January 22 – Third Sunday in Ordinary Time

I hope you’ve heard of the Bible in a Year with Fr. Mike Schmitz by now! It was the leading podcast for a long time and still seems to top the charts every January. There’s even a Spanish version now with Fr. Sergio Serrano O.P. which is just as good! This year Ascension has also just released The Catechism in a Year.

Now, when you hear catechism you might think, BORING! And that’s what I thought when I was first asked to read the catechism in seminary. How wrong I was! I found the 1992 Catechism gifted to us by St. John Paul II’s initiative and (then) Cardinal Ratzinger’s theological leadership to be an absolute masterpiece that shines forth with the beauty and clarity of everything that Jesus’ Church has taught and handed on throughout the centuries. It’s a single book that can concisely and seriously answer just about every question phrased as: What does the Catholic Church teach about ___?

I cannot recommend enough that every Catholic read/listen through the Catechism cover to cover at least once in their lifetime, especially if it’s with a guide like Fr. Mike. Why? For one because we cannot love what we do not know. For two because the more we know another (like God and His Church) the better we can love and follow them.  For three because knowing Church teaching backwards and forwards is both freeing and healing. Yes. As Jesus Himself says, “The truth will set you free.” (Jn 8:32)

Many people nowadays tout the importance of ‘following your conscience’ in order to justify all sorts of things. Part of their reasoning is true because our consciences are binding. However, most people don’t realize that the word conscience literally means “to know-with”, con-scientia. Who are we knowing with? Jesus and His Church. If we thus do not inform our consciences such that they know-with Jesus’ Body, the Church, then we may just be knowing-with ‘the world, the flesh, and the devil’. (Remember Jesus’ rebuke to Peter in Matt 16:23)

We are all born with the wounds of original sin, and one of them is called the ‘darkness of the intellect’. If we understand this, then we know that informing our consciences isn’t just obligatory, it is healing! Knowing with Christ’s Church heals our wounded intellects that tend to under-value the things of heaven and over-value the things of this world. It heals our ability to see, discern, and know that which is the best choice in any given circumstance. It heals our worldview because it habituates our intellects to the full truth of things rather than misguided understandings. This will dispose us to living with deeper faith, hope, and charity.

Each time we sin, we do violence to our intellects by habituating them to making wrong judgements about which is the greater good that we could choose. This is why we’re so good at self-justification, regardless of the wrongness of the act! On the other hand, when we habituate our intellects to knowing things for as they really are—like by reading the Catechism—we heal the violence previously done by our sins. This frees us to not only know what is the best choice to be made, but also to more easily choose it, difficult as it may be, because of how firmly we know it to be true! So don’t wait any longer—check out The Catechism in a Year on all your podcasting apps! 

Father James