His Excellency Most Reverend
Mons. Csaba Ternyák
Titular Archbishop of Eminenziana
Secretary of the Congregation for the Clergy
With the joyous and original pedagogy of faith
At the start of the first day’s work
for the Jubilee of Catechists
Saturday, December 9th 2000
Dearest Catechists and religion Teachers, venerable brothers in the Episcopate and in the Priesthood, religious men and women, dear professors, teachers and formers, and all you lay faithful involved in the deaconate of truth in various ways,
Welcome ad Petri sedem, and welcome to this study session where we ardently desire to reassert and testify, with faithfulness and integrity, to the salvific uniqueness and universality of the mystery of Jesus Christ and His Church (cf. Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Declaration Dominus Iesus, no. 2, dated 6.8.2000). This mystery has a name: the Truth, which is Christ Himself, luminous and joyous truth, revealed to us for the salvation of all men as the true and perpetual orientation star (cf. John Paul II, Encyclical Fides et ratio, no. 15)
1. Within this context, allow me to invoke the Holy Spirit with the first words of the Hymn Veni Creator: because He is the first agent of the evangelizing mission of the Church (John Paul II. Encyclical Redemptoris Missio, 30), the principal agent of new evangelization (Ibid. Apostolic Letter Tertio Millennio Adveniente, 45), it is He who impels each individual to proclaim the Gospel, and it is He who in the depths of consciences causes the word of salvation to be accepted and understood (Paul VI, Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Nuntiandi, 75).
"Come, Holy Spirit, Creator blest,
and in our souls take up Thy rest;
come with Thy grace and heavenly aid
to fill the hearts which Thou hast made." (From the Hymn Veni creator)
In fact, we know full well that "the most perfect preparation of the evangelizer has no effect without the Holy Spirit. Without the Holy Spirit the most convincing dialectic has no power over the heart of man. Without Him the most highly developed schemes resting on sociological or psychological basis are quickly seen to be quite valueless" (Ibid. Evangelii Nuntiandi, 75).
Also, it would not conform to the intents of the Jubilee if this day, at the first dateline of the Third Millennium of the mystery central to the Christian faith, did not help us to discover next to us "Mary, the Mother of Jesus" (Jn 2:1), Bride and temple of the Holy Spirit (Vatican Council II, Lumen gentium, 53). Together with Joseph and Elizabeth, who already know from the Spirit about the divine motherhood of the Virgin, let us rejoice during this time of Advent for the incomparable masterpiece that God realized in Mary and let us rejoice for the divine surprises, the great things worked in Her by the Omnipotent (cf. Lk 1:49), let us exult for the divine paradoxes – the divine in the human, the infinite in the finite, the Maker in His making -, which only the small and the humble are able to contemplate and understand, like the Shepherds of Bethlehem and the Magi from the Far East.
Let us rediscover, by looking more deeply into certain aspects of the catechetical mission of the Church, that Mary was the first in time to be converted by God, above all the first because no creature had ever been educated to such a level of fullness and depth: "Mother and disciple at the same time" (Saint Augustine Sermon 25,7: PL 46, 937-938).
Not without reason was it said that, in the Synod Hall, facing the IV General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops, meeting in Rome in October of 1977, confronting the theme of catechesis, Mary is "a living catechism", "mother and model for catechists" (John Paul II, Apostolic Exhortation Catechesi Tradendae, 73).
2. Our encounter today acquires all of its meaning within this field: may the presence of the Holy Spirit, thanks to the prayers of Mary, allow us and all the Church to understand, with intelligence in the heart, that the Gospel is proclaimed as a news, the good news, completely centered on the person of Jesus, the Son of God and the Redeemer of man.
In this sense, the imminent illuminated reflections by His Eminence Most Reverend Cardinal, Prefect of the Sacred Congregation for the Clergy, as well as President of the Pontifical Commission Ecclesia Dei, and the following communications by some lay professionals upon relevant aspects of catechistic action, will point out the goal to us: "catechesis must help people to meet Jesus Christ, to converse with Him and to immerse themselves in Him"(John Paul II, Speech during the Ad limina visit to the Bishops of Lithuania, September 17th 1999, in L’O.R. no. 215/1999, pg. 7).
Should the vibrating encounter with Christ be missing, Christianity becomes an arid land where the winds of doctrinal and existential secularism and relativism pervade and the idolatrous seductions of sects imbued with false spiritualism become the undisturbed masters. We know full well that, with the coming of the living Word, our human history stopped being an arid land, which it appeared to be before the Incarnation, to take on the meaning and the value of universal hope. In fact, "by His Incarnation the Son of God has united Himself in some fashion with every man" (Gaudium et spes, no. 22).
To use an expression by Saint Irenaeus, dear to the Holy Father, about catechesis "after receiving the Word of God as rain falling from heaven we cannot allow ourselves to present to the world an image of dry earth; nor can we ever claim to be one bread if we prevent the scattered flour from becoming one through the action of the water which has been poured on us" (John Paul II, Incarnationis mysterium, 4; cf. Saint Irenaeus, Against Heresies, III,17: PG 7,930)
Humanity needs the Word, "the Word of God which is at work in you believers" (1 Thess 2:13), and the Sacrament that makes present and protracts the saving action of Jesus in history.
Therefore, catechesis will be efficacious if it will know how to be the guide and the path of man on his sacramental communion with Christ in the Third Millennium, inciting the ardor that can be found in the first Letter of the Apostle John who exhorted: "That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes (…) we proclaim also to you, so that you may have fellowship with us; and our fellowship is with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ" (1 Jn 1:1-3).
Here is the joyous and original pedagogy of faith: this does not deal with a merely human knowledge, even the most elevated form; but in proclaiming, in its integrity and liveliness, the power and the knowledge of God in the Person of the Word made Flesh, Crucified and Resurrected. What is transmitted is science, also and above all, through the forcefulness of the witness of a holy life lived by the catechist.
3. All of this will also be admirably, even if briefly, developed tomorrow morning. There are no doubts on the fact that the efficacy of evangelization largely depends on the holiness of the priests and the deacons, "prudent collaborators of the Episcopal college" (Lumen gentium, 28), who through their capillary actions among the flock entrusted to them, may ensure that each Christian community be nurtured by the Word of God and sustained by the grace of the Sacraments. But, beyond the specific pastoral roles, one must nurture a deep consciousness that the challenge of new evangelization cannot be adequately faced if one does not base oneself on the prophetic duty of all the baptized, as underlined in the General Catechetical Directory among others.
We must exclaim, using the words of John Paul II "it is time for Christian communities to become communities of proclamation!" (Speech during the Ad limina visit to the Bishops of Lithuania, ibid)
By the same catechesis, it is urgent to promote a lay spirituality that helps Christian lay persons to deeply live their vocation to holiness "by engaging in temporal affairs and directing them according to God’s will" (Lumen gentium, 31).
For this reason, during the works of this Jubilee of Catechists, relevance has been given to the arts and the professions of the laity who can and must be instruments of catechesis, the true divine leaven, for and extended and efficacious catechetical witness in society, to safeguard those values, both human and Christian, upon which humanity’s future depends. In a particular way, we are referring to the respect for human life, to the unity of the family, to the defense of the dignity of work, in the vast area of civic and political structures, of social communications and artistic expressions.
In concluding these introductory reflections, we say that no one should believe they are passive subjects within the Church. All of us can repeat the Pauline exclamation: "For if I preach the Gospel, that gives me no ground for boasting. For necessity is laid upon me. Woe to me if I do not preach the Gospel" (1 Cor 9:16). "Necessitas mihi incumbit": Necessity is laid upon me!
May this morning’s meeting with the Successor of Peter be of encouragement and urging to us to face, with greater faith and spirit of initiative, the missionary mandate that all, inasmuch as baptized, have received from Jesus.
To Most Holy Mary, the Star of new evangelization, "wholly oriented towards Christ and tending to the revelation of His salvific power" (John Paul II. Encyclical Redemptoris Mater, no. 22), we entrust ourselves and all those committed to the deaconate of Truth, on the dawning of this Third Millennium.