I was fortunate enough to do a series of Catholic Church Catechism Lectures recently at St. Dennis Parish. I was impressed with the intense interest and level of participation every night.
People are thirsty to learn more about the Faith and to put it into practice. The copies of the Catechism flew from the back table at an inspiring pace, which made the heart of this bishop very happy!
Compilation of the Catholic Faith
Born as an idea of Saint John Paul II in 1985, the Catechism of the Catholic Church had been in preparation for almost 10 years and is the first official compilation of the Catholic faith since the Council of Trent in the 16th century.
Divided into four parts, the Catechism focuses on the Creed, the Sacraments, the Ten Commandments and the “Our Father”. In other words, what we believe, how God shares his life with us, how we live in response to his grace, and how we pray.
In each parish I served, I bought hundreds of copies of the Catechism, sold them to parishioners for $ 5 apiece, and then organized classes. The interest was still intense.
Quoting John 17: 3 “Father. . . it is eternal life, so that they may know you, the only true God and Jesus Christ whom you sent ”in the Prologue, the authors of the Catechism remind us that the only goal of our life is to know, serve and to love God and that Jesus is the Door through which we enter the saving life of the Most Holy Trinity.
Falling more deeply in love with God and regularly reorganizing our entire existence around his love for us is the process of conversion and the stuff of which saints are made.
Age of great confusion
We live in a time of great confusion. People question the divinity and oneness of Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. Many people, even some Church leaders, disagree with the Church’s teachings on life and sexuality.
There is a widespread rejection of absolute moral standards in our culture, and any assertion of such standards is met with accusations of intolerance, hatred, and the imposition of religious beliefs. Presidential candidate politicians postulate that any church that does not submit to the vagaries of the sexual revolution should have its tax-exempt status revoked.
A light in the dark
In the midst of such moral chaos and intellectual confusion, the Catechism stands serenely as a light in the darkness, as an objective point of reference for Catholic teaching.
What I have always appreciated, both of our Faith and of its exposition in the Catechism, is its astonishing clarity. Not everyone understands and knows the Faith. Not everyone agrees with his doctrines. None of us live up to his ideals.
Nonetheless, we have a sure and certain guide to lead us to the fulness of the revelation which has been given to us by Jesus Christ himself, as revealed by the Church which he founded. Used as a supplement to the Holy Scriptures, the Catechism is a sure and certain road map to the Kingdom of Heaven, a manual for use to help us become excellent Catholics who take Christian discipleship seriously.
God never forsakes us
The Catechism reminds us that long before we even knew God, He had already come to seek us, to save us and to seek us. I think of the Parables of the Good Shepherd, the Lost Money, and the Prodigal Son. Throughout salvation history we see God creating us in original goodness, humanity choosing to sin, God never forsaking us, and God ultimately returning us to life and grace through Jesus Christ.
Our response to this gratuitous mercy, our decision as to whether or not to invite God to enter into a relationship with Him is literally a matter of eternal life or death. The Catechism sets out this fundamental proposition of faith with intellectual clarity, ardent charity and moral urgency, encouraging us all to live the abundant life of the Gospel by citing the Scriptures, the Fathers of the Church and the Saints with great efficiency.
My great hope would be that every Catholic in our diocese possesses, studies and lives catechism. It tells the great love story of God’s passionate desire for our salvation. Other than the Bible itself, what other book would be so worthy of our study and practice?