Posts tagged catechesi tradendae
From Catechesi Tradendae, 49
Therefore, it is not enough to multiply catechetical works. In order that these works may correspond with their aim, several conditions are essential:
a) they must be linked with the real life of the generation to which they are addressed, showing close acquaintance with its anxieties and questionings, struggles and hopes;
b) they must try to speak a language comprehensible to the generation in question;
c) they must make a point of giving the whole message of Christ and His Church, without neglecting or distorting anything, and in expounding it they will follow a line and structure that highlights what is essential;
d) they must really aim to give to those who use them a better knowledge of the mysteries of Christ, aimed at true conversion and a life more in conformity with God’s will.
*A Reflection Essay on this article has been posted in our Members Section. Email us at email@example.com to learn more about Membership with Catechetical Foundations.
“One moment that is often decisive is the one at which the very young child receives the first elements of catechesis from its parents and the family surroundings.” – CT 36
Our reflection piece this week covers just a half page in Catechesi Tradendae, an article of the exhortation assigned to the catechesis of infants. Yes, infancy is a decisive moment of catechesis. Yes, it is here that the foundation for life is prepared and laid down.
Catechesis begins in the womb and it is eternally important that we remember this. Even in the womb the child’s heart and senses are active. The child can certainly hear and we know from the John the Baptist that the heart is active, as we know when he leaped in his mother’s womb when the presence of our Lord came upon him.
The infant stage runs from birth to the age of reason. Everything the little child senses serves as the ‘ships point of departure from port.’ Consequently, the direction we point our children certainly has a role in the entire life of our children. What do I mean by this? There is a phrase that states something to the effect of, “everything that enters through the senses sticks like wax and then is retained like marble.” Everything that enters into the infant’s presence, whether it is environment, sounds, visuals, or the general culture of the home, has a direct effect on the child’s foundational understanding of life. We all know these little ones take in and notice everything.
Should we then shelter our little child from the world? I respond, “What do you mean by shelter them?” Many good people ask this question as a reaction to, “that crazy group of homeschoolers in our parish,” or, “that annoying group of parents in the school.” Think about the question though; it certainly implies there is something insane about the way of the world. Some hold that we ought to shelter our kids from it, others suggest we need to let them experience it so that they are not shocked later on. To the latter point, this is rather insane itself (and it is common position, one I hear all the time) because it is suggesting that we allow our children to enter into temptation. Yet, you can never achieve the former position because we all live in the world and it’s exposure is everywhere, but the influence can be steered around. Parents must impart upon their children the faith, in all aspects; not sentiments, not impressions, but the life of Christ.
“I cannot insist too strongly on this early initiation by Christian parents in which the child’s faculties are integrated into a living relationship with God” – CT 36
Russell Kirk wrote in, Redeeming the Time, that you can judge the culture of a society by the way it spends its Sundays. First and foremost we catechize our infants by living the life of Christ through the Church. This begins on Sunday. With this, I simply offer a number of reflection questions, which should be self-evident.
· Where is my heart on Sunday? The NFL or Mass?
· Is Sunday about no work, or about worship? Where’s my heart here?
· Do I live for the boat on Sunday, or for Mass at the parish? What’s my focus?
· Do I get all my shopping done on Sunday because there is not time during the rest of the week?
· Do the kids sit in front of the TV all day and catch up on homework? Does the family eat together, go to Mass together, go for a walk together, or enjoy company with friends from our parish?
· Moving on to the Feast Days: Do we celebrate feast days? Do we go to Confession, especially as a Family? Is it Happy Holidays or Merry Christmas? Do we live by the letter trying to get away with as much as possible, or allow the letter of the law to draw our hearts into deeper communion with our Lord in the Holy Spirit?
Infants pick up on all of this, and more. There are many other avenues to take here, but that would go beyond our purpose of short reflections on this exhortation.
“It is useless to play off orthopraxis against orthodoxy: Christianity is inseparably both. Firm and well-thought-out convictions lead to courageous and upright action…” CT, 22
There are varying human methods of transmitting the faith to our audiences. In the broad sense there are two ways of beginning our catechesis. The first is to begin with eternal truth and examine the reality of said truth impacting our daily lives. The second way of beginning is to start with human experience and move up toward eternal truths. Both ways work if executed correctly. The latter; however, is more open to error, which we have witnessed in the past two generations now.
There is a funny parody film by a Catholic group that illustrates this point. In the short clip a proud uncle asks his nephew, who the uncle sponsored for Confirmation, what he learned through 12 years of Catholic education and the boy answers, “Jesus was nice, we should be nice too.” Another uncle is outraged by this answer and provides a short rant about memorizing the Baltimore Catechism word for word, punctuation for punctuation. The first uncle replies with, “with or without understanding it?” to which the to second uncle frustratingly finishes with, “what difference does it make?”
Both are in error. The latter is correct in that we must know the truth. This is imperative for the simple fact that we cannot love what we do not know. The former emphasis is on living the faith only without any difference to what that truth is. It had been simmered down to being nice. We need to both know, with precision, the truth so that we can more properly live it in fullness.
If the goal of a Catholic life is to be a good person everyday by being nice, kind, feeding the hungry, and not lying or gossiping, then there is something missing. But, isn’t this what we hear so often? Do we simplifyy the faith so much that we only make mention of some external fruits of faith? If this is so, then it does not matter was religion you are. All religions are similar in how it is practiced externally. But settling for this outcome of Catholic catechesis is the error of pragmatism, using what only appears useful for daily surviving.
The difference the Catholic Church makes is her philosophy of life, her passing on of the truth of history, redemption, salvation, and participation in the life of the Trinity. If we don’t know this, as much as possible, and spend proper time in prayer and Sacramental participation, then our daily living will be void of the extraordinary, empty of the supernatural. The truth of God, Revelation, “is not however isolated from life or artificially juxtaposed to it. It is concerned with the ultimate meaning of life with the light of the Gospel, to inspire it or to question it (CT 22).”
“In the first place, it is intended to stress that at the heart of catechesis we find, in essence, a Person, the Person of Jesus of Nazareth” – CT, 5
Catechesis Tradendae in paragraph 5, immediately after the introduction, states the very object of our catechesis; and it is not that our children know their Catholic facts so they can be Confirmed or pass their Religion class tests so they can go to Notre Dame and be successful people in the world. The emphasis is different and more foundational; it is to put people in “communion, in intimacy, with Jesus Christ (CT, 5).”
To understand the faith with the intellect and to make decisions in line with the teaching of Jesus Christ we need to first be brought to the live of Jesus. This, we know, is first and primarily the grace of Baptism and strengthened by the other Sacraments, most especially the Eucharist.
John 14:6, echoed by CT, 5 states, “It is Jesus who is ‘the way, and the truth, and the life.” To merely understand facts about Jesus is to have an educated intellect, but to be placed in and to grow in communion and intimacy with Jesus is to have a life in and of truth. To know about Jesus will inform the will to make good decisions, but to be in a sanctifying relationship with Christ gives reason to the hope that is within you (Cf. 1 Peter 3:15). To know about Jesus will assist you in loving and being loved to a high pagan degree, but to rest upon the breast of our Lord will transform you to love in a sacrificial manner that only death and the glorified body will be fitting to contain such a love.
Nemo date quod non habet. You can’t give what do not have. The catechist must know Jesus, love Jesus, and be in communion with Jesus. Only Jesus can, “lead us to love of the Father in the Spirit and make us share in the life of the Holy Trinity (CT, 5).” In the Church’s Liturgy, the veil between heaven and earth is lifted and our Lord comes down to us, accommodating himself to us so that we can live in communion with him. Catechists must live and breathe with the Liturgical life of the Church so that he can impart that to their audience. Is this not the task of the Church?
In life you can only give what you already have; or have stolen. Do not steal your catechetical content. What do I mean by that? When a catechist does not strive for holiness or is not living a prayerful-liturgical life, he is stealing his content. He is robbing his content from our Lord by echoing on the perennial truth through himself, and empty vessel, to his audience. To truthfully hand on the faith, you must first possess the faith. Just as in Baptism, our candle was lit from the Paschal Candle of holy Mother Church, let us continue today to live in the light of Christ, continuing to keep the light lit from the font of grace, the Liturgy of the Church.
When catechizing youngsters or adults and you are going to use sacred art, an advent wreath, candles, or pass out any ‘take home’ item, please consider this…
Give them something REAL, not fake or artificial. If you are going to use a candle, then use a real candle. Why? Because a fake (battery powered) candle does not properly signify the reality of our prayers going ‘up’ to our Lord. How can it? There is no smoke.
If you are going to use an Advent Wreath, make a real one with real candles. The significance of something being real and fully what it appears to be makes a great difference on the individual whether we notice this right away or not. Over time, if artificial ‘props’ are used our audience will begin to lose a sense of the necessity of signs and the reality they signify.
Now, sacred art can be really expensive. Print a good piece of art on glossy paper and put in the nicest (not plastic) frame possible to give glory to God. No gold frames laying around? Right! Use gold painted wood or a beautifully made (handcrafted is best) hardwood frame if it fits the image.
Statues – simply put, don’t give out cheap art that lacks in any detail. Same with holy medals and holy cards. Pass out ‘take home’ items that have a sense of permanence about them and not a sense that I can just dispose of this and get a new one.
This will aid us in preparing “slow, simple, humble, and precise” catechesis. It forces us to avoid the habit of just imparting information, but to remember that we are in the work of putting the whole person into intimacy and communion with Jesus Christ, the love that never ends! (CT 5, CCC 25)