Catechetical Sunday

This is and edited and updated version of a column from 3 years ago. Page 2 contains important information regarding our new Family Faith Formation for grades 1 – 5.

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Family Formation LOgoSeptember 17, “Catechetical Sunday”, is a day on which we recognize the critical importance of passing on the faith to our young, and also recognize the catechists who selflessly and faithfully help to do so. And it’s more. It’s also a day we acknowledge the importance of knowing the faith ourselves.

Hurricanes Harvey and Irma are natural disasters, but if we’re honest, there are cultural disasters just as spiritually, morally and physically damaging that our young people face every day. How critical it is that we and they know God, the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. How critical it is that we and they know Jesus Christ and his Church, his Mystical Body. How critical it is that we and they can respond to misrepresentations of the faith. As St. Peter writes: Always be ready to give an explanation to anyone who asks you for a reason for your hope (I Peter 3:15).

This is so important because the facts of the faith have to do with the living God who wants to establish a deep relationship with us by knowing, loving, and serving him and others in the Church. And these are great helps and guides to living an authentic life, while being protections against an inauthentic life.

Knowing our faith is priceless, for much is at stake. There are many in the world trying to separate us from faith and the Lord. For example, when someone may choose to watch Bill Maher and hear him tell a guest (as he recently did): “Now you’re a man of faith, which means someone who consciously suspends all critical thinking and accepts things on the basis of no evidence”, and then follows that whopper with “And I believe that you take everything in the Bible literally”, we had better be able to sift through the audience’s mocking laughter, confident in the truth. And, truth be told, similar things are heard at universities, work, online, family gatherings, and elsewhere.

Bishop Robert Barron’s take on someone like Maher, shows the riches faith offers to a full human life: Faith, rightly understood, does not involve any surrender of one’s critical intellectual powers, nor is it…the acceptance of things on the basis of no evidence. What Bill Maher characterizes as “faith” is nothing but superstition or …intellectual irresponsibility. It is an ersatz “knowing” that falls short of the legitimate standards of reason. Real faith is…inclusive of reason….It is a response to the God who has revealed himself….It involves darkness to be sure, but the darkness that comes, not from insufficiency of light, but from a surplus….If you are tempted to agree with Bill Maher on the nature of faith, I would invite you to read any page of Augustine, Thomas Aquinas, John Henry Newman, C.S. Lewis, or G.K. Chesterton and honestly ask yourself the question, “Does this sound like someone who has suspended his critical faculties?”

Bill Maher

Regarding Maher’s mistaken, immature take on faith in Scripture, Fr. Barron notes: Vatican II says the Bible is the Word of God in the words of men. That statement packs a punch, for it clarifies why the fundamentalist Scriptural interpretation is dysfunctional. God did not dictate the Scriptures word for word to people who re-ceived [it] dumbly and automatically; rather, God spoke subtly and indirectly, through human agents who employed distinctive literary techniques and were conditioned by the cultures in which they found themselves and the audiences they addressed. Thus one of the most basic moves in Scriptural exegesis is the determination of the genre in which a given Biblical author was operating. Are we dealing with a song, a psalm, a history, a legend, a letter, a Gospel, a tall tale, an apocalypse? Therefore, to ask, “Do you take the Bible literally?” is about as helpful as asking, “Do you take the library literally?”

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So now, back to Catechetical Sunday. Recent popes consistently state that the work of catechesis is the work of the whole parish. So thank you to all parishioners for your prayers and financial support of our young people. And most importantly, we thank Tricia LaValle, Director of Religious Education, and our catechists for their great service.


This leads to our new Religious Education Program for 2017-2018: Family Faith Formation. Today let’s first profess that in 2017, being an educated, committed Catholic is not a luxury, but a necessity. The Maher’s of the world misrepresent human intelligence, true faith, and the true God. We must believe whole-heartedly that the facts of the faith reveal a loving Father-Creator, who sends his Beloved Son, gives us the sacraments, presents a life-giving moral teaching, and that human reason aids and is aided by faith. If we do not know and cannot defend our faith, some will leave and never know life in Christ in its fullness – he who is the one true hope of the world.

Now, on to our Religious Education Program: “Family Faith Formation”. The greatest Catholic wisdom regarding handing on our faith is summed up in this: “Parents are the first teachers of their children in the ways of the faith”, and “The home is the first Church”. Reflecting on these statements leads one to realize some simple deep seated, fundamental, common sense wisdom.

  • Apart from the Lord, no one loves a child more than his or her parents.
  • Parental love (in fact, all true love) means wanting the very best for their children
  • Homelife must have concrete expressions of faith if true faith is to deepen and take root.

Having laid out the Why and the Purpose of “Family Faith Formation”, let’s highlight some of the changes especially to be experienced and asked of for families of 1st through 5th graders.

  • Once a month, parents will join their 1st through 5th graders for a one hour session.
  • Monsignor Royal will lead the session for parents on the same topic their children will be receiving in their classrooms
  • Parents will be given materials to help them follow up at home with their children.
  • These follow-up lessons can be divided up in manageable sections of time in the car, at the dinner table, etc.

One more bit of wisdom: There is no more powerful teacher for a child than his or her parents speaking with them simply about their faith – and living it with them.

Parent MeetingIs too much being asked of busy parents? Doesn’t the Church understand the time commitments and sacrifices you as parents make for your children’s school, sports, hobbies, and other activities? Let’s answer that question with another: Which of the activities mentioned above, is more important than their relationship with the Lord and his presence in their lives? Which will be the key criterion on which we will be judged? The answer seems clear.

Parents please enter into this once a month Family Program with commitment and hope – for your children and for yourselves. The Hurricanes of life are formidable for you and your children, but Christ is more.


Heart, Soul and Mind

Monsignor Royal's weekly column as featured in our bulletin.


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