May my exploration of faith be a blessing to others.

Friday, November 25, 2016

Catechism: Prologue III-VI The Who and Why

By U.S. Marine Corps Photo by Sgt Paul L. Anstine II
via Wikimedia Commons
If you want to understand the Catholic faith, then the Catechism is for you. Although it is primarily intended for those who are responsible for teaching the faith to others, everyone is encouraged to study it as a comprehensive guide to deeper understanding. It draws upon the sacred scriptures of the Bible, as well as the writings and teachings of the Church fathers and the magisterium (the Pope and the Bishops).

One of the most important things about the Catechism is that it is intended to be read and understood in its entirety. The Prologue says that it is an "organic whole." Everything within it is inseparable from everything else, and each article of faith should be understood within the context of every other article. This emphasis on "context", to me, is one of the distinguishing characteristics of Catholicism. The Church specifically warns against "cherry picking" scripture verses, for example. You cannot simply draw a single verse from the Bible and use it define your faith or your worldview. Rather, you must understand that verse within the context of the rest of that book of the Bible; when, where and why it was written; how it relates to the rest of the Bible; and within the wisdom we (as the Church) have gained over the millennia of studying it. To this end, the Catechism also provides a lot of reference for further reading and study, whether referring to other parts of the Catechism, the Bible itself, or other writings of the Church.

By I, Jfreyre
via Wikimedia Commons
Beyond that, the Prologue also explains that the Catechism actually can't be "all things to all people." In Section 6 Paragraph 24, it clarifies, "By design, this Catechism does not set out to provide the adaptation of doctrinal presentations and catechetical methods required by the differences of culture, age, spiritual maturity, social and ecclesial condition among all of those to whom it is addressed." In other words, these various contexts will have an impact on each reader's understanding and that those who teach the Catechism must adapt their instruction according to the spiritual maturity of the student. These "necessary adaptations" enable the Church to be "all things to all people," as we are instructed to do in the Bible.

Finally, the Prologue reminds us, as St. Paul, does that above all of this is charity: "The whole concern of doctrine and its teaching must be directed to the love that never that anyone can see that all the works of perfect Christian virtue spring from love and have no other objective than to arrive at love."

Access the Catechism online.

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