First Session of Robert Barron's Catholicism Project

So last night was the first session in my parish's presentation of Fr. Robert Barron's Catholicism Project.

I felt extremely nervous yet also very privileged to be introducing the programme, but I had some amazing partners: Fr. Kevin, James Devor (assistant organist at Brentwood Cathedral, Composer, and RE & Music Teacher at the Campion School, which is where I went to school), Liam Connelly, Director of Adult Education at Southwark Diocese and lecturer in Catechetics at Maryvale, Mary Laverty, (long time teacher at Our Lady of Lourdes School), Bridget Huggins (a long time parishioner) and Jan Lewis (the Parish Secretary).

Father opened the evening with a prayer, and then I gave the following introduction to the course which I based on Catholics Come Home 'Epic' advert:

Welcome to what I hope is the beginning of a stimulating journey we are going to make together over the next few weeks.

For me, being Catholic is about living my life the best way possible. The way it was designed to be lived, in harmony with who and what I am. It provides context and identity as well as an incredible resource, centuries of culture, thinking and knowledge I can refer back to. In today’s society, we hear a lot of criticism of our Church. We shouldn't be surprised by this, the Holy Father calls on us to be “Counter Cultural”, but it can be difficult, frustrating or even make us feel uneasy when all you hear is criticism. 
As a Parish community, we are addressing this in a few different ways for the year of faith. We are offering the Maryvale Catechesis course, which will help you to develop a valuable knowledge of the faith, but we are also inviting you to join with us in watching Father Robert Barron’s Catholicism Project. The Project is an epic journey, exploring the living culture of the Catholic Church from the lands of the Bible to the great shrines of Europe, from the mysteries of Asia and the rich landscapes of the Americas to the beating heart of Africa.

Our faith holds a unique beauty. Like the Mass, it is more than words, it is an attitude, actions, it is beauty, sights and sounds, and stories, stories told by simple fishermen from Galilee and by great saints and thinkers like St. Patrick, St. Augustine, St. Thomas Aquinas, Blessed Cardinal Newman and St. Therese of Liseaux.

Through the centuries, our faith has been communicated in sermons, countless books, dissertations and thesis, but also through art, through music and through architecture. These are human ways of expressing our faith, as Pope Pius XII wrote:

“The function of all art lies in fact in breaking through the narrow and tortuous enclosure of the finite, in which man is immersed while living here below, and in providing a window to the infinite for his hungry soul”

...and of course, all these elements are part of the story that is told in this series by Fr. Robert Barron which I hope will be a source of great joy to you. There will be things that are new to all of us, but also much that is familiar, even comforting to us. I think the series is a source of celebration and in that way, deeply satisfying. It is a celebration of all that we have achieved- even in a world of 6 billion today, there are 2.1 billion Christians. That’s a third of the world population united in faith. Christ has united more people than ever before in the history of the world. What have we achieved? 
Our family is made up of every race on the planet. 
We are young and old, 
Rich and poor, men and women
Sinners and saints.
Our family has spanned the centuries …and the globe. 
With God’s grace, we started hospitals to care for the sick. 
We establish orphanages, and help the poor. 
We are the largest charitable organization on the planet, bringing relief and comfort to those in need. 
We educate more children than any other scholarly or religious institution. 
We developed the scientific method and laws of evidence. 
We founded the college system. 
We defend the dignity of all human life, and uphold marriage and family. 
Cities were named after our revered saints, who navigated a sacred path before us. 
Guided by the Holy Spirit, we compiled the Bible. We are transformed by sacred scripture and sacred Tradition, which have consistently guided us for 2,000 years. 
We are…… the Catholic Church… with over one billion in our family sharing in the sacraments and fullness of Christian faith. 
For centuries, we have prayed for our world and everyone in it, every hour of every day, whenever we celebrate the Mass. 
Jesus, Himself, laid the foundation for our faith when He said to Peter, the first pope, “You are rock, and upon this rock I will build My Church.” 
For over 2,000 years, we have had an unbroken line of shepherds guiding the Catholic Church with love and truth, in a confused and hurting world. 
And in this world filled with chaos, hardship and pain, it’s comforting to know that some things remain consistent, true, and strong, our Catholic faith, and the eternal love that God has for all creation. 
Ours is one family united in Jesus Christ, our Lord and Saviour. We are Catholic. And this is our story: 
Roll DVD! 
The first DVD is: Lesson 1 Amazed and Afraid 

This is in two sections:

1. Both God and Human

2. Jesus is Lord

The study guide suggests the following questions for for Group Discussion after the DVD

· Both God and Human

1. In what way does the Incarnation reveal a “divine humour” and a “sacred jest”? (CCC 461, 463, 654, 655).

2. What is the significance of St. Paul and other New Testament writers describing Jesus as Lord? What are the Old Testament roots of that title? How would most first century Greeks or Romans respond to the statement “Jesus is Lord”? (CCC 446, 448, 450).

3. What place does the Incarnation have in the beliefs of the Catholic Church? How does the Incarnation distinguish Jesus Christ from men such as Buddha, Mohammed, or Confucius? What options are available when one has to decide who Jesus Christ is? (CCC 423, 430-445).

4. How can I demonstrate, in both my public and private actions, my belief that Jesus is Lord? Are there some areas of my life that I need to relinquish more to His Lordship?

5. Do I sometimes doubt the Church’s teachings about the Incarnation? What questions do I have about the person, actions, or teachings of Jesus? How can I go about addressing those doubts and questions?

6. How does sin undermine and harm my spiritual life? Do I need to go to confession more regularly, read Scripture more often, or spend more time in prayer? What are some steps I might consider taking in growing in my relationship with the Lord?

· Jesus is Lord

1. What were the four central tasks expected of the Messiah by most first century Jews? Where did those tasks originate and what are some examples of how they were expressed?

2. Why did the tribes of Israel need to be gathered? How did Jesus go about doing this? (CCC 541, 542).

3. What was the purpose of the Temple within ancient Judaism? How did Jesus identify Himself with the Temple? (CCC 2099, 2100, 1197).

4. What enemies did Jesus conquer and how did He do battle? (CCC 559, 550, 635).

5. Why did Jesus die on the cross? What did He accomplish, fulfill, and embody in being crucified? (CCC 599, 613, 614, 616, 618, 622, 623).

6. Why is the historical and physical nature of the Resurrection so important to Christians? What is an historical argument in favour of the Resurrection? (CCC 638, 639, 643, 645).

7. Who was the first evangelist for the crucified Messiah? What is the irony of that fact? (CCC 306, 307).

8. Do I need to contemplate more seriously the sacrifice of Christ on the Cross?

9. We are called to be evangelists and to spread the Gospel. How can I be a better evangelist of the good news? What fears or concerns do I have about evangelizing? What can I do about those fears or concerns?

I have to say, we found the questions quite difficult and organic discussion was fruitful  I think I will try and think up some relevant questions for next week which are a bit simpler than these, although along the same lines. I would be interested in any comments!

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