7 things I learnt from Catechesi Tradendae by JP2

Pastoral Liturgy 510: Catechesi Tradendae, 
“On Catechesis in Our Time”, October 16, 1979

Catechesi Tradendae is Pope John Paul II’s 1st apostolic exhortation. Here are 7 things I learned from reading this document.

(1) Christocentricity is the heart of all authentic catechesis.

Jesus Christ is at the heart of catechesis. We teach Christ and Christ alone teaches. “The mystery of Christ” is the primary and essential object of catechesis — catechizing is leading a person to study this mystery in all its dimensions.

“The definitive aim of catechesis is to put people not only in touch but in communion, in intimacy, with Jesus Christ: only He can lead us to the love of the Father in the Spirit and make us share in the life of the Holy Trinity” (5).

“Only in deep communion with Him will catechists find light and strength for an authentic, desirable renewal of catechesis” (9).

(2) Catechesis is the Church’s sacred duty and inalienable right.

Catechesis is a responsibility — differentiated but shared — of the whole Church. 

“From infancy until the threshold of maturity, catechesis is thus a permanent school of the faith and follows the major stages of life, like a beacon lighting the path of the child, the adolescent and the young person” (39).

From bishops (who have the primary responsibility) to parish communities (who are the prime movers and pre-eminent places for catechesis) to families (the church of the home), we all have a shared duty in this task of catechesis.

“The parish remains, as I have said, the pre-eminent place for catechesis. It must rediscover its vocation, which is to be a fraternal and welcoming family home, where those who have been baptized and confirmed become aware of forming the People of God” (67).

“Family catechesis therefore precedes, accompanies and enriches all other forms of catechesis… “the church of the home”(120) remains the one place where children and young people can receive an authentic catechesis” (68).

(3) Catechesis and evangelization integrate & complement each other.

19. The specific character of catechesis, as distinct from the initial conversion – bringing proclamation of the Gospel, has the twofold objective of maturing the initial faith and of educating the true disciple of Christ by means of a deeper and more systematic knowledge of the person and the message of our Lord Jesus Christ.

In catechesis, we must have the awareness that the initial evangelization has not taken place yet. Therefore, catechesis must have a role in opening the hearts of those present to the workings of grace.

Catechesis is the teaching & maturation stage within the whole process of evangelization (20). 

25. Thus through catechesis the Gospel kerygma (the initial ardent proclamation by which a person is one day overwhelmed and brought to the decision to entrust himself to Jesus Christ by faith) is gradually deepened, developed in its implicit consequences, explained in language that includes an appeal to reason, and channelled towards Christian practice in the Church and the world.

26. The content of catechesis is the content of evangelization as a whole.

(4) Catechesis is intrinsically linked with the whole of liturgical and sacramental activity.

“Sacramental life is impoverished and very soon turns into hollow ritualism if it is not based on serious knowledge of the meaning of the sacraments, and catechesis becomes intellectualized if it fails to come alive in the sacramental practice” (23).

(5) What exactly is catechesis?

“Catechesis is an education of children, young people and adults in the faith, which includes especially the teaching of Christian doctrine imparted, generally speaking, in an organic and systematic way, with a view to initiating the hearers into the fullness of Christian life” (18).

(6) Catechesis must train missionary disciples

56. In this world catechesis should help Christians to be, for their own joy and the service of all, “light” and “salt.”

61. The most valuable gift that the Church can offer to the bewildered and restless world of our time is to form within it Christians who are confirmed in what is essential and who are humbly joyful in their faith. Catechesis will teach this to them, and it will itself be the first to benefit from it.

(7) “The Holy Spirit is the principle inspiring all catechetical work” (72)

We must be instruments of the Holy Spirit.

To invoke this Spirit constantly, to be in communion with Him, to endeavor to know His authentic inspirations must be the attitude of the teaching Church and of every catechist” (72).

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