Catechesi Tradendae: On Catechesis in Our Time (Part 7)

As the summer winds to a close, and we begin a new school year, in schools and parishes around the country catechesis is kicking into high gear once more. This is a fitting time to finish exploring Pope St. John Paul II’s post-synodal apostolic exhortation Catechesi Tradendae: On Catechesis in Our Time. We will finish the document between this week and next week’s blog entries. And please, feel free to go back and look at the other entries in this series.


The ninth and penultimate section of the document is titled “The Task Concerns Us All.” The Holy Father expresses his desire that his words will “set your hearts aflame, like the letters of St. Paul to his companions in the Gospel, Titus and Timothy, or like St. Augustine writing for the deacon Deogratias, when the latter lost heart before his task as a catechist, a real little treatise on the joy of catechizing.” (62) Recognizing that catechesis is the task of all Christians, as we are all called to spread the Gospel, the pope wanted to sow “courage, hope and enthusiasm” in the hearts of those who give religious instruction.

He takes several groups one by one: bishops, priests, men and women religious, and lay catechists. He reminds bishops of their solemn and special place in the task of catechesis: “You are beyond all others the ones primarily responsible for catechesis, the catechists par excellence. Together with the Pope, in the spirit of episcopal collegiality, you too have charge of catechesis throughout the Church.” (63) Acknowledging the increasing complexity of episcopal ministry in today’s world, that “a thousand duties call you,” the pope emphatically reminds bishops of the importance of their catechetical responsibility: “But let the concern to foster active and effective catechesis yield to no other care whatever in any way.” The principal role, he says, should be to bring about and maintain in the diocese a “real passion for catechesis.” The bishop also has the responsibility, not only of transmitting the truth, but denouncing error. “Although your zeal must sometimes impose upon you the thankless task of denouncing deviations and correcting errors, it will much more often win for you the joy and consolation of seeing your Churches flourishing because catechesis is given in them as the Lord wishes.”

John Paul refers to priests as the “immediate assistants” of their bishops in catechesis. (64) They are called to devote their “best efforts to the growth of your communities in the faith.” As with bishops, priests (particularly those who are pastors of parishes) are pulled in a thousand directions, and it is tempting to be overcome by administrative tasks, financial concerns, and the like. These are certainly important, and affect the ability of the parish to operate in the first place. But we must not lose sight of the primary task of the salvation of souls, and the role that effective catechesis plays in this. “All believers have a right to catechesis; all pastors have the duty to provide it.” He continues, hammering the point home: “[W]ith all my strength I beg you, ministers of Jesus Christ: Do not, for lack of zeal or because of some unfortunate preconceived idea, leave the faithful without catechesis. Let it not be said that ‘the children beg for food, but no one gives to them.'” (64)

Men and women religious communities are often founded for the express purpose of the education and catechesis of young people. “Throughout history, men and women religious have been deeply committed to the Church’s catechetical activity, doing particularly apposite and effective work.” (65) Such communities are critical to the Church’s catechetical mission. “Let the communities dedicate as much as possible of what ability and means they have to the specific work of catechesis.” (65)


Lay catechists earn great praise from the pope. “Your work is often lowly and hidden,” he says, “but it is carried out with ardent and generous zeal, and it is an eminent form of the lay apostolate, a form that is particularly important where for various reasons children and young people do not receive suitable religious training in the home.” (66) Particularly in the context of preparation for the sacraments of Penance, First Holy Communion, and Confirmation, lay catechists play a major and invaluable role.

Next, the Holy Father examines catechesis in different contexts: in the parish; in schools; in the family; and in organizations. We will look at these next week, and conclude our look at this exhortation.

Catechesi Tradendae: On Catechesis in Our Time (Part 6)

For the last several months, we have been looking closely at Pope St. John Paul II’s post-synodal apostolic exhortation Catechesi Tradendae: On Catechesis in Our Time. We are nearing the end of this document, and today we look at section VIII: “The Joy of Faith in a Troubled World.”

The word “joy” being in this section’s title speaks to the importance of joy that the Holy Father sees in catechesis. “We live in a difficult world in which the anguish of seeing the best creations of man slip away from him and turn against him creates a climate of uncertainty,” the pope writes. “In this world catechesis should help Christians to be, for their own joy and the service of all, ‘light’ and ‘salt.'” (56)

We are called to this joy in spite of many difficulties and challenges that face us. Several of these are addressed by the Holy Father, in the hopes of providing suggestions to assist catechesis in overcoming the difficulties.


The first is the indifference of the world. There is an increase in secularization, but while “Fashion changes, [a] profound reality remains.” (57) We must acknowledge that the world largely ignores God or, when it does acknowledge him, is indifferent about the variety of religions and where actual Truth is to be found. “To hold on in this world, to offer to all a dialogue of salvation in which each person feels respected in his or her most basic dignity, the dignity of one who is seeking God, we need a catechesis which trains the  young people and adults of our communities to remain clear and consistent in their faith, to affirm serenely their Christian and Catholic identity, to see him who is invisible and to adhere so firmly to the absoluteness of God that they can be witnesses to Him in a materialistic civilization that denies Him.” (57)

There is also a difficulty in the pedagogy of the faith, the Holy Father writes. “The irreducible originality of Christian identity has for corollary and condition no less original a pedagogy of the faith.” (58) There have been improvements in the science of education and the art of teaching, he says, but there is a particular pedagogy of faith, “and the good that it can do for catechesis cannot be overstated.” (58) Because transmitting the faith means teaching about God’s revelation rather than simply human knowledge, we must always take this originality into account. “Throughout sacred history, especially in the Gospel, God Himself used a pedagogy that must continue to be a model for the pedagogy of faith.” (58)

There is also a problem of language, that is related closely to the question of pedagogy. The pope’s comments here are of particular importance in today’s world, as well: “It is paradoxical to see that, while modern studies, for instance in the field of communication, semantics and symbology, attribute extraordinary importance to language, nevertheless language is being misused today for ideological mystification, for mass conformity in thought and for reducing man to the level of an object.” (59) When it comes to catechesis, this tendency must be rooted out and only the Truth must be spoken. “For catechesis has a pressing obligation to speak a language suited to today’s children and young people in general and to many other categories of people — the language of students, intellectuals and scientists; the language of the illiterate or of people of simple culture; the language of the handicapped, and so on.” (59) But catechesis certainly must not equivocate when it comes to precision of language and clarity of expression. “[C]atechesis cannot admit any language that would result in altering the substance of the content of the Creed, under any pretext whatever, even a pretended scientific one.” (59) Language is at the service of catechesis and communication of the faith.


The way in which we conceive of faith can be another challenge. “Faith concerns things not yet in our possession,” he writes, “since they are hoped for; that as yet we see only ‘in a mirror dimly’; and that God dwells always in inaccessible light.” (60) Faith is a journey, not the result of some arrival or completion. “For all the more reason one must avoid presenting as certain things which are not.” (60) John Paul does caution against going to the opposite extreme, however: “Although we are not in full possession, we do have an assurance and a conviction.” (60) He continues later, “Let us show [children, adolescents, and young people] that the humble yet courageous seeking of the believer, far from having its starting point in nothingness, in plain self-deception, in fallible opinions or in uncertainty, is based on the Word of God who cannot deceive or be deceived, and is unceasingly built on the immovable rock of this Word.” (60)

The final difficulty the Holy Father examines is the connection between catechesis and theology. “Obviously this connection is profound and vital for those who understand the irreplaceable mission of theology in the service of Faith.” (61) He goes on to elaborate: “Aware of the influence that their research and their statements have on catechetical instruction, theologians and exegetes have a duty to take great care that people do not take for a certainty what on the contrary belongs to the area of questions of opinion or of discussion among experts.” (61) Again, the Holy Father cautions that speculation not be mistaken for matters of divine and Catholic faith. Catechists and theologians “must refuse to trouble the minds of the children and young people” with “outlandish theories, useless questions and unproductive discussions.” (61)

In our next post, we will look at the ninth section, “The Task Concerns Us All.”

Catechesi Tradendae: On Catechesis in Our Time (Part 5)


We have been looking at the beautiful post-synodal apostolic exhortation Catechesi Tradendae (On Catechesis in Our Time) by Pope St. John Paul II in our last several posts. Today we continue our look at this document, examining the seventh section: “How to Impart Catechesis”.

We have established, in many ways and contexts, why catechesis is important. It is something that was lost for a long time, something that was downplayed or disregarded in some senses. And in places where the faith was imparted, in some cases there was no personal element; one must have a relationship with the Risen Lord, and catechesis is how this is done. You come to love someone best by truly getting to know them.

The Holy Father considers the diversity of methods that are necessary in imparting catechesis. “The age and the intellectual development of Christians, their degree of ecclesial and spiritual maturity and many other personal circumstances demand that catechesis should adopt widely differing methods for the attainment of its specific aim: education in the faith.” (51) We know that it is of fundamental importance that people are catechized. We know that the faith must be imparted, that people must be evangelized so that they come to know and love God and desire to serve him. Because this is so important, we must be sure to use appropriate methods to do so.


Most of the readers of this blog are catechists, DREs, Faith Formation directors, or teachers. Whether in a school, a parish, or at home, you know that pedagogical principles help you to instruct people at different ages and grade levels. This is one of the factors to be considered under diversity of methods.

Catechetical series are always developed with pedagogical considerations in mind. Some achieve pedagogical appropriateness more effectively than others, but it is always a factor. There can be different approaches to the same grade level, of course, and this can even be seen in Ignatius Press’ two catechetical series: Faith and Life ( and Image of God ( This is also a prime consideration in the NEW catechetical series that is being developed by Ignatius Press and the Augustine Institute: Word of Life ( We will look more at this new series in an upcoming post on this blog.

Beyond these considerations, the Holy Father cautions against mixing catechetical teaching with “overt or masked ideological views, especially political and social ones, or with personal political opinions.” (52) Catechesis can become “distorted,” he says, when such trends or personal views are infused into the imparting of catechesis. “It is on the basis of revelation that catechesis will try to set its course, revelation as transmitted by the universal magisterium of the Church, in its solemn or ordinary form.” (52) The truth of revelation certainly includes moral elements, which have application in the social and political realm; but “[C]atechesis goes beyond every form of formalistic moralism, although it will include true Christian moral teaching. Chiefly, it goes beyond any kind of temporal, social or political ‘messianism.’ It seeks to arrive at man’s innermost being.” (52)


Another consideration in the imparting of catechesis is the role that difference of cultures plays. Because catechesis, and evangelization in general, can be said to be called to bring the Gospel into the very heart of cultures, “catechesis will seek to know these cultures and their essential components; it will learn their most significant expressions; it will respect their particular values and riches.” (53) The faith must not be altered or diminished for the sake of inculturation; rather, the culture must be enriched by the faith. Catechesis should “help them to bring forth from their own living tradition original expressions of Christian life, celebration and thought.” (53) That being said, we must insist that the Gospel be transmitted in the context of the culture in which it originated, that of Jesus and the biblical world.

The pope also considers the role that memorization can play in effective catechesis. This is a somewhat controversial question, as the pedagogical role of memorization has been fiercely debated for some time. Coming from a mainly oral tradition, as Christian catechesis does, memorization has historically played a crucial role in catechesis. John Paul recognizes that sometimes memorization can lend itself to insufficient assimilation, “reducing all knowledge to formulas that are repeated without being properly understood.” (55) But he calls for a restoration of “a judicious balance between reflection and spontaneity, between dialogue and silence, between written work and memory work.” Just because something is memorized does not mean it should only be memorized. In fact, it certainly shouldn’t! A formula can be memorized to facilitate assimilation and deeper reflection. Being able to recall that “God made us to show forth His goodness and to share with us His everlasting happiness in heaven” allows one to reflect on that important fact at any time. This is certainly laudable!

Now that we have looked at the imparting of catechesis, next time we will discuss part eight: “The Joy of Faith in a Troubled World,” and will conclude with how “The Task Concerns Us All.”

Catechesi Tradendae: On Catechesis in Our Time (Part 4)

Today we continue our look at Pope St. John Paul II’s post-synodal apostolic exhortation Catechesi Tradendae, on Catechesis in Our Time. We now move to the fifth section of the document, titled: “Everybody Needs to be Catechized.”

The Holy Father begins this section of the document with a reflection on “The Importance of Children and the Young.” He makes special reference to the theme designated by Pope St. Paul VI for the fourth general assembly of the synod of Bishops, which was “Catechesis in our time, with special reference to the catechesis of children and young people.” With a rapid increase in world population, and thus a rapid increase in the number of children throughout the world, the importance of catechizing the young as they prepare for their adult future is very important. “And there is more than just the factor numbers,” the pope writes: “recent events, as well as the daily news, tell us that, although this countless multitude of young people is here and there dominated by uncertainty and fear, seduced by the escapism of indifference or drugs, or tempted by nihilism and violence, nevertheless it constitutes in its major part the great force that amid many hazards is set on building the civilization of the future.” (35)

priest speaking to hyde park

The question arises: how are we to reveal Jesus Christ to children and young people, not just in a fleeting encounter, but growing in deep relationship with Him? The Holy Father then addresses separately the question in regard to infants, children, adolescents, the young, the handicapped, young people without religious support, adults, and quasi-catechumens. Each of these has a well-elaborated reflection on catechizing that given group, and should be read in full.

One common question that can arise when considering the matter of effective catechesis is how to catechize. How can we communicate these truths? The Holy Father looks into this question in the next section, titled “Some Ways and Mean of Catechesis.”

“From the oral teaching by the apostles and the letters circulating among the churches down to the most modern means,” he writes, “catechesis has not ceased to look for the most suitable ways and means for its mission, with active participation of the communities and at the urging of the pastors. This effort must continue.” (46) The advent of new means of communication during the 19th and 20th centuries has drastically changed our ability to spread the faith. Even just taking one prime example, Venerable Archbishop Fulton Sheen used all available media — books, newspaper, radio, and television — and spread the Gospel more effectively than anyone since St. Paul! In our own day, Bishop Robert Barron uses YouTube, podcasts, books, television, and more to preach the Truth.

There are various places, occasions and gatherings, according to the pope, which “gain from being centered on some judiciously chosen theme based on the life of Christ, of the Blessed Virgin or of the saints.” (47) These can be pilgrimages, conferences, traditional missions, Bible study groups, and much more. The Holy Father implores and exhorts those involved in such groups to not allow them “to lack serious study of Christian doctrine.” (47)


Additionally, the “homily takes up again the journey of faith put forward by catechesis, and brings it to its natural fulfillment. At the same time it encourages the Lord’s disciples to begin anew each day their spiritual journey in truth, adoration and thanksgiving.” (48) The proper role of the homily is evangelical and catechetical, as “Preaching, centered upon the Bible texts, must then in its own way make it possible to familiarize the faithful with the whole of the mysteries of the faith and with the norms of Christian living.” (48) This is something that, in many — if not most — places, needs to be recaptured. The homily is a prime opportunity for evangelization and catechesis from the priest.

Catechetical texts “acquire a fresh signifiance,” the Holy Father writes (49). There is much more opportunity for the publication of such texts, as all over the world the ability to publish has grown easier and easier, and there are countless Catholic publishers, writers, and other producers of catechetical materials. “Numerous very successful works have been produced and are a real treasure in the service of catechetical instruction.” (49) These have to be done carefully, however, in order to be theologically accurate, as well as pedagogically appropriate. This is the both/and that is necessary for effective catechetical literature, and one that has proven to be a great struggle for many. “In certain places, the desire to find the best forms of expression or to keep up with fashions in pedagogical methods has often enough resulted in certain catechetical works which  bewilder the young and even adults, either by deliberately or unconsciously omitting elements essential to the Church’s faith, or by attributing excessive importance to certain themes at the expense of others, or, chiefly, by a rather horizontalist overall view out of keeping with the teaching of the Church’s magisterium.” (49) Clearly this is something that must be avoided! And as catechists, it is of vital importance to seek out the best catechetical texts.

In our next post, we will look at Section VII of the document, entitled “How to Impart Catechesis.”

Catechesi Tradendae: On Catechesis in Our Time (Part 3)

Today we continue our dive into St. John Paul II’s Catechesi Tradendae (On Catechesis in Our Time). The fourth section of this post-synodel apostolic exhortation is titled “The Whole of the Good News Drawn from its Source”. This section opens with a very important point about catechesis: “Since catechesis is a moment or aspect of evangelization, its content cannot be anything else but the content of evangelization as a whole.” (26)


There are many catechists who read this blog. Some of our readers have years of experience, others are fresh-faced and new. But I think it is fair to say that every person reading this realizes that the heart of catechesis is evangelization. We do not catechize simply so that Catholics will memorize the Ten Commandments, or even the Precepts of the Church, or learn some “Bible stories,” or memorize certain formulas so they can pass a test. No. Rather, catechesis is, at its heart, meant to bring people to an appreciation of the Good News, a relationship with Jesus Christ and the whole Blessed Trinity, and to desire to spread the Good News themselves, as Jesus commanded us. The deposit of faith is a living thing.

“Catechesis will always raw its content from the living source of the Word of God transmitted in Tradition and the Scriptures, for ‘sacred Tradition and Sacred Scripture make up a single sacred deposit of the Word of God, which is entrusted to the Church,’ as was recalled by the Second Vatican Council, which desired that ‘the ministry of the word — pastoral preaching, catechetics and all forms of Christian instruction… – (should be) healthily nourished and (should) thrive in holiness through the word of Scripture.'” (27)

That being said, we must also be sure not to demean the importance and usefulness of credal formulas in catechesis and evangelization. At many points throughout the Church’s history, creeds have been developed to articulate the faith in a succinct way, typically in response to a particular threat to the integrity of the faith. St. John Paul II describes creeds as “an exceptionally important expression of the living heritage placed in the custody of the pastors,” and says that the creeds “at crucial moments have summed up the Church’s faith in felicitous syntheses.” (28)

The pope specifically refers to the Credo of the People of God composed by Pope St. Paul VI and proclaimed at the close of the 19th centenary of the martyrdom of Peter and Paul. He calls this a “sure point of reference for the content of catechesis,” in that it contains “the essential elements of the Catholic Faith, especially those that presented greater difficulty or risked being ignored.” (28)

Pope John Paul II during an audience in St. Peter's Square in 1980

For Pope St. John Paul II, it is obvious just how important it is to communicate the faith as much as possible; in particular, young people who are just reaching the age of reason. “Anyone can see, for instance, how important it is to make the child, the adolescent, the person advancing in faith understand what can be known about God.” (29) Passing on the deposit of faith, the fidei depositum, is the chief responsibility of the catechist, and it is important to impart the faith to the young so that the faith matures along with them and they are able to grow in deeper understanding of the faith.

In this document, the Holy Father also addresses the ever-important ecumenical question. Is there an ecumenical dimension of Catechesis? “Catechesis cannot remain aloof from this ecumenical dimension, since all the faithful are called to share, according to their capacity and place in the Church, in the movement towards unity.” (32) The pope calls for catechesis to be done with sincere respect for ecclesial communities not in communion with the Catholic Church. These communities must be presented correctly and fairly, and the presentation must foster a true desire for unity among Christians, in union with the will of Jesus “that they may be one” (John 17:21).

Catechesi Tradendae: On Catechesis in Our Time (Part 2)

In our last post, we looked at the first section of Pope St. John Paul II’s post-synodal apostolic exhortation Catechesi Tradendae, On Catechesis in Our Time. Today we are continuing our closer look at this important exhortation from the Holy Father.

The third section of the exhortation is entitled “Catechesis in the Church’s Pastoral and Missionary Activity,” and focuses a great deal on catechesis within the context of evangelization. As the readers of this blog will likely recall, St. John Paul II was a great proponent of the Church going into the world in the context of a New Evangelization — and he saw catechesis as a critical part of this. “Catechesis cannot be dissociated from the Church’s pastoral and missionary activity as a whole,” he wrote (18).

There follows a marvelous basic definition of catechesis: “All in all, it can be taken here that catechesis is an education of children, young people and adults in the faith, which includes especially the teaching of Christian doctrine imparted, generally speaking, in an organic and systematic way, with a view to initiating the hearers into the fullness of Christian life. Accordingly, while not being formally identified with them, catechesis is built on a certain number of elements of the Church’s pastoral mission that have a catechetical aspect, that prepare for catechesis, or that spring from it. These elements are: the initial proclamation of the Gospel or missionary preaching through the kerygma to arouse faith, apologetics or examination of the reasons for belief, experience of Christian living, celebration of the sacraments, integration into the ecclesial community, and apostolic and missionary witness” (18)

priest speaking to hyde park

Catechesis is not purely an end in itself. It is not an intellectual exercise, a memorization challenge. “The specific aim of catechesis is to develop, with God’s help, an as yet initial faith, and to advance in fullness and to nourish day by day the Christian life of the faithful, young and old.” (20) Nourishing the Christian life, growing in relationship with Jesus Christ — this is the aim of catechesis. We are all called to know and love God, and to serve him, and you truly come to love someone the more you get to know Him.

The Holy Father goes on to make the point that catechesis, while not being a purely intellectual endeavor, also is not to be solely based on “life experience.” He says that no opposition is “to be set up between a catechesis taking life as its point of departure and a traditional doctrinal and systematic catechesis.” (22) He continues, “Authentic catechesis is always an orderly and systematic initiation into the revelation that God has given of Himself to humanity in Christ Jesus, a revelation stored in the depths of the Church’s memory and in Sacred Scripture, and constantly communicated from one generation to the next by a living, active traditio.” (22)

In the Catholic Church, all ecclesial life centers around the Sacraments. This absolutely goes for catechesis, and this does not escape the notice of the pope writing in Catechesi Tradendae: “Catechesis is intrinsically linked with the whole of liturgical and sacramental activity, for it is in the sacraments, especially in the Eucharist, that Christ Jesus works in fullness for the transformation of human beings.” (23) Through catechesis we nourish the Christian life, the life which subsists in the Sacraments.

We will continue our discussion of this important exhortation in the next post, with the fourth section.


Catechesi Tradendae: On Catechesis in Our Time

Pope St. John Paul II was one of the greatest evangelizers and catechizers ever to sit on the Chair of Peter. In November 1977, during the pontificate of Bl. Paul VI, the Fourth General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops was held, with the theme “Catechesis in Our Time,” giving special focus to the catechesis of children and young people.

Following the Synod, the Holy Father began work on the post-synodal apostolic exhortation. Based on the documents and conversations to emerge from the Synod, the work was begun by Paul VI, continued during the exceedingly brief pontificate of John Paul I, and then taken up and completed by John Paul II. The document — entitled Catechesi Tradendae — was ultimately published on October 16, 1979, the one-year anniversary of John Paul II’s election to the papacy.

The text of this document is full of beautiful insights into the task of catechesis, one of the most important responsibilities of the Church. “The Church has always considered catechesis one of her primary roles, 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 commanded.” (CT 1)

The Church herself is particularly responsible for spreading the good news of Jesus Christ, and has been given special gifts by Jesus to impart the Truth: “He also entrusted them [the apostles] 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.” (CT 1) The Synod that preceded this apostolic exhortation expressed the task of catechesis in ways that would be helpful for all catechists to hear and prayerfully consider.

Authentic catechesis, according to the Synod fathers and stressed in the document, is fundamentally Christocentric. This term “Christocentric” “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,’ who suffered and died for us and who now, after rising, is living with us forever.” (CT 5) It is also Christocentric in that what is being transmitted is not the teaching of the individual catechist; rather, it is the teaching of Jesus Christ, “the Truth that He communicates or, to put it more precisely, the Truth that He is.” (CT 6) “Every catechist should be able to apply to himself the mysterious words of Jesus: ‘My teaching is not mine, but his who sent me.'” (CT 6, cf. John 7:16)

What is, according to this great evangelizer, this role model for catechists everywhere, the primary goal of catechesis? “[T]he 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.” (CT 5)


Catechesis can not be conducted in a vacuum, in a purely intellectual pursuit of some sort of religious formulae. A personal relationship with Jesus Christ is necessary for catechesis. “Only in deep communion with Him will catechists find light and strength for an authentic, desirable renewal of catechesis.” (CT 9)

This is important because catechesis is more than just one more thing the Church does, or one more thing a parish needs space for. “[I]t is clear that the Church has always looked on catechesis as a sacred duty and an inalienable right. On the one hand, it is certainly a duty springing from a command given by the Lord and resting above all on those who in the new covenant receive the call to the ministry of being pastors. On the other hand, one can likewise speak of a right: from the theological point of view every baptized person, precisely the reason of being baptized, has the right to receive from the Church instruction and education enabling him or her to enter on a truly Christian life.” (CT 14)

Furthermore, “The more the Church, whether on the local or the universal level, gives catechesis priority over other works and undertakings the results of which would be more spectacular, the more she finds in catechesis a strengthening of her internal life as a community of believers and of her external activity as a missionary Church.” (CT 15) At the same time, there is a constant need for renewal in catechesis. It “needs to be continually renewed by a certain broadening of its concept, by the revision of its methods, by the search for suitable language, and by the utilization of new means of transmitting the message.” (CT 17)

Catechesi Tradendae does also address deficiencies in catechesis, which were discussed by the Synod fathers. There are “limitations or even ‘deficiencies’ in what has been achieved to date. These limitations are particularly serious when they endanger integrity of content.” (CT 17) Routine and improvisation are equally dangerous, the pope stresses. “Routine leads to stagnation, lethargy and eventual paralysis. Improvisation begets confusion on the part of those being given catechesis and, when these are children, on the part of their parents; it also begets all kinds of deviations, and the fracturing and eventually the complete destruction of unity.” (CT 17)

The document has much more of value to offer, and presents many more challenges to catechists. This is a document of inestimable value, and every catechist should read it prayerfully. During the summer, when most parish catechetical programs are on hiatus — or at least significantly lower levels of activity — please read the document, and share it with everyone you think it may speak to.

I will continue looking at the document in greater detail as the summer continues.