Tag Archives: YouCat

Catechesis on the Church

20120201-145310.jpgWhen I was around 17 or 18, I helped out with a youth day in my parish. The theme of the day was the Church and it included catechesis, games and quizzes all related to the Church.

All day I knew something was wrong – and now I can articulate what troubled me then. When the catechists spoke of the Church, they meant simply the ‘human’ element. The young people were encouraged in ‘gift affirmation’ exercises – affirming the personal gifts they brought to the Church; games centred around the different ‘body parts’ of the Church from St Paul’s teaching in 1 Corinthians; the overarching message of the day was that “everyone is special and has something to give”.

A Headless Church
Now I can tell you what was wrong – the Church these young people were being taught about was a Church with every body part imaginable, but with no Head. Very little, if any, mention was made of Christ. Absolutely no mention was made of the divine element of the Church.

This sounds all-too-familiar, doesn’t it? Catechesis that focusses on the human without moving beyond to the divine. Catechesis that is human-centred and more concerned with self-esteem than with what God has revealed about our salvation. What the catechists had forgotten was that what is visible (i.e. the institution and members of the Church) is a sign or sacrament of what is invisible – the divine life Christ wants us to enter into, through the Church.

Now I would suggest the following points are foundational when giving catechesis on the Church:

1. The close bond between the Church, the mystery of Christ and the Paschal Mystery: Christ lays down his life for his Bride, the Church (cf. Lumen Gentium, 5)

This really must be the proclamation of the catechesis – Christ has died for us, and we receive His life in the Church. The YouCat is wonderful for proclaiming the Faith in succinct, expressive statements – “Jesus Christ loves the Church as a bridegroom loves his bride. He binds himself to her forever and gives his life for her” (YC 127).

2. The Church makes visible the light of Christ (cf. LG, 1)

Again, the YouCat has it, “The Church is God’s presence among us men” (121). She is a sacrament of Christ. Just as wherever Jesus went, heaven touched earth, so with the Church she is “a formidable bit of heaven on earth” (123).

What analogies can we use to teach this? The best I can think of is the analogy of the human person – someone’s body (a smile, a frown, an embrace) reveals their soul. We have to get to know someone to ‘read’ the signs of what is inside them, so to speak. It’s the same with the Church – the visible reveals the invisible. As the YouCat puts it,

“True love does not blind a person, but rather makes him see. With regard to the Church, this is precisely the case: Viewed from outside, the Church is only a historical institution with historical achievements … But that is not looking deep enough” (124)

3. The Body of Christ receives grace from its Head, Christ (cf. LG, 7)

Christ is inseparable from His Church. This is hard for young people to grasp – despite the sometimes great sins of her members, Christ has made “an inseparable union” between himself and the Church.

4. “The Church is the place in the world where the Holy Spirit is completely present” (128)

I love this line. The Father and the Son have lavished the Church with all of their Love. We explain to our Confirmation candidates that the Gift of the Spirit is poured out on them so that they will belong completely to Christ, fully part of the Church. And this is why the Spirit is sent.

Welcome to September

I’m enjoying the last few days of freedom before the craziness of September begins. This year I am hoping to focus a lot on adult catechesis, which the Church teaches should be the central form of catechesis (check out the General Directory for Catechesis). I was very touched by this tribute to Fr Alan Fudge who died recently. I never met him or heard him preach, but heard he was a wonderful preacher. What inspired me in this tribute was his dedication to adult catechesis. The need for this is huge. I recently found the following quotation by Tracey Rowland, of the JPII Institute for Marriage and Family in Melbourne, which speaks for itself in summarising the great need for adult catechesis:

“I think that people who leave the Church are not leaving the Church because they are rejecting the teachings of John Paul II or Pope Benedict. Most of them who leave do so because they go to Catholic schools and they think that the kind of warm secular humanism with Christian gloss that they get in Catholic schools is in fact the Catholic faith and it hasn’t captured their imagination, their love or their intellect so they are walking away from something that they do not know. It’s not like a love affair where you reject a person you learnt to know and love. They’ve never been in love with the Church. They’ve never known it.”

Another thing I am looking forward to about this year is using the YouCat. This is such an excellent resource for youth catechesis, and this year our Confirmation programme is based on it. Watch the promo video below…


I am LOVING the new Youth Catechism (or YouCat) and think every Catholic should have a copy. I’ve had my copy for a few weeks now and have been reading it on buses and tubes at every available moment. I even succeeded in getting my 14-year-old brother to sit down and have a read and chat about any topic he chose… unheard of. He was the one who discovered the little somersaulting cartoon characters in the page corners if you flick through – OK, so probably this was the highlight of the YouCat for him but at least he was looking through.

It is wonderfully readable, clear, simple, expressing what we believe in a way that is attractive and luminous and exciting… for those who want to know. What I love about it (and the Catechism for that matter, but it is more obvious in the YouCat) is the subjective, personalist approach: its starting point is human experience – just looking at ourselves, our desires, what makes us happy, what gives us joy – shows how we are made for God.

In fact, this was proved with my typically, only-slightly-interested teenage brother. We read the part about how a human being’s deepest desire is for God. I asked him, “what is it that makes you REALLY happy? When is it that you’re most happy?” My Dad shifted cynically in the corner expecting him to say the Wii and completely disprove the confidence the Church has in human desires. But what did he say? FRIENDS! Being with his friends. Why? Because with friends you’re accepted, you belong, you enjoy the same things (OK so I’m putting words into his mouth). But what he said is revealing… it shows that we are made for love, for communion with others… and therefore, ultimately, for the life of God.

I am really delighted at how the YouCat has presented the Faith and I hope that it will help many young people to understand that they were not created for something joyless and boring, but rather for something that fulfils every desire for love, enjoyment and relationship that is in their heart.