Friday 16 July 2021

What Catholics Believe - Father John Redford - A Beginner’s Guide to the Catholic Faith

What Catholics Believe 
A Beginner’s Guide to the Catholic Faith
Father John Redford
ISBN 9780851834283
eISBN 9781784692568
CTS Booklet DO531

Over the last several years, I have read over 200 volumes from the CTS. I have read books from many series. And many authors. I have read several books that are part of the CTS Devotions and Prayer Series. I have read many in the CTS Biographies and also Saints of the Isles Series, and the Great Saints Series. This is the first volume I have read by Father John Redford and I believe it is his only work published by the CTS. The description of the booklet is:

“To anyone interested in learning something of the Catholic faith, this 'twenty-steps' pocket book will be a treasure. Different people have so many different questions: about marriage and family life, about faith, whether God exists, the truth of the Gospels, or about justice and peace in the world. While designed for use as part of a course of instruction, this booklet will be helpful for use on your own. It does not pretend to be a complete expression of the Catholic faith – but is an excellent introduction: a step on your journey to Christ.”

And the chapters are:

1. ‘I Have Called You Friends’
2. The Old Rules
3. Waiting for the Messiah
4. A Boy is Born
5. Jesus of Nazareth
6. Father, Forgive Them
7. He is Risen
8. The Catholic Church
9. Becoming a Christian
10. This is My Body
11. The Two Shall Become One
12. Friends of the Friends of God
13. Healing the Sick
14. ‘Your Sins are Forgiven’
15. The Charismatics
16. The Life of Prayer
17. The Story of the Church - I
18. The Story of the Church - II
19. Living the Christian Life
20. Questions and Points for Discussion

The subtitle of the book online is ‘A Beginner’s Guide to the Catholic Faith’ but inside the book it is ‘In 20 Lessons’ both work well. The booklet is written I believe to be used during RCIA, or instruction in the faith for teens, young adults or adults. Each chapter including the Introduction is written as a series of points. The subtitle of the Introduction is ‘To The Instructor’ and begins with:

“1. These notes were written week by week as I gave a course in the Catholic faith to a young person who came to me for instruction, and so were not intended originally for publication. But, if any priest or catechist finds them useful in instructing those interested in being introduced to the Catholic faith, then they will indeed serve a useful purpose, well beyond what was originally intended for them.”

And further in point 4:

“People will differ very much as to reading capacity, and this course can be given without any other reading being done, if the instructor judges that the enquirer is not the ‘reading type’. But obviously, the more interest shown in good reading material, the better.”

A few other sections both from chapter 1 that I have highlighted are:

“1. Friendship is the most important thing in life, apart from our own life itself; and even if we stay alive, our life is not worth living without friendship. Loneliness causes the greatest suffering (e.g. broken marriages, children leaving their parents, friends betraying each other).”

“3. The Catholic faith is about God and ourselves becoming friends. Jesus Christ, the Son of God, said to his disciples, ‘I call you friends, because I have made known to you everything I learnt from my Father. You did not choose me, no I chose you…’”

A sample chapter is:

1. The experience of death is the most frightening of all that we go through as human beings, because it is truly a leap into the unknown. Thus, of all the subjects which we talk about, death is the least popular as a topic of conversation. But we all know that one of the few certainties which we have in this life is that we will die and so from time to time we venture to think about it.

2. The greatest fear regarding death is that it is in reality the end of our existence, when we return to ‘nothingness’. However, it is here that the Christian hope is strongest, because we believe that death is not the end, but the beginning of a new life, where we shall be with God for ever, and ‘every tear will be wiped away’. In this way, for the Christian, death is not only something to look forward to, but is also a motivation for living, because we know that everything which we do on this earth has a purpose, to prepare us for eternal life with God.

3. Even before Christ came, the Jews were growing in their faith in the ‘after-life’. They, and Christians too, do not only believe in the ‘immortality of the soul’, but the ‘resurrection of the body’, that is to say, the resurrection of the whole person of man, which includes in a mysterious way body and soul.

4. Still, no one, not even his closest disciples, really believed Jesus when he told people that he would rise again from the dead after his crucifixion and death. It was the women who found his tomb empty on the first Easter morning, and the disciples did not believe them. The ‘empty tomb’ for the Christian is a sign that Jesus had risen from the dead, both body and soul, since, if only his ‘soul’ lived on, his body would still have been there; unless, of course, someone had stolen it, which the Gospels strenuously deny.

5. But even the ‘empty tomb’ was not enough to convince the disciples that Jesus had risen. He had to appear to them, speak to them and eat with them, for them to believe; and Thomas even had to touch the wounds (or at least was challenged to do so by Christ) before he would say, ‘My Lord and my God’. Thomas in this way acts on our behalf; because he saw, we believe without seeing.

6. The appearance of Jesus to his disciples also emphasises that the resurrection of Jesus is not simply his resuscitation, his recovery from death. It means that his whole person has been transformed into a new kind of existence, eternally to be with his Father and praying for us, offering his whole life, death and resurrection as a perfect sacrifice which the Father accepts willingly.

7. And that is why the resurrection of Christ is the most important event of all in the whole story of our salvation. Eventually, the appearances of Jesus, which were only to convince the disciples that he had risen, ended, and the Lord ‘ascended into heaven’, to be present with us now by faith, and by the coming of the Holy Spirit. He was with his disciples briefly, to tell them that he would be with them until the end of the world, through the Spirit and through his body the Church.

8. For the Christian, the resurrection is not only something to look forward to at the end of the world as we know it. Christ before he ascended into heaven breathed his spirit on the disciples, and so upon us all through them. And this means that there is new life within us, the life of Christ, which is constantly against our old ways, the ‘spirit of death’, until, after our actual death, this new life is completely liberated, as it was when Jesus, ‘the first fruits from the dead’, left that tomb empty with the stone rolled away.

Acclamation at Mass:
Christ has died. Christ is risen. Christ will come again. Alleluia! (A Hebrew word meaning ‘Praise The Lord’).

Scripture references
7.2 Revelation 7:17
7.3 2 Maccabees 7:13-14
7.4 Luke 9:22
7.5 John 20:28
7.7 Matthew 28:16-20”

This book was an interesting read. It was not what I was expecting, But that being said it was a great read. It is a book that can be read over and over again. When I was in university, I was involved with Campus Crusade for Christ, there was a series of booklets by the founder Bill Bright, called Transferable Concepts, and by reading them many times you could almost memorize them and the message so that you could share it. This volume reminds me a lot of those books, but specifically geared for Catholics, and about the keys of the Catholic faith.

This book was worth the read, and as I said I will read it again. But it is written with a specific purpose and intent. And for that it is excellent. It is another great resource from the Catholic Truth Society.

Note: This book is part of a series of reviews: 2021 Catholic Reading Plan! For other reviews of books from the Catholic Truth Society click here.

Books by Father John Redford:
What is Catholicism?
Faith Alive: New Catechism Edition
Bad, Mad Or God?
Sex: What The Catholic Church Teaches
Hear O Islands: Theology and Catechesis in the New Millennium
Finding the Historical Church
Catholic Basics

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