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Thursday, June 21, 2012

Is the Catechism of the Catholic Church on Your Bookshelf?

I'm working on Fr. John Hardon's advanced catechist course for the Marian Catechist Apostolate. Last night at adoration I read the catechism entries on the sixth commandment (Thou shalt not commit adultery.) and on the sacrament of marriage. The catechism is a delightful book. Not only that, but you don't even have to buy it. Just click the hotlink and you can read it online at the Vatican website or download it to a Kindle. The catechism isn't difficult; in fact, it's exceptionally clear. When I read Pope John Paul II's encyclicals, I often have to reread a paragraph two, even three times. Not so with the catechism. It's easy, and every chapter ends with a summary of the points. What a wonderful compendium of our faith! And what a gift from God to allow us to know without a doubt what He expects of us.

Like most Catholic catechisms,
this one is divided into four parts: the Creed, the Sacraments, the Commandments, and Prayer. Anyone who journeys through the catechism can't help but draw closer to God through knowledge of Christ and his Church. It's a treasure trove!

But I wonder how many Catholics read the catechism -- or even own it. When you think that the only thing that really matters in this life is living in a way that leads to heaven, why wouldn't everybody want to follow the guide book? No...not just a guide book, not just a map, but a destination ticket. It makes me think of Emily Dickinson's poem:
I never saw a moor,
I never saw the sea;
Yet know I how the heather looks,
And what a wave must be.
I never spoke with God,
Nor visited in heaven;
Yet certain am I of the spot
As if the chart were given.
This is the way the poem is usually quoted, but it's not how Dickinson wrote it. Her image in the last line was not a "chart" but a "check." Why have editors changed the word? Because modern readers don't understand what she meant because most people don't travel by train any more. The check was the little slip of paper the conductor put at a passenger's seat to mark his destination.  He would collect the "checks" before each stop. It enabled him to keep track of paying customers to make sure they got off at their destination.

Think of the catechism as that "check." If we embrace its teachings we can be assured of heaven as if our destination is marked and we're just waiting for the "conductor" to let us know we've arrived at our stop. Remember what Jesus said. "If you love me, love my commandments." The catechism is a great place to start the journey!


  1. Carol, I can never say enough about my man Fr. Hardon ;) His Catechism is just brilliant. I have learned all I know about the faith from this great man and Lord knows, I am learning still. I discovered the Marian Catechist Apostolate a long time ago and considered becoming a member. You have inspired me to take another look. One of the reasons I have not started a blog is that I have been fearful of misleading others because I still don't know my faith the way I ought to know it. Thank God for Fr. Hardon. Just thank God. I can't imagine where I would be without him. I always say that if people really knew the faith, locked doors wouldn't keep them out. Discovering the faith w/ Fr. Hardon is like discovering a trunk of priceless jewels...

  2. I did not mean to call you Carol--I was just reading Carol's blog, Mary Anne! Mea culpa.

  3. Not to worry. I have a sister named Carol and being one of ten kids, sometimes my mom called us by the wrong names. Since there were six girls, we answered to them all: Jeanne, Mary, Peggy, Carol, Susie, and Laura. LOL!

  4. I've been called by my brothers' names as well. At any rate, anyone reading this can access a wealth of Catholic writings from the Vatican's website and a number of other sources. There's no excuse for not being familiar with our Church's teachings.

  5. There were five of us Mary Anne. We used to tease us for she could never quite remember who were were. It went something like this:

    Jimmy, Kevin, Kevin, Jimmy

    Maria, Sheila, Sheila Maria

    Chistopher, Kevin, Kevin, Christopher

    lol. Many thanks for your forbearance.

    Restore DC--There is a LOT to learn though, huh? I feel like a dunce so much of the time.