Tag Archives: Venial Sin

The New Evangelization — I Don’t Need Your Catechism!

…the necessity of teaching doctrine to children.

EDITOR: The much-needed New Evangelization of America as proposed by Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI will take courage and patience to implement. Mr. De La Torre and the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph are the example.

From the Catholic Exchange today:

Posted By Marlon De La Torre On July 22, 2010

I Don’t Need your Catechism!

A couple of years ago, a Pastor asked me to provide a catechetical training day for teachers in his Catholic school and CCD program. One of my first questions to him was what issues had developed requiring my assistance. The Pastor voiced to me his concern over poor doctrinal formation he suspected the children were receiving. I asked him how he finally came to this point. He said; “I knew things were off when all I saw was glue, crayons, construction paper and scissors during an eighth grade religion class.” Right there and then I realized what I had to work with.

The inevitable day arrives. As the catechists walked into the parish center, we began with prayer and introductions.  I typically begin with a short story reflecting on the catechetical formation for the day. This process helps to gauge the audience and determine when to run when they have had enough. Kidding aside, the first segment involved preparing them for the day, the aim of the instruction, purpose, goals, desires and application for the classroom. A good strategy when teaching teachers is not to patronize them. They are teachers and know everything. I know I am one of them. In reality, the heart of instruction here lies with an authentic witness of the living Gospel of Jesus Christ in a gradual loving way.

Knowing that many teachers resort to arts and crafts because of a genuine fear and ignorance in teaching the Catholic faith to students I began the training by asking the catechists for the one thing they would like to know about the faith they still had questions on. After a subtle pause (pretty typical) hands were drawn. The questions asked centered on sin, true presence of Christ in the Eucharist, confession, purgatory, mass participation, is the Church biblical, Mary, how to read the bible, other religions etc. My next question to them was why they wanted to know about these particular doctrines. Their response was nothing short of amazing.  They did not know how these particular teachings came to be! Keep in mind, these catechists are supposedly teaching children the Catholic faith. Right there and then I realized we needed to start at the very beginning e.g. Do you believe in God the Father the almighty?

If the teacher does not have a sound understanding of how their life reflects the Gospel let alone living within the Story of salvation, then how are they going to impart the story onto their students?  Hence, the focal point of the problem we face in the catechetical field. Our catechists lack basic doctrinal formation. I charted a different course of action realizing that this group needed a systematic engaging approach to learn and apply Catholic doctrine in the classroom.

The result was a mini-RCIA course where I went through Salvation History and presented to them their role in light of Jesus Christ the Divine Teacher (Heb 11:6). In other words, they needed to see how the Church came to be, their role within the Church and the graces given to us by Christ at Baptism to continue His work in the Church He founded. A basic outline of the curriculum for this training session looked something like this:

  1. Introduction to God’s plan for salvation in our lives.
  2. Creation and God’s love for us.
  3. Original Sin and the fall from grace because of the first sin.
  4. Proto-evangelium (First Gospel)
  5. God’s covenants with his people i.e. Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses
  6. The role of our Blessed Mother as the “New Eve.”
  7. Summary on Sacred Tradition and Sacred Scripture
  8. Summary on Apologetics
  9. Summary of the Seven Sacraments
  10. Summary of the Ten Commandments
  11. Summary of Mortal Sin and Venial Sin
  12. The Incarnation
  13. Liturgy and the Mass
  14. The Church
  15. Lives of the Saints
  16. The Our Father, Hail Mary, and the Apostles Creed.

It was important the catechists saw the biblical basis for these doctrinal pillars. In addition, how the Catechism references the teachings of the Church through the footnotes. A short primer on how to use the Catechism of the Catholic Church and view the references, cross-references, and articles numbers to find a particular teaching gave the catechists a better grasp of the information.

This experience is common. A generation of uncatechized faithful over the past thirty-years has drifted throughout their Catholic life not knowing the graces they received through their Baptism. The recitation of our Baptismal promises appears as an afterthought to many. When asked within the Rite of Baptism, Do you reject, sin, and all his empty works, and all his empty promises . . . it begs to ask the question to these teachers whether they truly understand what sin is in order to reject it.

When I posed this very question to one of the teachers in the training session, the response was a common one. Why do we need to concentrate on sin, it is more important to focus on the works of Jesus? Do you see where this particular catechist has quietly misaligned the purpose of Christ and His Church. Whether its ignorance, issues with the doctrine of sin, or a personal experience initiating this response, the opportunity to discuss the nature of sin was difficult. Now, we must be careful when discussing the doctrine of sin from this pastoral perspective; we do not know what the person has gone through personally where a certain sinful act may have caused negative, spiritual harm or drawn out a bad experience. It is vital that a catechist be carefully aware of the audience they are instructing. However, we cannot shy away from addressing the dangers of sin itself.

Another teacher, noting her frustration in sitting through a dreadful class in her opinion said these magic words:You can keep your catechism, how do you expect me to apply it in the classroom?” Moreover, there you go, this brave soul echoed the sentiments of others who had resisted on using the catechism in the classroom. This “shot heard around the classroom,” reflected the genuine mentality of many teachers viewing the catechism as a useless tool because it probably did not provide cutouts for the kids to “draw” and “cut-out.” This comment troubled me because of an apparent ignorance towards the application or appreciation of the Catechism. There is fruit to the argument that it is not the teachers fault. From one perspective, this may be true; nonetheless, it does not negate the fact of what we are dealing with now. St. Augustine-the Father of Catechetics describes catechizing the ignorant in this way:

“The best method for instructing ignorant men in Christian doctrine, one that will bear much fruit is to ask questions in a friendly fashion after the explanation; from this questioning one can learn whether each one understood what he heard or whether the explanation needs repeating. In order that the learner grasp the matter, we must ascertain by questioning whether the one being catechized has understood, and in accordance with his response, we must either explain more clearly and fully or not dwell further on what is known to them etc. But if a man is very slow, he must be mercifully helped and the most necessary doctrines especially should be briefly imparted to him.”

As the Catechist trainer in this situation, you cannot scold nor demean these individuals. In many ways, ignorance is rooted in their responses due to a lack of formation. Thus, a gentle but firm disposition serves us well in this type of situation because we do not want to lose them.  Our hope rests in a genuine conversion for these teachers (1 Pt 3:15). The “you can keep your catechism” statement by the teacher mentioned earlier should not detract anyone from teaching the faith. My call for this person was to help her find God. An opportunity arose to present the Gospel, reveal the importance of Christ in our lives and provide her with an open opportunity to seek Him.

It is very important that the catechist reveal the relevance of doctrine in the lives of the faithful. Our faith is naturally explicit (1 Thess 2:13) because God has made Himself visible through His Church. Man naturally seeks what is visible and revealed. For instance, when we are able to observe and recognize a moral act the exercise of the doctrinal action takes effect on our senses. We are able to witness doctrine exercised.  The liturgy – a public work, provides a visible reality of the existence of faith and the exercise of doctrine.

By the end of the day, the teachers who survived my training session realized in a small way the necessity of teaching doctrine to children. The success of the day came not by how much doctrine I could expose them to, it was helping them realize how little they knew about the faith and what to do about. Not only for their souls but also for the souls of the children they teach.

The religion instructor must be prepared to proclaim the truth of the Catholic Church. His/her responsibility is to aid the development of the person they are instructing by explaining Church teaching carefully and appropriately through a careful transmission rooted in Sacred Tradition, Sacred Scripture and the Catechism of the Catholic Church. The door to the nourishing a soul in Catholic doctrine must be convincing so the person applies these doctrines to everyday life. The need for the Catechism of the Catholic Church is more relevant than ever if we genuinely desire to impart the Catholic faith. Our duty and responsibility is to answer the questions our students have. Clarity of truth is primary in our instruction.

Marlon De La Torre is the Associate Director of Evangelization and Catechesis for the Catholic Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph.


The “Butterfly Effect”: Indulgences a way mercy is applied to sin’s unseen effects

Indulgences a way mercy is applied to sin’s unseen effects

By Bishop Robert Vasa/Bishop of Baker, Oregon

BEND – While you are reading this, I hope to back in the United States. I hope to have returned safely from Australia and I hope to have had a very positive and uplifting experience with the Holy Father in Sydney. I hope all of these things because, as of the time of this writing, I have not yet boarded the plane for the southern hemisphere. As the time for that embarkation nears I find that I am more and more hopeful and possibly even a little excited. While I do not travel well it has been my experience that travel is enriching and rewarding. One of the spiritual benefits of travel is the opportunity to break out of some of the encrusted ways of thinking that can adversely afflict us. This would entail a fracturing of some of the provincial or “parochial” modes of thinking to which we are all susceptible.

This can entail a kind of “conversion.” It requires an openness to God’s grace, an openness to a fresh reading of the Gospels and an openness to the teachings of the Catholic Church. While travel is not absolutely essential to this conversion process it does seem to play an important part. At least a part of the Church’s notion of pilgrimage is the physical action of going from one place to another, from one state of mind to another, from one spiritual state to another. The movement is symbolic of the spiritual journey which often coincides with the physical journey.

This year, from June 2008 through June 2009, has been designated by the Holy Father as the Year of Saint Paul. It is also designated as a “Pilgrimage Year” in that various churches both in the Diocese of Baker and in every diocese of the United States have been designated by the respective bishops as “Pilgrimage Churches.” Here in the Diocese of Baker the churches include Saint Francis de Sales Cathedral in Baker City; Saint Francis of Assisi in Bend, the downtown Church; Holy Family in Burns; Saint Patrick in Heppner; Sacred Heart in Klamath Falls; Saint Patrick in Lakeview; Blessed Sacrament in Ontario; and Saint Peter in The Dalles.

Information has been sent to every pastor and occasional reminders will be generated throughout this Year of Saint Paul about the possibility of gaining a plenary indulgence on the occasion of a prayerful visit to one of these churches with the fulfillment of designated spiritual works including recent reception of the sacrament of reconciliation, reception of Holy Communion and prayers for the Holy Father.

There is perhaps some concern raised the moment the Church begins to make reference to “indulgences” since the concept is frightfully plagued by rumors, innuendoes, misconceptions, myths, lies and accusations. First, a definition: An indulgence is a remission before God of the temporal punishment for sins, whose guilt is forgiven, which a properly disposed member of the Christian faithful obtains under certain and clearly defined conditions through the intervention of the Church, which, as the minister of Redemption, dispenses and applies authoritatively the treasury of the expiatory works of Christ and the saints. The concept of indulgences requires an acceptance of the existence of purgatory since it is in purgatory that the “temporal punishment for sins whose guilt is forgiven” is worked out.

To some this may sound like forgiven does not mean forgiven at all. Perhaps examples will help. Imagine that you broke a window on purpose out of anger and spite. Imagine the subsequent sadness, sorrow, remorse and then a resolve to go to confession but the window is still broken. In confession the sin is forgiven but the window is still broken. The priest will indicate the need to make restitution for the broken window and you may well anonymously send $20 to the owner of the now broken window but the window is still broken. Then you die with all your sins forgiven and restitution having been made but the window is still broken. The need to fix the window which you broke is a part of the “temporal punishment due to sin.”

There may also be some residual delight in having vented your spleen on your neighbor via his window and this too needs yet to be spiritually resolved. Imagine also the intangibles which may flow from your initial action. Perhaps the father comes home to find the window broken and wrongly blames and punishes one of his own children for the breakage. Who is responsible for that subsequent spiritual harm? Certainly the father is uniquely responsible but you have played an unintentional and unwitting part. The innocent child could well look at you and say that it was all your fault, and, in some sense, he would be entirely right. How do we make spiritual amends for all of the unseen and unintended consequences of our sinful actions? While responsibility to “make amends” is required, the truth is that it is impossible for us to have any genuinely accurate idea of the vast ramifications of our sins.

There is a science fiction theory known as the “butterfly effect” which posits that something as simple as a butterfly flapping its wings in South America impacts to the tiniest degree on the air currents and participates, in some miniscule fashion, in the formation or direction of a subsequent hurricane. Every sin participates in a real and spiritual “butterfly effect” for which the perpetrator of the sin is partially responsible. You will be thrown into prison (purgatory) until the last element of the debt is paid.

If the actions required to gain the plenary indulgence were merely perfunctory then this would seem to be rather “mercenary.” One of the requirements, however, is an authentic freedom from any and all attachment to sin, even venial sin.

Now, being free from sin after confession is a lot different than being free from an attachment to venial sin. Yet the Church is quite explicit: “It is further required that all attachment to sin, even to venial sin, be absent. If this disposition is in any way less than complete – the indulgence will only be partial.”

The pilgrimage to Australia will be spiritually enriching but your interior graced pilgrimage and your pilgrimages to your Diocesan “Year of Saint Paul” sites can likewise be opportunities for grace and conversion. Remember the “butterfly effect.”

The Catholic Sentinel

Photo Hattip – Pierre Pouliquin