Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Words from Fr Ed (From September 2010 Bulletin)

What Catholics Believe:
Religious Education (Faith Formation) at St. Stephens

"My teaching is not mine, but his who sent me."
John 7:16

Jesus brings to us the truth of the Father. He is the revelation of the Father, drawing us into the life of the Holy Trinity. Jesus said, “When you see me you see the Father.” John Paul II points to John 7:16, for the words that the catechist - the one imparting the faith - must be able to say. The faith formation that we offer as Catholics is not something novel, it is the eternal truth revealed by Jesus Christ. Certainly we need to continually update the methods, expressions and media that we use to teach the faith, but the essence remains the same “yesterday, today, and forever.”

Our registration for Faith Formation began last week and I want to encourage all parishioners to consider your educational needs and what we are offering this coming year. The pulpit announcement read from ages 2 to 92. That’s not to discriminate against 1 yr. olds and 93 yr. olds. I think you are welcome too. The age range suggests that learning our Catholic Faith is a lifelong process and journey. There is always more to learn. I have personally studied the Catholic Faith for many years and yet I have barely scratched the surface. It is like an inexhaustible goldmine. Each ounce of this gold is satisfying, however, and priceless.

You may have noticed that we have been recovering, due to popular demand and our own concerns, the weekly catechesis - oral instruction (from Greek katechesis/from katechein = to teach) for children. The reality is that children need repetition. Once a month, as we were doing with the GIFT program, was insufficient. Repetitio mater est studiorum (repetition is the mother of learning). That does not mean we will simply return to memorization of Church teaching, as beneficial as that can be. Verbal memorization of formulas does not mean understanding, acceptance, belief, or conversion.

The ultimate purpose of catechesis “is to put people not only in touch but in communion, in intimacy, with Jesus Christ: only He can lead us to the love of the Father in the Spirit and make us share in the life of the Holy Trinity.” (from John Paul II’s Catechesi Tradendae, or On Catechesis in Our Time). Given this goal of relationship, the means used have to be laden with methods that promote relationship with God and neighbor. This includes fellowship with friends and family, Scripture, prayer, and service. The intention of GIFT was to provide this well-rounded approach to Faith Formation. Unfortunately, it hasn’t achieved all these goals, so we are retooling with a balance between weekly programming, and a quarterly event that captures some of the successes of our GIFT program.

The responsibility for the success of this transition still remains with adults committing themselves to learning and handing on their faith. Parents are the first and primary catechists in their children’s lives. We can’t do for your children, even at the frequency of once a week, what you can do for them by your daily example. Children are observant sponges who learn from their parents even in silence. What are they learning from you? Is Jesus at the heart of your home? Is prayer an essential element in your time together? Is study and discussion part of your exchange and learning together what makes for love and life everlasting? All these are responsibilities of parents to develop in the home.

Adults without children in formation have a responsibility to continue to grow in your knowledge and practice of the faith. There is no status quo which we can rely on as Catholics. St. Paul says, “…work out your salvation with fear and trembling.” (Phil 2:12) This means that we need to be attentive to the state of our soul and do all we can to grow in the knowledge and love of God. We are responsible for what we don’t know if we have not taken the time and effort to learn our faith. Study of some kind ought to be a part of every Catholic life. This begins with Scripture. We have a wonderful Scripture study class on Tuesdays that is available. Catechism will be offered twice a month on Wednesdays. Returning Catholics will also be offered on Wednesdays. RCIA (Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults) has begun on Thursdays. Sponsoring someone in the RCIA program is a great way to grow in your own faith. All these and more are available to you at the parish. I hope you will be able to take time with Christ our Teacher who longs to reveal Himself to us.

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