Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Reading the Catechism is awesome.

I signed up for flocknote's "Read the Catechism in a Year." We're now on day thirty-something and I am SO glad I signed up. At first, I expected that I would get behind and let the daily emails pile up in my inbox like all those 40 Days for Life messages and other action group mass-mails.

But happily, that hasn't happened. I've missed a day here or there, but it's simple to catch up and (honestly) it's really interesting reading. And it's going to get even better: I looked at the Table of Contents in the CCC I have on my phone, and this book has it all: the Trinity, angels, hell, morals, Mary, saints, apologetics.... I can't wait.

I had a few vague expectations when I signed up for this. Mostly, I thought, "I've always wanted to do this and it seems like something I should do." I had no idea how important a thing I was doing! Since I started reading the Catechism, I've realized at least two very important problems in my spiritual life.

Problem One: I think of the Holy Spirit more as a creature than as Creator. Somehow, in my imagination or thoughts, He is not as much God as the Father and the Son. Probably, this is a combination of several things, like:
  1. His name is less concrete. In our materialist culture (which I can't escape), what is "spiritual" or not a human being isn't real.
  2. He is always described last and often negatively or by exclusion.
  3. He is pictured more often as not human. A dove is more like a symbol than a person.
  4. My spirit-of-Vatican-II catechesis invoked Him so strangely that I've kept my distance since.
As a result, I think of the Holy Spirit as I do of grace (a creature), when in fact he is fully Divine.

Thank goodness I am reading the Catechism, which brought this mistake to light. I'm now working to erase this mistaken way of thinking by praying the Litany to the Holy Ghost (because I'm renewing my Total Consecration) and calling to mind his Divine power and personhood.

Problem Two: my faith is not very robust. I know it's not a sin to have difficulties, but about once a month I have a spasm of secular humanism that makes me think, "wait, Jesus is truly present in the Eucharist?" I wrangle with the thought, trying to bring out proofs and helps to bring my intellect back in line.

We had to take some online courses through the Institute of Healthcare Improvement open school (which, parenthetically, I highly recommend) and one of them was on workplace safety. A hospital/clinic that has a strong culture of safety, the module said, permits a janitor to say to the chief of surgery: "did you wash your hands?" Certainly, often the chief of surgery does the right thing and, in fact, does great things. But in a workplace that is really interested in the good of the patients allows the lowest, simplest person can say to the most senior and qualified, "don't forget the right thing."

Similarly, the highest powers in me (my intellect and will) often do right and great things, like studying theology, obeying my conscience, and loving others. But if I have a strong faith, then the "lowest" part of me (the little Catholic woman with her simple faith) can say to the highest (my intellect or will), "don't forget, God's existence is incontrovertible and He cannot lie."

I realized that my approach to the secular spasm is off: a woman of strong faith will simply say to those doubts, "Yes. Jesus is truly present in the Eucharist. There is no room for doubt." The Catechism helped me realize this by quoting Bl. John Newman's Apologia:
Ten thousand difficulties do not make one doubt.
So, if you haven't signed up for flocknote's "Read the Catechism in a Year" it is time. You can catch up with the past month or so here and sign up here.


  1. What? Grace is a creature? I thought it was just some vague gifty thing.

    1. "Creature" in a strict sense means any being other than God. (God is the Creator, all other things are created and are therefore called "creatures.")

      "Grace" simply signifies any gift. Some examples of grace that I found with a quick search of the CCC:
      - faith (153-155)
      - the plan of God (257)
      - the original holiness of Adam and Eve (375)

      There are also specific terms like "actual grace," "sanctifying grace," and "sufficient grace," but unfortunately I have to study polycystic kidney disease for lecture tomorrow and so I will simply encourage you to look these up at Catechism API!

      Thank you for reading and God bless you!