Catholic Diocese of Spokane, Washington

The Bishop Writes

"Keep on reading!"

by Bishop William S. Skylstad

(From the Feb. 7, 2008 edition of the Inland Register)

The “100 Ways in 100 Days” celebration during Catholic Schools Week was a great first-time experience at Gonzaga University with our Catholic grade school children. Mitch Finley has written an article about that gathering in this issue so I won’t dwell further on the event, except to thank all of those involved.

Catholic Schools Week assists us in appreciating the mission of education in the Church at so many levels. The expression of that mission has been unique here in the United States, but also the mission continues in lands where there is need to provide education for children. I think of our effort in Guatemala, in our relationship with the Diocese of Sololá over the years. Remarkable things have happened in Guatemala in a collaborative effort to make education available to children there, some of them for the first time. The commitment of the Church to this endeavor is certainly very much in evidence, as missionaries arrived here in the Northwest over 100 years ago. Communities of women and men Religious were at the forefront of that outreach.

February has traditionally been celebrated in the Church as Catholic Press Month. We have the opportunity to appreciate the printed medium in the Church, its history, and its importance. In some ways, the remembrance and appreciation of the Catholic press is aligned with Catholic Schools Week. We often equate learning with our earlier years in school and minimize or even disregard the opportunities we have later in life to be life-long learners. Never has a world population been so well educated, and yet how much more needs to be done in this regard, especially in those parts of the world economically deprived.

For us in the Church, long gone are the days when our Catholic formation was relegated to the Baltimore Catechism. Our world today is much more sophisticated, complex and interconnected. In the Church, the documents of the Second Vatican Council; the papal writings, such as encyclicals, apostolic letters, and special messages; the pastoral letters of conferences of bishops around the world; the relatively new Catechism of the Catholic Church: all of these have given us a body of teaching that is rich and much needed as we address the reality of our spiritual journeys and the world in which we live. We need the knowledge of our faith tradition, the wisdom of the teaching of the Church today, to live and make decisions in our time that are consistent with the teaching of Jesus while at the same time we take responsibility for our own lives.

More recently we hear that our culture has been afflicted with a more passive population of watching a lot of TV, reading less, and becoming less focused on the print media with regard to the news of the day. Of course, there are a lot of ways we receive news today, so different from a generation ago. TV and, more recently, the Internet offer opportunities of being informed. Now we see instantaneously what is happening on the other side of the world.

Obviously, contemporaneous events are important for us to keep track of and respond to when the need arises. Yet, there is also a tremendous body of knowledge that provides a resource for personal enrichment and appreciation of our faith tradition. More recently, the Catechism of the Catholic Church has given us a summary of the Church’s teaching that enables us to use this as a resource for information and for knowledge about what the Church teaches. A very popular summary of the document that is more readable and digestible is the U.S. bishops’ Catechism for Adults that should be available in every home. As we experience Lent, one worthwhile Lenten intention would be to read through this work in its entirety.

Perhaps during the Lenten season, we might examine the spirit of learning in our lives. How much do I read? How much do I try to keep abreast of developments in the Church and in theology? Have I read the Pope Benedict XVI’s encyclicals God is Love, and Saved by Hope? Both are excellent. Spiritual writers of the day and Catholic periodicals help us to keep informed about the reflection on our personal lives and our situation in our world, seen through the lens of the Gospel. We must also ask ourselves how committed we are to the spirit of learning when inordinate watching TV pulls us away from other important opportunities for spiritual development and knowledge – for example, like reading.

The Internet is now full of resources for us. We haven’t begun yet to fully utilize the potential of this medium to keep up and be enriched by the latest developments in the Church. As technology continues to advance and as we live in a global community, grounding in our faith tradition and the gleaning of wisdom from others can be most helpful for us.

In the realization that God through the power of the spirit continues to form us, may we not miss the opportunity to read and learn. We ourselves will be enriched. So will our families, our church and our world.

Blessings and peace to all!

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