It’s really too bad that while the legal profession mandates continuing education for its members to maintain their licenses, the Catholic Church won’t revoke a Catholic’s status for failure to continue learning about his faith. I don’t huff this out with a self-righteous tsk tsk, demanding the excommunication of poorly catechized Catholics. Rather, I snuffle out a deep sigh that the incentive to study our rich faith isn’t so imminent, when more than a profession is at stake. Regrettably, the consequences of our ignorance becomes apparent only on Judgment Day when there are no do-overs.
I’ve been schooled in Catholic schools for all my educated life, and yet there were several eye openers in store for me during my adult years. The most unpleasant of surprises was when I discovered that I was taught erroneous opinions and heresy contrary to the Magisterium. From that, the one lesson I know is this: I don’t know squat about everything, and I will spend eternity learning even more.
Though we have a Church that loves to keep teaching us, it is up for us to seek out continuing education. Here are five concrete ways to learn more about our faith:
1. Aim to be more than a Sunday Catholic. The Eucharist “is the source and summit of all Christian life.” (Catechism 1324) When we receive Our Lord more than our Sunday obligation demands, “the fruit of Eucharistic graces” (1390) will correspondingly multiply in our souls and help us “achieve intimate union with Jesus Christ” (1391). Additionally, listening to scripture and reflecting on the homily fosters the word of God to be instrumental in our spiritual growth and transformation.
2. Study the Catechism. Blessed Pope John Paul II promulgated the Catechism of the Catholic Church “to renew the whole life of the Catholic Church.” If you don’t know where to start, pick a subject in the glossary and you will be referred to straightforward teachings vis-a vis opinions and heresy. The footnotes are helpful in cross-referencing to other the Church documents where more detailed writings are threshed out.
3. Read the saints biographies and their writings. Catechism 2683 states that: “The witnesses who have preceded us into the kingdom of God, especially those recognized as saints, share in the living tradition of prayer by the examples of their lives, the transmission of their writings, and their prayer today.” For the kinesthetic and emotional faith learners, the saints are priceless teachers, since they too were sinners like us, and they inspire us to strive for sanctification. It’s inevitable that after reading about the saints, humility and hope will be our classmates.
4. Know Yourself. A regular examination of conscience and the Sacrament of Reconciliation are incomparable tools to learning, because they reveal to us the sinners we are in the light of Christ’s love and forgiveness, and in that perspective we gain true self-knowledge. St. Augustine taught that knowledge of self is a crucial step to knowledge of God. One without the other endangers us with the pride of the Pharisees.
5. Stay close to Mary. Our Lady was Jesus’ first teacher, and she was His first disciple. When we meditate on her life, and ask for her intercession through the rosary, she will provide us with the appropriate earthly teachers at the perfect teaching moments of our lives. If we consecrate ourselves to her Immaculate Heart, she will be our teacher to hasten our sanctification. St. Louis de Montfort wrote: “[Mary] is a great wonder worker especially in the interior of souls.”
It’s never too late to learn anything. As you study more about your faith, you’ll probably realize that you don’t really know Jack. But you’ll come to know Jesus Christ.