What exactly is the Catechism?
The Catechism of the Catholic Church is a book written to explain the teachings of the church. While the Bible is common to all of Christianity, the Catechism is unique to the Catholic Church. Pope John Paul II referred to it as “a sure norm for teaching the Faith” as well as “a special gift.”
The Catechism was originally published in 1992, thirty years after the beginning of the Second Vatican Council, also known as Vatican II. It is organized by paragraph (of which there are 2,854 in total), with an index and a table of contents for easy reference.
Two of our most recent popes were instrumental in creating the Catechism. Pope John Paul II oversaw its creation and tapped Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, who would later become Pope Benedict XVI, to head the commission of Cardinals and Bishops tasked with drafting the Catechism.
“It clearly shows that the problem of what we must do as human beings…is the essential problem of our day, and basically of all ages…What should we do? How does life become just? What can give us and the whole world a future which is worth living? Since the Catechism treats these questions, it is a book which interests many people, far beyond purely theological or ecclesial circles,” Pope Benedict XVI commented on it.
Following a brief statement from Pope John Paul II as well as a prologue, the Catechism is divided into four main parts. Each part is further divided into chapters, articles, and sections. At the end of each article, is a brief section that summarizes the key points discussed in the article.
Part one is titled “The Profession of Faith.” Its primary purpose is to highlight the many gifts that God gives to man.
Part two is titled “The Celebration of the Christian Mystery.” It explains how “God’s salvation, accomplished once for all through Christ Jesus and the Holy Spirit, is made present in the sacred actions of the Church’s liturgy, especially in the seven sacraments.”
Part three is titled “Life in Christ.” It focuses on the importance of the Ten Commandments as well as the importance of God’s grace in our daily lives.
Part four is titled “Christian Prayer.” It discusses the importance of prayer in the life of the faithful and goes into great detail on the seven petitions of The Lord’s Prayer, also known as the Our Father.
The Catechism has over eight million copies in circulation worldwide. Published in over twenty different languages, it helps unite the more than 1.25 billion Catholics scattered across the globe. Available for under $10, the Catechism would make a great Christmas present for anyone looking to learn more about their Catholic faith.