Monday, 19 January 2009

"Telling it like it is"

For those who have been introduced to the Catholic faith rather too late in life to have undergone catechesis, it’s quite possible that they will find certain things rather strange, possibly uncomfortable and often down-right odd. It’s reminiscent of a scene in Brideshead Revisited in which the young Cordelia convinces the unsuspecting Rex that there are ‘sacred monkeys in the Vatican’. His credulity is entirely forgivable – given that Christians believe that a man died and was resurrected, sacred monkeys seem pretty plausible (perhaps the crew of massinformation can confirm or deny the monkeys’ existence…).

I’ve often found myself being asked such apparently self-evident questions as ‘why do you go to church on Sundays?’ and ‘what’s a rosary actually for?’ and found I couldn’t give a snappy answer, at least not without thinking about it. Access to helpful tracts or pamphlets, such as the Tufton tracts, or those produced by individual churches, has been of tremendous importance in providing clear and brief initial ideas as well as guidance for further reading.

The Basilica of Saint Ambrose and Saint Charles in Rome (as well as hosting a relic of St. Charles Boromeo’s heart…) has a number of stands at the entrance to the church which hold a good thirty or so different tracts, entitled ‘Current Topics’ which have been translated (very well indeed) into various European languages. Topics include ‘How to Pray’, ‘Why go to Mass every Sunday?’, ‘Marriage and Family in the Christian Faith’ and ‘Our Lady: how do we venerate her?’. They provide straightforward instruction as well as links and references for further reading. They are available online in English (there’s a menu at the top, right-hand corner of the screen to select the different languages). You can also obtain paper copies from the Basilica itself in return for a donation (of whatever you can afford) to cover printing costs. I hope readers will find them an interesting and useful resource.

What I find so appealing about these pamphlets, aside from their brevity (!) is that they provide a helpful balance between theory and practice. They explain concepts and the history of traditions and ideas, yet they also offer practical guidance on how to live out these creeds in one’s everyday life. They cover a range of topics, some of which may prove highly problematic and difficult to confront: examination of conscience, priestly celibacy, homosexuality, death, illness, sexual intercourse before marriage to name but a few. Yet they face these topics accessibly and unapologetically. They promote obedience, but simultaneously place the importance of reason and reasoning alongside that obedience.

I hope they make for interesting reading…

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