Saturday, February 05, 2011
Thoughts on Catechesis
I am old enough to remember a time when most Catholics could remember great chunks of the penny catechism, and when the King James Bible and bits and pieces of the Book of Common Prayer flecked ordinary conversation. We remembered, now there seems too much to remember.
The Old Rite in its wisdom focused on a restricted number scriptural texts, the Gospel is mainly from Matthew, the Epistles are pretty repetitive focusing on the more memorable parts. You get the impression the readings are their to teach rather than as in the Novus Ordo there simply for the sake of reading the scriptures. I really can't see the point of reading more or less the whole of an impoverished translation of Hebrews or Romans in the "liturgical assembly", when it just goes over peoples heads, better to create a culture where scripture has meaning for people and where they will want to sit, study and meditate. Indeed the old Missal was meant to be memorable, by the priest at least.
It amazes me that in the great days of evangelisation and expansion of the Western Church from the time of the conversion of Briton, Ireland and the rest of Northern Europe, right through to the evangelisation of the Americas and vast parts of Asia, up until the founding of so many of the African Churches, it was the old liturgy, in Latin that formed the background for this work. Indeed it was the Latin liturgy that inspired the great exodus of missionaries from Europe to practically every part of the world in the first part of the twentieth century.
Apart from teaching, by osmosis really, the value of silence and private prayer and the interior life, one of things that the old Rite imposed on missionaries and catechists was the need to be disciplined in the presentation of the Faith, to strip the Catholic Faith to its essentials. I am pleased that a version of the Catechism for young people is being published, it is short, it is simple, it is portable, it is a distillation of the CCC.
I think that a greater part of pre-concilliar catechesis was about doing things, keeping the commandments, going to the sacraments, saying the Rosary, putting up crucifixes and pictures of Our Lady, wearing medals and scapulars, kneeling, genuflecting, fasting, saying prayers, burning candles, celebrating feasts, joining processions, even giving money. Not only did these things supply a portal for catechesis in response to the very simple question of "Why?" or "Why should I?" but they also taught people how to live and die. Now we have replaced all these things by endless talk and endless discussion. I suspect that our real problem in catechesis today is that we teach into a void, we give the answer to questions no one is asking because we fail to stimulate questions.
I have been thinking about what to do for Lent in the parish , whether to use the excellent Evangelium course (God bless Fathers Marcus Holden and Andrew Pinsent from my own diocese) or to put on Stations of the Cross and Exposition and other devotions instead, or find some way of combining the two.
Posted by Fr Ray Blake