Our Hearts Were Burning Within Us 67-73: Formation Goals

The US Bishops’ Our Hearts Were Burning Within Us outlined Three Major Goals for Adult Faith Formation in paragraphs 67 through 73. They cite the Vatican corollary to OHWB, Adult Catechesis in the Christian Community. What does the Vatican stress in catechesis as cited by the USCCB? Community life in the parish covering four areas of emphasis: faith, the kerygma, good liturgy, and charity. From here, this US document offers three goals:

  • Invite and Enable Ongoing Conversion to Jesus in Holiness of Life. (68-69)
  • Promote and Support Active Membership in the Christian Community. (70-71)
  • Call and Prepare Adults to Act as Disciples in Mission to the World. (72-73)

Let’s briefly take each of these in turn. Conversion isn’t just a single event, a magic moment of a sacrament. A potential disciple is attracted to Jesus as a person. Yes, this document actually cites “a personal relationship with Jesus (68). From there, a Christian continues in an orientation based on baptism. Not just a water bath and registry into a church’s book, but an ongoing embrace of the process of initiation (69): repenting of sin, seeking Christ in the sacraments, looking to a relationship that will deepen and mature over time. When we join a club, we can pay the dues and keep current with a membership card. Being a Christian offers something more than a place in line for getting married and buried, and bringing children as “legacy” members. The bishops drop the suggestion that “deepening personal prayer” leads us to this, but I think liturgy must certainly be included.

Our goal should not just be a mass of millions of card-carrying members. We need active adults. The bishops mention “members,” but we have to think in larger terms than this unfortunate one. They smartly quote Evangelii Nuntiandi 23:

(Adult Christians) are a community of believers . . . a community which itself is a sign of transformation, a sign of newness of life: it is the Church, the visible sacrament of salvation.

The choice for community must be intentional, not passive (71). The choice must also involve responsibility. We Americans think often of “rights,” as members often receive. A baptized Catholic can get married, have a funeral and burial, and such. Many believers today speak of rights–rights to accountability, ordination, a liturgical rite of choice, good catechesis, wise pastors, and such. This is part of the picture, but it doesn’t mention the believers’ role to have that co-responsibility.

Included in that role is evangelization, to witness to Christ in the world. When lay people take responsibility, and are obviously prayerful disciples making a difference in the world, we will know that adult formation has taken true root.

About catholicsensibility

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