By Helen Hull Hitchcock
Women for Faith & Family
A letter writer asks:
My pastor has asked me to find an alternative to Renew 2000 which our Bishop is pushing the parishes to use. Do you know of anything that we might use that is traditional/orthodox and in line with what the Holy Father wants us to do? If so, we will need it right away.
Yes, there are alternatives to Renew 2000, and I applaud your pastor for seeking wholesome material.
1. Use the Catechism of the Catholic Church as a guide for intensive study by parishioners, perhaps under the guidance of the pastor. The "In Brief" sections at the end of each chapter would provide focus for discussion.
2. Get INTRODUCTION TO THE CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH, by JOSEPH CARDINAL RATZINGER AND CHRISTOPH SCHONBORN. (1994. San Francisco: Ignatius Press. 97 pages softcover.) Cardinal Ratzinger discusses the background, method, structure and content of the CCC; Cardinal Schonborn (now of Vienna, who was an editor of the Catechism) discusses its major themes, gives practical recommendations for the use of the Catechism, and includes a short introduction to each of the four parts. Cardinal Ratzinger writes in the foreword that the intent of the book "is not to offer a comprehensive history of the text or an exhaustive commentary on it, but elementary aids to reading and study..." (an editor of the Catechism). This is a helpful resource for laity and clergy who want to study the Catechism in depth.
3. Get copies of the Revised Standard Version-Catholic Edition of the Holy Bible (also published by Ignatius Press), which is the only modern English translation which has not been "inclusivized", to use together with the Catechism for intensive study.
4. Study papal encyclicals and apostolic letters. For laity, I would suggest beginning with Familiaris Consortio - The Role of the Family in the Modern World. Very inexpensive editions of these papal documents are available from Daughters of St. Paul (Pauline Books and Media). The teaching documents that Pope John Paul II has produced for members of the Catholic Church are a treasury which too few Catholics know.
This study could take place at regular meetings, similar to the "Renew" methods; but instead of questionable materials, your study would produce sound fruit -- deepened knowledge and understanding of the Catholic Church and her teachings; renewed interest in the Holy Scripture; the strengthening of the community of believers in the local Church.
5. The study period could be followed by the Sacrament of Reconciliation (Penance) and/or Eucharistic devotion and Benediction.
If such a plan were followed, a genuine revitalization of the parish could be almost assured. This is surely what the Holy Father had in mind. If you read the pope's Tertio Millennio Adveniente (Toward the Third Millennium), or one of his most recent documents issued this summer, Ad Tuendam Fidem (To Defend the Faith), I believe it will become apparent what the Holy Father intends for Catholics to be doing to aid the evangelical mission of the Church in these preparatory years.
Helen Hull Hitchcock
Women for Faith & Family