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An Evaluation of the Catechetical Text Your Life in Christ

Megan Dubee

Instructor: Diana Raiche, Ph.D. School of Ministry RPS 6336, Catechetics and the Development of Faith April 22, 2012

Catechetical Materials Evaluation Project This Catechetical Materials Evaluation Project will review the text Your Life in Christ, written by Michael Pennock and published by Ave Maria Press, as a suitable text for a high school personal morality course.1 At present this text is in use as the eleventh grade fall semester course text at Ursuline Academy in the Archdiocese of New Orleans. Currently the juniors (all female) take a year of morality classes: personal morality in the fall and social morality in the spring. It is anticipated that as Doctrinal Elements of a Curriculum Framework for the Development of Catechetical Materials for Young People of High School Age is approved by Archbishop Gregory Aymond for implementation within the archdiocese, the Your Life in Christ text will be used in the course bearing (mostly) the same name. Doctrinal Evaluation Gauging how completely doctrine is covered is difficult as the nature of the text as focuses on personal morality. Following the structure of part three, Life in Christ, of the Catechism of the Catholic Church grounds the doctrinal presentation. Christology is central to each section as salvation, discipleship, and moral living are find their roots in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. Authentic Doctrine o Utilizes the Catechism of the Catholic Church as its major point of reference (TE pg. 9) o Reminds the teacher that authentic witness is an essential component of catechesis o Contains a Christological focus; rooted in salvation through Jesus o Teachers edition cites the GDC (no. 156) regarding completeness o Teaches the Good News of Jesus with a scriptural background o Provides various activities for creating community o Stresses the importance of prayer, Scripture, and sacraments o Notes the importance of orthodoxy and orthopraxis

Complete Doctrine

Michael Pennock, Your Life in Christ: Foundations of Catholic Morality: Teacher's Wraparound Edition (Notre Dame, Ind.: Ave Maria Press, 2007).

Structure of Doctrine

Salvation History

o Presents a variety in levels of law: civil vs. church; old law, new law, canon law, moral law, natural law o Gives four elements of Aquinas definition of law (pg. 104) o Demonstrates that Jesus is the fulfillment of the law o Begins with sin entering the world through Adam and Eve (pg. 146) o Describes Moses relationship with the Israelites (pg. 147) o Gives examples of Jesus showing mercy and forgiving sin (pg. 149) o The heart of the Christian message is that Jesus Christ his passion, death, and resurrection has overcome sin and death (pg. 149)

Scriptural Evaluation The text utilizes Scripture to develop a foundation for the teachings of morality. Grounded in the Decalogue and salvation through Jesus, Scripture informs all sections of the text. Through reflection activities, students must engage with Scripture to draw connections between the Word and moral teachings. While students interact with Scripture regularly in the text in determining moral behavior, little is developed such that one will develop a relationship with Jesus through the Word. Faithful Presentation Age Appropriateness o Stresses scriptural teachings as the basis for morality o Relates to real life/case studies by providing activities with applications to the life of the user o Links conscience formation to peer pressure (pg. 131-132) o Presents the teachings of Jesus in the New Testament as guidepost for making moral decisions (TE, pg. 83) o Links three Gospel passages to the virtue of hope (pg. 173) o Uses Scripture in Prayer Reflections for the entire class or an individual (pg. 205) o Introduces chapters with a verse from Scripture o Encourages the use of Scripture to know Christ in prayer and offers reflections o (However) Provides limited opportunities for students to truly encounter Christ in a meaningful way

Ministry of the Word Presentation

Encounter with Christ

Communal Evaluation While providing several opportunities to develop a Christian community in the classroom, virtually all other communities are ignored. While written for an academic setting, the text must also direct the students to participate in the life of their parish as their permanent community.2 The universal Church is mentioned only as the Magisterium (albeit several times), a teaching entity that passes down doctrine, while the Church as the Body of Christ is never mentioned.3 Parish o Fails to mention parish life or student involvement within a parish community o Contains one mention of attending Sunday Mass but does not specify the parish or church as a place to attend Diocese o Neglects to mention the diocesan structure within the Roman Catholic Church o Does not address the role of bishops within their respective dioceses of the episcopacy o Addresses the Universal Church only within the context of quotations of Saints from other countries and the global poverty experienced by many o Fails to mention the Church as the body of Christ o Does not discuss the relationship between parish, diocese, and Rome o Presents little connection between the students Catholic life and anothers Catholic life o Presents the Church and Magisterium as a guidepost for making moral decisions (TE, pg. 83) o Regards the Church solely as a teaching body; provides a limited view of the hierarchical function o Explains the call of priest, prophet, and king for all of the baptized (pg. 115) o Notes the universal call to holiness from Lumen Gentium

Universal Church



2 3

CAC, no. 18. LG, no. 21.

Ecumenical Sensitivity Interreligious Perspective/Dialogue

o Inserts the a limited discussion of the laity in a section in discipleship which becomes focused on religious life o Does not offer information regarding the laity as a whole group (or even by subsection, such as youth) o Uses the language of Christian life to encompass Protestant denominations o Notes the relationship of Christianity to Judaism o Explains Christian values in light of their Jewish predecessors o Uses the Old Testament to provide context for the Gospels o Discusses the origin of Sabbath o Fails to mention world religions other than Judaism

Prayer and Worship Evaluation Prayer as a foundation for morality infuses the entire text. Through prayer services at the end of each chapter, the text links prayer with the concepts discussed in the preceding pages and attempts to link the academic knowledge of the course to relational knowledge of Jesus. Such a structure is a noted weakness for providing initial catechesis but a strength for on-going or lifelong formation. Personal/private prayer o Includes a classroom prayer service (with option for personal prayer) at the end of each section o Recommends strategies for prayer (pg. 178) o Expects the catechist to give witness to a personal life of prayer as a role model for students prayer lives o Notes the Lords Prayer as most important prayer and perfect prayer (p.64) o Lists key features: calling God Father, seeking His will (p. 64) o Contains a two page analysis of parts (p. 110-111) o Includes the Prayer to the Sacred Heart, Magnificat, and Act of Contrition within the end of chapter prayers (TE pg. 12) o No mention of the rosary or other Marian devotion (aside from the Magnificat) o Features quotes from as well as stories and pictures of Saints o Presents novenas

Lords Prayer

Traditional Catholic Prayers

Popular devotions

o Explains religious statues and crucifixes as veneration rather than idol worship citing the decision of the Seventh Ecumenical Council at Nicea in 787 (pg. 176) Non-Eucharistic liturgy o Offers no discussion of liturgy outside of Mass (and presents the Eucharistic liturgy in a limited fashion) o Challenges the student to take the good news to heart and live it (pg. 101) o Encourages the use of Scripture in worship o Mentions the Divine Office only in the appendix Liturgy and Sacraments Evaluation Utilizing the imagery of the paschal mystery as a vehicle to explain morality, the text draws connections between the moral life and life in Christ. However, there is little discussion to connect the catechetical material and liturgy.4 The text focuses exclusively on the sacraments of baptism and reconciliation as the original call to God and a returning to God after sin respectively. In doing so, the text contains significant gaps as it neglects Eucharist, confirmation, anointing of the sick, and ordination. Christs Presence o Mentions the presence of Christ in the Eucharistic liturgy (Eucharist, Scripture, in the people) (pg. 182)

Liturgy of the Word

Liturgy of the Hours

o Neglects the presence of Christ in the priest at liturgy (pg. 182) Paschal Mystery o Describes the Paschal Mystery as having delivered us from the clutches of sin and the Evil One, saving us from death and winning for us eternal life with the Triune God; connection to original sin (pg. 39) o Explains growth in love of Jesus through the Eucharist which celebrates that Paschal Mystery (pg. 118) o Relates life in Christ to the lived Paschal Mystery Real Presence in the o Mentions the ways Jesus is present in the Eucharist as part of a Eucharist discussion about the meaning and significance of the Eucharistic celebration in Extending the Section (including Real Presence) (TE, pg. 201) Sacraments of Initiation o Presents the sacraments of initiation within the context of the

CT, no. 23. 6

Paschal Mystery o Explains the universal call to holiness in light of baptism5 Sacraments of Healing o Neglects Eucharist and confirmation while focusing on baptism o Cites Reconciliation as a guidepost for making moral decisions (TE, pg. 63) o Offers Reconciliation as the way to seek Gods forgiveness for mortal sins (pg. 153) o Lists the elements of the sacrament of Reconciliation and the formula for absolution o Discusses marriage through the lens of sexual intercourse; includes two purposes of sex (sharing love and transmission of life) (pg. 219) Does not mention ordination, deaconate, priesthood, or episcopacy o Suggests paying attention and listening to the readings o States we add our very selves by our presence (pg. 182) o o Does not cite Sacrosanctum Concilium in the section titled, Why we go to Mass Liturgical symbols, colors, and year o Fails to mention liturgical symbols, colors, or year (other than a mention the penitential nature of the Lenten season) Moral Formation Not surprisingly, the text best addresses the area of moral formation. The sections clearly express morality in terms of Christian discipleship, explain the various dimensions of moral formation, and provide real life activities to practice moral decision-making. With frequent reference to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, the text provides copious academic knowledge on a high school level and blends them with practical information to enable the student to live out the instruction. Conversion to Jesus Christ o Describes the significance of conversion to catechesis as: The essential first step is to draw near to Jesus the Teacher and learn from him (pg. 8) o Presents the frequent celebration of the sacrament of Penance as a

Sacraments of Commitment

Active, Conscious and Genuine Participation

LG, no. 40. 7



Conscience Formation

Sin and Repentance



tremendous aid to the conversion process (pg. 159) o Explains prayer as a conversation with a Loving God who is your best friend (pg. 178-179) o Cites CCC to define grace and explain that living morally means cooperating with Gods grace (pg. 12) o Defines as a total gift from God that we cannot earn in any way on our own (pg. 112) o Cites CCC to define virtue, identify and describe theological virtues and cardinal virtues o Presents fortitude as necessary for doing right o Provides a reflective activity A Self Examination on the Cardinal Virtues (pg. 18) o Offers an examination of conscience activity as An Exercise in How to Grow in Virtue (pg. 78) o Presents God as Creator; humans as made in Gods image (pg. 29) o Describes creation as inherently good (pg. 31) o Explains how humans were given free will (pg. 34) o Humans as social beings, wounded by sin (page 38-39) o Gives an application of the Parable of the Good Samaritan as an example of failing to do good (pg. 100) o Offers a challenge about tolerance, judgment, and Christian behavior (pg. 108) o Explains what conscience is/is not and how it works to aid in decision-making (pg. 124-126) o Lists seven capital sins and gives CCC definition as part of an examination of conscience (pg. 143) o Provides a variety definitions of sin from the CCC (pg. 144) o Gives evidence of sin in the modern world (pg. 144-145) o Uses Adam and Eve to describe the essential elements of sin (pg. 146) o Offers Old Testament images of sin applied to modern society o Differentiates between original sin and personal sin (pg. 152) o Explains the difference between mortal and venial sin (pg. 153) o Describes social sin as cooperation in another persons sin (pg. 155) o Gives a brief description of the Decalogue and how it came to be (pg. 168) o Notes the Ten Commandments as a loving response to Gods special favor (pg. 169) o Links the First Commandment to the theological virtues o Presents the Beatitudes as the how of our Christian vocation (pg. 96) o Uses the Beatitudes to establish Jesus as a moral guide o Offers the Beatitudes as the attitudes of being Christian that lead to

happiness for followers of Christ (pg. 102) o Provides a verse by verse application for each Beatitude from the Gospel of Matthew Age and State Appropriate Exercises in which students rate their behaviors, beliefs, and expectations address the identity formation stage common in teenagers. In a high school morality course, students using this book would be able to relate to the vocabulary, images, and references to modern secular culture. While the text is limited in terms of higher order thinking skills (outside of real life application activities), supplemental activities in the Teachers Guide could be adapted to challenge students to think critically. Theory of Faith Development o Applies symbols of modern society and the typical teens life to religious formation o Engages the adolescents capacity for reflection by providing journaling activities o Focuses on relationships outside of the family (as these are important in synthetic-conventional faith) o Utilizes language that is both familiar and easily comprehended by teenagers o Provides definitions to important key words (examples: concupiscence, absolution, transubstantiation, apostasy, euthanasia, fecundity) o Offers magazine-style quizzes written in the first person for students to gauge their own understanding and beliefs o Contains some images of Saints and other well known figures which ground quotations and references o Significant stock imagery which looks outdated and appeals to few Cultural, regional, economic, and religious characteristics of users o Assumes that the user will be an middle/upper class, Christian American o Does not provide for diversity in culture o Asks students to carry out a plan in making a moral decision; students must analyze and apply knowledge (pg. 126-127) o Requires students to differentiate between mortal and venial sin using acquired knowledge (pg. 156)

Appropriate Language/Vocabulary

Use of Images

Blooms Taxonomy


o Strives for low level cognitive outcomes like recollection, recognition, and comprehension while providing limited higher order skill activities (TE pg. 15) o Provides an assignment where students are challenged to create a rap about the need for a conscience (pg. 127) o Limited uses of music in conveying moral instruction o Offers frequent opportunities for teenagers to engage with peers in both small and large group discussion o Utilizes self checklists to compare ones beliefs with others o Neglects the role of the family in the formation of young people o Mentions the family only in relation to sin/reconciliation

Cohort Interaction

Family Interaction

Catechetical Methods Catechetical use of the text is heavily dependent upon the catechist. While the text offers many scenarios and role play opportunities for students to engage with material to make moral decisions, formulating those thoughts and explaining the reasoning behind them would require dialogue with a mentor catechist. While providing significant information about morality, the text assumes the existence of a relationship with Christ and does not provide for an initial conversion experience. Evangelizing Methods o Offers limited witness stories of discipleship from both teenagers and Saints o Assumes prior knowledge of Christ o Describes the moral Christian life through the process of formation offered by RCIA o Does not formulate development through stages or connect formation with liturgy o Provides activities and discussions for students to practice moral decision-making o Relates morality to the lived human experience through narratives o Describes discipleship in relation to the sacraments of initiation (pg.

Initiation Methodology




115) o Presents discipleship within the context of religious life (which is a limited viewpoint to offer teenagers) o Provides an extremely brief discussion of discipleship o Attempts to create community within the classroom through prayer services, shared discussion, and group activities o Fails to connect students with the larger school or parish as a community of faith Christian Family o Contains no mention of parents as first catechists or catechesis within the family o Provides no catechetical opportunities for the family o Reminds the catechist, We must be willing to share our lives with our students (TE, pg. 11) o Gives eight examples of ways to make morality come alive and be a more authentic witness (TE, pg. 11) o Teaches moral formation using the Ten Commandments which may already be known; builds learning by heart through developing connections to prior material o Learning by Apprenticeship Expects more academic rote memorization than learning by heart

Christian Community

Witness of the Catechist

Learning by Heart

o Fails to establish any opportunity for students to learn by apprenticeship o Does not facilitate a mentoring relationship between the student and teacher/other adult

Adult Faith Formation Outside of describing the RCIA in terms of the paschal mystery, the text lacks any reference to the primacy of adult catechesis.6 The topic of moral decision-making is an ideal place to note the importance of on-going formation. While the text seems to provide instruction for moral decision-making across the lifespan, it does not explicitly mention life beyond the teenage years nor does it engage parents in the process. Primacy of Adult Faith

o Uses the model of the paschal mystery for initiation within the

CT, no. 43. 11


Church as demonstrated through the RCIA o Fails to include information with regard to formation of parents o Does not mention continual process of formation through the lifetime7

Conclusions As a specialized text, Your Life in Christ conveys the content of morality course while also providing significant doctrinal, prayer, and sacramental components. Teenagers can understand and relate to the subject matter, and the activities are appropriate for their stage in faith development. As with other catechetical materials, the text is not enough. A well-prepared catechist who mentors students in their relationship with Jesus Christ is essential to the proper use of the book. While some components of catechesis are lacking in this text, as a whole, it provides excellent moral formation as part of a larger, multi-year curriculum.

NCD, no. 32. 12

Bibliography Catholic Church, and John Paul II . On Catechesis in Our Time. Washington, D.C., United States Catholic Conference, 1979. Paul VI. Lumen Gentium (Dogmatic Constitution on the Church). November 21, 1964. Vatican Council II: Constitutions, Decrees, Declarations. Edited by Austin Flannery. Northport, NY: Costello Publishing Co., 1996. Pennock, Michael. Your Life in Christ: Foundations of Catholic Morality. Notre Dame, Ind.: Ave Maria Press, 2008. The Challenge of Adolescent Catechesis, The Catechetical Documents, ed. Martin Connell. Chicago: Liturgy Training Publications, 1996. United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. National Directory For Catechesis. Washington, D.C.: USCCB Communications, 2005.