“The most comprehensive manual for helping catechists analyze doctrine for catechesis”

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To “echo down”

The word “catechize” literally means “to echo down.” From the day of Pentecost on, the Church has faithfully echoed down the mystery entrusted to her by Christ. In order to transmit the mystery in all its glory, it must first echo fully in the heart of the catechist. The activity of catechesis starts with contemplation. This book intends to open a “fast track” for catechists to contemplate the mystery, as revealed in Scripture and described in the Catechism. Enriched by this systematic and evangelistic presentation of the Faith, catechists will be fully prepared to hand it on to others.

All videos featuring Echoing the mystery

INTRO TO 'ECHOING THE MYSTERY'

Sr. John Dominic talks 'Echoing the Mystery' on EWTN

'Echoing the Mystery' with Sr. Athanasius Munroe

Teaching Doctrine and the Mysteries with Sr. Louis Marie Part 1

Teaching Doctrine & the Mysteries Part 2

Sr. Elizabeth Ann on Echoing the Mystery Part 1

Sr. Elizabeth Ann on Echoing the Mystery Part 2

Interview with Marlon De La Torre

Interview with Dr. Therese Recinella

 

 

THE PLACE OF ECHOING THE MYSTERY IN EVANGELIZATION AND CATECHESIS

Voices from the Field

Catechist Training — by Ron Bolster, Steubenville, Ohio

An engineer by training and a pilot by profession, it was the young sailors who serviced my jet while I was in the Navy who got me interested in catechetics. They were loyal, hard-working, and capable, and they put their lives on the line for me every night on the flight deck. But they were also sailors, and they managed to find their share of trouble. What struck me, as I did what I could to extricate them from their trials and tragedies, was how few of them had any religious upbringing at all. What struck me more was how ill-equipped I was to speak to them about the things that really mattered.

After separating from the Navy I wanted to address that perceived weakness in my formation, and I landed at Franciscan University. Though I was focused on completing the requirements for a degree in Theology, one of my classmates would not leave me alone until I took a class from the local catechetical expert. That class changed the course of my life. Prof. Barbara Morgan taught us a technique for analyzing doctrinal topics so that we could teach more effectively. Every day in class she would astound me again with her ability to translate doctrine, which I had learned through years of Catholic education, directly into my life in ways that I had never before considered. That was over twenty years ago, and the sabbatical that I took from flying and engineering has not yet ended.
I took every course that I could from Prof. Morgan. After graduation, I took a position as an associate in a diocesan office of catechetics and Prof. Morgan helped me launch a catechetical institute there, using that same technique of analyzing doctrine to train teachers and catechists. Years later, she called to ask if I would consider returning to my alma mater to help teach the growing number of students who were coming to learn the art of making disciples. Over the last 14 years I have had the privilege of teaching the course that she taught me to countless students who hunger to share the riches of the Faith with others. Prof. Morgan taught me far more than a technique, she taught me through word and example how to make God’s love known to those who were entrusted to our care. And yet it was that technique that made it possible for an engineer, turned pilot, turned catechetical rookie, to survive long enough in the field to consider that God just might be asking me to share with Him in this great work.

Prof. Morgan is a gifted teacher, with a lifetime of experience teaching disciples the Faith, but perhaps more importantly, she is a gifted catechist who figured out how to equip others to join her in a work that is at the heart of the Church’s mission. The technique, which she mastered, is the basis for the resource that you now hold. In the General Directory for Catechesis, the Church reminds us, “Catechesis today… needs to consider as its primary task the preparation and formation of catechists in the deep riches of the faith” (GDC 33). If you have any responsibility for training catechists, or simply want to be better equipped yourself, in my opinion, there is no better tool than Echoing the Mystery.

 
Ron Bolster is an assistant professor of theology on the faculty of the Catechetics Office at Franciscan University. He served the Diocese of Peoria before joining the faculty in 2004. He holds an MA in theology with catechetical certification from Franciscan and an undergraduate degree from Cornell University. He serves on the Confirmation Team at his parish and has experience in RCIA, the Neocatechumenal Way, and catechist training. Ron and his wife, Andrea, reside with their eight children in Steubenville.
Catechumenal (RCIA) Ministry — by Dr. William J. Keimig, Steubenville, Ohio

The work of Christian initiation is at the heart of the Church’s mission to evangelize and disciple. The diversity of demands placed on those serving inquirers, catechumens, and candidates makes the catechumenal process a deeply challenging form of ministry. To wield this magnificent new publication, Echoing the Mystery, in an RCIA setting, it may be helpful to explore it in light of the three aspects of the catechumenate: liturgical, catechetical, and pastoral.

 

  1. The Liturgical Aspect: Catechumenal ministry is above all a work of grace driven by the sacred liturgy. Echoing the Mystery makes that connection plain. A catechist preparing with these pages, or an RCIA team exposed to the unified understanding found here, cannot help but catch this vision. In particular, studying and praying with the “Liturgical Sources” sections, in light of the “Divine Perspective” section, will help catechists to bring to bear the Spirit’s converting presence.
  2. The Liturgical Aspect: Catechumenal ministry is above all a work of grace driven by the sacred liturgy. Echoing the Mystery makes that connection plain. A catechist preparing with these pages, or an RCIA team exposed to the unified understanding found here, cannot help but catch this vision. In particular, studying and praying with the “Liturgical Sources” sections, in light of the “Divine Perspective” section, will help catechists to bring to bear the Spirit’s converting presence.
  3. The Pastoral Aspect: Rightly unfolded, the catechumenal process is used by the Holy Spirit to make present again the shattering reality and closeness of Christ Jesus. Echoing the Mystery is a sensitive work. The “Essentials” and “Common Errors” sections present the faith in a mature, nuanced manner that is accessible and attuned to real people, real lives, and the expectation of real struggle. It is pastoral catechetics at its best, never distant from the need to help souls depart the addictions and illusions of life outside the Trinity’s embrace.

In sum, the superlative value of this publication in a catechumenal setting is that it allows those who use it to attain the confidence, clarity, and competence to unfold our precious Catholic faith to those many souls whom God sends to us, and who have a right to our best. It is a great key to becoming diligent in our shared call to excellence in loving God’s own towards the arms of His Church.

 

William J. Keimig is the Assistant Director of the Catechetical Institute at Franciscan University of Steubenville, Ohio.  For 15 years, he served as the Director of Religious Education at St. Mary’s of Piscataway Catholic Church in Clinton, Maryland.  Mr. Keimig has also served as a master catechist in the Faith Foundations Catechist Formation Program for the Archdiocese of Washington, DC.,  and as the Director of the Association for Catechumenal Ministry (ACM). He and his wife, Heather, have six children, Rose, William, Julianna, Theodore, Elizabeth, and Gregory.
Parish-based Catechesis of Elementary Children — by Ann Lankford, La Crosse, Wisconsin

Pope Saint John Paul II captured the essence of forming children in the Faith: “The definitive aim of catechesis is to put people not only in touch but in communion, in intimacy, with Jesus Christ.” (Catechesi Tradendae n. 5) In our current culture, leading children to encounter the Person of Christ is rather difficult, to say the least. Echoing the Mystery, with its brilliant but simple “keys” to unlocking each doctrine is a beautiful and eminently practical guidebook for catechists. It will help them lead their students enthusiastically to know, love, and serve Jesus Christ in and through His Church.

 

For her whole life, Barbara has been involved in handing on the Faith, seeking to help others encounter the Person of Jesus. Barbara’s latest gift to the Church, Echoing the Mystery, draws together all her knowledge, experience, and lifelong study of catechetical documents, along with her love of Christ, in one book that breaks open all the truths of the faith. The result is a fresh encounter with the beauty and truth of God, His loving plan for us, and our dignity as His children. This book will be a tremendous resource that should be on the desk of every parish catechetical leader and placed in the hands of every parish catechist.

  • Formation of Catechists: This book affords simple “keys” to unlock each doctrine, providing the means for the catechist to get at the heart of the teaching. For example, prayerfully pondering the “Divine Perspective” section—why this teaching is so important to God—will lead catechists to teach from this relational standpoint and therefore as witnesses.
  • Formation of Children: Formation of Children: Catechists who have reviewed each “key” will be equipped to convey a fuller vista of God’s love to children. For example, “Teaching thorugh Beauty” can open the hearts of students by way of their senses to respond to Christ.
  • Formation of Parents: Parents are provided with additional formation when their child is preparing to receive a Sacrament. This time can become life-changing. For example, parents can dig deeper into the meaning of a Sacrament through explanation of the “essentials.”

 

I hope and pray that you will make use of the wisdom of Echoing the Mystery as developed by a Master Catechist!

 

Ann Lankford is the Director for Catechesis and Evangelization in the Diocese of La Crosse, Wisconsin. She has held this position since 2002. She received her MA in Theology and Christian Ministry with a specialization in Catechetics from Franciscan University of Steubenville in 1998. Helping children, young people, and adults to fall in love with Jesus Christ and to be more fully committed to Him in every area of their lives gives her great joy.
Youth Ministry — by Dr. Bob Rice, Steubenville, Ohio

In youth ministry, when we do catechesis we’ve got to do it well. We don’t have as many “at bats” as other means of faith formation. We’ve got to teach the faith in a way that is clear, concise, and connected to their daily lives. That is what this book is all about.

The National Directory of Catechesis stated, “The most effective catechetical programs for adolescents are integrated into a comprehensive program of pastoral ministry for youth that includes catechesis, community life, evangelization, justice and service, leadership development, pastoral care, and prayer and worship.” This holistic approach to passing on the faith to young people was one of the hallmarks of St. John Bosco’s pedagogy. He wished not only to make them great saints, but also good citizens. Those blessed young people who found themselves in Bosco’s oratory not only learned about the faith in the classroom—they also experienced it in other disciplines, in training for work, and even in leisure.

 

In my years of doing ministry with young people, I have found that the opportunities for doing catechesis with them, in the larger context of youth ministry, are few. However, if the youth minister is savvy enough, one can do more with less. A youth minister may not get as much time to talk about the doctrines of the faith as a Catholic school teacher. However, I have personally experienced that when ministry is done in a way that is joyful, is within a vibrant community, and connects to young people in a relevant way, they can be very disposed to the catechetical moment. The soil is ready for the seed. A miracle can happen in a moment.
This means that when we do catechesis we’ve got to do it well. We don’t have as many “at bats” as other means of faith formation. We’ve got to teach the faith in a way that is clear, concise, and connected to their daily lives. That is what this book is all about.

I remember sitting in Barbara’s class many years ago and being blown away at how she was able to articulate complicated theological topics into simple, essential doctrines. Learning how to see the Deposit of Faith in that way was not only transformative in my own life but an incredible blessing to the many I have had the privilege of ministering to over these past decades. I am thrilled to see this wonderful approach made available to a wider audience.

The proclamation of the Good News can lead a young person to infatuation with Jesus; catechesis can lead them to intimacy. Those who minister to youth need to be skilled at both. This book is an incredible resource to help young people fall more deeply in love with Jesus by getting to know Him better. Learning about this transformed my entire approach to passing on the faith to others. I pray that you, and those you minister to, are as blessed by it as I was.

 

Bob Rice desires to share the love of God using every talent he’s been blessed with. He’s an internationally known speaker, acclaimed musician, inspirational teacher, and innovative writer. He is an associate professor of Catechetics and the director of the Masters of Arts in Catechetics and Evangelization at Franciscan University of Steubenville. Bob received a PhD from Liverpool Hope University in the UK where he researched Catholic youth and evangelization. He lives in Steubenville, Ohio, with his wife Jennifer and seven adorable children. You can find out more about him at bob-rice.com.
Catholic Education – by Dr. Dan Guernsey, Ave Maria, Florida

It depends chiefly on teachers whether the Catholic school achieves its purpose as the Second Vatican Council fathers remind us. School leaders must ensure that their busy teachers are spiritually and doctrinally well-formed so that the Catholic school can accomplish its mission of creating saints and serving the authentic common good of society. This rich resource is just what busy teachers need:

What does the busy teacher need? Truth

Catholic schools are in the truth communicating business. This book ensures that teachers, even those good- hearted folks who have been poorly catechized themselves, have clear and quick access to the truths of the faith. If teachers do not know the truth, they cannot teach it; or worse they may teach error.

What does the busy teacher need? Help with lesson planning.

Some harried teachers may leave theology lesson planning for last, confident that they can wing it if necessary. This is not okay. Good lesson plans begin with good “essential questions” to guide instruction. This is precisely how each section is organized in this work. Good lesson plans need to list concepts and resources; each section answers this need. From the scripture quotes which easily lend themselves to bellwork/warmup reflection activities, to pre-selected works of art that allow for integrated instruction, this book will add depth and resources to any theology text a school might be using.

What does the busy teacher need? Quick access to answers during actual instruction.
If a teacher gets stumped by a student question the regular class text leaves hanging, or if the Holy Spirit moves discussion into greater or unexpected depths, the teacher has here a sure a quick resource to use on the fly. The instructor might have the students engage individually or in small groups on one of the section’s rich items while quickly brushing up on the doctrine that is clearly presented and deeply resourced. It serves as a trustworthy source enabling a class to go in any related direction because it is anchored in truth while its structure ensures one does not wander too far and lose one’s way.

What does the busy teacher need? Help creating engaging instruction.

The book’s commitment to the true, good, and beautiful ensures engaging instruction. Students hunger for the real. And all things that are real, are illustrative of these transcendentals. The good is well covered through virtue’s use as a recurring theme. For what else is virtue but the habitual pursuit of the good? And finally the book is prophetic in its use of the way of beauty as a powerful tool in touching the hearts of the young. Beauty has an almost pre-rational impact and attraction and can serve as an engaging starting point for any lesson. Our students’ hearts and minds were made for Christ, for reality, and for the truth, beauty, and goodness which flows abundantly from these truths: when we target instruction to incorporate this fact, instruction comes alive and wonder-full.

This book is a valuable tool for all busy teachers!

 

Dr. Dan Guernsey is the Director of the Cardinal Newman Society’s K-12 Programs and the Co-author of the Catholic Curriculum Standards. He has been working with various educational projects connected with Ave Maria, Florida, including work as a principal, assistant professor, and administrator for almost two decades..
Catholic Elementary School — by Sr. John Dominic Rasmussen, O.P., Ann Arbor, Michigan

A Catholic school must be more than just a transmitter of knowledge. It must form the whole persons in the light of his or her supernatural vocation to communion with God. Echoing the Mystery will help your faculty, parents and school community to grasp the full implications of the Gospel, transforming schools into centers of discipleship, where each student is equipped to find and fulfill God’s call.

 

“Be it known to all who enter here that Christ is the reason for this school.”

For over thirty years, it has been my joy and delight to have served both as a teacher and administrator in Catholic schools. Yes, it has its challenges, and I have watched many trends come and go—and come back again! Yet, from my experience there are a few foundational principles that must be cultivated and translated into practical actions in order for Christ to be the center of any school:

  1. Education needs to be holistic, respecting the dignity of each and striving to educate or ‘draw out’ his or her intellectual, spiritual, physical and social (emotional) gifts;
  2. Catholic worldview: A school’s Catholic identity will flourish only when the faculty and staff share the same vision and understanding of what constitutes a Catholic worldview;
  3. The school’s whole life is meant to be an experience of communion. This means that the school community seeks to live in harmony and communion (koinonia) despite the difference or tensions which naturally arise. This joyful living of love of God and neighbor is nourished by fidelity to Christ’s teaching, a rich sacramental life, and the pursuit of living virtuous as a disciple of Christ.

Echoing the Mystery is a resource which will aid school administrators, teachers, catechists, parents and anyone else involved in the school community to realize the broad-reaching implications of faith. This work communicates the practical implications of faith, forming the reader in a Catholic worldview. It demonstrates the meaning of Christ’s saving message for each person in every dimension of their existence. Putting this resource in the hands of your parents, teachers and staff will equip them to form disciples of Christ. These elements coupled with an authentic understanding of the kerygma (God’s loving plan of salvation) will be essential to preserving a school’s Catholic identity.

Above all, Echoing the Mystery addresses the needs of those entrusted with the awesome responsibility of transmitting or ‘echoing down’ Divine Revelation. It communicates the organic unity of the deposit of faith, so that it can be known and loved. It also showcases the Church’s beautiful religious art, hymns and the rich liturgical prayers. Regardless of the catechetical series used in a school, Echoing the Mystery will serve as a guide to unpacking the essentials of each doctrine and demonstrate how Scripture is the heart of catechesis. This will be a means to assure that every person involved in a Catholic school is truly a credible witness in imitation of the early apostles who heard, saw, and touched Jesus Christ (c.f. 1 John 1:1-4).

 

Sr. John Dominic is a foundress of the Dominican Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist. She served as principal of Spiritus Sanctus Academy, a K-8 grade school in Ann Arbor. She leads the development of Disciple of Christ, Education in Virtue, and other catechetical resources from Lumen Ecclesia Press.
Catholic High School — by Sr. Elizabeth Ann O'Reilly, O.P., Ann Arbor, Michigan

With Echoing the Mystery, high school teachers in Catholic schools benefit from the convenience of having everything they need to proclaim the joy of the Gospel in an authentic, beautiful, organic, and systematic way all in one place .

 

Echoing the Mystery’s doctrinal content is centered on the basic and essential proclamation of the Mystery of Christ. The section entitled “the Divine Perspective” at the beginning of each doctrinal analysis provides the catechist with a thoughts provoking summary of its foundational truth, written in a way that draws out God the Father’s intention of revealing Himself in order to invite us into an intimate relationship with Himself. From the outset, the doctrine is presented not only intellectually, but also in its power to change and transform us by touching the heart.
As much as we try to avoid it, all teachers tend to emphasize only one or a few aspects of the faith while unintentionally excluding others. Echoing the Mystery ensures that teachers widen their perspective and see the faith as a whole and gives them the help they need to let the Word of God drive their teaching. This, in turn, enables teachers to pass it on in all its richness and fullness to their students. The emphasis on its power for change ensures that teachers will present the faith in a living, dynamic, and engaging way, showing its relevance to life and action.
Because it is a comprehensive resource, Echoing the Mystery may serve as a supplemental resource for the entire USCCB High School Curriculum Framework. High school teachers using materials in conformity with the Curriculum Framework will find Echoing the Mystery an invaluable aid for their own understanding of doctrine.
Echoing the Mystery offers resources for a variety of meaningful prayer experiences in the classroom. The “Liturgical Sources” section puts selections of the exquisite prayers of the Roman Missal at the teacher’s fingertips. Exposing the students to the prayers of the Roman Missal in the classroom prepares them for more active participation in the Church’s liturgical life.
The numerous Scriptural references for each doctrine can also be used to foster the life of prayer in many ways, such as lectio divina, bible studies, biblical narratives, or journal prompts. The hymn made available for each doctrine provides another option for prayer. Finally, the artwork for each doctrine offers a beautiful visual representation of the doctrine or one of its aspects that can be used as a focal point for prayer.
The “Common Errors” section offers key resources for deepening the students’ understanding of the doctrine. The succinct explanation provided for each error can become the basis for more in-depth research, and students can unpack the implications of the various challenges to the faith through discussion, debates, essays, or position papers.
Near the beginning of each doctrine, a brief statement of how the doctrine relates to the three theological virtues is given. These concise statements can be used as springboard for reflection on how the doctrine has been lived by saints and other witnesses, as well as how it is to be lived by each of the students.

 

Sr. Elizabeth Ann O’Reilly is a member of the Dominican Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist. She is the chair of the Theology Department and teaches theology at Fr. Gabriel Richard High School in Ann Arbor, MI.
Homiletics — by Rev. David Meconi, S.J., St. Louis, Missouri
Echoing the Mystery will enable the homilist to prepare a more thought-out and thorough sermon by seeing how the passages from the reading from any particular Mass is situated in a wider theological and spiritual context of 2,000 years of Church teaching.

Finally, a book that not only knows how to unlock the divinely rich treasures of our Catholic Faith, but also understands how to measure that greatness to growing minds.  I trust and pray that these pages mark the end of the catechetical desert in which the Church has wandered far too long. Here one encounters the Fathers, the Medieval Doctors, and Modern Day Saints who speak Christ’s love for the world, teaching us about all the things that make our Church and our world so beautiful: the undeniable love of the Trinity, the Son’s own incarnation into all things human, as well as the glory of every human person, the dignity of human labor, the Church’s teaching on the moral life, and of course the necessity of her Sacraments. The fruits of this study will become immediately obvious, as the one Great Teacher speaks clearly through each and every page.

For those missioned to preach on Sundays and throughout the week, this work includes both cross-referenced scripture passages as well as related passages from the Catechism of the Catholic Church. In this way the homilist can prepare a more thought-out and thorough sermon by seeing how the passages from the reading from any particular Mass is situated in a wider theological and spiritual context of 2,000 years of Church teaching. Let Echoing the Mystery be next to your concordances and “go to” homily helps, as it will elevate how you understand the scriptures and only deepen how you encounter Christ there.

 
Fr. Meconi is an associate professor of theology and the director of the Catholic Studies Centre at St. Louis University. He entered the Jesuit Order in 1992. In addition to his professorial and academic duties, he serves as the general editor of the Homiletic and Pastoral Review.
Securing the Lights of the Faith — by Dr. Carole Brown

The formation of a Catholic life is also a process of construction, in which each stage makes use of different instruments. The first stage of Catholic formation aims to form the bare foundation, in which the kerygma is effectively proclaimed. We do the baptized a disservice when we try to teach doctrine without first laying the basic kerygmatic foundation. The second stage of the construction process for baptized Catholics is called “initiatory catechesis.” Any catechist who wishes to pass on the whole picture of the faith must bear these first two phases in mind when doing catechesis. This book assumes that these first two phases have been accomplished. The tool you are holding in your hands is a precision tool for what the General Directory for Catechesis refers to as “permanent, perfective catechesis.”

In the building construction business, there are different kinds of equipment that are more useful in the beginning stages, and other tools that are more useful in the latter stages. Builders use heavy equipment in laying foundations—big, blunt instruments, like backhoes, dump trucks, and cement mixers. In the next phase, there are medium-sized tools, like circular saws and drills and nail guns for framing the building. Later in the construction process, there are precision tools—like electric cable, wiring, screwdrivers—and light fixtures. You cannot build a foundation with screwdrivers or lightbulbs. Nor would it make sense to bring a load of lightbulbs to a house for which the foundation had not yet been dug or poured. They would have no place to go.

The formation of a Catholic life is also a process of construction, in which each stage makes use of different instruments. The first stage of Catholic formation aims to form the bare foundation, in which the kerygma (the initial, ardent proclamation of the heart of the gospel) is effectively proclaimed, leading the person to make an explicit choice to entrust themselves to Jesus Christ and to follow Him decisively by faith (CT 5). As Pope Francis summarized it, “Jesus Christ loves you! He gave his life to save you! And now he is living with you every day, at your side to enlighten strengthen and free you.” The kerygma is the foundation of our entire life of faith. But, it’s one thing to know this as an intellectual fact, and another thing altogether to entrust your life and eternal destiny to Jesus. This first stage requires the help of “heavy lifters,” people who are able not only to explain “why” we worship and follow Jesus, but who can give joyful, Christ-centered witness (in both verbal and non-verbal ways) of how their own lives were changed by coming to know Jesus. They are effective in calling others to true conversion, to say yes to the proposal of Jesus, and to make this act of self-entrustment (GDC 56[a] and [b]). We do the baptized a disservice when we try to teach doctrine without first laying the basic kerygmatic foundation, with “Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, in whom the whole structure is joined together and grows into a holy temple in the Lord; in whom you also are built into it for a dwelling place of God in the Spirit” (Eph 2:20-22).
The second stage of the construction process for baptized Catholics is called “initiatory catechesis”; it parallels the “catechumenate” stage in the formation of a non-Catholic who is entering the Church for the first time. “Initiatory catechesis” sets forth the basics of the “Catholic proposal” with a sound basis in reason: given that Jesus is God, what does Jesus have to say about the Church? This stage is also a kind of “apprenticeship” in the Christian life (GDC 56 [c]). In this stage, the one who is consciously following Christ is mentored in developing the heart and habits of a disciple. They learn about the struggle between the flesh and the spirit and learn to rely on the help of the Holy Spirit to allow their lives to be more and more directed by the love of Jesus. They develop the habits of prayer and learn how to find their way around the Bible and to draw life from the sacraments of Eucharist and Reconciliation. And because of their initial faith in Jesus, they can make sense out of the authority that Jesus has given to the Church, to teach in His name. It makes them ready to receive the entire content of the Church’s treasury with the obedience of faith.
Any catechist who wishes to pass on the whole picture of the faith must bear these first two phases in mind when doing catechesis. The book you are holding in your hands is not designed for either the first, or the second stage of formation. It assumes that these first two phases have been accomplished. The tool you are holding in your hands is a precision tool for what the General Directory for Catechesis refers to as “permanent, perfective catechesis”(GDC 51, 71), … “intended for those Christians who have been initiated in the basic elements of the Christian faith, but who need constantly to nourish and deepen their faith throughout their lives” (GDC 51).

This book unfolds the whole deposit of faith with great precision. As the Catechism teaches, “if our life is upright, our intellect and heart will be open to welcome the light shed by the dogmas of faith” (CCC 89; Cf. Jn 8:31-32). Think of this book, then, as a case of light fixtures and lightbulbs for a house that has already been constructed. They can only be put in place after the first major phases of the construction process have been completed—after the initial foundation of conversion has been laid, and the basic attitudes and orientations of a disciple have been established. As Saint John Paul II observed,
To put it more precisely: within the whole process of evangelization, the aim of catechesis is to be the teaching and maturation stage, that is to say, the period in which the Christian, having accepted by faith the person of Jesus Christ as the one Lord and having given Him complete adherence by sincere conversion of heart, endeavors to know better this Jesus to whom he has entrusted himself: to know His “mystery,” the kingdom of God proclaimed by Him, the requirements and promises contained in His Gospel message, and the paths that He has laid down for anyone who wishes to follow Him (CT 20).

Imagine how much more fruitful our catechetical efforts would be, if only each person were actually “endeavoring to know Jesus better.” Now, imagine a person who is not endeavoring to know Jesus better, because he has not so entrusted himself, or didn’t even know that he could! It would be like the person who was given several dozen lightbulbs, trying to manage them with his bare hands, with no outlets in place. If there is nowhere to put these “lights” so that they can function as they should, they are easily discarded.

For catechists who are teaching people who have already laid this foundation by decisively entrusting their life to Christ and choosing to follow him, and who have a basic grasp of the authority that Jesus entrusted to the Church to teach in his name, this book will prove to be an invaluable tool. These doctrines are the beautifully appointed “lights” with which the interior life of the true disciple will be fully illuminated.

For any disciple who is prepared for the “endeavor to know Jesus better,” the kind of instruction proposed in this book will be priceless. For catechists who teach in an RCIA setting, an adult formation setting, a youth discipleship setting, or even for preaching, the methodology presented here will help to place the lights securely in their setting. May he who is “Light of the World and Light to the Nations” guide your every inspiration!

Dr. Carole Brown has over 30 years’ experience in evangelization in the Catholic Church.  She earned an MA in Theology from Franciscan University of Steubenville in 1997, and was part of the inaugural class for the catechetics certificate program founded by Barbara Morgan.  She completed a PhD in Systematic Theology at the Milltown Institute (NUI) in Dublin in 2010.  Her dissertation was entitled “Crossing the Threshold of Faith: Pope John Paul II’s Approach to the Problem of the Conversion of the Baptized.”