Tag Archives: adult faith formation

How to be Mercy in the home

“As Mothers, We Live the Works of Mercy Each Day in Our Homes”

Blessed is She is an online community of women living the Gospel and the faith in their particular context.

Daily we are called to be protagonists in the works of mercy. Here is a resource.

Needed: Mature Christians today

Peter Preaching Lorenzo VenezianoThe New Testament is replete with references to believers being mature in their faith, in their manner of being a follower of Jesus Christ, of standing up and taking responsibility in the Church. Saint Paul speaks the people of Corinth in a direct way that helps us to see his view of being a mature Christian who takes adult faith formation seriously: “I gave you milk to drink, not solid food; for you were not yet able to receive it. Indeed, even now you are not yet able,” (1 Cor. 3:2).

Through the decades the popes of have taught similarly. One example is Benedict XVI who exhorted priests to not be satisfied with “a childhood of faith”, meaning that many Catholics have yet to mature in their knowledge and practice of the faith. It seems as though we, in this most educated of centuries (at least in the first world) have yet to get past first level of discipleship. The pope observes that a lot of Christians “cannot — as adults, with competence and conviction — explain and elucidate the philosophy of the faith, its great wisdom and rationality” in order to illuminate the minds of others. To do this they need an “adult faith” and to see the bigger picture of a vigorous faith and a faith that works in mature ways that put what one believes into concrete action. It seems to me that we need a closer coherence between what we say we believe, how we worship and how we live. On many occasions Benedict has spoken thus to the Church through the bishops, priests and laity to be concerned with faith formation.

The current pope is echoing what his predecessors have said in spades, namely, Christians: grow up! You can see some of what the bishop of Rome is aiming at in his recent Apostolic Exhortation, The Joy of the Gospel (Evangelii Gaudium) numbers 160-175. Mature Christians is means that the Christian responds fully to the Lord’s call to discipleship.

What is needed is an educated heart and mind. Our work is nothing more and nothing less than being educated to Christian maturity. In a very real sense that is what the Church is about, this is what the ecclesial movements of Communion and Liberation, Opus Dei and Focolare are about. Personal holiness, a reasonable expression of faith, and a enlivened response to human need is what defines the real Christian person. But don’t fret. We are in-process of becoming, real Christian living means recognizes that we all are on a journey to wholeness and holiness. Here the lens of faith informs and shapes life whereby our happiness in this life and in the next is realized.  Porta Fidei (the Apostolic Letter opening the Year of Faith by Benedict XVI)  has this line that I think each of us needs to recall: “Through faith, this new life shapes the whole of human existence according to the radical new reality of the resurrection. … ‘Faith working through love’ becomes a new criterion of understanding and action that changes the whole of man’s life.” What the Pope is getting at is that we take adult faith formation with a degree of purpose. Hence, as Christians we have the modalities of a community of faith, the priest, and spiritual direction to help us walk the path given to us by the Lord. Each of these experiences will help us to recognize the contours of sin and grace: they  keep reality alive.

The heart of the Gospel and the teachings of the Church is repentance and conversion. Conversion to what? Rather, it is not a what, but who. To convert means that we turn our lives over to Jesus Christ in a radical way: no reservations, no “ifs, ands or buts.” Our past is the past and it is redeemed, that is, our misdeeds and moral incompetencies are brought into the inner life of the Trinity (Father, Son & Holy Spirit) being made right. The Christian believes that it is the Trinity who renders judgement and mercy.

And here is the Good News: the offer of salvation made by God is crucial to the aim of belief and everything in the event of Christian proposal seeks to make this known. Good News “is the message capable of responding to the desire fro the infinite which abides in the human heart” (no. 165).

What I’ve quoted here before and what is renewed again: good catechesis needs good witnesses. How well does one “walk humbly with God.” Pope Paul VI said we need more witnesses than teachers of the faith. The “good witness” is the person who takes his or her faith seriously, who lives knowing that he or she is loved and redeemed by God. The saint, that is, the real Christian is not perfect perfect but the redeemed sinner.

Stimpson’s not leaving the Catholic Church: a follow up to Dreher

Yesterday, I posted Rod Dreher’s essay, “I’m Still Not Coming Back to the Catholic Church.”

Emily StimpsonHere is Emily Stimpson’s essay, “Why I’m Never Leaving the Catholic Church” where she tries to respond to Rod Dreher. She felt the need to counter the experience of someone she respects. Fine. There are important things in her essay to be mindful of, too: a weak catechetical formation in doctrine and Scripture, and the struggle against a relentless secularism. She also sacrificed much to be educated in the Catholic faith. But I don’t believe she took gave an honest read to Dreher’s experience.

Virtue is in the middle. So is the truth. But so is one’s experience. Perhaps he does a better job at articulating the matters of importance.I have to say, though, Stimpson’s essay sounds a lot like George Weigel’s response to Jesuit Father Tom Reese’s assertions in “It’s Fun to be Catholic Again.” Naming all the good things happening in the Catholic Church in the USA is not going to lead many to the truth and to be in full communion with Peter. Our Catholic witness has to be more than that. Weigel’s responding to a petulant Jesuit priest. Stimpson has to up her game because I take her essay as merely reducing all those good things to programing when the real issue where is Jesus Christ met. The culture of encounter, as Pope Francis identifies so well for us (and before him JP & B16).

True that Ms Stimpson has full communion in the Church of Rome; good for her that she’s recognized the call of Jesus to be so united. She has the essentials: a valid priesthood, valid sacraments, a coherent moral and social teaching, she has a true sentire cum ecclesia, etc. Mr Dreher has everything that Stimpson has but the unity of the Church under Peter. And I would say that Dreher also lives in spirit of sentire cum ecclesia, though not with the fullest of feeling. Does one conclude that Dreher is not saved by Christ? Of course, not. The Orthodox Church has a valid priesthood, valid sacraments, a moral and social body of teaching, and synodality (and much more).

I want to be clear. One up-manship is a ugly game. Just look at the self-righteous comments left on FB and their sites where these essays were originally posted. Sad to say, charity and honest are left at the door in some cases. What happened to Benedict XVI’s famous line, “we only propose, never impose the faith”? Do we even know that that means? Do we really care? The new evangelization has to be more sophisticated and working with real experience.

Working with Rod Dreher’s “I’m Still Not Going Back…to the Church”

Rod Dreher’s article in Time, “I’m Still Not Going Back to the Catholic Church,” is a real good piece to reflect upon. Dreher, 46, reflects upon his experience in the Catholic Church and skillfully questions the modus operandi of the Church’s faith formation programs and preaching. I am positively disposed to what he has to say.

You are not likely to agree with all of what Dreher says, you will find other ways for the author to deal with his issues with the Catholic Church, and you very well may object to most of what he says. I would ask that you  give him a fair chance to make his case. He communicates a reality and therefore I actually think we wall owe it to ourselves to take-in what he says about his experience in the Catholic Church and perhaps make some adjustment.

After reading this piece, and if you are a pastor, a faith formation leader, or a serious Catholic: How would you approach the the author’s ideas? Would you take a look at parish’s preaching, music, ars celebrandi of the Mass (Divine Office), RCIA, the adult and child faith formation programs and service programs? Would you leave well-enough alone and ride into the sunset?

Not to take serious a serious Christian’s, is in my opinion, slothful and arrogant. The time of beige and therapeutic Catholicism is over.

Rod Dreher is a senior editor at The American Conservative, and author of The Little Way Of Ruthie Leming. He and his wife Julie have three children and they live in south Louisiana. Follow Rod on his website here.

Seductive philosophy will not lead to Christ

Duccio Washing the feetWe have a vocation, we are called by the Lord, to be in His service. Some are married and others are consecrated religious, some are single and others are priests, some are professors and others are store managers and machinists and domestic engineers. Some are film makers, others write music. We all have a personal gift (a charism) for God’s service and for personal sanctification. Jesus calls all people.

In the first reading we hear today from Paul’s letter to the Colossians has this first paragraph:

As you received Christ Jesus the Lord, walk in him, rooted in him and built upon him and established in the faith as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving. See to it that no one captivate you with an empty, seductive philosophy according to the tradition of men, according to the elemental powers of the world and not according to Christ.

Several weeks ago the readings at Mass spoke of being disciplined, that is, instructed, taught, having a solid formation, as children are (at least that’s the hope!), in the ways of Christ and the Good News He proclaimed. And for several days following there were indications in Scripture that having a solid formation, having the needed discipline in Christ would lead you to everything promised by God: the hundredfold, eternal life, peace, happiness, etc. Sadly, too often we dismiss the advice to be disciplined in the Lord.

Too much of what society gives today is competing advice: do your own thing, “do it your own way,” what matters is what you think and feel. The exclusive use of secular philosophy will not open the heart and mind to God; Kant, Descartes, Schleiermacher, Mills, Hobbes, Heidegger, and Caputo will not lead to your personal redemption. Therapeutic attitude displaces heavenly teaching. Don’t get me wrong, therapy is crucial to better health, but it never replaces God’s revelation. Saint Paul and the whole of sacred Scripture doesn’t adhere to a secular line of thinking. The Apostle to the Gentiles speaks of testing, verifying and experimenting with what’s given by God.

When we verify the Truth we meet God. When we live according to His plan we have happiness. So, the exhortation given in today’s first reading: be skeptical about what you hear from secular leaders because their teaching may not lead you to heaven. Test everything, says Paul in another place.

Good, solid, disciplined adult faith formation is crucial to our life in Jesus Christ. Beg for this in your parish community.

I think we have to ask ourselves, Do we, as the Rule of Benedict instructs, prefer nothing to the love of Christ? Do we know that Jesus, the Son of God, wants our happiness? Do we expect everything from Jesus Christ?

The gospel reading from Luke (6:12-13) tells us that Jesus “called his disciples to himself, and from them he chose Twelve, whom he also named Apostles….” Do you know the names of the 12? Are you aware that the 12 are a different category that the category of apostles and disciples? Do we know how to connect the dots between what happens here and the Last Supper, the foundation of the Church, and the proclamation of the Kingdom? Do you see yourself as called by the Lord? What is your particular charism for the good of the Church?

We know that being called, that is, having been given a vocation by the Lord is not insignificant. Not to follow that vocation may very well to rejecting a gift God has given. Consider for a moment how you have, or are in the process of discovering the pathway to love God through your personal gifts? Have you discovered through prayer to God and made an offering of yourself to the people today by the witness of your life, by your preaching and by a substantial mission revealed in contemplation?

Pope Benedict XVI in a Wednesday Audience on 15 March 2006 said,

With their very own existence, the Twelve -called from different backgrounds- become an appeal for all of Israel to convert and allow herself to be gathered into the new covenant, complete and perfect fulfillment of the ancient one. The fact that he entrusted to his Apostles, during the Last Supper and before his Passion, the duty to celebrate his Pasch, demonstrates how Jesus wished to transfer to the entire community, in the person of its heads, the mandate to be a sign and instrument in history of the eschatological gathering begun by him. In a certain sense we can say that the Last Supper itself is the act of foundation of the Church, because he gives himself and thus creates a new community, a community united in communion with himself.

About the author

Paul A. Zalonski is from New Haven, CT. He is a member of the Fraternity of Communion and Liberation, a Catholic ecclesial movement, and an Oblate of Saint Benedict. Contact Paul at paulzalonski[at]yahoo.com.
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