Reflection on ALL Forum Course 2: Basic Understanding of Church Teaching
by Rashali Pieris, Catholic Students’ Movement, University of Sri Jayewardenepura, Sri Lanka
Firstly, I would like to thank Dr. Paul Hwang for this very enlightening session on few of the most fundamental and primary teachings of the Roman Catholic Church. I am a bioscience undergraduate reading in my final year, and though it has been a very keen desire of mine to study in depth about my religion (Christianity), did not have the opportunity to do so thus far, therefore these sessions were very informative, useful and interesting to me personally. A lot of the points made in the session were relatively new and eye opening for me, as this is my first time studying theology (I used to do bible studies). Few concepts were quite difficult for me to grasp, but the simple explanations, the organization of slides and the style the contents were mentioned, the group discussions were really helpful for me to understand the concepts.
From course 2, firstly I was introduced to what religion was, and that faith and tradition are parts of religion and that it’s development is evolutionary and meant to reunite the relationship broken by sin. Also I was introduced to terms such as fetishism, Animism, polytheism and monotheism. Then God’s nature, relying on the old testament as identified by scholars such as Rudolf Otto and Mercia Eliade were taught to us, such as God’s HOLINESS, that he transcends everything and anything, Numinous experience by man in the presence of God, SACRED and PROFANE nature of God, Supernormal powers of God. Then the difference in faith and belief, and the cosmotheandric nature of God, as by Raimon Panikkar (one of my most favourite ideas delivered in this course) was discussed broadly and in depth. Then on the next session, Faith seeking understanding that is theology was introduced to the class, as explained by many saints and scholars such as: St. Augustine, St. Anslem Of Canterbury, and St. Thomas Aquinas.
In the next few sessions, the most important and complex doctrines in the Catholic church were discussed in the class. A few of my favourite topics and concepts are as follows. The explanatory session done on the Holy Trinity: In this session I learned that the Holy Trinity is incomprehensible, and that it is one of the most fundamental and important doctrine in the church. The Holy Trinity in the bible and the concept of the Holy Trinity explained by St. Bonaventure and Jacques Dupuis, on pluralism deeply intrigued me.
Another important topic I’d like to reflect on is the Paschal mystery and its relationship to the Christian Faith. It is one of the central concepts in the church, also celebrated by other churches such as the Orthodox Church. In this session, the relationship between the Baptism and the Passion- it was pointed out that though in the Gospels there were confessions on who Jesus was, St. Peter confessed him as saviour, but no one really understood who he was or his nature. Jesus mentioned to the disciples in the Gospel about this relationship between baptism and passion. Also the relationship between the baptism and death was discussed in the session broadly.
Topics such as adult faith, and what it is to be a Christian and become a Christian was taught in the course. Overall, I am extremely pleased and grateful to Asian Lay Leaders Forum (ALL Forum) for organizing such enlightening sessions which helped me to improve my understanding on church teaching and to solidify and root more in my faith.