I spent some time in the yard yesterday (Tuesday) removing detritus from Hurricane Irma. In my area we dump the limbs, branches, and bags of leave out on the street for the city to collect. At about mid-day the piles from my side of the street were meeting the piles from across the street, which seemed like a good place to stop. Early this morning I was able to get to our grocery store and round up about 80 industrial trash bags, which gives you an idea of the mess a storm leaves behind (no pun intended.) Our yard may end up looking better than it has in some time by Sunday night, though I hope no one in the neighborhood drops a lit cigarette anywhere near the curb.
A man has a lot of time to think while sawing, lugging, and raking, and my own thoughts turned to (1) a distressing number of roof shingles I was finding in my yard, and (2) the future direction of our daily blog. We are coming up on our third anniversary of the Catechist Café, and I hope you are enjoying it as much as I have satisfaction in researching and writing it. Looking ahead, there are some past successes to continue and some new woods to explore.
The anchor days of the Catechist Café are Monday [morality], Thursday [Catechism] and Saturday [sacraments]. These days draw the highest number of “regulars” and guests. Tuesdays [the Sunday Gospel] draws well. However, given that the Café is three years old at the end of this year, we will have provided commentary on all three years of the Sunday cycles. Commentaries on the Sunday readings are readily available from many sources—many of them very good, others less so. Consequently, what I will do on the home page is provide links to the best weekly offerings for your use, along with published commentaries like the ones we have used each week. That info will go up in October and November, as Cycle B (Mark) begins on Thanksgiving weekend.
So, what will Tuesdays look like at the Café? I am proposing that the Tuesday posts focus exclusively on the first reading, which except for the Easter Season is drawn exclusively from the Hebrew Scriptures, the Old Testament. The Hebrew Scriptures are intimidating to the solitary Catholic reader, particularly without benefit of a good commentary. Given that Jesus lived, worshipped, and died as a Jew, and that the Christian church was exclusively Jewish in its first two decades, it is nearly impossible to know Jesus without knowing his religious outlook. Starting in late November I am going to treat of Sunday’s first readings on the Tuesday post. For those of you wanted to jump the starting line, Father Lawrence Boadt’s Reading the Old Testament: An Introduction; Second Edition (2012) is your ticket. (This is a revised edition of the 1984 original.) I will add other commentaries as we go along.
October 31, 2017 marks the 500th anniversary of the Reformation. This is one of the most critical events in the history of Christianity; we forget that at least 50,000,000 persons were killed in the “Religious Wars” that finally ended in the Peace of Westphalia in 1648. To understand “Reformation” it is critical to understand what Catholicism looked like in the century or so prior to Martin Luther, and to the evolving philosophies and technologies of the time, such as the printing press. The Reformation was not one event, but occurred in waves even before Luther.
The Lutheran Reformation came first, but it was followed by more radical waves of change, under John Calvin and the Reformed tradition, and later the Anabaptist movement. There are learning opportunities for us as we look at what led to successive spasms of unrest. The Catholic response, often called the Counter-Reformation, was slow in generating but when it did, the Council of Trent (1545-1563) established norms that remain influential to Catholics today. Our 1993 Catechism is heavily influenced by the Roman Catechism, a product of the Council of Trent.
I am not sure which day to designate for Reformation posts, but I feel strongly that this should be done. I am not seeing much publicity anywhere in catechetical publications or church bulletins about the observance of the Reformation. To ignore the history and development of other Christian faiths is contrary to the writings of the Vatican II Fathers and the tangible gestures made at that Council to promote Christian Unity. We forget that Orthodox and Protestant churchmen and theologians were invited to the Council as official observers.
Moreover, Protestant and Catholic traditions alike are facing very similar problems: alienation from mother churches toward non-denominational assemblies or dismissal of religious observance outright. I find it intriguing that Catholic and Protestant traditions both find themselves wrestling with Luther’s preaching of semper reformanda, “always in need of reform.” I think there is plenty to treat of in the next year or more. While it is nearly impossible to tackle the subject in one book, the Cuban theologian Carlos M.N. Eire comes very close in his 2016 work Reformations: 1450-1650, reviewed splendidly in National Review last year.
I keep a notepad of issues for future treatment. Forgive me as it is very subjective, but right now I have listed (1) Catechetics, Parishes, and substance abuse; (2) Catholic and Protestant definitions of preaching; (3) the “nourishment of religious enthusiasm;” (4) the nature of priestly celibacy in the Roman West; (5) women and Holy Orders. These are matters for greater reflection and research.
In the present scheme of things, the Wednesday post is labeled “professional development.” As you have probably noticed, there are many weeks when it is not filled. I’m not quite sure if this is the result of my own schedule or some doubts on my part about what exactly should be treated under that heading. The Wednesday stream was conceived as a place to integrate mental health issues with ministry, since healthy interactions are the mother’s milk of healthy parish life and ministry. I don’t want to jettison that idea just yet, but the posts might be spread out less frequently than weekly.
Finally, I am always open to suggestions—for one-time questions or prolonged discussions. Let me know your areas of interest or ways I can help your ministry or personal pursuits.