Catechesis and Christian Commitment – Papa Luciani

The following are excerpts written by then Cardinal Luciani, later Pope John Paul the First. He wrote this as an “intervention” at the Synod of Bishops many years ago.

“Catechesis must be concerned not only to transmit revealed truths, but to transmit them in such a way that the one who receives them will received them with faith and be impelled to live them. To narrate and speak, yes, Augustine said, but in such a way that the listener ‘audiendo credat, credendo speret, sperando amet’. Credat: that he may catch a glimpse of God behind the catechist ‘God’s postman’. Speret: that he may rejoice, perceiving that he has before him a doctrine which will fulfill him in a noble way both as a man and as a son of God. Amet: that, feeling he is loved by God, he will set out ‘like a shot’ towards the good works to be done for God, his neighbor, for himself….

“A well-chosen Hagiography may be a great stimulus to the commitment of the young. ‘The Saints are to the Bible as a piece of music performed by skillful artists is to the written score; they indicate how this or that Bible teaching is expressed in real life, in such circumstances, and they sweep people along with their example’….

“In the sense also that faith, especially the faith of the young, prospers – usually – only in the warmth of a milieu of life lived in a Christian way; that the parents – above all – must feel they are the first catechists of their children, the bishops and parish priests, so to speak, of the home….

“Faced with… culture, two principles must be asserted and carried out.

1. Catechesis must try to instill faith into all these various cultural manifestations, provided they are not in evident contrast to the Word of God.

2. Catechesis must exploit in favor of the Word of God all the good elements that are in these cultures. It does so our of love for the Word of God itself which must be able to travel with all means; and it does so without fear of facing up to some risks and introducing new things. It does so with the spirit of Pope John, who in the opening address of the Council (11.X.1962) spoke on the one hand of presenting truth in new forms, and on the other hand demanded ‘the renewed, serene, and tranquil adherence to all the teachings of the Church in its entirety and preciseness, as it still shines forth in the Acts of the Council of Trent and First Vatican Council’….

“… let catechesis stress that the Gospel is the News that makes people joyful.…. Let Morality be presented as man’s magnanimous response to God’s love; a response which cannot be made without God’s help and which gives happiness not to him, but to us.

The dominant note must, therefore, be joy.…..”

(Taken from L’Osservatore Romano, archives, 1978. Italics mine.)

I offer this post for three reasons. For all of us who catechize, I think these are good principles to consider; secondly, these excerpts and the complete text from which they were taken, are examples of Papa Luciani’s intellect, which some had characterized as “lacking”; and finally, it is a beautiful example of his underlying character, and maybe a glimpse of where he would have taken the Church had he lived longer: to joy, his most enduring legacy to us all.

About Deacon Bob

Moderator: Deacon Bob Yerhot of the Diocese of Winona-Rochester, Minnesota.
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