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Rediscovering the Catechism

The Year of Faith is almost the Year That Was. Can you believe it?

Promulgated by Pope Benedict XVI on October 11, 2011, the Year of Faith was the Holy Father’s way of exhorting Catholics to a renewal and rediscovery of faith while commemorating two important anniversaries. He wrote in his apostolic letter Porta Fidei:

I have decided to announce a Year of Faith. It will begin on 11 October 2012, the fiftieth anniversary of the opening of the Second Vatican Council, and it will end on the Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, Universal King, on 24 November 2013. The starting date of 11 October 2012 also marks the twentieth anniversary of the publication of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, a text promulgated by my predecessor, Blessed John Paul II, with a view to illustrating for all the faithful the power and beauty of the faith. This document, an authentic fruit of the Second Vatican Council, was requested by the Extraordinary Synod of Bishops in 1985 as an instrument at the service of catechesis and it was produced in collaboration with all the bishops of the Catholic Church (PF 4).

For the purpose of this blog post, I’d like to focus my comments on the Catechism of the Catholic Church. It is amazing to me that more than twenty years have passed since the publication of the Catechism. Around that same time I began my career in pastoral ministry. I was serving as a pastoral associate in an inner-city parish in my home diocese and was involved in adult faith formation and catechesis. I remember the excitement associated with the release of this highly anticipated Catechism; I anticipated the profound impact it would have as the premier tool for catechesis and instruction in the Catholic faith of our time.

Since the Catechism‘s publication, I have been an avid promoter of it and welcomed the added impetus that Benedict gave us this past year promote its discovery and rediscovery. Truth be told, sometimes we are a little too close to something special to realize how special it is, and I believe we have yet to truly appreciate the theological masterpiece and goldmine that the Catechism is.

In Porta Fidei, this is precisely what Benedict aims to impress upon us.

In order to arrive at a systematic knowledge of the content of the faith, all can find in the Catechism of the Catholic Church a precious and indispensable tool. It is one of the most important fruits of the Second Vatican Council. In the Apostolic Constitution Fidei Depositum, signed, not by accident, on the thirtieth anniversary of the opening of the Second Vatican Council, Blessed John Paul II wrote: “this catechism will make a very important contribution to that work of renewing the whole life of the Church. . . . I declare it to be a valid and legitimate instrument for ecclesial communion and a sure norm for teaching the faith.”

It is in this sense that that the Year of Faith will have to see a concerted effort to rediscover and study the fundamental content of the faith that receives its systematic and organic synthesis in the Catechism of the Catholic Church. Here, in fact, we see the wealth of teaching that the Church has received, safeguarded and proposed in her two thousand years of history. From Sacred Scripture to the Fathers of the Church, from theological masters to the saints across the centuries, the Catechism provides a permanent record of the many ways in which the Church has meditated on the faith and made progress in doctrine so as to offer certitude to believers in their lives of faith (PF, 11).

I know that the Year of Faith is almost over, but its fundamental objectives are perennial in nature. The Church is calling on the faithful to a continual and ongoing renewal and rediscovery of the Catholic Faith and has provided us with a blueprint for it in the Catechism.

As we approach the end of the Year of Faith and the dawn of a new liturgical year with the beginning of Advent, I would encourage you to make a New Year’s resolution: If you don’t own one already, pick up a copy of the Catechism and begin reading it. You can order it through the Catholic Answers online shop by clicking on the link at the bottom of this post. If you can’t afford one right now, you can find it free online here.

It may seem daunting at first. Just take it one paragraph and section at a time. I would recommend that you read a section daily with your Bible handy. The Catechism is soaked in Sacred Scripture. Having your Bible handy will provide you with the opportunity to look up all of the relevant Scripture citations.  I have adopted this practice myself over many years and have found it rewarding.

In fact, the good folks at the Coming Home Network have produced a nifty little Scripture and Catechism devotional, Read the Bible and Catechism in a Year. This devotional provides you with a reading plan that takes you through both the Bible and the Catechism in 365 days. You can download it for free by clicking here.

Finally, to further whet your appetite for the Catechism, I’ve posted the following video. It is the first session in a catechetical training series produced by the Diocese of Birmingham Catechetical Institute. In this session, David Anders (Ph.D., Church History) provides a brief introduction to the history, form, and content of the Catechism of the Catholic Church. Enjoy!

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