The Catechism of the Catholic Church: Second Edition

Book cover: 'The Catechism of the Catholic Church: Second Edition'
Libreria Editrice Vaticana
Number of pages: 
904 pages

This beautiful new Catechism is truly a gift and a treasure in an era when "new" so often means "bad." Although I have not yet read every word of it (it's quite a big book!) I have had the pleasure of leading Catechism study groups for mothers and found much success in using this text to help some who were previously very lukewarm in their faith to better understand not only what the Catholic Church really teaches, but why these teachings make sense - yes, even in our modern world!

The Catechism is divided into four main sections. The First, the Profession of Faith, covers the basic beliefs and dogmas of the Church - based upon the Creed. Part Two, "The Celebration of the Christian Mystery", discusses liturgy and the Sacraments. Part Three, "Life in Christ", covers moral life - particularly in light of the Beatitudes and the Ten Commandments. Part Four is on Christian Prayer.

The text is both difficult and joyful to read. It is difficult (in some places) because of the unfamiliar vocabulary - catechesis, pedagogy, asceticism, fecundity - these are not part of our every day vocabulary (although many should be learned by high schoolers). Even so, the new edition has an in-depth glossary in the back and these more unfamiliar words come up once every few paragraphs rather than every other sentence. It is joyful to read because it is so rich, so beautiful, so true. Throughout the text, the reader is referred to Sacred Scripture, Church documents and the writings of the Saints. An additional volume The Companion to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, published by Ignatius Press, provides the text from all of the footnotes for easy reference and further study.

A few sample passages:

(407) "The doctrine of original sin, closely connected with that of redemption by Christ, provides lucid discernment of man's situation and activity in the world. By our first parents' sin, the devil has acquired a certain domination over man, even though man remains free. Original sin entails 'captivity under the power of him who thenceforth had the power of death, that is, the devil.' Ignorance of the fact that man has a wounded nature inclined to evil gives rise to serious errors in the areas of education, politics, social action and morals."

(1395) "By the same charity that it enkindles in us, the Eucharist preserves us from future mortal sins. The more we share the life of Christ and progress in his friendship, the more difficult it is to break away from him by mortal sin. The Eucharist is not ordered to the forgiveness of mortal sins - that is proper to the sacrament of Reconciliation. The Eucharist is properly the sacrament of those who are in full communion with the Church."

(2521) "Purity requires modesty, an integral part of temperance. Modesty protects the intimate center of the person. It means refusing to unveil what should remain hidden. It is ordered to chastity to whose sensitivity it bears witness. It guides how one looks at others and behaves toward them in conformity with the dignity of persons and their solidarity."

(2712) "Contemplative prayer is the prayer of the child of God, of the forgiven sinner who agrees to welcome the love by which he is loved and who wants to respond to it by loving even more. But he knows that the love he is returning is poured out by the Spirit in his heart, for everything is grace from God. Contemplative prayer is the poor and humble surrender to the loving will of the Father in ever deeper union with his beloved Son."

Many beautiful writings of the Saints are included (in addition to those which are merely footnoted), such as this passage from St. Ignatius of Loyola (taken from the Spiritual Exercises):

"Every good Christian ought to be more ready to give a favorable interpretation to another's statement than to condemn it. But if he cannot do so, let him ask how the other understands it. And if the latter understands it badly, let the former correct him with love. If that does not suffice, let the Christian try all suitable ways to bring the other to a correct interpretation so that he may be saved."

This book belongs in every Catholic home. It should be read over, and prayed over, and cried over, and smiled over often.

Additional notes: 

Copyrights 1994/1997

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