By Anne Metz
True story: my father gave me a Catechism as a college graduation gift. I wasn’t surprised actually; he gave them out to everyone. It was his go-to gift for baptisms, confirmations, first Communions, weddings, birthdays, and yes, graduations.
I laughed when I got my copy, thought, “what am I ever going to do with this,” and immediately put it on a shelf. I was sure I’d never use it, but today it is as worn as any other well-loved book on our bookshelf.
When I first started teaching CCD, a student asked me a question about our faith that stumped me. I don’t remember the question, but I do remember pulling that dusty copy of the Catechism off the shelf, finally opening it up, and being in awe of the richness and knowledge that I found within those pages.
What is the Catechism of the Catholic Church?
In simplest terms, the Catechism of the Catholic Church, or CCC, is a text that outlines what we as Catholics believe and is meant for the purpose of catechesis (or teaching the faith).
The CCC we use today is a version published in 1992 at the request of Pope John Paul II. It was not the first Catechism, however. That dates to a Catechism that was published after the Council of Trent in the 1500s.
Why do we need a Catechism?
The CCC helps us to know truly what we believe as Catholics.
Furthermore, it helps us understand why we believe what we do. As the Catechism lays out the doctrine of the Church, it references, scripture, the wisdom of the Saints, and other sections in the Catechism. When you read it, the beauty and logic of the Church unfold in front of you.
If you’ve ever been perplexed by a Church teaching, wondered how you could pray better, or been interested in the origins of the mass, the CCC explains it all for you. It is a tool to help us to learn more and that knowledge helps us grow deeper in our faith and in our relationship with God.
The CCC can also help us defend the faith and explain it with authority to those who are interested in learning what we believe.
Who is the Catechism for?
According to the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), “The Catechism is intended, first of all, for bishops as teachers of the faith and pastors of the Church. They have the first responsibility in catechesis. Through the bishops, the Catechism is addressed to editors of catechisms, priests, catechists and all others responsible for catechesis. It will also be useful reading for all the faithful.”
Does that mean the CCC is specifically for bishops, and pastors? Absolutely not. Pope John Paul II, wrote, “I ask all the Church's shepherds and faithful members to receive this Catechism in a spirit of communion and to make careful use of it in carrying out their mission to proclaim the faith and to call to the gospel life…. It is also offered to all the faithful who want to understand better the inexhaustible riches of salvation."
In short, the Catechism is for you.
Firstly, the Catechism is intended for “teachers of the faith.” As a parent, you are a teacher of the faith. We learn that from the CCC itself. Section 223 states, “Parents have the first responsibility for the education of their children.” Secondly, Pope John Paul II says it is offered to all of us - “the faithful who want to understand better the inexhaustible riches of salvation.”
Where can I get one?
You can view the CCC online for free on the USCCB website, or purchase one through a bookstore.
Or, if you know my father, just wait until your next birthday, and he’ll probably gift you a copy.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church can feel overwhelming and inaccessible at first, at least it did for me when I received one and immediately put it on a shelf. But, the beauty and wisdom of our faith lie inside. If you feel overwhelmed, check out the podcast, Catechism in a Year (with Father Mike Schmitz), find a reading plan or get together with a group of friends to help you on your journey. Don’t just shelve this book like I did for so many years. I encourage you to open up a copy and begin absorbing the richness or our faith. When you dive into its pages, ask God to reveal more of Himself to you, and to grant you the confidence to boldly teach your children as their first teachers of the faith.
When she’s not writing about faith, Anne Metz works for Growing Catholics, whose mission is to bring Scripture to all, especially tweens and teens.