in the Church's Teaching Mission
Jesus' final earthly
marching orders to the disciples were, "Go into the whole world and
proclaim the gospel to every creature" (Mark 16:16). The new General
Directory for Catechesis (GDC) takes that order to evangelize
This new Directory
replaces the first of its kind, issued in 1971. Its purpose is the
same: to provide an orientation for catechesis, which is essentially
the teaching mission of the Church. Much longer than its predecessor,
the GDC places a far stronger emphasis on evangelization.
If you were about to
settle back for a private, perfecting sort of Lent, the GDC
poses a challenge or two about your need for ongoing faith formation
and a renewed sense of mission. Basically, it addresses these questions:
How, when, where and from whom is the faith to be learned? And how,
when, where and to whom is it to be taught?
The GDC, issued
from Rome and now translated into English, is directed to those who
share in the teaching mission of the Church. Bishops carry the staff
as chief shepherds, but their deputies include priests, pastors, educators,
parents, grandparentsyes, all the baptized.
Thus you share in the
catechetical mission of the Church. This Directory, then, has
something to say to you. Some of its central passages could direct
not only the rest of your Lent but also the rest of your Catholic
Your Own Catechesis
According to the GDC,
the primary audience for catechesis is the adult (#258). Adult faith
"must be continually enlightened, developed and protected, so that
it may acquire that Christian wisdom which gives sense, unity and
hope to the many experiences of personal, social and spiritual life"
(#173). The GDC recommends adult study to enable a Christian
critique of the culture, to clarify current religious and moral questions,
to develop the rational foundations of faith, to participate fully
in liturgy and prayer, to take appropriate responsibility for the
Church's mission and to be able to give witness. (See #85, #86, #175.)
That you are now reading
St. Anthony Messenger is evidence of your commitment to continue
your faith education. Your first catechetical challenge is to pray,
"Lord, teach me." What you already know will benefit from review,
updating and expansion. You may need the challenge of study in a less
familiar area: the Bible, the Church's social teaching or how to evangelize.
is experience as well as study. You can also learn the way of Jesus
from observing people who live it and involving yourself in the life
of the Church.
The Rite of Christian
Initiation of Adults (RCIA) is the model affirmed in the GDC
for adult catechesis in the Church (#90). For many who participate,
the RCIA becomes a small community of faith, a safe place in which
to consider life's deepest questions.
This model is a good
one for other adult learning opportunities within the parish, deanery
and diocese. The classroom model may work fine in academia, but since
we learn faith in relationships, we can learn especially well in a
Adult Catholics must
hold up their end in the "dialogue of salvation" (#143) by showing
up not only for study groups but also for events that celebrate parish
life. Potlucks and fish fries build community. Soup kitchens and other
styles of outreach extend it. Catechesis can happen everywhere.
The same circumstances
in which you are taught may also find you teaching. At Mass, your
full participation may teach by example and encouragement even as
you learn through listening, prayer and song.
What you have learned,
you are called to teach. At home, parents can awaken a sense of God
in their children (#255). There you can connect faith with daily life
in a most effective way. Each family needs to ask how its members
can bring the gospel to those who might not hear it otherwise.
Teachers are needed
in parish schools of religion and other formal settings. Those who
share, volunteer and, moved by faith, work for justice teach a profound
message. Just as Jesus taught through both deeds and words, we evangelize
"through proclamation, witness, teaching, sacraments and love of neighbor"
Those who lead and
volunteer in parish schools of religious education should be supported
and honored for their efforts. But every Catholic can "encourage a
living, explicit and fruitful profession of faith" (#66). We must
all teach as Jesus taught.
Are You Teaching?
Not too long ago, a
Seattle mother heard that she was featured in a book students at the
parish school had compiled for All Saints' Day. Each student had been
asked to write about a present-day saint. Of this mother, a student
wrote that she was impressed that the woman "brought Christ into daily
living, was willing to talk about Jesus to others and even prayed
This young mother was
surprised that anyone noticed her behavior. In fact, she said, "I
often wish I was more evangelical." Her evangelization was so natural
to her that she didn't even recognize it!
The General Directory
for Catechesis affirms the object of the Church's teaching
mission: that all may know Jesus Christ and his gospel and discern
the path on which they may best follow him. This book also affirms
the subject of that mission: you. --C.A.M.