September 15, 2012 – That Time Of Year

As we have now gotten a taste of beautiful, cooler weather, it reminds us of what time of year it is and the events surrounding it.  First of all, of course, we are in the heart of the campaign season, which I have been made all too aware of over the last couple of weeks.  Yesterday, for example, there were 3 pieces of mail in my mailbox – all of them some sort of political advertisement.  In fact, the majority of the mail I have received lately has been related to politics.  One flyer says that candidate “X” will make creating local jobs a priority, then the next flyer says that if Candidate “X” is elected he will outsource our jobs overseas.  Our elections are of course extremely important, and we as citizens of a democracy have a duty to make the choice we feel is best.  However, it is not hard to see why people become frustrated at the process.  How do you cut through all of the misguided claims?  How do you know when a candidate is being truthful or is just saying something for political gain?  Couldn’t all of this money being spent for advertisements be used in some other practical way?  Aren’t there enough other means of communication such as radio, TV, internet, etc. that allows candidates to get their message out?  As we approach Election Day, let us pray that the candidates will be sincere in what they say and will have honest and forthcoming debates over the next few weeks.

Mid-September also brings a yearly celebration to our church in the United States, a celebration which we will observe this Sunday at Mass called Catechetical Sunday.  This is a day set aside to recognize those in our parish who dedicate themselves to the ministry of religious education.  To fulfill my own curiosity and to ensure that this space gets filled, I did a little research on the background of Catechetical Sunday.  Though this seems like a relatively new celebration its roots can be traced back to 1935, when the Vatican issued a document asking every country to acknowledge in some way the importance of the Church’s teaching ministry and to honor those who serve the Christian community as catechists.  At first, after Catechetical Sunday was established, the U.S. held national catechetical congresses during this time.  Then in 1971, the USCCB began producing materials to help parishes celebrate the event at the local level, a practice which continues to this day.

Another question that may arise is why those who teach religion are called “catechists”.  Well many Catholics should be familiar with the word “catechism”, particular those in our Diocese during this year of participating in Fanning the Flame.  The Catechism of the Catholic Church essentially is a synopsis of the teachings of the church. The root word, “catechesis,” is from a Greek word meaning “to echo, or resound.” Catechesis is the act of resounding or bringing the Church’s teachings to the world. Thus, a catechist is one who teaches in the name of the Church.  Catechists can be those who teach religion in Catholic schools or in PSR programs, those who teach adult level classes, those who lead discussions with high school youth and young adults, those who instruct in RCIA programs, of course Bishops, priests, and deacons, and the list goes on and on.  So even though many people are involved in catechetical ministry, it is a unique and special ministry in the church, and so it if fitting that we set aside a day to highlight this ministry and to remind us that we all have a responsibility to share our faith with others.

Though Catechetical Sunday focuses on those who minister in parishes and schools, we recognize that the principal catechists of our children are parents and guardians.  So we also commend parents and guardians and encourage them to take seriously their role of making their Catholic households a place where faith is passed on to the next generation. This is why the rite of blessing of catechists used on Catechetical Sunday includes an optional blessing of parents and guardians.

A challenge that we as catechists face is explaining to people, kids and adults alike, why the church takes the positions on social issues that it does.  You’ll get questions such as why abortion is not allowed, or why can’t couples live together before marriage, or why does the church denounce the use of contraception?  The easy way out would be to answer “we didn’t make up the rules, we just follow them.”  But that would be a cop-out answer.  Cardinal Timothy Dolan wrote an excellent blog this week about this very topic, and made some very thoughtful points.  Here is the link to view it:

First of all, there are those who think that Vatican II would have led to more radical changes had Pope John XXIII not passed away or if more liberal Popes had been elected.  The truth is that the purpose of the Council was not to change the teachings of the church, but to come up with a way to present them in a manner that conformed more closely with the times.  This process continues today as we try to communicate more effectively given the explosion of the internet, social media, etc.

Another question we get is “wouldn’t the church be more popular if they loosened their stance on some of these issues?”  I don’t know how it would affect the numbers of bodies in the pews on Sunday, or if the Church would gain a more “favorable” image, but these teachings are not in place because the church wants to remain “traditional”, or is way behind in keeping up with the times.  These teachings are in place because we believe through the teachings of Scripture that this what God wants us to do.  We believe God intended marriage to be a loving bond between a man and woman.  We believe that God’s brings new life at the moment of conception.  So our prayer should not be for the church to change her teachings, but should be for us catechists and all who proclaim the word of God that we can present its teachings in the most effective way possible.

Have a great week.  Peace.




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