How to DO Catechesis
The General Directory for Catechesis states in paragraph 59 that “the model for all catechesis is the baptismal catechumenate. This catechumenal formation should inspire the other forms of catechesis in both their objectives and in their dynamism”.
Unpacking the implications of this statement needs study of the process for Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA) to discover its essential components which are to be incorporated into all Catechesis, no matter the age level. These are to be incorporated using methods appropriate to each age levels?
In a nutshell, the essential components of the catechumenate include:
Conversion: The aim of catechesis is bringing people into intimate relationship with Christ.
(General Directory for Catechesis par. 80 )
At the heart of the catechumenate is CONVERSION to Jesus Christ and the Gospel way of life. The catechist needs to be aware of leading participants not only to knowledge of doctrine, but to a personal response in love, to the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Developing a person’s spirituality is essential. It is growing in a relationship with God and the Christian community and this takes time and cannot happen in six sessions of instruction. It is a life-long journey, which has more intense moments along the way.
Living the Liturgical cycle. Those being catechized are to be made aware of and brought to participate in the liturgical life of the church, following the life of Christ as lived in the Church’s liturgical year. Catechetical sessions are to include a focus on the particular liturgical season through the prayer, the colour of cloth on the prayer table, the practices of the faith community in that season. Linking catechesis to the Liturgy highlights this aspect of catechumenate model by letting Sunday Gospel serve as the starting point for areas of instruction that follow during the week.
Community: Catechesis is also the process of incorporating a person into a Faith community. For this reason a primary concern is to involve and guide parents so that they participate in their child’s faith development. Other relationships with the believing community develop as sponsors, mentors and of course the catechists share about and bear witness to their faith and role in the community, especially their outreach to those who do not yet believe.
Consequently it takes an active and caring community to form new members in faith and to nourish their growth in knowledge and friendship with God through Jesus. In short, the role of the parish faith-community is essential.
Liturgical rites mark steps along the way of the faith journey. Those who have experienced the RCIA are familiar with this. Among these rites is the presentation of children and youth preparing for sacraments of initiation to the parish faith community. This should be done even if it is an assembly of children, so that those preparing to receive the sacraments know they are being prayed for and supported, and a made to feel they are being incorporated into a caring community of faith.
Prayer rituals and blessings help the child or adult to know that communal prayer as well as private prayer is essential to belonging to a community of faith.
Mystagogy. Following the RCIA model means including opportunities for reflection, pondering, (wondering for young children), guiding questions for integrating learning, especially following the reception of a sacrament or experiencing a liturgical rite in the midst of the faith community. Reflection on the meaning of scripture passages needs this kind of reflection.
Incorporate the six tasks of catechesis in a comprehensive and systematic way:
- Promote knowledge of the faith
- Liturgical Education
- Moral Formation
- Teaching to pray
- Educate for community life
- Equip for mission
(Gen Dir for Catechesis par 85-86)
A catechumenal model of catechesis is an apprenticeship to living the Christian way of life.
(Gen Dir for Catechesis par 67)
This is what catechesis is about today, whether it is catechising adults or children, especially for initiation into the faith as is the catechesis of children until they are confirmed.