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Catechesi Tradendae

by Catherine Frakas 17 Mar 2021

Catechesi Tradendae Apostolic Exhortation John Paul II on Catechesis in Our Time October 16, 1979 Introduction I II III IV V VI VII VIII IX Conclusion Introduction Christ's Final Command 1. The Church has always considered catechesis one of her primary tasks, for, before Christ ascended to His Father after His resurrection, He gave the apostles a final command-to make disciples of all nations and to teach them to observe all that He had commanded.(1) He thus entrusted them with the mission and power to proclaim to humanity what they had heard, what they had seen with their eyes, what they had looked upon and touched with their hands, concerning the Word of Life.(2) He also entrusted them with the mission and power to explain with authority what He had taught them, His words and actions, His signs and commandments. And He gave them the Spirit to fulfill this mission. Very soon the name of catechesis was given to the whole of the efforts within the Church to make disciples, to help people to believe that Jesus is the Son of God, so that believing they might have life in His name,(3) and to educate and instruct them in this life and thus build up the Body of Christ. The Church has not ceased to devote her energy to this task. Paul VI's Solicitude 2. The most recent Popes gave catechesis a place of eminence in their pastoral solicitude. Through his gestures, his preaching, his authoritative interpretation of the Second Vatican Council (considered by him the great catechism of modern times), and through the whole of his life, my venerated predecessor Paul VI served the Church's catechesis in a particularly exemplary fashion. On March 18, 1971, he approved the General Catechetical Directory prepared by the Sacred Congregation for the Clergy, a directory that is still the basic document for encouraging and guiding catechetical renewal throughout the Church. He set up the International Council for Catechesis in 1975. He defined in masterly fashion the role and significance of catechesis in the life and mission of the Church when he addressed the participants in the first International Catechetical Congress on September 25, 1971,(4) and he returned explicitly to the subject in his Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Nuntiandi(5). He decided that catechesis, especially that meant for children and young people, should be the theme of the fourth general assembly of the synod of Bishops,(6) which was held in October 1977 and which I myself had the joy of taking part in. A Fruitful Synod 3. At the end of that synod the fathers presented the Pope with a very rich documentation, consisting of the various interventions during the assembly, the conclusions of the working groups, the message that they had with his consent sent to the People of God,(7) and especially the imposing list of propositions in which they expressed their views on a very large number of aspects of present-day catechesis. The Synod worked in an exceptional atmosphere of thanksgiving and hope. It saw in catechetical renewal a precious gift from the Holy Spirit to the Church of today, a gift to which the Christian communities at all levels throughout the world are responding with a generosity and inventive dedication that win admiration. The requisite discernment could then be brought to bear on a reality that is very much alive and it could benefit from great openness among the People of God to the grace of the Lord and the directives of the magisterium. Purpose of This Exhortation 4. It is in the same climate of faith and hope that I am today addressing this apostolic exhortation to you, venerable brothers and dear sons and daughters. The theme is extremely vast and the exhortation will keep to only a few of the most topical and decisive aspects of it, as an affirmation of the happy results of the synod. In essence, the exhortation takes up again the reflections that were prepared by Pope Paul VI, making abundant use of the documents left by the synod. Pope John Paul I, whose zeal and gifts as a catechist amazed us all, had taken them in hand and was preparing to publish them when he was suddenly called to God. To all of us he gave an example of catechesis at once popular and concentrated on the essential, one made up of simple words and actions that were able to touch the heart. I am therefore taking up the inheritance of these two Popes in response to the request which was expressly formulated by the Bishops at the end of the fourth general assembly of the synod and which was welcomed by Pope Paul VI in his closing speech.(8) I am also doing so in order to fulfill one of the chief duties of my apostolic charge. Catechesis has always been a central care in my ministry as a priest and as a Bishop. I ardently desire that this apostolic exhortation to the whole Church should strengthen the solidity of the faith and of Christian living, should give fresh vigor to the initiatives in hand, should stimulate creativity–with the required vigilance–and should help to spread among the communities the joy of bringing the mystery of Christ to the world. I. We Have But One Teacher, Jesus, Christ Putting Into Communion With the Person of Christ 5. The fourth general assembly of the synod of Bishops often stressed the Christocentricity of all authentic catechesis. We can here use the word Christocentricity in both its meanings, which are not opposed to each other or mutually exclusive, but each of which rather demands and completes the other. 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, the only Son from the Father...full of grace and truth,(9) who suffered and died for us and who now, after rising, is living with us forever. It is Jesus who is the way, and the truth, and the life,(10) and Christian living consists in following Christ, the sequela Christi The primary and essential object of catechesis is, to use an expression dear to St. Paul and also to contemporary theology, the mystery of Christ. Catechizing is in a way to lead a person to study this mystery in all its dimensions: to make all men see what is the plan of the mystery...comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth ...know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge...(and be filled) with all the fullness of God.(11) It is therefore to reveal in the Person of Christ the whole of God's eternal design reaching fulfillment in that Person. It is to seek to understand the meaning of Christ's actions and words and of the signs worked by Him, for they simultaneously hide and reveal His mystery. Accordingly, the definitive aim of catechesis is to put people not only in touch but in communion, in intimacy, with Jesus Christ: only He can lead us to the love of the Father in the Spirit and make us share in the life of the Holy Trinity. Transmitting Christ's Teaching 6. Christocentricity in catechesis also means the intention to transmit not one's own teaching or that of some other master, but the teaching of Jesus Christ, the Truth that He communicates or, to put it more precisely, the Truth that He is.(12) We must therefore say that in catechesis it is Christ, the Incarnate Word and Son of God, who is taught-everything else is taught with reference to Him–and it is Christ alone who teaches–anyone else teaches to the extent that he is Christ's spokesman, enabling Christ to teach with his lips. Whatever be the level of his responsibility in the Church, every catechist must constantly endeavor to transmit by his teaching and behavior the teaching and life of Jesus. He will not seek to keep directed towards himself and his personal opinions and attitudes the attention and the consent of the mind and heart of the person he is catechizing. Above all, he will not try to inculcate his personal opinions and options as if they expressed Christ's teaching and the lessons of His life. Every catechist should be able to apply to himself the mysterious words of Jesus: My teaching is not mine, but his who sent me.(13) St. Paul did this when he was dealing with a question of prime importance: I received from the Lord what I also delivered to you.(14) What assiduous study of the word of God transmitted by the Church's magisterium, what profound familiarity with Christ and with the Father, what a spirit of prayer, what detachment from self must a catechist have in order that he can say: My teaching is not mine! Christ the Teacher 7. This teaching is not a body of abstract truths. It is the communication of the living mystery of God. The Person teaching it in the Gospel is altogether superior in excellence to the masters in Israel, and the nature of His doctrine surpasses theirs in every way because of the unique link between what He says, what He does and what He is. Nevertheless, the Gospels clearly relate occasions when Jesus taught. Jesus began to do and teach(15)–with these two verbs, placed at the beginning of the book of the Acts, St. Luke links and at the same time distinguishes two poles in Christ's mission. Jesus taught. It is the witness that He gives of Himself: Day after day I sat in the temple teaching.(16) It is the admiring observation of the evangelists, surprised to see Him teaching everywhere and at all times, teaching in a manner and with an authority previously unknown: Crowds gathered to him again; and again, as his custom was, he taught them(17); and they were astonished at his teaching, for he taught them as one who had authority.(18) It is also what His enemies note for the purpose of drawing from it grounds for accusation and condemnation: He stirs up the people, teaching throughout all Judaea, from Galilee even to this place.(19) The One Teacher 8. One who teaches in this way has a unique title to the name of Teacher. Throughout the New Testament, especially in the Gospels, how many times is He given this title of Teacher!(20) Of course the Twelve, the other disciples, and the crowds of listeners call Him Teacher in tones of admiration, trust and tenderness.(21) Even the Pharisees and the Sadducees, the doctors of the law, and the Jews in general do not refuse Him the title: Teacher, we wish to see a sign from you(22); Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?(23) But above all, Jesus Himself at particularly solemn and highly significant moments calls Himself Teacher: You call me teacher and Lord; and you are right, for so I am(24); and He proclaims the singularity, the uniqueness of His character as teacher: You have one teacher,(25) the Christ. One can understand why people of every kind, race and nation have for 2,000 years in all the languages of the earth given Him this title with veneration, repeating in their own ways the exclamation of Nicodemus: We know that you are a teacher come from God.(26) This image of Christ the Teacher is at once majestic and familiar, impressive and reassuring. It comes from the pen of the evangelists and it has often been evoked subsequently in iconography since earliest Christian times,(27) so captivating is it. And I am pleased to evoke it in my turn at the beginning of these considerations on catechesis in the modern world. Teaching Through His Life as a Whole 9. In doing so, I am not forgetful that the majesty of Christ the Teacher and the unique consistency and persuasiveness of His teaching can only be explained by the fact that His words, His parables and His arguments are never separable from His life and His very being. Accordingly, the whole of Christ's life was a continual teaching: His silences, His miracles, His gestures, His prayer, His love for peop

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