Tuesday, December 29, 2009

New Year, Same Old, Same Old.

Just before the holidays I was facilitating a bible study class for adults. One of the particular lessons of secession was obedience to God. Specifically for the Catholic this comes down to obedience to the Magisterium. Out of the blue one of the students said, " I don't believe the Church is always right. I don't believe the Church's teaching on birth control"
Now this is the catechist's greatest fear. Sometimes we know a lesson will be controversial. Plan a lesson on annulments, or abortion or even when to kneel during Mass and the astute catechist will be prepared for a lively discussion. Talk about obedience to God and one expects a discussion of the difficulty of living up to the commandments or mercy verses justice. So of course God in his infinite wisdom throws out the 1 200lbs gorilla of modernist heresy to be dealt with.
Now the speaker was a post menopausal single woman. I mention this only to point out that this was not a personally relevant belief, at least not in the conventional sense.
Now I have no doubt left to my own devices I would have felt a deep sense of panic moving in. This is the kind of rabbit hole that can derail an entire group. The rest of the lesson gets buried and half the group refuses to return, because the facilitator is not "pastoral" or "understanding."
Luckily I had prayed before the lesson, always a vital part of the preparation for a teacher or catechist before performing their ministry. So I know it was not me, but the Holy Spirit who responded with, "What part of Humanae Vitae do you believe Pope Paul got wrong?"
"I..I don't know I've never read it.."
"How about Pope John Paul's Theology of the Body?"
"So what you're saying is that you're prepared to challenge a teaching of the Church without knowing the moral and theological underpinnings of those teachings?"
"Well when you put it like that..."
"So why not read Humanae Vitae before you decide you disagree with it?"
I pointed out that the document was easy to find with a simple Google search, and promised we'd discuss it once everyone had an opportunity to read it. We then smoothly continued with the lesson.
I don't know that everyone in that group will take the time to read Humanae Vitae before our next session, after the holidays, but I do know that I'll be rereading it, just in case.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Marry Christmas

Well Christmas has come and gone. We celebrate today the Feast of the Holy Family. In the coming days we will finish out the Octave of Christmas and move into the Christmas season.
Next year promises to be challenging for the Catechist, as we move closer to the new English translation of the Mass. Now for some of you I have no doubt that you've been told it won't happen, or that it won't effect your parish. Now based on the past forty years, I have no doubt that some priests, or even bishops, might believe that they can finesse this. Have no doubt. A new translation is coming.
The transition will be easier if the faithful are properly instructed in the reasons a new translation was necessary and how the International Commission on English in the Liturgy (ICEL) and the Vatican arrived at this new translation. Sour grapes about the quality of the translation (It is actually much better than the old translation taken from the 1975 version of the Missale Romanum,) ala Bishop Trautman is not helpful. It can be more theologically challenging for individuals who are not knowledgeable about the precepts of their faith. It contains words of more than one syllable to declare complex theological concepts that can't properly be stated without using such words. These are concepts medieval peasants understood, including quite a few of little formal education beyond catechetical instruction, and this mostly at the hands of their parents. Surely modern Americans and other English speakers, who can master the terminology of football or cricket can likewise master this special vocabulary of liturgical worship.Some instruction may be necessary, mostly account of the forty years of bad catechetical formation that has occurred in some diocese of the Church. The better the faithful are prepared for the transition the smoother it will go, and the better the liturgy will be for it. so if you haven't yet visited USCCB - Roman Missal check it out. The USCCB have made a substantial effort to support the transition. We need to also.