Monday, November 23, 2009

St Francis Xavier's Catechesis

I have long been fascinated by the catechetical methods of past ages. Rorate Caeli features the famous letter of St Francis Xavier in which he talks about his catechesis of the people of Malabar.
He used children to learn the catechism, and to teach it to others. The catechism and the commandments were the basis, a clear, simple, definitive and accessible message. I think our failure to convert, catechise and retain our faithful stems from the vagueness of message.


Francis said...

Fr. Ray,

"I think our failure to convert, catechise and retain our faithful stems from the vagueness of message."

Well, the message isn't so much vague as (a) insipid and (b) indistinguishable from the "be nice to everyone and everything" ethic of secular society. Children in Catholic schools are taught to be "nice to everyone" and then rightly object that you don't have to go to church on Sunday, or be Catholic, to do this. It isn't a "message of conversion" if everyone else believes in it already.

The emphasis has to be on heroic virtue, and on what makes us different as Catholics. The trouble is that the thrust of our catechesis over the past 40 years has been therapeutic and assimilationist. It has been devised by people who are so desperate to "normalize" Catholicism that it has been turned into the salt that lost its taste.

Pablo the Mexican said...

A little off track, but since the column is about Saint Francis....

Saint Ignatius of Loyola was Saint Francis's Superior. They had secured the approval of the King of China and the King of Portugal to enter China that the great Evangelist, Saint Francis, could Catechize and convert the Chinese.

The laity in Portugal, the Holy People, as I like to refer to them, interceded in those plans to extend the Kingdom of Christ.

By the time Saint Ignatius was able to send Saint Francis to China, Saint Francis died.

In recent times, there have been hundreds of millions of abortions in China, and it remains a pagan land, because the Kingdom of Christ was not allowed to flourish there.

Our Priests need to listen to the Holy Mother, and not us laypeople.

The Papal Encyclical Ad Catholici Sacerdotii is a must read for Priests, with particular attention paid to number 10.

Padre, we need you to go to our mother that she may bring your sheep, us, to her Son.

Stand on Tradition, Padre.

Que Dios te bendiga.


Fr Ray Blake said...

No, I will not. John Smeaton has, very well.

GOR said...

I agree, Father, about the vagueness of the message. These days, people denigrate learning things by heart – or ‘by rote’ as we say, Stateside – but there was a value to it. While I appreciate the efforts that went into The Catechism of The Catholic Church, it is not something people are likely to memorize or recall very easily. Yes, it is filled with lengthy disquisitions laden with references, but it is not easily absorbed - and you need a basis to start from.

Back in the day we learned our Faith with the Baltimore Catechism or its equivalents. It covered all aspects of Church Doctrine in short, easy to remember, question and answer format. No, it wasn’t a theological treatise, nor was it meant to be. It was basic – just the facts. But it was something that - once known - could be built upon subsequently. It was a memory aid to recall the basics of Catholic teaching and a foundation upon which to build one’s knowledge. And without a good foundation “they labor in vain who build it” as someone once said…

So I think we need to go back to basics. Get the facts straight and then expound up on them later. St. Paul once said something about feeding his listeners milk because they weren’t yet able to absorb meat. I think we have – in some instances – tried to feed the meat when we should have been giving the milk.

If you think about it, what is in the Creed we pray at Mass – doctrinal expositions or just the facts? There is a reason our Lord said we must “become as little children’… We’re not as smart as we think we are and - in the face of Mystery - humility is of the essence.

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