Pope Francis this morning called for a new way of educating and catechizing people in the faith. An honest and in-depth discussion on catechesis is long overdue, especially in light of the new evangelization.
Central to Pope Francis’ new vision for catechesis is a movement way from “the scholastic sphere.” Showing people how to encounter and follow Christ is more important than teaching people specific scholastic principles. Pope Francis’ vision echoes the patristic fathers such as St. Augustine, who said that the most important thing in catechizing the faithful is helping them experience and encounter Christ.
Joshua McElwee in his article “Francis calls for reorientation of catechesis away from ‘simply scholastic sphere’” reflects on Pope Francis’ new vision for the new evanglization. McElwee sees the new evangelization, as understood by Pope Francis, as an “effort by Catholics to evince their faith by working to help those on society’s peripheries.”
In his meeting with members of the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of the New Evangelization in its plenary meeting on the theme “Relationship between evangelization and catechesis,” Pope Francis noted the “great changes” occurring in the world today:
Truly, these changes are a happy provocation to gather the signs of the times that the Lord offers the Church so that it may be able…to bring Jesus Christ to the people of our time…The mission is always identical, but the language with which to announce the Gospel asks to be renovated, with pastoral wisdom.
In a further comment, Pope Francis continued to talk about the relationship between the Catholic Tradition and today’s world:
This is essential, both to be understood by our contemporaries and because the Catholic Tradition might speak to the cultures of today’s world and help them to open themselves to the perennial fruitfulness of the Christ’s message.
Pope Francis notes that people want a church that is willing to walk with them and support them. This is especially the case for those on the margins.
Pope Francis then redefined the new evangelization in a broad sweeping and pastoral statement:
The new evangelization therefore is this: to take awareness of the merciful love of the Father to truly become ourselves instruments of salvation for our brothers.
The new evangelization is deeply connected to our understanding of catechesis. The Church’s understanding of catechesis needs to be re-imagined based on Pope Francis’ call in the new evangelization to focus on helping others encounter the presence of Christ in their lives.
Pope Francis’ vision for catechesis is quite profound:
Catechesis, as a component of the process of evangelization, needs to go beyond simply the scholastic sphere to educate believers, from childhood, to meet Christ, living and working in his church.
As Joshua McElwee notes, Pope Francis’ new moves on catechesis could have a huge impact on the global Catholic Church.
Francis’ emphasis on taking catechesis beyond the academic sphere could represent a significant shift for the global Catholic church, where educators and bishops frequently refer to the rather regimented and lengthy Catechism of the Catholic Church in their teachings.
While redefining the new evangelization and catechesis is important, equally important is discussing how this will be practically implemented. One component of this should be a revival of the mystagogical catechesis of the patristic period. Mystagogical catechesis is the gradual revealing of the liturgical rites that have already been celebrated. There should be a new program in which mystagogical catechesis is brought into parishes on a regular basis.
In what ways do you think the liturgy can be a source of renewal and support for the new evangelization and the Church’s program of catechesis? Any advice you would give to Rome as it reassesses these aspects of the Church’s mission?
Please comment below.