In the most recent edition of America magazine, David Impastato writes about “educational emergency” in our Church’s efforts in catechesis and evangelization. His article, Faith by Heart, is a strong argument for ensuring that our methodologies incorporate memorization of “the principal formulations of the faith; basic prayers; key biblical themes, personalities and expressions; and factual information regarding worship and Christian life.” (NDC)
In calling for the use of memory, Impastato suggests that the Church ”directly and concretely seek(s) to overcome the scandal of religious illiteracy. He calls for “The bishop in each diocese, consulting with his priests and educators, drafts a few lists of questions and answers to be learned by heart, based on items for memorization specified in the directory.”
For those who have not cracked open their National Directory for Catechesis (Chapter4, section 29) in a while, we are reminded that “In the transmission of faith, the Church does not rely on any single method… (choosing) diverse methods that are in accord with the Gospels” Therefore, leaning by heart is included among learning through human experience, learning by discipleship, learning within the Christian community, learning within the Christian family, learning through the witness of the catechist, learning by living the Christian lifestyle as a committed disciple, and learning by apprenticeship.
I do appreciate a call for a renewed sense of learning by heart (I do, I really do – We have to attach the language of faith to the lives of the learner). We should all affirm Impastato’s call that it be “harmoniously inserted” into a holistic faith-formation process.
It is distressing, however, that, while Impastato does acknowledge life-long faith formation, he nonetheless calls for the accountability of written or oral testing to occur throughout including at the time of “students ‘graduating’ from parish religious education programs, usually after confirmation.” Graduating, geesh! If young people can test out of faith without having integrated their own human experience as disciples within the Christian community and family, apprenticed through the witness of others, I’m not sure we have responded fully to the “educational emergency.”
Please do check out Faith by Heart.