As the days of summer draw to a close – at least according to the calendar, if not the thermometer – we turn our attention to the beginning of yet another school year. Many adults I know whose school days ended long ago still appreciate having their own “school supplies” – pens, notebooks, reading lists, etc. – to mark what is a sort of new beginning. We are reminded that learning isn’t just for kids in school. Indeed, learning is a life-long endeavor, especially with respect to our Catholic faith. We do not “graduate” in the sense of our formation ending once we have finished formal religious education or Catholic school. Rather, we advance to the next stage of our journey through life, hopefully continually growing closer to the Lord.
One means of growth in the faith is through the sacraments, particularly the Sacrament of Reconciliation. Sometimes people say that one of the reasons they hesitate to receive the gift of Christ’s mercy, especially if they have been away from it for a little while, is that they have forgotten how to make a good confession. This should never hold anyone back from receiving the grace of this sacrament which wipes the slate clean for us, so to speak. What is important is our sorrow for sin and our willingness to express it. The priest in the confessional is more than willing to assist those who might need guidance through the ritual. He is there “in the person of Christ,” in the person of Jesus the Teacher.
Another way to deepen our faith – one in keeping with the spirit of a new school year – is through spiritual reading. A sample syllabus might include the following: the Catechism of the Catholic Church and the United States Catholic Catechism for Adults, study of sacred scripture in The Bible or the daily missal, religious blogs and websites, books about a favorite saint, the documents of the Second Vatican Council, writings by a particular Pope and guides to various spiritual practices such as Saint Francis de Sales’ Introduction to the Devout Life or The Spiritual Exercises of Saint Ignatius of Loyola. Just fifteen minutes a day with even one of these works can open our hearts and minds to Christ and his purpose for our lives.
As we return to our routines for the fall, let us recommit ourselves to a daily habit of spiritual learning and development. Through daily prayer, regular scriptural reading, frequent Confession, and weekly participation in Sunday Mass, we learn the most important thing – the love and truth of Christ light the way to eternal life.