Sunday, January 31, 2010

The Catechism of the Catholic Church


A good household will inevitably include within it an area for a good library, a book shelf, table books, or some combination of these. And in every single one of those homes the one indispensable 'must-have' book is a good, readable copy of the Bible, the very Word of God.

In every Catholic household, and in fact in any home that wishes to explore an even deeper study and understanding of the Bible and the teachings of the Church, there is one more book that is also important to own. That book is the official "Catechism of the Catholic Church", which has now been available for more than a decade.

On September 8th, 1997, Pope John Paul II promulgated changes to the 2nd Official English Edition of the book in order that it might conform to changes made to the Latin version on that same date. In the end, what currently stands is intended to be a 'universal catechism', one to be used as a resource or reference point for all other such efforts within the Christian Church at large.

The modern Catholic Catechism is in John Paul II's own words "a full, complete exposition of Catholic doctrine, enabling everyone to know what the Church professes, celebrates, lives, and prays in her daily life."

In 1985, the Catholic Bishops recommended that the effort should be made, particularly with the many changes to Church practices in the decades since Vatican II, to explain more fully, clearly, and substantively the Church official teachings on the many and varied topics for which it is responsible.

The following year, John Paul II appointed an official 'Commission of Cardinals and Bishops' to study the matter and develop a compendium of Catholic doctrine. This commission was to be led by Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict XVI. Their results were packaged and sent out around the world in 1989 to all Bishops of the Church for their amendments and suggestions.

Over 24,000 such amendments were received, and all were studied closely and considered carefully resulting in numerous alterations to the volume originally circulated. By 1991 the commission was ready to present their official version to the Pope for his evaluation and approval. On June 25th, 1992, John Paul II gave his approval, and on December 8th made it official with an apostolic constitution.

The new Catechism was then first formally published in French in 1994, and subsequently translated into many languages. On August 15th, 1997, the Pope formally proclaimed the Latin version as definitive. This version contained a few changes from that first French-issued version, and thus an official 'Second Edition' was released in other languages that year, including the current English version.

Let's cover what the Catechism is not. It is not at all like the Bible. It is not meant to be a history of existence or of the world. It can not be read cover-to-cover almost like a story. It in fact does not contain the Bible, nor any of it's stories and teachings directly in God's own words. It is not 'readable' for many youngsters, and would not be necessarily interesting for those looking to 'read' a book.

What the Catechism is intended to be is a resource, the definitive resource of the teaching of the Church relating to all matters of faith. It is particularly aimed at the Bishop's, the Church's most influential teachers of the faith, but it is also made available to the body of the Church faithful as a tool for appropriately guided individual education.

There is no way in the space of a short article to explain or describe every area that the Catechism covers. Suffice it to say that the Catechism refers to Holy Scripture, as well as the teachings and positions of the Church Fathers and Ecumenical Councils, themselves inspired by the Holy Spirit, to explore and explain all positions and beliefs of the Universal Church.

Among the important topics covered in the Catechism are 'The Profession of Faith', also known as the 'Apostles Creed', which has been in existence and utilized as a basic profession of faith in Jesus Christ since the early centuries of Church development after his death.

The 'Celebration of the Christian Mystery' is also covered here. This includes public worship in the Catholic Mass, as well as God's active participation through Grace in the sacraments of Confirmation, Baptism/Christening, Holy Eucharist/Communion, Penance/Confession, the Anointing of the Sick/Extreme Unction, Holy Orders, and Matrimony/Marriage.

Christian Prayer is an important topic that is covered, which includes an exploration of the Lord's Prayer, also known to many as the 'Our Father' prayer. First offered by Jesus Himself at his Sermon on the Mount, it is by far the most well-known and widely used Christian prayer in history. I personally learned to say this prayer in Latin as an act of faith and a New Year's resolution a few years ago during a time of personal struggle, and do so now every night before going to sleep.

The Catechism also covers life in Christ, particularly by exploring the Ten Commandments. These most vital religious and moral rules were validated by Christ, and are accepted by well over half the population of the entire planet. Handed down by God Himself to Moses and subsequently to all of God's people, these are God's own basic precepts for mankind.

There is much falsehood and uninformed or ignorant commentary out in the world today regarding the teachings and practices of the Catholic Church. If you are genuinely interested in learning the truth regarding Catholic doctrine, or are already a believer and simply wish a reference material with which to more deeply explore the Church teachings, the "Catechism of the Catholic Church" (Second Edition) is a must.

NOTE: this is a contuation of the 'Sunday Sermon' series presented here on many Sunday mornings. All articles in the series can be viewed by clicking on to that 'label' below the original article at www.mattveasey.com

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