Catechesis vs. Discipleship

Catechesis vs. Discipleship February 6, 2014

There’s been a lot of discussion here on the Catholic Channel about how to do catechesis better, starting with Joanne McPortland’s humble proposal to do away with catechesis of children and catechize adults instead. She wasn’t entirely serious, but there was a lot to what she said. Leah Libresco, Elizabeth Duffy, Greg Popcack, and of course Elizabeth Scalia have all chipped in, and I’m probably missing a few.

Here’s my take: catechesis is the wrong focus, and discipleship is the right one. We need to focus on forming intentional disciples, as Sherry Weddell calls them. We need to be forming adult Catholics who love Christ, have a mature faith, and seek Him every day. That’s not the fruit of catechesis; that’s the fruit of discipleship.

Please note: I’m not saying that we should do discipleship instead of catechesis. I’m saying that we should be doing discipleship in the context of catechesis.

As an example: this year I joined the RCIA team at my parish. I’m in the San Fernando region of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, and Bishop Wilkerson, our auxiliary, has been supporting the notion of intentional discipleship for many years. (He’s mentioned by name in Weddell’s book.) Our pastor has been preaching about discipleship for the past year. And in the RCIA program, this year, as we teach the candidates what the sacraments are, and what the Church teaches, and how the Bible is structured, and what the creeds me, and all of that, we are also explicitly trying to draw them into a deeper relationship with Christ.

Will this work? Good question; and we’ll find out. But I’m utterly sure that we’re more likely to make disciples if we’re trying to make disciples than if we’re simply trying to educate people. And if we can teach parents to be disciples, then we’ll really have done something (see Greg Popcak’s post for more on the role of parents).

photo credit: Eusebius@Commons via photopin cc

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