In a few weeks time the Year of Faith, to be celebrated by the world-wide Catholic Church, will begin on 11 October 2012 (marking 50 years since the start of Vatican II and 20 years since the publication of the official Catechism of the Catholic Church) and will end on the Feast of Christ the King, 24 November 2013. Because we are invited in the Year of Faith to become more familiar with the teachings of the Church, it makes sense to do a short review of the the different types and styles of Catechisms available.
The official Catechism of the Catholic Church is available online at http://www.vatican.va/archive/ENG0015/_INDEX.HTM , and is also available in a hardcover version and in a softcover version. The English version became available in 1994. This is the most detailed Catechism available, and the most suitable for adult use and serious study. As is traditional, the teaching it contains – distilled from almost 20 centuries of experience and study – is in four parts : the Creed, the Sacraments, the 10 Commandments and Prayer. In its style it is a reference work, with an extensive index at the back ; although you sometimes have to think laterally in searching the index to find the answers you are after.
After using the official Catechism for a few years, the need for a simpler question and answer version was felt. The Compendium of the Catechism of the Catholic Church was the result. This version contains some glorious pieces of religious art, and every so often a beautiful quote or two from the Saints. This is my Catechism of choice to give to students in Sacramental preparation, because it contains all they need until around mid high-school when the more detailed and extensive answers of the Catechism become necessary.
Following the experiences of young people at World Youth Days, it was found that the answers to questions most youngsters were asking about God, the Church and how to live holy lives in the modern world weren’t being easily found in the Compendium – even though the answers were there. So a contemporary catechism designed specifically for high school students and young adults was developed, rooted in the official Catechism and expressed in a more user friendly manner. They called it Youcat. So far I’ve never looked inside it, as I have been waiting for it to drop in price.
Before the Compendium came out was giving the children preparing for Confirmation ‘I Believe – A Little Catholic Catechism’ which is produced by Aid to the Church in Need. This book is well laid out, with lots of beautiful pictures and highlighted quotations. However it is a bit light on, teaching wise, when it comes to talking about the Mystery of the Eucharist.
Recently, because my normal supplier didn’t have enough Compendiums in stock, I ordered the St Joseph New American Catechism Illustrated by Fr Lawrence. G. Lovasik, S.V.D. instead. Anything by Fr Lovasik is brilliant. This is the No.2 Middle Grade version. It is largely in question and answer format and can be used as a study guide to Catholic Teaching because it contains regular ‘Fill in the Blanks’, ‘Discussion Questions’ and advice about how to live a particular part of the Catechism in practice. The pictures are good and the font is easy to read.
For a Catechism which gives questions and answers which are easily memorised, the Catechism of Christian Doctrine or ‘penny Catechism’ cannot be beaten. A PDF version is available at http://laudatedominum.net/files/cat.pdf and via Google Books at http://books.google.com.au/books/about/A_Catechism_of_Christian_doctrine.html?id=6O0TH8PyXwgC&redir_esc=y. It is also still in print, but in a much nicer format that the small light green one.
Generally, the more we know someone, the more we love them. It works the same way with God. The more we know Him, and the more we know the Teaching he has given us, the more we will love Him.
So if you haven’t yet got a Catechism to be your companion during the Year of Faith, now is the time to choose one or more and get them. It’s going to be a most wonderful year of spiritual renewal, so make sure that you are well prepared for it and that you don’t miss out on any of gifts that God has prepared for you during the Year of Faith.