Each year in September, Catholics all over the United States gather to celebrate “Catechetical Sunday”. Many may ask what is this all about? The answer is very simple: the Word of God! The ministry of the Word is the major element of evangelization through all its stages because it involves the proclamation of Jesus Christ, the eternal Word of God: “The word of God nourishes both evangelizers and those who are being evangelized so that each one may continue to grow in his or her Christian life” (National Directory for Catechesis). So Catechetical Sunday recognizes those volunteer Evangelizers who proclaim the Word of God to children, teens, young adults, and adults in all of our parish faith formation programs.
This yearly celebration began in 1935 when the Vatican published On the Better Care and Promotion of Catechetical Education, a document that asks every country to acknowledge the importance of the Church’s teaching ministry and to honor those who serve the Christian community as catechists. Many Catholics have used the word “catechism” for years, and they know it has something to do with the Church’s teachings. The root word, “catechesis,” is from a Greek word meaning “to echo or resound.” Catechesis is the act of resounding or bringing the Church’s teachings to the world. A catechist is one who teaches in the name of the Church. It is an extremely important ministry in today’s world.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church states, “Catechesis is intimately bound up with the whole of the Church’s life . . . her inner growth and correspondence with God’s plan depend essentially on catechesis” (no. 7). This ministry of teaching in the name of the Church has a profound dignity, which is why catechists are formally commissioned by the Church. It is only fitting that we set aside a day to highlight this ministry and invite the entire parish community to think about our responsibility to share our faith with others. Faith sharing is crucial to the continued growth of par-ish life. All members of the parish, from the youngest to the oldest, must use words to express the deepest longing of our hearts: knowledge and love of Jesus Christ. This celebration also gives us the opportunity to highlight the domestic church.
Parents and guardians are truly the primary catechists of their children. They prepare the soil and plant the first seeds of faith. On Catechetical Sunday, we not only highlight the work of catechists in parishes and schools, but we also commend parents and guardians and encourage them to take seriously their role of making their Catholic households a place where faith is passed on to the next generation. This is why the rite of blessing of catechists used on Catechetical Sunday includes a blessing of parents and guardians. Pope Francis, at the latest World Meeting of Families, said: “That is why our families, our homes, are true domestic churches. They are the right place for faith to become life, and life to become faith.” The 2020 Catechetical Sunday theme is taken from St. Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians, “I received from the Lord what I also Handed on to You.” The theme focuses on the primary substance of catechesis, which is an invitation to a whole new life given by Christ Himself. It emphasizes that living faith necessitates movement, inspiring all those who hear the Word to share it as witnesses of the true and living God.
Throughout this week as we begin our religious education year, let us pray for our Catechists: Loving God, Creator of all things, you call us to be in relationship with you and others. Thank you for calling our parish catechists, for the opportunity to share with others what you have them. May all those with whom they share the gift of faith discover how you are present in all things. May they come to know you, the one true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent. May the grace of the Holy Spirit guide their hearts and lips, so that they may remain constant in loving and praising you. May they be witnesses to the Gospel and a minister of your truth. May all their words and actions reflect your love. Amen.