There are many areas of Church life that can benefit from a short lesson of Church history. I offer a few that have seemed to be of benefit in certain cases.
Why are there different types? How should it be used and interpreted? Why are some stories of Jesus told differently by different authors? The context of history can help to answer these questions.
Whenever I am doing an in-service for Lectors or Extraordinary Ministers of the Eucharist, I tell them I want them to understand the history that led to their being ministers in our Church today. First, I read for them St. Justin’s explanation of what Christians did to Antoninus (CCC 1345) and ask them if anything sounds familiar. I also include a simple outline of the Liturgy of the Mass from that point to the present. There are many comments of surprise over when and why things were done or changed.
- The Sacrament of Reconciliation
For parents and their children, a brief history of the Sacrament before showing the different ways to celebrate the sacrament now is helpful. The changes in the purpose, focus, and rite of the Sacrament open the eyes of many. I often ask the question of young people if they would like to replace the ritual used in the 2nd century instead of the one we use today. The unanimous answer is “No!”
- Holy Orders
People are very interested in how the role of the deacon now closely resembles the role in the early Church. They are also surprised to find that the deacon can give a blessing, not just a priest.
- Women in the Church
St. Catherine of Sienna, St. Teresa of Avila, and St. Teresa – the Little Flower are Doctors of the Church. How they became to be recognized as such is an important part of our “Herstory.” Many are surprised to hear that Saint Catherine of Sienna challenged the Pope to return to Rome.
Adults seeking full initiation into the Church and their sponsors can gain much with the explanation of the different Rites of The Catechumenate in the context of the history of the rites in the Church.