Today we celebrate the memorial of St. Charles Borromeo, a scholar and theologian. He was instrumental in responding to the Protestant Reformation, and was named the Cardinal-Archbishop of Milan in 1564. Charles Borromeo has the distinction of being one of four saints mentioned in the Prologue to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, and he is mentioned as a significant force behind the products of the Council of Trent, which “initiated a remarkable organization of the Church’s catechesis” (CCC 9). In addition to working for the Catholic Apostolate Center, I work in the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) Secretariat for Evangelization and Catechesis. While the New Evangelization efforts have brought renewed use of Evangelization in the vocabulary of many Catholics, often we forget about the importance of catechesis.
There is no easy, succinct definition for catechesis. Rather, it is a process that is both interactive and ongoing. We tend to use it most when discussing the formation of catechumens, especially in the teaching of young children or through the RCIA process. The USCCB describes catechesis as “the act of handing on the Word of God intended to inform the faith community and candidates for initiation into the Church about the teachings of Christ, transmitted by the Apostles to the Church.” At some point in our faith formation, most of us have experienced catechesis. Whether it was the elementary school teachers who taught you in religion classes in Catholic schools, the religious education teachers through your parish CCD program, or RCIA formation leaders, we have all benefited from the important work that catechists do. Through their tireless dedication to teaching and spreading the faith, these men and women play an integral role in our Church.
However, catechesis also takes place at a much more informal level as well. As the USCCB notes, “catechesis also involves the lifelong effort of forming people into witnesses to Christ and opening their hearts to the spiritual transformation given by the Holy Spirit.” Catechesis is an interactive process, not merely one person teaching another, but also involves a personal commitment to our own faith development. I know I have personally grown and developed in my faith through typical classroom learning, but also through life experiences. Catechesis takes both these forms. We never know the impact our words and actions can have on others, and perhaps your own experiences have helped someone else on their faith journey! Take a moment today to reflect on your own faith development and pray the prayer below, through the intercession of St. Charles Borromeo, for all those who have taken on the task of teaching our faith to others.
Jesus, you told us that laborers for the vineyard would be few and that we should pray to the Lord of the Harvest in the hope that many might respond. You have answered our prayers by sending us catechists for your vineyard.
Bless these men and women who have responded to your call to the ministry of catechesis. May they be filled with zeal for your Church, with care for those they catechize, and with love for your Word of Life. Let your Spirit come upon them so that your Word may echo through their teaching and through the witness of their lives. Through our catechists, may the members of our parish whom they teach be transformed into witnesses to your Word. And may these catechists receive the blessing your Son promised to all who labor in your vineyard.
We pray to you, gracious Father, in the name of your Son, Jesus, the Word of Life, and in the unity of the Holy Spirit who transforms us by that Word, one God, forever and ever. Amen.
**This post was originally published on 11/4/2014**