Introduction To The Catechism

Introduction To The Catechism

 

Whats is the purpose of taking the time to learn our faith?

The purpose is to be able to respond to God's command to be holy, and to be a Saint.

Holiness Defined

In its most basic definition, holiness means pure and to be set apart. As the scriptures teach, God, in His holiness is set apart from any other god or being. He is pure. There is no wrong found in Him.

 

Exodus 15:11

Who is like thee, O Lord, among the gods? Who is like thee, majestic in holiness, terrible in glorious deeds, doing wonders?

1 Samuel 2:2

There is none holy like the Lord, there is none besides thee; there is no rock like our God.

Saint Defined

The Latin word for Saint is Sancti, meaning “holy ones,”.

And so this lesson is going to serve as an introduction to the catechism that we're going to be using. The Baltimore catechism number two. But before I jump into this catechism, I want to give you a little background on catechisms in general. Now I want you to stay with me here, because I know that some of your eyes might've just glazed over, because if you're anything like me, when we hear the word catechism, we might think of school.

But remember the more that we know someone, the more that we can love them, and this is even more true for God. The more that we know God, the more that we love him. And by loving him, we can better serve Him who made us.

  1. We are created to be Holy we are to be Saints-set apart for God alone.
  2. We are created to know God.
  3. We are created to love God.
  4. We are created to serve God.

Our destiny is to go to heaven, to be in heaven, eternally with God.

So the catechism is simply something that we use to learn the three “D's”of the Catholic Church:

  1. Dogmas: is more narrowly defined as that part of doctrine which the Church has formally defined and declared to be believed as revealed.
  2. Doctrines: Doctrine is all Church teaching in matters of faith and morals.
  3. Disciplines: A system of teaching or of law, given under the authority of the Church [which] can be changed with the approval of proper authority

So basically it tells us what we need to know to become a Saint and get to heaven. So our hope is, is that each of you will fall in love with studying and learning from the catechism.

Now the word catechism comes from a Greek word, which simply means to echo and before the invention of the printing press, I think sometime in the 1450s learning the basic dogmas doctrines and disciplines of the church was mainly done orally.

A church teaching would be recited and the listener would simply be instruct to echo or repeat it until it was learned. But with the invention of the printing press, this made it very easy to put everything in print and to move from an echo method of catechesis and more of a question and answer approach. And this could be disseminated or spread far and wide. And so as the church adopted this, the first two catechisms that were printed were the catechisms of Saint Peter Canisius and St. Robert Bellarmine in the 1500's. These two catechisms are what's known as local catechisms. And this simply means that they were designed to be used in the local church, like the Catholic church in a town or a state. For example, we didn't actually have a universal catechism come out until after the council of Trent in 1566. St. Pius the fifth completed the first universal catechism and he called it the Roman catechism. And actually this catechism is still in print and you can still get it. And I actually recommend that you do get it. It's absolutely beautiful. And so this universal catechism, it was meant to be used by all the bishops and priests to not only teach in hand on the faith, but it was also meant to be the official resource as a local bishops were developing their local catechisms.

Now it's important for us to know there is only one universal catechisms in the 2000 year history, In the over 2000 year history of the church, and that is the Catholic catechism of 1566.

There is a catechism of the Catholic church, which was initially printed in 1992 under the direction of John Paul II. But suffice it to say some teachings of the Church were changed. The thinking by some is that the teachings of the church needed to change through time based on the world we live in. They say that the church needed to update her teachings.

But the church can not change its Dogmas or Doctrines. It is the world that needs to get with the church's teachings, Why? because God revealed and entrusted these teachings to the Catholic church which were meant to be shared and disseminated or shared throughout the world. And so the answer is no, what actually happens is as society and technology develop, the church applies the unchanging doctrines and dogmas to the new situation. So for example, the Catechism of the Counsel of Trent didn't address weapons of mass destruction. Why? Well, because the technology hadn't developed yet, right? But the church can apply the doctrines and dogmas of the Church through its authoritative teaching. And now just to be clear here, this is important in the church. Dogma or doctrine can never change no matter what. Now, disciplines though, on the other hand, they can change. So an example of a dogma of the church is the blessed Trinity, right? One God in three persons, father, son, and holy spirit, not even the Pope can ever change that. Now, an example of a discipline of the church is the Eucharistic fast. After midnight, before we are going to receive holy communion, we shouldn't eat or drink anything, (beside water). This is a discipline. These can change. So I hope that little clarification makes some sense, but if it doesn't, don't worry about it. We're going to be talking and learning more about these things as our study progresses. So now let's turn our attention to the Baltimore catechism. This is an example of a local catechism, and it was specifically modeled after the catechism of Saint Robert Bellermine, in that it's composed in a simple question and answer format. And up until recently, when you would say the word catechism for Catholics in the United States, they would immediately think of the Baltimore catechism and this, document originated at the third plenary of Baltimore.

It was in, 1884 when the bishops of the United States published this national catechism. And it originally contained 421 questions and the answers, and this was done over 37 chapters or lessons. And so the Baltimore catechism gave unity to the teachings and the understanding of the faith for millions of the immigrants that were coming into and populating the American cities, towns, and farms at the time. And so this edition that we're going to be using contains the 421 questions that actually makes the content easier to understand and integrate into our lives. And I think that last part is the most important thing. You know, I absolutely love this little catechism and I think all of you going to as well, it's simple, it's straightforward. And honestly, at times it's downright beautiful.

Now let's talk about the structure of the catechism or catechisms in general, if you will, they all have the same basic structure. We call it the four pillars of the catechism.

It's made up of the:

  1. Creed
  2. The 10 Commandments
  3. The Sacraments
  4. And Prayer

This fourfold structure is actually based on sacred scripture itself. And it comes from the new Testament book of Acts, the Acts of the Apostles, chapter 2:42. “And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.” And so the creed relates to the apostles teaching. And so what did the apostles teach? What they had received from the Lord. So the creed became the summary of all that God has revealed that you and I, every Catholic must know. So the first pillar is studying the 12 articles of the Apostles Creed.

The second pillar, 2:42 says, is that they devoted themselves to the fellowship.” This is moral living or simply life in Christ. Our relationship with God and our neighbor. And this is summed up by the 10 commandments, right?

The first three commandments deal with our relationship with God:

  1. “I am the Lord thy God, thou shalt not have any gods before Me.”
  2. “Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain.”
  3. Remember to keep holy the Sabbath day.”

The next seven deal with our relationship with our neighbor.

  1. “Honor thy father and mother.”

  2. “Thou shalt not kill.”

  3. “Thou shalt not commit adultery.”

  4. “Thou shalt not steal.”

  5. “Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor.”

  6. “Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s wife.”

  7. “Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s goods.”

So pillar one is the 12 articles of the Creed, Pillar two, the 10 commandments.

The third pillar is the sacraments. And we see this when verse 42 says they devoted themselves to the breaking of the bread. This references the celebration of the liturgy, specifically the Eucharistic liturgy. So this then becomes the outline for the third pillar, the catechism, the sacramental life of the church, the seven sacraments.

And finally, we see the fourth pillar when it says, and they devoted themselves to the prayers. And this is summarized by the greatest prayer. The one that our Lord himself taught us to pray the Lords Prayer:

“Our Father Who art in Heaven, hallowed be thy name; Thy kingdom come; Thy will be done on earth as it is in Heaven. Give us this day our daily bread; and forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us: and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. Amen.” (Matthew 6:9-13)

So the four pillars are the creed, the 10 commandments, the sacraments and prayer.

We all know that a human person is made up of both a body and a soul. And now the human soul, every human soul is divided into the soul and the spirit.

And so we see We are a spirit, We have a soul, and We live in a body.

(1 Thessalonians 5:23) “And may the God of peace himself sanctify you in all things; that your whole spirit, and soul, and body, may be preserved blameless in the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

In Genesis 1:26-27 God says, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness....So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them” That being said, we must understand that the image of God consists of God the Father (the soul), God the Son (the body), and God the Holy Ghost (the spirit).

 

 

 

 

image of God

The Temple, where the Jews worshiped, was divided into three areas. The outer court, the inner court, and the Holy of Holies.

 

Saint Paul ask the Corinthians this question: “What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own?” (I Corinthians 6:19) And so we are compared to the temple of God. Our Body-The outer court, Our Soul-The inner court, and our Spirit- the Holy of Holies.

 

Tabernacle and the Body

So what is the difference between the Body, Soul and Spirit?

The Body includes not only what we can see, but also the wants, the desires the lusts of the flesh. What the scriptures describe as works of the flesh: fornication, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, witchcraft, emulations, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness,and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. Galatians 5:17-21

The Soul is your mental emotional part. Some people would include in the description of the Soul your mind, will, and emotions. And although this is true it is not all inclusive. Your conscience is a part of your Soul. Your will and emotions is what some would define as your personality.

The Spirit is something different

The body and the soul are two areas that every one of us are in touch with constantly. But the spirit part of us is a totally different matter. Jesus said this in John chapter three, when he says that, which is born of the flesh is flesh. And that which is born of the spirit is spirit. And there is no direct connection between the two. You cannot in a physical, natural way feel your spirit. The spirit is the part of us that God communicates with. And the spirit is the part of us that all of the life and the power of God flows through in James 2:16, the scripture there says, "as the body without the spirit is dead. So faith without works is dead also.” And that just makes it very clear that the life giving part of you is the spirit.

Jesus said this in John 6:63, he says that, It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh is no help at all. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life. It's revealing to us spiritual reality. And if you want to know what your spirit is like, then you have to go to God's word to find an answer. You can't just go by an emotion by some type of perception. You have to go to God's word. James 1:23 says, For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. (This is talking about a mirror,) For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like. But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, (talking about God's word, specifically the Spoken Word of God and The written Word of God), and continue with therein. He being not a forgetful hearer, but a doer of the work. This man shall be blessed in his deed. This passage of scripture is likening the preaching of Gods word, the teaching of Gods word and the written Word of God unto a mirror that you look in to to see your spiritual face, to see what you are in the spirit. You with your eyes have never looked directly into your face. You've always looked at a reflection or a representation, but you've gotten to where you trust that. Well, the word of God is a perfect reflection of what the spiritual truths of the Catholic Church is. You can't sit there and say, well, I think that, all my mascara is on and that my face is fixed, my hair is combed and I'm ready to go. You can't go by how you feel. You have to go look in that mirror and then you trust what you see. Well, it's the same thing with the Word of God. The Word of God gives you a perfect picture of who you are in your spirit. And it's the only way.

 

 

mirror

There is a total transformation that has taken place on the inside of every person who becomes Born again in Baptism. Now you can see this in many places, but in II Corinthians 5:17 it says, Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature (or creation). The old things are passed away, behold all things are made new. And the next verse says. all things are of God, who hath reconciled us by Christ. It says, All things have (past tense) passed away. All things (present tense reality right now) have become new. And all things are of God. In other Words, God himself has totally changed you by Christ at your baptism. Romans 6:4 says it this way, We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. Colossians 2:12 having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through faith in the powerful working of God, who raised him from the dead.

Now, if you don't understand this concept of spirit, soul, and body, you are instantly setting yourself up for confusion and frustration and ultimately unbelief, because you can tell by process of elimination, that this is not talking about your physical body.

If your were fat before you got baptized, you'll still be fat after you get baptized, your body didn't instantly pass away and all things become new. And your soul is also not the part of you that got born again at baptism. Because if you were ignorant before you got baptized, you'll still be ignorant. After you get baptized. If you were depressed, if you didn't know math before you got baptized, you will still be depressed. And you just don't instantly know math. After you get baptized, the soul is not changed. So by process of elimination, you can say, it's not your body and it's not your soul. And so that leaves your spirit. Your spirit is a part of you that got totally changed at your baptism. When a person is born again at their baptism, there is instantaneous change that takes place. And yet II Corinthians 5:17 says it isn't in process, but it's already done. It's a done deal. And if you don't understand that, that change at baptism takes place in the spirit and has to work its way out into the soul and in the body then you will find it hard to understand the things of God. Your spirit is right now as perfect, as mature, as complete as Jesus is. So when you get born again, your spirit gets elevated, it gets recreated. As Galatians 4:6 puts it, “God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” It's literally, when you get born again, your spirit passes away. The old spirit is taken out. It dies is what the scripture says in Romans chapter six and God places within you the spirit of his son. That's what it says again in Romans 8:9, it says if any man have not the spirit of Christ, he is none of his. In other words, You aren't born again unless through the sacrament of baptism you have receive from God, the spirit of his son in your heart. The spirit of Jesus has come to live inside of every born again, person in your spirit and the spirit of Jesus have inter married. They've merged. They've become one so that you are now a totally brand new person and the identity and the holiness, the makeup of your spirit is identical to Jesus. John 4:24, Jesus said this. He said, God is a spirit. And those who worshiped him must worship him in spirit and in truth. So how can holy God fellowship with unholy man, even at our very best, we still fall short of God's standards.

Well, the way it happens is is that when you are baptized you become born again. And in your spirit, you become a brand new creature that is righteous and holy you are as pure and holy in your spirit as Jesus is. And then as you get your soul in agreement with what has already transpired in your spirit, then you see the physical benefit. Your spirit has to flow through your soul to get into your body, into the physical world. The soul has a valve on it and basically that is the function of your mind, your mental, emotional part, the soulish part of you. The same power that raised Jesus Christ from the dead already indwells every born again, believer. But if your mind is like a valve, and if it's closed to that, if it doesn't embrace that truth and renew its mind and get to where, what you see and hear in the word of God, in the spiritual mirror, if that doesn't become more real to you than what you see in your physical mirror, then it's possible for this resurrection life that's in your spirit to be completely shut off. Just like you had shut the valve on a faucet.

So in the scriptures we see that:

We are saved- That's the spirit- Romans 5:9-10; 10:9

We are being saved- That's the soul- 1 Corinthians 1:8; 15:2

We are going to be saved-That's the body- Romans 8:24

And so our first lesson that we're going to have in the coming weeks in the Baltimore catechism is going to ask this simple yet very profound question. And it says, what is the purpose of life? The purpose of life is to know, to love and to serve God, so that we can be happy with him in this life And be eternally with Him in the next.

  1. And it's the very answer to all of life. And it goes like this. We come to know God by learning what he's revealed about himself:
  2. In Jesus Christ the Word of God who came in the flesh
  3. In the Spoken Word of God, handed down from the Church.
  4. In the written Word of God, which is the Scriptures.

So what God reveals to us, and how he reveals it to us is of paramount importance. So as we come to know and learn (in the spirit) the 12 articles of the creed we desire to love God and the truths of the creed. But understand that love is not primarily a feeling. It's a choice. We don't simply fall in and out of love with somebody. We choose simply to love or no longer love them. So we have to make a decision, an act of the will (In the Soul) to follow Jesus's teachings. And how do we do this? By choosing to obey the 10 commandments? (the Body)

We know that we can't keep the commandments perfectly. At least I know I can't. And this is why we go to confession on a regular basis. Why can't we keep the commandments? Because we still struggle with the ramifications of original sin, which even after baptism, we struggle with the triple concupiscence. That was, and this is just a fancy way of saying that we all struggle with a disordered desire for possessions, for pleasure and for power. We learned about the three “D,s” before doctrine, disciplines, and dogma. Now we got the three “P,s” possessions pleasure and power.

The three “P,s”:

  1. Possessions

  2. Pleasure

  3. Power.

So because we can't keep the commandments by our own strength, we're in need of something. And what is this something that we're in need of? It's God's grace.

Definition of Grace:

The desire and power to do what God wants me to do


How do we primarily receive God's grace?

Through the sacraments. The seven sacraments are the primary ways that God dispenses his grace.



  1. Baptism

  2. Confirmation

  3. The Eucharist

  4. The Sacrament Of Marriage

  5. The Sacraments Of The Holy Orders

  6. The Sacrament of Penance

 

Grace is upon each one of us.

 

And then the other way is prayer. Our relationship with him, we receive grace through prayer.

 

And so the four pillars of the church...

 

The Creed

The 10 Commandments

The Sacraments

And Prayer

 

This not only reflect sacred scripture, but the very way that you and I are made. God gave us these things so that we might come to know him. And in coming to know him, we may love him. And by loving him, he may reveal who we are and who are to become.

 

 

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