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What are small church communities? Are they the same as base communities?

Posted by: Alice L. Camille 🕔 Friday 05, April 2019 Categories: 
Small church
Smaller units of community and responsibility within a parish can be the answer to reuniting parishioners with the purpose of church life.

Once upon a time, Catholic parishes were local, intimate, and well staffed with clergy. These days, especially in urban environments, parishes may be large, impersonal, with members from far-flung neighborhoods, served by a single priest or lay administrator. Under these circumstances, one might feel lost in the pews, disconnected and spiritually stagnant. Smaller units of community and responsibility within a parish can be the answer to reuniting parishioners with the purpose of church life.

The idea for small church communities in the U.S. began in 1956 with basic ecclesial communities in Brazil, where the shortage of priests was acute. These groups were “basic” because they grew up from the grass roots of the church. “Ecclesial” meant the members recognized their connection to the institutional church and the local bishop. Fundamentally, these groups were “communities”: defying the modern emphasis on the individual in opposition and competition with the greater society.

In base communities, small groups of Catholics gather regularly for prayer, Bible study, and faith sharing on all aspects of their lives. These close units not only hold the worshipping community together in the absence of a priest and without the privilege of Sunday Mass. These lay-led groups are also a source of instruction and support that enables uneducated and oppressed populations to mobilize, improve their conditions, and work for justice.

The success of base communities quickly spread the model to developing countries in Latin America, Africa, and Asia. Bishops’ conferences in Medellín, Columbia (1968) and Puebla, Mexico (1979) lent the movement official support and popularized the gospel ideal of “the preferential option for the poor.” The first Vatican recognition of the phenomenon came in 1975 from Pope Paul VI, who championed base communities as a way for the laity to be proactive in the church’s mission of evangelization.

Small church communities take their lead from basic ecclesial communities but are not identical to them. The most obvious difference is that in most U.S. parishes, such groups operate in the presence rather than the absence of a pastor. Often called faith-sharing groups, communities may gather to study Scripture or other religious materials. Though parishioners may reside in affluent communities, the aim of such groups usually moves toward tackling local justice issues or adopting a cause with farther-ranging impact. The focus remains on “opting for the poor” as the gospel demands.

Scripture: Isaiah 10:1-4; 32:1-8; Matthew 25:31-46; Acts 4:32-35; James 2:14-17

Books: Ecclesiogenesis: The Base Communities Reinvent the Church, by Leonardo Boff (Amazon Digital Services LLC: Kindle Edition, 2012)

God’s Quad: Small Faith Communities on Campus and Beyond, by Kevin Ahern and Christopher Derige Malano (Orbis Books, 2018)

I keep hearing we’re all supposed to be saints. Is that realistic?

Posted by: Alice L. Camille 🕔 Friday 05, April 2019 Categories: Blessed Virgin Mary and the Saints
Saints
Instead of fullness of life, most of us settle for just a sip.

Yes—if we have a good appreciation of what a saint is. A saint is a sinner who just keeps trying, as the saying goes. The essential interior difference between the average person and the saint is perseverance in the quest for fullness of life.

But even that sounds like jargon. Fullness of life? It’s a Scripture term meaning everything human life is supposed to be but often isn’t. Genesis says we’re made in the divine image, so whatever divine life is, that’s what we have the inbred capacity and yearning for. We’re designed to be creative, wise, loving, compassionate, just, limitless, eternal. But too often, we turn out dulled and thwarted, pinning our hopes on foolish goals and pursuits, jaded and cynical, lonely, judgmental, and biased. Far from being expansive creatures, we hurl away our freedoms in favor of programmed entertainments and prepackaged consumer ambitions. Instead of fullness of life, most of us settle for just a sip.

The way to get it all, curiously, involves giving a lot of what we currently value away. The secular gurus of simplification are right: our modern lives are choking us with stuff, and we need to divest, downsize, and aim to own less, want less, do less. Thérèse of Lisieux counseled that Our Lord cherishes simplicity. We have to un-complicate our calendars and find silence in the cacophony demanding our attention. Once we create some blissful empty space, we can load up on virtues, which Anthony of the Desert considered a better source of nourishment than what’s usually on the table.

Being holy doesn’t involve cosmic revelations. Vincent de Paul offered a simple way: will what God wills, see as God sees. If that’s still too lofty a starting place, consider Dominic’s advice to master your passions or be mastered by them. Newly canonized Pope John XXIII believed ten minutes of spiritual reading a day would feed the soul. Camillus de Lellis had his own pithy formula: Think well. Speak well. Do well.

If this short listing convinces us of anything, it’s that many paths lead to holy living. What’s vital is to begin—somewhere. You can’t go wrong by embracing the spirit of humility, which is every saint’s favorite virtue. Paint the house of your soul with it, John Chrysostom recommended. Or how about capitalizing on love? Clare of Assisi observed that we become what we love. If we love things, we become a thing. If we love Christ, we become sons and daughters of God.

Scripture: Psalm 16:11; Matthew 5:3-12; John 10:10; 1 Corinthians 13:1-13; Ephesians 2:19-22; 3:14-19; Galatians 4:3-7; Colossians 2:6-10; 1 Timothy 1:16

Books: The Saints’ Little Book of Wisdom: The Essential Teachings, by Andrea Kirk Assaf, Kelly Anne Leahy, compilers (HarperCollins, 2016)

My Badass Book of Saints: Courageous Women Who Showed Me How to Live, by Maria Morera Johnson (Ave Maria Press, 2015)

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Has Pope Francis changed church teaching on birth control?

Posted by: Alice L. Camille 🕔 Friday 05, April 2019 Categories: Doctrines & Beliefs
Church teaching on birth control
Current teaching permits natural family planning (a form of birth control) and affirms martial sex as a vital part of the marriage bond as well as a means of procreation.

You might revisit the QCA essays from October 2016, “How can I understand and explain the church’s position on contraception?” 2018 marked the 50th anniversary of Humanae Vitae, garnering more attention on how/if the church’s position on birth control is evolving.

What’s lost in the debate is how church teaching is always evolving. Saint Augustine took the position that sexual activity was a negative expression only redeemed by procreation. Medieval theologians allowed that sex had other positive values, including health, pleasure, and the deepening of marital love. Pope Leo XIII chose to write a major encyclical on marriage (1880) that never addressed contraception at all. Pope Pius XI (1930) maintained that any sexual act not open to procreation was sinful. Yet Pope Pius XII (1951) sanctioned the rhythm method, suggesting that it wasn’t birth control but artificial contraception that was contrary to church teaching. Current teaching permits natural family planning (a form of birth control) and affirms martial sex as a vital part of the marriage bond as well as a means of procreation.

Pope Francis builds on what previous modern popes have written. When the Zika virus threatened unborn children in Latin America, Francis noted that “avoiding pregnancy is not an absolute evil” and that mothers in affected areas might do so. “Paul VI, a great man, in a difficult situation in Africa, permitted nuns to use contraceptives in cases of rape,” Francis noted. Under threat of harm, procreative sex is not an absolute good.

In 2015, Pope Francis clarified that church teaching does not insist Christian parents “must make children in series." Paul VI had also recommended "responsible parenthood" in Humanae Vitae (1968), citing "physical, economic, psychological and social conditions" involved in creating a family. While still a Cardinal, the future Pope Benedict ventured that couples with several children must not be reproached for not having more. He declared family size a personal pastoral matter that "can't be projected into the abstract."

In preparation for the international Bishops’ Synod on “The Vocation and Mission of the Family” (2015), theologians considered “natural methods for responsible procreation” and also “the need to respect the dignity of the person in morally assessing methods in regulating births.” They reflected: “The choice of adoption or foster parenting expresses a particular fruitfulness of married life, not simply in the case of sterility.” They also noted that conscience trains us to listen to God’s voice, to avoid both selfish choices and also insupportable burdens. These recommendations place responsible family planning in the hands of parents, where in fact such discernment ultimately resides.

Scripture: Genesis 1:26-28; 2:18-24; Tobit 8:6-8

Books: The Vocation and Mission of the Family in the Church and the Contemporary World: Instrumentum LaborisSynod of Bishops, XIV Ordinary General Assembly (Vatican City, 2015)

Amoris Laetitia (The Joy of Love), Pope Francis (Vatican City, 2016)

After we die, we “see God face to face.” Then what?

Posted by: Alice L. Camille 🕔 Friday 05, April 2019 Categories: Doctrines & Beliefs
Afterlife
What unites us with God, ultimately, is love, which is the very nature of God, according to Christian theology.

You’re quoting Saint Paul. In his passage on the nature of love in 1 Corinthians 13, Paul describes our present sense of what’s going on as a dim reflection of the reality awaiting us. Even prophecy doesn’t tell all, and knowledge is imperfect. Death’s “big reveal” leads us “to know God fully,” as we are fully known. At present, God has the advantage in knowing us comprehensively. In eternity, God returns the favor.

If this sounds like a big claim, Paul goes further in Philippians stating that, in the life to come, we’ll share in the glorified nature of Christ. The First Letter of John confirms this, declaring that we’ll not only see God, but we’ll be like God in the upcoming realm. From Genesis, of course, we already knew we bear God’s likeness—but Paul and John’s assertions sound like it’s much more than a family resemblance.

In reflecting on such passages full of celestial hints, theologians arrive at what they call the Beatific Vision. Some prefer to emphasize the beatific part: the very sight of God will be a blessing to us. Others lean into the vision part: the direct encounter with God will open our eyes so that we finally truly see. The goal isn’t merely viewing God (“So that’s what Divinity looks like!”) or knowing God (“Pleased to make your acquaintance!”) The eternal goal is union with God, which is what both Paul and John are driving at.

What unites us with God, ultimately, is love, which is the very nature of God, according to Christian theology. In John’s words: “God is love, and whoever remains in love remains in God.” Paul agrees when he declares that only three things persist for eternity—faith, hope, and love—and that love outshines the other two as the greatest virtue. John and Paul reaffirm what Jesus says in the Beatitudes: “Blessed are the pure of heart, for they shall see God.”

But your question is “Then what?” Beatific Vision unites us with God and allows us “full personal participation in the Trinitarian life of God,” in the words of Jesuit theologian Paul Crowley. Does that sound like enough to keep you everlastingly occupied? The Sister who taught art at my high school used to say: “If God bores you, who in the world will entertain you?” I suspect the Beatific Vision will satisfy.

Scriptures: Genesis 1:26-27; Psalm 8:5-10; Wisdom 2:23; Matthew 5:8; John 17:25-26; 1 Corinthians 13:8-13; 2 Corinthians 3:18; 5:7; Ephesians 1:5; Philippians 3:21; Hebrews 11:1; 1 John 3:1-3; 4:7-21

Books: Seeing God: The Beatific Vision in Christian Tradition, by Hans Boersma (Eerdmans, 2018)

Toward a Theology of Beauty, by John Navonne, S.J. (Liturgical Press, 1996)


Is Pope Francis doing anything about the sexual abuse crisis and the bishops’ woeful response?

Posted by: Alice L. Camille 🕔 Friday 05, April 2019 Categories: Clergy
St. Peter's Basilica
The crisis exposes an underlying sin: a self-referential church structure that promotes its own welfare over the community it’s meant to serve.

On January 1, 2019, the Pope released a strong letter to the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB). The pope has addressed the worldwide crisis of clergy abusers and secretive bishops in speech and writing repeatedly. By his own admission, he’s made some painful mistakes, in misplacing his loyalty and emphasis. In his latest appeal, Pope Francis directed our U.S. bishops, on retreat in seclusion at that time, to pray and discern a gospel-inspired new way forward.

The pope uses terms that are helpful for future dialogue. He refers to the “culture of abuse”: not just thousands of incidents of pedophilia by church leaders but the whole landscape of secrecy, self-defense, and organizational entrenchment that multiplied the harm and deflected the damage. The pope doesn’t call for policies or protocols anymore. He wants a reconsideration of who a bishop is in relationship to his people. Francis demands a reassessment of power in the church that will seek to exhibit the “flavor of the Gospel”—not the boardroom.

The pope rightly names the “crisis of credibility” the U.S. church faces in this generation. He doesn’t name the twin crisis of relevance that naturally goes with it, but it’s there underneath. This present crisis has erupted over the pain and outrage we all feel for children betrayed and abandoned by our religious leaders. But it also exposes an underlying sin: a self-referential church structure that promotes its own welfare over the community it’s meant to serve.

Addressing this deeper failure requires a sea change in our present leadership model. A week of seclusion won’t effect this kind of transformation, but it can awaken sincere hearts to the need to pursue such conversion as aggressively as our leaders once sought to preserve the church’s reputation. The pope aptly notes how “spiritually abandoned” and “disheartened” faithful Catholics now feel, laity and clergy alike, in recognizing how our bishops chose to “defend spaces” over children and families.

The pope is summoning a different model of church to come into being. It’s an enormous undertaking that our bishops can’t undertake alone. We must do this together if it’s to be done, which will require a conversation we’ve never had and can scarcely imagine. It will require using a word Francis doesn’t use in his letter: shame. Our children were forced to carry shame in secret for so long. We all bear it in the open now.

Scripture: Mark 10:42-45; 11:15-18; Matthew 26:31; 1 Corinthians 12:26; 13:1

Books: Sacred Silence: Denial and the Crisis in the Church, by Donald Cozzens (Liturgical Press, 2004)

Clericalism and the Death of Priesthood, by George B. Wilson, S.J. (Liturgical Press, 2008)

How can I find God in my life?

Posted by: Alice L. Camille 🕔 Friday 05, April 2019 Categories: Prayer and Spirituality
Finding God
Finding God is like falling in love or starting a family: it won’t work unless you’re all in.

It’s one of the most profound questions a person can ask. A friend recently noted that the only time he hears the name of God invoked is when someone sneezes or runs a red light. To seek God less prosaically requires a personal investment. Finding God is like falling in love or starting a family: it won’t work unless you’re all in.

A lot of folks these days seek spirituality without an anchor in religion. They’d like to have the benefits of the God Quest—things like meaning, depth, values, direction, simplicity, security—without the inconvenient truths that go along with it. These include a dedication to justice and peace, moral responsibilities, and a fundamental humility about one’s role in the universe. The first step in the God Quest is to bow down, to incline our spirit in acknowledgment that there are things we don’t know, can’t see, can’t do from where we sit. Science rightfully explores what human beings can observe from our cheap seats in the universe—or multiverse. Religion is the sacred journey that explores what’s above, behind, around, and within that observable reality.

Bowing down, or cultivating the virtue of humility, is not merely the first task of the God Quest. Bernard of Clairvaux made it the all-permeating work when he taught his monks that there are four essential virtues: humility, humility, humility, and humility. The human ego is the source of all that ails our world, from greed, dominance, prejudice, and oppression to the everyday rotten fruit of envy, anger, gossip, and unforgiveness. If we practice removing ourselves from the center of existence and own that God alone belongs at the core of reality, we’ll be well on our way to lifelong spiritual growth.

The rest, we might say, is methodology. The Judeo-Christian tradition is a story of a people who took the God Quest and wrote down what they learned in cultivating that relationship in the Bible. Catholicism—the name meaning universal, comprehensive, or whole—is really a spiritual multiverse of ways to take the God Quest. Anchored in the Judeo-Christian story, it contains optional paths for seekers: solitary (hermits), communal (monastic and religious life), coupled (marriage and family life), as well as the priest or dedicated single person. All of these ways involve service to God and others in unique ways, as well as different forms of prayer, obligations, and commitments. Choose one, and begin.

Scripture: Genesis 12:1-3; Exodus 3:1-6; 1 Kings 3:5-15; Job 38:1—42:6; Psalm 139; Isaiah 6:1-8; Tobit 5:4-22; Mark 1:16-20; Matthew 22:34-40; Luke 4:16-21

Books: Your One Wild and Precious Life: Thoughts on Vocation, by Mark-David Janus, C.S.P. (Paulist Press, 2018)

Visions and Vocations: The Catholic Women Speak Network (Paulist Press, 2018)

What is prayer?

Posted by: Alice L. Camille 🕔 Friday 05, April 2019 Categories: Prayer and Spirituality
Prayer
Prayer is a kind of creed in motion: we pray our faith.

I’ve always appreciated Edward Farrell’s observation that prayer is not a thing. It’s not a collection of words or a ritual activity. To begin by defining “what prayer is not” clears the air of our nonsense about prayer as a pious formula that needs to be gotten right. Prayer is a relationship that tells us, as all relationships inevitably do, who we are.

Think about the relationships in which you come to know yourself: as child or parent, sibling or friend, boss or servant, mentor or student. Who are we in relationship to God? Fragile, perhaps. Dependent, and certainly the weaker party. We are, after all, the ones repeatedly asking for stuff, whether it’s help for a sick family member, clarity for an exam, courage to apply for that new job, or peace on earth. We also try to remember to thank God for stuff, too. This is how we acknowledge that God is the source of every good, and our ultimate benefactor for the life we live.

In our relationship called prayer, we also praise God, which may be the most defining aspect of our exchange. Praise is a free celebration of the recipient’s greatness. God doesn’t need a reward or statuette from us acknowledging the exalted nature of divinity. Our praise is a way to “be still and know” which of us is Creator, and which creature.

Prayer is a kind of creed in motion: we pray our faith. The fact that we pray is a form of admitting that God exists—even if we don’t have all the details of that existence down pat. It also establishes that we trust in God. We’re not indifferent objects of divine invention but beloved and significant.

The deeper any relationship goes, the more we carry the other person around within us. We become what we love, in the way family members come to share traits and habits and character. As we deepen our relationship to God in prayer, we finally become what we believe. Receiving Eucharist—another form of prayer—is an incarnate way of expressing the same idea.

St. Jerome, a brilliant and rather cranky Scripture scholar of the 4th century, said prayer is a groan. Lamentation is another variety of prayer that is basically holy complaining. We complain by lifting up everything that’s wrong with the world, our society, and our lives. What makes lamentation a holy form of complaining is that we’re not just venting to a friend. We expect God to do something about this—and we believe that God can.

Scripture: Matthew 6:5-13; 7:7-11; John 15:7; 16:26; 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18; Philippians 4:4-9; Ephesians 6:18-20; Colossians 3:12-17; 4:2

Books: The Breath of the Soul: Reflections on Prayer, by Joan Chittister, O.S.B. (Twenty-Third Publications, 2009)

Introduction to the Devout Life, by St. Francis de Sales (Dover Publications, 2009)

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If I attend a wedding with a full Mass on Saturday at 1 p.m., does that Mass count for Sunday?

Posted by: Alice L. Camille 🕔 Friday 05, April 2019 Categories: Liturgy
Wedding Mass
As members of Christ’s Body, we’re privileged to participate in this celebration of Mass.

No. But let’s explore why that’s true. It’s not just liturgy police making arbitrary rules. It’s about why we attend Mass on Sunday. As the Catechism of the Catholic Church explains, the first precept of the church states: “You shall attend Mass on Sundays and holy days of obligation.”

Canon law further explores this precept: “Sunday is the day on which the paschal mystery is celebrated in light of the apostolic tradition and is to be observed as the foremost holy day of obligation in the universal church.” Reflect on that for a minute: Sunday is the biggest holy day of the church! The church fathers called every Sunday a “little Easter.” Participation in the Sunday gathering goes back to the apostles, and is the celebration defining us as part of Christ’s Body. “Obligation” is a poor word to express this. Consider “privileged.”

As members of Christ’s Body, we’re privileged to participate in this celebration. Sunday observance doesn’t merely establish a time window for Mass attendance. Each Sunday liturgy is a specific Mass with its own gospel and readings and corresponding prayers. Together we celebrate a particular event in the life of the church, whether it’s the Second Sunday of Lent or the Twenty-Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time. Over the course of a church year, we absorb a complete gospel and recall specific moments of our Christian history together.

Now, consider the nature of a Nuptial (wedding) Mass. It’s also a liturgy of the church with readings, prayers, and rituals appropriate to its occasion. Unlike the public gathering of the community for the Sunday observance, Nuptial Masses normally involve families and friends of the couple receiving the sacrament. Even if the priest performed a Nuptial Mass at 7 p.m. Saturday night or first thing Sunday morning, participants would still not be observing the liturgy for that weekend. It would be like saying: I had supper with a few friends tonight: does that count for dinner with the extended family tomorrow?

Now for the exception. Rarely, couples celebrate the Sacrament of Matrimony WITHIN the confines of the Sunday liturgy. That is, they choose not to have a private Mass with friends and family, but prefer to share their commitment with the entire community of faith. Since the marriage rite is inserted into the Sunday Mass, it utilizes the readings and prayers for that Sunday of the church year. In that case, yes, the Mass "counts" for both occasions.

Books: 101 Questions & Answers on Catholic Marriage Preparation, by Rebecca Nappi and Daniel Kendall, S.J. (Paulist Press, 2004)

Inseparable Love: A Commentary on the Order of Celebrating Marriage in the Catholic Church, by Paul Turner (Liturgical Press, 2016)


What’s the difference between a psalm and a canticle?

Posted by: Alice L. Camille 🕔 Saturday 08, December 2018 Categories: Scripture
Book of Psalms
King David, traditionally considered the author of the whole book of psalms, is internally attributed with at least 73 of them.

Our term psalm comes from a Greek word literally meaning the twanging of a harp or plucking of a stringed instrument. Canticle derives from the Latin word for a little song. As both definitions suggest, we’re talking about sung material, particularly sacred songs. The main difference between the two is not style, but placement. Psalms are found entirely within the Book of Psalms. Canticles are songs located anywhere else in Scripture.

The psalm collection, known as psalmody or the Psalter, contains musical directions that indicate at least a third of the 150 poems within the book were intended for stringed, flute, or harp accompaniment. Some were apparently set to music everyone knew: read notations like “the hind of the dawn” the way our hymns might recommend “Finlandia” or “Pange Lingua”. The word selah appears 71 times in the collection. We don’t know what it means, but the choir certainly would have. Internally, some psalms also carry subtitles that distinguish them as songs, hymns, or prayers. This doesn’t imply the others are not songs or prayers. It’s just that these entered the collection with these titles, the way “The Lord’s Prayer” is obviously not the only prayer of Jesus included in the gospels. In the Jewish Bible, the entire collection we call psalms is known by the Hebrew word for hymns. The bottom line is there’s no indication any of these poems were intended merely for recitation, as we often do.

King David, traditionally considered the author of the whole book of psalms, is internally attributed with at least 73 of them. (Other manuscripts ascribe 84 to David). The others bear the names of other composers. Biblical evidence suggests David was a poet, composer, and musician, not to mention the organizer of the liturgical cult of the Temple. If he didn’t actually compose half of the Psalmody, he was its primary original sponsor.

Canticles have a broad authorship. Song of Songs, AKA Canticle of Canticles, was traditionally ascribed to King Solomon. The subject matter is a series of love songs, which suited Solomon’s reputation as a renowned lover. However, most scholars see multiple and later author involvement. Important Old Testament canticles include those attributed to Miriam, Moses, Deborah, Hannah, and Judith. New Testament canticles include the Benedictus of Zechariah, the Nunc Dimittis of Simeon, and of course the Magnificat of Mary. More recent canticles include those of Francis of Assisi and John of the Cross.

Scripture: Exodus 15:1-21; Deuteronomy 32:1-44; Judges 5:1-31; 1 Samuel 2:1-10; Judith 16:1-17; Song of Songs; Luke 1:46-55, 67-79; 2:29-32

Books: Psalms: Songs From a Pierced Heart, by Patricia Stevenson, RSJ (Sisters of St. Joseph, 2012)

Psalms for Praying: An Invitation to Wholeness, by Nan Merrill (Continuum, 2008)

Is it appropriate to speak of “lay ministries”?

Posted by: Alice L. Camille 🕔 Saturday 08, December 2018 Categories: Doctrines & Beliefs,Clergy,Vocation and Discernment
Lay ministry
Can a layperson be said to “preach”; or should we call what they do—if they do it at all—by some other term?

Believe it or not, this was a matter of heated debate two decades ago. The concern was whether the word “ministry” could be applied to anything done by non-clergy. This same proprietary use of nomenclature affects the realm of preaching and proclamation. Can a layperson be said to “preach”; or should we call what they do—if they do it at all—by some other term?

As a laywoman and catechist of the church, I’m invited to do a lot of things that were once the official domain of priests or religious. Fundamentally I teach; but rarely in a classroom. I give religious instruction as a writer of books, magazine columns, and Scripture commentary. I also make presentations at retreat centers, give diocesan workshops, speak at Catholic conferences, and offer parish missions. It’s when I appear in person that the business gets murky. When I do in person the same things I do in print, what am I doing?

When asked to give a parish mission, for example, it’s expected that the mission leader (traditionally a priest) would preach at the weekend Masses to introduce himself and the themes of the mission to the assembly. When I give missions, some parishes invite me to do this—but are careful to call it something else: a reflection, talk, pious exhortation, or catechetical teaching. I’ve written homiletic reflections that priests use in their preaching for 20 years. But when I deliver these words myself, it isn’t preaching.

Nomenclature first showed its sticky side when I attended the Franciscan School of Theology. Enrolled in the Master of Divinity program, I spent four years surrounded by men studying for the priesthood. They spoke of their context as “being in seminary.” However, when I talked of being in seminary, I learned it was appropriate to say I was in theology school. We sat in the same classrooms, attended the same lectures, and took the same exams. We earned the same degree. But our experience was “ontologically” distinct. That’s a big word meaning the very being or essence of our pursuit was different. In the end, they would be ordained. I would look for work.

It’s in this context that I’m happy to say that, yes, these days, we do have a name for what lay people who work professionally in the church do: lay ecclesial ministry (LEM). It’s a nuanced and delicately controlled term. But it’s a start.

Scripture on ministry (as service): Luke 10:40; John 2:5, 9: Acts 6:1-6; 2 Corinthians 3:5-6; 4:5-18; 11:23; Romans 12:6-8; 1 Timothy 3:8-13

Books: Co-Workers in the Vineyard of the Lord: A Resource for Guiding the Development of Lay Ecclesial Ministry (USCCB, 2005)

Lay Ecclesial Ministry: Pathways Toward the Futureedited by Zeni Fox (Sheed & Ward Books, 2010)

I’m a Eucharistic minister, and was corrected for saying cup instead of chalice. Why does it matter what you call it?

Posted by: Alice L. Camille 🕔 Monday 05, November 2018 Categories: Liturgy
Communion chalice
Once the hosts and wine are consecrated during the Eucharistic Prayer, believers recognize them as the Body and Blood of Christ.

“A rose by any other name would smell as sweet.” I’m not going to pick a fight with Shakespeare. But Romeo was incorrect in imagining that being a Montague was irrelevant in his quest to wed a Capulet. Names do matter. Precision in language matters. Not everything is a “thing.” To learn the proper names implies we’re invested, in the way professionals know the terms of their employment. Would you hire a doctor who couldn’t be bothered to distinguish one bone from another? Or a plumber who couldn’t name his tools?

So it’s both useful and a matter of personal investment to know that the “bowl” you dip your hand in at the entrance to the church is a holy water font. It reminds us of the baptismal font—which these days may be a walk-in pool. Where the priest sits during Mass is the presider’s chair. The table at which he stands is the altar, also known as the Table of the Lord. The readings at Mass are proclaimed from a special stand called the ambo. (Most Catholics call it a lectern, because the book the lector reads from is the lectionary.) The priest proclaims the gospel from the Book of Gospels. Then he gives a reflection on the Scriptures called the homily. The book the priest reads the rest of the prayers of the Mass from is the Roman Missal.

A plate called a paten holds the big host which the priest raises during the elevation at Mass. The elevation is part of the second part of the Mass known as the Liturgy of the Eucharist, in which we celebrate our communion with God and each other. The first part of the Mass is called the Liturgy of the Word, which celebrates the stories of our faith. The vessel holding the wine is called the chalice: however, cup is not incorrect. The bowl from which consecrated hosts are served is the ciborium (you get three points for knowing the plural is ciboria.) Once the hosts and wine are consecrated during the Eucharistic Prayer, believers recognize them as the Body and Blood of Christ.

The little room where the priest and servers dress (or vest) is the sacristy. This is not to be confused with the sanctuary—once descriptive of the priest’s side of the altar rail back when churches had railings. With the removal of the rail, we came to understand that we all stand in the sanctuary, that is, in the Holy Presence. The body of the church is more commonly distinguished as the nave, which is where the benches known as pews are. That’s where we, the assembly, sit. If I had more room, we could do this all day. Suffice it to say, thoughtful Catholics know these terms and many more.

Scripture: The significance of naming persons, places, and things reflects the biblical belief that names participate in meaning in the most intimate way.

Books: A Glossary of Liturgical Terms, by Dennis C. Smolarski (Liturgy Training Publications, 2017)

Praise the Name of the Lord: Meditations on the Names of God, by Michael Louis Fitzgerald (Liturgical Press, 2017)

What is the Catholic teaching regarding marriage? Does it say a marriage must be between a baptized man and a baptized woman?

Posted by: Alice L. Camille 🕔 Monday 05, November 2018 Categories: Sacraments
Catholic marriage
The unbaptized person must be made aware of the Catholic person’s obligation to practice his or her faith, as well as to raise any children under the same obligation.

Not quite. The church teaches that a marriage between a baptized man and a baptized woman is a SACRAMENT. When a person who’s baptized marries another who is not, the Church recognizes the marriage. But it doesn’t consider the marriage a sacramental union.

Please understand this teaching doesn’t pronounce judgment on the quality of a relationship. It simply defines what a sacramental marriage is. If you inhabit a realm outside the sacramental orbit, the marriage doesn’t fit the criteria.

Because sacramental living is central to Catholic identity, official church teaching prohibits the marriage of a baptized Catholic to an unbaptized (non-Christian) person. (Canon 1086) Obviously, in our modern interconnected world, many such marriages take place. This impediment to marriage can be—and generally is—dispensed by the local bishop who issues a “dispensation from the impediment of disparity of worship.” In order to receive this dispensation, the unbaptized person must be made aware of the Catholic person’s obligation to practice the faith, as well as to raise any children under the same obligation. The unbaptized person must agree not to object to the Catholic spouse’s obligations, nor to impede the fulfillment of them. The marriage may then be celebrated in a Catholic ceremony—however, not in the context of a Mass (Eucharist being a sacrament). In fulfilling these stipulations, the couple is considered married by the Catholic Church. But not sacramentally.

Canon Law offers requirements for a Catholic sacramental marriage as follows:

- The couple must be a male and a female.
- The proposed marriage must be legal in the state where it is celebrated.
- The couple must produce a valid marriage license issued by the local civic authority.
- The couple must produce proofs of baptism by certificate or affidavit.
- Neither party can be bound to a previous marriage.
- Both parties must be capable of natural intercourse.
- The couple must be aware, or be made aware, of Church teaching regarding marriage as a bond broken only by death, and open to welcoming children. The couple must agree to these teachings.
- Neither party can be ordained or under the vow of religious profession.
- The couple must complete the preparation requirements of the parish or the diocese.

As with any teaching, church law regarding marriage continues to evolve. A fair amount of local discretion can be exercised pastorally for the good of the couple.

Scripture: Genesis 2:18-24; Tobit 8:5-7; Matthew 19:3-12; Mark 10:2-12; 1 Corinthians 6:16; 7:1-16; Ephesians 5:21-33

Books: 101 Questions and Answers on Catholic Marriage Preparation, by Rebecca Nappi et.al. (Paulist Press, 2004); A Christian Theology of Marriage and Family, by Julie Hanlon Rubio (Paulist Press, 2003)


What are the “four last things”?

Posted by: Alice L. Camille 🕔 Tuesday 02, October 2018 Categories: Doctrines & Beliefs

Last four things
The Last Judgment, deserving of its capital letters, is defined as the event after Jesus returns in glory to pronounce the last word on human history and all of its participants. 

Older Catholics may view this as a simple question. Traditionally, the four last things were: death, judgment, heaven, and hell. The concern was for the ultimate destination of the individual soul. It was understood that, at death, a particular judgment determines a person’s immediate fate: Ready for heaven? Need more purification time? A lost cause? The Last Judgment, deserving of its capital letters, is defined as the event after Jesus returns in glory to pronounce the last word on human history and all of its participants. Heaven, or total unity with the God of love, is the logical result of lives that can be summed up by love. Hell, the complete absence of God, is the final result of lives that prefer an existence of indifference to divine love and its ways.

What happens at the end of life and time is technically known as eschatology—Greek for “furthest”. The four things were compiled in the Middle Ages by Hugh of St. Victor, and affirmed by the Councils of Florence (1439) and Trent (1563). The Catechism of the Catholic Church describes them in sections 1020-1050. Twentieth-century theologian Karl Rahner regarded the last things as a way of underscoring the “fundamental option” free beings have to determine their fate. What we become, here and always, is in our hands and nowhere else.

Bible scholars widen the conversation. They trace how biblical faith assumes a “future consciousness.” History can’t be seen as a random series of events; it’s going somewhere. For believers, history seeks its fulfillment in God’s original intentions for it. The Bible is clear on what those intentions are: unity, justice, peace, reconciliation, life in abundance. Biblical eschatology isn’t focused on individual redemptions, yours or mine, but rather the rescue of the world altogether. There’s a kingdom, a mansion, a banquet, a new creation out there!

In the writings of Vatican II, eschatology has shifted away from a preoccupation with personal survival in an otherworldly realm. The church’s mission in the here and now is the proper focus of the believer. As the Council affirms, Jesus sums up the meaning of history: God and humanity are to be united in goal and will. The coming kingdom is not something we can build with our own hands and bring into being, as some contemporary prayers seem to suggest. But a collaboration of faithful human effort and radical divine transformation will bring us to last things that will certainly surprise us all.

Scripture: Isaiah 2:2-4; 19:18-25; 56:6-8; 60:1-22; 65:17-25; Zephaniah 3:8-13; Zechariah 9:1-10; Wisdom 2:1—3:12; Daniel 12:1-3; 2 Maccabees 6:12-17; 7:1-42; 12:38-46; Matthew 5:1-12; 6:19-21; 7:13-14; 13:24-30, 44-50; 21:28-32; 22:1-14, 23-33; 25:1-46; Revelation 20:11—22:21

Books: 101 Questions & Answers on the Last Four Things, by Joseph Kelley (Paulist Press, 2006)


What is canon law and why do we have it?

Posted by: Alice L. Camille 🕔 Tuesday 02, October 2018 Categories: Doctrines & Beliefs
Canon law
What territory is governed by canon law? Norms for the sacraments, worship, preaching, clerical and religious life, Catholic education, the use of church property, how to resolve internal conflicts, when to administer penalties, and both the rights and obligations of the faithful.

I didn’t do well in canon law class, so here’s a chance to redeem myself. Canon comes from the Greek word for rule; the church applies it to its own unique law. The early church began to develop codes and standards as early as the household codes recommended by St. Paul. Church fathers in the first several centuries added their recommendations. Church Councils throughout history augmented these. Different regional bishops assembled their own regulations, and for a long time, the church had competing laws in different places.

Then came Gratian, an Italian canonist of the twelfth century. He organized and reconciled some 4000 rulings in a compilation that remained in wide usage until 1917. In that year, the first codified universal canon law was put into effect. While intended for periodic updating, such evolution was neglected until the present code of 1983.

The use of the word canon in regard to church law can be confusing. The canon of Scripture, for example, doesn’t change, and canonized saints are presumed to be in place for good (but remember what happened to poor St. Christopher!) Canon law, by contrast, is obviously not permanent. Much of canon law concerns church discipline, which certainly does evolve over time. Even laws presently in force can be dispensed for “due cause”. Some laws, however, are considered representative of “natural law”: reasoned according to the created order. Some follow “divine positive law”: revealed by God, as in Scripture. These latter two kinds of law within canon law are considered unchangeable.

What territory is governed by canon law? Norms for the sacraments, worship, preaching, clerical and religious life, Catholic education, the use of church property, how to resolve internal conflicts, when to administer penalties, and both the rights and obligations of the faithful. It’s a big book, and if you’re intent on viewing it, my recommendation is to go to a library, and get a volume that includes the very helpful commentary.

Pope John XXIII called for the revision that emerged by 1983. Pope Paul VI oversaw ten guiding principles for that new version. Three are especially helpful for our understanding: Law is necessary so long as it’s employed pastorally. Law is subsidiary; that is, rulings are not created equal and some are clearly more urgent. And finally, protecting the rights of the faithful is paramount.

Scripture: Exodus 20:22—24:18; 34:17-27; Deuteronomy 5:6-21; Matthew 5:17—6:8; 15:1-9; Luke 10:25-28; Galatians 2:21; Romans 2:12-24; James 2:8-13

Books: The Code of Canon Law: A Text and Commentary, by Canon Law Society of America, edited by James Coriden, et. al. (Paulist Press, 1985)

A Concise Guide to Canon Law: A Practical Handbook for Pastoral Ministers, by Kevin McKenna (Ave Maria Press, 2000)

Do I have to take a saint’s name at my Confirmation?

Posted by: Alice L. Camille 🕔 Thursday 23, August 2018 Categories: Doctrines & Beliefs,Blessed Virgin Mary and the Saints
Saints
The most recent Code of Canon Law (1983) softens the requirement by stating that a saint’s name is not required, but the chosen name must not be “foreign to a Christian mentality.”

The ruling on Confirmation names borrows from the practice at Baptism. The earlier 1917 Code of Canon Law required a Christian name be used, including saints’ names but also virtues “or the like.” Unfortunately for my mom, her parents chose the name Evelyn, derivative of the biblical Eve. That didn’t sit well with the priest, who exercised his canonical right to add a Christian name, baptizing her as Mary Evelyn Prudentia. “Mary” alone met the requirement; the priest added the third name from the virtue category, just to be on the safe side. The idea of an unfettered Eve really bothered him! Mom never used Mary or Prudence after that day, but they show up on the paperwork.

The most recent Code of Canon Law (1983) softens the requirement by stating that a saint’s name is not required, but the chosen name must not be “foreign to a Christian mentality.” (n.855) That is, it should not be alien or contradictory to Catholic beliefs. So, Buddha and Zoroaster are out, and you probably want to avoid Caiaphas or Nero.

It helps to keep the purpose of the sacrament in mind when claiming your new identity. The sacramental action is an expression of faith. You are embracing a “name in religion”–not unlike the traditional custom of being renamed when joining a religious order. While it may work as your Internet handle, do you really want to ritually declare an identity like “Wonderwoman” or “GameBoy”?

The Roman Ritual notes that in non-Christian regions, any name that has a Christian meaning might be chosen. This broadens the field to include theological words like Grace, Truth, Justice, Nativity, or Cruz. Or place names like Fatima, Guadalupe, and Lourdes. You can select last names of saints as well as first names: Drexel, DePaul, Jogues, McAuley. And if you have more than one favorite saint, there’s no impediment to using a hyphen. Check out CatholicMom.com under “Creative Catholic Names” for more clever ideas.

In the end, you may find it best to go all old-fashioned and take a saints’ name. As Life Teen advises on its helpful blog about Confirmation names: Choosing a saints’ name is a way of saying, “Yes, you may always pray for my poor and weary soul.” Why travel alone through this world when you can have a friend? Share the journey!

Scriptures: Genesis 2:20, 22-23; 17:5; 35:10; 1 Samuel 25:25; 2 Kings 24:17; Job 18:17; Isaiah 43:1; 48:1-2; 62:2; Luke 1:13, 31-32, 59-64, 76; 2:21; Matthew 16:17-18; John 1:42; Philippians 2:9-11

Books: Saints and Patrons: Christian Names for Baptism and Confirmation, by Joanna Bogle (Catholic Truth Society, 2012)

The Catholic Baby Name Book, by Patrice Fagnant-MacArthur (Ave Maria Press, 2013)

Where does the Catholic teaching on abortion come from?

Posted by: Alice L. Camille 🕔 Thursday 23, August 2018 Categories: Doctrines & Beliefs
Newborn
We hold that the fundamental value of human life is not measured by personal achievements, but by our origin and destiny in God.

Our faith acknowledges God as the author of life. This understanding makes all life deserving of welcome and respect. As moral theologian James Hanigan explains: “Conception, pregnancy, and birth are not, in the Church’s eyes, private matters as the Supreme Court would have it, but matters of fundamental concern to God and to the entire human community.”

Early church documents (see the Didache and the Letter of Barnabas) categorically prohibited abortions. Christian writer Athenagoras (2nd c.) compared any abortive measures to homicide. Not all church fathers agreed. Jerome and Augustine taught that human life begins when the “scattered elements” form a discernible body, while Basil dismissed distinctions based on fetal development. As late as the first codified canon law (ca. 1140), the gravity of abortion was measured by whether or not the fetus was formed and “ensouled”. The abortion of an unensouled fetus was considered a serious sin, but not grave enough to require excommunication. By 1869, the biology of fertilization was better understood, and canonical distinctions of ensoulment were dropped.

Today, three principles frame the church’s argument against abortion. The first two are not derived from revelation but from science. First, it’s scientifically conceded that a fertilized egg is a genetically unique life. If its progress is not interrupted, this life will eventually be universally identified as a human being. This defines abortion as the evident taking of a human life—a clear violation of the fifth Commandment.

Second, science cannot distinguish a moment in the developmental process in which this genetically unique life departs some preliminary or potential nature to “cross the line” into full humanity. Therefore, attempts to draw that line at a given stage are mere decisions, not actual determinations of humanity. Third, we hold that the fundamental value of human life is not measured by personal achievements, but by our origin and destiny in God. Life in the womb is as valuable to God as the person at life’s end. This is, to God, the same person.

These arguments aren’t about civil rights but about the meaning of life altogether. They don’t pretend to address the social and economic realities faced by women and girls who conceive in undesirable or unsupportive circumstances. Nor do they speak to the real jeopardy sometimes faced by the other inestimably valuable life in the equation of birth, the mother herself. More teaching is needed.

Scripture: Genesis 1:26-28; Exodus 20:13; 21:22-23

Books: The Seamless Garment: Writings on the Consistent Ethic of Life, by Cardinal Joseph L. Bernardin (Orbis Books, 2008)

Tough Choices: Bringing Moral Issues Home, by Sean Lynch (Ave Maria Press, 2003)


Who decided we should have holy days of obligation and what they should be?

Posted by: Alice L. Camille 🕔 Friday 15, June 2018 Categories: Doctrines & Beliefs
Holy Days of Obligation
There are only five holy days not on Sundays that most U.S. Catholics are asked to remember and observe: Christmas, Solemnity of Mary, Immaculate Conception, Assumption, and All Saints.

Every Sunday is essentially a holy day. That is, Catholics set aside the first day of the week to “abstain from those labors and business concerns” which are an impediment to worship, joy, works of mercy, and proper relaxation of mind and body. Each Sunday becomes for us a “little Easter,” commemorating the Lord’s Resurrection. Certain other days on the liturgical calendar have come to share the obligatory pull of the Sunday observance. But how was it decided which events qualify for this attention?

As early as the second century, Christian communities celebrated the feasts of local martyrs as standard observances. By the fourth century, the Western church added Christmas to this list, and the Eastern church included Epiphany. Both feasts went universal within a century. Special feasts caught the religious imagination, and the liturgical calendar exploded with commemorations of other events in the life of Jesus, as well as that of his mother, John the Baptist, Peter, and Paul. As holy days multiplied locally, popes and bishops tried to untangle and clarify the level of importance of each. In 1642, Pope Urban VIII all but banned the forming of new mandatory feasts. What was left was the work of dialing back the number of feasts that claimed this non-negotiable character.

When the 1917 Code of Canon Law was issued, ten holy days of obligation were officially recognized. These included the feasts of Christmas (Dec. 25), Epiphany (Jan. 6), Ascension (Thursday, Sixth Week of Easter), Corpus Christi (Thursday after Trinity Sunday), Holy Mary Mother of God (Jan. 1), Immaculate Conception (Dec. 8), Assumption (Aug. 15), St. Joseph (Mar. 19), Sts. Peter and Paul (Jun. 29), and All Saints (Nov. 1). Local bishops’ conferences have the authority to transfer or remove these obligations, which they may do circumstantially—as when a particular feast falls on a Monday—or permanently.

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops has permanently reassigned Epiphany and Corpus Christi to Sunday observances. All but nine U.S. dioceses have done the same to Ascension. The USCCB has removed the obligation from the feasts of St. Joseph, and Sts. Peter and Paul. Which leaves only five holy days not on Sundays that most U.S. Catholics are asked to remember and observe: Christmas, Solemnity of Mary, Immaculate Conception, Assumption, and All Saints.

Scripture: Genesis 2:1-3; Mark 16:1-2; Matthew 28:1; Luke 24:1; John 20:1; Acts of the Apostles 2:42-47; Hebrews 10:24-25; 12:28

Code of Canon Law: See canons 1246-1248 

Books: The Origins of Feasts, Fasts, and Seasons in Early Christianity, by Paul Bradshaw and Maxwell Johnson (Liturgical Press, 2011)

Holy Days in the United States: History, Theology, Celebration,Bishops’ Committee on the Liturgy (USCC, 1984)

What do Catholics believe about demons?

Posted by: Alice L. Camille 🕔 Friday 15, June 2018 Categories: Doctrines & Beliefs
Demons
Jesus gives a teaching about demons, suggesting they take up residence not in folks who are particularly bad, but in those who don’t take care to fill themselves with the spirit of goodness.

Evil is real. Demons are a trickier subject. So start with evil, defined as that which opposes the will of God. Free beings can choose against God’s will with a single act (a mean word) or habitually (a selfish lifestyle). We can socialize evil, as when acquisitiveness becomes a cultural value that’s accepted and perhaps celebrated. We may even institutionalize evil, passing laws that counter the common good.

But is there a way in which evil can “take over” the will of a person surrendered to its thrall? Ancient peoples certainly viewed evil as a spirit that might inhabit a person. Often that person isn’t responsible for the possession, like the unhappy bride Sarah in the Book of Tobit, whose interior demon kills seven prospective husbands on the wedding night.

In the New Testament, Luke shows great concern for the authority of demons. The first recorded miracle of Jesus is the cure of a demoniac in Capernaum who disrupts a synagogue teaching. Later, a Gerasene demoniac contains so many demons, they fill a herd of swine. A boy suffers from seizures, which his father attributes to a demon. Luke also describes Mary Magdalene as a woman from whom Jesus banishes seven demons—without suggesting she’d drawn this situation upon herself.

The ability to cast out demons is a signal to the seventy-two disciples sent on mission that the name of Jesus has power over dark forces. It vexes John when someone not of their association has success utilizing Jesus’ name in the presence of demons. Eventually, some in the crowds are perplexed that demons are answerable to Jesus. Is he in league with the prince of evil, that he commands demons so effortlessly? Jesus gives a teaching about demons, suggesting they take up residence not in folks who are particularly bad, but in those who don’t take care to fill themselves with the spirit of goodness.

Clearly demons find a stronger foothold in those who actively make an overture toward evil. Luke tells us Satan enters Judas and propels him to betray Jesus. Judas cultivated the spirit of greed from the start, which opened the door to admit greater evil. Our modern perspective would describe many of these phenomena in terms of biological or mental illness. But the choice for evil remains open and real to all of us. The more we choose it, the larger the territory it governs in our lives.

Scripture: Tobit 7:9—8:18; Luke 4:31-37; 8:26-39; 8:1-3; 9:38-43; 10:17-20; 9:49-50; 11:14-25; 4:13 and 22:3-6; Matthew 8:28-34; 9:32-34; 10:8; 12:22-32, 43-45; 17:14-20; Mark 1:21-27; 3:23-30; 5:1-20; 6:7, 13; 9:14-29, 38-41

Books: Evil: Satan, Sin, and Psychology, by Terry Cooper and Cindy Epperson (Paulist Press, 2008)

101 Questions and Answers on Angels and Devils, by Irene Nowell, O.S.B. (Paulist Press, 2011)

Why do we have Knights of Columbus?

Posted by: Alice L. Camille 🕔 Thursday 12, April 2018 Categories: Church History
Knights of Columbus
Over a million Knights worldwide put their nearly $100 million in annual contributions toward papal charities and projects. Tens of millions of service hours annually are donated by members to their local communities.

The first time you see those guys with the swords and feathered caps march up the aisle of a church, you might well wonder: what does this have to do with Catholicism? The Knights’ history begins in 1882 with Father Michael McGivney, a diocesan priest in New Haven, Connecticut. McGivney had two concerns: the strong attraction of local youth to secret societies like the Masons, and the number of families struggling with the loss of their breadwinner. The Knights of Columbus were created to address both needs: a Catholic fraternal society offering an insurance policy to support families in times of loss.

McGivney chose Christopher Columbus as the society’s patron, a strong symbol of the Catholic contribution to our national story. This was a calculated choice in an era when Catholic immigrants were far from welcome, and Protestant societies like the American Protective Association questioned Catholic patriotism. By 1905, the Knights could be found in every state of the union and beyond. A powerful sense of ritual enabled its immigrant members to assimilate a new identity, avoid shrinking into ethnic particularity, relinquish old world ties, and affiliate with the story of America. The K of C soon became and remains the largest organization of Catholic laity in the world.

The Knights’ activities evolved along with the nation’s needs. In generations when the church faced prejudice, the Knights studied bias in the press and politics. When U.S. troops needed respite that was safe and wholesome, the K of C provided “Huts” where every soldier was welcome, and everything was free. After the First World War, the Knights sponsored college scholarships and night schools for veterans. In 1922, a K of C Racial Contribution Series published monographs by W.E.B. DuBois, George Cohen, and Frederick Franklin Schrader about the respective contributions of Black, Jewish, and German citizens to the United States.

After the Second Vatican Council, the Knights reorganized with a strong social justice component. Over a million Knights worldwide put their nearly $100 million in annual contributions toward papal charities and projects. Tens of millions of service hours annually are donated by members to their local communities. The K of C still run a well-respected insurance company. All this, and swords too.

Scriptures:

Deuteronomy 10:17-19; 14:28-29; 16:11-12; 24:17-22; 27:19; Isaiah 10:1-2; Malachi 3:5; Acts of the Apostles 6:1

Books:

Patriotism and Fraternalism in the Knights of Columbus, by Christopher Kauffman (Crossroad Publishing Co., 2001) 

Parish Priest: Father Michael McGivney and American Catholicism, by Douglas Brinkley and Julie Fenster (Harper Perennial, 2007)

Why do older folks keep quoting the Baltimore Catechism?

Posted by: Alice L. Camille 🕔 Thursday 12, April 2018 Categories: Doctrines & Beliefs,Church History
Baltimore Catechism
The revised Baltimore Catechism of 1941, which is the one folks of a certain age love to quote, arrived on the scene in three versions: for very young children, those receiving First Communion, and adults.

U.S. Catholics brought up between 1885 and the Second Vatican Council in 1964 learned their religion lessons from this ubiquitous text. The concept of a catechism—in Q&A format reviewing doctrine and belief—is attributed to Martin Luther in the 16th century. Luther’s invention worked so well for the Reformation that the Catholic Church embraced the catechism as an educational tool for the next four centuries. Two Jesuits, Dutchman Peter Canisius and Italian Robert Bellarmine, wrote influential catechisms in the following century. These were joined by French, Spanish, English, and Irish versions. The proliferation of national catechisms ignited debates on the need for a universal text. Until the 20th century, no such document was attempted.

As the U.S. church coalesced under Bishop John Carroll of Baltimore in the late 18th century, the need for an American catechism became apparent. Immigrant Catholics were learning their faith from a multiplicity of foreign texts. “The Carroll Catechism” (sponsored but not written by the Bishop) was based largely on catechisms from England, embracing the introductory questions familiar to anyone who remembers the final text: “Who made you?” and “Why did God make you?” In use through the 19th century, the Carroll Catechism was never mandatory; it merely joined the European texts preferred by local bishops.

American bishops argued for a catechism until the Third Plenary Council, which finally produced a serviceable version in 1885 under Cardinal James Gibbons, Archbishop of Baltimore. Known by the unwieldy title A Catechism of Christian Doctrine, Prepared and Enjoined by the Order of the Third Plenary Council of Baltimore, it ran 72 pages, included 421 questions and answers, and was organized in groupings covering the Creed, Sacraments, and Commandments.

Almost immediately, this effort was labeled an educational and theological failure, incomprehensible to children, dull, and monotonous. Among its problems was the lack of priority assigned to beliefs. (Incongruously, a single question addressed the Resurrection, central to our faith, and that weakly: “On what day did Christ rise from the dead?”) Yet for fifty years it endured, before receiving a considerable revision. The revised Baltimore Catechism of 1941, which is the one folks of a certain age love to quote, arrived on the scene in three versions: for very young children, those receiving First Communion, and adults. After the Second Vatican Council, faith formation took another direction, and the Baltimore Catechism became a footnote of history.

Scriptures:

Exodus 24:12; Proverbs 1:1-7; Wisdom 3:11; Isaiah 2:3; Mark 4:2; Romans 15:4; 1 Corinthians 14:6; Ephesians 6:4; 1 Timothy 1:5

Books:

Pride of Place: The Role of the Bishops in the Development of Catechesis in the United States, by Mary Charles Bryce (The Catholic University of America, 1984)

The Catechism Yesterday and Today: The Evolution of a Genre, by Bernard L. Marthaler, O.F.M.Conv. (Liturgical Press, 1995)

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