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Catechism & Catechesis


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The Passion of Christ

by Fr. John A. Hardon, S.J.

Since the dawn of Christianity, the Passion of Christ has been the deepest inspiration of the followers of Christ. His sufferings and death have been the deepest motive that believing Christians have had to follow in His bloody footsteps. What He endured out of love for us is meant to inspire us out of love for Him.

No matter how young the persons whom we instruct, they are not too young to have learned the deepest lesson of life, that life means endurance and only strong love can inspire people with the strength necessary to remain faithful to the teachings of Christ from childhood to old age, and into eternity.


Focus

The four verbs that now 2,000 years of Christian history has associated with Christ’s Passion are crucial to a correct understanding of what the Catholic religion is all about. Jesus suffered willingly in order to redeem a sinful human race. He was crucified in an agonizing execution, along with two notorious criminals. He died as a result of His bloody crucifixion. And after His death He was buried in a stranger’s tomb because even in death He did not have a place of His own whereon to lay His head.

Whatever else students are taught about the faith, they must be taught to believe and, as far as they can , understand that God became man in order that, as man, He might suffer for us. Since life on earth, even for the most peaceful and prosperous has its share of suffering, we must have strong motivation for the patient endurance of pain. There is no more powerful motive we can have than the realization on faith that God suffered and died out of love for us; so we should be willing to suffer and, if need be, die out of love for Him.

Catechesis

I can make no better recommendation to the catechists than to urge them to read and meditate on the apostolic letter, On the Christian Meaning of Suffering of Pope John Paul II. Especially the fifth chapter on, “Sharers in the Suffering of Christ,” is a goldmine of clear inspiration for every follower of Christ to want to be an imitator of Christ by sharing in the Savior’s own experience of the Passion.

Here are some of the lessons the catechist can bring out to his students, to show them that Christ’s Passion is not only a historical memory but a constant, present-day reality.

  1. Every believer in Christ in greater or less measure is called to share in the Passion of Christ.

  2. This sharing in Christ’s suffering is not only psychological. We are not only to be strengthened in our willingness to carry the cross by knowing that Christ carried His cross before us. No. Our daily cross is mysteriously necessary if the work of the Redemption is to be fulfilled.

  3. This necessity, as we may call it, grows out of the need for our voluntary cooperation with the graces won for us on Calvary. True enough, we were redeemed by Christ’s Passion and death. The graces we need to be saved were merited by the Savior. But we are now required to cooperate with these graces by submitting our wills to the will of God. In Christ’s words, we are to take up our cross daily and follow Him.

  4. Patience under trial should be taught as simply part of what it means to be, and not merely be called, a Christian. What the faithful need to know is that the cross is not to be a source of discouragement. It is one of the marks of a true lover of Jesus. If we really love someone, we expect to pay for our love.

  5. Catechists dare not forget that the opportunity to show their selfless love of Jesus already begins with children. It goes on through life. And it is one of the glories of Christianity that it provides its believers with the most powerful motive available to human beings for not only weathering the difficult ties of life but actually maturing spiritually and psychologically through the experience.

Practice

For a believing Catholic, the Passion of Christ should become part of one’s spiritual life. There are many simple ways in which this can be done, depending on a person’s age and religious development.

  1. Every Friday is meant to be a commemoration of Calvary. According to the Church’s law, we are to perform some kind of sacrifice in union with Christ’s sacrifice on the Cross on each Friday of the year. The Code of Canon Law is clear.

    The days and times of penance for the universal Church are each Friday of the whole year and the season of Lent (Canon 1250).

    Abstinence from meat or from some other food as determined by the Episcopal Conference, is to be observed on all Fridays, unless a solemnity should fall on a Friday. Abstinence and fasting are to be observed on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday (Canon 1251).

  2. Give those whom you are teaching the clear idea that every Friday is a day of special remembrance of the first Good Friday when the Savior died for our redemption.

  3. Make sure that in every Catholic home there is at least one crucifix on the wall.

  4. Encourage your charges to have a crucifix, at least a small one, on their person. Women and girls may want to wear it around their neck. All should carry a Rosary with a crucifix attached.

  5. The Sign of the Cross is made by Catholics as a profession of their faith in two mysteries: The Holy Trinity and the Crucifixion.

  6. Certain prayers should be learned by heart, for example, “Soul of Christ…sanctify me.” They are powerful reminders of Christ’s Passion and of our sharing in His saving grace.

  7. Encourage attendance at Mass during the week and not only on Sunday. The Sacrifice of the Mass is the re-presentation of what took place on Calvary. The Mass is our principal source of divine mercy.

  8. Explain to those you instruct how to make short aspirations during the day, especially when they meet with some painful experience. A single word, “Jesus,” will both give strength to cope with the situation and draw the person closer to the Savior.

Concluding Prayer

“Soul of Christ, sanctify me.
Body of Christ, save me.
Blood of Christ, inebriate me.
Water from the side of Christ, wash me.
Passion of Christ, strengthen me.
O good Jesus, hear me.
Within your wounds hide me.
Permit me not to be separated from you.
From the wicked foe defend me.
At the hour of my death call me.
And bid me come to you.
That with your saints I may praise you.
Forever and ever, Amen.”

(Anima Christi, favorite prayer of St. Ignatius Loyola).

Copyright © 1998 Inter Mirifica






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