By Robin Gomes
Catechists are evangelizers who live from the celebration of the Eucharist and feel more vividly the passion to transmit the faith with the creativity and drive of the Holy Spirit. “The privileged place of catechesis is precisely the Eucharistic celebration, where brothers and sisters come together to discover more and more the different ways of God's presence in their lives.”
The Pope made the remark on Friday to some 80 delegates of the European bishops’ conferences who are responsible for catechesis. They participated in a meeting on "Catechesis and Catechists for the New Evangelization", promoted by the Vatican Pontifical Council for the Promotion of the New Evangelization.
Recalling the International Eucharistic Congress which he concluded on Sunday in the Hungarian capital, Budapest, the Pope said that the commitment of catechists can be greatly effective in the work of evangelization if they keep their gaze fixed on the Eucharistic mystery.
Faith in the concreteness of daily life
The Pope recalled how Jesus, who had arranged everything for the Passover, sent his disciples saying, "Go into the city". “Christians, preparing to celebrate the culmination of the mystery of faith, are invited to go first "into the city", to meet people busy with their daily commitments.”
Catechesis, the Holy Father said, is not an abstract communication of theoretical knowledge of formulas to be memorized, but is the mystagogical [mysteries of faith] experience of those who learn to meet their brothers and sisters where they live and work, because they themselves have met Christ, who has called them to become missionary disciples. The Pope said the heart of catechesis is to stress that “the risen Jesus Christ loves you and never abandons you”. “We should never tire of repeating this in various stages of the catechetical journey.”
This is why, the Pope said, he instituted the ministry of catechist in May, for which the initiation rite is under preparation. Catechists, he said, are witnesses who live from the celebration of the Eucharist and place themselves at the service of the Christian community, to support the deepening of faith in the concreteness of daily life. They tirelessly proclaim the Gospel of mercy, create the necessary bonds of welcome and closeness to better appreciate the Word of God and to celebrate the Eucharistic mystery by offering the fruits of good works.
Pope’s First Communion
Here, the Holy Father fondly recalled the two catechists who prepared him for First Communion, with whom he continued his relationship as a priest and later with the surviving one as a bishop. He felt great respect and gratitude almost like a veneration for the women and a nun. The Pope said he cherished this experience, accompanying them to the end of their lives, both of them. He also attended the nun’s last moments.
Evangelization, the Pope clarified, is never a mere repetition of the past. It is the creativity of the Holy Spirit, that calls for knowing how to listen to the people to whom one is proclaiming, to their culture, their history, not superficially or with pre-packaged answers, heart, attitude and face. It calls for listening, even and above all to the unexpressed languages, with the Word of God, with Jesus Christ, the living Gospel.
This, he stressed, is the most urgent task of the Church among the peoples of Europe. “Christian tradition of the continent,” the Pope said, “must not become a historical relic, otherwise it is no longer ‘tradition’!” Catechesis is a tradition that is lived from heart to heart, from mind to mind, life to life, the Pope said, urging catechists in their task with the passion, drive and creativity of the Holy Spirit.