“One must be able to “change,” to adapt to bring the message closer, although it is always the same,” wrote Pope Francis to the participants in the First International Symposium on Catechesis, which opened on July 11, 2017 in Buenos Aires, Argentina. The Pontiff encouraged catechists to be creative, to look for “different means and different ways to proclaim Christ.”
The Pope also exhorted them to be “joyful messengers, custodians of the goodness and beauty that shine in the faithful love of a missionary disciple.”
The meeting, which will close in July 14, was organized by the Argentine Higher Institute of Catechesis (ISCA), a dependency of the Episcopal Conference, at the Faculty of Theology of the Argentine Pontifical Catholic University.
Here is our translation of the message sent by Pope Francis.
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The Holy Father’s Message
To His Excellency Monsignor Ramon Alfredo Dus,
Archbishop of Resistencia,
President of the Episcopal Commission of Catechesis and Biblical Pastoral Care.
A warm greeting to you and to all who will take part in the different meetings of formation, which the Episcopal Commission of Catechesis and Biblical Pastoral Care has organized.
When one of Saint Francis of Assisi’s followers insisted that he teach him how to preach, he answered thus: “Brother, [when we visit the sick, help children, and feed the poor] we are already preaching.” Enclosed in this beautiful lesson is the catechist’s vocation and task.
In the first place, catechesis is not a “job” or a task that is external to the person of the catechist, but one “is” a catechist and one’s whole life pivots around this mission. In fact, to “be” a catechist is a vocation of service in the Church; what has been received as a gift from the Lord, must in turn be transmitted; hence the need for the catechist to return constantly to that first proclamation or “kerygma,” which is the gift that changed his life. It is the fundamental proclamation that must resonate again and again in the life of a Christian, and even more so in one who is called to proclaim and teach the faith. “There is nothing more solid, more profound, more certain, more dense or wiser than that proclamation” (Evangelii Gaudium, 165). This proclamation must accompany that faith which is already present in our people’s religiosity. It is necessary to take charge of all the potential of piety and love enclosed in popular religiosity, not only so that the content of the faith is transmitted, but so that a true school of formation is created, in which the gift of faith, which has been received, is cultivated, so that acts and words reflect the grace of being disciples of Jesus.
The catechist walks from and with Christ; he is not a person that begins from his own ideas and tastes, but one who lets himself be looked at by Him, by that look that makes the heart burn. The more Jesus is at the center of our life, the more He makes us come out of ourselves; He de-centers us and makes us close to others. That dynamism of love is like the movement of the heart: “systole and diastole”; one concentrates to encounter the Lord and open immediately, coming out of oneself out of love, to give witness of Jesus and to speak of Jesus, to preach Jesus. He Himself gives us the example: He would withdraw to pray to the Father and immediately went out to encounter the hungry and thirsty for god, to heal and save them. Hence the importance of the “mystagogic” catechesis, which is constant encounter with the Word and with the Sacraments, and not something occasional prior to the celebration of the Sacraments of Christian initiation. The Christian life is a process of growth and integration of all the person’s dimensions in a communal journey of listening and response (Cf. Evangelii Gaudium, 166).
In addition, the catechist is creative; he seeks different means and ways to proclaim Christ. It is beautiful to believe in Jesus, because He is “the Way, the Truth and the Life” (John 14:6) who fills our existence with joy and gladness. This endeavor to make Jesus known as supreme beauty leads us to find new signs and ways for the transmission of the faith. The means can be different; what is important is to keep present Jesus’ style, who adapted Himself to the persons that were before Him to bring them close to the love of God. One must be able to “change,” to adapt oneself, to make the message more accessible, even when it is always the same, because God does not change but renews all things in Him. In the creative endeavor to make Jesus known, we must not feel afraid because He precedes us in that task. He is already in the man of today, and waits for us there.
Dear catechists, I thank you for what you do, but especially because you walk with the People of God. I encourage you to be joyful messengers, custodians of the goodness and beauty, which shine in the faithful life of the missionary disciple.
May Jesus bless you and the Holy Virgin, true “Educator of the Faith,” take care of you.
And, please, do not forget to pray for me.
Vatican, July 5, 2017