Please sort out these words for me: catechesis, catechetics, catechism, catechumen. What's the difference?

Share This

They all derive from the same Greek word, which means "to echo." But as you suspect, they don't all mean the same thing.

Catechesis is the process of awakening a person to faith. We typically think of catechesis as instruction: children's religion programs, or RCIA formation for adults preparing for baptism. While catechesis involves teaching, textbooks aren't central to the process. "The study of the sacred page" is the heart of the matter (Dogmatic Constitution on Divine Revelation, nos. 21-26). Catechesis is a ministry of the word: not only reading Scripture but entering into dialogue with God's word so that it dwells in us. Our lives literally become an echo of what we hear.

Catechetics is the theory behind catechesis—something you may not consider unless you're a catechist (one who provides catechesis to others). But it's something to think about if you suspect your parish programs have an agenda more partisan than pastoral. Catechetics since Vatican II aims not merely to pass on "the deposit of faith"—those traditions and teachings governing church life. Catechetics recognizes the human element in the process of awakening faith. It's not about indoctrinating future disciples through the memorizing of immoveable truths. Catechetics seeks to use age-appropriate and culturally sensitive methods of instruction so that faith formation, and not indoctrination, is the result. Catechists must not only know church teaching, but also grasp the social and moral context of their times and how their communities might be called to respond to them. 

Catechism was once the fundamental way religious instruction was accomplished. A catechism is a manual of instruction involving a question-and-answer format. It typically follows the organization of the creed, the Ten Commandments, and the seven sacraments. The point of such instruction was literally to echo the catechism in memorizing the answers to each question and to reiterate them verbatim. The present Catechism of the Catholic Church, contrary to popular belief, wasn't intended to be a personal manual of instruction for the classroom. It's meant to guide bishops in the formation of diocesan programming.

Catechumen is the easiest to distinguish in this echo chamber of similar-sounding terms. It refers to an unbaptized person seeking to be joined to the church. Catechumen is often contrasted with candidate, the term for a baptized Christian who seeks to become Catholic.

Scripture: Deuteronomy 32:2; Psalm 119; Matthew 5:1-7:29; 22:34-40; Acts 5:27-42; 1 Timothy 4:6-16; 2 Timothy 3:14-17

Books: Catechesis in a Multi-Media World: Connecting to Today's Students, by Mary Byrne Hoffman (Paulist Press, 2012)

The Art of Catechesis: What You Need to Be, Know, and Do, by Maureen Gallagher (Paulist Press, 1998)

Reprinted with permission from ©TrueQuest Communications.

| ➕ | ➕

More questions...and responses

Site:  0 comments  -  Add your own comment  -  Follow my posts  -  Permalink Tags: catechesiscatechismcatechumen

0 Site Comments

Facebook Comments



Follow Us


Click on a date below to see the vocation events happening that day!