I am so grateful for the amazing turnout we’ve had for both sessions of my new class, “Foundations of Faith,” there were after 97 the first night, we had 106 the second week. Of course even better than the numbers is the quality of questions and discussions I’m hearing from everyone attending.
For those that weren’t able to make it, or those who want to review, here are the PowerPoint presentation slides on “Faith & Science.” The readings can be found on this page. As the weeks go on, all resources (readings and slides) will be found at this hub.
For those that weren’t able to make here are the PowerPoint presentation slides. The readings can be found on this page. As the weeks go on, all resources (readings and slides) will be found at this hub.
The first class is Monday October 15, at 6:30 P.M. in Kertz hall at Immaculate Conception Catholic Church in Jefferson City. The class is open to all adults.
The first week’s topic: Faith & Reason
Every week on Wednesday (this time on Monday) I hope to write a short post such as this introducing the topic and providing a .pdf with some readings to look at in advance if you are so inclined. It is by no means necessary to read the packet before the class. If you do have a chance to read it, please come ready with questions. If you can’t make it a given week, or you want to browse through other topics they all we available at this hub.
Each of these packets will contain excerpts from various Church documents. Most of them should be available in their entirety at the Vatican’s web site: www.vatican.va
This week’s excerpts come from the following documents:
Sacred Scripture (the Bible)
Catechism of the Catholic Church
Vatican I, Dei Filius (1870)
Vatican II, Dei Verbum (1965)
St. John Paul II, Fides et Ratio (1998)
Pope Francis, Lumen Fidei (2013)
Lastly a few quick housekeeping notes as they are questions I’ve been asked a lot:
The class is FREE
You DO NOT need to register (though there will be chance to sign up for e-mails)
Catholic teachers of any Catholic school in the Diocese of Jefferson City who are Level III Catechists can count these hours towards their ongoing formation. (There will be a special sign-in form for you to sign)
Permanent deacons of the diocese can likewise count these towards ongoing formation.
See you on Monday!
As always, feel free to contact me with any questions.
If we look at the last three weeks of Gospel readings we see an unfolding pattern that is all to familiar to us. Two weeks ago, there was the fun part, the miracle. Last week, we heard of Peter’s pop quiz, in which he passed the multiple choice, but failed the short answer. This week is the moment when the results from the ACT, SAT or some other standardized test come in, we all begin comparing our scores with others. We want to see who is the greatest. Just like the Apostles in today’s gospel, arguing about who is the greatest.
As American’s being competitive is somehow built into our culture, our ethos, our psyche. We’re competitive when it comes to academics. Not just the tests, but we speak to our seniors who are applying to colleges right now about getting into a, “competitive” college. We are competitive in the workplace, always seeking to out perform our peers so that we can rise up the proverbial ladder of success. And of course we are competitive when it comes to our sports. “You play to win the game!” We, as Americans, love competition.
There is one place however, where competition doesn’t belong. Right here. In Church. Today Jesus rebukes the Apostles for arguing amongst each other as to who was the greatest. Our faith isn’t meant to be a competitive faith. It’s not about how many Rosaries you say a day, how often you go to confession, how many theology books you’ve read, or how many verses of the Bible you’ve memorized. Nor is it about how many service hours you’ve logged or what committees you serve on in the parish. We should want to do all those things because we are called to holiness. All of us. But we shouldn’t do those things so we can compare ourselves with the person sitting next to us in the pew so that we can say we are better than them. We do all of those things because they draw us into a deeper relationship with Christ, with God. We need a relationship with God, not a competitive faith.
The problem is that we are so indoctrinated in such a competitive culture, when we see it missing, we freak out. Think about last year when Carson Wentz, the starting quarterback of the Philadelphia Eagles got hurt. When his backup, Nick Foles did well, everyone was astonished when they were supportive of each other. People were flabbergasted, analysts freaking out on television because they should hate each other, they should be in competition with one another. What did they do? They went on win the Super Bowl. They even beat Tom Brady!
But for us in the Church, we shouldn’t be so surprised at the lack of competition amongst us. Rather, we should be seeking to avoid a competitive faith, which risks ripping, our team, our community, the Church apart.
Thankfully Jesus gives us a clue in the Gospel today. His response to the Apostles who were competitively quarreling about who was the greatest, was to point to the child and say, “he who receives this child…” The verb there is to receive. We need a receiving faith instead of a competitive faith.
What does this mean? It means that instead of being in competition with others for how great our faith is compared with others, we should be seeking to receive, to welcome others into our community. That if we believe our faith is that great, we should want to share it with others, not keep it to ourselves so we can show off and proclaim ourselves the greatest.
If we are gathered here at this altar because we recognize the great things God has done in our lives, the power of his grace, his immense mercy and love for us, shouldn’t we want to share that with others instead of using it to create another competition?
This past week I met up with a friend from college who is now a Dominican brother. He and I both lived very full and eclectic lives, each with friends from a variety of backgrounds. I remember one time we were on a mission trip and we were praying and he said to me, “I just want my friends to experience the same feeling of God’s great love for me. It’s not about forcing my faith on them, it’s about wanting them to have the same feeling of being loved by God, knowing his mercy, joy and peace.” That is a receiving faith. That’s the kind of faith we ought to seek after.
We might still be competitive in the classroom, in the office, or on the ball field. But here in this place, in this community, we should not follow the example of the Apostles in the Gospel, but rather the words of Jesus. We should develop not a competitive faith, but rather a receiving faith.
This past week when I was visiting classes I noticed that the students are getting to the point in the quarter where they are beginning to take tests and quizzes. Gone are the fun days of August and handball, now it’s time to get to work. In many ways that dynamic is mirrored in Mark’s Gospel today. Last week we heard about Jesus healing and performing miracles. That’s the fun part, everybody loves a good miracle. Today, along the road, things get more difficult, Jesus gives the apostles a, “pop quiz.”
First there is the “multiple choice” part of the quiz. “Who do people say that I am? John the Baptist? Elijah? One of the Prophets? The Christ? Well it looks like Peter did a pretty good job with the multiple choice, he manages an “A” on that part of the quiz. However, on the second part of the quiz, the “short answer” part, he doesn’t do so well. But instead of writing, “F+” at the top of his paper, Jesus writes, “Get behind me Satan!”
Joking with the analogy aside, what does the story reveal to us about our relationship and knowledge with Jesus? By getting the multiple choice right, but not the short answer, he shows us that we all still have more to learn. As my favorite philosopher and theologian says, for every light of knowledge we gain into Christ, there is still an infinitely greater darkness. It’s true for all of us. We all have more to learn about Christ.
In terms of how to learn more about Christ, Jesus gives us a little clue later in the Gospel. He warns Peter that he was thinking “not as God thinks, but as human beings do.” Note, he doesn’t say “not as God memorizes, but as human beings do.” He says, “thinks.” This is why we must do more than just memorize the decades of the Rosary, the Commandments, the Sacraments, and the Beatitudes etc. We must learn to think deeper about these issues.
This is why when I taught high school I told the students, I don’t just want you to learn what the Church teaches, though I obviously want that, I really want you to learn how the Church thinks. I don’t want it to be well Fr. So-and-so said this, but Fr. So-and-So said that. I want you to be able to know what the Church says, and how the Church thinks. This is why they were so excited when I told them on the first day of class I would give them the final exam question. Every student, even me last year, wants to know what’s going to be on the exam. So they were thrilled when I told them I would give it to them up front. Then I told them, their exam would be just one question, “Connect the dots.” In other words, demonstrate how the Church thinks about these different issues and how they are connected by a common reasoning, a consistent way of thinking.
When adults heard about the class, they said they wanted to take it too. So in Columbia I launched an adult education class. I’m happy to announce that starting next month on October 15th, I’ll be launching the class here at IC in Jeff City, “The Church in the Modern World: Foundations of Faith.” This way you too can learn a little more about how to, “think as God thinks, not as humans do.” To that end, don’t worry, you’re not going to have to sit there and listen to me talk for an hour and a half.
For the first half hour or so, we will open up the floor for questions. It won’t be Q & A, but rather Q & Q. That is continuously asking more questions as we attempt to delve deeper into the issues, kind of like peeling back the layers on an onion. In the second half hour, I will present a summary of different Church texts, so you can see what the Church actually teaches about these issues, and not what someone says the Church teaches. In the last half hour, we’ll reopen the discussion to see how the first two parts work together, how it is that the Church attempts to answer some of the questions raised, how the Church thinks about these different issues.
This time around I’m doing seven weeks called, “Foundations of Faith,” with topics or issues chosen together with our parish education commission. In the Winter and Spring, I’ll open it up to everyone to help pick out the topics.
I want to conclude by way of a little bit of a preview of sorts, as the topic the first week will be “Faith and Reason.” I’ve been talking about learning to think, “not as God does, but as human beings do.” It’s important that in hearing that line we don’t create a false dichotomy where on one side there is how God thinks, and on the opposing side, how human beings think. Rather, we believe that human reason is a good. Furthermore, that it is a gift from God. So it isn’t about rejecting reason in the name of God, but rather allowing God, and faith rather to be infused with our reason. To allow them to elevate our reason to its fullest potential. In that way, while we like Peter, may not know everything, passing the multiple choice, but not the short answer, may begin start thinking as God does and not as human beings do.
Have you ever found yourself during Mass wondering what something means as you listen to the Scriptures? Perhaps something the priest mentioned in a homily was unclear? Maybe you know you’re Catholic but you’re not sure why the Church teaches what she does on a number of pressing and important issues? Perhaps you want to be better able to explain to your friends what you and the Church believe? Or maybe you’re just curious.
Thankfully there is a solution arriving here in Jefferson City, Mo. Beginning on October 15, 2018, I will be offering an adult education, faith formation, catechesis, class, seminar, whatever you want to call it, and you are most welcome to attend. The classes will begin at 6:30 PM and will be held in Kertz Hall at Immaculate Conception Catholic Church.
The course will be geared towards adults, that is anyone 18 & older.
I am titling the course, “The Church in the Modern World.” That is both a reference to Vatican II’s Gaudium et Spes, as well as something broad enough for us to cover a wide variety of topics across different sessions.
I will be offering a six week session this fall. In the future, I plan to offer more 6-10 week sessions. Each of the sessions will be based on a particular theme as requested by those attending the class. Click here to see some potential future topics.
For this initial session I consulted our parish education commission and came up with the theme, “Foundations of Faith.” Our class topics will be:
October 15: Faith & Reason
October 22: Faith & Science
October 29: Revelation
November 12: Origins of Sacred Scripture
November 19: Scripture & Tradition
November 26: Jesus
December 7: Mary (N.B. – This is on a Friday as a part of the parish Advent Soup Supper)
It will not be a linear course in the sense it will not be necessary to attend every week, you can come and go as you please. I will also post readings and resources on this web site, though it will not be necessary to review them beforehand. Even if you can’t make it a given week, you’ll still have access to all of the resources found at this hub.
I look forward to seeing you on October 15th, let me know if you have any questions. Please help me spread the word. Below is a printable flyer you can print.
If you already know you want more information, click here, to send me an e-mail, and I’ll add you to the e-mail list.
The other day I was having coffee with a former Totus Tuus missionary from when I was director of the Totus Tuus program for the diocese. He’s currently studying theology in college. Both of us share a passion for teaching theology. So naturally, when I mentioned that school was starting this week here at I.C., our conversation turned towards how to teach religion effectively. I won’t bore you with the philosophical details and turn this into a professional development seminar, but I would like to share two of basic principles we discussed that I believe will help as we begin the new school year.
Two Principles for Learning & Teaching the Faith
The first is that there must be a balance between teaching that the faith both a content to be learned, but also a relationship to be lived. Religion class shouldn’t be like the other subjects per se, in that it’s just something you learn and move on. It’s meant to affect every aspect of our lives. At the same time there must be a balance with good content so that it doesn’t just become a relationship without substance or meaning. In other words there must be balance between both the head and the heart, not one or the other.
The second principle I’d like to share is that our teaching of the faith should always be geared towards deepening and growing. In other words we shouldn’t be content with memorization of various lists, such as the commandments, beatitudes, sacraments etc. etc. Yes we should learn those things, but because they help us to grow in our understanding of the faith.
Our three readings today speak to these two principles as well. For in the Gospel we hear Jesus say, “For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink,” and, “whoever eats this bread will live forever.” This speaks to the need for us to have balance. That in order to achieve the growth in our faith, it is not just words or ideas, but also God’s grace received in the sacraments. St. Paul urges us to, “Forsake foolishness that you may live; advance in the way of understanding.” To forsake foolishness is to allow our faith to impact our entire lives, not just our heads. Similarly, the book of Proverbs tells us,“Therefore, do not continue in ignorance, but try to understand what is the will of the Lord.” This reminds us of the need to progress in our understanding of the faith, even if it is a mystery.
How do we accomplish these tasks? It takes everyone working together. Just because you send you’re kids to Immaculate Conception School, does not mean you get a pass in raising your kids in the faith. Sending you’re kids to Catholic school doesn’t rid you of that responsibility. It’s not merely the responsibility of the teachers, or the priests, or the parents. It’s everyone working together, school, parents, and the students.
“You’re smart, but you don’t know anything yet”
So to the students here whether you’re in kindergarten, or a senior at Helias, I’d like to share with you the best advice I received as a student. Unfortunately, I didn’t hear it until my first year in graduate school. The professor said, “You’re smart, but you don’t know anything yet.” What does that mean? Obviously we knew something, as do all of you. But it’s meant to be an attitude. That every day you show up to class, every time you pick up a pencil to write, or do a homework sheet, or pick up a book to read, tell yourself, “you’re smart, but you don’t know anything yet.” You’re smart, God has given you the ability to do the work. Don’t sell yourself short, think you’re not good enough or you can’t do it. But you don’t know anything yet, that means never be satisfied. Never think you know it all, the second you think you already know it all, you stop learning. Always be open to entering deeper into the mystery and learning more.
Home : School :: Dinner Table : Classroom
As for the parents, at the baptism of your children you took on the responsibility of being the primary educators of your children in the faith. There’s no asterisk at the bottom of the page in the book that says, “If you send them to Catholic school, you’re done.” The home is the first and primary school. The Book of Proverbs uses an image at the beginning of the reading today, setting the table. My suggestion or challenge for you as parents would to be to literally do just that. Set the table. If the home is the school, the dinner table is the classroom. Make an effort this year to sit down as a family at the dinner table. With no cell phones. Do this as often as possible. If you are already starting to make excuses for the different nights of the week. Don’t. Eat earlier or later. Make it a priority.
Then when you do sit down at the table, don’t just ask your kids, “How did you day go?” If you ask a teenager that question, you’ll get some sort of grunt, “meh,” “boh.” “fine.” Growing up, it feels like my parents rarely asked that question, instead it was always, “What did you learn today?” And you have better have had a good answer to that question. At the time I didn’t always appreciate the question, or the subsequent lecture explaining some bizarre piece of knowledge. However, now I see how it was helping me to advance in understanding, pushing me deeper every day. So when you sit down at the table, help your kids to grow by asking them, “What did you learn today?”
Learning as a Lifelong Pursuit
The other reason my father always asked that question was his belief that we always keep learning something new, every day, our whole lives. Growing in our faith does not end when we graduate high school or get confirmed. It’s a lifelong adventure. So for those of you here who don’t have children in school, for the “grown-ups,” we all have more room to figure out the balance of knowledge of our faith and living it out. We have room to grow and go deeper.
That’s why the parish is offering a program like Alpha, to help give space to ask questions so that one can grow deeper in their faith. Later, in October, I will be starting an adult education class where each week we’ll look at various topics which affect our Church and world.
Wisdom has prepared the table for us. Here we come to the Altar to be nourished by the food and drink of truth for eternal life. God’s grace affects not just our hearts but also our minds. With this new school year beginning it’s an opportunity for all of us to keep growing deeper in the knowledge of our faith.