Evangelium in the parish
What is Evangelium? asks James Bradley
Evangelium is a catechetical course which seeks to share the riches of the Catholic faith as an attractive and straightforward means of deepening our lives with Christ in God. The course, running over twenty-five sessions, covers four main areas (known as modules). These are Creed, Sacraments, Morals and Prayer—each section reflecting the layout and construction of the Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC).
Published by the Catholic Truth Society and written by two young Catholic priests from the South of England, Fr Marcus Holden and Fr Andrew Pinsent, the course is an unashamed presentation of the fullness of the Catholic faith, using the beauty of sacred art to expand on the beauty of Christian truth.
How does it work?
For those who feel that twenty-five sessions is unmanageable, it is possible to make some alterations—though these are not recommended by the compilers. In some parishes, for example, it may be possible to combine two sessions into one evening: the resulting session would still be considerably shorter than most process evangelism courses.
The authors have also provided two helpful sequences for the course—one for RCIA (which could be used by Anglicans for the sacraments of initiation) and one for general education in the Catholic faith (which is designed to be used for those who have received the sacraments of initiation and who wish to deepen their knowledge and practice).
Each session comes in two parts, the Presenter’s Guide giving plenty of material for preparation by the presenter(s). At the end of each session there is a summary and a number of FAQ’s and answers are provided to aid the presenter and facilitate discussion.
How does it help people learn?
The Armed Forces use a model of learning designed to get the most information into a soldier or sailor as possible, in the shortest amount of time. This is known as EDIP (Explanation, Demonstration, Imitation, and Practice). Evangelium unwittingly follows this excellent, proven method, and in doing so provides a concise, unified and well-presented resource for parish use.
Here in Sevenoaks we have been using Evangelium as a follow-up to our Credo course, undertaken just under two years ago. Here we have taken four areas of Catholic teaching which are often under-taught or misunderstood within Anglo-Catholic circles, and developed a short four-week programme to teach these.
The four areas we are currently exploring are: the Church (dealing with the Papacy, the foundation of the Church, and the Church militant, expectant and triumphant); Moral Action (dealing with mortal and venial sin, disordered concupiscence, moral battle, and the victory of Christ); Natural Law and the Ten Commandments (dealing with natural and civil law, the ten commandments, and the law of grace); Christian
Life in the World (dealing with personal prayer, knowledge, sacramental life, morality, society, vocation, evangelisation, acts of charity and the ‘culture of death’). These cover three of the four modules (not prayer) as many Anglicans may have a committed prayer life but require something further in the realm of Moral Theology and practice.
How is it presented?
All of this sounds pretty heavy, and it is. The content is uncompromising and solid—but it is presented in a professional, up-to-date and attractive way that enables those of all abilities to glean something from the riches of the faith.
Each session is accompanied by a PowerPointTM presentation which uses some fine examples of Christian art to explain the particular subject under discussion. This use of visual catechesis is in synthesis with an Anglo-Catholic model of teaching and liturgical praxis. Our faithful respond well to sensory explanation and symbols and many of them appreciate the beauty of Christian truth in the surroundings of their churches, through art and architecture which points beyond itself to God.
It is in this sense that Evangelium works well for Anglican faithful who are seeking to explore, more fully, the Catholic faith. It out to be a staple for groups considering the Ordinariate just as it should be used by groups who cannot see a future outside the Church of England—we either profess the fullness of Catholic faith or we don’t.
What preparation is required to lead it?
Rather than following the Alpha model, Evangelium allows the presenter of each session the freedom to tailor it to the audience. This is a real strength, though it does require some basic ability on the part of the presenter. It seems reasonable that a priest or deacon should take a role in leading the course, but it also seems desirable that laity be involved in this process too.
Whoever leads the course must be well-voiced in the relevant part of the CCC and of the Evangelium session. As already stated, there is plenty of material for preparation, and stated aims, FAQs and optional follow-up activities form a useful part of that.
The course also runs with a Participant’s Book which reproduces much of the content of the PowerPointTM presentation, along with the artwork, but in a format that enables further reflection after the session, and a helpful catch-up for those who miss a gathering.
What resources can support this?
For those who either cannot put on this course or wish to expand on it, I would also highly recommend two tract-like publications from the same authors. Credo and Apologia are both exceptionally well-written guides to the Catholic faith.
Credo seeks to examine the part of the Creed and Apologia is a very helpful pocket book of Christian apologetics: an area which surely needs more concentration in an increasingly secular age, not least with the challenge of the new evangelisation before us.
As with Evangelium, both of these books take the CCC as their standard resource. With this in mind, I would also recommend the Compendium of the Catechism of the Catholic Church which was published by the Holy See in 2005.
The work on the Compendium was initiated by Pope John Paul II and undertaken by the then Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, one Josef Cardinal Ratzinger. It is not surprising, then, that the CCC—which is the result of thirty years of work following on from the second Vatican Council—is at the heart of the expectations of obedience and faith of Anglicanorum ccrtibus.
The Compendium, alongside Credo and Apologia are useful and inexpensive tools for those who seek to be effective apologists for the Christian faith—both in terms of evangelisation and pasturing— and for those who seek to deepen their faith through courses such as Evangelium. ND
The authors of Evangelium are working on some extra parts of the course for use by Anglicans exploring the fullness of the Catholic faith. Watch this space!
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