By Alissa Thorell
Catechism specialist for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Secretariat of Evangelization and Catechesis
To honor the fiftieth anniversary of the Second Vatican Council and the twentieth anniversary of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, Pope Benedict XVI has announced a Year of Faith. It began October 11, ends November 24, 2013, and is meant to strengthen the faith of Catholics and draw the world to faith by their example.
            The pope has encouraged Catholics to study the Catechism for as part of the Year of Faith. Alissa Thorell, catechism specialist for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Secretariat of Evangelization and Catechesis, offers “Five Things Catholics Should Know About the Catechism” to help Catholics better understand this book and its significance in their faith. Thorell explains:
            1. It’s universal in its scope. The Catechism of the Catholic Church is the first book of its kind in 450 years, an effort by the world’s bishops to convey the content of the Catholic faith to the whole Church and the whole world. Following the Second Vatican Council (1962-65), it was important for the Church to present its teachings for Catholics living in the modern world.
            2. It’s universal in its content. The Catechism compiles the living tradition of the Catholic Church and divides it into four sections: what Catholics believe (the Creed), how the faith is transmitted (worship and sacraments), how Catholics are called to live (moral life) and prayer. The contents of these four parts are interwoven, providing an organic presentation of the faith.
3. It’s a resource for education. The main goal of the Catechism is to help bishops, pastors, catechists, parents and all who teach the faith. It provides a foundation that encourages dioceses to draw their own teaching materials from it.
            4. It’s an invitation to prayer. The Catechism draws from the richness of Catholic tradition, including the lives of the saints, the teaching documents of the Church and Scripture. This makes it not only useful for learning about the Catholic faith, but for growing in one’s faith through meditation and prayer.
            5. It’s for Catholics of all ages. Learning and living the faith is an ongoing process throughout a person’s entire life, and the Catechism can help Catholics come to know and love Christ. At almost 700 pages, the Catechism can be intimidating, but it also has helpful summaries of its contents throughout, and another, the Compendium of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, gives a section-by-section breakdown of the Catechism, making it even more accessible to readers.
More information on how Catholics can live the Year of Faith is available online:
Photos courtesy of Catholic News Service.