It's mid-September, and that means we've made it through the first few weeks of school. By now, the kids should be more-or-less settled into their routine for the year, those early mornings are not hitting us quite so hard, and the kids are not dragging home quite as exhausted as they were at first. Right? Well, at least that's the idea.
But now that the kids are back to studying, what about us? Shouldn't we also be revving up our brains again and flexing some of our mental muscle? We definitely know that those who routinely exercise and stretch their brains to learn new things will retain a much better quality of life as they age. Besides, there are so many interesting things to learn about!
Another reason to seriously consider taking the Pledge for Parents is to model that learning about our faith is a life-long journey. One parent told me she started going to Bible study because her child looked at her one day and said "You're making me go to class, but you don't do anything. I guess I can quit, too, when I get older." If we want our children to take their faith seriously, then we have to show them how to do it.
So, I would like to propose a "Back to School, Back to Study" Pledge for Parents. Like all my faith formation suggestions, adding something new is NOT intended to overwhelm or cause guilt. It's really more about finding a bit of time, or reorganizing a little space, to fit in something new that adds great value. It's finding an inch, not a mile. In other words, this pledge has to be pretty simple. It really involves just 2 things: 1. finding a study that interests you and fits into your schedule and 2. sticking with it.
So, where should you look to find a good Catholic study? Most parishes have good Bible studies that start around this time of year, and they use solid resources that you can trust. (My favorite Bible series is from Stephen Binz, published by Twenty-Third Publications. It's called the "Threshold Bible Study" series, and it covers many fascinating topics.) Many parishes use the "Little Rock Scripture Study" series, or the "6 Weeks with the Bible" series from Loyola Press. Both of these are also good.
Many parishes also offer courses in the Echoes of Faith series, a program published and produced by RCL Benziger. This program can be done in group settings or individually, and has recently been updated. The current version is called "Echoes of Faith, Emmaus," signifying that it follows the Biblical story of Jesus walking with his disciples on the road to Emmaus. It's very well done, and is often used for catechist certification. This is a good option if you are just starting to learn about Catholicism. Ask your Director of Religious Education about it.
But if committing to another outside activity makes you feel overwhelmed, you can also consider learning on your own. That's my plan for this semester. I've had Scott Hahn's book A Father Who Keeps his Promises on my bookshelf for quite a while, but I've never gotten around to reading it. This month, I'm going to go over to The St. Paul Center at www.stpaulcenter.com, and sign up for their online course "Covenant Love: Introducing the Biblical Worldview." I've done some of the courses at the St. Paul Center before, and not only are they well worth the time, they're also FREE! Of course, as a graduate of Steubenville, I am fond of this center. :)
Another option is to go to www.pillarsofcatholicism.com, which is an outreach of John Paul the Great Catholic University. They also offer free online classes taught by their faculty and are well done.
But if you're not sure you can make it through a full course - even a free, self paced one- you can always pick up a decent book and commit to finish it by Christmas. That really is doable for everyone. I recommend starting with John Bergsma's Bible Basics for Catholics. It's an easy read and very enjoyable. (Dr. Bergsma is also one of my favorite professors from Steubenville, and has a great sense of humor!)
If you're feeling more drawn to learning about spirituality, any of the books by Fr. Ron Rolheiser are a good place to start, especially The Holy Longing or Against An Infinite Horizon. I'll put some links to these books up on my Bookshelf page.
So think about, pray about, then Take the Pledge! Make it official:
1. PRINT out the form in the post above.
2. FILL it in
3. POST it somewhere you will see it, and your family will see it.
4. Then just DO it!
Let's all get Back to School, and Back to Study!