Thursday, January 24, 2013

Catechism Study for the Year of Faith

What makes a good study guide for the Catechism of the Catholic Church?

That is an important question in this Year of Faith, in which Pope Benedict XVI is calling on Catholics to “rediscover and study” the Catechism, seeing that “on page after page, we find that what is presented here is no theory, but an encounter with a Person who lives within the Church” (Porta Fidei, 11).

With Lent fast approaching (Ash Wednesday is Feb. 13), people are looking for the best way to go deeper into the Catechism without getting overwhelmed.

I would like humbly to offer my own resource titled, Unlocking the Beauty of the Catechism: the Creed (Parts 1 and 2).

In writing this two-part study focused on the Creed, the largest section of the Catechism, I have attempted to address, in a user-friendly way, what seemed to me to be four main challenges:

  • Length – At nearly 700 pages (not counting the adjunct materials), the Catechism can intimidate by its sheer size, and so these study materials are divided into manageable sessions, each covering about 15 pages of the Catechism.
  • Density – Not only is the Catechism long, but virtually every paragraph is packed with meaning. That is its richness, but also its challenge. Even after reading just 10-20 pages, you can find yourself saying, “That was beautiful, but help me remember what I just read!” And so each session in these resources offers a concise summary of the main points covered.
  • Vocabulary – The Catechism uses a fair bit of beautiful “Church language.” Again, that is both a blessing and a challenge. Even if a Catholic has heard a particular expression many times – such as “Paschal Mystery” – he or she may have only a vague sense of what it means. And so each study session contains a Vocabulary aid explaining those words and expressions.
  • Loftiness – The Catechism speaks the riches of the Faith with eloquent beauty. But we need to be able to come down from the heights of theological discourse to the nitty-gritty of our daily lives. And so each session begins and ends with prayer and contains discussion questions and a “Growth in Discipleship” section that stimulate personal reflection and application.

The feedback I’ve been receiving on Unlocking the Beauty of the Catechism (available at the “Store” on this website) has been very encouraging. Here are a few samples:

“We’re sailing along with our Catechism study and we haven’t lost anybody from about 30 who are participating. They enjoy what they are doing and the discussion questions are the key driver. We’ve had very good talks and it’s been fun.”

Jay Reszka – Social Ministries and RCIA, St. Pius X Parish, Aurora, CO

“The vocabulary at the end of every session is great – it helps and teaches at the same time. I even used some of the vocabulary in a weekly multiple-choice ‘do you know’ exercise for our bulletin. We had a person in one group who had gone through the RCIA two years ago but was still hungry for more, and after doing this study she is just on fire for spreading the Catechism to others. She kept saying, ‘How can we get everyone in our parish to read this book?!’”

Mary Luedtke – Coordinator of Religious Education, St. Mary’s Parish, Neillsville, WI

“I wanted to do something on the Catechism and didn't see other resources out there that were designed for parishes with the depth that Unlocking the Beauty of the Catechism has. The format works well, it has useful summaries, and it is really strong on discussion, which has been going very well. It really applies the theology of the Church to everyday life.”

Phil Kosloski – Director of Adult Formation, Ss. Peter and Paul Parish, Wisconsin Rapids, WI