Sunday, May 25, 2008


As a catechist I've spent a good part of my time working with teenagers. I have been fortunate enough to be able to accompany groups of teens to Steubenville Youth Conferences, accompanied groups of young people doing mission work in West Virginia, chaperoned them as they worked in soup kitchens, prayed outside Abortion clinics and attended retreats. I have also engaged in social ministry, spending time with teens just discussing their lives, their school, the world. I have been struck by the knowledge of Roman Catholicism exhibited by some of them and the ignorance of their religion shown by others.
The most amazing thing that I have found is that, as a rule, they are happier with a orthodox view of the world than with the package that secular society is trying to sell them. They want to be challenged to be holy. They would rather, in the long run, be called on their mistakes, than be "validated."
That being said I have lately dabbled in adult catechesis. This area can best be divided between candidates for RCIA and Catholic adults. RCIA candidates, one would suppose, range from those who are converting based on a long search and those going through the motions for reasons of marital peace, either before or after matrimony. Catholic adults, I have met, are at many different stages of both spiritual growth and of orthodoxy. As a developing adult Catholic myself I struggle with issues just like everyone else, but continue to believe that the catechist must espouse authentic Church teaching just as much with adults as with teens.
Of course, many times adults don't want to hear authentic Church teachings when they go against their own positions. I'm attempting to improve my skill at being tactful, a skill my wife will tell you I can be somewhat lacking in. I've found it always helps when dealing with a controversial subject to bring out the big guns, i.e. not to say something along the lines of, "..the Church teaches..." but rather "...the Catechism of the Catholic Church says..." or " The USCCB say in the Norms for Distribution and Reception of...". After all this isn't a discussion between me and another person debating opinions, it is, or should be, me acting as a conduit of Church teaching in such a way as to edify the others journey to holiness.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Works of Mercy

Much is being said about the pastoral actions of the Archbishops of New York and Kansas City in their public announcements relating to the actions of two pro-abortion politicians who are self-described Catholics.
In the modern post Vatican II era we hear a lot about our responsibility to practice the Works of Mercy. Most often the Works emphasized are the seven Corporal Works:
  1. Feed the hungry.
  2. Give drink to the thirsty.
  3. Cloth the naked.
  4. Welcome the Stranger.
  5. Visit the imprisoned.
  6. Visit the sick.
  7. Bury the dead.
Indeed the many ministries which are common at almost every Catholic Church often concern themselves with fulfilling the requirements of meeting the Corporal Works of Mercy.

All too often the other Works of Mercy, the Spiritual Works of Mercy are overlooked. They are:
  1. Admonish the sinner.
  2. Instruct the ignorant.
  3. Counsel the doubtful.
  4. Comfort the sorrowful.
  5. Bear wrongs patiently.
  6. Forgive all injuries.
  7. Pray for the living and the deceased.
It seems to me that it is a lot harder to be faithful to the Spiritual Works of Mercy than to the Corporal Works of Mercy. Even many secularist (especially of liberal leanings) agree that the requirements of the Corporal Works should be done. Who would speak against feeding the hungry, or clothing the naked? Yet many otherwise faithful Catholics do not feel bishops should admonish sinners.
Oh they're all for general comments on the evil of sin, but start naming names and they talk about how the bishop is overstepping. Now don't misunderstand, naming names is not something to be done lightly. A private sin is just that, private. If confessed, it is between the sinner and their confessor. Even if the sinner does not confess the sin and is unrepentant in most cases informing other third parties of the sin is no more than gossip, and is sinful in itself.
Public sin is another story. A public sinner flaunts their sin. They bring scandal to themselves, and if unadmonished to the Church. They lead others into sin by their example and in some cases even encourage others to sin. When their actions also contest a dogma or doctrine of the Church they flirt with heresy, also a not very popular term in the modern secular world.
One should remember that the purpose of admonishment as well as instruction is correction of the individual with the purpose of the salvation of their soul. So the Spiritual Works of Mercy, like the Corporal Works are to be performed in a spirit of charity, not of pride. Liekwise they are not relegated only to the actions of the Ordinary, but the duty of all Catholics.