There is a lyric from a classic song from 1968 that goes, “Summertime and the livin’ is easy.” It implies that summer is a time when life slows down a little. That might seem quite a happy illusion when you minister in parish life. Summer often brings parish festivals, picnics, vacation Bible school and summer catechetical programs. And then there are the never-ending issues that arise when the maintenance staff discovers countless new problems as they undertake a thorough process of clean up and repair.
Yet, there is some truth to the song, as there is a little letup from programs and meetings that suspend for the summer. Summer just may be God’s pause to give us the opportunity to reflect upon the life of the parish, to assess what is bearing fruit and what needs to be pruned. It is a time to root ourselves once again in the call of Christ and the promise of his Holy Spirit to be with his disciples and equip us for mission.
While the parish supports this journey to holiness in numerous ways, two of the most critical responsibilities of the parish is liturgy and catechesis. How we come to encounter Christ and his truth through worship and catechesis is the responsibility of the whole parish, led by the parish staff. Accompanying disciples on the journey begins with meeting them where they are and inviting them to more — more love, more truth, more peace.
We are incredibly blessed as Catholics with a rich treasury of catechetical history. The Holy Spirit continues to guide the Church in the divine pedagogy. In every age we are challenged and inspired by the creative power of the Spirit to effectively engage nonbelievers with disciples who can articulate the truth of the Faith with joy and enthusiasm. Many times this truth is communicated in catechetical documents that ask us to reflect on this holy work and present us with some standards to use to evaluate our work. Summer is a good time to dive in.
We presently are awaiting the arrival of a new General Directory for Catechesis. It seems appropriate, then, that we use this summer breath to review some of the important documents that have brought us to this point. As you read the following thoughts, I hope it creates a longing to read their context and perhaps the entire document. Make it a conversation for you and your staff. Explore their meaning in the Sitz im Leben of your parish community, and let them rekindle your enthusiasm.
• “The definitive aim of all catechesis is to put people not only in touch but also in communion and intimacy with Jesus Christ.” — Pope St. John Paul II (Catechesi Tradendae, No. 5).
• “Faith is a gift that is destined to grow in the hearts of believers. Adhering to Jesus Christ, in fact, sets into motion a process of continuing conversion, which lasts the whole of life” (General Directory for Catechesis, No. 56).
• “The obligation of spreading the Faith is imposed on every disciple of Christ, according to his ability” (Lumen Gentium, No. 17).
• “Raising children calls for an orderly process of handing on the Faith. ... The home must continue to be the place where we learn to appreciate the meaning and beauty of the Faith, to pray and to serve our neighbor” — Pope Francis (Amoris Laetitia, No. 287).
• “The charism given to the catechist by the Spirit, a solid spirituality and transparent witness of life constitutes the soul of every method” (GDC, No. 156).
• “The fundamental tasks of catechesis are: promoting knowledge of the Faith, liturgical education, moral formation, teaching to pray, education for community life and missionary initiation” (GDC, No. 85).
Make the time this summer to respond to God’s invitation to relax a little and be renewed. Allow God’s Spirit to reignite your passion for his word as you “chew on” the joys and challenges of echoing the Good News in your corner of his kingdom.
DR. JO ANN PARADISE is a national catechetical consultant for Our Sunday Visitor.