Are We Really Teaching the Catholic Faith?


Jesus-Teaching“We who are strong ought to bear with the failings of the weak and not to please ourselves; let each of us please his neighbor for his good to edify him. For Christ did not please himself; but, as it is written, ‘The reproaches of those who reproached you fell on me. For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that by steadfastness and by the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope. May the God of steadfastness and encouragement grant you to live in such harmony with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (Rom 15:1-3)

A gentleman once asked me; “how can we effectively proclaim the Gospel to those who won’t listen.” The tone by which he asked the question was one of frustration, anger, and fear. How could I or anyone for that matter involved in evangelization and catechesis not relate to this person as we have often asked that question ourselves.

My response to the gentleman was in the form of a question. “Have you asked the person in question if they have ever heard of the Gospel of Jesus Christ let alone tried to establish a personal intimate relationship with Him?” The gentleman sat silent and thought for a minute. He had a surprised look on his face and proceeded to ask me, “We’re supposed to ask these questions?” I informed him not only are we supposed to ask these question, were also called to authentically witness the Gospel of Jesus Christ in our very lives. In other words, you have to provide a morsel of Catholic evidence for the person to acknowledge some aspect of Catholic truth pertinent to their lives.

The foundation of this approach is two-fold:

  1. Be Kerygmatic in your approach, i.e. a deliberate, intentional disciple where you proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ in a clear unmutilated way where Christ is visible in Word and Deed.
  2. Be Christocentric in your catechetical instruction making sure everything is rooted in Christ and His Church and not in yourself.

My Teaching Is Not My Own

One of the most important aspects of the life of Christ revealed in Sacred Scripture is the rightful position he took as Rabbi when teaching in the Temple. Even though the Jews did not recognize it at the time, Jesus took his rightful place as the Divine Teacher. We see this very clearly in St. John’s Gospel where he writes:

About the middle of the feats Jesus went up into the temple and taught. The Jews marveled at it saying, “How is it that this man has learning, when he has never studied?” So Jesus answered them, “My teaching is not mine, but his who sent me; if any man’s will is to do his will, he shall know whether the teaching is from God or whether I am speaking in my own authority. He who speaks in his own authority seeks his own glory; but he who seeks the glory of him who sent him is true, and in him there is no falsehood.” (7:13-16)

Christ clearly demonstrated to everyone in the Temple that He is handing on something to everyone present. The very fact that he deflects his own position of teaching authority and directs everyone toward the one whom we are called to echo and reflect reveals the importance of handing on God’s instruction versus our own. With the gentleman I mentioned earlier, his frustration, as it turned out, was generated more from an attempt to teach his own brand of catechesis per se rather than what has been revealed and taught. The irony was that he did not realize he was actively doing this until it was brought to his attention.

The Motives of Credibility

A very important aspect of sound Kerygmatic Catechesis is teaching with credibility. The Catechism echoes this point where the person being witnessed and instructed will render his will to our Father in Heaven because he visibly witnesses the revelation of God. This is why the Word became flesh, so that we might become partakers of the Divine nature of God (CCC 456-460).

The Motives of Credibility are intertwined with the submission of our faith to be in accordance with reason and the external proofs of His Revelation God has provided for us. Examples of these proofs are:

  • The Miracles of Christ and the Saints
  • Prophecies
  • The Church’s growth and holiness
  • The Church’s fruitfulness and stability (CCC 156)

These examples aid our own assent of faith and help us pass these proofs on to those whom we teach. If this is the bare minimum required to effectively witness and teach the faith then we should heed these motives. St. Paul reminds us that in order to gain everything we most lose everything in Christ (Phil 3:8). This reflects our own ability to effectively evangelize the masses. Our mission is not for people to hear us; our mission is for people to hear Christ in us.

Our Wayward Journey

Effective catechesis is both Kerygmatic i.e. effectively proclaiming and immersing the person in the Gospel of Jesus Christ and Catechetical, a systematic presentation of the faith rooted in Sacred Tradition, Sacred Scripture encompassed in the Catechism of the Catholic Church.   However, both must be intentional in that our aim is to bring the faithful into an intimate and active relationship with JESUS CHRIST.

The great Evangelist G.K. Chesterton in his typical wit and charm sums up everything with this simple perspective:

“The truth is, of course, that the curtness of the Ten Commandments is an evidence, not of the gloom and narrowness of a religion, but, on the contrary, of its liberality and humanity. It is shorter to state the things forbidden than the things permitted: precisely because most things are permitted, and only a few things are forbidden.”


About Author

Department Director of Catechesis for the Catholic Diocese of Fort Worth and author of Screwtape Teaches the Faith (2011) Saint Benedict Press.