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Life in Christ: Begin the Beguine

The 149th Psalm reads in part, “Sing to the Lord a new song, praise his name in festive dance, and make music with tambourine and lyre,” and one of the many titles attached to Jesus is Lord of the Dance. Since Psalm 149 refers back to the people of the Exodus, who inherited earlier traditions, it would seem that joyous song has always been part of worship, virtually as long as people have spoken. Thus, one could conclude that life in Christ was never meant to show as some downtrodden, morose, and merciless activity, but rather an uplifting and joyous expression of union with God.

Life in Christ is the third of four parts of the Catechism of the Catholic Church. As has been examined over the last two weeks, the Precepts of the Church, the Beatitudes, Freedom of Choice, and the Virtues provide a basis for that joyful expression. They are only the beginning of what may be the most educational part of any Catholic document. Every aspect of how to live in Jesus Christ every single day is touched upon. How we honor our contemporary beliefs in prayer, in celebrating the Christian mystery, and in professing our faith are the ingredients of the other three parts. As the faithful grow in their virtue and beatitude, so also increases their joy.

Aside from the afore mentioned subjects examined in this series, which are more detailed in the catechism, Life in Christ also takes an in-depth look at morality, sin, and the gifts of the Holy Spirit. This is only one chapter; the others deal with the interaction of the social Christian, social justice, and a deep investigation of the meaning of the Ten Commandments. Basically, it is about how people live their faith in human society. The underlying message of that remains: God is in charge, but we were instructed to render Caesar’s unto him, as well. Once one has found the path to life in Christ, their actions are more responsible towards the way we live as a society.

The catechism serves as an encyclopedia of sorts for the teachings of the Catholic Church. The current catechism is a product of the Second Vatican Council, and was specifically created by the instruction of the General Catechetical Directory from 1971. It is no more a book than is the Bible that should be read from cover to cover like a novel. It, too, is intended for contemplative study and a deeper education in faith. It is not the kid-friendly Q&A format of the earlier Baltimore Catechism, but directly approaches the teachings of the Church in a mature fashion. These teachings are the heart of whole community catechesis.

The modern catechism is still a work in progress, and even at that, was preceded by several documents directing catechetical instruction. Through the 1970s, 80s, and 90s, documents were created in the wake of Vatican II directing catechetical activity of the Church leading up to the creation of the catechism. These documents recognized the catechetical differences of the age groups, and set out specific goals and methods. They created guidelines for the training of personnel involved in this ministry. Some of those instructions dealt specifically with adult faith formation including the creation of an RCIA (Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults) process.

Of course, adults and children have different ways of learning, and the modern adult may have a variety of methods, thanks to modern technology. Reading a book is not everyone’s cup of tea. Getting information out in various forms is the responsibility of our parishes and our archdiocese. For their part, catechetical education is almost always available. Each parish is different in availability and need, including the RCIA process of introducing new members to the Church. One may check with their parish offices for specific information.

In the Archdiocese of Santa Fe, it would be hard to imagine more readily available learning than is offered by the various offices of the Catholic Center located at 4000 St Joseph Pl NW in Albuquerque. First there is the Office of Worship, directed by Fabian Yañez, which oversees RCIA for the archdiocese, and provides educational opportunities throughout the year that cover every aspect of liturgy and worship for ministers and congregations alike.

The Office of Formation for Christian Service provides many basic and advanced level educational opportunities at various locations throughout the archdiocese all year long. These classes and workshops are generally available to catechists, ministers, religious, and laity, as well. Annually, there is a summer program which offers a wide variety of classes held during a one week period in both Albuquerque (June2-6) and Santa Fe (June 23-7). There are also classes in eastern New Mexico. For information and registration contact the FFCS at 505 831-8179.

The director of the FFCS is Deacon Keith Davis, who also oversees the Ministry Resource Center, best described as a well-stocked Catholic library. And for those who don’t like to read books (oh yes, they have a great many of those, including my own “Carry On in Faith”) there is a tremendous selection of audio and video materials. For a list of resources and for information on these or any of the archdiocese offices, their website is www.archdiosf.org. There is also a Catechism of the Catholic Church and other daily prayers and readings on the site. If this is not enough, one may also inquire about degree programs online and in person through the University of Dayton (Ohio) Virtual Learning Center and Lewis University in Albuquerque.

Have you ever seen a picture of a door with Jesus standing on the outside? There is no knob for him to enter, reminding the viewer that Jesus can only come in when we open the door to him. He is the Lord of the Dance, the Redeemer, the joyous Son of Man, and he calls each and everyone to join in the dance, to be uplifted in spirit and in everlasting life. He calls us to the life in Christ, to discover happiness in virtue and beatitude. The opportunity to learn the steps is readily available. Begin the beguine.