In the Contours of Hope
by Andrew Lichtenwalner
The Church is radiant with hope. Everything she is comes from Christ and his Paschal Mystery.
The Church is radiant with hope. Everything she is comes from Christ and his Paschal Mystery. As the Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches, “…the Church was born from the pierced heart of Christ…” (n. 766). Christ’s death and Resurrection have transformed the course of history. Sin, death, suffering, and darkness do not have the last word. Christ is our hope, as our Holy Father reminds us.
As the Body and Bride of Christ, every aspect of the Church’s life and mission is a witness to hope. Every teaching of the Church—every doctrine—is imbued with hope.
Catechesis has a significant role in witnessing to the hope of the Gospel. This is particularly the case with those teachings often deemed “difficult,” such as the promotion and protection of marriage.
Catechesis on Marriage
There is likely no more contentious issue in society today than the push to legalize same-sex unions. This is evidenced by the cry of “bigotry” or “discrimination” against any person or community that stands for the true nature of marriage as the union of one man and one woman. The Church, as a loving mother, stands firm. She loves and welcomes all people, including persons with homosexual inclinations, even while standing for hard truths. She knows that truth is for all people.
Catechesis on the fundamental elements of marriage is greatly needed today. The beauty of sexual difference and complementarity, man to woman and woman to man, which is essential to marriage; the gift and blessing of the child and the unique and indispensable place of mothers and fathers; and marriage in relation to the intrinsic dignity of every person and to the common good: These truths must be heard and unpacked.
Christ Is the Starting Place
The catechist has the unique position to hand on the good news of the Church’s teaching on marriage within the contours of hope, showing how this hope is for all people. The starting place is Christ. When asked about marriage and divorce, Christ himself shifted the conversation to a new level and pointed to the beginning, breaking open the truths of creation. “Have you not read that he who made them from the beginning made them male and female” (Matthew 19:4). This “beginning” is grounded in reason and illuminated by faith. Indeed, this “beginning” was recognized as good by the Lord and remains a message of hope for the world.
Steps and Resources
As catechists, we have the task and privilege to know by both faith and reason what the Church teaches on this challenging topic. Below are suggested steps and resources which can help us hand on the Church’s beautiful and hopeful teaching to others.
* Study the bishops’ recent pastoral letter “Marriage: Love and Life in the Divine Plan.”
* Review and pray over what the Church teaches on marriage and hope in the Compendium of the Catechism of the Catholic Church (cf. questions 66, 67, and 71 on the dignity of man and woman; questions 337-350 on the Sacrament of Matrimony; questions 487-502 on chaste living; and questions 79, 112, 122, 126, 132, 216, 387, and 442 on the Paschal Mystery and hope).
* Study the bishops’ Ministry to Persons with a Homosexual Inclination: Guidelines for Pastoral Care and reflect on the importance of truth and the intrinsic dignity of every person.
* Use the discussion questions for the chapter on the Sacrament of Matrimony from the United States Catholic Catechism for Adults and its companion piece, the Reader’s Journal, as a starting point for a catechist reflection or training session or for small-group conversation among catechists or teachers.
* Set aside 10 to 15 minutes a day for two weeks and pray with Pope Benedict XVI’s reflections on the truth of marriage in Family from USCCB’s Spiritual Thoughts Series.
The world will always need hope, for it will always need Christ. We as catechists are beacons of hope. If ever tempted by discouragement, despair, or presumption, may we seek the Lord’s grace and mercy and ask the Blessed Mother’s intercession, who even at the Cross remained centered on her Son Jesus in hope.
Andrew Lichtenwalner is currently staff to the USCCB Ad Hoc Committee for the Defense of Marriage. He is a Ph.D. candidate in Systematic Theology at The Catholic University of America.
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