Year of Faith Catechism Study: CCC 1066-1075 – The Liturgy

clock February 15, 2013 20:38 by author John |

Today’s Catechism sections begin the study of the Liturgy. Supporting material comes from the Pastoral Constitution, “Sacrosanctum Concilium”.

PART TWO:

THE CELEBRATION OF THE CHRISTIAN MYSTERY

Why the liturgy?

1066 In the Symbol of the faith the Church confesses the mystery of the Holy Trinity and of the plan of God's "good pleasure" for all creation: the Father accomplishes the "mystery of his will" by giving his beloved Son and his Holy Spirit for the salvation of the world and for the glory of his name.1

Such is the mystery of Christ, revealed and fulfilled in history according to the wisely ordered plan that St. Paul calls the "plan of the mystery"2 and the patristic tradition will call the "economy of the Word incarnate" or the "economy of salvation."

1067 "The wonderful works of God among the people of the Old Testament were but a prelude to the work of Christ the Lord in redeeming mankind and giving perfect glory to God. He accomplished this work principally by the Paschal mystery of his blessed Passion, Resurrection from the dead, and glorious Ascension, whereby 'dying he destroyed our death, rising he restored our life.' For it was from the side of Christ as he slept the sleep of death upon the cross that there came forth 'the wondrous sacrament of the whole Church."'3

For this reason, the Church celebrates in the liturgy above all the Paschal mystery by which Christ accomplished the work of our salvation.

1068 It is this mystery of Christ that the Church proclaims and celebrates in her liturgy so that the faithful may live from it and bear witness to it in the world:

For it is in the liturgy, especially in the divine sacrifice of the Eucharist, that "the work of our redemption is accomplished," and it is through the liturgy especially that the faithful are enabled to express in their lives and manifest to others the mystery of Christ and the real nature of the true Church.4

What does the word liturgy mean?

1069 The word "liturgy" originally meant a "public work" or a "service in the name of/on behalf of the people."
In Christian tradition it means the participation of the People of God in "the work of God."5
Through the liturgy Christ, our redeemer and high priest, continues the work of our redemption in, with, and through his Church.

1070 In the New Testament the word "liturgy" refers not only to the celebration of divine worship but also to the proclamation of the Gospel and to active charity.6 In all of these situations it is a question of the service of God and neighbor.
In a liturgical celebration the Church is servant in the image of her Lord, the one "leitourgos";7 she shares in Christ's priesthood (worship), which is both prophetic (proclamation) and kingly (service of charity):

The liturgy then is rightly seen as an exercise of the priestly office of Jesus Christ.
It involves the presentation of man's sanctification under the guise of signs perceptible by the senses and its accomplishment in ways appropriate to each of these signs.
In it full public worship is performed by the Mystical Body of Jesus Christ, that is, by the Head and his members.
From this it follows that every liturgical celebration, because it is an action of Christ the priest and of his Body which is the Church, is a sacred action surpassing all others.
No other action of the Church can equal its efficacy by the same title and to the same degree.8

Liturgy as source of life

1071 As the work of Christ liturgy is also an action of his Church. It makes the Church present and manifests her as the visible sign of the communion in Christ between God and men. It engages the faithful in the new life of the community and involves the "conscious, active, and fruitful participation" of everyone.9

1072 "The sacred liturgy does not exhaust the entire activity of the Church":10 it must be preceded by evangelization, faith, and conversion. It can then produce its fruits in the lives of the faithful: new life in the Spirit, involvement in the mission of the Church, and service to her unity.

Prayer and liturgy

1073 The liturgy is also a participation in Christ's own prayer addressed to the Father in the Holy Spirit. In the liturgy, all Christian prayer finds its source and goal. Through the liturgy the inner man is rooted and grounded in "the great love with which [the Father] loved us" in his beloved Son.11 It is the same "marvelous work of God" that is lived and internalized by all prayer, "at all times in the Spirit."12

Catechesis and liturgy

1074 "The liturgy is the summit toward which the activity of the Church is directed; it is also the font from which all her power flows."13
It is therefore the privileged place for catechizing the People of God.
"Catechesis is intrinsically linked with the whole of liturgical and sacramental activity, for it is in the sacraments, especially in the Eucharist, that Christ Jesus works in fullness for the transformation of men."14

1075 Liturgical catechesis aims to initiate people into the mystery of Christ (It is "mystagogy.”) by proceeding from the visible to the invisible, from the sign to the thing signified, from the "sacraments" to the "mysteries."
Such catechesis is to be presented by local and regional catechisms.
This Catechism, which aims to serve the whole Church in all the diversity of her rites and cultures,15 will present what is fundamental and common to the whole Church in the liturgy as mystery and as celebration, and then the seven sacraments and the sacramentals.

The Pastoral Constitution, “Sacrosanctum Concilium” discusses the power of the Liturgy.

2. For the liturgy, "through which the work of our redemption is accomplished," [1] most of all in the divine sacrifice of the Eucharist, is the outstanding means whereby the faithful may express in their lives, and manifest to others, the mystery of Christ and the real nature of the true Church. It is of the essence of the Church that she be both human and divine, visible and yet invisibly equipped, eager to act and yet intent on contemplation, present in this world and yet not at home in it; and she is all these things in such wise that in her the human is directed and subordinated to the divine, the visible likewise to the invisible, action to contemplation, and this present world to that city yet to come, which we seek [2]. While the liturgy daily builds up those who are within into a holy temple of the Lord, into a dwelling place for God in the Spirit [3], to the mature measure of the fullness of Christ [4], at the same time it marvelously strengthens their power to preach Christ, and thus shows forth the Church to those who are outside as a sign lifted up among the nations [5] under which the scattered children of God may be gathered together [6], until there is one sheepfold and one shepherd [7].

Footnotes

1 ⇒ Eph 1:9.
2 ⇒ Eph 3:9; cf. ⇒ 3:4.
3 SC 5 # 2; cf. St. Augustine, En. in Ps. 138, 2: PL 37, 1784-1785.
4 SC 2.
5 Cf. ⇒ Jn 17:4.
6 Cf. ⇒ Lk 1:23; ⇒ Acts 13:2; ⇒ Rom 15:16, ⇒ 27; ⇒ 2 Cor 9:12; ⇒ Phil 2:14-17, ⇒ 25, ⇒ 30.
7 Cf. ⇒ Heb 8:2, 6.
8 SC 7 # 2-3.
9 SC 11.
10 SC 9.
11 ⇒ Eph 2:4; ⇒ 3:16-17.
12 ⇒ Eph 6:18.
13 SC 10.
14 John Paul II, CT 23.
15 Cf. SC 3-4.



Indulgences - Definition and Meaning: God's Mercy Dispensed Through the Catholic Church

clock December 18, 2012 21:40 by author John |

This article is the fifth in a series on Purgatory:

Part 1: Introduction to the Catholic Understanding of Purgatory
Part 2: What is Purgatory Like? The Catholic Understanding of the Pains of Purification
Part 3: How to Avoid Purgatory: 8 Specific Ways to Reduce or Eliminate your Time in Purgatory
Part 4: How to Help the Poor Souls in Purgatory
Part 5: Indulgences - Definition and Meaning: God's Mercy Dispensed Through the Catholic Church

What are Indulgences?

The word indulgence comes from the Latin "indulgentia", meaning kind or tender. This word later came to mean the remission of tax, debt, or punishment. This is the meaning of the word in the Catholic Church as well. An indulgence is the remission of the temporal punishment due to sin. Even though sins are forgiven, they must be atoned for, since they do damage to our relationship with God, and they harm others. Though the relationship with God is restored and the guilt removed for sins through the Sacrament of Confession, we must still make amends for the harm that our sins have caused. We believe that this debt will be repaid either on Earth or in Purgatory after our judgment. Indulgences are a way for us to repay some (or all) of the debt we have accumulated for our sins. The Catechism of the Catholic Church (#1471) defines indulgences in this way:

"An indulgence is a remission before God of the temporal punishment due to sins whose guilt has already been forgiven, which the faithful Christian who is duly disposed gains under certain prescribed conditions through the action of the Church which, as the minister of redemption, dispenses and applies with authority the treasury of the satisfactions of Christ and the saints."

"An indulgence is partial or plenary according as it removes either part or all of the temporal punishment due to sin." Indulgences may be applied to the living or the dead.

As I mentioned in a previous article on Purgatory, it may be helpful to call to mind an example to illustrate the difference between forgiveness of sins and atonement for sins. If Bob spreads rumors about Sally and then asks Sally for forgiveness, and she forgives him, then the relationship is restored. However, there is still a problem in that Sally's reputation has been harmed and people who heard the rumors may have an unfavorable opinion of Sally. Bob must do everything he can to repair Sally's reputation. Until her reputation is restored, justice has not been satisfied. Purgatory is the place where unfulfilled justice is dispensed by the All-Just God.

An indulgence is not the same thing as the Sacrament of Confession, nor does it have the same effect. Gaining an indulgence does not fix our relationship with God the same way a Sacramental confession does. Our sins cannot be forgiven by gaining an indulgence. An indulgence simply lessens or removes the punishment we would have in Purgatory. In fact, an indulgence can only be gained for yourself when you are in the state of grace - which is a result of Sacramental Confession. An indulgence is not a guarantee of avoiding Hell or Purgatory.

How can the Church Grant Indulgences?

In Matthew 16:19, our Lord says to Peter,

"I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven."

This is the power of binding and loosing. It is an incredible responsibility that our Lord confers on the first Pope. The Church has utilized this power to lessen or remove temporal punishment in Purgatory.

The "Treasury" of the Church

Christ, in His suffering and death purchased for us superabundant merits which are "stored up" by the Church. To this "treasury" of merits is added those merits gained by the Blessed Mother in her trials and heartbreak, as well as those merits gained by the saints. This treasury cannot be depleted and the Church confers these merits upon us as an agent of Christ in carrying out His command to "bind and loose". These merits release the penitent from the debt he owes the Church and from the temporal punishment he owes God as a satisfaction of God's perfect justice. An indulgence is not a means of ignoring or subverting Divine Justice, but rather is a way of paying the penalty we owe. The Church does not "own" the treasury of merit, but is simply the administrator of it.

Universal, Local, Perpetual and Temporary Indulgences

A Universal indulgence can be gained anywhere in the world. Other indulgences are available only in certain jurisdictions such as a diocese, city or country. There are many indulgences that can be gained in Rome or Jerusalem.

Perpetual indulgences are valid at any time. Temporary indulgences are available only on certain days or within certain time periods. An example of this is an indulgence that is granted during Jubilee Years.

Partial vs. Plenary Indulgences

A partial indulgence is one that removes part of the temporal punishment owed by the penitent. A plenary indulgence removes all temporal punishment owed by the penitent. If a person receives a plenary indulgence and then immediately dies, they will go straight to Heaven without any Purgatorial suffering.

In times past, the Church would place a particular value on a partial indulgence, such as "100 days". This meant that by completing the requirements for the indulgence, the penitent had removed "100 days" of their suffering. This was not meant to be construed as a literal value relative to days on Earth. Instead, what this meant was that the suffering removed was equivalent with "100 days" of the ancient canonical penance, which consisted of prayer, good deeds, fasting and alms-giving. This was always a relative value in terms of earthly penance, not purgatorial time. The specific values are no longer given to partial indulgences. They are simply called "partial", and left to God to determine the actual remission.

Conditions for a Plenary Indulgence

In addition to performing the prescribed act of penance to which the plenary indulgence is attached, the penitent must have completed the following 4 requirements:

1. Sacramental confession,
2. Eucharistic Communion
3. Prayer for the intention of the Sovereign Pontiff.
4. Complete detachment from all sin, including venial sin.

The first 3 conditions must be satisfied within a reasonable amount of time (20 days before or after the act of penance). This requirement used to be 8 days, but in the Jubilee Year, this requirement was relaxed to 20 days by the Apostolic Penitentiary. If any of these requirements is not fulfilled, then the plenary indulgence becomes a partial indulgence.

Some Common Indulgences

Here are some common indulgences that can be obtained at any time. To gain the plenary indulgence associated with each task, the above-mentioned conditions must be fulfilled. There are many more indulgences that can be gained in specific places or at specific times.

Reading of Sacred Scripture

A partial indulgence is granted to the faithful, who with the veneration due the divine word make a spiritual reading from Sacred Scripture. A plenary indulgence is granted, if this reading is continued for at least one half an hour.

Recitation of the Marian Rosary (Rosarii marialis recitatio)

A plenary indulgence is granted, if the Rosary is recited in a church or public oratory or in a family group, a religious Community or pious Association; a partial indulgence is granted in other circumstances.

"Now the Rosary is a certain formula of prayer, which is made up of fifteen decades of "Hail Marys" with an "Our Father" before each decade, and in which the recitation of each decade is accompanied by pious meditation on a particular mystery of our Redemption." (Roman Breviary)

There have been 5 more mysteries added to the rosary, which are the Luminous Mysteries since the publication of the Roman Breviary, bringing the total number of mysteries to 20. The name "Rosary," however, is commonly used in reference to only a set of 5 mysteries or decades focused on a certain theme: Joyful, Sorrowful, Glorious, and Luminous.

The gaining of the plenary indulgence is regulated by the following norms:

1. The recitation of one set of 5 decades only of the Rosary suffices; but the five decades must be recited continuously.
2. The vocal recitation must be accompanied by pious meditation on the mysteries.
3. In public recitation the mysteries must be announced in the manner customary in the place; for private recitation, however, it suffices if the vocal recitation is accompanied by meditation on the mysteries.
4. For those belonging to the Oriental rites, amongst whom this devotion is not practiced, the Patriarchs can determine some other prayers in honor of the Blessed Virgin Mary (for those of the Byzantine rite, for example, the Hymn "Akathistos" or the Office "Paraclisis"); to the prayers thus determined are accorded the same indulgences as for the Rosary

Exercise of the Way of the Cross

A plenary indulgence is granted to the faithful, who make the pious exercise of the Way of the Cross (Stations of the Cross). The gaining of the plenary indulgence is regulated by the following norms:

1. The pious exercise must be made before stations of the Way of the Cross legitimately erected. This is generally done by the local bishop at various parishes, cemeteries, or chapels around the diocese.
2. For the erection of the Way of the Cross fourteen crosses are required, to which it is customary to add fourteen pictures or images, which represent the stations of Jerusalem.
3. According to the more common practice, the pious exercise consists of fourteen pious readings, to which some vocal prayers are added. However, nothing more is required than a pious meditation on the Passion and Death of the Lord, which need not be a particular consideration of the individual mysteries of the stations.
4. A movement from one station to the next is required. But if the pious exercise is made publicly and if it is not possible for all taking part to go in an orderly way from station to station, it suffices if at least the one conducting the exercise goes from station to station, the others remaining in their place.

Those who are "impeded" can gain the same indulgence, if they spend at least one half an hour in pious reading and meditation on the Passion and Death of our Lord Jesus Christ.

For those belonging to Oriental rites, amongst whom this pious exercise is not practiced, the respective Patriarchs can determine some other pious exercise in memory of the Passion and Death of our Lord Jesus Christ for the gaining of this indulgence.

Adoration of the Most Blessed Sacrament

A partial indulgence is granted to the faithful, who visit the Most Blessed Sacrament to adore it; a plenary indulgence is granted, if the visit lasts for at least one half an hour.
 



How to Avoid Purgatory: 8 Specific Ways to Reduce or Eliminate Your Time in Purgatory

clock December 10, 2012 09:42 by author John |

PurgatoryThis is the third article in a series on the Catholic understanding of Purgatory.

Part 1: Introduction to the Catholic Understanding of Purgatory
Part 2: What is Purgatory Like? The Catholic Understanding of the Pains of Purification
Part 3: How to Avoid Purgatory
Part 4: How to Help the Poor Souls in Purgatory
Part 5:
Indulgences - Definition and Meaning: The God's Mercy Dispensed Through the Catholic Church

Purgatory is the state in which we make reparation for all of our sins which have not been satisfactorily atoned for during our earthly life. The punishment of purgatory is avoidable to varying extents based on how we atone for our sins in this life. Indeed, it is even possible to remove all temporal punishment for our sins before we die and immediately join our Lord in Heaven upon our death. Not only is this possible, but it should be our goal.

How is it possible to reduce or eliminate the pains of purgatory? There are several ways, which when combined, practically assure us of removing most if not all of the debt we have incurred for our sins. If we strive to achieve all of these goals, we will certainly enjoy eternal reward at the moment of our death. I have listed 8 specific ways to avoid Purgatory.

1. Avoid Sin

The first and best way to avoid Purgatory is to avoid the thing that causes us to find ourselves there in the first place: Sin. This is an incredibly difficult proposition, and is not entirely possible, since we are imperfect creatures. We can reduce the number and severity of the sins we commit through concerted effort to live by the commandments and by asking for the assistance of Divine grace.

It is not possible to completely avoid venial sins. On the other hand, it is possible to totally eliminate mortal sin in our lives. If we die in a state of mortal sin, we will suffer eternal damnation in Hell. If we die with confessed mortal sin that we have not done sufficient penance for, we suffer the most severe punishment in purgatory. We must strive to eliminate all mortal sin in our lives.

The next most dreadful cause of Purgatorial suffering is venial sin that is committed deliberately. The only thing separating deliberate venial sins from mortal sins is the severity of the sin. Deliberate venial sins show callousness toward God’s law and the people harmed by those sins. Similarly, we must strive to eliminate lesser venial sins, because punishment will be given for them as well. While we cannot completely eliminate venial sins, we can drastically reduce their frequency in our lives by avoiding near occasions of sin and making better decisions when tempted. The graces given to us by the reception of the sacraments are very helpful in reforming our lives.

2. Do Penance

The second way to lessen our punishment in purgatory is to do penance. Penance most commonly involves fasting, prayer and almsgiving. The more healthy penance we are able to do in this life, the less punishment we will suffer in purgatory. We can make any unpleasant experience into a penance by offering our pain, discomfort, or stress to God.

Penance helps us in 2 ways. First, it repays the debt incurred by our sinfulness. It is believed that the penance we do while still alive will be easier than the penance required of us after death.  Secondly, it helps us to comprehend the severity of our sins and thereby focuses us on avoiding sin the next time we are tempted. Why not be proactive and make penance a part of our daily routine?

3. Embrace Suffering

The third means to avoid purgatorial punishment is to embrace our suffering. This does not necessarily mean we should seek it out, but we should accept the suffering that we cannot avoid and bear it without complaint. Everyone has to face many and varied sorrows and pains in life. These result from both physical pains as wells as emotional distress.

We all have our crosses to bear. These pains are God's greatest graces, which so many of us neglect to embrace and in doing so, lose many of the graces offered to us. They are an opportunity for us to share in Christ’s Passion in our own way, however small and dissimilar to the agony He endured for our salvation.

4. Receive the Eucharist Worthily and Confess Your Sins

The fourth method of reducing or eliminating our time in purgatory is by making frequent reception of the sacraments of Confession and Holy Eucharist. We should confess our sins on a regular basis, not just when we have a mortal sin on our soul. Frequently confessing our sins provides us with grace to avoid those sins in the future.

We should strive to receive the Eucharist every day at mass in order to receive the graces that it bestows upon us. These graces cleanse us of our venial sins and also dispose us to avoid evil. Attending daily mass is easier for some than others due to working schedules and the availability of the sacrament, but the more we receive the Eucharist, the more graces we receive from God to live in more perfect conformity with His Will for us.

5. Ask God Specifically to Save You from Purgatory

The fifth way to avoid purgatory is to specifically pray to God for that purpose. Asking God for the grace necessary to avoid purgatory and be happy with Him in Heaven is an especially powerful method. When asking for this grace, if we do so with faith and perseverance, we will receive it. We should therefore pray daily that God will free us from purgatory. We ask God for so many other things, why not ask Him for something as important as avoiding the fires of Purgatory?

6. Resign Yourself to Your Own Death

The sixth way to avoid purgatory is by resignation to death. Pope St. Pius X granted a plenary indulgence to those who after receiving the Holy Eucharist at the hour of death, say the following prayer: “Eternal Father, from this day forward, I accept with a joyful and resigned heart the death it will please You to send me, with all its pains and sufferings.” The usual conditions of course apply to this plenary indulgence: Confession, prayer for the intentions of the Pope, and detachment from all sin. What better way to exit this life than with a “Get out of Jail Free Card” for the punishments in Purgatory.

Beyond the obvious impact of the plenary indulgence, resignation to death is something we should be living with anyway, since we will more carefully consider our actions if the reality of our own death is always present in our consciousness.

7. Receive the Anointing of the Sick (Last Rights/Extreme Unction)

The seventh means of reducing our suffering in purgatory is to receive the anointing of the sick (also known as Last Rights or Extreme Unction). This sacrament prepares us to bypass the pains of purgatory and immediately enter Heaven. We must properly prepare for the sacrament so that we can receive it while we have full use of all of our faculties. We must understand exactly what we are receiving to obtain its full graces. This is why it is important that others know of our desire to have the Anointing of the Sick when the end of our life is in sight.

8. Gain Indulgences

The final means of avoiding Purgatory is to make use of the generous indulgences that the Catholic Church has made available to us. Indulgences are specific ways to directly reduce or remove our suffering in Purgatory. There are two types of indulgence: partial and plenary. Partial indulgences remove part of the suffering due for our sins in purgatory, while plenary indulgences remove all of our due suffering. We should strive to make use of these opportunities for grace before we face the punishment of purgatory. Indulgences will be covered in the 5th article in this series.

 

Other articles you may like:

How Often Should Catholics Go to Confession?

Matthew 10 and a Kick in the Pants for the Soldiers of the New Evangelization

Top 10 Emotional Reasons People Don't Go to Confession and Why You Should Consider it Anyway



Year of Faith Catechism Study: CCC 422-429 Introduction to Catechesis on Jesus Christ

clock November 29, 2012 01:02 by author John |

Today’s Catechism sections provide an introduction to the catechesis on Jesus Christ. Supplemental material comes from Pope John Paul II’s Apostolic Exhortation, “Catechesi Tradendae”.

CHAPTER TWO

I BELIEVE IN JESUS CHRIST, THE ONLY SON OF GOD

The Good News: God has sent his Son

422 'But when the time had fully come, God sent forth his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons.'1 This is 'the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God':2 God has visited his people. He has fulfilled the promise he made to Abraham and his descendants. He acted far beyond all expectation - he has sent his own 'beloved Son'.3

423 We believe and confess that Jesus of Nazareth, born a Jew of a daughter of Israel at Bethlehem at the time of King Herod the Great and the emperor Caesar Augustus, a carpenter by trade, who died crucified in Jerusalem under the procurator Pontius Pilate during the reign of the emperor Tiberius, is the eternal Son of God made man. He 'came from God',4 'descended from heaven',5 and 'came in the flesh'.6 For 'the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, full of grace and truth; we have beheld his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father. . . and from his fullness have we all received, grace upon grace.'7

424 Moved by the grace of the Holy Spirit and drawn by the Father, we believe in Jesus and confess: 'You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.'8 On the rock of this faith confessed by St. Peter, Christ built his Church.9

"To preach. . . the unsearchable riches of Christ"10

425 The transmission of the Christian faith consists primarily in proclaiming Jesus Christ in order to lead others to faith in him. From the beginning, the first disciples burned with the desire to proclaim Christ: "We cannot but speak of what we have seen and heard."11 It and they invite people of every era to enter into the joy of their communion with Christ:

That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon and touched with our hands, concerning the word of life - the life was made manifest, and we saw it, and testify to it, and proclaim to you the eternal life which was with the Father and was made manifest to us - that which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you may have fellowship with us; and our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ. And we are writing this that our joy may be complete.12

At the heart of catechesis: Christ

426 "At the heart of catechesis we find, in essence, a Person, the Person of Jesus of Nazareth, the only Son from the Father. . .who suffered and died for us and who now, after rising, is living with us forever."13 To catechize is "to reveal in the Person of Christ the whole of God's eternal design reaching fulfilment in that Person. It is to seek to understand the meaning of Christ's actions and words and of the signs worked by him."14 Catechesis aims at putting "people . . . in communion . . . with Jesus Christ: only he can lead us to the love of the Father in the Spirit and make us share in the life of the Holy Trinity."15

427 In catechesis "Christ, the Incarnate Word and Son of God,. . . is taught - everything else is taught with reference to him - and it is Christ alone who teaches - anyone else teaches to the extent that he is Christ's spokesman, enabling Christ to teach with his lips. . . Every catechist should be able to apply to himself the mysterious words of Jesus: 'My teaching is not mine, but his who sent me.'"16

428 Whoever is called "to teach Christ" must first seek "the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus"; he must suffer "the loss of all things. . ." in order to "gain Christ and be found in him", and "to know him and the power of his resurrection, and (to) share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that if possible (he) may attain the resurrection from the dead".17

429 From this loving knowledge of Christ springs the desire to proclaim him, to "evangelize", and to lead others to the "yes" of faith in Jesus Christ. But at the same time the need to know this faith better makes itself felt. To this end, following the order of the Creed, Jesus' principal titles - "Christ", "Son of God", and "Lord" (article 2) - will be presented. The Creed next confesses the chief mysteries of his life - those of his Incarnation (article 3), Paschal mystery (articles 4 and 5) and glorification (articles 6 and 7).

The following excerpt from the Apostolic Exhortation, “Catechesi Tradendae” highlights the Christocentricity of catechesis:

Putting Into Communion With the Person of Christ

5. The fourth general assembly of the synod of Bishops often stressed the Christocentricity of all authentic catechesis. We can here use the word "Christocentricity" in both its meanings, which are not opposed to each other or mutually exclusive, but each of which rather demands and completes the other.

In the first place, it is intended to stress that at the heart of catechesis we find, in essence, a Person, the Person of Jesus of Nazareth, "the only Son from the Father...full of grace and truth,"(9) who suffered and died for us and who now, after rising, is living with us forever. It is Jesus who is "the way, and the truth, and the life,"(10) and Christian living consists in following Christ, the sequela Christi.

The primary and essential object of catechesis is, to use an expression dear to St. Paul and also to contemporary theology, "the mystery of Christ." Catechizing is in a way to lead a person to study this mystery in all its dimensions: "to make all men see what is the plan of the mystery...comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth ...know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge...(and be filled) with all the fullness of God."(11) It is therefore to reveal in the Person of Christ the whole of God's eternal design reaching fulfillment in that Person. It is to seek to understand the meaning of Christ's actions and words and of the signs worked by Him, for they simultaneously hide and reveal His mystery. Accordingly, the definitive aim of catechesis is to put people not only in touch but in communion, in intimacy, with Jesus Christ: only He can lead us to the love of the Father in the Spirit and make us share in the life of the Holy Trinity.

Transmitting Christ's Teaching

6. Christocentricity in catechesis also means the intention to transmit not one's own teaching or that of some other master, but the teaching of Jesus Christ, the Truth that He communicates or, to put it more precisely, the Truth that He is.(12) We must therefore say that in catechesis it is Christ, the Incarnate Word and Son of God, who is taught - everything else is taught with reference to Him - and it is Christ alone who teaches - anyone else teaches to the extent that he is Christ's spokesman, enabling Christ to teach with his lips. Whatever be the level of his responsibility in the Church, every catechist must constantly endeavor to transmit by his teaching and behavior the teaching and life of Jesus. He will not seek to keep directed towards himself and his personal opinions and attitudes the attention and the consent of the mind and heart of the person he is catechizing. Above all, he will not try to inculcate his personal opinions and options as if they expressed Christ's teaching and the lessons of His life. Every catechist should be able to apply to himself the mysterious words of Jesus: "My teaching is not mine, but his who sent me."(13) St. Paul did this when he was dealing with a question of prime importance: "I received from the Lord what I also delivered to you."(14) What assiduous study of the word of God transmitted by the Church's magisterium, what profound familiarity with Christ and with the Father, what a spirit of prayer, what detachment from self must a catechist have in order that he can say: "My teaching is not mine!"

Footnotes

1 ⇒ Gal 4:4-5.
2 ⇒ Mk 1:1.
3 ⇒ Mk 1:11; cf. ⇒ Lk 1:5, ⇒ 68.
4 ⇒ Jn 13:3.
5 ⇒ Jn 3:13; ⇒ 6:33.
6 ⇒ 1 Jn 4:2.
7 ⇒ Jn 1:14,16.
8 ⇒ Mt 16:16.
9 Cf. ⇒ Mt 16:18; St. Leo the Great, Sermo 4 3: PL 54,150 - 152; 51,1: PL 54, 309B; 62, 2: PL 54, 350-351; 83, 3: PL 54, 431-432.
10 ⇒ Eph 3:8.
11 ⇒ Acts 4:20.
12 1 ⇒ Jn 1:1-4.
13 CT 5.
14 CT 5.
15 CT 5.
16 CT 6; cf. ⇒ Jn 7:16.
17 ⇒ Phil 3:8-11.



What are the Responsibilities of a Catholic Godparent?

clock October 22, 2012 09:28 by author John |

The Baptism of Christ by RaphaelWhether you are looking for a Catholic godmother and godfather for your child, or you have been asked to be a godparent for someone else’s child, it is important to know exactly what being a godparent means. First we will cover what is expected of a godparent, and then we will cover who can be a godparent.

Responsibilities of a Catholic Godparent

1. Godparents make a profession of faith for the person to be baptized if necessary.

The first responsibility of a catholic godparent is to profess the faith in the name of the person to be baptized. This is generally the case with a child who is to be baptized, but could also be done if the person is an adult with a disability that prevents them from professing the faith themselves. Under normal circumstances, adult converts to Catholicism will profess the faith themselves. The priest will guide you through the profession of faith, asking you specific questions, to which you will reply in the affirmative. Many people think their responsibilities as a godparent end there, but they are wrong, as you will see.

2. Godparents provide spiritual guardianship for the baptized person throughout their lives

The most serious responsibility a godparent has is to make sure that the baptized person is given proper instruction in the faith, particularly when the parents neglect this duty or are otherwise unable to do so. If the parents die or become unable to teach their child the faith, it is the responsibility of the godparent to ensure that the child learns and loves the faith. Godparents are given a big task in fulfilling this duty, so they should be carefully chosen to make sure they can and will comply with this duty.

3. Godparents must provide a living example of the Catholic faith

The third important task of a Catholic godparent is to provide a living example of the Catholic faith to the baptized person. In addition to knowing the faith, they must live the faith. Their example should provide inspiration to the baptized person, not only teaching by words, but by the witness of their lives. They should follow the commands of the Church, believe its teachings, and strive to build it up.

Who can be a Catholic godfather/godmother?

The requirements for being a Catholic godparent are that the godparent:

  1. Must be baptized and have received the Eucharist
  2. Must be at least 16 years old - or there must be an exception made for a just reason
  3. Must physically hold or touch the person to be baptized – they must be present at the baptism
  4. Must not be a parent (natural or adoptive) or a spouse of the person to be baptized
  5. Must be practicing catholic, so no heretics, schismatics, or persons who have been excommunicated.
  6. "Must live a life of faith which befits the role to be undertaken". This including regular mass attendance, living in accordance with their marital state, and agreement with all of the Church's teachings.
  7. Must be 1 man and/or 1 woman. There cannot be two men or two women, three or more people, etc.
  8. Must be familiar with the faith in order to catechize the baptized person and ensure their spiritual wellbeing.
  9. Must intend to fulfill the role of the godparent
  10. Must intend to stay in regular contact with the baptized person throughout their lives

A non-Catholic person can be chosen for a "witness", but there must be at least 1 Catholic Godparent as well.

It is not a requirement of the godparents to physically adopt the baptized person if the parents die, though that is sometimes also asked of the godparents. Such a commitment should be discussed thoroughly and specifically if it is to be asked of the Godparents.

Godparents are not merely gift-givers. Giving gifts may be done at the will of the Godparents, but it is not a requirement of the role. Choosing godparents should be done based on their spiritual maturity and holiness, not their financial situation.

Godparents can be confirmation sponsors for their godchildren. This is encouraged strongly, but it is not a strict requirement. If a godparent has fallen out of a child’s life, then a separate confirmation sponsor should be chosen.

 

Articles you may like:

How to be a Good Catholic

How to Make a Good Catholic Confession

What is the Culture of Death?



What does it Mean to Mention Sins in Number and Kind in Confession?

clock October 18, 2012 07:11 by author John |

When you confess your sins in the Sacrament of Reconciliation, you are required to mention all of your mortal sins in both “number and kind”. You frequently hear this expression when reading guides to confession, but rarely is it explained. Most people who write these guides are very familiar with confession, and they likely take for granted that the reader knows what “in number and kind” means.

Kinds or Types of Sins

If you are unfamiliar with the Sacrament of Penance, a question naturally arises around the “kinds” of sins. What are the kinds of sins? Should I use the 10 commandments as a guide? What about the 7 deadly sins? How specific should the “kinds” of sins be?

Take for example being disobedient to your parents. You could confess 5 transgressions against the 4th commandment. If you do this, and your priest is actively engaged in helping you, which he should be, he will probably ask you to be more specific. You may wonder why this is. After all, “Isn’t it enough to mention my sins in number and kind”?

The simple answer is, no. The reason is that in sinning, we rarely find that our sins fit nicely under predefined categories. Expanding on the sin of disobedience, the circumstances make all the difference. If for example, your parents told you not to do drugs, and you disobeyed them, then you not only broke the 4th commandment, which requires obedience to your parents, but you also harmed your body by doing drugs, which is a sin against the 5th commandment. The priest can identify patterns in your behavior which he can then use to help you avoid those sins in the future. You may view the sins as disobedience, but doing drugs could possibly indicate a self-destructive pattern in your behavior.

Let’s look at another example. Let’s say that you have trouble with stealing things. Simply confessing that you stole 5 times doesn’t really help the priest understand the problem. If you stole 5 candy bars from a store, the gravity of the sin is relatively small, likely a venial sin. If you stole a car 5 times, or you took $100 from a person living paycheck-to-paycheck on 5 different occasions, then the sin is likely of grave matter, and would probably be a mortal sin in most circumstances.

People often find that they commit the same sins over and over. The situations in our lives present opportunities for us to hurt others and our relationship with God frequently. These are called “occasions of sin”. If you work in a jewelry shop, you may be tempted to sin by stealing gold rings. If you walk past an adult video store on your way to work, you may be tempted to go in and look around. If you work overnight hours, you may be tempted to sleep all day on Sunday, missing mass each week. These sins form patterns, which we may fall into repeatedly.

When confessing sins “in kind” it is best to be specific about the sins and describe any important circumstances that may affect either the severity of the sin or help the priest understand why you are committing these sins repeatedly.

Confessing Your Mortal Sins “In Number”

Once you have identified the “kinds” of sins you commit, the next step is to keep track of the times you have committed them. Why should you confess the number of times you have committed a sin? The answer has 2 parts: 1) it helps the priest understand how attached you are to the sin, and 2) it helps you avoid the sin in the future by bringing the frequency with which you commit the sin into your consciousness. We may not realize how much we sin until we actually keep track.

The next logical question is “What happens if I don’t remember how many times I sinned?” If this applies to you, do not worry too much about it. Just do your best. If you don’t have an accurate count, you can tell the priest roughly how often you commit the sin. If you missed Sunday mass, is it something that you do every week, or a couple times a month? Did you only do it once or twice? In general, just do your best in conveying to the priest how big of a problem it is in your life. When you commit sins in the future, try to keep at least a rough count of how many times you have committed the sin so you are prepared for your next confession, you can reflect on them, and the priest can help you move away from them.

Other Articles You May Like:

A Thorough Catholic Examination of Conscience
How to Make a Good Catholic Confession
What is Mortal Sin (The Catholic Definition)
What is Venial Sin (The Catholic Definition)
Top 10 Emotional Reasons People Don't Go to Confession (and Why You Should Consider it Anyway)



Year of Faith Catechism Study: CCC 11-25 Aim, Structure of the Catechism and How to Use it

clock October 12, 2012 01:02 by author John |

Today's sections from the catechism are mostly instructive about the catechism itself. I have included more paragraphs than normal today since they are shorter and rather light on theological and catechetical content. It is good to understand how the catechism is structured and where the teaching comes from, so I encourage you to read through these paragraphs in preparation for the heavier content that will start with tomorrow's paragraphs.

III. The Aim and Intended Readership of the Catechism

11 This catechism aims at presenting an organic synthesis of the essential and fundamental contents of Catholic doctrine, as regards both faith and morals, in the light of the Second Vatican Council and the whole of the Church's Tradition. Its principal sources are the Sacred Scriptures, the Fathers of the Church, the liturgy, and the Church's Magisterium. It is intended to serve "as a point of reference for the catechisms or compendia that are composed in the various countries".15

12 This work is intended primarily for those responsible for catechesis: first of all the bishops, as teachers of the faith and pastors of the Church. It is offered to them as an instrument in fulfilling their responsibility of teaching the People of God. Through the bishops, it is addressed to redactors of catechisms, to priests, and to catechists. It will also be useful reading for all other Christian faithful.

There are a couple of interesting things to note in the above paragraphs. First, it should be noted that the Catechism of the Catholic Church is to be used by everyone. The bishops use this resource as do lay people. They are not privy to some special book that has more or different information. The revealed truth is available to all and is summarized in the catechism.

IV. Structure of this Catechism

13 The plan of this catechism is inspired by the great tradition of catechisms which build catechesis on four pillars: the baptismal profession of faith (the Creed), the sacraments of faith, the life of faith (the Commandments), and the prayer of the believer (the Lord's Prayer).

Part One: the Profession of Faith

14 Those who belong to Christ through faith and Baptism must confess their baptismal faith before men.16 First therefore the Catechism expounds revelation, by which God addresses and gives himself to man, and the faith by which man responds to God (Section One). the profession of faith summarizes the gifts that God gives man: as the Author of all that is good; as Redeemer; and as Sanctifier. It develops these in the three chapters on our baptismal faith in the one God: the almighty Father, the Creator; his Son Jesus Christ, our Lord and Saviour; and the Holy Spirit, the Sanctifier, in the Holy Church (Section Two).

Part Two: the Sacraments of Faith

15 The second part of the Catechism explains how God's salvation, accomplished once for all through Christ Jesus and the Holy Spirit, is made present in the sacred actions of the Church's liturgy (Section One), especially in the seven sacraments (Section Two).

Part Three: the Life of Faith

16 The third part of the Catechism deals with the final end of man created in the image of God: beatitude, and the ways of reaching it - through right conduct freely chosen, with the help of God's law and grace (Section One), and through conduct that fulfills the twofold commandment of charity, specified in God's Ten Commandments (Section Two).

Part Four: Prayer in the Life of Faith

17 The last part of the Catechism deals with the meaning and importance of prayer in the life of believers (Section One). It concludes with a brief commentary on the seven petitions of the Lord's Prayer (Section Two), for indeed we find in these the sum of all the good things which we must hope for, and which our heavenly Father wants to grant us.

The catechism of the Catholic Church is divided into 4 sections, each of which touches on a separate aspect of the Catholic faith, which can be condensed into 2 ideas: 1) What we believe, and 2) how we participate in it. Parts 1 and 3 involve the understanding of the faith. Parts 2 and 4 involve how we participate in it.

V. Practical Directions for Using this Catechism

18 This catechism is conceived as an organic presentation of the Catholic faith in its entirety. It should be seen therefore as a unified whole. Numerous cross-references in the margin of the text (numbers found at the end of a sentence referring to other paragraphs that deal with the same theme), as well as the analytical index at the end of the volume, allow the reader to view each theme in its relationship with the entirety of the faith.

19 The texts of Sacred Scripture are often not quoted word for word but are merely indicated by a reference (cf.). For a deeper understanding of such passages, the reader should refer to the Scriptural texts themselves. Such Biblical references are a valuable working-tool in catechesis.

20 The use of small print in certain passages indicates observations of an historical or apologetic nature, or supplementary doctrinal explanations.

21 The quotations, also in small print, from patristic, liturgical, magisterial or hagiographical sources, are intended to enrich the doctrinal presentations. These texts have often been chosen with a view to direct catechetical use.

22 At the end of each thematic unit, a series of brief texts in small italics sums up the essentials of that unit's teaching in condensed formulae. These "IN BRIEF" summaries may suggest to local catechists brief summary formulae that could be memorized.

VI. Necessary Adaptations

23 The Catechism emphasizes the exposition of doctrine. It seeks to help deepen understanding of faith. In this way it is oriented towards the maturing of that faith, its putting down roots in personal life, and its shining forth in personal conduct.17

24 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.18

Above all - Charity

25 To conclude this Prologue, it is fitting to recall this pastoral principle stated by the Roman Catechism:

The whole concern of doctrine and its teaching must be directed to the love that never ends. Whether something is proposed for belief, for hope or for action, the love of our Lord must always be made accessible, so that anyone can see that all the works of perfect Christian virtue spring from love and have no other objective than to arrive at love.19

#25 may be one of the most important paragraphs in the Catechism. It reminds us that our perspective on the teachings of the faith should be oriented toward the understanding that those teachings are intended to guide us to union with God. Our profession of faith helps us understand God, who we love and who loves us. The understanding of the sacraments helps us to make use of them and to know how God's grace flows through them. The commandments help us to love God whether it is directly or by loving His creatures and institutions. Finally learning value and fruits of the prayer life help us to build our relationship with God.


Footnotes

15 Extraordinary Synod of Bishops 1985, Final Report II B a, 4.
16 Cf. ⇒ Mt 10:32;⇒ Rom 10:9
17 Cf. CT 20-22; 25.
18 Roman Catechism, Preface II; cf. ⇒ I Cor 9:22; ⇒ I Pt 2:2
19 Roman Catechism, Preface 10; cf. ⇒ I Cor 13 8.



Year of Faith Catechism Study: CCC 1-10 The Life of Man; Catechesis

clock October 11, 2012 01:05 by author John |

Today kicks off the Catechism study series for the Year of Faith. In general, this series will involve a cover-to-cover presentation of the Catechism of the Catholic Church. Each section will be presented along with some supporting commentary and/or Church documents. Today's topic is the first 10 paragraphs of the Catechism:

I. The life of man - to know and love God

1 God, infinitely perfect and blessed in himself, in a plan of sheer goodness freely created man to make him share in his own blessed life. For this reason, at every time and in every place, God draws close to man. He calls man to seek him, to know him, to love him with all his strength. He calls together all men, scattered and divided by sin, into the unity of his family, the Church. To accomplish this, when the fullness of time had come, God sent his Son as Redeemer and Saviour. In his Son and through him, he invites men to become, in the Holy Spirit, his adopted children and thus heirs of his blessed life.

2 So that this call should resound throughout the world, Christ sent forth the apostles he had chosen, commissioning them to proclaim the gospel: "Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, to the close of the age."4 Strengthened by this mission, the apostles "went forth and preached everywhere, while the Lord worked with them and confirmed the message by the signs that attended it."5

3 Those who with God's help have welcomed Christ's call and freely responded to it are urged on by love of Christ to proclaim the Good News everywhere in the world. This treasure, received from the apostles, has been faithfully guarded by their successors. All Christ's faithful are called to hand it on from generation to generation, by professing the faith, by living it in fraternal sharing, and by celebrating it in liturgy and prayer.6

The Catechism begins with a description of the reason we were created - our purpose in life. Another perspective comes from the old Baltimore Catechism:

3. Why did God make us?

God made us to show forth His goodness and to share with us His everlasting happiness in heaven.

Eye has not seen nor ear heard, nor has it entered into the heart of man, what things God has prepared for those who love him. (I Corinthians 2:9)

4. What must we do to gain the happiness of heaven?

To gain the happiness of heaven we must know, love, and serve God in this world.

Lay not up to yourselves treasures on earth; where the rust and moth consume and where thieves break through and steal. But lay up to yourselves treasures in heaven; where neither the rust nor moth doth consume, and where thieves do not break through nor steal. (Matthew 6:19-20)

The dogmatic Constitution, Lumen Gentium described the Universal Call to Holiness:

Thus it is evident to everyone, that all the faithful of Christ of whatever rank or status, are called to the fullness of the Christian life and to the perfection of charity; by this holiness as such a more human manner of living is promoted in this earthly society. In order that the faithful may reach this perfection, they must use their strength accordingly as they have received it, as a gift from Christ. They must follow in His footsteps and conform themselves to His image seeking the will of the Father in all things. They must devote themselves with all their being to the glory of God and the service of their neighbor. In this way, the holiness of the People of God will grow into an abundant harvest of good, as is admirably shown by the life of so many saints in Church history. -Lumen Gentium 40

John Paul II proclaimed the New Evangelization repeatedly. The New Evangelization is our modern call to carry out the work of the Apostles:

Over the years, I have often repeated the summons to the new evangelization. I do so again now, especially in order to insist that we must rekindle in ourselves the impetus of the beginnings and allow ourselves to be filled with the ardour of the apostolic preaching which followed Pentecost. We must revive in ourselves the burning conviction of Paul, who cried out: "Woe to me if I do not preach the Gospel" (1 Cor 9:16). - John Paul II - Apostolic Letter Novo Millennio Ineunte 40

 

II. Handing on the Faith: Catechesis

4 Quite early on, the name catechesis was given to the totality of the Church's efforts to make disciples, to help men believe that Jesus is the Son of God so that believing they might have life in his name, and to educate and instruct them in this life, thus building up the body of Christ.7

5 "Catechesis is an education in the faith of children, young people and adults which includes especially the teaching of Christian doctrine imparted, generally speaking, in an organic and systematic way, with a view to initiating the hearers into the fullness of Christian life."8

6 While not being formally identified with them, catechesis is built on a certain number of elements of the Church's pastoral mission which have a catechetical aspect, that prepare for catechesis, or spring from it. They are: the initial proclamation of the Gospel or missionary preaching to arouse faith; examination of the reasons for belief; experience of Christian living; celebration of the sacraments; integration into the ecclesial community; and apostolic and missionary witness.9

7 "Catechesis is intimately bound up with the whole of the Church's life. Not only her geographical extension and numerical increase, but even more her inner growth and correspondence with God's plan depend essentially on catechesis."10

8 Periods of renewal in the Church are also intense moments of catechesis. In the great era of the Fathers of the Church, saintly bishops devoted an important part of their ministry to catechesis. St. Cyril of Jerusalem and St. John Chrysostom, St. Ambrose and St. Augustine, and many other Fathers wrote catechetical works that remain models for us.11

9 "The ministry of catechesis draws ever fresh energy from the councils. The Council of Trent is a noteworthy example of this. It gave catechesis priority in its constitutions and decrees. It lies at the origin of the Roman Catechism, which is also known by the name of that council and which is a work of the first rank as a summary of Christian teaching. . "12 The Council of Trent initiated a remarkable organization of the Church's catechesis. Thanks to the work of holy bishops and theologians such as St. Peter Canisius, St. Charles Borromeo, St. Turibius of Mongrovejo or St. Robert Bellarmine, it occasioned the publication of numerous catechisms.

10 It is therefore no surprise that catechesis in the Church has again attracted attention in the wake of the Second Vatican Council, which Pope Paul Vl considered the great catechism of modern times. the General Catechetical Directory (1971) the sessions of the Synod of Bishops devoted to evangelization (1974) and catechesis (1977), the apostolic exhortations Evangelii nuntiandi (1975) and Catechesi tradendae (1979), attest to this. the Extraordinary Synod of Bishops in 1985 asked "that a catechism or compendium of all Catholic doctrine regarding both faith and morals be composed"13 The Holy Father, Pope John Paul II, made the Synod's wish his own, acknowledging that "this desire wholly corresponds to a real need of the universal Church and of the particular Churches."14 He set in motion everything needed to carry out the Synod Fathers' wish.

The necessity of catechizing is of immense importance. Without knowing the faith, we cannot live it fully. Without teaching it to others, our evangelization is incomplete. John Paul II brought light to this reality in Catechesi Tradendae:

1. The Church has always considered catechesis one of her primary tasks, for, before Christ ascended to His Father after His resurrection, He gave the apostles a final command - to make disciples of all nations and to teach them to observe all that He had commanded. He thus entrusted them with the mission and power to proclaim to humanity what they had heard, what they had seen with their eyes, what they had looked upon and touched with their hands, concerning the Word of Life. He also entrusted them with the mission and power to explain with authority what He had taught them, His words and actions, His signs and commandments. And He gave them the Spirit to fulfill this mission.

Very soon the name of catechesis was given to the whole of the efforts within the Church to make disciples, to help people to believe that Jesus is the Son of God, so that believing they might have life in His name, and to educate and instruct them in this life and thus build up the Body of Christ. The Church has not ceased to devote her energy to this task. - John Paul II - Apostolic Exhortation Catechesi Tradendae 1

Footnotes:
4 ⇒ Mt 28:19-20
5 ⇒ Mk 16:20
6 Cf. ⇒ Acts 2:42

7 Cf. John Paul II, Apostolic Exhortation Catechesi tradendae 1; 2.
8 CT 18.
9 CT 18.
10 CT 13.
11 Cf. CT 12.
12 CT 13.
13 Extraordinary Synod of Bishops 1985,. Final Report II B a, 4.
14 John Paul II, Discourse at the Closing of the Extraordinary Synod of Bishops 7 December 1985: AAS 78, (1986).



Is that Really What You Believe?

clock October 10, 2012 09:18 by author John |

Is That really what you believe?

So often these days I come across people who have various beefs with the Catholic Church. You have heard them, I am sure: The Church is anti-woman. The Church wants to enslave women by forcing them to have babies. The Church is anti-gay/homophobic. Frequently, they take an incredulous tone and mock our beliefs. They may ask us, “Is that really what you believe? Do you really believe God is in that cookie? Do you really believe that women shouldn’t have the right to make their own choices with their own bodies? Do you really believe that God is a misogynist? Do you really believe that God wants to throw everyone in Hell? How could a good God do that?”

The misconceptions about the Catholic Church are as rampant as ever, concomitantly exhibiting just enough ridiculousness to irritate the recipient of the charge. Often the accusation is so asinine that people simply cannot come up with a decent response. At this point, the skeptic claims victory and pats himself on the back, persisting in his ignorance.

I propose a simple response. It is not a defense of the faith in the purest sense. It isn’t some witty comeback or a deep theological insight. It is common sense. It is a quick jolt to the skeptic’s arrogance or ignorance as the case may be. This simple response will level the playing field and place the skeptic on his heels: “Is that really what you believe?”

Yes, ask the accuser if they really believe what they are saying. If they ask you why the church is anti-woman, reply simply, “Is that really what you believe? Do you really think the Church is anti-woman?” Chances are favorable that the person has not really devoted a great deal of time or effort into forming that opinion, and pointing out the folly in that opinion is likely to result in either a thoughtful moment of silence, or a retreat from the original proposition to something less outrageous or tangentially related.

Tone is everything in these conversations. You have to maintain a measured, thoughtful demeanor. If you scream, “Is that really what you believe!!!!”, then the person is likely to respond in kind. If you respond in a serious, patient tone, the conversation is likely to go somewhere productive.

Of course you then must be prepared with facts and a solid understanding of your faith to continue the conversation. The Year of Faith is a great opportunity to expand your knowledge of the faith and bring a thoughtful, reasoned perspective to the table. Study the Catechism, the lives of the saints, the documents of the Church, and the Bible. Follow along on this blog as we cover the entire Catechism of the Catholic Church in a year. We will be taking a few paragraphs at a time and supplementing it with deep theological insights from such giants of theological and philosophical thought as St. Thomas Aquinas, St. Augustine, St. Josemaría Escrivá, and Therese of Lisieux, scriptural references, and quotes from the saints. You will emerge ready for spiritual battle, ready to defend the faith, and most importantly, ready to grow closer to Jesus.



How to Be a Good Catholic

clock October 8, 2012 19:29 by author John |

Being a good Catholic might be something you take for granted. Many times we have an inflated sense of self which causes us to assume that we are always or mostly always right. If that applies to you, (as it often does to me), then this list is for you. If you find that you are fulfilling everything on this list, then you are off to a good start in your practice of the Catholic faith. I say “good start” because it is never over until the day you stand in front of St. Peter at the pearly gates, and this list is just the basics. There are many other things which you can do to increase your faith and strengthen your relationship with God.

On the other hand, being a Catholic might be something that you are unfamiliar with. Maybe you are a recent convert to Catholicism, or maybe you haven’t started the journey yet, but you have been given the grace to seek out the Catholic faith. Maybe you are a lifelong Catholic and you just want to start living it fully. Regardless, this list should help you get a good start on that pursuit, which is a noble one.

1. Know your faith

The first step to becoming a good Catholic is to know what Catholicism is and what specifically it is that Catholics believe. There are many ways to do this including:

Study the Bible – The Bible, particularly the New Testament gives us the Word of God directly. It is important to understand the way God has interacted with us throughout the ages. This is known as salvation history. The Bible details all the works that have contributed to the salvation of the human race and each of us in particular.

Study the Catechism - The definitive source of this information is the Catechism of the Catholic Church. The Catechism contains brief discussions of all the basics of the faith including what we believe, what our laws are, the sacraments, the commandments, and prayer. These are the essentials for living the Catholic faith authentically. The Catechism shows us how to interpret the truths proclaimed in the Bible in the way God intended.

While every Christian denomination (or at least most – there are some strange ones) professes to believe in the Bible, they all have a different interpretation of it. The Catholic Church has been given the assurance from Jesus that on matters of faith and morals, the teachings of the Church will always be true. Every faith has some portion of the truth, but only the Catholic Church has the fullness of the truth – all of it! The Catechism summarizes the truth as taught by the Catholic Church.

Read the lives of the saints – The Saints are our examples in holiness. They show us the way to live virtuous lives. Throughout history, holy men and women have sought God and brought many souls to Him. These people were so moved by the grace of God that we have declared them to undoubtedly be in Heaven. A great way to get to Heaven is to learn how other people have done it in the past and follow their example.

Study the writings of the great theologians. There is an incomprehensible quantity of writing that has been compiled over the centuries since Jesus walked the earth. While Jesus revealed everything necessary for our salvation, our understanding of that revelation can grow and bring us important insights to help us on the faith journey. When choosing a theologian to study, make sure they are approved by the Catholic Church. There are many who claim to be theologians, but they can lead us astray when their writings contradict the teachings of the Church. Look for a Nihil Obstat and an Imprimatur on a book before reading it. These are designations that nothing in the book contradicts the faith.

2. Participate in the life of the Church

Go to church. Attend prayer meetings or study groups. Go to Eucharistic Adoration. Volunteer to teach others through a religious education program or help someone come into the Church in the RCIA program. You can help the poor or visit the elderly in a nursing home with your parish group. There are many ways to participate in the life of the Church. Just as “Iron sharpens iron” (Proverbs 27:17), we can strengthen each other through our mutual efforts and inspiration.

Being a member of the Church requires more than just going to mass on Sundays. Though mass is a requirement, you will find that participating in some activities outside of mass to build up the Kingdom of God brings an emotional and personal encounter with the faith in a way that purely academic endeavors cannot.

Even more importantly, participate in the sacraments. Confess your sins and be free of the burden that those sins place on you. Receive the Eucharist worthily. participation in the sacraments gives you tremendous grace, which helps us to live a holy and exemplary life.

3. Follow the laws of the Church

If you want to call yourself a Catholic you need to act like one. The Church has provided for us a set of laws that must be followed in order to maintain our proper standing in the Church. These are summarized in the 10 Commandments of the Old Testament and by the precepts of the Church.

The 10 commandments are very basic in their common form. The 10 sentences to which you may be accustomed are not the whole story. The Catholic Church has given us guidelines around the 10 commandments to help us maintain a good relationship with Christ.

The precepts of the Catholic Church are laws established to help us identify the minimum requirements to consider yourself a practicing Catholic. These laws include going to mass every Sunday and holy day of obligation, confessing your sins at least once a year, receiving the Eucharist at least during the Easter Season, performing the necessary acts of fasting and abstinence, and providing for the needs of the Church. Just as you would be out of place calling yourself a soldier in the army if you refused to wear the uniform and went missing from your unit, you would be out of place calling yourself a Catholic if you do not abide by the precepts of the Church.

You can go through a thorough examination of conscience in order to help you form your conscience and determine where your shortcomings are in relation to the commandments and precepts of the Church.

4. Pray

Prayer is the way we communicate with God. There are various prayers that have been prepared for us such as the Our Father and Hail Mary. Here is a list of standard prayers that will give you a good start in your prayer life. Beyond the standard prayers, we should strive to have a personal relationship with God. Just as you have to talk to your friends to maintain a relationship, so too you have to talk to God to maintain the relationship. You should talk to God in a personal way (making sure to be respectful). Let Him know your needs and desires, your concerns, your love for Him, and your gratitude for His many blessings in your life.

5. Practice the Corporal and Spiritual Works of Mercy

The 7 corporal works of mercy and 7 spiritual works of mercy are the actions by which we can show mercy for others. The corporal works of mercy are ways in which we can provide for the physical needs of others. The spiritual works of mercy are the ways in which you can provide for the spiritual needs of others. These works are not simply suggestions. They are what we are required to do. We are called to help the poor, the lonely, and the hungry. We are also called to instruct the ignorant and admonish the sinner. In doing these things, we can help build the Kingdom of God; making lives better, giving people comfort and strength. Perhaps the most important part of these works of mercy is the opportunity to bring the faith to others. We are all called to evangelize - to spread the faith. We can do this through our words, but the most effective way is through our actions.