Sr. Clare Emeroum, Vicar of HVM, serves as Secretary to the Secretary General and as National Coordinator, Opus Securitatis, under the Catholic Secretariat of Nigeria, the administrative headquarters of the Catholic Bishops Conference of Nigeria in Abuja
Sr. Clare writes a regular column for the Good Shepherd, the weekly newspaper of the Archdiocese of Abudja. The column is entitled Catechesis with Sr. Clare Emeruom, HVM. We will attempt to publish Sr. Clare’s columns here as they become available.
#3. ECUMENICAL DIMENSION OF CATECHESIS
Ecumenism refers to relation with our non-Catholic brethren, particularly, those we share our Christian faith but not members of the Catholic Church. The Second Vatican Council has as one of its principal concerns the restoration of unity among all Christians (Unitatis Redintegratio (UR), #1) and that the concern for this restoration involves the whole Church, everyone according to his/her talent (UR. #5). Therefore, catechesis cannot ignore this ecumenical aspect of the Church life because all are called to share on the movement towards unity (Catechesi Tradendae (CT), #32).
In order that Catholics would better understand their faith and also have a better acquaintance with other Christian brethren, Pope John Paul II on Catechesis in our Time (Catechesi Tradendae) articulated the criteria by which catechesis would have ecumenical dimension: first, “while not ceasing to teach that the fullness of the revealed truths and of the means of salvation instituted by Christ is found in the Catholic Church, it does so with sincere respect, in words and in deeds, for the ecclesial communities that are not in perfect communion with this Church”, second, “if it creates and fosters a true desire for unity” and third, ” if it tries to prepare Catholic children and young people, as well as adults, for living in contact with non-Catholics, affirming their Catholic identity while respecting the faith of others” (CT. #32). This entails that in our daily life of teaching and living out the faith, we would meet those who do not share our faith and it behoves on us as Catholics to approach them with sincere respect while articulating that the fullness of the means of salvation intended by Christ, is found within the Catholic Church. This uniqueness of the Catholic position must be emphasized and strongly expressed.
“We should be proud of what we have as Catholics and never take for granted the gifts God has given us.”
Furthermore, Pope John Paul II maintained that we cannot sacrifice the convinced truth about our faith because we want to accommodate our separated brethren, thus, “the ecumenical collaboration is limited in nature, which follows that it must never mean a ‘reduction’ to a common minimum” (CT. #33). Therefore, in catechesis we must not reduce our faith to expressing what we all agree. We must articulate the Catholic faith as it is, claim and insist on it while being cautious to do that with sincere respect, in our dealings with our separated brethren. In living out the Catholic faith, we must be bold and courageous, knowing that we are privileged to be part of Christ’s body, the Church. I have seen some Catholics who are ashamed to make the sign of the cross in public arena or interdenominational gathering and I keep wondering why. We should be proud of what we have as Catholics and never take for granted the gifts God has given us. Therefore, as Catholics, we are enjoined to know the tenets of our faith, be grounded in it and be courageous to express and live it out, and thus, be the salt of the earth and light of the world wherever we are.
#2. THE USE OF THE CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH (CCC)
“It is authoritative, precise, and universal and therefore, should be read and studied by all.”
The Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC) is the content of the faith. It is the content of what we believe, “a statement of the Church’s faith and of Catholic doctrine, attested to or illuminated by Sacred Scripture, the Apostolic Tradition and the Church’s Magisterium” (Fidei Depositum (FD), #3, the General Directory of Catechesis (GDC) #120). It is considered a sure norm for teaching the faith, a valid and legitimate instrument for ecclesial communion (FD #3). In order to enliven the faith of the People of God and foster better knowledge of the Christian mystery, the CCC is arranged in four related parts; the Creed, the Sacred Liturgy, the Christian way of life and the Christian prayer (FD #2). The relationship of the four parts specifies that the Christian mystery is the object of faith which is celebrated in liturgical actions and is present to enlighten the children of God in their actions and to form the basis of our prayer, expressed in the Our Father (FD #2).
The purpose of the CCC is thus stated, “this catechism aims at presenting an organic synthesis of the essential and fundamental contents of Catholic doctrine, as regards both faith and morals, in the light of the Second Vatican Council and the whole of the Church’s Tradition”. (GDC #121, CCC #11). The CCC is a valid and legitimate instrument for ecclesial communion, an authentic reference text for teaching Catholic doctrine and particularly for preparing local catechisms in the various countries and offers a clear response to the faithful’s legitimate right to know what the Church believes (GDC #121). Since all baptized persons have legitimate right to know the faith and the tenets of the Catholic Church, the CCC becomes an obligatory point of reference for catechesis (GDC #121). Primarily, the CCC is intended for those responsible for catechesis namely, the bishops and through them, to redactors of catechisms, to priests and to catechists and is also a useful reading for all Christian faithful (CCC #12).
John Paul II in his Introduction to the Catechism, Fidei Depositum tells us that Christ entrusted the mission of guarding the Deposit of Faith to the Church. Therefore, the synod fathers of the second Vatican Council had the principal task of presenting better the Christian doctrine so that it would be more accessible to the People of God and that it would emphasize the Church’s apostolic and pastoral mission in order that the Gospel would lead all people to Christ. Thus, the CCC is offered to; all Church’s Pastors to use it in fulfilling their mission of proclaiming the faith and calling people to the Gospel life; to all Christian faithful who wish to deepen their knowledge in the faith and to every individual who wants to know what the Catholic Church believes (FD #3).
Catechism also plays an important role in the ecclesial reading of the Scriptures, done in the light of Tradition. In this matter, Tradition and Scripture form the sources for catechesis, which entails that “catechesis must imbibe and permeate itself with biblical and evangelical thought, spirit and attitudes by constant contact with them. It also means that catechesis will be as rich and as effective only to the extent that these texts are read with the mind and heart of the Church” (GDC #127).
The CCC, thus, represents the content of the faith, as entrusted to the Church by the Lord, preserved by the apostles and their successors, a clear articulation of the Church’s teaching and a work of the Magisterium intended for the entire Church. It is authoritative, precise, and universal and therefore, should be read and studied by all.
#1. CATECHESIS AND THE AIMS OF CATECHESIS
Catechesis is an education in the faith of the people of God which includes the teaching of Christian doctrine aimed at initiating the hearers into the fullness of Christian life (Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC), #5). In describing catechesis, the first point to mention is that catechesis has both content and purpose. The content being what God revealed, which is the message we proclaim and teach, while the purpose entails making Him known and inviting people into relationship with Him. Therefore, the Church has always considered catechesis as one of her primary tasks. (Catechesi Tradendae (CT), #1). This flows from the “Great Commission” of Christ to His apostles, enjoining them to go make disciples of all nations and to teach them all He commanded (Mt. 28:16-20). Thus, He entrusted them with the mission and power to proclaim all they had witnessed concerning the Word of Life. Following this, the name catechesis was given to the whole of the efforts within the Church to make disciples, to enable people believe in Christ and have life in His name, to educate and instruct them in this life and thus, build up the Body of Christ. (CT. #1).
Catechesis as a term is derived from the Scriptures with particular reference to St. Paul who told the story of a certain Jew named Apollos, who was instructed in the way of the Lord; and being fervent in the spirit, he spoke and taught diligently the things of the Lord. (Acts. 18:24ff). Thus, catechesis entails teaching what Christ has revealed, the Deposit of Faith which was handed on to the apostles and preserved by the Church. The core of catechesis is proclaiming Christ and everything in reference to Him (CT. #6) and the specific character of catechesis has twofold objective; of maturing the initial faith and of educating true disciples of Christ by means of a deeper knowledge of the person and the message of Jesus Christ (CT. #19).
Pope John Paul II tells us that 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” (CT. #20). Precisely, catechesis is aimed at developing understanding of the mystery of Christ in the light of God’s word, so that God’s word finds a home with the person, changes him into a new creature and enables him follow Christ ardently (CT. #20). This highlights a twofold aim of catechesis, namely, understanding and change/conversion. It entails that anyone who hears the message of Christ, understands and accepts it, ought to have conversion of heart with sincere effort to know Christ better and follow Him more closely. Jesus said, no one who puts his hand on the plough and looks back, is fit for the kingdom of God. (Lk. 9:62). Therefore, catechesis is meant to keep us in the path of continual growth in the faith, better knowledge of Christ and to lead us into a life changing relationship with Jesus Christ
Rev. Sr. Clare Emeruom, HVM. Vicar. Sisters, Home Visitors of Mary.