September 11, 2015

Religious Education Supplement

Mom, apple pie, America—and Catechetical Sunday!

By Ken Ogorek

At first glance, the theme for this year’s Catechetical Sunday—”Safeguarding the Dignity of Every Human Person”—looks like it shouldn’t have to be a theme. Who doesn’t think that people have dignity? Why would we need to be reminded about safeguarding humanity? Human dignity is like Mom, apple pie and America: Who would be against it?

A closer look reveals why this theme is profoundly important. It’s a matter of life or death.

Safeguarding

We guard things that are under attack. The messages that bombard us throughout many of our days speak against the dignity of every human person.

People are often treated as objects, as ways to achieve a desired goal. If you produce, if you consume, if you provide me with pleasure, then you have value. The small, the weak, the poor are nuisances to be ignored or eliminated.

Human dignity is under attack by way of undermining our confidence in God’s deep love for each woman and man he’s ever created—and ever will.

Dignity

Respect and love don’t have to be earned. You might not like every person you know. And some folks are certainly more admirable than others. But each person existed in the mind and heart of God before time as we know it began.

Once called into being by God, every human person will always exist. Though not eternal like God, each woman and man is an immortal being. Earthly life ends; at that point, eternal life begins. How awe-inspired we should be in the presence of every person we meet.

How deep must God’s love for each human person be. What dignity each woman and man possesses simply because God took time to create her or him in his deep love. Sometimes we need to be reminded of that.

The human person

When catechetical textbook content largely from the 1970s and 1980s was examined in light of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, one doctrinal deficiency found was an inadequate presentation of what it means to be a human person.

“By and large the catechetical texts do not seem to integrate the fundamental notions that human persons are by nature religious, that the desire for God is written in the human heart and that the human person is inherently spiritual and not reducible to the merely material. Neither are the texts generally clear that it is precisely in Christ that we have been created in the image and likeness of God. Nor do they emphasize that Christ has restored to us the divine image of God, an image disfigured by sin.

“Rather, too often the impression is left that the human person is the first principle and final end of his/her own existence.”

The quote above is from a report delivered by Archbishop Emeritus Daniel Buechlein to his brother bishops in 1997. And while textbooks have improved dramatically, the wounds of our culture’s often distorted presentation of people as material-only, morality-neutral masters of all meaning and destiny remain in great need of healing.

A theme we can embrace

“Safeguarding the Dignity of Every Human Person,” then, turns out to be an urgent reminder that what gives life and meaning to our earthly days and heavenly tomorrows is acknowledging the source of our existence—God Almighty—and obeying his command to love neighbor as self.

Enjoy this Religious Education Supplement filled with examples of how catechesis in our archdiocese is affirming human life and encouraging deeper love for all of our neighbors—for every human person. †

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