What's all this discussion about catechetics ?
CARDINAL HEENAN last
week made known his plan to open this autumn a "College of Catechetics" in London, and his appointment of me as its Principal [writes Father Hubert Richards].
Catechetics' elder brother, liturgy, has already made the grade, Of course, even the word "liturgical" was suspect until very recently. It was an esoteric word, used only by the lunatic fringe in the Church. It would, it was presumed, soon die out.
In actual fact it has not only been accepted into our language (anyone who does not know what it means is regarded as a relic from another age) but everyone wants to be
The first decree issued by the Vatican Council, and the changes which have come about as a result, have ensured that the word "liturgical" has come to stay.
J suspect the same will happen to the word "catechetical". It is not an easy word to say, let alone to understand. But it is difficult to put it into English without paraphrasing it, and like the word "liturgical" we shall probably just have to get used to it. Once it was associated only with the avant garde.
But it is already becoming accepted as part of the language of our updated Church.
What is catechetics? It is the science or art of handing on the faith from one generation to the next. It is not something new. It is something which has been practised by the Church all through her history, in response to Christ's command to go and teach all nations.
Why. then, a college of catechetics? Because this science or art needs learning. Teachers arc not born such. It is hard work, not simply natural gifts, which make someone into a good teacher. Teachers' training colleges exist to teach teachers how to teach. A college of catechetics is a training college specialising in the teaching of religion.
What does such a college hope to give to the prospective teachers of religion? Basically three things. An awareness of what they're going to teach. of whom they're going to teach, and of how they're going to teach.
WHAT they're going to teach is the Good News of Salvation. It is not enough for them to be well up in what is known as "Christian Doctrine". A mere list of truths to be believed. commandments to be obeyed and sacraments to be received will not win anyone to God.
What God has revealed to us is a "Gospel", a proclamation which brings joy. The centre of that Gospel is the death and resurrection of Christ, wherein C:hrist's Spirit has been poured out on all men to bring them back into union with God. It is this message with which teachers of religion are entrusted.
Their task is to be so enthralled with it that their whole life is a proclamation of it to others. I he basic ingredient of a catechetical course will therefore be a study of how the Good News is revealed to us in Scripture, is systematised in theology, is made actual in the liturgy, and is lived in the life of the Church.
WHOM they are going to teach will depend on their own choice or commission. But whether these are children, adolescents or adults, the teachers will need to be aware, in some depth, of the mentality and thought processes of these different age-groups.
The study of educational psychology, which has had such a profound influence on all other aspects of school life, must obviously play a part in the teaching of religion as well. Can the Church of God afford to be less wise than the children of this world?
HOW are they going to teach? if they are going to do it effectively. they will have to make use of the latest audiovisual aids. and all the other methods (discussion, drama, composition, activities, etc.) which are now accepted in educational circles as a normal and necessary part of teaching technique. What if our children prefer a lesson on arithmetic to a lesson on religion because it is taught in a more interesting fashion?
To teach the what, the who and the how to teachers of religion, experts are required. I can assure our prospective students that I am scouring the British Isles and the Continent for the best teaching talent available.
The London College of Catechetics is not intended to be a poor cousin to those already established in Paris, Brussels, Strasbourg and Nijmegen. It will use the same methods, and the standard of the students
(whether they are priests or laymen, nuns or brothers) will be maintained at an equally high level.
The course is not meant to be a substitute for the "juniorate" demanded by the Sacred Congregation of Religious. It is designed for those who have already had some teaching experience, and wish to specialise in the teaching of religion.
We are hoping that about 120 Can be accommodated each year, of whom a few will be able to live on the premises. For the time being. residential accommodation for the others will have to be found elsewhere, although it is hoped eventually to build a centre which can house everyone. Already 70 applications have been received.
All .communications, including applications, should be addressed to myself, the Principal, at 17 Chepstow Villas, London W.11.
With so many of our Catholic children unable to find places in Catholic schools it is imperative that a whole army of expert religious teachers should be trained, and soon. Such a venture as ours is well worth the fervent prayers of all the faithful. '