Catechesis and Culture
Catechesis transforms culture. It should not surprise us then that the 20th century is considered, by some, to be the most active catechetical century since the early Church. Dramatic and deep-seated shifts in culture have called forth a renewed catechesis within the New Evangelization to engage, with the light of the Gospel, the opportunities and challenges of the contemporary globalized digital culture.
The catechetical movement, begun in the first half of the 20th century, received new impetus at the Second Vatican Council. The Council Fathers in the Decree on the Pastoral Office of Bishops (Christus Dominus, 44) set in motion a period of intense catechetical renewal marked by the publication of three catechetical directories over five decades, the publication of a universal Catechism of the Catholic Church, numerous regional catechisms expressing the inculturation of faith in local churches, and various papal and magisterial documents on catechesis. The Directory for Catechesis (2020) and Pope Francis’ institution of a Ministry of Catechist in the Apostolic Letter Antiquum Ministerium (2021) breathes new life, in our time, into the ancient ministry of catechesis.
In Antiquum Ministerium, Pope Francis notes the unquestionably “secular character” of the lay apostolate and the ministry of catechist. The Holy Father calls to mind the teaching of Lumen Gentium that, “the laity are called in a special way to make the Church present and operative in those places and circumstances where only through them can it become the salt of the earth.”
Catechesis is an ecclesial act that makes the proclamation of the passion, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ continually resound in the heart of every person, to transform life and culture, notes the Directory for Catechesis. Pope Francis invites every catechist to be “a witness to the faith, a teacher and a mystagogue, a companion and a pedagogue, who teaches for the Church” (AM, 6). As “salt of the earth” a catechist illuminates, with the radiant light of the Gospel, the heart of persons, families, neighborhoods and communities. In this way, catechesis transforms the heart of culture one person and one community at a time.
Dr. Jem Sullivan, Ph.D.
Associate Professor of Catechetics, School of Theology and Religious Studies, The Catholic University of America, Washington, D.C. Sullivan was appointed recently to serve as a Member of the International Council for Catechesis.
Host of podcast “Echoing Faith Today” dedicated to conversations on catechetical themes in the Directory for Catechesis. Podcast – School of Theology and Religious Studies | CUA (catholic.edu)
Pope Francis renews the ministry of catechist for the New Evangelization – Our Sunday Visitor (osvnews.com)