Random catechism: Here, now!



By Dr Jeff Mirus (bio – articles – email) | May 11, 2021

I found myself thinking today of the various saints throughout history who had discerned their futures by opening a random Bible and reading this page – or perhaps opening the Bible, placing their finger on the page. and reading this verse. I have tried it myself from time to time, with no noticeable result. Today when I tried it for inspiration I got this:

For all his anger is not turned away, and his hand is always stretched out.

It’s from the book of Isaiah the 9th chapter, the second half of the 12th verse.

I didn’t find that encouraging, but I’m not complaining about it either. Any part of God’s word can be used to begin a meditation on his purposes. Randomly returning to a less likely Bible book, I found this: “When Rehoboam’s reign was established and he was strong, he forsook the law of the Lord, and all Israel with him” (2 Chronicles 12: 1). So now I see a link. Both passages can apply to times when I have become arrogant and have fallen into sin. It is, moreover, an extremely common theme in the history of the kings of Israel and Judah.

Ever since I’ve been reading the Chronicles lately anyway, I’ve been thinking how much the history of kings reminds me of successive presidential elections in the United States. We have leaders who promise a lot and do little, or leaders who claim high morality and then do evil. We seem to be plagued by high-sounding commitments associated with the complete surrender of the one person who can help any leader meet them. It’s discouraging. But it is also disheartening to apply such passages to myself.

Fast forward to the prophet Micah (chapter 7, verse 5): “Do not trust your neighbor; don’t trust a friend; keep the doors of your mouth from the one who rests in your arms. The passage goes on to describe the betrayal of children against parents and in-laws, pointing out that “a man’s enemies are the men of his own house” (v. 6).

Fortunately, if we stick to the process, we eventually come to a definite conclusion – probably the main point we (or at least I) need to hear. It is in the following verse:

But I will look to the Lord; I will wait for the God of my salvation; my God will hear me.

Of course, as Christians, we must receive this verse especially with a spiritual interpretation, and also eschatological for the next life. But even those hopes could fail us if we are presumptuous. If we are not contrite, we will find that “all his anger is not turned away.”

Let’s give it another try, completing this exercise by going back to at least one passage in the New Testament. I open at random the rich and profound Letter to the Romans of Saint Paul, and I find myself in chapter 9:

But it’s not as if the word of God has failed. For all those who descend from Israel do not belong to Israel, and not all are children of Abraham because they are his offspring…. This means that it is not the children of the flesh who are the children of God, but the children of the promise are counted as descendants. [Rom 9:6-8]

Sometimes it takes several trips back and forth to land on something that offers advice or consolation here and now. I’ll hold on to being a child of the promise, and try to live that inspiration.


It occurred to me that we could do something very similar with the Catechism of the Catholic Church, perhaps not so much for some inspiration from the Holy Spirit when we are in distress, but as a reminder of the riches of our Faith, receiving a healthy glow of instruction in the midst of many things that we tend to to forget. It also occurred to me that although CatholicCulture.org does not have the Bible in a verse-by-verse database, it has long since created a comprehensive database of all the paragraphs in the Catechism so that users can easily search for both particular words and paragraph numbers.

And that means with very little work I can randomize the Catechism. So, what would that look like, assuming you didn’t keep it on your desk or coffee table for easy rocking back and forth and punching your finger? I decided to play around with some of our programming code behind the scenes, and when I was done it looked exactly like this:

Link: The Random Catechism

So now I click on the link just above, which randomly selects and displays one of the nearly three thousand numbered paragraphs from the Catechism of the Catholic Church then clicking again and again on the option under each paragraph for “another random paragraph” – just to see what I get. You can try it too. It’s free! I mean seriously who To pay for a random paragraph of the Catechism?

So on my first click, I read that “We don’t believe in formulas, but in these realities that they express, that faith allows us to touch…”. This is the first of three rich sentences in paragraph 170, one of which is a quote from St. Thomas Aquinas. But you can read that first sentence again. It is worth thinking about.

Now I click on the link for “another random paragraph” and it shows up:

77 “So that the full and living Gospel may always be preserved in the Church, the apostles left the bishops as their successors. They gave them their own position of teaching authority. Indeed, “the apostolic preaching, which is expressed in a particular way in the inspired books, was to be preserved in a continuous line of succession until the end of time”.

Despite so much bad news, it makes me happy to be a Catholic.

Again, Click on!

Paragraph 1450: “Penance requires… that the sinner endures all things willingly, has a contrite heart, confesses with his lips, and practices full and fruitful satisfaction. “

It’s a little scary, which means it’s hard. It was incorporated into the current catechism from the Roman catechism 16th century, also known as the “Catechism of Saint Pius V”. Yes, we show you the footnotes.


Makes you think, doesn’t it? I don’t know if this is worth anything for anyone else. But it worked for me today, when I started out thinking that every topic was a boring topic. That fear is now gone, at least for the time being, so maybe it’s not such a useless tool after all. Perhaps opening up to Catholic thought is just a few clicks away, with a freshness that can bear fruit.

Jeffrey Mirus holds a doctorate. in Intellectual History from Princeton University. Co-founder of Christendom College, he was also the pioneer of Catholic Internet services. He is the founder of Trinity Communications and CatholicCulture.org. See the full biography.

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