Thursday 23rd September 2021

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A Beacon Of Light . . . Catholics Crave Authentic Teachings

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By FR. RICHARD D. BRETON JR.

(Editor’s Note: Fr. Richard D. Breton Jr. is a priest of the Diocese of Norwich, Conn. He received his BA in religious studies and his MA in dogmatic theology from Holy Apostles College and Seminary in Cromwell, Conn.)

  • + + A few weeks ago I had a conversation with a parishioner who asked me this question, “Why have so many Catholics left the Church?” My answer to this question was: “Catholics don’t leave the Church; they simply stop coming! When we are baptized into the Catholic Church we are considered Catholics for life.” This short dialogue between a parishioner and myself caused me to bring this question to prayer. The answer was one I didn’t expect to receive; at least not so quickly! The faithful are craving the authentic truths of the faith. They are tired of the watered-down Catholicism of the last thirty years and are seeking the find the Lord again.
    How does the Church help in this endeavor? It does so by remaining faithful to the Tradition that guides her forward on the path to eternal life. The apostolic constitution, Fidei Depositum, published on October 11, 1992, the thirtieth anniversary of the beginning of the Second Vatican Council, tells us how we are to do this: “Guarding the deposit of faith is the mission which the Lord entrusted to His Church.” So in order to “guard the Deposit of Faith” the Church must visibly fulfill this role through exercising her authority as teacher. This responsibility and this authority do not fall solely on the Pope, but they are the role of the Pope in union with bishops, priests, deacons, and the lay faithful.
    Sadly, this responsibility has been neglected by many of the bishops, priests, and deacons, and has oftentimes been relegated to the laity. In this situation, however, the laity are not to blame for this failure to “guard and teach the Deposit of Faith.” Those who failed in this responsibility are the ordained.

The Lord’s Laborers

For many years, there has been a shift in the Church’s methodology of transmitting the faith. Recently, even in my own diocese, the teaching of and educating in the faith have been shifted into developing a personal relationship with Christ. In order to develop a personal relationship and understanding with Christ, one must first know the teachings of the faith. This faith is rooted in Christ. How can we expect the faithful to have a “personal relationship” with Christ if they have not received the catechesis necessary to know and understand Him?
This is consistent with Pope St. John Paul II’s call for a “New Evangelization.” Fulfilling a “new evangelization” does not mean a development of new teachings, it simply means a new way of transmitting what has already been divinely revealed. The Church and her teachings never change because the teachings of Christ never change. All that is revealed has been transmitted to us through the apostles. Once the last of the apostles died, the whole of Revelation was complete. We, therefore, are commissioned to continue the authentic teachings of the Church through a “new evangelization” making the Church, and her teachings, relevant and alive for today’s time.
John Paul II addressed this issue directly in his post-synodal apostolic exhortation Christifideles Laici (On the Vocation and the Mission of the Lay Faithful in the Church and in the World). “The call is a concern not only of pastors, clergy, and men and women religious. The call is addressed to everyone: lay people as well are personally called by the Lord, from whom they receive a mission on behalf of the Church and the world. In preaching to the people, St. Gregory the Great recalls this fact and comments on the parable of the laborers in the vineyard: “Keep watch over your manner of life, dear people, and make sure that you are indeed the Lord’s laborers. Each person should consider what he does and consider if he is laboring in the vineyard of the Lord” (Christifideles Laici, n. 2).
This was foreseen by the council fathers during the Second Vatican Council in the document, Lumen Gentium. It was the desire of Pope St. John XXIII that the Church had to find a way to combat the modern world. This, however, in no way meant that we were to do away with centuries of Tradition, but rather, to find new ways of transmitting the living Tradition of the faith to all believers. The opening paragraph of Lumen Gentium clearly shows us this:
“Christ is the Light of nations. Because this is so, this Sacred Synod gathered together in the Holy Spirit eagerly desires, by proclaiming the Gospel to every creature (n. 1) to bring the light of Christ to all men, a light brightly visible on the countenance of the Church. Since the Church is in Christ like a sacrament or as a sign and instrument both of a very closely knit union with God and of the unity of the whole human race, it desires now to unfold more fully to the faithful of the Church and to the whole world its own inner nature and universal mission. This it intends to do following faithfully the teaching of previous councils. The present-day conditions of the world add greater urgency to this work of the Church so that all men, joined more closely today by various social, technical, and cultural ties, might also attain fuller unity in Christ.”
With all these thoughts in mind, and having brought this to prayer, I think it would be advantageous for us to enter into a series of articles devoted to a brief journey through the Catechism of the Catholic Church. Just as playing sports or learning a musical instrument takes practice as we strengthen ourselves in the techniques for becoming a better athlete or musician, so too, living the faith requires a refresher course in what we believe as Catholics. Not what we want to believe, as so often people pick and choose which aspects of the Catholic faith they will follow, but the authentic truths of the faith that have been divinely revealed.

Pillars Of The Faith

Over the coming weeks we will take a survey of the Catechism of the Catholic Church. The Catechism is broken up into four pillars.
The first pillar is connected to Baptism because it is through Baptism that we begin to participate in the profession of the one faith. This first pillar deals with the Creed, particularly the Apostles Creed and the Neo-Constantinople Creed that we profess each Sunday at Mass. During the discussion of this first pillar, we will explore the Creed and what it means in the life of faith.
The second pillar of the Catechism explains how God’s salvation, accomplished once for all through Christ Jesus and the Holy Spirit, is made present in the sacred actions of the Church’s liturgy. Section One of this pillar explores the Church’s liturgy as the “source and summit of the Christian life.” This especially is found in the participation of the Mass. The second section of this pillar deals with sacraments as tools that help us in living our faith. The sacraments are intimate encounters with Christ.
The third pillar of the Catechism deals with the final end of man. It reminds us that we are created in the image of God. We will discuss the beatitudes and how to live them. This is only possible with the help of God’s law and grace. We will touch upon God’s call to fulfill the twofold commandment of charity, specified in God’s Ten Commandments.
The fourth pillar of the Catechism deals with the meaning and importance of prayer in the life of believers. Prayer is so important in our lives. Prayer, as we will see, is constant conversation with God. It concludes with a brief commentary on the seven petitions of the Lord’s Prayer.
Would you like to know more about your faith? Would you like to know how to live that faith? Then join me in exploring the Catechism over the next few weeks. We will explore the Creed, Liturgical Life of the Church and the Sacraments, the moral life and why this is so important in today’s time, and how to develop a life of prayer.
Come and know your faith more! Our souls are yearning for this!

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