July 4, 2012

How To Use The Catechism

These are excerpts and notes from the book:  The Catechism of the Catholic Church and the Craft of Catechesis, by Petroc Willey, Pierre de Cointet, and Barbara Morgan.  It is an excellent read for those setting about using the catechism as a teaching tool.  It explains the catechism and its structure, and then sets forth the manner in which you should teach from it, and how to check whether you are staying on course.
For purposes of our Tuesday night catechism study group, there is not teacher; we are learning together.  Therefore, the points I note below are merely some of the many key points of this book, but ones which I believe may help us see better what we are about, and also help us to use the tools within the catechism more effectively.
·         “The catechism is not a work to be read briefly or hastily; one needs to stay with the text, pray with it and immerse oneself in it to appreciate fully its visionary power and the compelling sense of beauty, goodness, and truth that radiates from its pages.  It benefits from this slow reading aloud of the text.” (pp: xi- xii)
·         “There is a vital need to understand the difference between doctrine and theology.  Doctrine … is salvific; it leads us toward holiness.  The Catechism contains doctrine, not theology – theology being the activity of reflecting upon doctrine. … The Catechism of the Catholic Church is situated at a level that precedes theological concepts and that provides their foundation.  (p: xxxi)
·         “The Catholic Faith is not a series of isolated propositions to be believed, but a unified whole, rooted in the unity of God.”  Many people may only be catechized in “fragments of that meaning.”  (pp 2-3)
·         “The Catechism gives us an organic presentation of the Faith.  The annunciation of the Faith is made, not as a list of points, or isolated truths, but as a living, organic whole, in which the connections between the spiritual life and dogma, between the liturgy and the moral life, and between the personal and communal dimensions of the Faith, are stressed” (p7)
·         The Catechism is broken into four parts.  The first two have to do with God’s action:  the Creed and the Liturgy and Sacraments.  The last two have to do with our response:  Life in Christ and Prayer.   Knowing about God and the saving work of Christ is key to understanding the second half of the catechism, our response and our dependence on grace.
·         In the section titled Life in Christ, “The moral life, for a Christian, is not the fruit of human effort, striving after near-impossible ideals, of ‘dreaming the impossible dream’; it is the fruit of a new life, described in terms of both an incorporation into Christ at baptism and the reception of the Holy Spirit, who ‘having become their life, prompts them (Christians) to act.’”  (p21)
·         “And now here is the remarkable teaching of the Catholic Faith, so beautifully and powerfully expressed in the Catechism: what we would never have been able to discover, but needed to have revealed to us, is the condescension of God, who teaches us how to stand as beggars before him by himself coming as a beggar, and asking us for a drink to quench his thirst; our desire for good things from him is only a pale reflection of his desire for us and for our good.  (pp 21-22)
·         “The Catechism is concerned to identify with precision the meaning of each individual doctrine and … the relation and connection of each doctrine to the whole Faith.”  (p 31)
·         Cross-referencing between paragraphs is one of the main ways the authors of the Catechism encourage us to help us make the links between the different dimensions of the Christian Faith in our lives.  … Numerous cross-references in the margin of the text as well as the analytical index and the end of the volume, allow the reader to view each theme in its relationship with the entirety of the faith.”  (p 35)
·         “We practice an organic reading and teaching of the Faith, especially through the use of cross-references in the Catechism.” (p 39)
·         “C.S. Lewis presented a useful analogy in Mere Christianity to help us think about the relationship between knowing God personally and knowing about God.  He said that experiencing God might be compared to standing on a beach, sensing the power of the waves.  Doctrines, on the other hand, are more like a map of the sea – far less interesting than the sea itself, but if we want to get anywhere and not merely stand on the beach all day we will need the map.  Doctrine is what we need if we want to be practical about the Christian life and start moving. “  (pp 44-45)

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