A Short Appreciation for the Catechism

Our diocese is in the process of establishing curriculum standards for religious education in Catholic schools and parish-based programs for children. It’s been a fun — and challenging — task that still has at least two years to go. Our committee has wrestled over not just what should be included in a comprehensive curriculum for discipleship, but also how to phrase teachings in age appropriate ways that are faithful to the Church’s tradition.

In the process my respect for the  Catechism of the Catholic Church has grown considerably — not so much for it’s organization or content (which I’ve appreciated for some time), but for the way in which it takes heavy theological and spiritual concepts and makes them accessible. Far from the weighty, verbose reference it is sometimes made out to be, the  Catechism is surprisingly readable for a Church document.

I’ve also been impressed with it’s precision of language — something I strive for in my own writing. In fact, on several occasions we’ve been stuck for a phrase or word to describe a concept in our standards. Each time, when we’ve consulted the Catechism, we’ve discovered the perfect word already there.

It’s a shame that more people don’t make use of this great treasury of the Church’s wisdom. It seems to me that many misunderstanding about the Catholic Church could be cleared up by focusing on what the Church herself says in the Catechism rather than what certain “experts” claim she says.

None of this will be a surprise to those who are used to using the Catechism in faith formation, evangelization or apologetics. But as we observe the 20th anniversary of the Catechism‘s promulgation on Thursday, let’s keep in mind just what a gift it has been in the life of the Church. From establishing a baseline for religious instruction to spawning local catechisms such as the United States Catholic Catechism for Adults, the Church’s catechetical ministry is much richer for it. And that’s worth celebrating.