Category Archives: Catechism of the Catholic Church

Lumen Fidei

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Photo courtesy of Charles Clegg

What a wonderful new encyclical from our Holy Father! It came on the last day of the retreat I was on in France, the title of which was, “We walk by faith, not by sight” (2 Corinthians 5:7) – an amazing climax to be graced with this encyclical.

I plan to read a little bit in depth each day, but for now, I’d love to draw out a few quotations which are relevant for transmission of the faith. Here are my highlights… Please share yours!

First, I love this from the Introduction:

The Church never takes faith for granted, but knows that this gift of God needs to be nourished and reinforced so that it can continue to guide her pilgrim way. The Second Vatican Council enabled the light of faith to illumine our human experience from within, accompanying the men and women of our time on their journey. It clearly showed how faith enriches life in all its dimensions (LF, 6)

We can never be complacent – from cardinal down to brand new catechumen – our faith is a gift, given according to the measure to which we open our hearts (cf. para 22, Romans 12:3). And the faith lights up our experience from within – there is not one moment of my daily experience that God does not wish to light up, to transform. There’s a danger when our lived daily experience is separate from, not touched by the light of faith in our hearts.

Second,

Faith transforms the whole person precisely to the extent that he or she becomes open to love. (LF, 22)

Wow! So straightforward, so simple… We so need to hear this. How dangerous when our faith is strongly knowledgeable, we know the right answers to everything, but our hearts are not softened, opened, docile, tender…

Third, chapter three of the encyclical goes to the heart of my dissertation thesis (submitted last Saturday!). Here are my favourite bits…

The Apostle goes on to say that Christians have been entrusted to a “standard of teaching” (týpos didachés), which they now obey from the heart (cf. Rom 6:17). In baptism we receive both a teaching to be professed and a specific way of life which demands the engagement of the whole person and sets us on the path to goodness. (LF, 40)

The believer who professes his or her faith is taken up, as it were, into the truth being professed. He or she cannot truthfully recite the words of the creed without being changed, without becoming part of that history of love which embraces us and expands our being, making it part of a great fellowship, the ultimate subject which recites the creed, namely, the Church. (LF, 45)

In other words, the whole baptismal structure of the faith means that the faith that we profess (first dimension of Christian life), the sacramental life into which we’re baptised (second dimension) and the response of faith we live (third dimension) are inextricably united.

So, too, is the fourth dimension, prayer:

…the Lord’s Prayer, the “Our Father”. Here Christians learn to share in Christ’s own spiritual experience and to see all things through his eyes. (LF, 46)

And then Pope Francis sums this up… woo hoo!

These, then, are the four elements which comprise the storehouse of memory which the Church hands down: the profession of faith, the celebration of the sacraments, the path of the ten commandments, and prayer. The Church’s catechesis has traditionally been structured around these four elements; this includes the Catechism of the Catholic Church, which is a fundamental aid for that unitary act with which the Church communicates the entire content of her faith: “all that she herself is, and all that she believes” (Dei Verbum, 8) (LF, 46)

That’s enough for today… I recommend getting yourself the Pope app so you can read a little bit the next time you’re on a train / standing in a queue / waiting for your nails to dry 🙂 Enjoy!


School of Faith

New year... new energy for adult formation!

New year… new energy for adult formation!

I’m remembering all too vividly this time last year and the spectacularly excited lead-up to the beginning of the Catholicism course we ran at the Centre for Catholic Formation in Tooting. The phone was ringing off the hook, I was desperately searching for more small group leaders, it became much bigger than I anticipated – but it was definitely what God had in mind! This year, for the Year of Faith, we wanted to run a series on the Catechism – looking back at my very first thoughts on the Year of Faith this time last year, this is exactly what has come about!

We are delighted to be holding a School of Faith for twelve weeks from Wednesday 9th January to right before Holy Week. Read more about the course here. The course is based on the first module of Maryvale Institute’s Certificate in Studies in the Catechism. Each week, an acclaimed speaker will teach on the topics as we take an in-depth journey through the first sections of the Catechism (up to the Fall). This is an opportunity for adults to dive deeper into the riches of our Faith in an intelligent and attractive way. We have invited some of the best teachers of the Catholic Faith to deliver this teaching, in what promises to be a rich and nourishing series of adult formation.

Each evening includes a delicious hot buffet supper, times of prayer, teaching from speakers such as Dr Petroc Willey, Dr Caroline Farey, Bishop Philip Egan, Fr Tim Finigan and Fr Stephen Wang, to name only a few. Each week also gives the opportunity to meet in small groups led by experienced catechists to deepen understanding of the teaching and discover how it applies to our everyday life of faith. The School of Faith is not a series of lectures, but a series of growing deeper in our faith and closer to Christ in the community of the Church. Every week will be geared towards this goal. Last year, we found that many of the small groups became true communities, and some even still meet now, a year on. Deepening our faith in Jesus can only result in communion with each other.

If you would like to join this course, there are only a few spaces left. We are expecting a surge of bookings when the Centre re-opens on Monday so do book yourself a place quickly: 020 8672 7684 or office@ccftootingbec.org.uk.

Finally – I am looking for our last few small group leaders. Most of them come from our wonderful parish, but with many people already giving weekly catechesis we are stretched! You do not necessarily need experience of this; we are looking for two things: that you know and understand the Faith well (although any unanswered questions can be put to the speakers at the end), and that you are a ‘people person’, someone who would be able to guide discussion. (Training will be provided for leaders too!) Last year, a couple of leaders came through this blog, so please do get in touch if you feel you can help in this way (please leave your email in the comments) and I will get in touch (and quiz you on the Catechism 😉 – joking!)

Please keep this course and everyone on it in your prayers.


Catechist Formation

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A couple of weeks ago, we finished a six-session series of catechist formation. I’m sad I have not had time to write about this since it was such an enjoyable series. Around twenty catechists from our parish and the parishes nearby gathered together every two weeks for an hour and a half of formation. We followed the Echoes programme but (since this is the fourth time I’ve taught this programme) adapted it slightly. Margaret Wickware, Marie-Claire Kaminski (two wonderful ladies I love working with!) and I ran it together and we felt we needed more practical and deeper elements for the audience we had: how to evaluate resources, how our lives as lay people are priestly, prophetic and kingly, how the liturgical year leads us through the mysteries of Christ’s life, and how to structure a catechetical session. The participants were fantastic and reading the evaluations at the end was heart-warming. This course only scratches the surface of all the skills and knowledge you need to be a catechist, but it is a great place to begin.


Discerning what the Year of Faith invites us to…

How nice to return to (almost) normal life! There’s something lovely about being in your own parish for Mass, getting into a regular routine at the gym, and seeing friends again. Travelling always opens my eyes, clarifies my vision, sparks my imagination, and I love how it widens my understanding, how I see reality… But, as Dorothy discovered, there’s no place like home 🙂

Before I went to the States, I had absolutely no idea what we would do in the parish for the Year of Faith, or even if we would do anything extra special at all. Over the past month, I have heard a lot about the Year of Faith. I have seen some seriously amazing plans. I have seen T-shirts and super-cool logos. I’ve heard about live-streaming of lecture series and no end of creative, new ways of transmitting the Faith which have not quite reached these shores…

Wonderful – but I wonder if we can get caught up in the hype of thinking we have to put on something spectacular.

Here are the two most important things I realised:

1. We need to discern, above all, what the Church is calling us to in the Year of Faith.

2. We need to discern what this means for our own parish – what are the greatest needs that we have, and what invitation is the Year of Faith extending to us?

So, I set about number 1 over July. I read Porta Fidei again. I talked with people who are lots more experienced than me. I realised the four, universal crucial elements to which the Year of Faith calls us: (a) Teaching on the Catechism of the Catholic Church; (b) Teaching on the Vatican Council documents; (c) A Holy Hour with the Holy Father for Corpus Christi (let’s not forget this – the Holy Father probably has a very important intention in mind); (d) Making a Profession of Faith.

Then, gradually, as I prayed, and digested all of this, a plan began to emerge in my mind.

Does that ever happen to anyone else?! Or is it only me?

I often have plans emerging in my mind (a real occupational hazard…) and I have to determine which are good, and which are not-so-good. Is this what is most needed? Is it making the best use of our resources? Is it achievable? Is it too ambitious? Is it not ambitious enough?! Ultimately: Is this what the Lord wants or is it what I want? Gradually, as I discuss with others in the parish, and continue to pray, things work out into something real and concrete.

In case you are interested, here are the priorities I think are most important for the Year of Faith in our parish:

  • Catechist formation – this is my number 1! Without it, everything flounders. I hope we will run a new programme of formation for new catechists in the Autumn term
  • Course based on the Catechism (Maryvale’s course in the CCC is the best available, as far as I know, and they are offering the opportunity for people to use it in small study groups – see more on their Year of Faith website)
  • Continue to run ‘refresher’ courses such as Anchor, for those returning to Church or aware of their lack of understanding
  • Following on from our adult formation last year, lots of people wanted to meet more regularly, and so quite spontaneously, small home groups are being formed. They are following books from this series which are proving really fruitful so far
  • Looking at the evaluations from adult formation last year, people would like deeper formation in understanding Scripture – we may perhaps run a short course using the Great Adventure Bible Timeline in the summer term. We already used the teen version with our young people, and it was brilliant
  • As I wrote about in a previous post, we have a full formation programme planned for Confirmation and First Communion parents.

What would be AWESOME is if every adult in the parish chose one means of formation for the year, then everyone came together at the end of the Year of Faith to make their Profession of Faith. In fact, I think Pope Benedict thinks this would be pretty awesome too:

We want this Year to arouse in every believer the aspiration to profess the faith in fullness and with renewed conviction, with confidence and hope. Porta Fidei, 9

One thing’s for sure, though: don’t get in a tizz about doing something spectacular: allow God to be the main protagonist in this year ahead. Let us cooperate with the work he wants to do. And, while we’re discerning what’s right, once again I think these are excellent questions that we can pose to our parish’s formation programmes.


Year of Faith

Beautiful Kansas

In Kansas City, it was almost cool enough to be outside yesterday. It rained a couple of nights ago for the first time in weeks and weeks, and the baked earth gave off heat and a lovely, sweet smell. I love being in Kansas right now; it is a beautiful place to be.

It’s also a great hub of activity in the midst of the Year of Faith preparations. The plans are being organised under three headings: Love It, Live It, Learn It. The Love It plans are to do with liturgy, prayer, and spiritual formation. The Live It plans concern living your faith in the workplace, in marriage, in the public square, and through service of the community. The Learn It plans are to do with evangelisation and catechesis.

The plans are pretty impressive. For the Learn It section, 20 parishes will have a course on the Catechism of the Catholic Church; great resources such as The Great Adventure Bible Timeline and the Catholicism series are going to be available to parishes to show them; there will be a big series of lectures on the four constitutions of the Vatican Council, which will be streamed live into homes around the diocese – people will be encouraged to watch together in small groups. Parishes will be also be trained, with the help of Evangelical Catholic, to form adult small groups that multiply, as an evangelisation initiative for parishes.

At the same time, completely separate from the Year of Faith, we’ve been putting together a promotions strategy for the Maryvale courses – Kansas is a Maryvale Centre and offers Maryvale formation for all their catechists. The plans and ideas for reaching a large number of people for the next cohorts are really exciting.

Olympics Opening Ceremony

And also – I am watching the live stream of the Olympics opening ceremony 🙂 Albeit the streaming comes in and out as there is no US channel broadcasting it live, but, seeing the Queen, London sights, Mary Poppins, James Bond et al… is making me miss my home land! Don’t worry, England, I am coming home to you on Sunday!


Catholicism

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We are into week four of the Catholicism series, and I wanted to share with you how it’s going. In the week leading up to the first session on January 12th, each day brought new surprises. The phone was ringing off the hook and the emails were going mad. At the beginning of the week we had around 30 wanting to take part in the course; by the end of Thursday we had 94! The number continued to rise – we now have just under 100. We had to send to the States for more study binders which thankfully have arrived now which gives our photocopier a breather. In this last week before we started, not only was I trying to stay afloat of the admin involved, I also needed to rope in more small group leaders and give them last minute training. Thankfully God provided: we have some wonderful leaders.

I’m happy to say the course is being hugely blessed. The first night there was quite a bit of excitement around buying Catechisms and, for many, delving in for the first time. The DVDs are an all-round hit, although I would say that for most people the content needs some unpacking. We do this in a ten-minute catechesis after the episode either given by myself or Deacon James Bradley. The small groups have been working well too, with everyone benefitting a lot from the discussion but in agreement that there simply isn’t enough time to discuss as much as they’d like. We have given this thought, and decided it’s better for people to come away wanting more than make the evening unmanageably long.

What has struck me most is the desire in people to know their faith. This has not been taken seriously enough in our Church. A young woman told me in the pub afterwards that her eyes had been opened to how much she simply didn’t know. People speak of how nourishing the material is and how it makes them hungry for more. We had to start a blog in order to answer all the questions being asked each week. One man has already decided he would like to become a Catholic.

I don’t want to detract from these good fruits; I would just like to make an observation: If these are the fruits one course can reap in one small corner of London, why are we not making more of a priority of adult formation in our Church? I admit it – I am angry when I see the budgets given for disability awareness or for social justice when the work done in the sphere of adult catechesis is negligible. Adult catechesis is treated as a luxury when it should be a normal part of every adult lay Catholic’s life. Courses like this should not be a novelty, they should be very ordinary. The Church’s task is to teach and sanctify her members, but when I teach after the episode each week, I know that the only teaching most of these people have ever received in their faith is the homily at Mass each week, since they were a teenager. That is why they don’t know the basics of their faith: let’s not sweep this under the carpet – it is a scandal.

To end on a positive note: this is a wonderful course, and a great gift to the barren desert of adult catechesis in our country.


The Year of Faith

I am already excited about the Year of Faith. The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith recently published a Note with proposals for living the Year. It is a great Note, with some very concrete suggestions for everyone from the universal Church to episcopal conferences, and from dioceses to parishes. What is significant is the frequent mention of the Catechism of the Catholic Church (woo hoo!), given that the Year of Faith begins on the twentieth anniversary of its promulgation. Catechesis is at the heart of the Year of Faith and the Church in this country is like a dry land when it comes to catechesis… Although for the most part she does not know she is dry.

Faith in Christ brings healing and life - From a Roman catacomb, 3rd Century

So, what gifts does God want to give the Church in this Year of Faith, and how best can we be disposed to receive and respond to them?

There are some more general proposals, such as for each diocese to review its reception of the Catechism of the Catholic Church (and this means both its structure and content) particularly in its catechesis. Two big areas arise here – both the materials we use, in schools and parishes; and the theological formation received by our catechists. Wouldn’t it be a wonderful sign if dioceses took this particular call seriously? Not just ticking a box – but looking at the real need for catechetically sound materials and authentic, theological formation of catechists.

I would love to hear your own ideas for the Year of Faith! Here are two very practical suggestions I have taken from the CDF’s note:

1. It is desirable that each Diocese organise a study day on the Catechism of the Catholic Church, particularly for its priests, consecrated persons and catechists. I hope Dr Petroc Willey will be in high demand in this Year of Faith to teach such days – his knowledge of the Catechism is second-to-none (perhaps to the Holy Father 🙂 ) – he is truly an expert on this book and this doesn’t seem to be recognised enough.

2. The Note calls for groups of the faithful to work towards a deeper understanding of the Catechism of the Catholic Church. Again, Maryvale offers a fantastic Certificate in Studies in the Catechism which would be a superb undertaking for groups of lay people in parishes.

What other ideas do you have? Both within dioceses and within parishes?