Wednesday, October 22, 2003

Resurrection of the what?

I was teaching Aristotle's On the Soul today, and as a prelude I asked the students what notions came to mind when they heard the word "soul." (I work from the the principle that if one uses a word, one surely must know what it means.) We got lots of thoughts, some good and some bad. I then asked what the relationship of body to soul was. Most thought that the soul was independent from the body. "Why do you need a body, then?"


To make the point clearer, I asked them whether or not, given their beliefs about the soul, they would have bodies in the afterlife. All said no.

I was puzzled. I teach at a Catholic university, where many of the students are Catholic. I asked if the Catholics in the room had ever heard that their faith teaches we have a body in the afterlife. "Nope." Have you ever recited the Creed on Sunday? "Sure." Do you remember the part where we say "We believe in the resurrection of the body. . . ."

I tried this experiment in two different classrooms. None of the Catholics knew that their faith teaches the resurrection of the body, despite hearing this truth and proclaiming that they believe it every time they attend Mass on Sunday!

A thought and a bit of advice to my friends in holy orders. First, never assume that your flock knows anything. Even if they say they believe something out loud every week, they might never even have noticed what they said. My advice? Teach the creed. Step by step. Teach the whole faith, from the most basic level. If you ever have a Sunday or weekday where you don't have anything particular to say during the homily, pick up a Catechism and explain the faith.

People will appreciate it much more than yet another bowl of bland Chicken Soup for the Soul. Not that anyone knows what a soul is either.

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