Francis received the participants in the III International Congress of Catechesis in the Paul VI Hall, to whom he said: May love be the “criterion for judging our moral action.” He also invited them to “find the best modalities so that the communication of the faith is appropriate to the age and preparation of those who listen to us.” And he remembered the nun and the two “good ladies” who prepared him for his First Communion
Salvatore Cernuzio – Vatican City
“Never get tired of being catechists. Not of ‘giving a lesson’ in catechesis, not this. Offer. Your finger? In your pocket… Catechesis cannot be like an hour of class, but rather it is a living experience of Faith”. Pope Francis received at the end of the morning in the Paul VI Hall some 1,400 catechists who had come from all over the world to Vatican City for the third International Congress of Catechesis. He thanked all of them for their “commitment to the transmission of the faith”, which is an important “responsibility” towards children, young people and adults who “ask to make a journey of faith”.
The “ministry” of catechists
What catechists carry out in the Christian community is, in effect, a “great role”. For this reason, on May 10, 2021, with the Motu proprio Antiquum ministerium, the Pope formally instituted the “ministry” of the catechist. A recognition of “the presence” of the laity who, by virtue of baptism, collaborate in the service of evangelization in a world that sees “the imposition of a globalized culture.”
With a typical editAlso last year, the Holy Father had introduced a specific rite by which all the bishops of the world, as of January 1, 2022, can institute catechists during a liturgical celebration. This is also a sign to confer greater dignity on those who hold this office which, as the Pontiff said on numerous occasions, is not a job but a “vocation”.
A vocation that concerns all believers, including bishops, priests, consecrated men and women, “because the Lord calls us all to make his Gospel resound in the heart of each person”, the Pontiff pointed out in his address to today. And he stressed that he really likes “the appointment on Wednesdays”, the general audience, “when every week I meet so many people who come to participate in catechesis”. For Francisco “it is a privileged moment”. And he added:
Don’t get tired of being catechists
This is an enthusiasm that Pope Francis hopes will not be lost: “Please – he told the participants in this Congress – never tire of being catechists. Not of ‘doing the lesson’ of catechesis”. Certainly – he underlined – the best means must be found so that the communication of the faith is “appropriate” to the age and preparation of the people who listen. But, above all, “the personal encounter we have with each one of them” is decisive, because that “opens the heart to receive the first proclamation and desire to grow in Christian life with the same dynamism that catechesis allows.” In this sense, the new Directory for Catechesis delivered in recent months will be “very useful” – said the Pope – to understand “how to renew catechesis in dioceses and parishes”.
Witnesses of the new life
Francis also cited the Catechism of the Catholic Church to remind catechists of the call to be “Witnesses of new life.”
Of this “new life” the true and only commandment is “love”. He “who comes from God and that Jesus revealed with the mystery of his presence among us. Dear catechists, you are called to make visible and tangible the person of Jesus Christ, who loves each one of you and for this becomes the rule of our life and in the judgment criteria of our moral actions. Never move away from this source of love, because it is the condition to be happy and full of joy always and in spite of everything”.
Finally, Pope Francis said that he is sure that “this path will lead many of you to fully discover the vocation of being a catechist, and thus ask to enter the ministry of catechesis.”
Sister Dolores and the two “Alices”
A personal memory concluded this audience: “I would not like to end – I consider it a good and fair thing – without remembering my catechists”, said Jorge Mario Bergoglio speaking spontaneously. “There was a nun who led the group of catechists; sometimes she taught, sometimes two good ladies. Both were called Alicia. I always remember them. And this nun laid the foundations of my Christian life, preparing me for First Communion, in the year 1943-1944.
I don’t think any of you were born at that time. The Lord also gave me a very great grace. She was very old, I was a student, she was studying abroad, in Germany, and when I finished my studies I returned to Argentina. The next day (referring to the catechist) she died. I was able to accompany her that day. And when she was there, praying in front of her coffin, I thanked the Lord for the testimony of this nun that she spent her life almost exclusively teaching catechism, preparing children and young people for their First Communion. She was called Dolores.”
The Pope’s experience is proof that “when there is a good catechist, he leaves a mark”: “Not only the mark of what he sows, but the mark of what the person has sown,” Francis said. And he said goodbye with his wish to the catechists “that their children, their youngsters, their adults, those whom they accompany in catechesis, always remember them before the Lord as a person who has sown good and beautiful things in their hearts” .
One last thought, finally, the Pope addressed to all the “catechist martyrs”: “There are many, many, they are important. They also exist in our times.” For them too, gratitude and prayers.