Who or What Should be the Heart of Catechesis


“Catechesis” comes from the Greek word, katekhesis, meaning “instruction by word of mouth.” Broadly speaking, then, catechesis may refer to any number of disciplines that are taught orally. However, “catechesis” has come to denote, specifically, Christian instruction.

We could summarize catechesis, then, as follows: Catechesis is basic Christian education.

What Is Christianity

In order to see why Jesus Christ must be the center of catechesis we must begin by asking the question, “What is Christianity?” If it is simply a moral code, then that code ought to be at the heart of catechesis. If Christianity is false, then its falsity ought to be the heart of whatever is taught about it.

But whatever else Christianity may entail (Church services; moral teaching; bingo, etc.) to the Christian it is first and foremost a person. “Christianity,” said St. John Paul the great, “is not just a book of culture or an ideology, nor is it merely a system of values or principles, however lofty they may be. Christianity is a person, a presence, a face: Jesus, who gives meaning and fullness to human life.” [1] 

According to St. Paul, Everything – Jesus = Refuse, and Nothing + Jesus = Everything.

“I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as refuse, in order that I may gain Christ,” (Phil. 3:8)

It follows, therefore, that the person of Jesus of Nazareth must be the heart of Catechesis. It is Christ, says Ratzinger and Shonborn, “who is the overwhelming light that illuminates the whole exposition of faith.” [2] “The heart of the Deposit of Faith, its center, lies in the revelation of the Heart of God in the Person of Jesus Christ” [3] 

The Argument

My argument could be summarized thusly:

Premise 1: Catechesis is basic Christian education.

Premise 2: Christianity is, first and foremost, the person of Jesus of Jesus of Nazareth.

Conclusion: Therefore “[a]t the heart of catechesis we find, in essence, a Person, the Person of Jesus of Nazareth, the only Son from the Father. (CCC 426).


1. “Switzerland John Paul II,” http://www.traces-cl.com/july04/arisechrist.html (10 October 2010).

2. Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, Christoph Schonborn. Introduction to the Catechism of the Catholic Church. (San Francisco. Ignatius Press. 1994). 45

3. Petroc Willey, Pierre de Cointet, and Barbara Morgan, The Catechism of the Church and the Craft of Catechesis (San Francisco, CA: Ignatius Press, 2008), xiv. 

3 thoughts on “Who or What Should be the Heart of Catechesis

  1. Hi Matt how are you?. yes this very good blog I agree 100% I used teach RCIA as part of my legion of mary work in last 2 years the parish did not do it. We hoping to do it this year please God, but we did it in heart of Jesus was centre of it all and basic’s of faith they need to know to become Catholic’s. So Matt keep up the great work and I will keep praying for you and your lay ministry God bless Séamus.

  2. Exactly! Which is why..in addition to good books and CDs…. we need more powerful and inspiring audio/visual movies and materials that help the senses, mind, and imagination connect with the PERSON of Christ. The average person will struggle with the rules of being in relationship with him (Church teachings, etc) if they first don’t know him, spend time with him, talk to his friends, his Mother, and fall in love with him like a bride and/or want to follow him even to death on the greatest adventure of all. Think about it: any great sports hero of our time started out as child, admiring and wanting to be like, say, Babe Ruth or some childhood hero…watching that hero’s every move, putting his picture on their walls, and wearing his jersey. Begging Mom to take him to practice and forgoing Saturday morning cartoons to hit balls in the backyard. I think many belong to the Jesus club but are uninspired by him. Many don’t know him and perhaps don’t care to know any more than they do now. Media producers, show us more of the God Man for whom our hearts were made!

  3. Your post reminded me of this gem of a section in Evangelii Gaudium:
    “On the lips of the catechist the first proclamation must ring out over and over: ‘Jesus Christ loves you; he gave his life to save you; and now he is living at your side every day to enlighten, strengthen and free you.’ This first proclamation is called ‘first’ not because it exists at the beginning and can then be forgotten or replaced by other more important things. It is first in a qualitative sense because it is the principal proclamation, the one which we must hear again and again in different ways, the one which we must announce one way or another throughout the process of catechesis, at every level and moment. …
    We must not think that in catechesis the kerygma gives way to a supposedly more “solid” formation. Nothing is more solid, profound, secure, meaningful and wisdom-filled than that initial proclamation. All Christian formation consists of entering more deeply into the kerygma, which is reflected in and constantly illumines, the work of catechesis, thereby enabling us to understand more fully the significance of every subject which the latter treats.” (Evangelii Gaudium 164-165)

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