Magazine article Momentum

How the NDC Reflects "The Pedagogy of God"

Magazine article Momentum

How the NDC Reflects "The Pedagogy of God"

Article excerpt

It may come as no surprise to readers of Momentum that to understand a text fully, whether that text is "Madame Bovary" or the Washington, D.C., phonebook, you have to know something about the social and historical contexts in which it was written. This has been referred to as the Sitz im Leben, or the setting in life, which was a term coined by biblical scholars in Germany in the early 20th century. Knowing the Sitz im Leben can help a reader understand why a text was written in a particular style or for a certain authence (e.g., Matthew's Gospel). This is also true of church documents, which often are long in the making and the result of committee work.

This brief essay will examine the historical conditions surrounding publication of the "National Directory for Catechesis" (USCCB [NDC], 2005), focusing on what may be the greatest difference between it and its predecessor, "Sharing the Light of Faith: National Catechetical Directory for Catholics of the United States "(USCCB [SLF], 1979). This difference concerns the treatment of revelation and human experience, which has been and continues to be a critical issue in catechesis. The essay will end by proposing that the apparent inconsistencies in these two directories actually reflect "the pedagogy of God" (NDC, No. 28). That is, they demonstrate the incarnational and paradoxical nature of our faith.

Sharing the Light of Faith

The history of-Sharthe Light of Faith," the first catechetical diiectory for the United States, Catechetical Directory" (USCCB [GCD], 1971), which was issued for the universal church by the Sacred Congregation for the Clergy. The GCD was the answer to a question that had surfaced during the Second Vatican Council; namely, should the council prepare a univer- sal catechism, because the only one in use at that time was the centuries- old "Roman Catechism" (1566). The council opted instead for a universal directory that would guide the com- position of catechisms by the local churches. Interestingly, the GCD was used as a guide for what would even- tually become not a catechism but a directory for the church in the United States. (Generally speaking, directo- ries offer guidance on how catechesis should be done; catechisms provide doctrinal content. Of course, there often is overlap between the two.)

The first of its kind, the GCD helped shape catechesis by reflecting the council's understanding of how the church should relate to the modern world as well as to new developments in catechesis that had emerged from the international study weeks held after the council, particularly those at Katigando (1964), Manila (1967) and Medellin (1968) (Horan, 1963).

Regarding revelation and human experience, the GCD declared that God is revealed in various ways: Scripture, tradition, the teaching office of the church, liturgy and sacraments, lives of the saints and "those genuine moral values which, by divine providence, are found in human society" (GCD, No. 45). Although these are not of equal value, the GCD stated that one way the mystery of Christ reveals itself is through human experience, particularly in the "signs of the times" (GCD, Nos, 11, 13, 26, 54). Furthermore, it did not limit human experience to Christians but included everyone. "Jesus Christ... is linked with all of history and is in communion with all men. The history of salvation is being accomplished in the midst of the history of the world" (GDC, No. 52).

"Sharing the Light of Faith" took this a step further. Distinguishing revelation (the public revelation of God ending with the Apostles) from self-communication (God's ongoing presence in the world), SLF nevertheless identified human experience as a primary mode of revelation. God was present in creation, the people of Israel and the Old Testament, Jesus Christ and his church, the Holy Spirit and "the events of daily life" (SLF, No. 55). Human experience thus became a source or locus of God's presence. …

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