Statement on the new Directory for Catechesis by the Bishop of Plymouth
Statement on the new Directory for Catechesis
I warmly welcome the new Directory for Catechesis. This outstanding text has been long awaited and much anticipated. It is a document filled with the joy of the Gospel and looks at Catechesis very much through the lens of Evangelisation. Rooting itself in Pope Francis’ exhortation, Evangelii Gaudium, the context and the driving force for the Directory, it invites us to see every moment of catechesis as an opportunity to announce Jesus Christ anew. All catechesis must seek to bring the person into an encounter with Jesus, the centre of what is proclaimed and taught.
The Directory has a fresh and original style which recognises both the challenges and opportunities for proclaiming Christ today. It recognises that the historical situation in which we live is greatly influenced by the reality of the digital world as well as the globalisation of culture. When something is said or experienced in one place, it can very quickly become a universal event. This requires of believers a positive engagement, to present the Christian faith to the modern person with new ardour, new methods and new expressions. For the novelty of the Christian message does not consist in an idea but in a fact; God has revealed Himself fully in His Son. To allow Jesus to come close to us, is to allow ourselves to be transformed by Him, and to be increasingly led by Him.
All believers are, therefore, called to be ‘missionary disciples’; on the one hand, to stay close to Jesus in order to deepen their personal faith and understanding and, at the same time, to ‘go out’ to others to proclaim Jesus. In this respect, the composition of the Directory is rooted in the desire to explore the role of catechesis in the dynamic of evangelisation. It highlights important “signs of the times” which indicate the path which can assist both the proclamation and the handing on of the faith. Among these are, “the centrality of the believer and their experience, the considerable role of relationships and the affections, interest in that which offers true meaning, and the rediscovery of that which is beautiful and lifts up the soul” (par 5) cf via pulchritudinis – the way of beauty.
Welcome in the text, is the reality that quite a bit of attention is dedicated to the theme of the formation of catechists, and the need to recover their ministry in the Christian community. Often going unacknowledged or under-resourced, they are invited to live out their ministry as a vocation, “in the silent, laborious, and sometimes thankless task of being a catechist.” (Preface)
The Directory sees the Catechism of the Catholic Church as the sure reference and envisages a creative and positive presentation of its four pillars (doctrine, sacraments, moral life, and prayer) as normative in teaching the faith. The stages of the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults provide a process for the progressive and gradual handing of the faith. Particularly imaginative here, is the Directory’s call for a “catechesis of catechumenal inspiration” (par.62) for believers seeking to deepen their understanding of the faith.
There are extremely helpful comments made regarding the importance of local Conferences of Bishops. It refers to the role of the Episcopal Conference (par 412ff) as essential to support the work of dioceses, bishops and diocesan directors of evangelisation and catechesis. It mentions the importance of an “analysis of the situation of catechesis” (par. 413) in each country. The Bishops of England and Wales had already begun to pursue such a project before the release of this new Directory.
Refreshing throughout the text, is the centrality of the person of Jesus, “the key of all history” (par.427). Evangelisation aims at making all people, participants in His life, without any discrimination whatsoever. Catechesis is an essential moment in this process, leading to a more conscious and intimate encounter with the Redeemer of all. This new Directory is, therefore, an invaluable tool in this great mission and will inspire, encourage and support those who have at heart, the transmission of the faith. The Lord of all creation has chosen to share His work with His creatures. The ability to work with Him, using this magnificent tool of the Directory for Catechesis, is not only “consoling, reassuring, and strengthening in hope” but also, “a cause of great joy” (par 427). I am sure that bishops, priests, deacons, catechists, evangelists, teachers and so many of the faithful will drink of its riches and wisdom for many years to come.
Bishop of Plymouth
Chair of the Department for Evangelisation and Discipleship