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The Spirit of faith is essential to every Christian Catechesis

Catechesis by Pope John Paul II on Catechesis
General Audience, Wednesday, 16 January 1985 - in Italian & Spanish

"1. Catechesis poses some problems of pedagogy. From the Gospel texts we know that even Jesus had to face them. In his preaching to the crowds he used parables to communicate his teaching in a way that suited the intelligence of his listeners. In teaching his disciples he proceeded gradually, taking into account the difficulty they had in understanding. So it was only in the second part of his public life that he expressly announced his sorrowful way and only at the end did he openly declare his identity not only as the Messiah, but as the "Son of God." We note also that, in his most detailed dialogues, he communicated his revelation by answering the questions of his listeners and using language their mentality easily understood. At times, he himself asked questions and posed problems.

Christ has shown us the necessity for catechesis to have a multiform adaptation according to the groups and persons to whom it is given. He has also pointed out to us the nature and the limits of this adaptation. He offered his listeners the whole doctrine he had been sent to teach. In the face of the resistance of those who heard him, he expounded his message with all the demands of faith that it involves. We recall his discourse on the Eucharist on the occasion of the miracle of the multiplication of the loaves. Despite objections and defections, Jesus maintained his doctrine and asked his disciples to accept it (cf. Jn 6:60-69). In transmitting the entirety of his message to his listeners, he counted on the illuminating action of the Holy Spirit, who would later make them understand what they couldn't yet grasp (cf. Jn 14:26; 16:13). Therefore even for us the adaptation of catechesis must not mean the reduction or mutilation of the content of revealed doctrine, but rather the effort to have it accepted with an adherence of faith, under the light and with the power of the Holy Spirit.

2. Following the example of her only teacher, who is Jesus, the Church in her catechesis has tried to adapt to those to whom she wanted to communicate the light of the Gospel. This effort to adapt is especially evident in recent times, which have been marked by progressive catechetical specialization. In fact, institutes for catechetical training have multiplied, methods of catechesis have been systematically studied, and more effective ways of teaching religion have been proposed. It is to be hoped that this effort will continue and develop further. The problems of adaptation are multiple and difficult. They vary according to place and time, and they will not cease to be posed in the future.

It must be noted that these problems today are linked with the problems of the development of new means of social communication. Alongside the simple and traditional forms of catechesis there is room for a catechetical teaching which utilizes the most modern ways of circulation. The Church cannot but encourage attempts to devise new forms of transmitting the Gospel truth. All the fine initiatives in this field must be viewed favorably. We must congratulate those who have pioneered in this area.

3. Therefore catechesis is not meant to fossilize in what has been done in the past. As I acknowledged in the Exhortation Catechesi Tradendae, catechesis "needs to be continually renewed by a certain broadening of its concept, by the revision of its methods, by the search for suitable language, and by the utilization of new means of transmitting the message" (CT 17). We can say that catechesis, like the Church herself, is leaning toward a future better than the past. This future requires an active collaboration of all concerned and a watchful opening to the advances of human society.

The need for renewal requires a constant effort to reflect on the results that have been achieved. We cannot start from the principle that everything that is new is good and fruitful. The important thing is to verify by experience the effectiveness of the way that has been followed. In recent times considerable efforts have been made to develop catechetical methods. But we cannot ignore the fact that in various places there have been frequent complaints about the gaps and the disappointing results of certain new methods. The 1977 Synod did not fail to recognize "the limitations and deficiencies that are in contrast with an undeniable advance in the vitality of catechetical activity and promising initiatives" (CT 17). These deficiencies must give rise to a careful review of the means that are employed and the doctrine that is transmitted.

4. The Synod particularly stressed the necessity for an organic and systematic teaching, not an improvised one. If it is true that "routine leads to stagnation, lethargy and eventual paralysis," we must acknowledge that "improvisation begets confusion on the part of those being given catechesis and when these are children, on the part of their parents; it also begets all kinds of deviations, and the fracturing and eventually the complete destruction of unity" (CT 17).

In addition to being systematic, with a program and precise goal, three other characteristics of catechetical teaching were recalled at the end of the Synod's discussion. It must "deal with essentials, without any claims to tackle all disputed questions or to transform itself into theological research or scientific exegesis; it must nevertheless be sufficiently complete, not stopping short at the initial proclamation of the Christian mystery such as we have in the kerygma; it must be an integral Christian initiation, open to all the other factors of Christian life" (CT 21).

The intention to give a complete teaching arises spontaneously from an attitude of faith and love which is loyal to all of revelation and wishes to communicate it. The spirit of faith is essential to every Christian catechesis. The search for and setting up of more adapted methods would not suffice if these were not inspired by this spirit of faith. The scientific aspects of pedagogy could not supply for a lack of faith. In reality, it is faith that pushes the catechist to seek the best method for explaining and transmitting doctrine. It is faith that forms the soul of catechesis and inspires every effort at pedagogy in religious teaching.

Because catechesis is one of the ways to transmit revelation in the Church, it must be regulated in its contents and in its methods by the structure proper to such transmission. This includes the inseparable connection between Sacred Scripture, Tradition and the Magisterium (cf. DV 10). In our future instructions we will have occasion to return to this structure."

After the Catechesis, Pope John Paul II greeted the pilgrims in various languages

Ad un gruppo proveniente dallo Sri Lanka e dagli Stati Uniti

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

I wish to extend my greetings to all the English-speaking visitors and pilgrims present at today's audience, especially those from Sri Lanka and the United States. May God in his great love bless each one of you during this New Year.

Ai pellegrini francesi

Chers Frères et Soeurs,

En donnant ces encouragements aux pèlerins de langue française - et notamment aux Frères de l'Instruction chrétienne de Ploërmel et aux Frères du Sacré-Coeur qui sont ici aujourd'hui -, je les invite à bien célébrer la Semaine de l'unité des chrétiens et je les bénis de tout coeur.

Ad un gruppo di lingua tedesca

Liebe Brüder und Schwestern!

Mit diesen kurzen Überlegungen grüße ich herzlich alle deutschsprachigen Audienzteilnehmer und erteile ihnen mit besten persönlichen Wünschen von Herzen meinen besonderen Apostolischen Segen.

Ai fedeli di lingua spagnola

Queridos hermanos y hermanas,

Deseo presentar mi cordial saludo a todos los peregrinos de lengua española. En particular al grupo de alumnos del Colegio El Pinar de Valldoreix en Barcelona, de las Hijas de Nuestra Señora del Sagrado Corazón, con sus profesores y familiares. Al grupo de estudiantes mexicanos del «Oak Language Center» de los Legionarios de Cristo.

De Brasil a los peregrinos procedentes de São Paulo, Belo Horizonte, Porto Alegre y Río de Janeiro.

A todos los peregrinos procedentes de España y de los diversos Países de América Latina, imparto de corazón mí Bendición Apostólica.

Ai pellegrini polacchi

Pozdrawiam serdecznie pielgrzymów z Polski, w Szczególności z Krakowa, z parafii księży Pijarów, wśród nich grupę krakowskich lekarzy; pielgrzymkę kurialną z Krakowa, uczestników grup turystycznych «Orbisu», «Turysty» oraz innych indywidualnych pielgrzymów zarówno z Kraju, jak í z emigracji. . . . To, co tu mówię o katechizacji, jest ważne, oczywiście, dla Kościoła w Polsce, dla duszpasterstwa í katechizacji, dla wszystkich, którzy w tym biorą udział, a wiadomo, że biorą udział nie tylko kapłani, siostry zakonne, ale także szerokie kręgi świeckich, poczynając od rodziców, którzy są powołani, aby stawać się pierwszymi nauczycielami wiary, pierwszymi katechetami swoich dzieci. Życzę, ażeby te poczynania Kościoła w Polsce wydawały błogosławione owoce; życzę błogosławionego Nowego Roku wszystkim obecnym, zwłaszcza światu służby zdrowia, lekarzom, pielęgniarkom, chorym - w Krakowie i w całej mojej Ojczyźnie.

Ai gruppi delle diverse diocesi italiane

Sono lieto di salutare ora i pellegrini italiani; in particolare mi rivolgo ad alcuni gruppi di sacerdoti che prendono parte a questa udienza. Tra essi sono i sacerdoti della regione Puglia, i quali, accompagnati da Monsignor Guglielmo Motolese e Monsignor Ennio Appignanesi, rispettivamente Arcivescovo di Taranto e Vescovo di Castellaneta, sono venuti a Roma per concludere un loro convegno su “Eucaristia e problemi esistenziali del sacerdote oggi” sulla tomba di san Pietro e con la benedizione del suo successore; c’è poi una rappresentanza del seminario di Posillipo con un gruppo di sacerdoti che ricordano il decimo anniversario della loro ordinazione sacerdotale e un gruppo di Padri Redentoristi convenuti a Roma per un corso di spiritualità.

Carissimi fratelli nel sacerdozio! Mi compiaccio per codeste vostre iniziative, destinate a promuovere una sempre più approfondita conoscenza della vostra vocazione sacerdotale e ravvivare la vostra fede nell’Eucaristia, che deve esser al centro della vostra spiritualità. Se amate realmente Gesù, dolce ospite dei tabernacoli delle vostre chiese, certamente vivrete anche in comunione tra di voi e troverete una risposta per i problemi inerenti alla vostra vita e al vostro ministero. Vi sia di conforto la mia speciale benedizione apostolica.

Agli alunni della Scuola di musica “Tommaso Ludovico da Victoria”

Un saluto particolare anche ai numerosi alunni della Scuola di musica “Tommaso Ludovico da Victoria”, associata al Pontificio Istituto di Musica Sacra.

Cari giovani, in attesa di ascoltare un vostro canto, vi ringrazio della vostra visita e vi incoraggio nel vostro impegno di formazione cristiana oltre che musicale. Cantare bene e apprendere ad usare perfettamente uno strumento musicale non è facile: richiede uno studio lungo e paziente fatto di esercizi, di prove, di ripetizioni. Richiede dedizione e buona volontà, ma si tratta di uno sforzo quanto mai gratificante, perché eleva lo spirito, ingentilisce l’animo, rendendolo più sensibile ai valori spirituali, soprattutto quando accompagnate con i vostri canti i divini misteri. Vi auguro che anche la vostra vita sia un canto armonioso, mentre estendo il mio saluto anche agli altri giovani e ragazzi presenti all’udienza.

Ai fedeli della parrocchia di San Giovanni Battista al Collatino

Rivolgo poi un pensiero affettuoso ai numerosi fedeli della parrocchia di San Giovanni Battista al Collatino, che precisamente un anno fa ebbi occasione di visitare. Apprezzo il vostro gesto di avermi voluto restituire la visita con questa vostra presenza e vi esorto a continuare a vivere nel fervore di fede, che ebbi modo di constatare in quella circostanza. Vivete sempre uniti e date testimonianza della speranza che è in voi. Il Signore vi benedica.

Agli ammalati

Mi è ora particolarmente gradito salutare, come sempre, gli ammalati che partecipano a questa udienza. Voi, carissimi, avete una grande missione da compiere: quella di donare ad ogni persona che incontrate la testimonianza della serenità che in voi è alimentata d continuo dalla presenza di Cristo, unico Signore della vita.

Agli sposi novelli

Saluto infine tutti voi, sposi novelli.

Vi auguro che, con l’aiuto e per l’intercessione della Beata Vergine Maria, presente alle nozze di Cana di Galilea, voi possiate perseguire, con sempre rinnovato impegno, la meta della perfezione cristiana, quale strada per ottenere il vero bene materiale e spirituale della nuova famiglia da voi costituita. 


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