This article explores chapters 5-6 of the Directory for Catechesis.
When we have reached chapters five and six in the Directory we would be forgiven for being tempted to jump nimbly over these two chapters into the details of methodological considerations so amply provided in chapter seven and the focus on different groups to whom we minister in chapter eight. We have already received the Directory’s account of catechetical goals, both ultimate and proximate; we have benefitted from a rich account of the person of the catechist and of the catechist’s formation needs. We know the tasks of catechesis and where to draw from the wells of the Church’s sources for our ministry needs. We have already examined questions of structure and been guided to understand how to use the catechumenal model as a paradigm for all catechesis. The necessary kerygmatic nature of catechesis has been developed at length for us. In short, we are ready to examine questions of application and the practical out-workings for how to fit all of this into our ministerial contexts.
The two chapters we now face stand at the entrance to the discussion of methodology and might seem to us a rather unwieldy and unnecessarily lengthy introduction to that subject. We are in a new part of the Directory, “The Process of Catechesis,” which seems to speak to the level of immediate practicalities, and yet the tone is theological and the themes appear to be picking up those of the opening chapter on the content of Revelation. What function do these two chapters perform within the whole? Are we facing simply a kind of reflective interlude, or is there something more substantial for the work of catechesis being offered here?
Understanding the Process of Catechesis
The best way to approach these chapters is, in the first place, to keep in mind the broader heading of the part within which they are found: “The Process of Catechesis.” These chapters, together with chapter seven on catechetical methodology, describe the process by which all authentic catechesis takes place. They tell us, in other words, what is taking place in catechesis. That “is” contains a hidden “ought,” of course: they describe what takes place in all catechesis that is undertaken according to the mind and heart of the Church.
The second point of importance is to read these two chapters together, as a pair. Chapter five explains what it calls “the pedagogy of the faith” and chapter six illustrates what this pedagogy looks like and provides us with an exemplar in the form of the Catechism of the Catholic Church. In what follows, then, we will treat the two chapters together, unfolding the meaning of the pedagogy of the faith and then seeing how it is manifested for us and made clear in the Catechism. There are three elements in the “process of catechesis” to which the Directory alerts us.