Monday, September 25, 2017

Review: Liturgical Catechesis in the 21st Century

Just finished my full reading of an amazing book.  Liturgical Catechesis in the 21st Century: A School of Discipleship by James C. Pauley of Franciscan University in Steubenville is an effort to steer religious education toward a mystagogical apprenticeship formula, including proclamation of the kerygma, liturgical catechesis and individual mentorship.

In this book, Dr. James Pauley presents liturgical catechesis as an important tool to form disciples who grow through sacramental living.  He also sees the importance of recognizing and supporting the faith journey of each person, not merely assuming that a convenient "slot" in a school-model catechetical program fits all people. Pauley cites Sherry Weddell's individualized recognition of people's differing rates of spiritual growth, and steers that toward what the writers of the General Directory for Catechesis asked when they wrote that the Catechumenate (RCIA) should be the inspiration and model for all catechesis.  (GDC 90)

Pauley outlines an approach that combines proclamation of the kerygma (the Good News of Jesus Christ) with fostering skills that allow people to encounter God through the signs, symbols, words and actions of the liturgy. When supported by appropriate catechesis and personal relationship, such an approach can form people who find in the liturgy a touchstone to deepen their relationships with God, the Church and other members of the Body of Christ.

Pauley lays out the history and vision of the Second Vatican Council's desire for "full, conscious and active participation" in the liturgy and the ways in which we can be changed by liturgical experience and by mystagogical reflection on that experience. Never denying the scope of the challenges to changing the paradigm in today's Church, he gives real-life examples and concrete suggestions for developing a more liturgical catechesis in the parish. His suggestion is that parish leaders take "baby steps" when working toward a new way of presenting the faith. This kind of change is not easy, but it is very necessary if we are to form people who practice the Catholic faith in a lifelong way by attending weekend liturgy.

Key to Pauley's vision is a model of apprenticeship that involves discerning the needs of the individual person and mentoring him/her in developing skills that allow full engagement with the liturgy and the ability to receive its fruits. These benefits can take the form of a deeper relationship with God and a life-giving understanding of the ways in which fully participating in the liturgy opens us to God's grace and helps us to change and grow in holiness. Chapter 8, in which he describes three skills: "Attuning Ourselves to God," "Uniting Ourselves to God," and Cooperating with the Grace of God", is pure gold. Not only does he specify and define these three important skills, but he gives particular actions steps for the catechist to help mentor learners to develop these skills.

In the last part of the book, Pauley gives over his authorial voice to four experts on emerging practices: Sr. Hyacinthe Defos du Rau, OP, of the "Come Follow Me" program for catechesis and initiation of young children is the first. She is followed by Mary Mirrione, of Catechesis of the Good Shepherd, a Montessori-based approach for children. Jim Beckman, whose expertise in youth ministry and in empowering parents to mentor their teens in faith, is next. Finally William Keimig discusses a truly liturgical format for RCIA formation.

All of these programs have in common a liturgical catechesis/apprenticeship model and have shown great success in real practice, which is why Pauley gives space to them in the book. The inclusion of these helps the reader see how a eral-world apprenticeship in Christian liturgical life can be successful in forming missionary disciples who grow through a fruitful encounter with Christ through the liturgy and the liturgical year.