Four Dimensions & Approaches to Catechesis
Time to bore you again with some of my dissertation research on this lovely sunny bank holiday weekend 😉 Haha, not really… PLEASE READ ON!
It’s good to remind ourselves every now and again of the ‘basics’ of catechesis, and to measure up our current practice against them. One of those basics (or maybe not if you’re new to this) is the four dimensions of the Christian life. Throughout the history of salvation, God has communicated himself to us not just through teaching us, but also in deeds, in giving his People liturgy, in giving them a way to live, and in forming them in prayer. This finds its culmination in the new Christian community we read about in Acts 2:42:
“These remained faithful to the teaching of the Apostles, to the brotherhood, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.”
Therefore, all Christian formation needs to include these four dimensions in order to be “integral”, in order to be authentic Christian formation. Each catechetical session should include teaching, a liturgical dimension, experience of community, time of prayer.
What I’ve been researching is how approaches to catechesis can tend to emphasise one of these dimensions at the expense of the others. For example, a moral approach to catechesis focuses on the resulting moral action from the catechesis. We see this in the See-Judge-Act method of the Young Christian Workers movement, used by the Confirmation programme, Truth (Curtin, D. (2011) Truth – A Confirmation Course for Teenagers. Redemptorist Publications).
Another example of this approach is CAFOD, which has catechetical resources on its website in which topics are approached with regard to the resulting action, the outcome of the session: “When we make the choice to be confirmed, we are choosing to become active rather than passive members of God’s family.” These emphasise the third dimension – maybe at the expense of others – I will leave that to your analysis 😉
A further example is a doctrinal approach to catechesis. This is an interesting one. In some ways, we might say that this is ‘reactionary’ in that there has been such an emphasis on experience-based catechesis in the decades since Vatican II that some in the Church have (understandably) swung back in the opposite direction, stressing teaching of doctrine. I do not criticise this – knowing doctrine means we can build up a firm framework for understanding the whole of reality and our place within it. It means we have words to express the realities in which we believe. However, I think that some programmes emphasise this at the expense of the other three dimensions. Don’t get me wrong, they include teaching on these three dimensions (liturgy, life in Christ, prayer) but these dimensions are not included in the session themselves. There is no liturgical element to the session, or experience of community, or an opportunity for deeper prayer. You may be able to think of programmes which fall into this category.
Do you find you or your parish emphasises one approach above others in your catechesis? How can you aim at something more integral which forms the whole person?