An interesting discussion during the latest offering from the 15th Station about the understanding (or lack there of) of Catholic dogma amongst modern-day Catholics. 

Just a couple of weeks ago my own parish priest used his homily to educate us on Mass Intentions – the teaching behind them, what they actually mean and how they relate to our own personal intentions at each Mass.

He began by explaining to parishioners that pre-Vatican II it wasn't common for priests to speak so much about the readings of the day, that they were more likely to speak about Church teachings. He explained that post V-II priests were now encouraged to use their homily to 'break open the Word' but that he was going to break with this tradition to talk about Mass Intentions as he felt there were some misunderstandings floating around about them. He added jokingly, "So, if you want to hear my thoughts on this particular gospel, you'll need to come back in three years."

The 15th Station crew, in their latest podcast, ruminate over the lack of strong teaching of Catholic dogma and the catechism these days. For example, most Catholics know that the Catholic Church is anti-contraception, but not many actually know about the Theology of the Body and the beauty and truth it encompasses.

My question is, when and how should this teaching happen? It was wonderful to learn more about Mass Intentions last week, but I did feel slightly ripped off that I didn't get to hear my priest's reflection on the readings of the day (Im lucky in that I have a priest who gives pretty amazing sermons, so I actually look forward to hearing what he has to offer). Are homilies the best place for this teaching? If not, then when is the best time? 

Some might say that schools are the best place for this and undoubtably schools should be catechising their students, but again, these are teachings we all need to be educated about – young and old alike. 

One solution would be to link the teachings to the readings of the day. I imagine, sometimes this would be easy to do, at other times it would be really stretching it and I'm sure some teachings would just never get covered because an appropriate reading wouldn't come up to prompt it.

I guess I'm quite happy with how my parish priest does it – most weeks he speaks about the readings, and then on the odd occassion he throws in a sermon about Church traditions and teachings or about a particular Saint. I like the mix. If I had my choice though I would love to see a model like the one at my Mormon friend's church – they have their service from 9am – 10am, then a cup of tea/fellowship from 10am – 10.30am and then from 10.30am until 12noon they have teaching time. They all split up into age appropriate groups (Sunday-School type of thing for the littlies, young adults groups where they talk about things like modesty and peer pressure and then women's and men's groups to do bible and church-teachings study.)

But I am realistic… I know Catholics just aren't willing to commit the time on a Sunday like those of some other religions. As many of you know, my brother attends a Pentecostal church and their services go for a good two hours on a Sunday and that's often followed by a shared lunch or some other kind of fellowship. I doubt very much if either of these models could ever work in our Church because people see their commitment as one hour, once a week – and heaven help us if Mass goes past an hour… I've actually seen people leave in a huff once Mass passes the hour mark.

So when is the best time to educate people about the teachings of the Catholic Church? And is it happening at all in your parish?

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    Comments: 3

    1. Teresina March 12, 2014 at 5:20 pm

      M&M this sermon seems to me would be of interest to you it is about doctrine:

      Published on Jan 31, 2014

      "Our Lady, Destroyer of All Heresies": Sermon by Fr Marcus Holden. A Day With Mary, January 2014. Westminster Cathedral, London, England.


    2. John Whyte March 12, 2014 at 5:23 pm


      I think you have hit the nail on the head that most catholics don't want to invest the time to know Dogma.  They expect it to be fed to them, and they also don't want mass to go over an hour.  A homily of 5-10 minutes is not enough to really deal with anything in an in depth manner, and to be honest I don't think given that the audeince is everyone even lengthening the time is the best solution.  

      I don't have any answers, but when priests do run catachisis it is frequently the same people who turn up (often the ones who have a good grounding).  

    3. Rubyshine March 12, 2014 at 9:57 pm

      I agree that many people don't want to invest the time, but are the people who treat their religion as an obligation to be fulfilled really the target audience? If you have 100 people at church and 10 stay after to learn more, then isn't that 10 more people who have learnt something of value?

      I'm a big believer in starting small and making it something really valuable, that other people hear about and want to get involved in. It does mean having skilled, trusted facilitators, if the priests are too busy, which could be hard to source.

      Some people don't want to commit to more than an hour, but in many ways it's more convenient to stay for longer when you're already at church. There are a series of talks being run out at Cambridge, which sound interesting and I would like to get along to, but it's not an option for me to get out there mid-week.

      I think it's also important to consider all the different tools available. Most people read the church newsletter. It would be easy to include facts, questions for reflection, links to websites for people to do their own reading etc. Focus the information on a particular area for a month, and then run a seminar on that area for questions and discussion.

      As John says, it's perhaps the people who are already well-grounded who are interested, but if you make the information easily accessible then I think you would spark an interest for people who would like to know more, or perhaps who don't know what they don't know. Plus if one new person learns one new thing, then I think that has value.

      The reality is, is that we're not too far away from having multi-generations of catholics who all know as little as each other.