Book Review: Part One of the Catechism of the Catholic Church

This year my New Year’s resolution was to read the Catechism of the Catholic Church.  I’m happy to report that I finished part one which explains Church doctrine by walking through the Creed.  It looks like reading the Catechism is going to be a two year project given that it’s already June and I’ve only finished the first part.  I thought I would write about the Catechism as I finish each part instead of waiting until I was completely done reading it.  Here are my thoughts about part one of the CCC.

I always thought that Catechism was the 10 (thousand) Commandments of the Catholic Church.  I was expecting a “do and don’t” list of sorts.  But providing a list of rules without any context doesn’t make much sense so naturally our church fathers laid down a spiritual foundation to start the CCC.  Part one is a well crafted narrative that walks through each phrase in the Creed and uses it to explain some aspect of the Catholic faith.  And boy does it go into detail at some points where a simple phrase in the Creed referencing the Holy Spirit or the Communion of Saints expands to multiple chapters of theology.  It does get a bit dry and heavy at times but it does provide a solid foundation for the “rules” that come later on.

You have to excuse the nerd speak for a second, but part one of the CCC is like unzipping a compressed digital file.  The Catholic faith compresses nicely in the Creed but like a compressed file on a computer, it’s hard to get anything useful out of it when you only see it in its compressed state.  It’s doubly difficult when the only time you think about the Creed is for those three minutes you utter them in a half comatose state after the homily during Mass.  The CCC is the spiritual “unzip” that takes all that compressed data and makes it something more useful.  Note that it doesn’t introduce anything new that isn’t implied in the Creed but it does clarify the pillars of the Catholic faith.

Another way to think of part one of the CCC is like walking through an art gallery.  If you don’t know anything about art then you would look at a Monet painting and wonder what’s so special about some blurry landscapes.  But if you’ve studied art history and understand the ideas behind Impressionism then the paintings take on a different character.  You can understand the richness and the story behind each work.  Likewise, the Creed may just seem like a bunch of simple statements but part one of the CCC helps you discover the richness and history behind those phrases.  And while someone may not understand every details of the Catechism, that level of understanding isn’t necessary to appreciate it and gain some insight into the Catholic faith.

I recommend part one of the CCC to anyone truly interested on learning more about the foundations of the Catholic faith.  As I’ve said before, part of being a faithful Catholic is also being an informed Catholic.  We need to make learning about our faith as much of a priority as we make learning basic life skills.  Because I can’t think of a more useful tool for Satan to spread his lies than an uninformed Catholic (just look at Nancy Pelosi).  Don’t unknowingly be one of Satan’s minions.  Become informed and put part one of the CCC on your reading list.

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Catechism Thoughts: Living for Heaven

As I read the Catechism as part of my new year’s resolution I’m going to share little insights and passages that I find relevant to rosary prayer. I came across this prayer in section 260 which I think highlights the power and peace that comes from prayer.  It’s part of the prayer of Blessed Elizabeth of the Trinity:

O my God, Trinity whom I adore, help me forget myself entirely so to establish myself in you, unmovable and peaceful as if my soul were already in eternity. May nothing be able to trouble my peace or make me leave you, O my unchanging God, but may each minute bring me more deeply into your mystery! Grant my soul peace. Make it your heaven, your beloved dwelling and the place of your rest. May I never abandon you there, but may I be there, whole and entire, completely vigilant in my faith, entirely adoring, and wholly given over to your creative action.

In business there is a saying — work the job you want, not the job you have. In other words, if you want to receive a promotion or have greater responsibilities at work, then take the initiative to display your skills now in your current role. Otherwise, you’ll always stay where you are because no one will see that you have the abilities or desire for anything greater.

A businessman's silhouette.
A businessman’s silhouette. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I think Blessed Elizabeth’s prayer is the spiritual equivalent of that business philosophy. Act like you’re already one of the saints at peace in God’s Kingdom. After all, Heaven is our ultimate goal (or at least it should be) where we will realize how inconsequential and petty many of our problems really are. Why focus so much time and energy on the problems of this life?  This life is temporary and fleeting and is not where God calls us.  God calls us to look past our earthly selves and look towards raising to new life with Him in Heaven.  If you want your soul to live in Heaven, then act heavenly while on earth.

This prayer’s message is echoed in the First Glorious Mystery, Jesus’ Resurrection. When Jesus rose from the dead He showed us that our earthly death is not the end, but only a transition.  In His resurrection, Jesus opened the gates of Heaven and provided a place for us. Our souls are not temporary and bound only to this life but will live on for eternity. But how do we want to live that eternity? In the grace and joy of Heaven or in the despair and anguish of Hell? When we pray this rosary mystery, we should meditate and examine how much we are truly living for the place in Heaven Jesus prepared for us in His resurrection.

English: Resurrection of Christ
English: Resurrection of Christ (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Blessed Elizabeth’s prayer also recalls themes from the Third Luminous MysteryJesus’ Proclamation of the Kingdom of Heaven and the Call to Conversion.  She talks about how our journey into God’s grace is achieved “each minute.”  In other words, grace is achieved in small steps, not in one fell swoop.  It’s not like we fall asleep one night wallowing in sin and wake up the next day a saint.  Conversion is a process made up of a lifetime of small steps into God’s grace.  We should take that to heart when we pray this mystery because it can be so easy to become discouraged when it seems like no matter how hard we try we don’t find that peace we so desperately crave.  Remember, Jesus didn’t find peace here on earth either.  True peace is found only in Heaven.  And you find Heaven only when you convert your earthly ways into heavenly ones.

If you want peace and you want Heaven, work towards it now.  Pray, confess, fast, receive the sacraments, and learn and follow Jesus’ teachings.  You don’t have to be officially recognized a saint to act like one.

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The Catechism: Teaching What Is Right, Not What Is Easy

I came across this article over at the National Catholic Register about how “real men pray.”  It’s a commentary on Cardinal Burke’s comments that men have lost their sense of purpose within the Catholic Church.  He points to the confusing and often conflicting messages presented by popular culture and the Church and how the Church is often silent addressing what it means to be a moral man.

I keyed in on this part of Cardinal Burke’s comments (I encourage you to read the full article at the National Catholic Register):

The crisis between man and woman has been made much worse by a complete collapse of catechesis in the Church. Young men grew up without proper instruction with regard to their faith and to the knowledge of their vocation. Young men were not being taught that they are made in the image of God – Father, Son and Holy Spirit. These young men were not taught to know all those virtues that are necessary in order to be a man and to fulfill the particular gifts of being male.

Prayer isn’t just for little, old ladies

I found Cardinal Burke’s comments timely because I made my new year’s resolution to read the Catechism of the Catholic Church (which is going well; I’m on verse 167 of 2865).  I want to be better catechized particularly in this world of “soft Catholicism.”  I liken myself to a patient wanting the doctor to give me the hard truth about my condition and the prescription for leading a spiritually healthy life.  And I’m not looking for what is easy, but what is best for my mind, body, and soul.

Going back to Cardinal Burke’s comment, why do we have such a collapse of catechesis in the Church?  I find it interesting that when we learn math, we learn about rules and formulas.  When we learn science, we learn about rules and formulas.  Economics — rules and formulas.  Engineering — yep, rules and formulas.  Languages, again with the rules and formulas.  But for some reason, many people shy away from educating about the rules and dogmas of the Catholic faith out of a fear that it might upset someone or it may not be politically correct.

This fear of Church dogma wasn’t always the case.  My mom told me that growing up the Baltimore Catechism was basically her text book for religious education.  But over the years we’ve infantilized religious education to simple platitudes like “God loves you” and “Jesus wants us to be nice to each other.”  Yes, it’s good to learn about a loving and merciful God.  But that’s the starting point.  We can’t stop there.  If we want deepen our faith and our relationship with God we need to deepen our understanding of what our faith is.  Furthermore, we can’t ignore or disregard the truth we learn because we don’t like it or it’s hard to follow.  That’s like saying you don’t believe in gravity or 1+1=3.

One of the goals of RosaryMeds is to motivate you to really take the next steps, whatever that may be, to increase your understanding and love of your faith in Jesus’ church.  When you pray the rosary, ask God to show you what those next steps are.  Maybe it’s to pray more earnestly.  Maybe its to read the Bible or the Catechism.  Maybe it’s to read more RosaryMeds articles (hint, hint).  Whatever form it may take, try hard to move your understanding of the Catholic Faith forward.  We have an infinitely complex God so trust me, there is always something new to learn.

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