Tag Archives: catechesis

Praying with the Creed

I often find myself returning to the Apostles’ Creed. There are two different creeds, or statements of faith, that come down through the centuries. The Apostles’ Creed is the oldest still in use today. It’s a summary of faith given to men and women who were being baptized in the early church to help them remember what they learne when they became Christians. As you may guess, it summarized a faith taught by the apostles.

I like that creed because it’s so simple. In the Catholic church is can be used  in the liturgy during lent and at other times in place of the Nicene Creed. It’s traditionally said at the beginning of the rosary. Prayer books recommend we say it at the beginning of prayer.

In a sermon preached in 4th century to prepare people for baptism, St. Cyril of Jerusalem told them he was teaching them the creed because it was connected to the scriptures and the rest of the things in church.

“Although not everyone is able to read the Scriptures, some because they have never learned to read, others because their daily activities keep them from such study, still so that their souls will not be lost through ignorance, we have gathered together the whole of the faith in a few concise articles…

“So for the present be content to listen to the simple words of the creed and to memorize them; at some suitable time you can find the proof of each article in the Scriptures. This summary of the faith was not composed at man’s whim, the most important sections were chosen from the whole Scripture to constitute and complete a comprehensive statement of the faith.

Just as the mustard seed contains in a small grain many branches, so this brief statement of the faith keeps in its heart, as it were, all the religious truth to be found in Old and New Testament alike. That is why, my sisters and brothers, you must consider and preserve the traditions you are now receiving. Inscribe them in your heart.”

The creed sums up all we believe, Cyril says.  Like a searchlight  it gives power to see so much more, it leads us into the most profound  mysteries, and at the same time in its simplicity it helps us find our way through an often bewildering world. The creed is something we can fall back on as well as use to go forward.

Here’s  the Apostles’ Creed:

I believe in God, the Father almighty,

creator of heaven and earth.

and in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord.

who was conceived by

the Holy Spirit,

born of the Virgin Mary,

suffered under Pontius Pilate,

was crucified, died and was buried;

he descended into hell;

on the third day he rose again

from the dead.

He ascended into heaven

and is seat at the right hand

of God the Father almighty;

from there he will come to judge

the living and the dead.

I believe in the Holy Spirit,

the holy, catholic Church,

the communion of saints,

the forgiveness of sins,

the resurrection of the body

and life everlasting. Amen

 

Friday Thoughts: Young Mother Sewing

Mary Cassatt Young Mother Sewing 1900 Met

Mary Cassatt, “Young Mother Sewing”, 1900 (The Met)


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A living faith works. It is always active, especially when we are docile to the Spirit.

When we walk by faith we see, we hear, we speak what God intends, especially when we are blind to the cares and anxieties of the world.

Small children are wonderfully active, superbly passive, and at times they seem completely blind, fantastically blind. They are alive. They see. They hear. They speak. They watch. They feel.

Mother Church calls all of us home, even when she is silent. She is always at work. She watches us even when her eyes are busy with the business of the day.

She sews. We just need to obey. To trust. To allow ourselves the freedom to lay across her lap.

In the short description upon the little museum card hanging beneath the painting shown above, God has planted great instruction. The work is by American impressionist Mary Cassatt.

According to the card, about the year 1890 “Cassatt redirected her art toward women caring for children and children alone—themes that reflected her affection for her nieces and nephews and the prevailing cultural interest in child rearing.” And then, after informing us that for this particular painting Cassatt “enlisted two unrelated models to enact the roles of mother and child”, the card completes its little catechesis by blessing us with a precious little anecdote and quote:

Louisine Havemeyer, who purchased it in 1901, remarked on its truthfulness: “Look at that little child that has just thrown herself against her mother’s knee, regardless of the result and oblivious to the fact that she could disturb ‘her mamma.’ And she is quite right, she does not disturb her mother. Mamma simply draws back a bit and continues to sew.”

God are we blessed. So blessed to have such a mother. All of us. Maybe give her a call today. Better yet, perhaps even stop by. She’d love that. She’d love to see your face. You’re always on her mind and in her heart. She lives in the closest church you can find, any building that truly houses her Son.

If she seems a little occupied with the “cooking and cleaning”, with all “the business of life”, don’t let that stop you or cut your visit short. No, throw yourself against your “mother’s knee regardless of the result and oblivious to the fact” that you could disturb your “mamma.”

 It most certainly does not.

“Mamma simply draws back a bit and continues to sew.”

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—Howard Hain

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http://www.metmuseum.org/art/collection/search/10425

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Learning from the Bible

In my last blog I mentioned an article about Catholics reading the bible. They don’t read it much, in fact, and those who do may read it as biblical fundamentalists do. The author quoted from a 1998 report from the Pontifical Biblical Commission, the pope’s advisors in biblical  matters, which said that “Fundamentalism actually invites people to a kind of intellectual suicide.”

It can also lead to political damage as well according to an article in the Op-Ed section of the New York Times today “Why the AntiChrist Matters in Politics” by Matthew Avery Sutton.

Especially in troubled times, some may see political consequences in the bible and its prophecies that really aren’t there.

“Biblical criticism, the return of Jews to the Holy Land, evolutionary science and World War I convinced them that the second coming of Jesus was imminent. Basing their predictions on biblical prophecy, they identified signs, drawn especially from the books of Daniel, Ezekiel and Revelation, that would foreshadow the arrival of the last days: the growth of strong central governments and the consolidation of independent nations into one superstate led by a seemingly benevolent leader promising world peace.

This leader would ultimately prove to be the Antichrist, who, after the so-called rapture of true saints to heaven, would lead humanity through a great tribulation culminating in the second coming and Armageddon. Conservative preachers, evangelists and media personalities of the 20th century, like Billy Sunday, Aimee Semple McPherson, Billy Graham and Jerry Falwell, shared these beliefs.”

Last week was catechetical Sunday, marking the beginning of our religious education program at St.Mary’s. We blessed our catechists who are going to be involved in the religious education of our young people.

But religious education involves more than young people. All of us are called to grow in our faith and live what we believe. Unfortunately, as adults we may see faith as something you learn as a child in school or in a religious education program and you never have to learn about it again.

The Catholic writer Frank Sheed said the problem with adult Catholics is that they don’t keep engaged in the faith they learned as children. He used the example of our eyes. We have two eyes. Let’s say one of them is the eye of faith; the other is the eye of experience.

As children, with a religious education, we may  see the world with two eyes; but as adults losing our engagement with faith we gradually come to see the world only with the eye of experience. We lose the focus that faith gives, another dimension. We won’t see right. Faith is what  helps us to see.

“You are all learners,” Jesus said to his disciples in the gospel. It’s not just children who learn, all of us learn. We are lifelong learners. Lifelong believers, engaged believers, struggling believers, even till the end.

One of the areas we have to learn about today in the Catholic Church is the Bible. It’s there every Sunday and every day of the week. It’s our new catechism and prayerbook, one of the gifts our church gives us.  We need to learn about it and pray from it as much as we can.

Browsing Through the Library

We have a big collection of books downstairs and I’m going through them choosing those we might bring to Noah’s ark, wherever that might be.  Like so many other religious communities we’re downsizing. Some books I’m putting aside, hoping to find a good home for them; some we’re selling on Amazon.com, some are on their way to the dumpster.

I’ve always like browsing through libraries. One of my best educational experiences as a young student was at Catholic University in Washington where a Redemptorist professor,  Fr. Al Rush, took us through the stacks of the university library, pointing out books and authors we might read in the future.

There’s something adventurous about  libraries and bookstores. They’re treasuries and junkyards all at once; you never know what treasure you’re going to stumble on. Yesterday, I stumbled on a book called Pride of Place: The Role of Bishops in the Development of Catechesis in the United States, by Sr. Mary Charles Bryce.

Catechesis is on my mind lately, and this book which studies the history of catechisms and catechesis in our country from Bishop John Carroll to the 1980’s was something I was looking for. I think catechesis is one of the prime needs for our church today, as Catholic schools decline and dioceses, religious orders and parishes and their resources diminish. “Pride of Place” Sister Bryce called her book, a title from an old pastoral letter of the American bishops on catechesis.

Not a bad priority for the church today. I think particularly about our preaching, our missions and retreats. How are we going to pass on the faith we have received? What are the words and ways we’re going to use?

“For last year’s words belong to last year’s language
And next year’s words await another voice.”  (T.S. Eliot)

And yet, we speak about the Eternal Word.

They say you can get everything you’re looking for today on the Internet and in some sense you can. So, we need to build good catechetical sites like Bread on the Waters (www. cptryon.org) and we need to keep a catechetical dimension in our various websites, or else they become simply notifications or requests for donations.

Yes, we need to work on the Internet. Yet, there’s still something to be said for a library, even one as transitional as ours downstairs. It represents an ordered collection of knowledge that was put together by people before me, who were “on the same page” as I’m on now. Someone recognized  Sister Bryce’s book was a good book and put it in our library downstairs.

Thanks.

Learning like children

The catechical programs are beginnning in many parishes these days. Circumstances for formation in faith are so different  for young people today than they were in my day.

I was raised in a Catholic neighborhood, in a Catholic school and in a Catholic family. My youth revolved around our church and our parish. The Catholic faith was in the air I breathed.

Today’s so different. We live in a pluralist society, with people who have many different ways of seeing life. Our schools are pluralistic; they try to present things fairly, without favoring one philosophy or way of looking at things over another.

To get along today you have to respect everyone’s point of view.

One weakness of pluralism, however, is that you don’t pursue your own spiritual tradition or draw from its wisdom. You can get lost in a world of many ideas and never follow one of them. You listen to the latest teachers and watch for the newest trends.

Or, worst still, you end up listening only to yourself and what you think and what you want.

Our Catholic spiritual tradition comes from Jesus Christ. We believe he is the Son of God, who came to teach us the way to live here on earth and to prepare us for a life to come. He is God with us, our Teacher, our Guide, our Companion all our days. He is the great sign of God’s love.

He is more important than Gandhi, or the Dalai Lama, or Oprah, or the latest celebrity at the top of the charts.

To know him, to love him and to be like him is the most important thing we can do in life. He’s the Rock on whom we stand; the Bread that feeds us; the Love that dies for us.

In Sunday’s gospel (Mark 9,30-37)  Jesus tells his disciples to become like little children and learn from him. Young or old, we’re all called to do that.

Changes in the Liturgy

The American Catholic Church is gearing up for changes in the liturgy. There’s a site on the bishops’ web pages outlining the changes. The opening page captures some of my questions about the new changes, to be voted on by the bishops this November, submitted to Rome afterwards, and likely introduced in Advent of 2011.

“New Words: A Deeper Meaning but the Same Mass,” reads the heading announcing the changes: “Prayers for the observances of recently canonized saints, additional prefaces for the Eucharistic Prayers, additional Votive Masses and Masses and Prayers for Various Needs and Intentions and some updated and revised rubrics (instructions) for the celebration of the Mass.”

“The English translation of the Roman Missal will also include updated translations of existing prayers, including some of the well–known responses and acclamations of the people.”

The last sentence announces the changes that will impact ordinary church-going Catholics most of all. I was thinking of recent complaints against drug companies for introducing new medicines and applications without proving they are better and more cost effective than previous ones. Will the new words lead us to a deeper meaning of the Mass? I’m not sure.

A picture on the site’s opening page shows the back rows of a congregation at church at Mass. From where the picture’s taken those back row Catholics can hardly see the altar in the distance. Is that going to be the experience of most ordinary people when the new words are introduced?

Looks like some dark clouds ahead.

Let’s Go To Mass

I have been working on some simple explanations of the Mass in video form and here’s the latest. You can get it on Vimeo; it’s based on the miracle of the loaves and the fish.

The first video in the series you can also find on Vimeo, same place.  I reworked it lately. That’s what you have to do: work and rework.

In the future I hope to do instructions on how you pray at Mass, where do the scriptural readings come from, the Mass and the Cross of Jesus, its history, and so on.

Who knows, maybe they will get done.