ex libris — Catechism

These books offer insights into the history, use, and structure of the Catechism of the Catholic Church. More information also can be found at using the Catechism. The Catechism of the Catholic Church is available at bookstores or in this online version.

Exploring the Catechism
by Jane E. Regan with Michael P. Horan,
Timothy Backous, O.S.B., Francis Kelly Nemeck, O.M.I.,
and Maria Theresa Coombs
The Liturgical Press, Collegeville, Minnesota
ISBN 0-8146-2152-X

This book, which carries an imprimatur, examines the Catechism of the Catholic Church from three different angles—the history of how catechisms have been used within the Church, how this particular Catechism can be used to enhance catechesis in individual parishes, and how the documents of the Second Vatican Council have shaped theological content of this Catechism. After setting the Catechism in context of its historical background, themes and issues of each of the four sections of the Catechism are addressed in ways that professional catechists will find especially helpful.

“As a map, the Catechism situates our journey of faith within the context of those who have gone before us. The long tradition of those who have known the mystery of God’s love and have struggled to put that into words are expressed for us today in the Catechism. While each generation, each group of believers must take the journey of faith for themselves, the text provides some clear markings to set out the right path. The Catechism also gives some clear boundaries about who God is, who Jesus is, and who human beings are.”

Introduction to the Catechism of the Catholic Church
by Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI and Christoph Cardinal Schonborn
Ignatius Press, San Francisco, California
ISBN 0-90870-485-5

Written by the two men who shaped the final form of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, this small book is divided into two sections. In the first, Pope Benedict XVI writes about the history behind the Church’s creation of this universal Catechism, and about the basic structure and content of the work. The second section, written by Christoph Cardinal Schonborn, deals with major themes and underlying principles of the Catechism and includes an overview of each of its four parts. In his section, Pope Benedict XVI directly addresses the issue of the authority of the Catechism of the Catholic Church.

“What significance the Catechism really holds for the common exercise of teaching in the Church may be learned by reading the Apostolic Constitution Fidei depositum, with which the Pope [Blessed John Paul II] promulgated it on October 11, 1992—exactly 30 years after the opening of the Second Vatican Council: ‘I acknowledge it [the Catechism] as a valid and legitimate tool in the service of ecclesiastical communion, as a sure norm for instruction in the faith.’ The individual doctrines which the Catechism presents receive no other weight than that which they already possess. The weight of the Catechism itself lies in the whole. Since it transmits what the Church teaches, whoever rejects it as a whole separates himself beyond question from the faith and teaching of the Church.”

The Love That Never Ends:
A Key to the Catechism of the Catholic Church

by J. Augustine DiNoia, O.P.,
Gabriel O’Donnell, O.P., Romanus Cessario, O.P., and Peter John Cameron, O.P.
Our Sunday Visitor, Huntington, Indiana
ISBN 0-879739852-9

This helpful guide to the Catechism of the Catholic Church was written by four Dominican scholars. It takes its title from paragraph 25 of the book, a paragraph that develops the importance of charity. The theme comes from the preface to the previous Roman Cathecism, which emphasizes that whole concern of doctrine and its teaching must be directed to “the love that never ends. Whether something is proposed for belief, for hope or for action, the love of our Lord must always be made accessible, so 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.” With love, the central mystery of the Christian faith, as their guiding light, the authors examine the underlying unity of the Catechism’s treatment of the Creed, sacraments, life in Christ, and prayer. The final chapters of The Love That Never Ends are devoted to prayer, and people interested in the practice of lectio divina should be especially interested in the authors’ discussion of contemplative prayer:

“It’s easy for us to side with a malcontent Martha over the seeming idleness of her sister Mary. And yet Jesus insists: ‘One thing only is required. Mary has chosen the better portion and she shall not be deprived of it’ (Luke 10:38-41). That one required thing, that better portion, is contemplative prayer.”