Tag Archives: Mother Seton

Catechisms Have Changed

Some of us may have learned our faith through the questions and answers of the Baltimore Catechism, but catechisms have changed in recent years. One big change is that they’re not just for children, they’re for adults too.

The United States Catholic Catechism for Adults, published by the US Catholic Bishops in 2006, is an adaptation of The Catechism of the Catholic Church published in 1992 in Rome after the Second Vatican Council, as a response from the American bishops to Pope Paul VI’s call to the bishops of the world to adapt the universal catechism to the circumstances and culture of their own people.

The American catechism follows the arrangement of the Roman catechism and teaches about the Creed, the Sacraments, Moral Life and Prayer. One of its features is that it begins each lesson with a story of faith, a short biography of a Catholic, usually someone from the United States, who introduces us to the teaching that’s presented.

Many of the stories also help us appreciate how the Church in our country grew and the particular spirituality that’s been expressed here.

For example, St. Elizabeth Seton introduces us to its first question: our search for God. We search for God through creation, through human relationships and through the various circumstances of our lives.

Mother Seton found God in all those ways. As a young girl, neglected by her father and her stepmother after her mother’s death, she found God in the beauties of nature, in the fields around New Rochelle, NY, where she played as a child.

Then, she married a successful man, William Seton, and had children, a happy married life, lots of friends, and was active in her Episcopal church, Trinity Church, on Wall Street in New York City.

Her life changed when her husband’s business failed. His health also failed and Elizabeth took him to Italy to see if a better climate could revive him. When they arrived in Livorno, Italy, he died in her arms in a quarantine station at the seaport.

Some Italian friends took Elizabeth and her daughter into their home and there she began to think about becoming a Catholic. That step caused her to lose some old friends; as a widow with small children she faced hard times.

Resettling in Baltimore, then Emmitsburg, Maryland, she established a Catholic school and gathered other women to form a religious community. One of the great saints and founders of the American Church, her quest for God was lifelong and many sided. She is an example of how our search for God goes on through creation, through the people around us and in the circumstances we face going through life.

Mother Seton is a teacher of faith and played an important role in the history of the church in our country.  She reminds us how important women have been, especially religious women,  in building our American church. She also reminds us that we’re all called by God to teach others.

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.