“Spread love everywhere you go: first of all in your own house. Give love to your children, to your wife or husband, to a next door neighbor. Let no one ever come to you without leaving better and happier. Be the living expression of God’s kindness; kindness in your face, kindness in your eyes, kindness in your smile, kindness in your warm greeting.” –Mother Teresa
Let’s be honest here. “Eight Easy Ways to Learn More about Your Catholicism” is good but “easy and cheap” would be better. No, wait!
Easy, cheap and fast.
Now we’re talkin’!
OK. Easy, meaning not too hard to do. Cheap, meaning not expensive. And fast, not meaning “learning a lot really quickly” but “learning something really good without it taking up a lot of your time.”
Put another way: catechetical baby steps.
So let’s get started.
1. Begin now
Do what you’re doing. Right now! Seriously. You’re reading an article in Our Sunday Visitor Newsweekly, and so you have a wealth of choices right at your fingertips. Flip through the pages. Peruse an article or topic that catches your interest and read it.
Boom! You’ve learned more about the Church. About your Catholicism. Maybe it was what happened last week in Rome. Maybe it was what the Church was going through in its first century. Maybe it had to do with canon law or the spirituality of medieval saints. But there it is.
2. Listen to the homily
Yes, yes, you always listen. But we mean the entire homily. For many of us (and allow us to add a personalmea maxima culpa here), we let our minds … drift a bit.
It might help to consider that homilists have a pretty tough gig. They’re presenting information to a very mixed audience, from those who are just considering entering the Church to those who have sat in “their pew” for decades.
The formal religious education of some ended in grade school while others have graduate degrees in theology.
Then, too, and we mean no offense here, a homilist can’t be expected to hit it out of the ballpark every week. Give him a break. And listen.
(And even if he’s offering something truly stellar, it could be you’re just not being that receptive on this particular Sunday morning because the warning light on your car’s dashboard popped on as you drove into the parking lot.)
3. Check out the Sunday bulletin
It’s not uncommon for the pastor or a parish staff member to write a small article based on the Sunday’s readings or the liturgical season, or offer a Catholic perspective on what’s happening in the news. Sometimes, there’s a bulletin insert that does that.
Read it! Simple, easy, cheap but, oh, so valuable.
And again, honesty first, a little sneaky. Not on the part of the pastor or staff member, but on the Holy Spirit’s. A brief article might pique your curiosity and you’ll want to know more about the writing of St. Paul, the history of Lent or solid guidelines for a Catholic entering the voting booth.
But wait, there’s more! The bulletin typically includes upcoming opportunities and events designed to help you learn about your Catholicism, and so that same Holy Spirit may be inviting you (nudging you) to …
4. Look into attending an event
We don’t want to scare you off and say “you must attend an event.” But if you seriously consider all that’s offered in your parish, deanery and diocese, odds are you’re going to find something that fits your needs (interest, schedule and pocketbook) very well.
What might it be? A day for guys to examines what it means to be a Catholic man in the 21st century. A mission at the parish focusing on private prayer. A retreat for caregivers. A talk at the local Catholic college on human trafficking and how the Church is helping those who are being abused. And on and on and on.
The “look into attending” is pretty easy. More challenging is deciding to …
5. Sign up and attend that event
You’ll be OK. We didn’t say “sign up, attend the event and participate.” Just being there is a big deal. And sometimes, you don’t even need to sign up for that talk, presentation or event. You just have to show up.
Once there, you don’t have to go beyond a minimum of participation. You can sit in the back, smile politely and listen to what the speaker or speakers are saying.
If, at some point, the audience has to break into small groups, be a sport about it and consider it time shaved off your stint in purgatory.
6. Wander the narthex
That is, your church’s vestibule. Take a few minutes after Mass to more seriously examine the periodicals, pamphlets, fliers, books and (sometimes) even CDs that are offered. There may be a small charge for some. (Perhaps “the best things in life are free” but some very, very good resources cost very, very little.)
7. Discover the Catechism
Get and look through a copy of the Catechism of the Catholic Church. This is the mother lode for learning more about Mother Church.
Don’t let the size or footnotes intimidate you. It’s very readable. Yes, it’s designed to present information in a specific order, but none of the Ten Commandments says “thou shalt not skip around when reading the Catechism.”
If there’s a topic or area that interests you, if there’s a question about Catholicism that you (or a family member, friend, coworker or neighbor) have, zip on back to the index and then zero in on what this tremendous resource says about it.
(Bonus! Its glossary is a treasure, too.)
8. Watch TV, listen to the radio
That is, watch and listen to Catholic stations and programs. Hunt around a bit and find the programs and personalities that you find most helpful (and entertaining).
You may have noticed these suggestions make no mention of the internet, computers or electronic devices. That’s not (just) because the author is an old-school Catholic-press writer, but because some OSV readers don’t have easy access to the internet, computers or electronic devices.
Yes, those are amazing tools but, no, they aren’t necessary to learn more about your Catholicism. All that’s needed is an inquiring, sincere and open heart.
Deus providebit. God will provide.
Bill Dodds writes from Washington.