GDC 122: Structure of the Catechism

This section is titled, “Structure of the Catechism of the Catholic Church.” If you know your catechism well, this will be old news.

122. The Catechism of the Catholic Church is structured around four fundamental dimensions of the Christian life: the profession of faith; the celebration of the liturgy; the morality of the Gospel; and prayer. These four dimensions spring from a single source, the Christian mystery. This is:

– the object of the faith (Part One);

– celebrated and communicated in liturgical actions (Part Two);

– present to enlighten and sustain the children of God in their actions (Part Three);

– the basis of our prayer, whose supreme expression is the Our Father, and the object of our supplication, praise and intercession (Part Four); (Fidei Depositum 3d)

This four part structure develops the essential aspects of the faith:

– belief in the Triune God and in his saving plan;

– sanctification by him in the sacramental life;

– loving him with all one’s heart and one’s neighbour as oneself;

– prayer while waiting for the coming of his Kingdom and our meeting with him face to face.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church thus refers to the faith as believed, celebrated, lived and prayed. It is a call to integral Christian education. The structure of the Catechism of the Catholic Church derives from the profound unity of the Christian life. It maintains an explicit interrelation between “lex orandi”, “lex credendi” and “lex vivendi”. “The Liturgy itself is prayer; the confession of faith finds its proper place in the celebration of worship. Grace, the fruit of the sacraments, is the irreplaceable condition for Christian living, just as participation in the Church’s Liturgy requires faith. If faith is not expressed in works it is dead and cannot bear fruit into eternal life”. (Fidei Depositum 2e)

Structured around the four pillars (Cf.Catechism 13) which sustain the transmission of the faith (the Creed, the Sacraments, the Decalogue, the Our Father), the Catechism of the Catholic Church is presented as a doctrinal point of reference for education in the four basic tasks of catechesis, (Cf. Part One, chap. 3) and for the drawing up of local catechisms. It does not, however, impose a predetermined configuration on the one or on the other. “The best structure for catechesis must be one which is suitable to particular concrete circumstances and cannot be established for the entire Church by a common catechism”. * Perfect fidelity to Catholic doctrine is compatible with a rich diversity of presentation.

* H.E. Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, Il Catechismo della Chiesa Cattolica e l’otttsimo dei redenti in J. Ratzinger-C. Schönborn, Brief introduction to the Catechism of the Catholic Church (original title Kleine Hinfürung zum Catechismus der Katolischen Kirche, München 1993) Roma 1994, pp. 26-27.

I remember when the Catechism was released some surprise that it was structured with an eye to matters other than morality or abstract teaching. It wasn’t alphabetized, like an encyclopedia. It actually bears up well being read cover to cover. (Though perhaps not at one sitting.)

Particularly laudable is the emphasis on the four pillars of belief, liturgy, lived faith, and prayer. And I also like the notion that doctrinal fidelity goes hand in hand with a flexibility of presentation. Thanks, Cardinal Ratzinger. Comments?

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About catholicsensibility

Todd and his family live in Ames, Iowa. He serves a Catholic parish of both Iowa State students and town residents.
This entry was posted in General Directory for Catechesis, post-conciliar catechetical documents. Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to GDC 122: Structure of the Catechism

  1. For those who feel daunted by the Catechism, there is now the Youcat. Although it follows the same outline as the the Catechism, the Youcat is aimed at youth, and as such, it is written in much more accessible language. Each entry in the Youcat also has a reference to the appropriate pargraph in the catechism.

    What I liked best about the Youcat were the supporting quotes from scripture, the saints and other doctors of the Church in the margins. I found these really helped understand how the Church has founded its teachings based on the ever eveolving revelation being made to the Church through the Holy Spirit.

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