The Catholic Diocese of Lafayette, Indiana Catechetical Curriculum Guidelines

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Martin Luther was another reformer in this era who has made a lasting impact. Luther was a German Augustinian priest who, although he was devoted to many teachings of the Church, struggled intensely with others. Luther was deeply troubled by the abuses surrounding indulgences. Indulgences began very early in the Church as a way of obtaining penances so as to lessen some of the punishment of purgatory. One form of penance is giving alms to the poor. In Luther’s time it was often viewed as merely paying one’s way out of punishment instead of truly a sorrowful penance.

118, 160, 195, 196, 319 Purgatory, Indulgences

In 1517, he publicly addressed his struggles by posting his Ninety-five Theses on the church door in Wittenburg, Germany. In Luther’s time posting notices on the church doors was a common occurrence. His Theses were an appeal to correct the many things he saw wrong in the Church, some which rightly needed to be reformed and others which did not.

118, 160, 195, 196, 319 Faith and Works, Protestantism

When he did not receive a satisfactory response from his own bishop he appealed to Rome. The pope, Pope Leo X responded by sending one of his cardinals to meet with Luther. Unfortunately, neither side was able to reach an agreement at this meeting.

118, 160, 195, 196, 319 Faith and Works, Protestantism

Pope Leo X took Luther’s Theses very seriously and carefully examined them. He determined that forty-one of the ninety-five Theses were heretical; they taught things that were contrary to Church teaching. Pope Leo X, as a pastor, sent a special notice to Luther to ask him to reject the heretical statements. Luther refused to listen to the guidance of the Church and publicly burned the letter he received. It was these actions and the actions of others that led to the Protestant Reformation.

118, 160, 195, 196, 319 Faith and Works, Protestantism

In order to prevent the spread of heresy, Pope Leo X excommunicated Luther. Luther had begun his journey to bring reform to what he saw as areas that needed to be changed within the Church, and ended up denying some of the most important teachings that the Church held close.

118, 160, 195, 196, 319 Faith and Works, Protestantism

Ulrich Zwingli, a Swiss Catholic priest, gradually began to reject many of the tenets of Catholicism. Eventually he did away with all Church Tradition and declared that Scripture alone was enough. He felt that the Catholic Church’s structure was no longer needed. Protestantism

John Calvin was another Swiss reformer. He also believed that Scripture was the only authority and the hierarchy of the Catholic Church was not needed.

118, 160, 195, 196, 319 Protestantism

While all of this was going on in Southern Europe, trouble was brewing in the north. In 1535, when the pope refused to annul his marriage, King Henry VIII had the parliament declare himself leader over the church in England. This created the Church of England, or the Anglican Church.

159c, 319 Protestantism

To address the Protestant ecclesial communities Pope Paul III called an Ecumenical Council, the Council of Trent.
The purpose of this council was twofold: to reunite with the Protestants and to reform the Catholic Church. When reunion with the Protestant ecclesial communities proved impossible the council set about reforming the Catholic Church.
Two main areas of reform were focused on during the Council of Trent. The first area of reform was doctrinal, the second disciplinary.
At the Council there was no new doctrine introduced, but rather a confirmation of the doctrinal points that were always believed in the Church and that were under attack during the Protestant Reformation. A few doctrinal issues that were affirmed at this Council were: the twofold nature of revelation composed of Sacred Scripture and Sacred Tradition, the belief that justification comes from the grace of God and the cooperation of mankind, an affirmation of the Seven Sacraments, and the teaching that the Eucharist is truly the Body and the Blood of Christ.
A few disciplinary issues addressed were: the pope’s sole authority to appoint bishops and cardinals, the necessity that bishops must reside in their own dioceses and visit their flock on a regular basis, and the mandate that seminaries must be created in each diocese to form the priests.

118, 159b, 160–161, 172, 195, 196 Faith and Works

Amidst all the turmoil in this era, one of the most deadly diseases entered Europe, the Black Death. From the fourteenth century until the eighteenth century, this terrible disease inflicted Europe. The Black Death was a highly contagious disease that killed an estimated 50 percent of the European population. The people at this time believed that the plague was a punishment for their sins so popular religiosity, such as Marian devotions, grew tremendously. People believed that they could stop the plague by atoning for their sins through devotions to Mary and the Saints.

86, 153, 319 Mary, Mother of Sorrows; Saint Frances of Rome


St. Robert Bellarmine – St. Robert Bellarmine was born into a family of ten children. At a young age he decided to become a priest although his father would have rather he become a politician. Through his priestly studies, he became very highly educated and eventually taught as a professor in Rome. He is known as a skillful defender of the Catholic Church against the attacks of the Protestant Reformation. Although he gained great influence in the Church, and even became a cardinal, he embraced the call of poverty. It is said that he once gave the fabric from his drapes to the poor in Rome so that they could be clothed. St. Robert is a Doctor of the Church. His feast is celebrated on September 17th. St. Robert lived his missionary call through is teaching. He could have lived a wealthy life but instead he shared what he had with the poor and shared the good news of Christ through his actions as well as his words. Doctors of the Church

St. Catherine of Siena – St. Catherine of Siena was born into an average family; however, she soon distinguished herself as more than average when she began having visions as a young child. When she was a teenager she refused to marry and instead joined the Third Order Dominicans. Along with her visions and her mystical spirituality, she is known for convincing Pope Gregory XI to leave Avignon and return to his See in Rome. St. Catherine is one of the three female Doctors of the Church. Her feast is celebrated April 29th. St. Catherine lived her missionary call by living a life modeled after Christ and being willing to confront wrong wherever she saw it.

152, 153, 204sn, 205, 319 Saint Catherine of Siena 1347–1380

St. Teresa of Avila – St. Teresa of Avila was born to a life of luxury. At twenty she joined the Carmelites. After joining the religious life, she began having visions and was inspired to reform her order which had grown lax in its practices. She is known for her great mystical writings and her holiness. St. Teresa is a Doctor of the Church. Her feast day is on October 5th. St. Teresa lived her missionary call by devoting her life to prayer for the Church and its members who lived the active life. St. Teresa teaches us that prayer is just as important to the missionary spirit of the Church as is physically spreading the Gospel.

75c, 183e Saints by Our Side Intergenerational Event: Meet Your Match

Lesson Eight 1500 – 1700: Age of Exploration

(for more information on this age see “The Church in the United States”)

The next age of the Church was an age of great exploration and missionary expansion. As Europe began to expand its influence westward, the Church endeavored to bring the good news of Christ to the people of the new western frontier. This age produced great missionary Saints who gave their entire lives, sometimes literally, to evangelize the world.

95b, 95c, 96–98, 99–100

Important Events

In the years following Columbus’ voyage and discovery of the new world, Spain began to send explorers and missionaries to the new territory. The first diocese of the west was created in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic in 1511.


Unfortunately, many of the Spanish colonists mistreated the native peoples in their quest for gold and land. However, the missionaries recognized the dignity of the natives and fought to protect them. One missionary who fought against this oppression was Bartolomé de las Casas. He made numerous trips across the Atlantic Ocean to plead with the king of Spain to make policies protecting the natives.

319 The Dominicans

In 1618, the disunity that divided Protestants and Catholics again became clear as war broke out. For various reasons, Catholics and Protestants across Europe engaged in a series of wars that lasted from 1618 until 1648. These wars are now known as the Thirty Years War.

One type of explorer did not explore just the earth, but space as well. Galileo looked to the sky with wonder to discover more of God’s creation. Galileo, following Copernicus, believed that the earth revolved around the sun. The contemporary understanding was that the sun revolved around the earth. The Catholic Church was uncomfortable with this new assertion because many believed that the Bible said that the earth did not move and did not want to allow a belief that was contrary to Sacred Scripture. Contrary to popular belief, Galileo was never imprisoned or tortured. He was asked by the Church not to publish or promote his findings, and lived the rest of his life under house arrest in his home in Florence. As time progressed the Church grew to a deeper understanding of the world and of Sacred Scripture and realized that science and faith are not in tension with one another. Rather, the truth of the physical world will never contradict the truths of the Faith because God is the author and creator of both. In 1992, Pope John Paul II officially acknowledge that Galileo was correct in stating that the earth revolved around the sun and apologized for the Church’s unfair treatment of Galileo.

41b, 41c, 41e, 42–44, 45–46 Faith and Science


Our Lady of Guadalupe and St. Juan Diego – In 1531, Mary the Mother of God appeared to poor St. Juan Diego in Guadalupe Mexico. Mary asked St. Juan to go to the bishop and have a chapel built on the site of her appearance. The bishop ridiculed Juan and told him that no chapel would be built. St. Juan was very discouraged. However, Mary appeared to him again and told him to go pick the roses on the hill, place them in his tilma, and go to see the bishop. When St. Juan appeared before the bishop a second time and released the roses from his tilma the beautiful image of Our Lady of Guadalupe appeared on his tilma. This time the bishop was convinced and built a chapel to honor Our Lady. Our Lady of Guadalupe is the patroness of the Americas. Her appearance converted many in America to Catholicism. The feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe is celebrated on December 12th and the feast of Juan Diego is celebrated on December 9th. Our Lady of Guadalupe and St. Juan lived their missionary call by bringing the Gospel message to the indigenous people of Mexico at a time when they were having a hard time accepting it. This apparition brought possibly millions to the Catholic faith.

319 Saint Juan Diego (1474–1548), Feast Day December 9; Our Lady of Guadalupe, Feast Day December 12; Our Lady of Guadalupe and Social Justice

St. Francis Xavier – Francis Xavier was a great missionary priest. He was one of the founding members of the Society of Jesus. In 1542, he went to evangelize the people of India. Francis stayed in India for seven years and then moved on to Japan. He spent two years in Japan before desiring to move to China to do more evangelization. However, he died on his way to China in 1552. He was canonized a saint in 1622. We celebrate the feast of St. Francis on December 3rd. St. Francis lived his missionary call by going to a foreign land to share the good news about Christ to those who had never even heard the name of Christ. List of Saints for Kids; Saint Francis Xavier 1506–1522; Jesuit Missionaries

St. Rose of Lima – One amazing female saint of this era was St. Rose of Lima. St. Rose was born to Spanish parents living in Peru. St. Rose was an obedient child who enjoyed her lessons. After reading about St. Catherine of Siena, St. Rose decided to emulate her. St. Rose’s days were filled with helping her family and her nights were dedicated to fasting and prayer. She is known to have received the Eucharist daily. When she grew older she refused to marry, committing herself only to Christ. She chose to join the Third Order Dominicans. Saints like St. Rose are very important to the Church because they pray for the Church. St. Rose was canonized only 50 years after her death. On August 23rd the Church celebrates the feast of St. Rose. St. Rose lived her missionary call through intense prayer and sacrifice for the good of the Church and of the success of the spreading of the Gospel to all nations. The Dominicans

Lesson Nine 1700 – 1850: Age of the Enlightenment

The age of the Enlightenment was a very difficult age for the Church. New scientific theories were placing reason over faith and questioning the need for religion. The French Revolution was violently anti-Christian and tried to eradicate religion from Europe. However, throughout this difficult period in Europe the Church held strong to Her beliefs and survived.

41b, 41c, 41e, 42–44, 319

Important Events

The Enlightenment in Europe was characterized by the rejection of the old way of thinking. The Enlightenment rejected faith as the source of knowledge and substituted pure reason alone. One positive change that came about through the Enlightenment was the thinking of new philosophers who began to speak about freedoms rarely heard before, such as freedom of religion and freedom of speech.

41b, 41c, 41e, 42–44, 319

The age of the Enlightenment opened with the Scientific Revolution. Following Galileo, the Scientific Revolution discovered many things about the physical world that were previously unknown. For example, Newton discovered the law of gravity and geologists discovered that the earth was really much older than previously thought.

41b, 41c, 41e, 42–44, 319 Faith and Science

One premise of the Scientific Revolution that greatly damaged faith was rationalism. Rationalism holds that knowledge and truth come from reason and not faith. The Catholic Church teaches that reason enlightens faith. Reason will not teach us something that is contrary to faith because God created a reasonable universe that serves to enlighten faith. Many of the scientists of this era were faithful Christians and did not intend to bring faith into question. However, some began to be misguided when their discoveries seemed to contradict what the Faith told them.

41c, 41e, 42–44, 319 Understanding Rationalism; Faith and Science

Another threat to the Faith during the Scientific Revolution and Enlightenment was Deism. Deism is a belief that there is a God but He is not a person; He is removed from the world. Many compare the Deist belief about God to a watchmaker, who creates the watch and then leaves it to function on its own.

41c, 41e, 42–44

The age of the Scientific Revolution and the Enlightenment was an age of strong monarchs. The monarchs of Europe began to embrace the principles of the philosophers. They began to allow freedom of religion in their territories and granted the people many freedoms that they had not enjoyed before this time.


In the late eighteenth century, revolution was in the air. The principles of the Enlightenment caused people to desire more freedoms than the secular leaders were willing to give them. By 1775 the English colonies, in what is now called the United States, began to rebel.


By 1789, Europe was thrown into disarray with the beginning of the French Revolution. Although the French Revolution occurred in France its effects were felt throughout Europe and the new world.

43, 319

The French Revolution began with the King calling the Estates General to try to solve the country’s financial troubles. Very soon, events spiraled out of control and the Church became the target of the attacks.
In 1790, the government seized control of the Church in France and took all of the Church’s property and wealth.
When the revolutionaries, who valued reason above all else, seized control of the government the Church was greatly persecuted.
During the infamous Reign of Terror in France, being a member of the clergy could earn you death.
As France began to conquer Europe the pope was banished from Rome and imprisoned.
In 1799, Napoleon Bonaparte became the leader of the French government. He quickly did away with those who put him in power and claimed absolute control. He knew that to rule successfully he would need the pope as an ally. In 1801, Pope Pius VII and Napoleon signed the Concordat of 1801 which stated that the pope was the leader of the Church and spiritual matters, while the secular leader had complete control of the government. This was beneficial to the Church because it was one of the first times that a secular leader had publicly proclaimed that the Pope alone was the head of the Church.
When Pope Pius VII began to criticize Napoleon for his actions, Napoleon had him imprisoned. However, the pope did not concede and refused to give in to Napoleon’s demands. Finally, in 1814, Napoleon was defeated and exiled.
After the defeat of Napoleon the world was left to heal from the damage done by the French Revolution.
The French Revolution produced many martyrs for the faith. The names of these martyrs are mostly lost to history because of the confusion and disarray of the time.

43, 319 The Benedictine Order


St. John Vianney – John Vianney was a humble man who began studying for the priesthood before the Napoleonic wars began. During the Napoleonic wars, he was drafted into the military but refused to fight. As soon as the war was over he returned to the seminary, and in 1815 became a priest despite his trouble mastering Latin (which was required at the time). After becoming a priest he was sent to a small parish in France. He immediately became popular and spent hours hearing confessions. He was said to have had the gift of knowing people’s sins even before they confessed them. He died one day while listening to a confession. His feast day is August 4th. St. John lived his missionary call by sharing the good news of Christ through the Sacrament of Confession. This is truly a missionary activity because God desires that His mercy be known and felt by all. List of Saints for Kids; Celebrate the Feast of Saint John Vianney; Reflective Prayer

St. Elizabeth Ann Seton was born in the United States to a wealthy Protestant family. She married young and bore five children. When her husband died she was comforted by Catholic friends who inspired her to convert to Catholicism. Because of her conversion, she was rejected by her family but she did not get discouraged. Instead she decided to make her own living by teaching. Her commitment to the poor inspired her to open a school that would be free to those who could not afford it. Eventually she founded an order, the Sisters of Charity of St. Joseph, which is now famous for educating and caring for the poor. Her feast day is January 4th. St. Elizabeth lived her missionary call by opening numerous schools which taught not only secular subjects but also religion. Many children learned about Christ through the schools she founded. Elizabeth Ann Seton; Saints by Our Side Intergenerational Event: Meet Your Match; List of Saints for Kids

Lesson Ten 1850 – Present: Modern Era

The modern era, like many other times, is characterized by great change in the world and in the Church. At the dawn of the modern era the countries we know today were still forming, and the map changed dramatically with the two World Wars. The Church also experience challenges, blessings and growth. The two Ecumenical Councils were especially important moments in the life of the Church.


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