Tag Archives: Pontifical Council for the New Evangelisation

Catechesis and Sacramental Grace

Amid the boxes and moving arrangements this week and last, I have led a couple of sessions at the seminary on catechetics. Do you know what? This is one of my favourite things to do in my work. It is such a privilege to talk with seminarians about catechesis because we all know it is one of the Church’s greatest tasks in the coming decades, and it is great to impassion each other in this task.

Everything I’ve presented in these first two sessions has been rooted in the universal Church’s vision for the New Evangelisation – especially this year, the Year of Faith, with the establishment of the Pontifical Council for the New Evangelisation, the Synod, and everything that the Holy Father has encouraged us in. We have been exploring the catechetical documents’ guidance, but also looking especially at this fabulous new book you are going to get bored at me raving about: Sherry Weddell’s Forming Intentional Disciples. A reader of this blog told me I would absolutely LOVE it and he is absolutely RIGHT. I love it. I’ve been quoting it all over the place. I would love to stick a copy in the post to all my priest and seminarian friends. Maybe that’s exactly what I’ll do once all this Move Stuff is out of the way…

So, last week, we looked at the reality of the new situation which calls for a new evangelisation, in its ardour, methods and expression. We faced up to the fact that the vast majority of Catholics in our parishes are sacramentalised but not evangelised. And we looked at the role of catechesis in this new situation. This week, we talked about moving from an “infant paradigm” to an “adult paradigm” of catechesis in our parishes.

One thing I talk about a lot to our catechists, and have even spoken about at a parents’ meeting, is the levels of a sacrament. The outward sign of the sacrament effects the character of the sacrament, but the grace of that character only flourishes if there is a heart disposed to receive it. (If you want the “theology bit”, the three levels are: the sacramentum tantum, the res et sacramentum, and the res tantum.) This is the point of evangelisation and catechesis – without personal conversion, people are receiving buckets of sacramental grace without it having much effect in their lives. Anyway, I spoke about this – the connection between catechesis and the sacraments – with the seminarians, then, lo and behold, on the train journey home, there it was in chapter 4 of Sherry Weddell’s book. Much more articulately than I have explained here. She even says: “Whenever I have spoken of this possibility [of receiving the character of the sacrament without the grace] in public, any clergy present – even those passionate about evangelisation – seem stunned and bewildered. I have yet to meet a priest or deacon who has told me that this possibility was made explicit during his formation. No wonder we so seldom discuss the possibility that the graces objectively received may not manifest in the lives of individuals and in the midst of our communities.” There you have it. I think I may have found my soul sister.


Maryvale

If you haven’t heard, there’s been some wonderful news for Maryvale this week: Petroc, or “Professor Willey” as the Americans love to call him, has been selected as one of fifteen consulters to the new Pontifical Council for the New Evangelisation 🙂 More details here. If you’ve had anything to do with Maryvale, you will know that their catechetical work is second-to-none in this country – far surpassing the quality of any other formation in catechetics you could receive. The time is long overdue for dioceses and other centres of formation in this country to use Maryvale for formation of their lay people – something which we all know there is an enormous need for, and which Maryvale does so well. Recently I gave a lecture at St Patrick Evangelisation School in Soho, and the students commented that there was “something special” about the teachers they had who had studied at Maryvale.

Speaking of catechetical formation: The Maryvale Certificate in Catechesis, a two-year, distance-learning course, will begin in January in New Malden, a local centre for Maryvale. This course is an excellent formation for catechists in both content and methodology, and is approved by the Sacred Congregation for the Clergy in Rome. All parish catechists would benefit enormously from this course. A lady I know who began it last year in Ealing told me how impactive it has been on her growth in faith and her vocation as a catechist. I am trying to get a little group of our catechists together to begin this course. We already have three this year completing the certificate in RCIA catechesis. If you, or catechists you know, want formation that nourishes the mind and heart, and forms them thoroughly for the mission of catechesis, get in touch with Carol Harnett at Maryvale (mcc@maryvale.ac.uk) to find out about beginning the course in January.