The Ecclesial Method, Part 2
I want to continue looking at the Ecclesial Method for catechesis by considering the second step:
This step is the most important step of the whole catechesis. It is an announcement. “This is something so important and amazing, I just have to tell you…” “This is something you just have to know!” This is the kind of attitude we give the proclamation with.
Sometimes we have moments, in prayer, or while we’re studying, or when we are receiving formation, when we’re overawed: WOW! And then as soon as we see friends, we have to tell them about what we’ve learnt. Or sometimes we hear something in our own formation and think: Wow – so-and-so really need to hear this. Our joy isn’t complete until we share this with those we love.
When we catechise we’re telling with joy the truths we have received from the Church and which have transformed our lives. We know they can transform the lives of the people we catechise too, so we want them to know the whole truth. But first, we tell the core message. “This is what you just have to know…” Not so that you can pass the test next week, or so that you can answer others’ questions (although this is an important reason) – you need to know this because it is the truth about who you are and what you’re made for – this will change your life!
This idea of the Proclamation is summed up well by Fr Cantalamessa:
“The runner arriving breathlessly in the town square from the battlefield doesn’t begin by giving an orderly account of the development of event and neither does he waste time on details. He goes straight to the point and in a few words gives the most vital piece of news which everyone is waiting to hear. Explanations can come later. If a battle has been won, he shouts: ‘Victory!’ and if peace has been made, he shouts: ‘Peace!'”
Life in the Lordship of Christ, p. 1
We can all think of times when we have experienced catechesis which has not been delivered with passion and joy. I remember sitting through a PowerPoint presentation on the Trinity where someone might have been forgiven for thinking that the Trinity was not Almighty God himself, but rather some “gadget” with lots of technical components that needed explaining. We do need to explain doctrine – but understanding should have some impact on our lives, it should move hearts, it should initiate change.
Here are some practical examples of proclamations that I have written for my own catechesis. Remember that we personally proclaim something – we teach something as one who knows this – and therefore we teach in a unique way, with our own human qualities and personalities.
Proclamation on the Trinity:
God alone can reveal to us who he is. He has revealed himself as a communion of Persons – Father, Son and Holy Spirit. This is the central mystery of our Christian faith and Christian life.
Proclamation on the Church:
It is in the Church that Christ accomplishes the Father’s plan: to unite human beings to God. The Church is united to Christ as a Bride to her Bridegroom.
Before people worry that I’m proposing that there be no more content to the catechesis… Do not fear! Like the messenger example given by Fr Cantalamessa, everyone wants to sit down and hear all the details. This is the third step: where everything is explained.