Pastoral Letter No. 18/2013
September 05, 2013
By the grace of God, Mar Jacob Angadiath, Bishop of St. Thomas Syro-Malabar Catholic Diocese of Chicago and Permanent Apostolic Visitator to Canada, send this greeting and message to all the priests, men and women religious and my beloved people of God, living in the USA and Canada.
“Glory to God in the highest”, Amen.
Dear Brothers and Sisters in the Lord,
We are at the beginning of a new academic (school) year as well as of faith formation (CCD). Third Sunday of September is observed as Catechetical Sunday in USA. As the Bishop of the diocese, it is my joy to welcome all our catechetical teachers and students to this new year of faith formation.
“Go into the whole world and proclaim the gospel to every creature” (Mk 16, 15). This commandment of the Lord to the apostles is being repeated now to all of us to continue the mission of teaching, sanctifying and serving the people at large. During this period of New Evangelization, this demand becomes all the more urgent in our life. New Evangelization is the courage to forge new paths in responding to the changing circumstances and conditions facing the Church in her call to proclaim and live the Gospel, i.e., Jesus Christ. An experiential knowledge of God and divine realities through proper faith formation is essential to keep away from the social situations which stand in opposition to the Gospel values and teachings of the Church, and to build up a life of true disciples of Christ.
Faith formation should aim at making the candidates to encounter Jesus Christ, the truth, the life and the way (Jn 14,6). CCD classes do not aim at mere imparting of some knowledge about God; rather it should help the students to have a deep, intimate and personal relationship with Jesus Christ. In his apostolic letter ‘Catechism Today’, Blessed Pope John Paul II enumerates that “the aim of faith formation is to help the faithful to believe and practice the faith that Jesus is the Son of God and to build up the mystical body of Christ, i.e., the Church” (No. 1). Catechism aims at, Christ being formed in the faithful. Everyone who is engaged in the process of faith formation should be aware of the responsibility of forming Christ in the candidates entrusted to his/her care. St. Paul’s words provides correct vision about the aim of faith formation: “My Children, I am going through the pain of giving birth to you all over again, until Christ is formed in you” (Gal 4,9).
The call, to be a teacher in the faith formation is from God to continue the teaching mission of Jesus Christ in the Church. CCD classes are the extension of the proclamation of the Word of God, performed during the celebration of the sacraments, especially the Holy Qurbana. Just like Jesus gave burning experience in the hearts of the disciples of Emmaus through the explanation of the Word of God, CCD classes should provide spiritual enlightening in the life of the candidates. It should open their eyes of faith so that they can recognize Jesus during the celebration of the breaking of the bread.
Information, formation and transformation are the fundamentals of catechism. What is taught in the classes should form the life so that it shall be transformed according to the Gospel principles. These three principles of catechism find their realization in the liturgy of the Church. Liturgy, especially the celebration of Holy Qurbana where Christ’s teaching is carried out through the Word of God, prayers and hymns, give formation to the faithful so that they may be transformed as His true disciples. So liturgy is catechesis in action. If liturgy is not illumined by proper catechism, it will be empty and meaningless action. At the same time if catechism is not directed to active liturgical life, it will be merely an intellectual process. Therefore I request all concerned to give proper emphasis to the liturgical catechism so that the participants can encounter and experience the person of Jesus Christ during its celebration. Understanding the fact that the fundamental responsibility of a parish/mission is the faith formation of its members, let Reverend Fathers, nuns, catechism teachers and the faithful of the diocese take every step possible in making it more effective and fruitful.
Family has the primary responsibility in the formation and transmission of faith. Vatican Council reminds the parents that they, by word and example, are the first heralds of the faith with regard to the children. Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches that ‘the parents should initiate their children at an early age into the mysteries of the faith of which they are the ‘first heralds’ for their children and should associate them from their earliest years with the life of the Church’ (CCC No. 2225).
How effectively do parents and elders transmit the faith to their children? I earnestly request all the parents and adults to make a sincere examination on this point. There is lack of faith in the new generation with a loss of values within the family. The only solution to this problem is for the parents to return to the core of Catholicism and through their exemplary life encourage the children to grow in the faith of the Church. There is a misunderstanding that the faith gets formation and growth only through CCD classes. A student gets faith formation from CCD classes only two hours, out of one hundred and sixty eight hours of a week. With this short period of time only few additions can be done to the faith formation received from family.
Praying parents are the first agents of faith formation. Every family should be a centre of faith formation through a life based on prayer and gospel values. His Holiness Pope Francis through his Encyclical letter Lumen Fidei reminds us that the first setting in which faith enlightens the humanity is the family. Therefore I earnestly request all the families of the diocese to sustain a prayerful atmosphere at our homes conducive to the growth of faith.
I would like to propose certain practical suggestions for the same.
- Begin the day with a prayer of morning offering.
- Prayer before and after meals (food) is a good practice. It is a good habit, to be imitated from the Christian families of the Western world.
- The prayer “Angelus” is supposed to be said three times a day. Let us make an effort to practice it.
- Have a definite time for family prayer. Introductory hymn, customary prayers (e.g. Holy Rosary), Bible reading and spontaneous prayer for particular intentions will be a good pattern of our family prayer.
- On Saturday evening, let the children share something from their catechetical lessons.
- On Sunday evening, it will be good to share some thought on the homily heard from the Holy Qurbana.
- It is good that all the members of the family to go to the Sacrament of Confession on a regular base.
- Practice of Penance (fasting) and other acts of self renunciation on special occasions shall be promoted.
- Try to subscribe for a Catholic magazine or publication.
- Concern for the poor, sick and needy is to be exercised.
Let us invoke the power of the Holy Spirit for the success of all the activities of the faith formation. The intersession of Blessed Mary, St. Thomas the Apostle, St. Alphonsa and all the Saints be with us.
Praying and wishing that Christ be formed in you through the faith formation,
Mar Jacob Angadiath
Bishop, St. Thomas Syro-Malabar Catholic Diocese of Chicago
NB: This pastoral letter is to be read in all parishes and missions during all holy Qurbana on September 15, 2013.