Hope for a Troubled World
by Carol Egan
This article reprinted from an issue of
The Catholic Family's Magnificat!
Home Education Magazine
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From the glorious pages of the Church's history come the Who, the What, the When, the Where and the Why of our existence.
It is from Scripture and Sacred Tradition that we discover the unerring truth that 2,000 years ago Jesus Christ, the God-man, visited this planet in order to save the human race from certain extinction. But even these basic yet startling facts are lost to those who either do not embrace Catholic Christianity or if they do, do not fully understand their Faith.
The words "revelation," "faith" and "reason" have quite different meanings for the Catholic than for most non-Catholics. These words, basic to Catholicism, are the framework with which we explain where we came from, why we are here, where we are going and how we are to get there. These magisterial words describe the link between God and His Creatures.
In order that we may begin to understand these truths, we conclude that God chose a certain point in time to reveal to the reasoning mind the whole of His plan for the human race, not the least of whom is excluded in His loving design. None of this can beknown without some instruction in the Catholic Faith.
There is a reproductive process for every human heart into which God's revealed word takes root. Every Christian was somehow spiritually reproduced by another believer.
When Christ gave the apostles His final command to "teach them to observe all that He had commanded," He was speaking to people of all ages, including of course those of us who happened on the awesome yet foreboding latter days of the twentieth century. These truths are miraculously preserved intact, as the Church continues to guard the deposit of faith. No human being, including the Pope and those Bishops in union with him, have the authority to change a single letter of what God has already revealed. Divine revelation was completed with the death of the last apostle (although there have been advances in the understanding of doctrine as these ruths have become better understood).
That is why every Catholic - and this is no option - must understand these preciously preserved, glorious truths, and the only way to more deeply understand them is to study the Faith.
Father John A. Hardon, S.J., in his "Modern Catholic Dictionary," defines catechesis as "that form of ecclesiastical action that leads both communities and individual members of the faithful to maturity of faith."
On an even more concrete level, the present Holy Father, in his encyclical "On Catechesis in Our Time," (18) defined catechesis as "the education of children, young people and adults in the faith, 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."
There is a deeper need for catechesis today than there has ever been before. We need not be reminded of the modern day moral decline. Unbelief and civil and moral disobedience pervade almost every facet of human existence from high political office to modern education to the family unit.
Thousands of babies are slaughtered daily and legally in the United State alone; divorce and remarriage are commonplace; homosexuality is accepted as a normal, "alternative lifestyle." And all too often, even Catholics cannot sufficiently defend the Church's moral teachings.
As we comply with the directive to grow in the knowledge of our Faith, we must also consider carefully what we choose as religious instruction for ourselves and our children. Despite her long, martyred history, the Church has been plagued by dissenting theologians and their harmful errors. Thus, not all that is available in religious instruction programs is soundly Catholic. Proper discernment between what is sound and what is unsound teaching is only achieved by knowing authentic Catholic teaching.
Modern day religious instruction can be traced to early Judaism in which the head of the Jewish household taught his family about the ancient prophets and their prophecies. Much later, when Christ said to "Go and teach all nations, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you" (Matthew 28:19), He was speaking not only to His apostles in the first century, but to everyone from each successive pope to the least lay person.
These word-of-mouth forms of teaching the message of Christ were soon followed by hand-written forms. The evangelists began with the Gospels.
Later, the catechisms of St. Cyril of Jerusalem (315-386) and St. Augustine (354-430) were handwritten links between the Gospels and the invention of printing in the fifteenth century. The first printed catechisms were John Gerson's ABC of Simple Folk, followed by three successive catechisms written by St. Peter Canisius.
But the catechism which was to become a standard by which future catechetical development took place was the Council of Trent's (1545-1563) Roman Catechism. This detailed analysis of the official teachings of the Church was originally meant for the clergy to use for religious instruction of the faithful. Its four parts were structured on the Creed, theSacraments, the Commandments and the Lord's Prayer. This basic form has been implemented in the new Catechism of the Catholic Church as well as in many mportant intervening catechisms, namely the Baltimore Catechism and the Pius X Catechism.
After Vatican II, two forms of teaching the Catholic Faith were identified: evangelization, or the teaching of the Faith to the unbaptized, and catechesis, which is directed towards those who have received the first sacrament of initiation, Baptism.
A synod of Bishops, which met in September and October of 1980, observed that "The Christian family in fact is the first community called to announce the Gospel to the human person during growth to bring him or her through a progressive education and catechesis, to full human and Christian maturity."
According to Canon Law, "Parents above others are obliged to form their children in the faith" (Canon 774, 2). Every child belongs to God from the moment of conception (no matter what the circumstances) and, once created, are to glorify God for all eternity. Parents, therefore, must properly prepare their children for eternity beginning before their birth by educating themselves in the Faith.
Can there be any doubt that Catholics today, especially parents who teach their own children, must have command of the basic teachings of their Faith? Parents especially are seriously obliged to have an ongoing education in their faith and must continue their quest for a deeper understanding of what they believe. Indeed, the more a person grows in secular knowledge, the more obliged he is to keep pace by advancing in the knowledge of the Faith.
But there is another reason for making the home the first school in the Faith. There are, today, few reliable sources of sound Catholic education.
Many Catholic Schools and CCD programs have fallen under the influence of modernism and its educational methods, namely values clarification, situation ethics, and now outcome-based education in which only politically correct ideas are not only encouraged, but mandated.
In his recent encyclical letter Veritatis Splendor, Pope John Paul II discusses outcome based morality. Says the Holy Father, "The criteria for evaluating the moral rightness of an action are drawn from the weighing of the non-moral or pre-moral goods to be gained and the corresponding non-moral or pre-moral alues to be respected. Right conduct would be the one capable of "maximizing" goods and "minimizing" evil." (74). In other words, the rightness or wrongness of a human action should only be judged by its outcome and not by whatever outrageous expressions of immoral behaviors are demonstrated. These and other malignant philosophies are epidemic, not only in schools, but even among some who claim to represent the Church.
Sanctifying grace, which is infused in the soul at Baptism, makes it possible for that soul to have supernatural life and later aids the faithful in the discernment of error and inspires and empowers baptized Christians to spread the gift of Faith. The virtues infused at Baptism inspire and enable Christians to pass on their Faith to others. This process is as impossible without sound catechetics as is an automobile's ability to move without wheels.
We Christians, Catholics especially - having received the fullness of the Faith - must embrace the commission by Christ to "make disciples of all nations..." (Matthew 28:19). Discipleship must begin not only in every human heart, but especially in each and every healthy cell (Catholic family) of the Mystical Body of Christ on earth, the Church Militant. The world desperately needs channels of grace, namely catechized Catholics, who can point the way through a troubled world with veritatis splendor (splendor of truth) to a happy eternity.
Mary, Mother of Catechists, pray for us.
Carol Egan, from Yonkers, NY, is a wife and mother of 5 children. She has studied catechetics under the direction of Fr. John Hardon, S.J.
EDITOR'S NOTE: Mrs. Egan recommends Fr, John Hardon's 36 - lesson home study course in catechetics as an excellent means of studying the Catholic Faith. For more info, call or write INTER MIRIFICA, P.O. Box 241, Kensington, MD 20895, Phone (301) 942-9572; FAX (301) 942-9577
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