Thursday, March 12, 2009

Why Catholic? Faith Sharing

For the last three years, my wife and I have participated in the Why Catholic program through our parish. Why Catholic is a faith sharing program based on the Catechism of the Catholic Church. It is a four year program with each of the four years following one of the pillars of the Catechism. Thus, year one focused on the Creed, year two on the sacraments, year three on Christian morality, and year four on prayer. In each of the years, our group met six times in the autumn and six times in the spring. We are currently two sessions into the last six sessions of the entire program.

I’ve spoken with people who believe that Why Catholic is a flawed program. Their main concern, as I understand it, is that the books, because of their size, selectively pick what material from the Catechism to present and the discussion questions do not ensure an orthodox presentation or discussion of the deposit of faith. While that is true, I can only point out that, if participants read the sections of the Catechism that are recommended for each session, they will have, at the end of four years, read and discussed the entire Catechism, and that is not a bad thing. As for the possibility of heterodox conversation, that danger exists in any Bible study or prayer group, and it is up to the individuals leading the group to recognize and correct it, in a sensitive and charitable way.

More to the point, Why Catholic is not designed to be a study of the Catechism. It is designed to be a vehicle for people to share their faith with others within the context of what the Catechism teaches. Paragraph 2689, which I read in preparation for last week’s session seemed appropriate to the whole program:

Prayer groups, indeed “schools of prayer,” are today one of the signs and one of the driving forces of renewal of prayer in the Church, provided they drink from authentic wellsprings of Christian prayer. Concern for ecclesial communion is a sign of true prayer in the Church.

Ours is only one group within our parish. Our initial group has grown smaller since we first started, and this year we merged with another group that had grown smaller. At the beginning of the program, there were about 300 people participating—I don’t know what the figure is now. I also don’t know how many other groups there are that meet on different nights. We have always made an effort to “drink from authentic wellsprings” in our group, limiting the resources that we use to the Bible, the Catechism, and the Why Catholic books themselves. In our discussions, we often go back to the Catechism to highlight points that might have been omitted, but which we thought were important. Some leaders, I am afraid, are not so scrupulous. I have heard of groups that introduce other materials, be they books or videos or invited speakers. “Concern for ecclesial communion” becomes, at that point, purely a function of the authenticity of the auxiliary material. I can understand why the critics are wary.

That said, I think that it’s been a positive experience for the members of our group. We’ve shared stories with each other, prayed with each other, and learned from the Catechism with each other. I like to think that, after four years, we will all have a more mature faith, and that the lens through which we look at the world will be a little more spiritually in focus.

And that’s a good thing.


Russ Martin (AKA "Steeple Chaser") said...

I have always believed that having a good understanding of your own faith, makes it easier to share your faith. I am glad that it was a positive experience for you and your wife. I have found small group settings to be very rewarding in both bringing me closer to God and creating opportunity for relations with people I might otherwise have never met that share my same belief and values.

Hans Georg Lundahl said...

Based on the what? [At least that is what I intended cfr Bree when Shasta said he had "ridden the donkey"] In other words not a Catholic program!

How about doing some real Catechism, like the Baltimore ones (graded I to IV with I for children and IV for teachers) or Penny Catechism or Catechism of St Pius X (a k a Catechism of Christian doctrine, five parts : Preliminary Notions, Smaller Catechism, Greater Catechism, History of the Holy Religion, Instruction on the Feasts - I had the second volume with the latter three parts) - the latter being of course very favoured by SSPX (St Pius X being their patron).

One local reason in France (which is a central one to SSPX, since Mgr Lefèbvre was a Frenchman and presumably still is insofar as we retain nationalities in the true homeland) for adhering to SSPX was preferring Catechism of St Pius X over Pierres Vivantes.