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Ramiro Pellitero, Professor of Theology

The path of beauty in the catechesis

Mon, 02 Mar 2015 12:31:00 +0000 Published in Religion Confidential

On the occasion of the national meeting of catechist delegates (February 23-25), the importance of Christian Initiation and its main elements were highlighted. We also wondered about the place of beauty in the pathway educational of faith.

1. There are those who think that catechesis is an "indoctrination" of children in the derogatory sense in which the latter term is often understood today: to inculcate beliefs by taking advantage of the limited capacity for reason and criticism that characterizes children. Those who think this way are the same ones who usually oppose the religious school teaching . Basically, because of a materialistic vision of life that makes it difficult for them to recognize in the religious fact the deepest dimension of persons, their openness to transcendence.

In reality, the term catechesis comes from a Greek word that means to echo a message, and from the first centuries it was used by Christians to designate the transmission of the Gospel message to one another. The catechesis is suitable for all ages. And it is necessary both to establish the first advertisement of faith and what we call Christian Initiation, as well as for the permanent training of adults.

Together with preaching and school religious teaching -which in our time is distinguished from catechesis in terms of its goal and method-, catechesis is one of the most important activities in Christian life.

The school, and other higher institutions open to an integral Education , teaches religion - to those who wish it - in the context of the other knowledge that perfects the person and through it serves society.

The catechesis - more proper to the parish and the family - transmits the Christian faith in order for it to mature and be fulfilled staff in all stages of life. And catechisms are instruments at the service of this task; as is, and in an excellent way, the new catechism of the Spanish Episcopal lecture , Witnesses of the Lord (2014), prepared for the Education in the faith of adolescents.

2. Well, in our days we are witnessing a rediscovery of the path of beauty in the Education of faith. After many centuries in which beauty was not the object of much interest - except discreetly at the beginning of the last century - in recent decades it has once again occupied an important place in thought and in the Education.

The most solid philosophers say that beauty is like the card of presentation of being. Plato already pointed out that beauty is the radiance of truth and the strength of good, especially when both are combined. We find beauty in nature, in people and in personal values, in so many human achievements and works of art, including today those shown in the cinema and in new technologies (without ignoring their risks).

For Christianity, the paradigm of beauty-its ultimate model and its ever-living root-is Christ, the Son of God made flesh, dead and risen for us. In this context Dostoevsky said that "beauty will save the world". In the Christian life, beauty is manifested especially in the witness of Christians, which is the whole of the good example, of the willingness to take up the cross (witness in Greek is martyria) and of the arguments that Christians have to give of our faith, whenever possible. In the presentation of Witnesses of the Lord, the Spanish bishops say: "Do not forget that sometimes we have to live the beauty of the faith against the tide" (p. 7).

Recent Popes in particular have been very sensitive to this path of beauty. John Paul II points out, in his Letter to Artists (4 April 1999), that all people are called to make of their lives a work of art. Benedict XVI indicates that the beautiful financial aid us to face daily life in a luminous way. And he advises us never to separate truth from love, love from truth; for beauty, he points out in the words of Simone Weil, is a sign of the Incarnation of God in the world.

Pope Francis constantly appeals to the responsibility of Christians, so that the love of God may shine before men and women. Suffice it to quote a passage from his exhortation Evangelii Gaudium: "The very beauty of the Gospel cannot always be adequately manifested by us, but there is one sign that must never be lacking: the option for the least, for those whom society discards and throws away" (n. 195).

3. Today beauty is often obscured and even manipulated. Authentic beauty is that which is united to truth and goodness, for, as we have already pointed out, it is the radiance that arises from meeting of what is true and good, especially in the actions of persons. From this comes the attractiveness of the Christian life, which makes it effectively cooperative with the salvation worked by God. Authentic beauty takes us out of ourselves and places us at the service of God and others. If this is so - it can be so for everyone - for Christians, beauty finds its principal channels in faith, in the sacraments and in charity.

The catechism Witnesses of the Lord traces the path of beauty around the Easter Vigil, the mother of all vigils and the feast of all Christian feasts: the night in which we celebrate Easter, the resurrection of the Lord. This is what the pedagogical guide of this catechism says: "The Easter Vigil, full of symbolism and beauty, makes us taste, give thanks and renew the central mystery of our salvation: the Easter of Christ who fills us with life and makes us his witnesses in the midst of the world" (p. 27).

4. Christian art, beginning with icons, has always been at the service of the way of beauty, educational . Christians are called to be living icons of Christ in the world, as the saints have been. For this reason, images are being incorporated into catechisms - such as the Compendium of the Catechism of the Catholic Church and this catechism Witnesses of the Lord - and should be contemplated in the catechesis and integrated into the methodology of the Education of the faith.

But the path of beauty in the catechesis is not traveled first of all thanks to those beautiful images of a catechism, whether they are important works of art or simpler symbols; but it is traveled above all thanks to the catechists, to their effort and commitment to be for others report and awakener of God (cf. Francis, Homily at the workshop of catechists, 29-IX-2013).

Let us not forget that in the Education of faith is where what is usually said about communication is most fulfilled: the how is an important part of the what and the messenger is part of the message. Beauty touches or wounds us, opening us to God not only from the contemplation of nature or a work of art, but also from the very life of mothers and fathers, educators and friends; from their loyalty and closeness, their spirit of service and their submission.

Beauty, in short, should shine forth in the catechist's work as a whole: in his or her person, attitudes and methods, in the climate of faith lived and in respect for the pace of those who depend on him or her. All this requires time and effort, study, prayer and dialogue, fidelity and creativity. In this way the catechist will achieve, for those entrusted to him, the grace of being witnesses to the Lord in the world.