Tag Archives: Catechism

Catechisms and Saintly Catechisms: Padre Pio

Where do catechisms come from? They’re recent instruments for forming people in their faith. Martin Luther was the first to compose a catechism in question and answers for ordinary people in the 15th century.

In response to Luther, the Dutch Jesuit Peter Canisius composed the first Catholic catechism in 1555 followed by three others afterwards. The Council of Trent directed a catechism be written as a resource for the clergy and that appeared in 1556. Robert Bellarmine later composed an important catechism requested by Pope Clement VIII and after that bishops from all over the world composed catechisms for their people. I can still recite questions and answers from the Baltimore Catechism of my youth.

Catechesis was done in earlier centuries without catechisms, through preaching, sacraments, the feasts and seasons of the year. The Second Vatican Council changed the language of the liturgy from latin to the language of the people and revised the liturgical prayers and rites so that they better serve as catechesis. Some today want to maintain the primacy of the catechism in catechesis but, while they’re still useful, we need to catechize more through the liturgy, sacraments, feasts and seasons. It’s a task of the Second Vatican Council remaining to be done. 

Today’s the feast of Padre Pio, the Italian Capuchin friar who’s one of the most popular saints of modern times. I would say he’s a saint who’s a catechism. He was a stigmatic, who carried the wounds of Christ in his body. Church officials were wary of him;  investigation after investigation questioned his credibility, but ordinary people recognized his holiness. To them he was a striking sign of God’s presence in an ordinary human being. Padre Pio taught that, not through a book, but through himself.

In 2006 the bishops of the USA published the United States Catholic Catechism for Adults, which interspersed stories of saints and others as examples of the faith expounded in the book. They were acknowledging what we all know: people are better catechisms than books. 

Padre Pio reminds us of that today.

Catechetical Sunday

We call this Sunday “Catechetical Sunday,” because most parishes are beginning classes in religion this month and we’re asking God’s blessing on young people and teachers and all who are involved in religious formation programs. Passing on our faith to the next generation is one of the important challenges we face as a church.

Let’s remember, though, that children and young people are not the only ones who need to grow in faith. We all do. We may be able to recite the Creed at Mass and respond to the prayers pretty well, though some of us may still be learning the new wording that came out last year. But learning the words isn’t enough. We need to know what they mean and how they apply to our lives; that’s a life-long task
I can still recite answers to questions from the catechism years ago. “Who is God?” “Why did God make you?”

But is that enough? For one thing, the Second Vatican Council, which took place 50 years ago, gave some important new directions for growing in our faith. It told us to know God and love with our neighbor using the bible and the liturgy as guides.

For example, there’s a longer and fuller answer to that catechism question “Who is God?” in the scriptures today. (Luke 15, 1-32) God is like a woman who doesn’t want to lose what belongs to her and keeps searching for a coin she has lost. God is like a shepherd searching for a lost sheep. God is a wonderful father whose son–representing the whole human race–finds himself far from home and the place where he should be.
We are God’s children; we belong with him. God is the One who welcomes us, searches for us, waits for us, wishes the best for us, because we are his own.

No catechism question and answer could describe God better than Jesus does in the story of the Prodigal Son and in his parables. The scriptures give us a way to know God that’s never exhausted. At the heart of scripture is Jesus Christ, God’s Word to us. He lives what he teaches. We know God through him, and with him and in him. The more we know him, the more we know the One who sent him. The more we know him, the more we know how to love our neighbor.

Faith is not a private affair between ourselves and God. We don’t live it in a bubble. Knowing and loving God means knowing and loving our neighbor, for God and our neighbor belong together. “No one has seen God, if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is perfected in us.” (1 John 4,12)

The Second Vatican Council made clear in its Constitution on the Church in the Modern World, for example, that faith leads us to life in our world, however complex that world may be. The scribe in the gospel asks Jesus, “Who is my neighbor?” He doesn’t ask Jesus “Who is God?” Perhaps that’s because our relationship with our neighbor is more immediate and complex than our relationship with God.

We can’t reduce loving our neighbor to a few things like lying, or cheating or killing one another. I was looking recently at the US Bishops’ site on the internet–a wonderful resource site about our faith, by the way– and noticed the many “neighbor” questions there. Questions like income inequality, immigration, housing, restorative justice, …They’re social questions, “neighbor” questions, dealing with a complex world that changes all the time.

The Second Vatican Council also opened the window to new cooperation with others who do not have the faith we have and urged us to work together for a better world.

Living our faith today is a challenging, life-long task. We’re all still in school.

We Go to God Through Questions

I’ve been talking to a number of people lately who have questions about their faith. I emailed this to one of them today:

Here are some sources you might find interesting as you look again at the faith you learned long ago.

Just a few months ago a new Catholic bible was published called the New American Bible Recent Edition. NABRE. The last printing was 20 years ago, but since so much new archeological material and textual discoveries have become available since then, they thought a new edition was due. Part of what we are experiencing today is an explosion of new knowledge in these fields and in other fields of human knowledge. I’m going to pick up that new bible soon myself. It has wonderful notes and introductions to the books and it’s also the translation we read in church.

I was in a Barnes and Noble store yesterday and looked at the section of bibles, but I could hardly locate the New American Bible among the other editions. With the decline of Catholic book stores it’s hard to get the books we might be looking for. The media don’t help either with some of their sensational productions on religion.

The pope’s two new books, “Jesus of Nazareth”. are also good to read. I’ve been reading his last one about the Passion and Resurrection of Jesus, and I find it stimulating. He’s using much of the latest scholarly materials and offering some wonderful insights. and he’s not afraid to take on tough questions.  We are all doing the same thing: learning and learning again.

I like a recent catechism published by the American bishops: The United States Catholic Catechism for Adults. You can get it at Amazon.com. It approaches the different aspects of faith simply and offers a person, whether a canonized saint or not, who exemplifies that aspect and tells their story. Faith is better seen when it’s lived by people.

Since you were impressed by your recent visit to the Holy Land you may be interested in some entries I did for our pilgrimage from St. Mary’s from October 16 to November 20, 2010. You can find them on Victor’s Place, my blog, at https://vhoagland.wordpress.com/

I think I told you what one of my theology teachers told me long ago. “We go to God through questions. You find one answer and ten more questions are there waiting to be answered.”

Questions are part of our search for God.

A Mission in Maryland

From March 20th to the 24th I was in Bowie, Maryland, at Ascension Parish preaching a parish mission. The parish has its roots in colonial Catholicism, a “priestless, popeless, sisterless” church, according to historian James O’Toole, in his book “The Faithful: A History of the American Catholic Church.

Some who attended the mission were descendants of those early Catholics who settled in Maryland, and I expressed my admiration for the fidelity of their ancestors who kept the faith alive in their homes when few priests and hardly any sisters were there to minister to them. Anti-Catholic laws in the colony also penalized Catholics. Through much of that time, the popes were tied by European politics and could pay little attention to the New World.

Those early Catholic Marylanders were faithful to prayer and to the basic truths handed down to them through their catechisms.

I’m interested in that early church because it may be a model of our church in the future, with fewer priests and sisters and a growing secularism that will reduce the number of churchgoers in our country and the western world.

Seems to me, Catholics need to strengthen their prayer lives and learn their catechisms to survive in the future. Nearby Ascension Parish is the old church of the Sacred Heart from 1741 (picture above) and there were catechism classes going on there when I visited on Tuesday afternoon. Keep it up.

I based my mission on the United States Catholic Catechism for Adults, which is a nice blend of doctrine and biographies of people of faith who have influenced the growth of the church in America and I spoke about St. Elizabeth Seton, Peter, Mary the Mother of Jesus, and St. Paul of the Cross during the mission. The catechism is a good one and I wish it were used more in our church.

After the mission, I went to Baltimore to visit the beautiful little house on Paca Street where Mother Seton lived and made her first religious vows after her arrival from New York City.

So important to know our ancestors in the faith as we go into the future.

The iPad

The iPad, the new mobile tablet from Apple, was “revealed” the other day and the reviews say it may change the face of communication. It offers email, internet access, ebooks, and audio-visual features from a 9” screen. The geeks are picking it apart for one thing or another, but one reviewer may have gotten it right. Apple didn’t make this for the geeks but for their mothers.

If I were thinking of producing media content today, which I am, I should think of producing it for the iPad.

If I had an iPad now, what would I be able to carry around with me? For starters, the whole bible, the readings for Mass, video Mass homilies and short bios of the saints,  courtesy of the US Bishops. http://www.usccb.org/nab/ The entire Liturgy of the Hours by way of Universalis: http://www.universalis.com/ Documents of Vatican II, The Catechism of the Catholic Church and the Compendium of the Catechism from the Vatican site: http://www.vatican.va/

For Catholic news, there are the blogs from CNS: http://cnsblog.wordpress.com/ America Magazine,  http://www.americamagazine.org/blog/ Commonweal http://www.commonwealmagazine.org/blog/ Zenit:http://www.zenit.org/0?l=english

I could have with me my homilies, my email, podcasts, slide and video presentations. Resources like Wikipedia, the Library of Congress, the New York Public library would be  available by way of the internet.

Not a bad treasure of  resources to carry around and work on as you go.

But, as Yeat’s poem says, “What then?”

We need to work on what we’re doing now, our websites, blogs, etc..What will they look like on the iPad?

The iPad could use simple catechetical material, strongly visual. I think it will be the basic tool for providing catechesis in tomorrow’s church, but it will mean rethinking how we catechize and what form our catechesis will take.  I like the approach used in the new US Catholic Catechism for Adults, which uses saintly people to say what faith means. Short 10 minutes or 24 minute presentations.I have been using it for retreat and mission talks.

We need good material on the Passion of Christ too. In a quote from yesterday’s blog, St. Thomas Aquinas said we human beings  find “relief through the passion of Christ. Yet, it is no less an example, for the passion of Christ completely suffices to fashion our lives.”  How can we present the Passion of Jesus on the iPad?

Let’s think about it.

David Carr, in the New York Times for  January 31, looks into the future of the iPad. It’s there, he says, now book and magazine publishers and other providers of media content have to think about it and work on prototypes and figure out the financials of it all.