One of the most interesting elements of guidance given by the Church in the General Directory for Catechesis (GDC) is the pedagogical principle of “Fidelity to God and Fidelity to Man.” What is unique about this and also essential for any catechist is the fact that this principle should guide both content and methodology. In fact, St. John Paul II wrote that catechesis must refer to “a law that is fundamental for the whole of the Church’s life: the law of fidelity to God and fidelity to man in a single loving attitude.” As catechists, we must have this “single loving attitude.” We can find inspiration in this from the world of iconography. Many times in the writing of icons, the iconographer will draw the face of the saint with one eye slightly turned upward to God and one eye focused straight ahead. As catechists, like the saints we try to emulate, we look both upward and outward in a two-fold fidelity.
The balance that a catechist must obtain is not between two conflicting motivations. If we look at the hypostatic union, we see that Christ’s divinity does not destroy his humanity nor does his humanity take anything away from his divinity. The two exist united yet distinct. Similarly, catechists must constantly be aware of those who are before them and the mystery they proclaim. We do not catechize in a vacuum but in a specific time, place, and to a particular people. It is the responsibility of catechists to be “heralds of the Gospel who are experts in humanity, who know the depths of the heart of many today, who share in his hopes and joys, his worries and his sadness, and at the same time are contemplatives, in love with God.”
This principle protects and directs the catechist in many ways. The GDC states, “The principle of ‘fidelity to God and fidelity to man’ leads to an avoidance of any opposition or artificial separation or presumed neutrality between method and content. It affirms, rather, their necessary correlation and interaction.” In recent catechetical history, the relationship between content and method has been frequently discussed. Many catechetical textbooks are judged by these two standards and rightly so; but a textbook is not the most important aspect of catechesis. The person of the catechist is that advocate on the part of God to explain and apply what God has revealed and an advocate on the part of the person to help him respond to what he has revealed. In order to better understand our role as catechists, let’s explore each side of the principle of fidelity to God and fidelity to man.