Why study the Catechism?
I want a laity who know their religion…who know just where they stand…..who know their creed so well that they can give an account of it. I want an intelligent, well instructed laity.” – Blessed John Henry Newman
Do you love your faith and your church but feel a desire for a greater knowledge and a deeper understanding of what it is we Catholics actually believe and why?
Are you a parent whose children are asking questions about the faith that you find increasingly difficult to answer?
Have you ever been in a situation where matters of faith were being discussed and where a teaching of the Catholic Church was being criticised or even ridiculed? And wished that you could come up with an explanation for that teaching
If so, then the study of the Catechism is for you.
In parishes all over Ireland, groups of adults both young and not so young are studying the Catechism. These are ordinary men and women who want to understand the truths of their Catholic faith so as to grow deeper in their faith but most crucially because in our increasingly secular society the words of St. Peter have never been more urgent:
“… in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect…”
1 Peter 3:15
Adult group learning………….people all over the world”>
‘Adult Group Learning’ is the model used in this study of the catechism; hence the name, Catechism of the Catholic Church Adult studies. Each group member undertakes to do the required daily reading from the Catechism. Then, once a week the group along with their Spiritual Director gathers together to discuss the week’s reading. Each person gives an account of the insights he or she has gained, from the reading, and which he or she wishes to discuss in the group. The group grows in faith and knowledge together over the three years of study. Learners support each other in prayer and contribute in charity and mutual respect, to one another’s learning. “ Ní neart go cur le chéile.”
Would I be able for this study – I have not been in a ‘class’ since I was a teenager and even then I didn’t like school?
Trying to get started on something new is always a challenge. But the study of our faith is the best challenge of all because it is possibly the most important study you will do in your lifetime. (Give yourself a few weeks to settle in). Don’t forget you can always phone a friend in the group who will support you as you get started.
Generally between 12 and 20.
If the group is local you might. Or you could encourage a friend to begin the study with you.
The feedback / discussion is based on what the members of the group read about during the previous week. So the discussion is at the ‘level’ that suits the group. Whether one is a barrister or a barman, most people have the same knowledge of the faith.
Two hours each week with the group, 12 weeks per semester/term (Sept – Dec and Jan – April). This allows for a mid-term break. Six units of 12 weeks are studied over a three-year period. Take one step at a time and you will be surprised how you become absorbed in the study and grow in confidence in sharing the faith.
Following course notes for five evenings you are encouraged to spend 30-40 minutes per night for 5 nights. Alternatively you could do your reading in a two-hour block session each week, though the daily study gives an opportunity to reflect daily on your study.
I am very busy and do not have time to spend 30 – 40 minutes studying for five days each week? What can I do?
Some people give up watching a favourite ‘soap’ on TV for the 12 weeks of the term. Others go to bed early and do the study as bed-time reading, others read on the bus or the train going to work
I am not used to speaking out in a group or speaking at meetings. Do I have to talk at the sessions?
Yes! At the weekly session each participant speaks about what they read, learned, did not understand. It is a ‘natural conversation’- there is no one forcing you to speak – but if no-one speaks there is no discussion! No one can take over the discussion either! Groups are welcoming and accommodating and you will be with like-minded people who just want to learn more about their faith.
Un-noticed to yourself you will be growing in your understanding of the faith and in your confidence in living and sharing the faith among those you meet.
I would prefer to be in a bible reading group or a prayer group. Why would I study the Catechism – I studied that at school?
Living as a Catholic in the modern world requires reading the bible, praying and knowing the faith. All three elements are needed. For many people the knowledge of the faith is the weakest element.
I would like to study the Catechism before my children start to ask me questions about my faith that I can’t answer. Will I be able to answer the ‘difficult’ questions?
During the discussions at weekly sessions, the ‘difficult’ questions often arise. You are helped to address these issues during the group discussion. Each group has a priest as spiritual director who will offer great support in these situations
Groups are made up of all sorts of people – young people in their twenties (students or workers), young parents, middle aged and older people – just a reflection of the mix of people in a parish.
Read and discuss which is called ‘auditing’ (Reading at home followed by in-class discussion) is very beneficial and most people participate at that level. We are exploring the possibility of certification for the study, but this will be optional.
While nobody is obliged to share/read in a group it is strongly encouraged as you grow in confidence. Remember you are in a safe environment and you want to equip yourself for the world outside the group.
You could take a photocopy of your notes with you and keep studying if you can make the time. Or you can make it up when you come home.
Sometimes you are referred to parts of the scriptures – you will get this in your bible. Sometimes you are invited to read part of the documents of Vatican II – these are available on the internet.
You will get to know your faith. You will be able to explain to people what you believe. You will develop a personal relationship with God – Father, Son and Holy Spirit. You will meet like-minded people and feel free to speak about religious matters with them.
You can speak about your faith when the occasion arises in your home or at work. Already you must be aware of the great need for lay people to get involved in the new evangelisation – we can only guard the ‘deposit of faith’ by handing it on.
I am an ordinary parishioner. I do not want to join any ‘club’ or ‘society’ or ‘organisation’. Can I be sure that this activity will not mean that I have to get involved in any group?
No, this is an activity with the sole purpose of learning the faith of the Church