Tuesday, March 27, 2012

TO HELL YOU SAY?

I am amazed at how deep the discussion can go when simply using the Baltimore Catechism as a springboard. The reason I suggest it for catechesis, in a discussion type group or a small group home setting, is that it is so easy to do and with very little preparation.

As the chapters are so brief and the questions very good with very tight answers, all the leader as to do is to read each question or explanation and then open it to discussion. Of course it does help to prepare ahead of time to bring other ideas to the discussion table as it concerns the content of this particular catechism which was written for children and to pique the religious imagination of children.

For example in the chapter on the resurrection of the body, respect for the human body even in death by treating it with dignity, giving a proper Christian burial, etc is very much needed in today's cremation culture and contempt for the human body in life and in death especially with our piercing and emerging tattooing culture, not to mention our face lift culture, tummy tucks, buttocks enhancement and so on.

What heaven is like, what hell is like and what purgatory is like also allows for more nuanced discussion of these realities and what these might be like. As adults and even as children we can understand the symbolism of fire in both a negative and positive way.

In our adult class on Sunday I was able to explain burning and fire in a more positive light as well as what God's love and justice for people in hell might be like. I'd like to think that in hell people are perfectly happy, because on earth they were partially happy with their deeds of darkness, the pleasure it brought their bodies and minds and that they loved hating God and neighbor. They loved not going to Mass but rather substituting other activities for it, such as working, sleeping in late or ignoring God and neighbor altogether. If that's what makes you happy on earth, you'll be perfectly happy in hell! Now that's another way to look at eternal damnation without it looking like God is getting even or people in heaven are singing nah, nah to those in hell to make them squirm even more, although if that happens, those in hell will like being taunted in that way by those hypocritical people in heaven--it gives them one more reason to prefer hell to heaven!

Using the Baltimore Catechism's chapter on personal judgement, purgatory, heaven and hell, how would you describe these in a more positive way in light of God's unconditional love and how can one view suffering in a positive way. Our culture today, especially our Christian culture and sadly to include many Catholics, no longer see suffering, even in purgatory, as a good.

On this chapter on the last things, even suffering is given a positive slant: "Love is purified, increased and perfected by suffering. This means not only bodily pain, but crosses of all kinds. God sends everyone all the sufferings they need on earth to cleanse, strengthen, and perfect their love. But most people waste their sufferings. They do not want them, complain about them, and try to escape them in every manner possible, even by committing sin. Because of this attitude, the fires of their sufferings are unable to burn away the selfishness from their love, so that it will be perfect. Then they must go to purgatory where they will have to suffer much more intensely than they would have if they had accepted the sufferings of earth. Their love is purified in purgatory...In purgatory, God's cleansing fires burn away the soul's selfishness till its love becomes perfect and it is ready to fly to heaven" Now if that isn't a discussion started (and it was on Sunday!) for understanding suffering in a more positive light, I don't know what is. This is especially true when we meet Christians who join denominations that promote the Gospel of prosperity and like Joel Osteen's version of Christianity avoids suffering at all costs!

And then the description of heaven in this chapter is very profound as well. I wonder if the majority of Catholics today could describe heaven this way:

"Heaven is the place, or state, of perfect happiness. Happiness comes from complete union with the one we love. In heaven, the saints share fully in God's life and love. They are perfectly united with Him and can never lose Him. Now at last they are perfectly free to love Him as they have desired. All their desires are satisfied, since these desires are all for the things of God. They have the companionship with Christ as man, with our Blessed Mother and all the angels and saints Everyone loves one another perfectly and all are completely and everlastingly happy in God!"

This description of heaven is written for children, but when I read it, it renews my desire to want to be there even more too. How basic is that!

Let's get back to the basics with our catechesis of children and adults, that combined with the recovery of the ethos of the Extraordinary Form of the Mass and also applied to the Ordinary Form of the Mass will do much to accomplish God's plan for the world, the salvation of our souls! Isn't that the reason for Christ and His Incarnation, life, passion, death, resurrection, ascension, giving of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost and His return at the end of time? Is there any other religion that makes this evident? Let's not hide what we have under a bushel basket, but place it on a hill to be the Light of the world. All else in the Catholic Church flows from her ministry of saving souls for salvation begins in the here and now also and has ramifications for the lives we live, the love we express and the way we treat each other not only in the Church but in the social order including the ways governments act and assist in making people's lives what they should be. Let us remember that the way to salvation here on earth and finally in heaven is through God's gifts of faith, hope and love. These gifts are not imposed on us by God or else these wouldn't be gifts, but are given to us in order to be received by us. Thus the way to heaven is through faith and good works. Salvation hinges upon both, thus the Church's social teachings are very much tied into "saving one's soul" and "saving souls collectively." And all this from the Baltimore's Catechism used as a springboard to so much more!

22 comments:

Anonymous said...

Why is that angel holding the flag of England?

Robert Kumpel said...

Father, I am impressed at what an effect the Baltimore Catechism seems to be having on you and your class. I use the Baltimore Catechism with my kids (thanks to Seton) and I am often struck at the sheer straightforwardness and clarity of its content. When I explain Hell to my children, I usually tell them that the worst thing of all about Hell is the absolute absence of love, since there is no real love without the Presence of God. I hope that your observations here will inspire other priests and DRE's to re-discover this lost treasure that is so beneficial for basic religious instruction.

Templar said...

The St George's Cross predates the nation of England by many centuries. An even sided Cross, as opposed to a depiction of a cross suitable for crucifixtion, dates back to the Greeks who viewed it as a simple of sound judgement, hence it's association with the tarot card for judgement. Most tarot decks use the St George Cross in this manner on this card.

Anonymous said...

I do not think that hell can be explained in a "positive" manner, except maybe in the sense that hell is a just punishment and is, effectively, a free choice. I think it is frankly harmful to say that people in hell are "happy." I realize that this is probably a figure of speech, that you were speak to adults, and that this was part of a larger conversation, but still.

Anyways, I do agree that the Baltimore Catechism is probably the very best front-line catechetical tool the English-speaking Catholic Church has currently. The CCC is nice, and it works, but it is mightily unwieldy. The BC is far superior for kids and teenagers, and converts, at least at first.

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

I agree that "happy" is not a good word as it implies "blessedness" and certainly hell is the opposite of it.
I think in terms of God's justice and even is love for those in hell, including the fallen angels, we could say that just as humans were quite content to live life as though God does not exist and to do so knowing the truth and having made a free will decision with full consent of the will to live like that and unrepentant that eternal damnation begins now and finds its completion in hell that is one's desire to live life contradicting God and His love temporally and eternally.
Yes, I like the CCC, the Bishop's version of it and the Compendium, but in terms of cathechetics for children and teenagers, I think the Baltimore Catechism is perfect with some minor nuancing in the areas of ecumenism and sacramental theology.

Robert Kumpel said...

I know that Catholics are not under obligation to believe in private revelations, even if they are approved, however, in the case of Fatima, since over 100,000 people witnessed the Miracle of the Sun in 1917, I think this goes beyond mere "private" revelation: At one of her previous apparitions, the Blessed Mother showed the three children a glimpse of hell. It was so hideous and horrifying that it left a permanent change upon their view of life. After that, all three of them were willing to perform previously unthinkable sacrifices to prevent souls from going to Hell.

Just something to think about.

Anonymous said...

Father, yes, I agree with your last comment. However, I must ask one thing. What is the actual purpose of ecumenism? What is the goal? What is the "hope?" The mission? The vision? Is it, effectively, just a working term for "evangelization" (like I hope!), one being used until we start really revving this new evan. program up?

Or, is it not? Is it just a pointless agenda to satisfy non-Catholics and secular governments? I really want to know. I've looked for answers in a lot of places, but I can't get a straight one. It's always touchy-feely uber-gooey, and is, IMO, the last 1970s holdout topic that doesn't yet have a well-known "vision" for the future like the liturgy and catechesis do.

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

I believe the actual purpose of ecumenism is to bring back the "separated brethren" into the full communion of the Catholic Church, i.e. pope, bishops and deposit of faith. If we hide that fact under a bushel basket and then fail to inform our own Catholics why we have ecumenism then we are really practicing false ecumenism.
However, the type of ecumenism that builds good will and friendship amongst those who are not in full communion with the Church is important too for I think we need to be realistic about complete unity in Christianity. Pope Benedict the radical he is has shown what true ecumenism is with the Anglican Ordinariate. Here you have the Anglican Communion's wonderful liturgical and spiritual patrimony that comes from Catholicism purified by the Anglican Ordinariate bring these Anglicans into the full communion of the Church as Vatican II envisioned. It can't get any better than that!

Pater Ignotus said...

The purpose/goal/hope of ecumenism: "The restoration of unity among all Christians..." (Vatican II, Decree on Ecumenism, no 1)

The vision of ecumenism: "The term "ecumenical movement" indicates the initiatives and activities planned and undertaken, according to the various needs of the Church and as opportunities offer, to promote Christian unity. These are: first, every effort to avoid expressions, judgments and actions which do not represent the condition of our separated brethren with truth and fairness and so make mutual relations with them more difficult; then, "dialogue" between competent experts from different Churches and Communities. At these meetings, which are organized in a religious spirit, each explains the teaching of his Communion in greater depth and brings out clearly its distinctive features. In such dialogue, everyone gains a truer knowledge and more just appreciation of the teaching and religious life of both Communions. In addition, the way is prepared for cooperation between them in the duties for the common good of humanity which are demanded by every Christian conscience; and, wherever this is allowed, there is prayer in common. Finally, all are led to examine their own faithfulness to Christ's will for the Church and accordingly to undertake with vigor the task of renewal and reform." (Decree on Ecumenism, no 4)

Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, The Meaning of Christian Brotherhood, pp. 87-88: “The difficulty in the way of giving an answer is a profound one. Ultimately it is due to the fact that there is no appropriate category in Catholic thought for the phenomenon of Protestantism today (one could say the same of the relationship to the separated churches of the East). It is obvious that the old category of ‘heresy’ is no longer of any value. Heresy, for Scripture and the early Church, includes the idea of a personal decision against the unity of the Church, and heresy’s characteristic is pertinacia, the obstinacy of him who persists in his own private way. This, however, cannot be regarded as an appropriate description of the spiritual situation of the Protestant Christian."

The Vatican's "DIRECTORY FOR THE APPLICATION OF
PRINCIPLES AND NORMS ON ECUMENISM
March 1993," is a good source for the Church's teaching on the goal and practice of ecumenism.

Marc said...

The goal of ecumenism is for non-Catholics to become Catholic.

Pope Pius XI's Mortalium Animos is a good source for the Church's teaching on the goal and practice of ecumenism.

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

But good ecumenical relations can assist us as Christians in working together for the common good and helping together the poor. The DayBreak shelter in Macon to assist the homeless during day light hours is a primary example of working together ecumenically and is a front of modern ecumenism too.

Marc said...

Father, I agree with you completely. I was posting against Pater's statements because the things he posted don't actually say anything or they say everything... they say whatever you want them to say. That is, what he posted tends toward indifferentism. Moreover, he has posted statements of the Pope which are not infallible and, as they were written prior to his pontificate, are not even owed religious assent. I'm focusing here on the supposition that "heresy" isn't the proper word to describe modern Protestantism. [Yes, Pater, I know what he is talking about and I agree that there is a difficult situation here vis-a-vis formal and material heresy and the degree of responsibility imputed to material heretics, but presenting the statement in the context that you have tends toward indifferentism, in my opinion. But, I'm not accusing you of deliberately doing so - that is just how it struck me.]

The sorts of collaborative things you [Fr. McDonald] mention are undertaken as a mandate given by Christ to His Church. The goal of working with non-Catholics is to convince them with Christ-like action to become Catholic.

When nuns work at Daybreak, they are a witness to all of the mercy of Christ and his Church. That is why these sorts of things do no good at all (in ecumenical terms) when those involved do not witness to their Catholic faith - by the wearing of a habit, for example. In the case of Daybreak, Sr. Elizabeth's wearing the habit is a powerful witness to those of other faiths and those to whom they minister of the love she has for the Church. That seed will take root in someone and they will become Catholic! Ecumenism in action!

Prayer in common, though, is a dangerous thing [which is why I disagree with things like the Assisi meetings and Interfaith Thanksgiving Prayer Services].

Templar said...

I'm much more in favor of Ecumenism by Crusade.

"Caedite eos! Novit enim Dominus qui sunt eius"

pinanv525 said...

Ecumenicism is another of those lib/progressive code words for watering down the Catholic faith and protestantizing our worship.

Although heresy is very much alive and well among some such as Mormons and others, there is a word I like that has a bit more punch and fits our age much better: unbelief. It takes many forms, among which are indifferentism, ecumenicism, humanism, progressivism, and neo-protestantism. I do not mean non-belief. That has a passive/indifferent tone. I mean un-belief...the deliberate, aggressive teaching of false doctrine under the guise of humanism, secularism and ecumenicism. More on this later...

Anonymous said...

Another example of ecumenism in action done correctly is 40 Days for Life.

Anonymous said...

I understand the need for "dialogue" and whatnot, but what I simply cannot accept is to go so far as to change the substance and "look" of my faith for a non-Catholic. Let's evangelize, yes, and if you want to be PC, ecumenize (sp?), but not at the detriment of our own faith. For that is just a gigantic Satanic lie and then there would be no point in evangelizing in the first place!

pinanv525 said...

I would sincerely like for some progressive "ecumenicist" to explain to me just what they think the Catholic Church has to gain from Protestantism. Remember, I have two graduate degrees from two of the best (at the time)prot divinity schools/seminaries and pastored prot churches and served as chaplain in prot hospitals for fifteen years. I became Catholic for many very good reasons, theological and devotional. I cannot see anything at all the Catholic Church has to gain from protestantism. So, people, help me out here...

Anonymous said...

Better yet, can anyone explain ONE THING that the Protestants have that they did not steal from the Catholic Church? Even their heresies come from bad Catholics.

Gene Williams said...

Anonymous, RE: "ONE THING:" Joel Osteen. LOL!

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

I think what we can learn from Protestants (classical Protestants, evangelical Protestants) is a zeal for the faith, a strong personal commitment to Jesus Christ and hunger and love for the Sacred Scriptures and moral lives based on the Scriptures and the Golden Rule. We can also learn about hospitality and fellowship and concern for our fellow parishioners outside of Mass in our everyday lives, bringing them meals when they are sick, being with them when they are in vigil over a dying family member, and providing for the temporal needs of parishioners in need.
We Catholics are called to all of these as well, but Protestants seem to have merited actual grace in terms of how they live their Christian faith.

Gene Williams said...

FR., my impression is that Catholics do all of those things, they just aren't as loud about it.

Gene W. (formerly Pin) said...

Ahem... I wuz gonna' say that I believe Catholic theology should re-visit Calvin's view of sin and his understanding of election...then I remembered that it is all right there in Augustine, anyway. Yep, Predestination and, if not Total Depravity then certainly a more sober view of man's condition and a more complete dependence on Christ's grace. The Church sort of worked this out when she reached a rapproachment with the Lutherans on Justification by Faith. But, given the direction the Lutherans have gone, it is sort of a hollow agreement.

My point being, I guess, that everything Protestant theology emphasizes as an "improvement" upon Catholic doctrine has already been hashed over by the Church and is still there under her broad theological umbrella. At some periods of her history, she has emphasized one or the other of these things more decidedly than at others. My opinion is that it is time for her to review the doctrine of sin and redemption vis a vis secular humanism and progressivism within the Church.
Sorry for the theological digression. Back to normal programming...