This article explores chapters 9-10 of the Directory for Catechesis.
Chapters nine and ten usher in Part III, the last of the main sections of the Directory for Catechesis, entitled “Catechesis in the Particular Churches.” This refers to the implementation of catechesis in (arch)dioceses and other ecclesial institutions, how catechesis is carried out in various cultural contexts, as well as some of the specific challenges in doing so.
The Christian Community as Participant in Catechesis
Chapter nine emphasizes that “the whole Christian community is responsible for catechesis, even if only some receive from the bishop the mandate of being catechists” (DC 296). This responsibility concerns everyone, since all the members of the People of God are missionary disciples. “All the baptized, whatever their position in the Church or their level of instruction in the faith, are agents of evangelization, and it would be insufficient to envisage a plan . . . to be carried out by professionals while the rest of the faithful would simply be passive recipients”(DC 288). But how is this to come about? Witness to the truth of faith is itself an expression of evangelization and catechesis. Nevertheless, all are not responsible in the same way. “The responsibility is differentiated in the gifts of charisms and ministries, which are both co-essential for the Church’s life and mission. Everyone contributes according to his state of life and the grace he has received from Christ“ (DC 288, emphasis in the original). The Eastern Churches also remind us that “catechesis cannot be separated from liturgy, since the former takes inspiration from the latter, as the mystery of Christ celebrated” (DC 291).
The Parish and Local Community
Although the Directory refers to the (arch)diocese as the particular Church, the place where the “proclamation, transmission and lived experience of the Gospel are realized” (DC 293), the parish is the microcosm of the universal Church. It is where individuals are brought into contact with “the means of salvation, principally, the Word of God, Baptism, and the Eucharist” (DC 298). We are reminded, however, that the parish “is not limited to maintaining the status quo or guaranteeing the administration of the sacraments, but presses forward in the direction of evangelization“ (DC 300). It is precisely for this reason that parishes are to rethink their activities so they are more aligned with missionary conversion, to which all parishes are called. With regard to catechesis, the Directory gives three ways to do this (DC 303):
- All members of the parish are not perfect practitioners or subject experts, but by virtue of their baptism, they should embrace their Christian vocation and are to understand and carry out their lives as members of a community of missionary disciples. Even in the weakness of its members and in the paucity of its resources, the parish community is the first and natural proclamation of the faith.
- Create a missionary mentality in catechesis that helps to illuminate the life experiences of people in the light of the Gospel. This is done through a type of decentralization, both mental and physical, so that the joy of communicating Christ can spread to areas in greater need and to the outskirts of its own territory or settings.
- Formative offerings inspired by the catechumenate, especially for young people and adults, are to be designed to harmonize with other pastoral activities. This allows them to accept and explore the kerygma, the first proclamation, which they may have never done before.
Associations, movements, and other groups of the faithful can also participate in catechesis, so long as they cooperate with the local Church, fully develop all aspects of catechesis according to the sensibility of their particular charism, and communicate with the parishes who would support their work. Associations often engage people beyond parish boundaries.
Catholic schools are also communities of faith because their proper function is “to create a special atmosphere animated by the Gospel spirit . . . and finally to order the whole of human culture to the news of salvation so that the knowledge students gradually acquire of the world, life and man is illumined by faith“ (DC 309). The Directory also stresses that, “as a discipline, it is necessary that the teaching of the Catholic religion present the same demand for and rigor and for being systematic as the other disciplines, since in this area in particular improvisation is harmful and is to be rejected“ (DC 315).