“By design, this Catechism does not set out to provide the adaptation of doctrinal presentations and catechetical methods required by the differences of culture, age, spiritual maturity, and social and ecclesial condition among all those to whom it is addressed. Such indispensable adaptations are the responsibility of particular catechisms and, even more, of those who instruct the faithful: “Whoever teaches must become “all things to all men” ( I Cor 9:22), to win everyone to Christ. . . Above all, teachers must not imagine that a single kind of soul has been entrusted to them, and that consequently it is lawful to teach and form equally all the faithful in true piety with one and the same method! Let them realize that some are in Christ as newborn babes, others as adolescents, and still others as adults in full command of their powers…. Those who are called to the ministry of preaching must suit their words to the maturity and understanding of their hearers, as they hand on the teaching of the mysteries of faith and the rules of moral conduct.”
Obiter Dicta: Eight or more times in his Summa Theologiae/ica (“Summary of Theology”), Saint Thomas Aquinas (A.D. 1225 to 1274) writes “That which is received is received in the manner in which the receiver receives it.” This statement has metaphysical, epistemological, and rhetorical (motivational) meaning. In the context of paragraph 24 of The Catechism of the Catholic Church, the relevance of this statement resides in the fact that whatever ideas the catechist or preacher/homilist may wish to communicate to her/his class/audience/congregation, the most important thing is for her/him to have a clear understanding of how the class members/audience/congregation hear and understand things which are said. Necessarily, the catechist/preacher/homilist must know the work-a-day world, the everyday life contexts within which the class members/audience/congregation live and function. This is necessary because all knowledge is known within its context. This truth is similarly held by such disparate disciplines and philosophies as gestalt psychology, philosophical phenomenology, scholastic metaphysics, and hermeneutical exegesis. Without a knowledge of the context within which the lecture or homily will be delivered, it is unlikely the catechist or preacher/homilist will be able to be heard and understood and motivate as she/he would wish.
A particular problem is presented the preacher/homilist. The congregation at mass is made up of a wide range of persons of differing intellectual capabilities, cognitive maturities, education background, and life experience. Quite often, there is a remarkable variety of cultural and linguistic differences as well. One must consider how the desired ideas and content can be meaningfully and understandingly delivered and received by such a varied audience. For after all, “whatever is received/perceived/understood is received/perceived/understood in the manner in which the receiver/perceiver/understand-er receives/perceives/understands it”.
A charism of communication must be involved. The Holy Spirit can accomplish understanding in the receivers which cannot be explained by the sciences or philosophies. Further, knowledge is received within a community. One parent may understand the communication one way. Another parent understands it a different way. An older child in another way still. A younger child in still another way. And then through the interactions, and especially through discussion among family members, a common understanding is obtained.
For catechesis/preaching/homilies to be understood, dialogue is necessary.