General resources for participants

If you have been coming to Sycamore and want to explore some of the general topics that have been coming up, here are some suggestions. But go to the Individual Session Guides for follow-up resources for the session you have just been to.

ONLINE RESOURCES

If you want to explore any of the topics that have come up in your Sycamore sessions, a great place to start is the Tweeting with God website. Just use the search box in the top right hand corner and it will give you a range of simple articles about that topic which put the Catholic Christian faith into ordinary language.

TWEETING WITH GOD

If you want some longer reflections on what Catholics believe, one of the best websites is the Catholic Education Research Center, which collects articles from various Catholic sources. The articles here give clear and reliable summaries of Catholic faith in any given area. Just use the search box in the top right hand corner:

CATHOLIC EDUCATION RESEARCH CENTER

For authoritative teaching about the Catholic faith you can refer to the Catechism of the Catholic Church. This online version has a clear index with links to the various sections:

CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH

The YouCat (Youth Catechism of the Catholic Church) is a simplified version of the Catechism, written for young people, but accessible to adults of any age. You can buy a hard copy or see the online pdf here:

YOUCAT: YOUTH CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH

WHO IS JESUS?

For an introduction to the life of Jesus and what Christians believe it means for us, see this animation called “Love Chooses You”, written and narrated by David Wells, animated by Tree Behrens:

THE HEART OF CHRISTIANITY

A reflection first published by the Catholic Truth Society to help people understand the Christian faith at the time of Pope Benedict’s visit to the UK in 2010:

 

UNANSWERED QUESTIONS

Many people find it hard to believe in a loving God. They doubt his existence altogether, or their experience of suffering and human tragedy make them doubt his love. Scientists seem to be solving the great puzzles of the universe, and psychologists seek to unlock the deepest mysteries of the human heart.

But there are some questions that don’t go away. What caused the whole universe to exist in the first place? Why is there so much suffering in the world? What is the meaning of human life? What is the point of my own individual life? Is there such a thing as life after death?

These are huge questions. You would be suspicious if someone claimed to answer them with any certainty. There is a limit, surely, to what we can discover for ourselves, and very often we need to admit that some questions are simply beyond human understanding.

 

GOD HAS NOT LEFT US ALONE

The heart of Christianity, however, is the belief that God has spoken to us in human history, by sending us his Son. He has not left us alone. He has revealed himself to us. We don’t have to go round in circles trying to solve everything ourselves. He has come to our help.

The idea that Christians claim to know the truth about God will sound arrogant to many people, even fundamentalist. But in fact there is a kind of humility behind this claim. It’s not that Christians, as people, are special — far from it. It’s that they have been given the most extraordinary gift: the knowledge of Jesus Christ. And their desire is simply to share that gift with others. It’s Jesus himself who taught that he is the Way to God, and the Truth, and the Life.

 

THE CHRISTIAN MESSAGE

What, then, is the Christian message? It is that God is love. His love created and sustains the whole universe. His love brings into being every human life. We were meant to live in peace with God and with each other, but this peace was broken through hatred and sin.

In the fullness of time, God sent his only Son, Jesus Christ, to be our Saviour. He came into the world to reveal the love and mercy of God, and to lead us to the Father. Through him we can find peace with God and with each other. His death on the Cross brings us forgiveness. His Resurrection on the third day, and his Ascension to heaven, give us the hope of an astonishing new life. And the gift of the Holy Spirit allows us to share in that life even now on this earth, through faith and through belonging to the Church.

You may not be convinced by these ideas. But least you can see that the heart of Christianity is not a theory or a programme but a person: Jesus Christ. A person we can come to know, above all through faith.

 

AN INVITATION TO BELIEVE

Faith is a gift. We can only believe in Jesus Christ if the Holy Spirit helps us to believe. At the same time, faith is a step that we can choose to take – it is a personal decision. In any human relationship there are moments when we need to trust and to make a commitment – despite our uncertainties. It’s the same with God. He calls us to trust him and to reach out to him.

Don’t be afraid of taking a step in faith. You might do this in different ways. You might speak to a Christian friend about their faith, and find out what it means to them. You might read some of the Bible, or find a Christian book or website that could help you. You might visit a Christian church, and appreciate the beauty and serenity of the building. You might speak to a priest, and put some questions to him, or find out if there is a group for enquirers in a local church that you could join.

 

AN INVITATION TO PRAY

The simplest and most important way of taking a step in faith is to pray. Don’t be afraid to open your heart to God in prayer, however nervous or uncertain you feel. He always responds, even if it is in quiet and unexpected ways. Say to him, out loud if it helps: “Lord, help me”. “God, have mercy on me”. “Jesus, I believe in you”. Or simply, “Lord, I want to believe, help my lack of faith”. If it is helpful, you could pray with the words of the Lord’s Prayer, the Our Father, which Jesus gave us. Or if this is all too much, you could just sit in silence, with the intention in your heart that God would guide you and be with you.

To pray in any of these ways is like opening a door. It allows God to work in your life and reveal himself more and more. Faith is not an irrational leap in the dark, it is a response to the love of God. And perhaps, in the depths of your heart, he is calling you, even if you are not sure how to interpret that call. What matters is that we try to respond. It was Jesus who said, “Ask, and it will be given to you. Search, and you will find. Knock, and the door will be opened to you.”

 

THE CHURCH

Eventually, if you come closer to Christ in faith, this desire will bring you to the Church. The Church is the community that Jesus himself founded, so that his followers would always have a spiritual home to live in, a family to belong to. This community is found today in its fullness in the Catholic Church.

In the Church we receive the life of Christ in the sacraments; we come to know him through the inspired words of the Bible; we hear his teaching through the Bishops and the Pope; and we share in the great tradition of Christian faith that stretches back through the centuries. The Church is a rock that Christ never abandons, despite the sins and weaknesses of her members. It is a spiritual home that will always be a place of safety and security, a place where we can rejoice in the gifts of the Holy Spirit and in the friendship of our fellow Christians.

 

THE LOVE OF GOD

So whatever you feel about your own worth, never doubt that your life has a meaning. God created you for a purpose. He loves you and cares for you. And he is closer to you than you can imagine. You will never find true peace or true happiness without him. As St Augustine wrote: “Lord, you have made us for yourself; and our hearts are restless until they rest in you”. Whatever your questions and doubts, don’t be afraid to find out more about him and open your heart to him.