You need to know what you believe. You need to know your faith with that same precision with which an IT specialist knows the inner workings of a computer. You need to understand it like a good musician knows the piece he is playing. Yes, you need to be more deeply rooted in the faith than the generation of your parents so that you can engage the challenges and temptations of this time with strength and determination. You need God’s help if you want to resist the blandishments of consumerism, if your love is not to drown in pornography, if you are not going to betray the weak and leave the vulnerable helpless.
Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI
from the introduction to the Youcat.
From my column at Patheos this week on the intersection of Benedict, the Catechism, and the hope of heaven…
I have a first edition English translation of the Catechism of the Catholic Church in hardcover. Ever since my great awakening to my Catholic faith in my teen years, I’ve been reading about our faith, and taking theology classes when I could. So in 1992, when I heard that the Catholic Church was putting out a new catechism, the theology geek in me bought a copy when the English translation arrived in 1994.
Within the first 70 pages or so, I was hooked. I had no idea who was responsible for what I was reading, but the clarity of the teaching grabbed me.
There were several “teachable moments” where the Catechism affirmed what I already believed, or corrected or challenged my understandings. I’ll share just one instance that blessed me, and came back to bless me again years later, and is blessing me still.
The ultimate end of the whole divine economy is the entry of God’s creatures into the perfect unity of the Blessed Trinity. (CCC, par 260)
What? God wants union with his creatures? Up until that point I had I understood that Jesus loved me. I understood that Jesus died for my sins. I understood that those graces had the power to change me and be like Jesus. But my understanding fell short of such a love yielding this kind of a bond as my entering into union with God.
Everything in God’s plan of salvation — another name for the “divine economy” — is moving toward God. Myself included. The Trinity is my destiny and yours.
This woke me up as it gave me pause.
This one sentence kept coming alive in my mind over and over again. It expanded my image of God, my relationship with him and his heaven. For most of my adult life I vaguely acknowledged that, one day, I would die. Yet I never really considered the true hope of heaven, or what it might look like. I was merrily oblivious. Looking back, my rather lame vision of heaven included clouds and angels and what not. God’s heaven was a very distant “place” that didn’t demand my meditation. But I began to ask myself, how can one truly have hope without knowing where the source of hope comes from?
Good catechesis, and the power of the Holy Spirit, has a way of making us dig deeper until we own what we profess to believe.
Two years later, in 1996, I was diagnosed with breast cancer and the weight of my own mortality squarely rested across my shoulders. During that time of stress and heartache, what the Catechism had taught me came alive. I remembered that line about entering into the unity of the Trinity. My life, lived well — yoked to Christ — would someday have this potential to be permanently joined to God… to be in union with the Persons of the Trinity for eternity.
Heaven would be all about this relationship!
That one little sentence of truth from the Catechism brought me such hope, and clear direction for the rest of my life! And hope is exactly what one needs, not only when facing a cancer diagnosis, but, really, every single day.
Fast forward, years later, into cancer survivorship… the same Catechism was still challenging me, and it was a catalyst for my returning to graduate school in my forties. There were thousands of footnotes in the Catechism, and I wanted to know what they all meant! (That thirst eventually led me to seek a Masters in the theology, and I received my diploma in 2008 –- 12 years post-cancer!)
As I poured over Scripture and theology books during those study years, I came to discover the “who’s who” behind the Catechism. Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger – our Pope Benedict XVI – was the chief architect of the Catechism, at the directive of Blessed Pope John Paul II.
In 1986, I entrusted a commission of twelve Cardinals and Bishops, chaired by Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, with the task of preparing a draft of the catechism….
(John Paul II, Apostolic Constitution, Fidei Depositum, Oct. 11, 1992.)
I felt such a debt of gratitude to Cardinal Ratzinger for the Catechism. It was a monumental work – the first update to the Roman Catechism in over 400 years – plus it took six years to develop, with input from over a thousand bishops from the world over. It would influence future generations for the next century! It certainly had its effect on me.
What’s more, my studies led me to discover Ratzinger as one of the premier theologians of the last two generations — with dozens of books to his name! As I studied eschatology — the study of death and eternal life — I learned how important the actual Risen Body of Jesus is to humanity’s eternal destiny. I came to relish Fr. Ratzinger’s work on the subject. The good professor helped me unpack the beauty of a heavenly union with the Trinity, as he describes how Jesus brings about this union for us.
Heaven’s existence depends on the fact that Jesus Christ, as God, is man, and makes space for human existence in the existence of God himself. One is in heaven when, and to the degree, that one is in Christ. It is by being with Christ that we find the true location of our existence as human beings in God. Heaven is thus, primarily, a personal reality…
(Joseph Ratzinger, Dogmatic Theology, Eschatology, The Catholic University of America, 1988, p. 234.)
Jesus makes a space for us in himself, as we truly become the body of Christ. As I read this text that had preceded the Catechism, I immediately recognized the themes I had read earlier.
Read the rest over at Patheos.
Image courtesy of Thomas McDonald
Welcome to the Year of Faith!
The Year of Faith is actually slightly longer than a full year: October 11, 2012 through November 23, 2013. It has a three-fold focus: knowing our Catholic faith, living it out both sacramentally within the church and in the world, and sharing the faith through evangelization and catechesis. This is a wonderful opportunity to make a plan for yourself as to what you might do to grow in those three areas.
Here are some links to help us get the most out of this year.
An Overview of the Year of Faith
- Here’s the official Vatican home page for the Year of Faith (Annus Fidei). Pope Benedict’s Apostolic Letter introducing the Year of Faith is Porta Fidei or “The Door of Faith”. Deanna Bartalini has prepared some helpful study questions to help you get the most out of the Pope’s letter at the New Evangelizers website.
- The Calendar for the Year of Faith highlights special Vatican-sponsored events for the coming year including special days to celebrate the canonizations of new saints, lay and religious vocations, confirmations, World Youth Day, devotion to Jesus in the Eucharist, Mary and Marian devotion, and more.
- The Pope and the bishops of the world are meeting in a Synod through the month of October. The theme of those meeting is the new evangelization. The document that contains the agenda for those meetings is found here.
- The USCCB (United States Catholic Conference of Bishops) has their Year of Faith website here. You’ll find many resources including:
Knowing Your Faith
Get to know the Bible. Most newcomers to bible study get comfortable by first looking at the Gospels and the epistles of the New Testament. Here’s an excellent bible commentary series on the New Testament for personal study or for groups, plus a New Testament study bible to with wonderful study helps built right into its pages.
Get to know the Catechism of the Catholic Church. This landmark reference work is the first update to the universal catechism the Church has had in 400 years, since the Council of Trent. It’s a masterpiece of all the Church believes, worships, lives, and prays. The Year of Faith celebrates the 20th anniversary of the Catechism’s reception. Find one at your local Catholic bookseller, or you may enjoy these resources
- The Catechism is online on the Vatican website. But there’s an excellent online “searchable” Catechism, too! Start by learning the Precepts of the Church.
- Read the Catechism in a year by email. The makers of FlockNote have come up with a strategy by offering small chunks of the Catechism delivered to your email each day. Sign up or get more details here.
- YOUCAT: the Catechism for youth
Read the Documents of Vatican II. The Year of Faith coincides with the fiftieth anniversary of the start of the Second Vatican Council. Read the documents online, or buy a copy from your local Catholic bookseller. Need a place to start? Try reading Lumen Gentium (The Dogmatic Constitution of the Church). It is 8 chapters long and it is the key to unlocking the themes of the council found in the rest of the documents. Also, coming soon: a film on the historic Council known as Vatican II.
Discover Catholic programming to strengthen your faith through the national television ministries of Catholic TV and EWTN, and look to your local diocesan programming as well. Don’t forget Catholic radio networks, many of which can be found here. If you enjoy new media, SQPN is a Catholic podcasting network. Or, subscribe to Catholic newspapers, magazines, and your diocesan paper.
Watch a DVD. Try the 10-part Catholicism DVD series from Word on Fire. It is often shown in parishes and dioceses, as well as on Catholic television. It is also available for purchase.
Take a course. Pillars of Catholicism is a free online course that is being offered by the professors of John Paul the Great University. This series is a self-professed crash course in the fundamentals of the Catholic Faith. It consists of 13 episodes, each a half-hour long. A new episode will be unlocked each week and will be permanently accessible. The course and all materials it provides are free.
Interested in subject matter related to women and the feminine genius? Watch for my new book, Blessed, Beautiful, and Bodacious: Celebrating the Gift of Catholic Womanhood, due for release in March 2013. And for your personal and group study I recommend the ministry of Endow, which supports nearly 20,000 women in study groups across the US and Canada.
Living Your Faith
Get more out of the Mass. Try these resources:
- Fr. Robert Barron from Word on Fire offers thoughtful audio sermons every week. Check out the entire Word on Fire website for more Catholic content.
- USCCB website lets you read the day’s Mass readings, or hear them with the audio versions, plus listen to video reflections on their subject matter.
- Magnificat is a print subscription, or use their app for your smart phone to access the daily readings, commentary, and morning and evening prayer.
- Find a Mass near you or when you travel.
Pray more and increase your devotional life. Here’s a few suggestions:
- Discover the Liturgy of the Hours. Longtime the prayer practice of priests and religious, many lay people enjoy praying the liturgy of the hours in whole or in part. You can purchase a breviary from your local Catholic bookseller, or online, by going to Universalis or the Divine Office. Modified versions of morning prayer and evening prayer are found in Magnificat.
- Receive a plenary indulgence for your religious practice by fulfilling certain requirements during the Year of Faith. Elizabeth Scalia offers understanding on the plenary indulgence.
- Make a holy hour, or go to Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament. Find a chapel that offers Adoration here.
- Learn how to pray the Rosary.
- Learn how to pray the Chaplet of Divine Mercy.
Sharing Your Faith
A baptized Catholic is baptized into the mission of the Church. Therefore, we, too, are called to spread the faith to others. Get started with these resources:
- USCCB has suggestions for sharing the faith through the new evangelization.
- Go and Make Disciples: A National Plan and Strategy for Catholic Evangelization in the United States.
- Share articles and blog posts from Patheos’ Catholic Portal.
- New Evangelizers website has blog posts and free resources that can help you make a faith connection with others.
- Amazing Catechists, led by Patheos’ columnist Lisa Mladinich, supports those called to the work of faith formation and religious education. Catechist’s Journey with Joe Paprocki also supports catechists.
- Share religious books with friends and family. Watch for Catholic Books that are offered for review in the Patheos Book Club when you see them suggested here on the Catholic portal. Plus, visit your Catholic bookseller for titles that may be of interest.
- Links to my archived articles on easy ways to share your faith with others from my column at Patheos, “A Word in Season”:
The information shared here is also found in numerous links I prepared for my column at Patheos. Read the original article here. You can subscribe to it via RSS or email here. It has also been shared in an audio format on the Among Women Podcast.