As the New Year begins, many chapel groups are beginning new book studies and Bible studies. During this new season, I often receive emails and texts asking for my best faith study recommendations. My recommendation for a faith study is, “It depends.” That’s exactly what you wanted to read, right? Truly though, that’s the answer. The best study depends on a few considerations. In the paragraphs below, I hope to share some guiding principles that a chapel board should consider when selecting a study.
- Who is your study trying to reach? The prospective audience should guide the type of study. Is your group younger, older, active duty, spouses, or retirees, well catechized Catholics, or newcomers to the Faith. If the group is comprised of mostly young mothers, then a Bible study that focuses on motherhood could be a great option. The Domestic Church by Donna-Marie Cooper O’Boyle (who is one of our conference keynote speakers) would fit this dynamic really well. If your group really wants to dig into the narrative of the Bible, Jeff Cavins Great Adventure Bible studies are great choices. Or, if your group wants to dig deep into what the Church really teaches about women, Pope St. John Paul II’s writing Mulieris Dignitatum: On the Dignity and Vocation of Women would be a beautiful choice. Perhaps there are multiple audiences, which could lead a group to hold multiple studies simultaneously.
- What is the group tired of doing? If your group just finished a year of DVD series, the ladies may roll their eyes at the thought of more TV in the dark. It may be time to give technology a break and just get back to a plain old book and group conversation. If your group has spent a semester on Franciscan Spirituality, the women may enjoy less meditative time and more discussion. Conducting a survey is a great way to gage in the interests of your group. com has some quality, free survey tools.
- Beware of faulty assumptions. Don’t assume every woman is a mother. Though many of us are mothers, there are plenty of people who come to CWOC who do not have children of their own. While these women likely are spiritual mothers to God children or relatives, they may not want to participate in a study on motherhood, particularly if they are struggling with infertility or the death of a child. I’m not saying to avoid studies on motherhood, just be sensitive to offer something for everyone.
Another faulty assumption is that everyone in the group knows the basic tenets of Catholicism or that everyone is Catholic. This is why the next bullet point is the most important – at least in my opinion.
- Faith Study or Bible Study is adult religious education. Faith study or Bible study is Adult Religious Education! During the last MCCW Worldwide conference, I asked Archbishop Broglio what my number one priority should be as the President of the Military Council of Catholic Women, Inc. His answer was one word, “formation.” He expanded that we have a generation of Catholics who are not catechized so we need to form our women in the faith.
From this conversation with the Archbishop, I took away that our Faith Studies should be adult religious education. This means we need to choose Catholic studies!
Now, many of us have participated in some wonderful interdenominational Bible studies – myself included! There are some great non-Catholic Bible studies out there. I once participated in a protestant Bible study in which we read the entire Bible (the protestant canon from cover to cover in a year. It was a fantastic experience, but I had to go back and read the seven books included in our Catholic canon. I also had to be on guard when the study leader would dismiss Old Testament books are purely poetry or fiction. I had to know enough about my faith to know that Jesus quoted these same books of the Old Testament because they were prophetic.
Catholic studies are important for chapel groups because our ladies need to be schooled correctly in the Faith. Faith study leaders are catechists first and foremost. If you choose a Catholic study, you can rest assured that the interpretation is correct.
Our Scripture must be interpreted according to three criteria spelled out in the Catechism of the Catholic Church Article 2: 112-114.:
a. The interpretation must be especially attentive “to the content and unity of the whole Scripture.”
b. The Scripture must be read within “the living Tradition of the whole Church.”
c. The interpretation must be attentive to the “analogy of faith,” which means that the interpretation must be coherent within the tradition of our Faith within the whole plan of Revelation.
With a Catholic study, you can depend that the teaching meets these criteria.
- Some top websites to find great Faith Studies
Please share by commenting below with your recommendations for Faith studies and best practices for choosing a study!
“Selecting A Faith Study – A Few Things to Ponder” contributed by Elizabeth Tomlin, MCCW-Worldwide President.