Getting Our Knickers in Knots about Catechesis

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Thinking aloud today:

In the middle of a conversation on journalistic standards during the latest episode of This Week in Tech, panelists John C. Dvorak, Leo Laporte, and Jeff Jarvis (whose blog post on the subject sparked the conversation) discussed the ideal of objectivity versus the reality of partisanship. I’ve edited out the relevant section here:

Twit0317-information by sullijo

The part that struck me was Jarvis’ statement there at the end: “We in journalism get so much with our knickers in knots about ‘What is journalism?’ whereas the world says: ‘What’s information? What do I need to know today?'”

Anyone who follows the media world knows that traditional news outlets are suffering. Newspaper  circulation  is waning; fewer people tune in to the evening news; and radio seems a quaint format. People don’t seem to care where their news comes from — they are more concerned about getting information that they need right now. Why else the rise of Google and Wikipedia? They allow us to have the world’s knowledge at our fingertips.

I wonder if there isn’t a parallel with catechesis, and adult faith formation in particular.

It’s no secret that catechesis of adults is a difficult ministry. No matter how many programs or classes we offer it seems like it’s the same people who come. They are eager and grateful, to be sure, but I’ve heard many catechetical leaders ask “Where is everyone else? Why aren’t they coming?”

Yet we’ve seen an explosion in recent years of Catholic blogs and podcasts seeking to promote and explain the Catholic viewpoint on a variety of issues. While I doubt that many of these bloggers would claim the label “catechist,” that is exactly what they are — they are, in their own way, evangelizing and catechizing to their readers and listeners.

These blogs and podcasts are obviously filling a need that our catechetical programs do not. Convenience may be one explanation — it’s  certainly  easier to read a blog post than get to the parish center for an evening — but I’m not sure that explains it all. I also wonder if bloggers and podcasters aren’t better at targeting the specific needs and questions of the faithful.

Take, for one example, Fr. Barron’s YouTube video series. Each video takes a single question, issue, or piece of media, and examines or explains it from a Catholic viewpoint. Many are questions that the faithful in the pew may have asked or heard from others: What is the Real Presence? Why do we celebrate the Ascension? What spiritual insights can we learn from The Dark Knight?

Those of us involved in the catechetical ministry may be tempted to worry and fret that, even for many engaged Catholics, their primary avenue for catechesis is what they get from such online venues: “But it’s not systematic! It’s too focused on popular theology! There’s no oversight or review of the content!”

To which we might respond:    “We in catechesis get so much with our knickers in knots about ‘What is catechesis?’ whereas the world says: ‘What’s faith? What do I need to know today to be a better follower of Christ?'”

Comments

  1. Great post, Jon. u00a0nI would propose that what Father Barron is doing is partly primary kerygma – proclaiming the gospel and where it is relevant in the world. This is more evangelization… with a little catechesis sneaked in. When we do stuff in parishes we focus on catechesis, with a little evangelization sneaked in. Maybe we need to take a page from his book.nnI have a hard time with Catholics who deny that starting with the learner’s life experience is appropriate and instead want to begin with the doctrine and teaching of the Church. It is that “why is faith important here?” question that draws people in. u00a0It is the “Come and see”.nnThanks for sharing this.. food for thought.

  2. Jonathan, great post.u00a0 You are definitely asking good questions regarding what we need to consider in the work of catechesis.u00a0 I think people don’t feel like they have the time to learn and grow in their faith but that does not solve the issue it just names one aspect of it.u00a0 There are not easier answers on how to continue to reach more of the faithful and help them learn, grow and be more transformed in their relationship with God.u00a0 Using podcasts, youtube and other various websites is definitely an area that will help those in the ministry of catechesis reach their goal.u00a0

  3. This is very good Jonathan. I’ve beenu00a0thinking same exact things myself. Since getting involved in blogging, I’ve come to a whole newu00a0understanding of how to relate tou00a0people in terms of teaching the Faith and reachingu00a0people. We often lament thatu00a0people don’t want to learnu00a0about the Faith, they don’t come to our programs. But perhaps, we’re not filling a need. We’re not addressing what they need help with. And, if we’re not doing that, we’re not really thinking of them but of ourselves when we try to catechize adults.u00a0

  4. YES, YES, YES! Hammer meet nail. Nail disappears into wood. Superb post brother. Keep thinking outloud–your thinking is spot on, relevant and clear.

  5. Very good, and I even absolve you of any distastefulness regarding the phrase “getting our knickers in knots,” which I absolutely detest. Because now I see what you did there.

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