40 Reasons Why It’s Cool to be Catholic #29 Catechesis

Cat-a-what-sis?

Catechesis.  An education in the faith.  Unlike some other faith traditions, you have to learn how to be Catholic.  Either you go to Catholic school or you go to PSR (Parish School of Religion).  If you’re not fortunate enough to have been raised Catholic, you can join the Church as an adult  after you’ve attended a series of classes.

See, in some denominations, all you have to do is walk down the aisle and say you want in, and you’re in.  That’s all there is to it.  It doesn’t matter if you think the original Peter, Paul, and Mary are a 60s folk group rather than three Catholic saints, you’re welcome to join the congregation.  Not so with the Catholic Church.  You have to understand the faith before you can commit your life to it.

It’s not that Catholics are snobs.  We’re not.  We just think it’s important that you enjoy all the wonders of the Church that Jesus founded.

Here’s the best part, there are any number of ways to continue exploring the faith, even if it’s been years since you graduated from Catholic school.  There are books, videos, Bible studies, workshops, and thousands of web sites to help you grow in the faith.  You don’t ever have to stop learning and growing your Catholic faith.  You wouldn’t be reading this if you weren’t interested in learning and growing.

Catechesis is cool?

 

 

40 Reasons Why It’s Cool to be a Catholic #32 Daily Mass

For the time being I’m going to take it for granted that Mass is cool.  We’ll get into why as we work our way up this top 40 list.  For now, let’s just say that the Mass, especially the reception of the Eucharist, is the heart and soul of our Catholic faith.  If Mass is cool, then being able to go to Mass every day is extra cool.

It wasn’t always possible to attend Mass on a weekday.  The early Church celebrated Mass only on Sundays and Holy Days.  It wasn’t until about 700 AD that daily mass was widely available.  For example, it’s believed that Saint Monica, who lived in the 4th Century, attended strangers’ funerals so she could partake of the Eucharist every day as she was prayed for her son Saint Augustine’s conversion

While we may not go to Mass everyday, isn’t it awesome that we can if we want to?  In most cities you can find a church or chapel where you can attend Mass at almost any time of day; in the morning, at lunch time, or even in the evening.  We can even attend daily Mass at Catholic hospitals, universities and other institutions.

Some of our protestant brothers and sisters are able to attend services on days other than Sunday, (When I was growing up in the Baptist tradition, we went to church on Sundays and Wednesdays).  But we not only have the opportunity to worship God in church every single day, we can also receive the Body and Blood of Christ on days other than Sunday.

We may choose to attend Mass every day or we may not.

But, being able to receive the Eucharist seven days a week is really cool.

 

40 Reasons Why It’s Cool to be Catholic #34 The Code of Canon Law

“You’re kidding, right?  What could possibly be cool about a huge book of rules and regulations.  Most Catholics have never even seen the book and couldn’t care less what’s in it.

OK.  I know it’s not on everybody’s book shelf but I’m more interested in the contents than in the book itself.  Every Catholic is impacted by the Code  of Canon Law whether they know it or not.  I hate to pick on McDonald’s again, (see Et Cum Spiritu Tuo)but you may recall in an earlier post I pointed out that every single McDonald’s in the world is operated according to a set of rules.  Big Macs come with special sauce.  Quarter Pounders come with catsup, mustard, and pickles.  All of those rules are written down somewhere.  The same goes for the Church.

If you’ve ever had a Catholic wedding, you’ve been affected by the Code.  If you’ve been baptized, if you’ve been confirmed, if you belong to a parish, you’re affected by the Code.  Every single aspect of Catholicism is covered.  Granted it’s hard to read.  Granted it can be confusing.  But that’s why we have canon lawyers.  These men, just like civil lawyers, are trained on what’s in the code and how to interpret it.

Here’s the thing.  The Church is 2,000 years old, the oldest institution on earth.  You don’t last for 20 centuries if everybody’s running around doing their own thing.  We have over a billion members.  Think of the chaos if we were all free agents.

As a deacon, there are some things I can do and many more things I can’t.  For example, I can marry you, but in each case I have to be delegated by the pastor of the church where the wedding takes place.  Even priests have to be delegated if they perform a wedding at a parish other than their own.  Only a pastor, acting in his own church, can perform a valid wedding without delegation from someone.  He’s already received that power from the bishop when he was assigned to his parish.

So, to make myself clear:  The huge book isn’t so cool.  Some canon lawyers are cool, but some aren’t.  Surprisingly, most of the ones I know are very cool.  It’s what the Code does that’s cool.  Where the Catechism of the Catholic Church is the handbook for lay Catholics, the Code of Canon Law is the handbook for the clergy.  When a Catholic girl from Chicago and a Buddhist guy from Houston walk into my church in Saint Louis and announce that they want to be married with the ceremony performed by the bride’s uncle who’s a priest living in Las Vegas and, oh, by the way, the potential groom has been married before, I may not know exactly what to do (other than hide under my desk), but I know where to find out.  It’s in the book.

The Code of Canon law is very cool.

Note:  There’s a searchable online version of the Code if you don’t want to invest the money to get your own copy.

40 Reasons Why It’s Cool to be Catholic-#37 The Catechism of the Catholic Church

At first blush, the Catechism of the Catholic Church may seem like an imposing book.  First of all, it’s BIG.  The one on my desk is over 800 pages.  Second, the margins are full of strange numbers.  Plus, every paragraph is numbered.  How are we supposed to read a book like that?  Third, there are hundreds, maybe even thousands, of footnotes.  But all things considered, the writers have done a remarkable job of covering our very complex faith in an understandable, not-so-hard-to-use book.

Let’s start with those numbered paragraphs and the numbers in the margin.  I’m looking at paragraphs 554-556, The Transfiguration. In the margin alongside these paragraphs are the numbers 697, 2600, 440, 2576, 2583, 257, and 1003.  The numbers refer you to other paragraphs in the Catechism that speak to the same topic.  See, that’s not so hard.

In order to prove that they’re not pulling this stuff out of thin air, the writers use copious footnotes  For instance, this section on the Transfiguration has 14 footnotes.  If you don’t want to take the Catechism’s word for it, you can check out the Gospels of Matthew and Luke, Saint Paul’s letter to the Phillipians, the Acts of the Apostles, Saint Augustine, Saint Thomas Aquinas, or the Byzantine liturgy.

If you want to dig even deeper, you can start looking at those other chapters listed in the margin.  But be careful!  Paragraph 697 references three more chapters and has seven footnotes.  You could spend all day on just this one topic.  If you’re a scholar, or maybe a preacher, all of this information is invaluable.  But if you just want to know what the Church teaches about the Transfiguration, the original sections are probably all you need.

The book is divided into four major sections:  THE PROFESSION OF FAITH, THE CELEBRATION OF THE CHRISTIAN MYSTERY, LIFE IN CHRIST, CHRISTIAN PRAYER.  Take a look at the table of contents.  Each of the main sections are broken down by articles, then by paragraphs, then by subheadings.    Each paragraph concludes with an IN BRIEF section, sort of a Cliff’s Notes summary.

Rather than make this post as long as the Catechism itself, I’ll wrap this up with a look at the “back of the book”.  First is the INDEX OF CITATIONS.  If you want to know what the Catechism says about the Scriptures, look here.  For example, Genesis 1:1-2:4 is treated in number 337.  If you want to learn about Church Councils and Synods, there’s an index for that.  If Pontifical and Ecclesiastical Documents are more your cup of tea, they’re there too.  The list goes on and on.

Last but not least is the INDEX index.  That’s where you can find references by topic.  Wondering what the Church has to say about tobacco abuse, that’s number 2290.  Wondering how to deal with the Lutheran who lives next door?  Try Ecumenism, 820-22.

Here’s the thing.  How great is it to have a single book to answer our faith questions?  Obviously, if you really want to dig deep, you can collect a whole library of books.  The Catechism even gives you a list.  But for 99% of the questions you may have about the Catholic Church, you can find the answer in one volume.  It’s not something you’ll want to curl up with in front of the fire on a snowy night.  (Even though priests and deacons in formation are often called to do just that.)  But for quick answers to your questions, there’s nothing like it.

And another thing…..if you’re away from home and don’t have your Catechism with you, there’s an online searchable version.

How cool is that?