We are in an exciting time in the life of the Church. The ministry of Catechesis over the last 40 years has born much fruit. Something however that I find a little troubling is that sometimes the 4 dimensions of the Christian life are not seen as an integrated whole or an organic unity in regards to the faith, but more as “individual” components or dimensions.
What are the 4 Dimensions?
St. Luke speaks about them in the Acts of the Apostles 2:42: “They devoted themselves to the apostles teaching, to the communal life, to the breaking of the break and prayers.” These 4 dimensions have constantly been rooted in the teaching and practice of the Christian Life. The General Directory for Catechesis paragraph 122 speaks of them this way:
The Catechism of the Catholic Church is structured around four fundamental dimensions of the Christian life: the profession of faith; the celebration of the liturgy; the morality of the Gospel; and prayer. These four dimensions spring from a single source, the Christian mystery. This is:
– the object of the faith (Part One);
– celebrated and communicated in liturgical actions (Part Two);
– present to enlighten and sustain the children of God in their actions (Part Three);
– the basis of our prayer, whose supreme expression is the Our Father, and the object of our supplication, praise and intercession (Part Four); (425)
Integrating the 4 Dimensions into your Catechetical Setting
The presentation of the faith is meant to be seen as a unified whole. Catechesis to adults and children can accomplish this with some thought to being intentional in integrating these 4 dimensions in your catechetical settings. Take for example the Sacrament of Reconciliation. Specifically, it is from the 2nd dimension (the Celebration of the Christian Mysteries), but all four dimensions should be integrated into this lesson. Here is an brief example of how the 4 dimensions should be included in ones catechesis on the subject:
~ Open in prayer using appropriate Scripture’s regarding God’s forgiveness and mercy. Also, praying the Our Father or taking a moment to reflect and praying the Confeitor could be a good way to begin. (This incorporates the 4th dimension)
~ Proclaiming God’s call to repentance and His Gift of mercy. Then explaining what Christ and His Church have continually taught about the Sacrament of Reconciliation. (The 1st & 2nd dimensions are covered)
~ Helping the hearers to respond to what has been proclaimed and explained through discussion, reflection, examination of conscience and/or an activity. (The 3rd and possibly the 4th dimension)
~ Concluding by encouraging and challenging the hearers to live out what they have heard and encountered. Also, offering up through prayer and thanksgiving that which they have experienced. (each of the 4 dimensions are referred to)
Our Faith is a Symphony
The example above shows how when we catechize we can help others see that our faith as unified and whole not merely a lot of parts that somehow fit together or related to God. A Symphony has 4 parts but it is a unified whole. The 4 fundamental dimensions of the Christian Life are to be seen as a “Symphony of Faith” (Fidei Depositum). Blessed John Paul II goes on to say in the previous mentioned Apostolic Exhortation that the Catechism of the Catholic Church provides for the Church a great exposition of the faith “showing carefully the content and wondrous harmony of the Catholic faith.”
It is therefore essential to catechize with the goal of bringing about an awareness of the faith being an organic unity which expresses the faith as a whole rather than mere parts. One of the authors of Catechetical Foundations stated this well when saying:
The Organic Unity of the Faith is a principle that ensures that whatever aspect of the Faith is being presented by a catechist, that it is taught in relationship to the entire Deposit of Faith. In other words each article of faith is always seen within the organic whole in which it exists. No truth of the faith is an island. Lastly, the entire organic unity of the faith is Christocentric. Regardless of what is being taught (the Old Covenant, the Fall, Redemption, The Mass and Sacraments, the Church, etc.) everything finds its source and meaning in the Person of Christ.
Keep these 4 Dimensions in mind always as you catechize. Doing so will ensure that the faith is seen in all it’s beauty and wonder as coming to know, love and serve God who has revealed Himself to us and seeks to unit Himself more fully “until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ” (Eph. 4:13); and “so that He may be all in all” (1 Cor. 15:28).