From the Shepherds: Community Life - in the Directory for Catechesis

Authored by Dr. Caroline Farey in Issue #7.4 of The Catechetical Review

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In 2020, the Shepherds of the Church gave us a treasure in the new Directory for Catechesis. Dr. Farey was a member of the working party for the bishops on the new Directory and continues additional reflections on its practical implications from the last issue and will finish in the next issue.

It is an unswerving Catholic conviction that “The Christian community is the origin, locus and goal of catechesis” (DC 133, my emphasis). This phrasing is taken directly from the catechetical directory of 1997 (GDC 254). Other Christians would not claim this so explicitly. They are more likely to say that Christ is the origin, Scripture the locus (the fundamental place for learning and receiving the Word of God for one’s life), and heaven is the goal.

The reason the Catholic Church holds this conviction is, in short, its deep sense of Christus totus. The “whole Christ” is Christ and his Church (CCC 795). Each Christian community, no matter how small, fragile, or weak, is an “historical realization” (GDC 253) of the gift of communion in Christ. This is the work of the Holy Spirit ever since God chose “to dwell in our midst” (cf. Ex 25:8) and the Word “became flesh and dwelt among us” (Jn 1:14).

The origin of catechesis is, of course, Christ—and Christ lives in his Church. Scripture is certainly a fundamental locus—which is guarded intact and communicated by the Church. Heaven is without doubt the ultimate goal of catechesis—and we touch heaven in the sacraments of the Church. The Church, universally and locally, is a mystery of communion where God dwells; a community of real people, enlivened by the Spirit, baptized into Christ, and fed with Jesus’ own Body, Blood, soul and divinity at the Eucharist.

God Chose to “Dwell in Our Midst”

When we consider seriously that God chose to dwell amongst us, to make his home (cf. Jn 6:56) with us, we see more clearly the essential role of Christian communities, “in which Christians are born into the faith, educated in it and live it,” communities such as “the family; parish; Catholic schools; Christian associations and movements; basic ecclesial communities” (GDC 253).

All catechesis needs to connect and reconnect its participants with a Catholic community, especially with a Eucharistic community. Catechesis without this can lose its intrinsic truth that the Word was made flesh and now dwells among us to the end of time, especially in the Eucharist, the priest, and the baptized.

With this community focus, catechizing people in liturgical and other prayers that are prayed and proclaimed together is not an optional extra but the very baptismal birthright of every member of the Body of Christ. This is as essential as teaching personal prayer. What the Directory calls “permanent forms of prayer” (DC 87) are often ancient, and so they unite us with the Body of Christ of the past, especially its saints, as well as the present and the future.

In a Catholic community, catechesis, together with liturgical participation, “educates the believer in the attitudes that the Church’s celebrations require: joy, . . . attentive listening to the word of God, confident prayer, praise and thanksgiving, awareness of symbols and signs” (DC 82). It is also by participation in the Eucharistic community, as in a family, that catechesis can form us in attitudes of Christian charity. It is there, gathered with others, that we hear the Word of Christ and can learn patience with the slow, love for the weak, respect for the poor, kindness toward the lonely, humility and honesty before God, and so forth. In other words, conversion takes place concretely and continually when worshiping in a community united by the Holy Spirit.

When we consider seriously God’s desire to dwell with and amongst his people, we cannot ignore the Christian communities as principal places for finding the Lord. In today’s world, people seek everything via the internet, including God, rather than in a local Church community where he is most truly to be found. Online catechesis in particular needs to be evaluated from this point of view: to what extent does it prepare and encourage its viewers to be part of a Eucharistic community?

When catechesis is truly “biblical and liturgical”[1] it will form its participants for life in the family of the Catholic community. Scripture gives the history of God’s chosen people, which is the ancestry and human family of Jesus, and so of ourselves. The liturgical year is called “the true teacher of the faith” (DC 82) because it forms the worshiping community in the very life of Christ.

Catechesis, then, “has the task of developing the sense of belonging to the Church; teaching the sense of ecclesial communion, promoting the acceptance of the Magisterium, communion with pastors, fraternal dialogue; forming believers in the sense of ecclesial co-responsibility” (DC 89).

Dr. Caroline Farey has been training catechists across the English-speaking world for twenty-five years. She has held several Vatican appointments, including being a member of the working party for the new Directory for Catechesis (2020). She currently runs an online course on “Digital Culture for Catechists” via her website www.theannunciation.org.uk

Note


[1] John Paul II, Fidei Depositum, sec. 1.

This article originally appeared on page 29 in the print edition.


This article is from The Catechetical Review (Online Edition ISSN 2379-6324) and may be copied for catechetical purposes only. It may not be reprinted in another published work without the permission of The Catechetical Review by contacting editor@catechetics.com

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