My daughters attended a Catholic University here in the Philippines, and Religious education was part of the curriculum. My daughters found some of the classes interesting and valuable… others drab and dull. It seems like the interest and investment of the instructors in their topic tended to rub off on the students. Anyway, they gave me their text books and I like a lot of the materials.
Here is an extended quote on what I would describe as Contextualization of the Christian Faith. The book describes it as “Renewed Catechesis.” Catechesis means Religious education, and renewed suggests making the teachings of the church relevant and resonant in new cultural settings.
“‘Catechesis today must be Christ-centered… Everything— the Blessed Virgin, the saints, the sacraments, word of life, devotions, etc. — must be taught in relation to Christ, and with the purpose of leading the catechized into intimacy with Christ’ (PCP-II 157). For Catechesis to be Christ-centered, it ‘must be rooted in the Word. Nothing and no one speaks better of the Incarnate Word than the scriptural Word of God… ‘Ignorance of the Scriptures is ignorance of Christ” (PCP-II 159).
Renewed Catechesis must also be authentically Filipino and systematic. It becomes authentically Filipino if it is inculturated. Inculturation implies, first of all, communicating the Christian message using the language of the people (PCP-II 160). According to the NCDP, ‘the Christian message must be expressed through images, symbols, rites that are indigenous to Philippine culture.’ (NCDP 381).
PCP-II further describes inculturation as ‘the intimate transformation of authentic cultural values through their integration in Christianity and the insertion of Christianity in the various human cultures’ (PCP-II 202). A similar idea is expressed by the NCDP when it says that ‘authentic Filipino cultural values, attitudes and practices must themselves be viewed in the light of Christ andin terms of their basic Christian dimensions…’ (NCDP 381). Further, inculturation can happen because ‘Filipino values can be purified, permeated, and strengthened by Gospel values. Gospel values in turn are concretized and actualized in Filipino values and patterns of action’ (NCDP 383).—Growing as a Missionary Church, by Romano M. Bulatao, Reynaldo O. Dumpayan, and Lawrence D. Dumayas (Philippines, CPSP Publishing House, 2013), pages 5 and 6)
Clarifying a bit, PCP-II refers the “Second Plenary Council of the Philippines,” while NCDP refers to the “National Catechetical Directory of the Philippines.”
This is expressed somewhat different than I might. I would not necessarily focus on the Mother of Jesus, the Saints, and the Sacraments. But it can be argued that this quote doesn’t either. It says that everything points to the centeredness of Christ, and training must be centered on the Word of God (Christ) and the Holy Scriptures that reveal Christ. There is a lot of common ground there.
I rather like the way the quote describes inculturation of the Gospel message. Some people always focus on the risk of “tainting” the message of God with local values. Here however, inculturation describes a two-way street where Christian teachings and Cultural Values are aided in the process.
- The Gospel message can purify Cultural values— it identifies the best in local beliefs, not just pointing out what is wrong.
- The Gospel message can strengthen Cultural values— demonstrating that the good is not merely opinion of local culture, but also of God. (Much of Filipino traditional values are highly commendable, and need to strengthened, not undermined by the Christian Church.)
- The Gospel message can permeate Cultural values— it does not have to be like oil and water or a veneer of one covering the other. A person being sanctified in Christ does not become a completely different person, but instead becomes what he or she was meant to be. In like manner, renewal of culture in Christ changes culture to be what it is meant to be— distinct, unique, and purified.
- Filipino values concretize and actualize the Gospel message. The Gospel message will enter a culture feeling abstract and foreign. It will not be understandable on a visceral, emotional, spiritual level until it is connected with the way of life and manner of thought of people in the culture.
By the way, This book quotes from the PCP-II (“Second Plenary Council of the Philippines”) where it in turn quotes, “Ignorance of the Scriptures is the ignorance of Christ.” Until I looked it up, I did not know that this is a quote of St. Jerome, the translator of the Vulgate translation of the Bible.
While, as a non-Catholic, there are many aspects of the book that I cannot wholeheartedly accept. Nevertheless, I am glad my daughters received this religious training. They went to an Evangelical high school, and I must admit that at least some of religious education at the school was overly simplistic and trite. As sadly, much of it was most definitely NOT a Renewed Catechesis.