Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Wuerl on talking to this generation

Whispers has some great snippets from Archbishop Donald Wuerl's convocation to the catechists of the archdiocese of Washington. The full text is here (PDF). I haven't had a chance to read the whole thirteen pages of it, but if the excerpts are representative of the whole this is an excellent piece of teaching. My own highlights:

For nearly two decades, we have witnessed an increasing diminishment of the Church in two clearly verifiable areas: participation in the sacramental life of the Church and catechetical preparation sufficient to grasp the central mysteries of the Christian faith.

One of the most significant differences between the ’60s, ’70s and ’80s, and the ’90s and this decade is found in the attitude of so many young people. They often do not contest what the Church teaches. They simply do not know it.
Many have simply drifted away. They do not have an axe to grind. They are not angry with the Church. They just do not know much about the Church and have drifted away from her....

The fact that this squares with what I've tried many times to explain to people makes me feel like there is a bit of hope for me. It is not that everyone disagrees with what the Church teaches, it is simply that they don't know what She teaches and thus fill in the blanks with what they get from various and sundry sources and then form possibly lifelong positions based on those assumptions. We need, as catechists, to remember that we are responsible for our part in the formation of the souls entrusted to our care. As such, we are not responsible just to relay factual information and roll on past the "squishy" subjects that make everyone queasy. Catechesis must be energized first by a truly deeply-felt love of God and then a love of the one being taught that is formed by that love of God. As someone put it to me once, there is not a Math section on the entrance exam to Heaven. Think about it.
This is a new moment for catechesis in our country. It is a time to focus clearly on the proclamation of authentic Catholic faith, to do so in a manner that is unambiguous, and to recognize that we are speaking to an audience — many of whom are hearing the authentic faith for the first time — and a large portion of whom are open to hearing the teaching of the Church.

We live in an age of hope. This is not a groundless euphoria but, rather, a confidence that God continues to grace the Church with opportunities to reach deep within our own lived experience of Jesus to find the practical means to introduce a whole new generation into the knowledge — into the encounter with the living Lord.

Now I don't know about you, but reading these words gets me positively excited (and for as reserved a person as I normally am, that says something). What he is saying, effectively, is that God has given us a tremendous chance here to affect in a permanent way many, many people who "are hearing the authentic faith for the first time". The Catholic faith is only boring if you don't know about it, about its history, about its heroes and most of all about its promise given by its Founder. If you can't get excited about that, frankly you need to check your pulse.