This Sunday, Sept. 20, is Catechetical Sunday. On this day, we recognize the importance of catechesis, which—coming from the Greek word “to echo”—means the handing down of the faith from generation to generation. While there is a special role of catechists that serve that function in parish faith formation programs, it is the duty of all faithful to catechize the next generation, especially parents their own children.
At our 11am mass, which is our parish family mass, we will commission our catechists for this year. We will also offer a special blessing to honor our parents in their role as catechists for the domestic church, that is the individual families that make up the Church community.
This year’s theme is “Safeguarding the Dignity of Every Human Person” and it coincides with Pope Francis’ declaration of the Year of Mercy, which is set to begin in Advent. I don’t think there could be a better time to cover such topics and make apparent what the Church has to say regarding them. We find ourselves living in a world that is increasingly hostile to the very concept of personhood, and this fact is altering the way we interact with people and the entire worldview that is constructed by our culture.
For instance, consider the way we communicate with one another. In little more than a century, we went from face-to-face contact and handwritten letters, to telephones, to email, to texting, and finally the plethora of social media options that crowd our lives on a daily basis. This technological explosion of communication has enabled us to interact with people in much more versatile and efficient ways, but very rarely does that efficiency have us considering the actual persons to whom we communicate. We cannot properly engage with others when we are looking at them from the perspectives of our own needs and schedules. They become an extension of our own egos and fail to be persons in their own right so long as we deny them the honor of a live and completely human interaction.
Of course this is only one of many ways human dignity is overlooked in our society. And though seemingly one of the more innocuous, it has undercurrents that are affecting the much larger issues at stake that more apparently threaten our God-given dignity. How we interact with each other affects how we think of others, and how we think of others affects how we treat them. Since most of us, I am sure, are “good people,” in the sense that we don’t consider ourselves to be the type to trample on the rights or dignity of others in overt ways, I caution us to consider this year the ways we might be overlooking the other in little ways; truly ask yourself each day, “have I loved my neighbor the way God requires of me?” and then pray to God for help in doing just that.
Good reflection on the upcoming Year of Mercy can help here. Though we have reduced the term of mercy to one synonymous with leniency or forgiveness, it’s true power comes in the action of serving others; from seeing people as the individual persons they are and rendering to them the justice that is due by virtue their human dignity. This is at the heart of the Church’s teaching regarding the Corporal and Spiritual Works of Mercy. When fueled with the understanding of the Church’s Principles of Catholic Social Teaching (the first of which is “The Life and Dignity of the Human Person”), these become key ways we must compassionately act toward others in the world. After all, to quote last Sunday’s reading from the letter of St. James, “what good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone says he has faith but does not have works?”
So this is our task. In our ultimate mission of evangelization as Catholics, we must be attuned to personhood of the other. We must first fulfill our call to love our neighbor. Only in so doing, can we transmit the love of God to them and succeed in this task. As for catechesis, this all begins with those who know this truth of the faith passing it down in both word and deed for those who have yet to learn it. If we are all Catholics, then we are all evangelists, if evangelists then also catechists, and it is our responsibility to know our faith, live our faith, and pass on our faith.
Below you will find some links to additional Catechetical Sunday resources: