Friday, February 19, 2016

The Catechism: a Timely Gift from JPII for the New Evangelization

It was as if he knew what lay ahead in the brave new world that would come after his passing. A relativistic world with limited attention span, coarse manners, situational ethics, dominated by existentialism, anger and indifference.  St. Pope John Paul II decided in 1985 that it was time that all the teachings of the magisterium of the Catholic Church be laid down in crystal clear , easy to understand language so that all Catholics would have the guidance of the 2000 years of Church experience at their fingertips.  The Catechism of the Catholic Church was completed in 1992, an was first published in French. The First English version came out in the USA in 1994.
John Paul II was born in Poland, which was overrun first by the Nazis and then by the Communists in his lifetime. Both regimes were militantly atheistic and attempted to stamp out the Church in Poland.  Under such a sustained siege, Catholics in Poland knew they were living on the edge, and contended for their faith, and as a result, at great personal risk the teachings of the Church were passed on among the people who treasured them like the pearl of great price they are.  It was al they had to hold on to.

During that same period in the democratic western countries where there was total freedom of religion and worship, it was taken for granted, and became more of a peripheral thing  among a very large part of the population, as consumerism and secularism began to gain a foothold. By the 1970’s, such Catholics as there were, at least among the ones born after the Second World War, it was clear they did not know what the Catholic Church actually taught.

The former Archbishop of Krakow, who spearheaded the promulgation of the faith in communist Poland set out as Pope to provide the means for people to once again become familiar with what the church teaches so they could order their lives according to it, and  in so doing have a positive impact on society for Christ. 

While this wonderful tool John Paul II has bequeathed us is widely available, and indeed has a place in many Catholic homes, like the Bible, few people have actually studied it, and there has likely never been a time when knowledge of its contents has been more needed.

Since the Catechism was first conceived by John Paul II in 1985, society has only become more secular, technological and consumerist. and since his death in 2005, technology and the pace of life have only accelerated- and exponentially.  With social media and the Internet, a lie can spread around the world in minutes and more often than not, the lies are about Jesus Christ and His Church,  and they need to be corrected, and contested by the truth of what the Church actually teaches, or the lies and distortions become the truth in the minds of many, and even more will fall away fro the true faith.

Therefore, it is OUR responsibility as Catholics  to know what the church teaches, and to speak it and teach it with authority. The only way we are going to learn it is by understanding that our Catholicism is NOT just a peripheral part of our lives, but needs to guide every aspect of them. We need to know what the church teaches and why, if we are to contend with the powerful forces of secularism. This is not optional it is our responsibility.   In order to live a life that will attract others, we have to know what Jesus taught, and live it out as it is meant to be, and to that properly we must go straight to the source and get it first hand , not from the media,  politicians or others who will twist the teachings to fit their agenda.  And the only way we can counter such people who hold most of the positions of power in the west right now, is to know and be sure of the truth.

In the west, we are under a tyranny right now, though many don’t know it, as there are not soldiers walking the streets with guns and bayonets. We don’t, at this point have to worry about a knock on the door in the middle of the night and being taken off to God knows where.  It is a soft tyranny, but tyranny nonetheless, and its goal, as has been the goal of all tyrannies past and present, is to replace the God of the Bible with the State.   So the questions we each need to answer are:


1: Do we acknowledge that all is NOT well, and that our faith is under as much a threat from the authorities, though in different form as it was in John Paul II’s  Poland?

2: if we accept that premise, do we love our Lord and the Church he established and left us to defend it, by arming ourselves with the truth, and being prepared to contend for that faith?

In this soft Tyranny, that i mentioned earlier, life can be relatively smooth and easy for anyone who decides to become a cog in he machinery of the secularist consumer society they are building for us. Play the game by their rules, and you will be left alone to work, acquire, upgrade and dispose of a wide range of material goods, you will be entertained by what they provide for you, and go through these motions until either you die, or- the way things are headed- euthanized when your usefulness to their system has run out. 
Or if you choose to Love the Lord,  you will find an ever increasingly difficult road ahead. Employment will be denied in some cases, terminated in others, or you may be faced with either compliance with immorality, or leaving your profession, and likely have other barriers put up too.  You will be ridiculed as old fashioned, and perhaps one day, targeted for physical persecution.  You will always be offered the “out| of burning incense before the emperor, but at the cost of your eternal soul.
That is the choice we and our children will be called to make if things continue as they are.  And only those who KNOW and love the Lord will take the narrow road.
That being said, w can postpone that day as long as we are teaching he truth an building the foundations of a just society based on those teachings, but eventually there will come a time when only a remnant will be left to stand against  evil until the return of Christ, but know that even these will be called to stand firm and help save souls until the moment He returns.
Those who Love Jesus will find they must choose he hard road. Choosing the easy road is rejection of Christ. It is a declaration that one either hates him, or is completely indifferent to Him, and it is said that indifference is worse than hate.


3: Are prepared to undertake the intellectual , spiritual and physical rigour that engaging in such a war entails?
It is essential that  we train ourselves mentally, physically and above all spiritually for this war. It is a spiritual war, which is fought both in the spiritual real, and plays out here on earth as well.  We need to pray, individually and collectively, we need to know what the Church teaches, and teach it to others, one person at a time, we need to be strong enough to run the race , straight to the finish line, not letting up at all, running as it to win, for only one shall attain the prize. We must use the bodies we have been given, and provide proper stewardship for them, according to what we were each given.
We need to train our minds thoroughly. The Catholic Church boasts an intellectual history like no other. Catholics have been leaders in science, philanthropy, literature, arts, music, medicine, and just about every field imaginable.  And today,  insofar as that tradition remains, we are now being systematically excluded from many of these fields.   Meanwhile for the last 40 + years,  the culture has become so dumbed down that many people, regardless of faith are now incapable of originality and critical thinking.   God Himself gave us the capacity to excel in all these fields, he gave us the ability to reason, so that we can know and defend our faith, and enhance the lives of others. It was the church who started the hospitals , and universities from which we are now being excluded because of our faith, particularly the moral stands we must take.
We must reclaim his ground, buy reading and learning scripture and the catechism, learning how to think things through so as to be able to debate them in a winsome way.
In the cesspool the world of music has become, we must produce quality , uplifting music of hope and reverence again.  We complain the Internet is full of filth, and it is, but it exists as a tool for us to gett our message out too. We should not resist it, but rather embrace it with a vengeance and us it to advance good instead of evil.   We need to elevate the concept of literature form merely a form of entertainment to a means of pointing people to spiritual truths and asking serious questions about life.  Can we start producing the kinds of works of moral and intellectual rigour that Dickens, Tolkien, Dostoevsky, Shakespeare,  CS Lewis and others would produce? I believe we are called to elevate the culture.  But we must engage, and dig in for the long haul.
There are some contemporary authors whose work ranks with the aforementioned masters, one of the more notable being Michael D. O'Brien, whose books I highly recommend.

4: What are  the steps we can all take no matter who we are or where we are in life in order to win?

a) All of us can and must get a copy of the catechism. It is sold in all major book stores.  I have rarely walked into a thrift store which sells used books and not found a copy of the catechism there, and most of them have sadly, never been opened.   the Catechism of the Catholic Church is available in its entirety, with not one word omitted online.
b) We must all  own and read our Bibles. Daily. The Bible will help us understand the catechism, and vice versa.
c))Establish a solid prayer life.  This means being constantly in tune with the Holy Spirit and approach all our decisions in a prayerful manner.  It is also highly recommended to cultivate the Blessed Virgin Mary, who will join her prayers with ours, and intercede on our behalf. In other words pray the rosary regularly.
d) Build community with other committed believers. This is a war that cannot be fought effectively alone.


5: Finally, are we at the point where the only acceptable outcome is victory, where losing is not an option? 
One of the great diseases that affects our society in general these days is a general Apathy. if a task looks too challenging, we often just throw up our hands and say “to hell with it”.   Sadly, the words “to hell with it” often turn out to be deadly accurate, in the sense that we are here to proclaim Christ , His Church, and its teachings in order to save people from hell. and when we become defeatist, we take ourselves off the spiritual  battlefield, and leave others to an eternity in hell, because by giving up we are deserting.   We are saying " I can’t win, it’s too much for me". That’s absolutely right. it IS too much for each of us. but it is NOT too much for Christ, so when we don’t believe that He’s in control, and will use us in this war, then we are , in effect calling into question His deity.
He has told us what the outcome is going to be. He wins, and in so doing we win along with Him.  So we need to TRUST and OBEY, and we find the means to do so in the Bible, the catechism, and in prayer& the sacraments.


Sherry Minter said...

This analysis of modern western life is absolutely spot on,thus the need to become familiar with the Catechism. I purchased one for my Kindle, and have found it to be a treasure of knowledge.

Neal Ford said...

Thanks for reading and taking the time to comment Sherry! I hope you will become a regular reader.