Question: What do you think of Lectionary-based catechesis for the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults? I became a Catholic three years ago and was amazed at how little I was taught using this approach.
— Name and city withheld, Oregon
Answer: Lectionary-based catechesis is a method of teaching the faith to children and adults that uses the Sunday Mass Scripture readings as the basis for catechetical sessions. It is popular in all types of catechesis nowadays and is widely promoted by catechetical organizations and publishers.
The strength of Lectionary-based catechesis is chiefly that it keeps Christian formation closely connected to the liturgy and helps Catholics and Catholics-to-be to know the Scriptures and to use them in all aspects of life.
In RCIA, the reflective sessions that take place after the dismissal of catechumens at Sunday Mass are primarily Lectionary based. The catechumens are sent forth “to reflect more deeply upon the word of God” after the homily. In these sessions, future Catholics are led to apply the Scriptures they have just heard to their lives and to make a personal connection between the homily and their own growth in the faith.
However, Lectionary-based catechesis is only one element in the whole process of formation. It has to be complemented by a more comprehensive and systematic presentation of the faith. In many parishes, this fuller approach is achieved by having a second session during the week in which the doctrinal, sacramental, moral and spiritual components of the faith are explored systematically.
For this, another text is necessary. The Catechism of the Catholic Church should be introduced to catechumens and its resources drawn out in formation sessions. In my opinion, a more user-friendly text is the United States Catholic Catechism for Adults. This book is cross-referenced to the Catechism and catechumens are referred to other works of theology and the spiritual life.
However, the use of any kind of catechism is discouraged by many catechists and by some national catechumenal organizations. The fear is of a “Baltimore Catechism approach to catechesis.” While lip service is paid to the doctrinal and moral dimensions of faith in the newer catechesis, the emphasis is more often on personal reflection and the sharing of stories. Not surprisingly, new Catholics often complain that they did not learn a great deal.
New Catholics should see the RCIA as the beginning of lifelong formation. They can continue their education by participating in more substantive adult sessions in their parish, by working their way through either of the catechisms I have mentioned, or by joining a Scripture study group.
Donating one’s body
Question: I am thinking of donating my body to a medical school. What does the Church say about this — and about the cremation that follows its use at the school?
— Tom Coles, Grosse Pointe Woods, Mich.
Answer: The Catechism of the Catholic Church states simply: “Organ donation after death is a noble and meritorious act and is to be encouraged as an expression of generous solidarity” (No. 2296). This would apply also to the donation of one’s total body. The cremated remains should be properly buried and not treated as refuse. A memorial Mass would be appropriate.
Msgr. M. Francis Mannion is a priest and theologian of the Diocese of Salt Lake City. Send your questions to Pastoral Answers, Our Sunday Visitor, 200 Noll Plaza, Huntington, IN 46750 or to firstname.lastname@example.org. Letters must be signed, but anonymity may be requested.