This past weekend was a real treat. We’re getting into the meat of our faith in my diaconate formation class and it’s absolutely fascinating. While I enjoyed our previous classes on Intro to Scripture and the Liturgy of the Hours, I’m really getting excited as we dig into the foundational topics of our Catholic faith: Trinity, Mary & Salvation. I won’t say much about what I thought about our November class on Philosophy, other than our teacher was amazing and made it digestable. In fact, I have such high regard for Fr. Bede that I asked him to be my spiritual director. I love the man, but not so much the topic.

Robert Feduccia, General Manager of Spirit and Song, was the instructor for this month’s class. We were introduced to the dogma of the Holy Trinity and also got into Salvation just a little bit, but Robert will be with us again next month to continue teaching us these incredibly deep subjects. He’ll also be leading the summer retreat in August with our wives. He’s one great guy and we’re blessed to have him as an instructor.

I knew this was going to be a deep class based on our reading assignment prior to class. Robert selected the following books for us to read:

The God of Jesus Christ by Walter Kasper
Mary: God’s Yes to Man by Pope John Paul II
Eschatology: Death and Eternal Life by Joseph Ratzinger (now Pope Benedict XVI) 

I completed the Kasper book prior to class. It was very deep, but was the basis for much of Robert’s teaching this weekend. I’ve now begun reading the book on Mary, which is going to be fairly easy reading compared to Kasper, but I understand that Ratzinger’s book on Eschatology is also very difficult. I’m really going to have to discipline myself to read daily to get through all of this and come out of it with more than a cursory understanding of the topics. My head hurts as it’s being stretched in ways I haven’t experienced in years.

Here’s a link to my class notes from the weekend. They’ve been stripped of the audio recordings of Robert’s teachings as I’ve been asked not to share these recordings publically. It’s a shame, as there are several hours of amazing teaching within these recordings, but I do understand the concerns around making them public. So, I’m sharing my notes without the audio recordings.

Robert also assigned our first serious homework assignment and will be giving us our first exam next month on key terms. It will be an essay exam, so we need to know our stuff. For our homework assignment he’s requested a 5-10 page research paper on one of the following topics, due mid-Febraury:

  • What does the Church teach about Purgatory? – What was it? What is it now?
    • Origins of Purgatory, What Catechism says now, How did we get here?
  • Doctrine of Hell
  • Salvation as Redemption
  • Mary – Immaculate Conception, Assumption
  • Trinity

Guidelines & Suggestions

  • Reference the Catechism
  • Use a Patristic writer – Augustine, Cyril of Jerusalem, Origen, etc.
  • A document from an ecumenical council – Vatican II, Vatican I, Trent, Florence, Lateran, Nicea, etc.
  • Pull in from the Doctor’s of the Church, not a Patristic writer – Aquinas, St. Teresa of Avila, etc.
  • Bring in one of the current international theologians as well, not necessarily Scott Hahn who is known primarily in the US. Preference for a modern resource
    • Great writers around the time of the Council: Hans Urs von Balthasar, Edward Schillebeeckx, Hans Kuhn (not his later stuff), Yves Congar, Henri de Lubac
  • Research paper (not our opinion) – not a document to affirm what we think, but rather to do the research to document the authoritative position of the Church
  • 7 pages (5-10) on a particular topic related to Salvation, the Trinity or Mary.
  • MLA style or footnotes
  • Double-spaced, 12 point font
  • Written with the long view of building a library in order to be conversant with the topic.
  • Wikipedia is not a reference, but can lead you to references 
  • Catechism can be used as a reference, but can also lead us to other reference
  • Contrary opinions would also be useful (ie. from the Church Fathers, etc.)
  • Befriend a seminarian and get his reading list. 

Lots of good advice and lots of work to do. Please pray for me and for all of my brother aspirants as we journey down this path into the depths of our Catholic faith.