Whenever there is a question of the Catholic faith, the Catechism of the Catholic Church has the answer.
The Catechism is a concise book that states the beliefs of the Catholic faith. It presents the teachings of the Catholic Church on faith, sacraments, morality, and prayer in an orderly and complete manner.
As Catholics, we believe that Christ established an authoritative Church, through the Magisterium, that has the ability to define the truth of Christ’s teachings.
Catechisms have been in existence since the Council of Trent in 1566 and have been used as a guidebook to define and explain both oral tradition and the Sacred Scriptures.
The current catechism, the Catechism of the Catholic Church is the first complete systematic synthesis of faith issued since the 1566 council.
Originally only available as a book, the Catechism is now widely accessible via a multitude of websites, smart phone applications and in several e-book formats.
The Catechism is divided into four major sections:
• The Profession of Faith
• The Celebration of the Christian Mystery
• Life in Christ
• Christian Prayer
These four sections encompass all aspects of the Faith – professed, celebrated, lived and deepened.
Each major section is fully explained by use of Scriptures, decisions of ecumenical councils, and quotes from the Church Fathers. The majority of the text is referenced to these sources of information.
Part One, The Profession of Faith, deals with humanity’s capacity for God, God’s revelation and humanity’s response. It also deals with the Creed. Our Creed summarises the gifts that God gives and contains most of the beliefs Christians accept. The three major components of this section are defining God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit.
Part Two, The Celebration of the Christian Mystery, explains how God’s salvation, accomplished through Christ, is made present in the sacred actions of the Church’s liturgy and in its seven sacraments. The sacraments are effective signs of grace, instituted by Christ, entrusted to the Church.
Part Three, Life in Christ, deals with ways in which we can live out our lives as children of God. The first half deals with God’s law and the grace He gives to humanity to live in accordance with His desires. The remainder discusses the 10 Commandments and how they affect us.
The last section, Christian Prayer, deals with the meaning and importance of prayer in the life of believers. The Lord’s Prayer is also discussed in great detail showing that it is a family prayer Christ gave us.
As Catholics, we are fortunate to have a Catechism that defines our faith. We can turn to it whenever we want to learn more about our faith or need to clarify any questions we might have.
The Catechism is not a mere collection of doctrines. It provides the groundwork for understanding what Catholics believe. On this level, the Catechism is unique. According to Pope Benedict XVI, the Catechism is “a precious and indispensable tool. It is one of the most important fruits of the Second Vatican Council,” he said.
The Catechism provides the beginning of what should be considered the single greatest Catholic need in the world today, namely, to understand what we believe. Over the coming weeks we will delve deeper into the Catechism of the Catholic Church, unpacking some specifics in an effort to better understand the doctrines of the Faith.