Natural Family Planning is about love, life, freedom and gift

By David Cooley.

In the midst of all that is going on in our country and in our world, it’s not surprising that Natural Family Planning Awareness Week (July 19-25) passed by under the radar without winning much interest or attention. In a way, it’s fitting because Natural Family Planning (NFP) is one of the best kept secrets that the Catholic Church has to offer our world. Of course it’s not really a secret, but — despite all the wonderful advantages that NFP has to offer and the exciting research that has been done — it just can’t seem to get the consideration and the response that it deserves. One of the big reasons that NFP is neglected is because, like a lot of what we believe to be good, true and beautiful, it is counter-cultural. Another reason is the lack of education, even in the medical field. I believe that one day, hopefully soon, this will change. It seems to me that there is a growing respect for all things natural and, perhaps, a profound realization that we can’t take the biological differences between men and women for granted anymore.

Natural Family Planning is the general title for the scientific, natural and moral methods of family planning that can help married couples either achieve or postpone pregnancies. NFP methods are based on the observation of the naturally occurring signs and symptoms of the fertile and infertile phases of a woman’s menstrual cycle. No drugs, devices or surgical procedures are used to avoid pregnancy. Since the methods of NFP respect the love-giving and life-giving nature of the conjugal act, they support God’s design for married love. The occasion of NFP Awareness Week, promoted by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, highlights the anniversary of the papal encyclical “Humanae Vitae” (July 25), which articulates Catholic beliefs about human sexuality, conjugal love and responsible parenthood. The theme for NFP Awareness Week this year was: “Live the truth and beauty of God’s plan for married love. Natural Family Planning — It’s about love. It’s about life. It’s about freedom. It’s about gift.” A rather long theme, but I love it!

It’s about love

At the end of the day, what are we talking about here? We are talking about true love and the expression of that love. The nature of marriage calls husband and wife to sacred responsibilities. Within this vocation, a husband and wife are able to celebrate human sexuality in all its fullness. Their conjugal love is “meant to express the full meaning of love,” as willed by God, “its power to bind a couple … and its openness to new life” (USCCB, Married Love and the Gift of Life, 4). In our times, when God’s design for life and love are continuously assaulted and cheapened, it would do the world a lot of good if followers of Christ lived out the truth that God intended marital love to be total, faithful, permanent and fruitful. It is exactly the kind of love that people are searching for, the kind of love that people are hoping for, the kind of love that Hollywood movies so often get wrong. True love does exist. No matter how dark things get, the light of true love can never be entirely snuffed out. This is one of the reasons why Christian marriage is a sign of Christ’s presence in the world. It is a sign of God’s unconditional love for his people.

It’s about life

It’s no secret that our culture has done virtually everything it can to separate the conjugal act of love from both its unitive and procreative ends that it is oriented towards — especially the later. Whenever I reflect on this I always think of the novel “Children of Men” by P.D. James. It’s an intense, dystopian story that takes place in a future world without hope because the human race has become infertile and the youngest people in the world have now turned 18. I won’t tell you what happens, but it’s a reminder of how important children are (or should be) to us. Children are really the supreme gift of marriage and contribute very substantially to the welfare of their parents and to society as a whole. What naturally follows if we remove the unitive and procreative meaning of sex? We forget about the spiritual aspect and the spiritual consequences. We are body and soul, you can’t give someone one without the other.

It’s about freedom

The so-called “sexual revolution” sold people, especially women, a lie that artificial birth control and contraception would be liberating. In reality, it turned people into mere sex objects and took away all responsibility from — you guessed it — men! In contrast, it’s empowering for young women to learn about their bodies and embrace the beauty of their fertility. Just as important, there are also countless testimonies of women who were able to discover early that something was wrong with their bodies because the symptoms weren’t masked by hormonal medication. NFP methods help a woman to recognize her unique signs of fertility, which she can observe on a daily basis. This knowledge is liberating.

In discovering the family as the “sanctuary of life” and the “heart of the culture of life,” men and women can be freed from the “culture of death.” In each child, couples and society must recognize a gift coming to them from God, a precious gift which must be loved and welcomed with joy. (PCF, The Ethical and Pastoral Dimensions of Population Trends, March 25, 1994, n. 89; Quoting Gaudium et Spes, n. 50)

It’s about gift

Bishop Robert Barron often says that behind every “no” that the Church gives there is a much bigger “yes.” When it comes to sexual morality we have the tendency to focus on the negative aspect of what’s not aloud. But there are good, solid reasons for the teachings of the Church that can be explained for the benefit for all mankind. Natural Family Planning is ultimately about saying “yes” to God’s design for love and life. It is also about saying “yes” to giving yourself completely to another, fertility and all.

Sexual desire is a gift from God. It is a response to the beauty that we see in others. God created us male and female so that we can learn to make a sincere gift of self to one another. Women and men are equal in that they are made in God’s image, but they are not the same. They complement each other. Together, they make the one flesh union of marriage which has the potential to give life and create a family. The union between a man and a woman is intended for marriage and is a foreshadowing of the union that will ultimately satisfy us — the union with God.

The great thing about Natural Family Planning and Theology of the Body is that— no matter where you are in life, no matter what age you are, no matter the circumstances of your past, no matter what vocation you are living out — it is always the perfect time to learn more about it and to embrace it.

David Cooley is co-director and office manager of the Office of Catechesis and Evangelization.

Local Natural Family Planning Resources:

Couple to Couple League
(513) 471-2000
www.ccli.org

St. Elizabeth Taylor Mill Primary Care office
Amy Fathman, APRN
Family Nurse Practitioner
(859) 491-2855

Divine Mercy Fertility Care
Rita Johnson
(517) 775-7229
https://naturalfertilitycare.org/

Who is my neighbor? — A lesson from ‘The Twilight Zone’

By David Cooley.

I continue to be amazed by our divided nation. A wise priest once told me that you can always see where the devil is hard at work because of all the anxiety and division he causes. The more I pay attention the more this seems increasingly obvious. Another thing I remember from when I was young, is that the devil is the father of lies and those who care not for the truth are all too willing to participate in his evil schemes. In contrast, some signs of Christ’s work in the world are truth, unity, peace and understanding. Interesting questions to ponder each day: what seems to be more prominent in our country and in our world — division or unity? And, what role do I play in all of this?

It seems like no one can agree on anything anymore, even some basic concepts like the existence of good and evil, the fact that some things are simply right and some things are simply wrong, and the dignity and value of every single human life. It would also be nice if we could at least agree that people have a right to know what’s going on in the world without being constantly manipulated by hidden agendas. It saddens me when I see friends turn on each other because they have a difference of opinion on an issue and all the roads that lead to a civilized and reasonable conversation are closed until further notice. It seems like, in the year 2020, the one thing we have all been united in, so far at least, is defeat.

One of my favorite television shows of all time is “The Twilight Zone.” It’s an old show (from the late 1950s, early 60s), but, in my humble opinion, there was something about the quality of the program and the atmosphere that will never be matched. I’m sure part of it is nostalgia — I can remember staying up late to watch the old reruns, while I was sure everyone else in the house and in the neighborhood was sleeping. I can still hear the cool, confident voice of the host, Rod Serling, as he appeared in stark black-and-white and prepared me for another ride of twist-and-turns with an unnerving lesson that “things aren’t always as they appear.” Aside from my Catholic faith, there is probably nothing that has had a larger impact on how I see the world than that show. There are many great episodes from that other dimension that are more than worthy for reflection, but one that I come back to on almost an annual basis is a disturbing little tale called “The Monsters are Due on Maple Street.”

At the close of the episode, aliens observe from a safe distance as a small, lovely town full of everyday people descends into chaos. The intelligent beings from somewhere else have discovered that there is no need to attack and invade the people of earth. Instead they pick one town at a time, cut off its power, scare the people a little with visual tricks, and leave them alone with each other and their increasing paranoia. In a short time, panic sets in and the citizens turn on one another, searching for scapegoats to blame and kill. As it turns out, the monsters of the title are not the visitors from another planet, but the people that already lived together on Maple Street. Those that were supposed to be neighbors.

It’s chilling sometimes, in our own dimension, how easily neighbor can be turned against neighbor. Misunderstandings and fear nurtured by irrationality can quickly turn into harsh words, angry mobs and violence. Perhaps the decision to be a neighbor or a monster is one that we make just about every day. It’s not always about the big decisions; more often than not it’s probably in the little choices we make — do we let our emotions get the best of us? Do we put our needs, wants and safety before others? Do we put others down and gossip to make ourselves feel better? Do we treat people differently based on their race or social status? How do we act when we are on the internet? And so on.

While it was written decades ago, this episode from the very first season of The Twilight Zone — and virtually every episode of its five-year run — is eerily relevant for us today. On the other hand, if there was ever a time that we needed aliens to intervene in order to get us to turn on each other, that time is long past. In our world of social distancing and social media, it seems like we are always looking for the next fight. We tend to see those who are different than us and those that disagree with us not as potential friends with whom we can talk things out, but as something completely other. There is a great danger in living this way; and no one on either side of the political spectrum is immune to it. Just like with everything else, we have to begin by taking a good, hard look at ourselves.

I’ll leave you with these chilling words said by Rod Serling — a brilliant, Jewish man, by the way — at the end of that classic episode:

“The tools of conquest do not necessarily come with bombs and explosions and fallout. There are weapons that are simply thoughts, attitudes, prejudices to be found only in the minds of men. For the record, prejudices can kill, and suspicion can destroy, and a thoughtless frightened search for a scapegoat has a fallout all of its own for the children, and the children yet unborn. And the pity of it is, these things cannot be confined to the Twilight Zone.”

David Cooley is co-director and office manager of the Office of Catechesis and Evangelization.

This summer, what will you do with the time that has been given to you?

By David Cooley.

No one could have guessed at the beginning of the 2019-2020 school year how things would end abruptly before the month of April. It is fair to say that many people are grieving in some way, and rightly so. Instead of the usual end-of-the-year excitement and celebrations, there has been isolation and distance among friends. For us Catholics, the most difficult thing has been being away from our Lord in the sacraments and being away from our parish communities. For many youth who were enjoying a significant year in school, things came to a rather anti-climactic end. Of course, none of this is to even mention those that have suffered through illness or have lost loved ones who were very dear to them. Yet on the other hand, I think it is also fair to say that 2020 will not fade away from our memories anytime soon. At the very least it has been unique, caused us to pause, and perhaps forced us to look at things in a different way.

But now summer has crept in, virtually unnoticed, and we are faced with a new set of dilemmas. For the most part public Masses have opened up again — a true blessing — but “to go, or not to go; that is the question.” There is, after all, still a dispensation in place from our bishop through the end of the season. “But, Lord, how can we stay away from you, and where should we go?” And, for the most part, everything else that involves large gatherings but deemed “unnecessary” has been canceled altogether. In other words, this means that, for those with children of any age in the house, there are no summer camps, and, more importantly, no Vacation/Vocation Bible School! Summer cannot be a time for youth to take a vacation from their Catholic faith. In this day and age the stakes are just too high. There are too many entities out there, mostly dark, battling for their hearts and attention.

Again, this is an opportunity for us to pause, and truly reflect on the important truth that our homes are meant to be a domestic church. No matter what is going on outside our doors, we are an Easter people and our time on this earth should be filled with joy because we know the good news of Jesus Christ. We know that everything is in God’s hands. As Catholics, we are called to be a light in the darkness, a sign of God’s love for all people. It all starts in the home and, if we happen to be parents, we must set an example for our children.
So what are some concrete things families can do?

First, find ways to stay connected to the Church. Make sure your family experiences the Mass at least once each week, even if you decide to live stream it or watch a recording. Additionally, try to organize parish activities that utilize safe distance procedures; for example, a Monday night rosary group that prays together via video conferencing. At the very least families should pray together daily, take turns writing prayers or leading reflections on the mysteries of the rosary. Make sure your child has an age-appropriate style Bible. That is so crucial, and these days there is virtually a limitless selection.

Pay close attention to feast days, learn about the saints together — celebrate St. Thomas More with a virtual tour of the Tower of London. There are many ways to make history come alive. Read daily devotionals together. Make chalk drawings of your favorite Bible stories or stained-glass windows. When July rolls around, sew a “God Bless America” quilt or table runner. Bake home-made “Eucharist” (flat) bread and talk about the Passover in Exodus, the Last Supper and the Blessed Sacrament. Find other meals, foods and drinks to try from biblical times. Discover new Catholic arts and craft ideas via the internet.

It is necessary to be creative and keep young people engaged the best we can during these challenging times. Never miss an opportunity to address important issues and demonstrate how God is at work in the world today. Read a small section of the Catechism of the Catholic Church every day and discuss it as a family. All these thoughts just scratch the surface of the possibilities.

One final idea, and I wish I could tell you that I came up with this because I love it so much. There are websites, such as animoto.com and freemake.com (and I’m sure there are others), where users can import animation, photos, movie clips and audio files to create videos/slideshows, etc. Early in the week, look at the Scripture readings for the following Sunday, then, as a family, make a video that tells the entire Gospel story. The great thing about this project is that you can then share the video your family makes each week on social media and evangelize to others without leaving your house. And, of course, you are well prepared for Sunday’s Mass.

In preparing to write this article one of my favorite passages from J.R.R. Tolkien’s “Lord of the Rings” kept popping into my head. In dealing with challenging times and a cross to bear, Frodo the Hobbit says to Gandalf the Wizard: “I wish the ring had never come to me. I wish none of this had happened.” To which Gandalf replies: “So do all who live to see such times, but that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to us.”

How true! Seasons come and go. Typically in the summer we have a little bit more time on our hands; that might be particularly true this year. So what will you decide to do with the time that is given to you?

David Cooley is co-director and office manager of the Office of Catechesis and Evangelization in the Diocese of Covington.

Moral courage and the story of the White Rose

By David Cooley.

“Such a fine, sunny day, and I have to go …”

Those were among the last words spoken — 77 years ago —by a 21-year-old German girl named Sophie Scholl before she was executed by her own government in the dark times of the Nazi regime. Sophie was a loving, spunky, young girl full of life and laughter. So, what was the “crime” that brought about her demise?

Sophie, along with her older brother, Hans, and some of their friends at Munich University, formed a secret group called “The White Rose,” which covertly produced and distributed leaflets all over Germany that exhorted the people of good will to “wake up” and take action against the Nazis, who were committing atrocities in the name of the German people. The crime was “High Treason.” A total of three were killed that day, Feb. 22, 1943 — Sophie, Hans and their friend Christoph Probst, who was married and had three young children — the rest of the group was hunted down and killed not long after that.

The atrocities the White Rose spoke out against were not only the obvious crimes against humanity — which included killing anyone deemed “unworthy of life,” especially Jewish people, “useless eaters,” and enemies of the all-powerful state — but also the offences that the Nazis committed against the God-given freedom of the people. The rule of the day was conform and obey or suffer the dire consequences. I once thought that George Orwell’s novel “1984” was just an incredibly imaginative vision of a dystopian future that, while very frightening, seemed almost impossible. In reality Orwell was just taking notes from recent history. Living in Germany in the 1930s, if you happened to be someone who wasn’t brainwashed or completely apathetic to other people, was a nightmare. One of the hardest parts was not being able to trust anyone, even those you loved. Make a wrong move and they might turn you in to the authorities — and life was over.

The White Rose produced a total of six leaflets that, using beautiful and powerful language, interpreted the sign of the times and spoke the truth about what was happening all around Europe. The Gestapo (Nazi state police) spent the better part of a year trying to figure out where these leaflets were coming from so that they could track down and silence the authors. The first line on Leaflet 1 set the tone for the subsequent writings: “Nothing is more dishonorable for a civilized people than to let itself be ‘governed’ without resistance by an irresponsible clique of rulers devoted to dark instincts.” Another line demonstrated the wisdom the students had beyond their years: “If everyone waits for his neighbor to take the first step, the messengers of the vengeful nemesis will come ever closer, and the very last victim will senselessly be thrown into the throat of the insatiable demon.” The leaflets of the White Rose offered practical advice for how every-day people could defy Hitler and the Nazi Party in small but effective ways. The goal was to bring down the tyrants and restore dignity to Germany.

One of the reasons why I am inspired by this particular group of young adults is that they were compelled to act even when the easiest and safest choice was to not do anything. They ended up losing their lives even though they could have easily survived the war and lived out their dreams. Truthfully, they looked like members of the so-called “Aryan race” and they had a deep love for their country; and yet, they had an unwavering dedication to the simple difference between right and wrong, an unstoppable urge to seek the truth and the steadfast desire to invest the precious little time they were given in things that really mattered.

Among the many things that motivated the siblings that led the peaceful resistance of the White Rose were the Bible and the writings of St. Augustine. These two things formed their worldview more than anything else. In addition, Sophie also studied Thomas Aquinas and John Henry Newman’s writings on conscience. She and her brother both lived their lives always with an eye on eternity and finding consolation in Christ.

The catalyst of the White Rose movement came about when Sophie and Hans read an anti-Nazi sermon of the Catholic Bishop of Munster, Clemens von Galen in August 1941. In it the bishop openly attacked the Nazi euthanasia program. He wrote: “There are sacred obligations of conscience from which no one has the power to release us and which we must fulfil even if it costs us our lives.” They were thrilled someone was finally speaking out and Hans came up with the idea of finding an old duplicating machine.

But, on Feb. 18, after close to a year of building up a silent rebellion, they were caught distributing fliers by a man at the university and turned in to the authorities. They were interrogated, imprisoned and given a very speedy trial. They stood before their Nazi judge and jurors in the notorious People’s Court and demonstrated great courage. After just a few days they were sentenced to die … immediately, by way of the guillotine.

They kept their faith to the end, even in the face of death. During her trial Sophie said, “How can we expect righteousness to prevail when there is hardly anyone willing to give himself up individually to a righteous cause?” Up to the last minute Sophie was given a chance to recant her stance and keep her life, but she just couldn’t do it. She would stick with her brother and her friends and not compromise what really mattered to her. It cost her her head.

Many times in life we are faced with hard decisions. Being Catholic in this day and age is not easy. The way of life we are called to is not hard because we can’t tell right from wrong; it’s hard because often times making the right choice results in our losing something very precious to us. What we lose might be our popularity, our security, or even our life as we know it.  Life is not fair; innocent people sometimes suffer the most. We need to look no further than Christ on the Cross for evidence of that. As Catholics we are always called to stand up for what is right, what is good, and what is holy — no matter what the cost. If those young students, in Germany, in 1943, could exemplify such moral courage in the face of grave evil and danger, can’t we find the courage to speak of and live out our Christian convictions today? While Sophie was willing to die for her worldview, are we able to live for ours?

David Cooley is co-director and office manager of the Office of Catechesis and Evangelization in the Diocese of Covington.

In the midst of a faith crisis — the stakes are high

By David Cooley.

I have read many religious resources that state that there is a crisis of faith among Catholic young people. I don’t doubt that at all. Recent studies estimate that only 20 percent of young Catholics are practicing their faith by the age of 22. But I wonder, is there not also a crisis of faith among older generations? I, personally, don’t think the spiritual struggle has an age bias. I think it’s fair to say that young Catholics aren’t going to see their faith lives as important if their parents and relatives don’t see their faith lives as important, at least while they are still in their formative years.

You have to give children and young adults a little credit, they can tell if you really believe or not. They can see how important going to Mass is to you and how much time you spend praying. If you spend most of your time on a cell phone or watching Netflix, that’s probably how they are going to spend most of their time, too. But, we must ask ourselves, is our Catholic faith important enough to spend time on; to sacrifice for? We simply can’t escape the fact that if we are going to pass down the faith we have to know and understand it ourselves. Moreover, we can’t truly understand our faith unless we have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. The failure to center our lives on Christ has serious consequences, especially for young people who look up to us for answers.

There is a lot of pressure growing up in today’s world. Youth have to deal with a lot of things that we didn’t have to deal with growing up (social media for example!), and if we do not meet our children where they are they will be bombarded by a culture and a way of life that leads them to nothing but emptiness and sadness.

Three different secular news articles recently caused me to pause and reflect on that fact. The first was from USA Today and was titled “‘Deaths of despair’ from drugs, alcohol and suicide hit young adults hardest.” It reported that drug-related deaths, alcohol deaths and suicides among millennials — a generation typically defined as those born between 1981 and 1996 — soared 108 percent, 69 percent and 35 percent respectively. An analysis of the data from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention found that the increase for these three “deaths of despair” for people who are 23 to 38 years old were higher than for baby boomers and senior citizens. The article went on to site possible reasons for this, including burdensome levels of debt, difficulty in starting careers and the opioid crisis. Since many millennials have families of their own, these addiction struggles and overall poor mental health conditions could have a serious impact on multiple generations for years to come.

The second article from Daily Mail was titled “Loneliest generation: A quarter of millennials say they have no friends.” The article described an unprecedented sense of loneliness among young adults despite the ability to call, text, e-mail, snap, tweet, post and live stream one another from anywhere on the planet. According to the article there is a vicious cycle involved — isolation takes a toll on mental health, which in turn makes people withdraw and then they become more isolated and depressed. I don’t think it is a far stretch to assume that this sense of isolation is also part of the blame for the surging rates in deaths of despair.

The third and final article was titled “From binge drinking to blacking out, the disturbing epidemic putting America’s kids in danger,” which was featured in CBS News. In short, this article stated that there is a silent pandemic having to do with “the pervasive and problematic drinking culture among American youth.” Binge drinking has not only been normalized but it is also a “marker of social status.” In other words there is a lot of pressure to drink enormous amounts of alcohol at once because “all the cool kids are doing it.” Almost 2,000 college-aged youth are dying every year on college campuses, and it doesn’t seem like this tragedy gets the attention that it deserves.

Millennials and Gen Z seem to be the most stressed out, isolated and depressed generations in recent memory, despite what some might argue, thanks to technological advances, is an easy life. So, what are we missing here? Experts say that millions of young people are turning to drugs and alcohol to numb themselves and escape their stress, and on top of all that we are in the midst of some kind of loneliness epidemic. So much for the carefree days of youth! Isn’t there something else they can turn to? Can’t some of us, who have already learned some truths the hard way, guide our youth toward something better?

People are desperately looking for something to fill a void in their lives. As Catholics we know, as St. Augustine said, that our hearts our restless until they rest in the Lord; however, our society and our culture often remove God from the equation completely or at the very least put him on the back burner as an afterthought. The Church has a wonderful opportunity to once again rise to the occasion to remind a darkened world about the Way, the Truth and the Life. No matter where you are, you are in mission territory. If we don’t do our best to help our youth and our peers understand that life has a purpose and that each one of us is an irreplaceable human being that is loved and made in the image and likeness of God, the consequences will continue to be devastating. Of course we have to first believe all of this ourselves. We must focus on the joy of the Gospel, the goodness and beauty in our world; because, whether you believe it or not, there is so much to live for, to hope for and to share with each other.

David Cooley is co-director and office manager of the Department of Catechesis and Faith Formation in the Diocese of Covington.

Catechesis, confidence and courage

By David Cooley.

Since becoming co-director of the Office of Catechesis and Faith Formation, I have been reflecting on what I call the three C’s — catechesis, confidence and courage. These three C’s are connected in many ways. One thing they have in common, unfortunately, is that they are often lacking in today’s society. The reason we see so much sorrow and pain in our culture is because catechesis, confidence and courage are in short supply or are compromised for lesser things.

Catechesis is one of those words that when you are Catholic and you use it all the time you forget how strange it sounds to someone who is unfamiliar with it. The word catechesis originates from the Greek word meaning “instruction by word of mouth.” In the Church it refers to the basic Catholic religious education of children and adults. A book that summarizes the teachings and principles of the Catholic faith is called a catechism. A trained instructor is called a catechist.

Every baptized Christian is called to be a catechist, to evangelize the faith, to go forth and “make disciples of all nations.” (cf Matt 28:19) We are all called to be teachers of the Gospel and we are all called to live out our life according to God’s will. It is in pondering that mission that we discover the great adventure of our lives. Yes, we are to make disciples of all nations, but in order to do that we must first make disciples of ourselves.

It was the Baltimore Catechism that very succinctly answered the big “why are we here?” question. Officially the question (#150) was “Why did God make you?” and the answer, of course, was (and is) that “God made me to know Him, to love Him and to serve Him in this world, and to be happy with Him forever in the next.”

The very next question in the Baltimore Catechism was “Why is it necessary to know God?” The answer: “It is necessary to know God because without knowing Him we cannot love Him; and without loving Him we cannot be saved. We should know Him because He is infinitely true; love Him because He is infinitely beautiful; and serve Him because He is infinitely good.”

So, we must ask ourselves: how well do we know God? Do we take the time necessary to listen to him, through his Word, in our studies, and in the silence? Do we seek out the answers to the more difficult questions in life that can be found in countless resources provided by the Church?

We must know the faith to have faith. We must have faith to experience the joy of the Gospel. We must experience this joy — which can only come from the Lord — if we are going to have the confidence to share it with others. That confidence to share the Gospel with others also comes from a noble motive – love. Love is willing the good for our neighbor simply because they are our neighbor.

Not unlike the disciples on the road to Emmaus, when we encounter Jesus and hear the Word of God our hearts burn within us. And it is that burning that we feel which gives us confidence to share the Gospel with others. If our hearts are on fire we can’t help but try to set the world ablaze. The more people are converted to Christ the more the world will be renewed.

It takes courage to be a follower of Christ. It always has and it always will. There is a lot of pressure to just go with the flow and become what the world wants you to become. Remember, the world rejected Christ first and he promised his followers that it would reject them too. Picking up that cross and following him every day is not for the faint of heart.

The Christian adventure is not for anyone looking for an easy way out. This brings me to another important word that begins with “c”— Catholic. There is no doubt that it takes an extra amount of courage to be Catholic today.

Yes, catechesis is a word that we should all get more familiar with. Catechesis leads to confidence, confidence leads to courage, courage leads to community, community leads to Communion, and Communion is in Christ.

David Cooley is co-director and office manager of the Department of Catechesis and Faith Formation in the Diocese of Covington.