Bishop Gomez: Why read the Catechism?


Thirty years ago, on October 11, 1992, the Catechism of the Catholic Church was published.

If the catechism is just a book on a shelf, pick it up and open it. You will be surprised.

The doctrines, the teachings of the Church, all the standards of our faith, are presented clearly and with authority. But it is much more than a set of rules.

In these pages you hear the voices of the Church through the ages – prophets, apostles, church fathers, saints, popes and church councils. You hear echoes of ancient prayers and liturgies.

The teaching of the Church is like a symphony, as Saint Pope John Paul II liked to say. Each teaching is essential to the whole, united in a single revelation from God about who he is and for whom he created us.

What we believe is meant to lead us to follow and worship the One in whom we believe, and to make his teaching the way and the truth for our lives. At the heart of the catechism is Jesus Christ.

“It is Christ alone who teaches,” we read. “Everyone else teaches insofar as he is the mouthpiece of Christ, allowing Christ to teach with his lips” (CCC 427).

These are words that should be prayed and reflected daily by every teacher and catechist.

Each paragraph of the catechism is filled with quotes and words from scripture.

If you read this book with your Bible, looking for the context of these quotations, if you follow the many references found in almost every paragraph, the catechism becomes a spiritual reading.

You are carried away in the mystery of the history of salvation: “From the liturgical poem of the first creation to the canticles of the heavenly Jerusalem, the inspired authors proclaim the plan of salvation as an immense divine blessing” (CCC 1079).

There are beautiful summaries of the meaning of our life: “God brought us into the world to know him, to love him and to serve him, and thus to come to paradise” (CCC 1721).

Another: “The vocation of humanity is to manifest the image of God and to be transformed into the image of the only Son of the Father” (CCC 1877).

This is one of the most powerful phrases in the catechism. It is interesting that he starts a section on “the human community”.

The catechism reminds us that the plan of God, and the mission of the Church, are not only for the salvation of souls. The gospel speaks of all aspects of human life, including how we organize our economy and our government.

The sections of the catechism on the purpose of society (CCC 1877-1948) and what makes social justice (CCC 2419-2449) help us to understand that a deeper spiritual meaning underlies events in our world.

The catechism is a rich source of wisdom and practical advice.

You can learn to develop the habits of virtue and get personal spiritual direction from a 4th century saint, Gregory of Nyssa: “The goal of the virtuous life is to become like God” (CCC 1803).

There are “mission statements” and “work orders” for moms and dads: “Parents are primarily responsible for raising their children. They bear witness to this responsibility first of all by creating a home where tenderness, forgiveness, respect, fidelity and selfless service are the rule” (CCC 2223).

If you are a priest preparing a homily, you can gain insight into the Gospel by researching how the text is used in the catechism. You will find references to almost every chapter and verse of the Gospels in the index.

And the Catechism’s inspiring section on Holy Orders ends with two beautiful quotes from saints that will remind you why you fell in love with Jesus and became a priest in the first place (CCC 1589).

The final section of the catechism is a masterpiece of spiritual scripture on how to pray.

Read the passage section of the Lord’s Prayer, “Give us this day our daily bread.” This should be a powerful inspiration in this time of Eucharistic revival (CCC 2828-2837).

And Saint Justin Martyr’s long description of how the mass was celebrated in AD 155. AD will help you understand why we call it “the Mass of all ages” (CCC 1345).

For me, the catechism is a great testimony of our hope in Jesus Christ.

“Hope, oh my soul, hope”, we hear from Saint Teresa of Ávila. “The more you prove your love for your God, the more you will one day rejoice with your Beloved in a happiness that can never end” (CCC 1821).

Pray for me and I will pray for you.

And may our Blessed Mother Mary help all of us in the Church to remember that “all concern for doctrine and its teaching must be directed to love that never ends” (CCC 25).


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