Tag Archives: theological formation

Getting catechesis right

One of the suggestions for the Year of Faith is for dioceses to review the catechetical resources they currently use:

It is hoped that local catechisms and various catechetical supplements in use in the particular Churches would be examined to ensure their complete conformity with the Catechism of the Catholic Church. Should a catechism or supplement be found to be not totally in accord with the Catechism, or should some lacunae be discovered, new ones should be developed, following the example of those Conferences which have already done so.

And:

It would be appropriate for each particular Church to review the reception of Vatican Council II and the Catechism of the Catholic Church in its own life and mission, particularly in the realm of catechesis. This would provide the opportunity for a renewal of commitment on the part of the catechetical offices of the Dioceses which – supported by the Commissions for Catechesis of the Episcopal Conferences – have the duty to care for the theological formation of catechists.

One of the activities students do in the Maryvale Certificate in Catechesis is evaluate some commonly used parish catechetical resources. As I’ve been marking these papers, I’ve been amazed at the heresy in these very common resources: such as this First Communion resource. The problem is, parish priests and catechists see an attractive resource, lots of colouring in, easy for catechists to use, very child-friendly and happily ‘add to cart’ – it ticks all the boxes!

But, when you look more closely, like the Maryvale catechists are being trained to do, there are some serious deficiencies. How, as a catechist, can you identify if the resources your parish uses are catechetically sound?

A helpful list of ten deficiencies found in many catechetical resources was drawn together by the US Bishops at an ad hoc committee to oversee the use of the Catechism, in June 1997.

Placing this list against the First Communion resource identified above makes for some interesting discoveries. This is a resource which might tick all your ‘easy-use’ requirements, but it also successfully ticks many of the ‘spot-the-heresy’ boxes, too:

Here’s just one example:

“Jesus was a good person and spent a lot of his time talking about God.”

Two mistakes in one (insufficient attention to the Trinity and insufficient emphasis on Christ’s divinity): the ten deficiencies list explains these two problems:

“A recognised reluctance to use “Father” for the First Person of the Trinity…There are times where the word ‘God’ is placed in a sentence where one would expect to find ‘Father’ or ‘God the Father'”

“Jesus as Saviour is often overshadowed by Jesus as teacher, model, friend, or brother.”

20120211-221648.jpgMany would say that this reluctance to use the word “Father” in a resource is not going to make too much difference to a seven-year-old. But, I would disagree – a seven-year-old is capable of entering into a living relationship with God who is their Father – not some monolithic being. A young child is also awakening to their own sense of sin, and to their corresponding need for a Saviour. Jesus as “model” simply puts a great moralistic burden on a child, rather than inviting them to know the One who, because He is God, saves them.

I hope many parishes and even dioceses will take the opportunity of the Year of Faith to review what resources are being used in their catechesis, to acknowledge the subtle but real harm they can do, and train their catechists in the use of authentic resources.


The Year of Faith

I am already excited about the Year of Faith. The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith recently published a Note with proposals for living the Year. It is a great Note, with some very concrete suggestions for everyone from the universal Church to episcopal conferences, and from dioceses to parishes. What is significant is the frequent mention of the Catechism of the Catholic Church (woo hoo!), given that the Year of Faith begins on the twentieth anniversary of its promulgation. Catechesis is at the heart of the Year of Faith and the Church in this country is like a dry land when it comes to catechesis… Although for the most part she does not know she is dry.

Faith in Christ brings healing and life - From a Roman catacomb, 3rd Century

So, what gifts does God want to give the Church in this Year of Faith, and how best can we be disposed to receive and respond to them?

There are some more general proposals, such as for each diocese to review its reception of the Catechism of the Catholic Church (and this means both its structure and content) particularly in its catechesis. Two big areas arise here – both the materials we use, in schools and parishes; and the theological formation received by our catechists. Wouldn’t it be a wonderful sign if dioceses took this particular call seriously? Not just ticking a box – but looking at the real need for catechetically sound materials and authentic, theological formation of catechists.

I would love to hear your own ideas for the Year of Faith! Here are two very practical suggestions I have taken from the CDF’s note:

1. It is desirable that each Diocese organise a study day on the Catechism of the Catholic Church, particularly for its priests, consecrated persons and catechists. I hope Dr Petroc Willey will be in high demand in this Year of Faith to teach such days – his knowledge of the Catechism is second-to-none (perhaps to the Holy Father 🙂 ) – he is truly an expert on this book and this doesn’t seem to be recognised enough.

2. The Note calls for groups of the faithful to work towards a deeper understanding of the Catechism of the Catholic Church. Again, Maryvale offers a fantastic Certificate in Studies in the Catechism which would be a superb undertaking for groups of lay people in parishes.

What other ideas do you have? Both within dioceses and within parishes?