Children have an open and candid faith, and upon that the teacher builds. They are unquestioning and receptive to the deepest mysteries of religion. It is only when the pupils grow older that doubt and skepticism may appear. This fact is partly natural and partly due to the prevailing attitude of some teachers of secular subjects: take nothing for granted, question and inquire, test and prove to your own satisfaction all that you see and hear. All principles and truths are thus called into question. The catechist must point out that the doctrines of the Church are not to be treated in the same way as conclusions in the experimental sciences. One does not test religious teachings in a laboratory, but there are certain truths which we take on faith; and it is enough to point out that they are not unreasonable or contrary to reason.
– Very Rev. Joseph B. Collins, SS, Confraternity Teacher’s Guide (1960)
The renewal of the Church is also achieved through the witness offered by the lives of believers: by their very existence in the world, Christians are called to radiate the word of truth that the Lord Jesus has left us. The Council itself, in the Dogmatic Constitution Lumen Gentium, said this: While œChrist, ˜holy, innocent and undefiled’ (Heb 7:26) knew nothing of sin (cf. 2 Cor 5:21), but came only to expiate the sins of the people (cf. Heb 2:17)… the Church … clasping sinners to its bosom, at once holy and always in need of purification, follows constantly the path of penance and renewal. The Church, ˜like a stranger in a foreign land, presses forward amid the persecutions of the world and the consolations of God’, announcing the cross and death of the Lord until he comes (cf. 1 Cor 11:26). But by the power of the risen Lord it is given strength to overcome, in patience and in love, its sorrow and its difficulties, both those that are from within and those that are from without, so that it may reveal in the world, faithfully, although with shadows, the mystery of its Lord until, in the end, it shall be manifested in full light.
The teacher of religion should love his students with a love which sees in them the image of Christ. He should love them even as our Lord loved children and took them to His heart when He was on earth. ‘The charity of Jesus Christ,’ wrote Bishop Dupanloup, ‘and your love for children will inspire in you a disinterested and enlightened devotion toward them. In a well-conducted class, teaching is not the principal thing, the chief thing is piety and personal, affectionate influence on the children.’
-Very Rev. Joseph B. Collins, SS, Confraternity Teacher’s Guide (1960)
A parish is a community of the Christian faithful established within a diocese. The pastoral care of a parish is entrusted to a pastor under the authority of the diocesan bishop. The parish is ‘the primary experience of the Church’ for most Catholics. It is where the faithful gather for the celebration of the sacraments and the proclamation of the word of God, and where they are enabled to live distinctively Christian lives of charity and service in their family, economic, and civic situations. It is ‘the living and permanent environment for growth in the faith.’ The parish energizes the faithful to carry out Christ’s mission by providing spiritual, moral, and material support for the regular and continuing catechetical development of the parishioners.
Not without reason, Christians in the early centuries were required to learn the creed from memory. It served them as a daily prayer not to forget the commitment they had undertaken in baptism. With words rich in meaning, Saint Augustine speaks of this in a homily on the redditio symboli, the handing over of the creed: “the symbol of the holy mystery that you have all received together and that today you have recited one by one, are the words on which the faith of Mother Church is firmly built above the stable foundation that is Christ the Lord. You have received it and recited it, but in your minds and hearts you must keep it ever present, you must repeat it in your beds, recall it in the public squares and not forget it during meals: even when your body is asleep, you must watch over it with your hearts.”
The Lord is not impressed by numbers, but by the presence of faith, the broken and contrite heart, the meek, the humble and those who thirst after righteousness. The saints will endure and shine like the stars, the innumerable children of Abraham.
Saint Augustine reminds us that the City of Man and the City of God intermingle. We have obligations to each. But out final home and our real citizenship are not in this world. Politics is important, but it’s never the main focus or purpose of a Christian life. If we do not know and love Jesus Christ, and commit our lives to him, and act on what we claim to believe, everything else is empty. But if we do, so much else is possible — including the conversion of the world around us. The only question that finally matters to any of us is the one Jesus posed to his apostles: “Who do you say I am?” (Mk 8:29). Everything depends on the answer. Faith leads in one direction, the lack of it in another. But the issue is faith — always and everywhere, whether we are scholars or doctors or priests or lawyers or mechanics. Do we really believe in Jesus Christ, or don’t we? And if we do, what are we going to do about it?
If we think again of the health of the human body in order to find illustrations of what can happen in the Mystical Body, we shall be struck with another point. It is possible for a body to be free from disease, and yet to lack strength. Suppose a man has had an operation because of some disease: let us suppose further that the operation is perfectly successful so that, after it, he is free from the disease. Nevertheless he will need convalescence before his health is again perfect. For his disease has left an effect of weakness which natural forces will eliminate.
It is similar in the Mystical Body. Even after a diseased member is cured of sin by the sacrament of penance there remain some after-effects. There is what is called the “disposition to sin”; also there may well be a debt of punishment due after the guilt of the sin has been removed. The soul is not a perfect soul, even though it be free from the disease of sin and in possession of the life of grace. There is still weakness.
And just as the natural weakness of the body, after the actual cure of disease, needs to be eliminated by natural means such as rest, careful nursing, good food, plentiful sleep — so also supernatural weakness of the soul, after the cure from the guilt of sin, needs to be eliminated by the action of supernatural means before that soul can be considered a perfect soul.
– Clifford Howell, S.J. Of Sacraments and Sacrifice (1952)
Since worship, along with the other central mysteries of our human existence, outstrips our own spontaneous attempts at responding adequately to the event at hand, we all find the help we need in words and movements handed down to us by wise tradition. Oh, to be sure, the Father whom we invoke is, like any father, delighted with whatever halting, lisping, stammering efforts we direct to him from our hearts. He does not sit as critic when we come to his knee. But when we come to the business of regular, recurrent, public worship, then we are glad for a form. A structure. The inexorable march of time, century after century, exhausts our spontaneity. We need a form.