Sunday, April 26, 2015

Fr. Perrone on the Importance of Intellectual Catechesis, Sacred Tradition, & Prayer in Knowing Christ

Fr. Eduard Perrone, "A Pastor's Descant" [temporary link] (Assumption Grotto News, April 26, 2015):
A few things converge in my mind, leading to the subject matter here.
In our home school classes on Wednesdays we are attempting a bold enterprise: a course in Christology. That would be quite an undertaking for anybody. For high school students, it’s a near impossibility. I knew that in proposing the study in the first place but I wanted to see how far we could go. The central problem in general is that theological study, especially of the Catholic kind, presumes a grounding in philosophy and familiarity with its terminology. This is not something easily to be had and cannot be compensated for by improvised explanations of the moment. In musical terms, it would be like attempting to play a piano concerto when one had not first learnt the fundamentals of piano technique. One can, without the preliminary studies, grasp some things, but a great deal must be left undone. Was it then a foolish attempt to have a course in Christology for high schoolers? My purpose was to make known some of the complexity involved in trying to grasp divine things–in this case, the study of Christ–to expand the mind, if you will. Religious studies in a number of parishes are reduced to reading bible stories and to some sentimental aspects of religion (usually religious enthusiasm). This is a great impoverishment because the mind seeks to understand, and in the Catholic tradition there is a great deal to be understood. The Church would have a lot to impart to questing minds about many things in our faith. Too often, however, our kids are not taught even the basics of the faith in catechetical instruction, an omission which leaves them high and dry when they mature and begin to ask the deeper questions about faith only to find little or nothing in their mental store to lead them to a an understanding. The result is proved by the stats. Kids drop out of going to Mass and often leave the Church on account of the conjunction of two factors: 1) the awakening of adolescence, which causes an interior rebellion against the moral teachings of God and the Church leading to question the force both of their consciences and the moral authority of anyone, parents or priests, over them, and 2) the lack of solid religious instruction in the basics of the faith that should have been implanted in them in their youth through catechetical instruction.

Another matter which stirred me to write is reading a critical review of a very prominent Protestant theologian’s work on Christ. He makes some very basic errors where a good grounding in the Catholic tradition would have led him to truth. Here we see that the stored wisdom of Mother Church would have been a guiding light to the unfortunate man had he been well prepared to approach the daunting subject of Christ with the advantage of a Catholic background. 

The third influence pressing upon my mind to write is the experience of Christ that can be gained only through prayer. Where human ignorance is necessarily presumed in trying to grasp, comprehend, encompass God—an impossibility in the full sense, since God must remain beyond the capabilities of any finite intelligence—and where the dizzying experience of concupiscence tends to divert one from the paths of humble submission to God, the discovery of the Person of Christ through prayer secures a personal possession of Christ that can’t be had by religious instruction and moral discipline alone. Prayer is the indispensable means for spiritual maturity. One who does not pray is lost, both in the sense that he is consigned to meandering through life without the security of God’s friendship and in the ultimate sense of everlasting confusion in the next life.

The conclusion is inevitable. Unless one prays with humility, regularity, with perseverance, and with love for Christ, he can neither know Him in any deep sense nor remain in a state of grace. Possession of Christ is a need that is satisfied through the sacraments and through personal prayer. If you’re not doing these things, you will be lost, mentally, morally, and eternally.

Fr. Perrone