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Part Two of "Liturgy, Catechesis, and Conversion" | Part
The same is true for innocent, baptized children who did not prepare for
Baptism and did not acknowledge its gift. Both groups of the faithful need
to be guided to a life that is in accord with their Baptism. Fr. Liege comments
boldly on this:
All catechesis must bring man back to the initial
act of his conversion, an act which, in one way, he never gets beyond.
In the measure that conversion has not been chronologically distinct
from catechesis, as for baptized infants, catechesis will always have
a dialectic period of evangelization, without which it would be mere
religious instruction. 
Currently, many evangelists and catechists are meeting
those who have left the Church, and possibly God as well, and are ready
to "come home." This is a burgeoning new apostolate focusing on
returning souls to Christ and to the Church. For such souls a remedial catechesis
in the mysteries must be prepared and applied to specific life situations.
Probably the most difficult area for conversion catechesis in the Church
today is among the adult population who have not identified a need for more
of Christ or His teachings. Often they simply dont know that they
dont know. For them the heart of the Church cries out, "Who will
preach, who will evangelize, who will teach them?" Pastors, preachers,
evangelists, and catechists are needed who will rise to the occasion and
storm heaven until a way is made clear for them to go after those so much
in danger of perishing for lack of knowledge!
Adult education in the mystery of Christ is the chief form of catechesis
according to no. 21 of the General Catechetical Directory of Pope Pius VI.
This is because they are "persons who are capable of an adherence that
is fully responsible." Among those in the catechetical ministry of
the Church this adult conversion and catechesis is a much discussed topic.
As yet, only a few are having any significant success with it. Christ is
waiting for them. He is surely preparing the way, but "He has no hands
but yours," which was the motto of the Lay Apostolate in the 50s
The conversion of young children is a topic much discussed, written about
and debated among catechists, pastors and liturgists. In fact, the Church
recognizes the sanctity and religious potential of children of all ages
in her canonization process. Many of the adult saints counted a conversion
experience as a young child as pivotal for them.
Children are valuable to the Christian community not only because of their
potential as adults, but primarily they are valuable in themselves. They
are made in the image and likeness of God. When they are baptized Gods
grace is active in them. Their guardian angels are vigilant on their behalf,
urging them to come to know their heavenly Father and protecting them as
much as possible.
Now they were bringing even infants to Him that He might touch them and
when the disciples saw it they rebuked them. But Jesus called them to Him
saying, "Let the children come to Me and do not hinder them for to
such belongs the kingdom of God. Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive
the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it" (Luke 18:15-17).
There is something Christ-like in the nature of young children: innocence,
purity, love, trusting obedience. If the Gospel is explained to them they
"get" it. According to Fr. Jean Mouroux, they are "capable
of receiving and nurturing a personal faith and of recognizing an obligation
of conscience"  at about the age of discretion. Both of these are
crucial to authentic conversion for anyone.
The components of a catechesis for conversion are simple: announcement of
the apostolic proclamation of the Gospel (the kerygma), and introduction
to Jesus Christ in His exact identity and in His glory in sacred history.
 Fr. Jungmann explains the ramifications of the proclamation of the
Gospel as leading to an understanding of "what we are and are called
to be." In the light of Easter morning all believers have the grand
vocation to "proclaim by a holy life the acts of Him Who has called
them from the darkness to His admirable light" (1 Pet..2:9). "They
must enter joyfully into the circle of those true adorers, who adore the
Father in spirit and in truth"  (John 4: 24).
He further constrains the catechist to be sure to "show them the Original
which faith will make them resemble" when describing grace to believers.
Jesus must be vividly drawn from Scripture narration. Fr. Jungmann concludes:
Let us reveal, especially to the older ones,
the great perspectives which are discovered by meditation on the life
of grace of Christ at Easter, the Christ of the liturgy. Here the new
creation has commenced; here the spiritual temple is being built of
living stones; here the priestly people is assembled, from all nations
and all centuries, able to offer the worthy sacrifice to God, because
Christ the high priest is at its head  (1 Pet. 2:5).
Teaching Through the Liturgy
It is true that in the wake of the storm following Vatican Council II many
attempts were made to correct the problems of faith and practice in the
Church principally by liturgical experimentation (and catechetical reductionism).
Atrocities such as "Bridge Over Troubled Waters" themes for Eucharistic
liturgies instead of Scripture, "Wonder" bread substitutions for
unleavened bread, and free-for-all discussions in place of preaching the
Word of God were commonplace. They did not convert folks to Christ or insert
them deeper into the mystery of Christ. In fact, the flight from the Church
reached staggering proportions during that period. For these reasons it
would seem that the recent experimental attempts at liturgical reform were
indeed the problem.
Part of the experimentation that was carried out during that period involved
using the liturgy to teach, as a catechetical tool. The catechetical value
of liturgical practice is not the point because most liturgical practice
would need considerable, and probably boring, explication to make it didactically
utilitarian. The sacred liturgy is not about utility.
Liturgy teaches by forming its participants. The experience of a carefully
and reverently done Nuptial Mass speaks to the assembled believers of Gods
love for His Church, of the significance of the marriage covenant and even
of the meaning of life. The experience of the baptisms at the Easter Vigil
stirs up appreciation of ones own Baptism and of the richness of life
as a son of God. Lessons on these topics, no matter how well done, cannot
accomplish the realizations that are gained by participating in such liturgies.
The example of the disciples on the road to Emmaus reiterates that.
Liturgy teaches by presenting the mystery of Christ concretely. Actual participation
always teaches better than theoretical explanation. (Consider John 6:57-59;
Rom. 6:3-14; Col. 2:12; Gal. 3:27; 1 Cor. 12:13.) Therefore, the meeting
with Christ which is the heart of any liturgy cannot be replaced or duplicated
and must not be tampered with. "They recognized Him in the breaking
of the bread" cannot be redacted or didactically maneuvered.
Catechism, Profound Union with the Liturgy
The content of catechesis is the deposit of faith which Jesus left to the
apostles. This was a rich treasure to them, hence, St. Pauls exhortation
to Timothy (1 Tim. 6:20) to guard it. Since the time of the apostles the
Church has faithfully protected this deposit so that it would not be enhanced
or reduced, but only carefully explained in increasing depth and clarity.
Things hidden there have been discovered by theology and the pious sense
of the faithful. Likewise, in catechetical endeavors it is essential that
nothing of the deposit be omitted.
For this reason the compendium of the deposit of faith, the catechism, was
used from the earliest times to teach the Faith. Historically, the Catholic
catechisms, notably that of the Council of Trent, have corresponded to Jesus
own pattern of teaching, i.e., the Faith and the correlative triple response
of the metanoia: conversion of heart and obedience to God, sacramental
interaction with Christ Himself, and a spiritual life marked especially
by prayer and a relationship with the Father. (This pattern, or rule, is
referred to in Rom. 6:17.)
The catechetical renewal which preceded Vatican Council II, known as the
kerygmatic movement, attempted to return catechetics to the practice of
proclamation of the Word of God and to the context of the narration of Scripture.
Sound catechetical technique had, in fact, been lost in favor of an academic
approach to passing on the Faith. The catechism had enhanced the academic
schemata because it lends itself to rote memorization of facts. The Roman
Catechism is anything but a dry compendium of facts, however. It is clearly
a prophetic study and definition of Jesus teaching in the deposit
He left to the Church. The recently released Catechism of the Catholic Church
is written in that same vein. Msgr. Kevane explains that, "One must
consider that the catechism is simply the Churchs own historic explanation
of the Apostles Creed and the three basic activities of the Way of
Life which responds to the baptismal Creed." 
In the catechetical renewal movement there was no intention of discarding
a valuable prophetic tool, like the catechism, but there was the attempt
to move catechesis back to Christocentrism and the focus on conversion to
Christ and participation in the mysteries. With the liberties that were
taken immediately after Vatican Council II came more and more aberrations
in catechetical practice. Some parts of the kerygmatic renewal were abrogated
to the "new methodology" of the 60s and the 70s,
others were not. All of the catechism approach was discarded, especially
any emphasis on memorization. (None of this was the work of the Church per
The result was chaos in the ministry of catechetics, especially in the western
Church, and the focus of catechesis was shifted from Christ and His plan
to the individual believer. The cult of the "experts," profane
and sacred, became the driving force of catechetics, instead of the Scriptures.
The effect of all of this on the worship of Catholics was profound. Today
it is unlikely that a young adult Catholic can be readily found who could
explain the purpose of the Eucharistic liturgy, or the meaning of the Incarnation
or sin and redemption for that matter! Yet they are being lured away by
many other specious ideologies. They need answers to lifes most important
questions just as much as their ancestors did, maybe more.
In the ministry of catechetics the need is very great for a return to the
reality of sacred history as the mystery of Christ. The focus must be on
God and His plan, His interactions with man and His Way of Life. The narrative
approach to Biblical catechesis must be relearned. Fr. Vagaggini points
out that if these things are done the "catechism will thereby discover
its profound union with the liturgy."  It will be the preparation
to liturgical life just as Christs exposition of the Scriptures was
for the Emmaus disciples.
The liturgical life will appear as the sacral
concretization, (under the veil of the sensible and efficacious signs
of the sanctification and the worship of the Church,) of the world of
the catechism; and the world of the catechism will be lived sacrally
in its most important act. 
The baptized child, the adult catechumen, the young people seldom in the
pews, and the family struggling against the onslaughts of secularism have
a right to the truth which sets them free. They have the right to be catechized,
to be led to the altar singing for joy, to know their Father, to participate
in the very mystery of Christ. Therefore, let us "pray to the Lord
of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest" (Matt. 9:37).
(This article originally appeared in the January/February 1997 issue of
The Catholic Faith magazine.)
 Hofinger, Johannes, S.J. and Francis J. Buckley, S.J., The Good News
and Its Proclamation, p. 26.
 Kevane, Msgr. Kevane, "Toward Research in Fundamental Catechetics,"
Angelicum, p. 372.
 Pope Paul VI in LOsservatore Romano, English Edition, Jan.
27, 1972, p. 1.
 Kevane, p. 372.
 Ghesquiere, Dom Theodore, O.S.B., "Bible-Reading and Liturgical
Life," Lumen Vitae, p. 173.
 Ghesquiere, Dom Theodore, O.S.B., "Bible-Reading and Liturgical
Life," Lumen Vitae, p. 175.
 Hofinger and Buckley, p. 57, 76.
 Oster, Fr. Henri, "Gods Plan," Lumen Vitae, p.
 Oster, p. 49. Fr. Osters extensive footnote regarding astonishment
or admiration are paraphrased in the following text.
 Von Hildebrand, Dietrich, Liturgy and Personality, pp. 7-8.
 Ibid., p. 8, Dr. von Hildebrand points out later that the liturgy must
become a "way of following Christ into transformation into Him,"
 Hofinger and Buckley, p. 32.
 Ibid, p. 35. These are the folks in the pews. Many have never really
been catechized and virtually all have never been evangelized.
 Liege, Andre, O.P., "The Ministry of the Word: from Kerygma to
Catechesis," Lumen Vitae., pp. 33-34.
 Mouroux, Fr. Jean, From Baptism to the Act of Faith, p. 35.
This book is an invaluable aid to understanding faith and moral development
in children up to the age of discretion. It could be especially helpful
to parents and to catechists of children at about the age of discretion.
 Liege, p. 33.
 Jungmann, Joseph-Andre, S.J., "Liturgy and the History of Salvation,"
Lumen Vitae, 1955, p. 268.
 Ibid., p.267. My own experience as a catechist is that when the Easter
Vigil liturgy was restored and assumed its glorious place as queen of liturgical
celebrations, without exception my students, (of various ages), "saw"
the liturgy, the Eucharist and Baptism in a whole new light. They loved
it as they never had previously. See also 2 Tim. 1:12 and 2 Cor. 5:20.
 Kevane, p. 367.
 Vagaggini, Cyrian, O.S.B., Theological Dimensions of the Liturgy,
 Ibid., p. 891.
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Barbara Morgan is
Director of Catechetics and RCIA at Franciscan University of Steubenville.
She holds a Masters degree in catechetics from the Notre Dame Institute
as well as the Pontifical Diploma in Catechetics. She has over forty years
experience in teaching the Faith. She and her husband have five children
and forty grandchildren.
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