to proceed to the formulation of a programme of action. This will determine the objectives, the means of pastoral catechesis and the norms governing it with reference to local needs and be in complete harmony with the objectives and norms of the universal Church. The programme or plan of action should be effective since its purpose is to orientate diocesan or inter-diocesan catechesis. Because of its nature, it is usually drawn up for a specific period, at the end of which it is revised, taking into account new emphases, objectives and means. Experience confirms the usefulness of such a programme of action for catechesis. By defining certain common objectives it encourages various interests to work together with a common purpose. Thus realism should be the first characteristic of a programme of action, then simplicity, conciseness and clarity.
282. Together with the programme of action—focused above all on workable options—many Episcopates prepare, at national level, catechetical materials of a orientational or reflective nature which provide criteria for an adequate and appropriate catechesis. These instruments are called by various names: Catechetical Directory, Catechetical Guidelines, Basic Document, Reference Text, etc. These are mainly addressed to those responsible for catechesis and to catechists. They clarify the concept of catechesis: its nature, object, tasks, contents, method and those to whom it is addressed. These directories or general guidelines prepared by Episcopal Conferences or published with their authority are obliged to follow the same process of elaboration and approval as catechisms. That is, such documents, before their publication, must be submitted to the Apostolic See for its approbation. (Cf. General Catechetical Directory 117 and 134; Pastor Bonus 94) These catechetical guidelines are a source of great inspiration for catechesis in the local Churches and their elaboration is useful and recommended, because, amongst other things, they are an important point of reference for the formation of catechists. This kind of aid is closely and directly related to episcopal responsibility.
The national catechetical directory (US) is here.
Bishop Leonard Blair has a brief commentary on the national directory. He zeroes in on a concept I think appropriate for Catholics of today: discerning God’s action in our lives, and where to go from there. An illustrative excerpt:
When I was prepared for Confirmation in 1960, I was taught by memorization the appropriate doctrines regarding God the Holy Spirit and the Sacrament. It was assumed that my classmates and I would try to live a good and holy life as a result, and would participate in the life of the Church and be witnesses to Christ in our close-knit Catholic world. However, all this was presented in very formal language and remained largely abstract. Today, on the other hand, when I ask Confirmation candidates what this sacrament is, they most often reply with a list of all the good things they are doing to show their commitment to their faith. This is a very positive development that was not part of my sacramental preparation. However, I find that today’s candidates often have a hard time expressing how this Sacrament is God’s work, not theirs, or speaking about some of the doctrines concerning Confirmation and the Holy Spirit that are found in the Catechism. Two eras of religious instruction are reflected here, and they need not be an “either/or,” but a “both /and.” As we shall see a little later on, the most recent catechetical directives envision an all-important balance.
That balance is a key aspect that’s not limited to Confirmation. Engaged couples focus on their love. Penitents on their sins. Those anointed on their sickness. I wonder if believers don’t focus on themselves and their surrounding world because it is what they know. Discerning God’s work–that’s another issue. I suspect that believers lack formation in discerning God’s presence. I think we “know” Christ is present in the Eucharist. I think that emphasis may be leaned on so strongly that people expect to find God in church–which they can and do. But they don’t always find God in the world.
If people aren’t coming to “adult ed,” and our efforts with children and youth are “tied to a curriculum,” then what do we do? If a parish priest thought that discerning God’s action (to give one possible example) was a weakness, what prevents a preacher from weaving a thread through multiple homilies over the course of months or a liturgical year?
I confess my unfamiliarity with the national directory. I’m not a “professional catechist,” so I’ve never had reason to read or study that document. For any of you reader who have, what are its main thrusts? What initiatives are needed today to get us on Bishop Blair’s “both/and” track?