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Posts Tagged ‘catechism’

By: Sr. Clare Hunter

It occurred to me while watching the canonizations of Pope John XXIII and Pope John Paul II that Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI knew both of these men. I wondered how many others present and watching had met, or worked with, both of them. Certainly countless were alive during both papacies. Of course, so many more knew John Paul II, and the personal stories of encounters and his influence in people’s lives have been inspiring.

St. John Paul II and St. John XXIIIAs the days leading to the canonizations approached and the Mass celebrated by Pope Francis aired, it is amazing to think that I had met, and touched, a saint. On November 9, 2002, with a group of my Community, I was able to attend a private Mass and meeting with Pope John Paul II. To touch his soft hands and look into his eyes, to feel his touch on my cheek…such a memory! John Paul II had always been an influence in my faith, my vocation and my love for the Catholic Church. A rather odd notion to think that for 25 years a man I had only met once for a few moments could have had such a strong impact on my life. It is quite a moment in one’s life when saints cease to be untouchable medieval heroes and Biblical reflections. There are countless modern day saints who have powerful stories and inspire me to live a faithful life. But with John Paul II, it almost feels like a relative has been canonized.

During talks, I’ve started to ask the question, “Who here wants to be a saint?” Little kids always raise their hands and shout “ME!” I suppose that’s the case with any question. Adults seldom do, and I’ve even had a brave soul respond that “It’s too hard to be one.” True enough. In fact, we have been explicitly told that it is impossible. “Children, how hard it is to enter the kingdom of God…For human beings it is impossible, but not for God” (Mk 10:24, 26). Jesus has just finished instructing his young friend on the qualifications for sainthood: keep the Commandments, sell and give away everything, and follow Him. Not a good sign that the men who have already been following Him declare it to be too difficult. Even worse when Jesus agrees. Oh how I wish Jesus had turned and said “My friends, it will be easy! I will be with you! See how easy and fun it has been these days?” If only.

We know only too well what following Jesus will mean. Not breaking the Commandments and giving everything to and for God is a constant battle. But it is the crosses, the crucifixions, which mean suffering and dying that scare us the most and cause despair. And yet, countless men and women have done just that. They fell deeply in love with Jesus Christ and let nothing stop them from following Him all the way. That is probably why from such an early age I loved Pope John Paul II, and trusted him. There was something about his example, his witness that convinced me there was something to this “Catholic faith thing.” Certainly I had others in my life who witnessed to the same truth, but there was something special about him.

As Catholics, we believe in the communion of saints. Our own call to sanctity is only possible with God, who allows the saints to intercede for us. The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches, “The witnesses who have preceded us into the kingdom, especially those whom the Church recognizes as saints, share in the living tradition of prayer by the example of their lives, the transmission of their writings, and their prayer today. They contemplate God, praise him and constantly care for those whom they have left on earth. When they entered into the joy of their Master, they were ‘put in charge of many things.’ Their intercession is their most exalted service to God’s plan. We can and should ask them to intercede for us and for the whole world.” (2683)

I love that line: “put in charge of many things.” It certainly alters our notion of “resting” in peace. Lest we think heaven is boring with eternity spent on a cloud with a harp, we hear that we will still be within the mission of Jesus Christ, following Him, and doing the Father’s Will. May both St. John Paul II and St. John XXIII be put in charge of many things, and most particularly, interceding for our world, that we grow in our desire to be saints and join them in eternal life.

St. John XXIII, pray for us! St. John Paul II, pray for us!

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By: Deacon Marques Silva

Holy Saturday is very busy in every parish. While the Church encourages us to be still and silent, there is always a team of parishioners that is tasked with decorating the sanctuary, side chapel(s), and vestibule for the Easter Vigil. We do this so that all of our senses are engaged to gain a deeper understanding through beauty, sign, and symbol of the Solemnity of the Resurrection. This year was not different…well, maybe a little.

Easter Vigil CandlesAs we were completing our task, a woman walked in with tears streaming down her face asking for a priest. The priests were unavailable so the front desk admin assistant asked if she would be willing to meet with a deacon instead and she agreed.

While I was attempting to ascertain what the issue was that had her so upset, she shared that she was an Iranian Muslim and had become very disillusioned with her faith. She continued by saying that she had been reading anything and everything about religion and was left unsatisfied. Thirty minutes earlier she decided to start walking and enter into the first church she came upon. Her neighbor though, seeing her in distress walking down the sidewalk, offered to drive her to the nearest church – our Church. It just so happens that her neighbor was also one of our parishioners.

After a few minutes, she calmed down and then I invited her to the Easter Vigil. Yep, you read correctly, the Easter Vigil. It occurred to me after the words left my mouth that I had just encouraged her to sit through the longest, albeit the most beautiful, liturgy of the year without context, catechesis, or frankly, a cheat sheet. She thought it was a fantastic idea!

I saw her after the liturgy standing in our vestibule with tears again streaming down her face. This time though, with a smile. We sat down and she shared everything she had learned about Catholicism during the liturgy – and her theology was spot on. She said she was amazed that it engaged all five of her senses and just drew her in deeper and deeper. She shared with me that for the first time in her life, she encountered the God who loves her and who cares for her just the way she was at that moment. She said that God’s name was Jesus. She continued sharing and said that all of her problems were not solved but hope was restored. All the stress in her life was still pushing in but peace flooded and remained in her heart and mind. And I, well, suffice it to say that I am sure my mouth was gaping open, having never expected this type of transformative experience.

Easter morning I brought to prayer her experience. Everything I learned during my diaconal formation about mystagogy and mystagogical preaching seemed to suddenly flood into my head all at once. We were taught in homiletics a number of ways to preach. One of them was called mystagogical preaching which meant that we would use familiar symbols and liturgical rites to draw a person from the visible to the invisible in order to draw the individual into a deeper relationship with the mystery of Christ. The Catechism of the Catholic Church says it this way:

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.”…

I am not sure why I was so surprised at her experience. Maybe it is because I thought she needed to be evangelized and catechized before she could even consider what she was going to see. The fact of the matter is that the liturgy speaks for itself. That when celebrated in accordance with the mind and manner the Church intends (not saying that it has to be perfect…), it has the power to teach, transform, and touch the deepest recesses of our minds and hearts. It reminds me of the Scripture, “Deep calls unto deep” Psalms 42:7.

As Catholics, we take for granted what we see, hear, touch, smell and even taste. Standing by watching what the Lord is doing for this young woman has resolved me to pay better attention to what is transpiring during the liturgy.

It is a week later and she is excited for the next RCIA class to learn more about our faith. Our Lord is amazing. A providential encounter, an invitation, and a heart touched by grace. An Easter Vigil to remember.

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By: Sr. Clare Hunter

With the Hobby Lobby suit going on in the Supreme Court, there is a great deal of “The Pill” in the news. It is certainly a hot topic, with statistics, medical information and lots of personal opinions coming at us left and right. Environmentalists and scientists have been warning us for years that women’s use of artificial hormonal birth control is not a private matter. In fact, it has worldwide effects. Not only are there moral implications regarding the use of artificial contraception to prevent pregnancy, but what about the moral implications of using a drug that can cause cancer in others, or change the ecosystem?

Studies show that birth control pills have a negative effect on the environment, and primarily the water system. Scientists report that “many decades of research have shown that when released into the environment, a group of hormones known as estrogens, both synthetic and naturally occurring, can have a serious influence on wildlife. This includes the development of intersex characteristics in male fish, which diminishes fertility and fecundity.”[1] Water treatment plants are not able to break down the hormones excreted by women who are using the Pill: High estrogen levels have been found in rivers in Paris, and studies seem to show that in some places the levels of estrogen found in waterways are high enough to affect human health.[2]

Prescription NeededHere’s a fascinating study that questions the link between prostate cancer in men and the Pill. David Margel and Neil Fleshner, of the University of Toronto in Ontario, looked at contraceptive pill usage and incidence of prostate cancer in 88 countries around the world. In every case, they found a significant correlation between the two.[3] Although studies continue to look at various possibilities, and findings are inconclusive, the scientists consider this a valid and strong component in the mystery of the increase in prostate cancer; the fact is that estrogen-like chemicals pass into the urine and ultimately make their way into the water supply.

There are consistent reports that show that the environment and human health are being detrimentally affected by women’s use of chemical contraceptives, which has environmentalists around the world searching for solutions. If findings continue to reveal these links, govern­ments will need to step in to enact laws and regulations to protect innocent citizens and future generations.

The Catholic Church has spoken consistently on the need to protect and care for creation, as it is God’s gift. Pope John Paul II stated: “Christians, in particular, realize that their responsibility within creation and their duty towards nature and the Creator are an essential part of their faith.”[4] There is a moral responsibility to care for God’s creation. The Catechism of the Catholic Church reminds us that “man’s dominion over inanimate and other living beings granted by the Creator is not absolute; it is limited by concern for the quality of life of his neighbor, including generations to come; it requires a religious respect for the integrity of creation.”[5]


[1] Susan Jobling and Richard Owen, “Ethinyl Oestradiol in the Aquatic Environment,” in Late Lessons from Early Warnings: Science, Precaution, Innovation (Copenhagen, Denmark: Europa Environment Agency, 2013), 279.

[2] Wynne Parry, “Water Pollution Caused by Birth Control Poses Dilemma,” Live Science, May 23, 2012; and “7 Surprising Facts about the Pill,” Live Science, June 21, 2011.

[3] David Margel and Neil E. Fleshner, “Oral Contraceptive Use Is Associated with Prostate Cancer: An Ecological Study,” BJM Open 1.2 (2011), http://bmjopen.bmj.com/content/1/2/e000311.full.

[4] John Paul II, Message for the Celebration of the World Day of Peace (January 1, 1990), n. 15.

[5] Catechism of the Catholic Church, n. 2415.

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I don’t know if you’ve signed up to read the entire Catechism in a year (a daily dose delivered by email), but I am woefully behind. I should be setting time aside daily, but it hasn’t really happened, so I often find myself catching up and reading four or five sections at a time. This morning, in one of these catch-up sessions, I read a section on faith (articles 153-159), which perfectly corresponded to a conversation I was engaged in over the weekend.

In a nutshell, I was discussing with a friend whether any faith traditions were valid; if they all were; or if they were all fake. From her (agnostic) perspective, religions are merely methods people used to make themselves happy on earth, but aren’t actually based in reality. I argued that my faith was real (not just an excuse to give structure to my life), and that reason could show that the universe was created. What she said that I couldn’t prove with reason alone – and she was right – is that God (a Catholic God) was real and present in my life.

I can’t prove God’s presence to her by reason alone because it is faith that allows me to know, love and serve God. Yet somehow to unbelievers, to say “I believe” is not enough. Sadly, too many people think that faith is neither credible nor reasonable.

The Catechism section I read this morning, however, reminded me of several very helpful things about how faith is real, how it builds on reason and how it is, in fact, reasonable. It says:

 

  1. Faith is a Gift: I cannot just argue someone into believing in God. The Catechism says, “Faith is a gift of God, a supernatural virtue infused by him.”
  2. Trusting in God is a free, human act: People who have faith have not given up their freedom. Rather, they have chosen to accept this gift from God and believe in Christ. The Catechism says, “Trusting in God and cleaving to the truths he has revealed is contrary neither to human freedom nor to human reason”
  3. While one cannot reach Faith by reason alone, we have proofs that Faith is reasonable: Revelation that we have seen in our own lives and throughout Church history allows us to even more reasonably claim our faith. The Catechism says, “The miracles of Christ and the saints, prophecies, the Church’s growth and holiness, and her fruitfulness and stability ‘are the most certain signs of divine Revelation, adapted to the intelligence of all’; they are ‘motives of credibility’ (motiva credibilitatis), which show that the assent of faith is ‘by no means a blind impulse of the mind’.”
  4. Faith is a certainty: There can be no doubt in the tenets of faith once we have faith because, as the Catechism says, God cannot lie.
  5. Faith seeks understanding: Faith implies a love of God. When we love someone, we naturally seek to know him or her more. The Catechism explains that this is a cycle of growth: out of faith, we seek to know more about God, and as we learn more about Him, we grow even more in our faith.
  6. Faith and Science will never contradict each other: God created the world and therefore created science. True scientific discoveries will not contradict the faith, and faith will not contradict science. The Catechism says that science “can never conflict with the faith, because the things of the world and the things of faith derive from the same God.”

 

Too often, I am swayed by our agnostic culture into somehow forgetting that faith is the most reasonable position we can possibly hold: believing in God Who created me, Who sent His Son to save me and Who demonstrates His love for me time and time again.

 

During this Year of Faith: Lord, increase my faith.

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