On May 10th, the memorial of Saint John of Avila, priest and doctor of the Church, Pope Francis promulgated the Motu Proprio Antiquum Ministerium, instituting, or re-instituting as its title suggests, the ministry of Catechist, those deputed to teach and hand on the revealed truths of our Faith. This office joins the other two ministries, lector and acolyte, instituted by Paul VI in his own Apostolic Letter of August 15th, 1972, Ministeria Quaedam, in which he abolished (well, for the Novus Ordo) the four minor orders (porter, lector, exorcist, acolyte), leaving lector and acolyte as ministries open to laymen. We say ‘men’, since they were reserved to men, until Pope Francis opened them both to women, by his previous Motu Proprio of January 10th, 2021, Spiritus Domini.
So, now, all three ministries – lector, acolyte, and, now, catechist – are open to any suitable member of the lay faithful.
My people perish for lack of truth, cried the prophet Hosea, and the ignorance of so many Catholics of even the basic revealed truths of our Faith is a large part of our current problems. Hence, the importance of catechetics can scarcely be overstated, emphasized by all recent Popes, perhaps most of all by John Paul II, who promulgated his great clarion call to revitalize catechetics, Catechesi Tradendae on the first anniversary of his election as Pope (October 16th, 1979). He later oversaw the promulgation of the Catechism in 1992, describing the work as a faithful and systematic presentation of “the teaching of Sacred Scripture, the living Tradition in the Church and the authentic Magisterium, as well as the spiritual heritage of the Fathers, Doctors, and saints of the Church, to allow for a better knowledge of the Christian mystery and for enlivening the faith of the People of God (Apostolic Constitution, Fidei Depositum, #2) The last (and still authoritative) universal Catechism was that of the Council of Trent, called ‘the Roman’, published in 1566, a year after the close of the council.