It’s hard to put into words just what Pope Benedict XVI has meant for me, particularly as a catechetical leader. More than anyone else Benedict has pushed for an understanding of faith that is rooted, above all else, in the person of Jesus Christ. In all of his teaching his constantly points to Jesus and invites us to enter into a deeper relationship with him.
I believe Benedict will be remembered as the pope that energized and put into practice the New Evangelization, for at its heart the New Evangelization is about the person of Christ. I was especially heartened at his decision to place the ministry of catechesis under the auspices of the new Pontifical Council for Promoting the New Evangelization. This piece of administrative business may seem uneventful, but it has important implications for how we are to understand the work of catechesis.
In aligning the work of education and faith formation with the call to a New Evangelization the Holy Father reminds us that catechesis can only be effective and faith only take root once we have proclaimed Christ‘s life, death and resurrection to those in our care. Catholic schools and parish religious education programs are a particularly important way in which faith is transmitted – not as an academic subject to be studied and quizzed on, but as a living experience of the love of God through prayer, service, and the Eucharist.
As we continue to journey through the Year of Faith, we would do well to keep before us Pope Benedict’s the call to evangelize our students as well as catechize and educate them. We must proclaim Christ‘s love and witness to its power in our lives if we hope to make disciples of our students. Or, as Pope Benedict stated:
It is a particular responsibility of the whole Church to keep the message of Christ ever fresh and effective, also through clear teaching which must nourish faith in the mystery of the incarnation of the Son of God who for our sake became man, died and rose again for our salvation. She must do so tirelessly by appropriate ways and means, so that all those who accept the Gospel message and believe, may be born to new life through baptism.