For the first time in almost a quarter of a century, the Church has a new Directory for Catechesis. The Directory, essentially the Church’s authoritative handbook for passing on Christian truth and practice, was issued by the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of the New Evangelisation. It comes as the result of over five years of work by over 80 experts.
Plenty about the Directory is new since the previous edition in 1997. One of the text’s key concepts is “kerygmatic catechesis”. The Greek word kerygma means “proclamation”, specifically of the kind which in the ancient world would have been given by a keryx (herald) after a military victory. In Christian theology it denotes the core message of Christianity: the Gospel itself. The Directory is therefore advocating teaching the faith in a manner rooted in the centrality of Christ, and of evangelisation.
This has attracted praise from Bishop Robert Barron, creator of the Catholicism series, and one of the best-known Anglophone evangelists. Bishop Barron said he is “excited to have a fresh and focused tool to enhance our evangelisation efforts in catechesis”, adding that the “call for a ‘kerygmatic catechesis’ affirms the … recent focus on the importance of living as missionary disciples”.
Leading catechetical experts, meanwhile, have noted the Directory’s renewed emphasis on forming catechists themselves. Professor Petroc Willey, Director of Catechetics at the Franciscan University of Steubenville, and a Consultor for the Pontifical Council, calls this new focus one of the “compelling themes” of the new Directory. Dr Willey points to the Directory’s “sustained attempt to trace the implications of the fact that catechesis is wedded to evangelisation, and think about how this affects all aspects of catechesis and especially the formation of catechists … the unity between faith and life in the catechist is one of the hallmarks of the work”.
This is expressed in the Directory’s discussion of modern problems on which catechesis is necessary, including gender theory, transhumanism, genetic manipulation, attacks on the dignity of human life from conception to natural death, digital culture, and environmental crises.
Dr Caroline Farey, formerly Director of the BA programme in Catechesis at the Maryvale Institute, notes another new and striking aspect of the Directory: its focus on beauty, “the beauty of Jesus and his Holy Mother, the beauty of Jesus’s teaching, beauty in art and in liturgical music. And the new directory cleverly provides criteria for discerning beauty from St Paul’s letter to the Philippians, ‘Whatever is true, whatever is noble…’”
The new Directory for Catechesis is multi-faceted, well-informed, timely and uncannily current in the concerns it identifies and the remedies it prescribes for the situation in which the Church finds herself. It will be an invaluable resource for anyone approaching the crucial tasks of catechesis or evangelisation in the near future.
The Directory for Catechesis can be purchased from the Catholic Truth Society at www.ctsbooks.org.
Peter D Williams is a Catholic apologist, writer, and speaker, and marketing consultant for CTS