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Posted November 20, 2012

Lifelong Study of the Faith is Needed More Than Ever Today!

Eugene Hemrick

Some time back, friend and co-worker Archbishop Thomas Kelly, now deceased, wrote the pastoral letter, "Teaching and Sharing Our Faith: Lifelong Formation and Education."

He stressed the need for Catholic education and formation from cradle to grave. Let's examine this more closely in light of today's challenges.

My guess is that after studying the seven sacraments, some Bible stories and the church's basic teachings, many of us felt that all that remained necessary was to go to Mass and confession, and to live a fairly decent life.

In other words, once the early stage of learning fundamental principles is completed, Stage 2 is to practice faith. Faith then leaves the classroom behind, becoming a personal matter between God and the individual.

But our times mandate a change in this. Given the weight of the concerns that bear in upon us today, lifelong education in the faith is necessary to not only keep our balance but to maintain sanity in our hectic world.

--- Almost daily we hear that rain forests are being devastated, icebergs are disappearing, and weather patterns are changing dramatically. Life as we have known it is in serious jeopardy because people lack the sense of stewardship that faith creates. Irresponsibility is outweighing responsibility; selfishness outweighing selflessness, and divisions outweighing mutual cooperation.

--- Then there is the fear that high technology is forging ahead without a true ethic or morality to guide and control it. Easily accessible pornography, for example, is one of the worst diseases of the century.

--- Again, not a month passes without the news of yet another unethical banking or business deal --- deals that are killing the economy and public trust.

--- Worst of all are the deadening effects of broken marriages and a new definition of marriage that is contrary to Catholic teaching.

--- And now we face a threat to religious freedom, freedom our country has always stood for.

In face of these challenges, many nonetheless look upon religion as other-worldly --- a non-player in meeting the needs of this world. Little realized is the history of religion and its role in society --- that the greatest lawmakers were steeped in religion, that the best in culture was based on religious principles. Take for example, Moses who is everywhere to be found on Capitol Hill as a symbol of the greatest law giver and most of the signers of U.S. Constitution who were clergymen.

Today we need a new breed of Catholic thinkers, a new Catholic wisdom that can inspire decision thinkers. Whether in the business world, government, or the realms of ecology and the home, we need a new age of wisdom grounded in a deep understanding of religious vales, especially in the practice of prudence!

Why point to prudence? Because this greatly misunderstood virtue encourages us to stand firm in the midst of chaos, to sort out exactly what is happening, to get at the truth of the matter. Without prudence temperance, justice and fortitude are not possible. Why is this so? It is because prudence urges us to not only employ exacting judgment, but to act on it once made. It espouses action, the action needed to be temperate, just and courageous. It reflects the principle: observe, judge and act with action being its essence.

If this virtue alone were practiced, just think how many families might still be together. In encouraging us to sort out the truth of the matter and act on it, it encourages us to move on matters of concern and to avoid procrastination, avoidance and lending a blind eye to them.

Practicing prudence effectively is a life-long endeavor. It doesn't happen overnight. Here is where life-long religious education comes in. Throughout the scriptures, stories abound of prudent actions and imprudent mistakes. The psalms are forever reminding us to be prudent in our life and where in our life especially we need most prudence. When we read them and get into their mindset, our education is at its best. This cannot be done randomly, but should be a regular practice.

In reading and meditating on the scriptures and persons like Cardinal John Henry Newman, St. Augustine, St. Ignatius, Pope Gregory the Great, Thomas Merton, Dorothy Day, G.K. Chesterton, Mother Teresa, Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI prudence becomes a lifetime companion, the best companion we possess for enhancing our wisdom and making the world a better place to live in.