Getting Our Knickers in Knots about Catechesis

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:

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?'”