Each Sunday morning at my parish we have a class for the catechumenates (those planning to be received into the Catholic Church this Easter). As an adult convert to the Church, I too was a catechumenate and went through the weekly classes to be instructed in the faith. Now I’ve been privileged to assist with the program, primarily helping out with the discussions on the scripture passages for that Sunday’s mass as well as readings from Peter Kreeft’s book Catholic Christianity. (Kreeft’s book, by the way, follows the Catechism of the Catholic Church, offering explanations of and discussions about the Church’s core beliefs and practices. I heartily recommend it both to Catholics and anyone interested in learning more about the Catholic faith.) In the future I plan to do a write-up about that day’s class. So for any of you reading this who are in the class, feel free to post questions and/or comments!
Today’s scripture readings were Isaiah 6:1-2a and 3-8, I Cointhians 15:1-11, and Luke 5:1-11. One of the ladies in our parish led the discussion on these passages (several of us take turns leading the discussions), making some excellent points. Each of these scripture passages tells of a person’s calling (the prophet Isaiah, the apostle Paul, and the apostle Peter) to serve the Lord. A pattern is readily apparent: First the call is issued; second, the person who has been called expresses their unworthiness; and third, they accept the call. Isaiah acknowledges his own sinfulness as well as the sinfulness of his people, and one of the angels symbolically cleanses him so he may go forth and do the Lord’s work. Paul insists on his unworthiness to be an apostle because, prior to his conversion, he persecuted the nascent Church. Peter likewise acknowledged his sinfulness and even begged Christ to leave him. The lady leading the discussion remarked how even one her third grade students recognized that our Lord called average men to be his apostles, not the wealthiest or the best educated or the most powerful. I added that I had once seen an old clip of Bishop Fulton Sheen commenting on Peter’s calling; he said that when Peter begged Christ to depart “for I am a sinful man,” it was as though Christ were saying to him, “Yes, Peter, I know. That’s why I want you!”
Further remarks on the scripture readings focused on how Paul emphasized to the Corinthians that Christ’s death and resurrection, the heart of the Gospel, was attested to by eye witnesses still living at the time, thus affirming it as historical fact and not just a myth. He also indicated the primacy of Peter by pointing out that Peter (called Cephas in the passage from I Corinthians) was the first of the apostles that Christ appeared to following the resurrection.
I led the discussion on chapter five of the second section in Peter Kreeft’s book. The chapter deals with the first three of the Ten Commandments. I first pointed out a misconception that some Protestants have had about the Catholic understanding of the Commandments. The Catholic Church (and Lutherans) enumerates them slightly differently from most Protestants. For instance, the prohibition against idolatry is treated as part of the first commandment rather than as a separate one. I told the class that a minister here in town that I once worked with briefly over at ECU claimed that Catholics had changed the Ten Commandments so they could justify all their statuary! (Probably he had seen a Catholic listing of them and noted that what Protestants considered the second commandment was not listed and therefore incorrectly assumed that the Catholic Church had actually altered them. Misconception mania…) Of course, the Church emphasizes that statues, icons, and relics are never to objects of worship. Rather, they are aids to worship, pointing ultimately to God. I added that Protestants seem to have no objections to honor being shown to our country’s flag or to having monuments and/or holidays held to honor soldiers, notable leaders, or others who have made contributions to our society, yet the accusation of idolatry is quickly made when Catholic and Orthodox Christians employ religious art to honor saints. As Greg and Jennifer Willits point out in of their videos about Catholicism (look up “That Catholic Show” on YouTube) the use of statues and icons is like people having family photographs on their walls–think of them as the Church’s photo album, to remember our spiritual ancestry!
Toward the end we touched on how Christians have Sunday as their day of worship rather than Saturday, the Jewish Sabbath. Some sects, such as Seventh Day Adventists, believe that Saturday worship should be observed, otherwise the third commandment is not be being honored. However, Christians early on chose Sunday because it was the day of Christ’s resurrection. Just as the Jews honored God as Creator and celebrated their liberation from Egypt on their Sabbath, so Christians, by setting aside Sunday as our day of worship, honor God’s new creation and celebrate our liberation from sin.
Various other things were brought up during our discussions, but space does not permit me to cover them all… and I doubt you would want to read them all anyway!
Probably the key idea to take away from the Kreeft chapter, as one of our group leaders emphasized, is a quotation by St. Augustine: “Love God and do what you will.” That sums it all up!
I keep our catechumenates in my prayers. May God bless them and draw them closer to Himself as they prepare to enter the Church.