Even if neither you nor anyone in your household started a new academic year this fall, it’s hard to escape the back-to-school vibe that this season brings. Autumn comes without the intensity of a new calendar year and its resolutions, but rather with a subtler hope for growth and the anticipation of learning something new.
You don’t need to be enrolled in a class to learn something new about your faith now or in any other season. There are so many means of digging into the teachings of the Church, the traditions of the Faith, and the history of Catholicism. And you don’t need to take a rigid, academic approach, unless that suits you. We’ve gathered a collection of ideas to help you grow in spiritual knowledge, whether on your own, with a friend or with a study group at your parish. Take your pick.
At this point, you must be living under a rock if you have not heard about Father Mike Schmitz’s “Bible in a Year” podcast. In each 20-to-25-minute episode, he reads a portion of the Bible, reflects on the readings and guides you through prayer. Of course, this is not the only Catholic podcast available. “Letters to Women” by Radiant contributor Chloe Langr is another solid choice. Here, Chloe speaks with women from all walks of life about “what it means to live out the feminine genius in our ordinary, daily lives as Catholic women.”
Bishop Barron’s “Pivotal Players” is a brilliantly executed series of hour-long biographies on “a handful of saints, artists, mystics, and scholars who not only shaped the life of the Church but changed the course of civilization.” Some of the episodes have been free to watch for limited periods over the last year or so (and they keep followers up to date through their Word on Fire email). However, the DVDs are a worthwhile investment since each episode is so rich.
This section could be an article — or 12 — in itself, so let this bit of guidance suffice: When you’re looking for something to read on the Faith, and especially if you haven’t ventured far into this type of reading, consult three sources for suggestions: 1) the Holy Spirit, 2) your parish priest or spiritual director, and 3) Catholic book stores or websites of reputable Catholic publishers. As with any of the other media on this list, it’s important to be familiar with the source before you begin to take in any information.
It’s always best to go right to the source, and the Vatican website makes that easy. Find publications like Pope St. John Paul II’s apostolic letter Mulieris Dignitatem (AKA “On the Dignity and Vocation of Women”) and Pope St. Paul IV’s encyclical Humanae Vitae available in full for free. You can use the buttons in the top right corner of your screen to download any document as a PDF and then send it to your Kindle, e-reader or tablet for on-the-go reading.
Of course, no one said you couldn’t go back to school to learn about the Faith. Perhaps God is calling you to a Master’s program or even a Ph.D. Or maybe you’re being called to take or audit one class at a time, if that’s an option, and see where it leads. Virtual or in person, courses can provide accountability and a ready-made discussion group to help you make real progress.
God gave us human beings intellect and will, and we honor him when we make an effort to use both to cultivate our understanding of him and the Church.