On October 11, 1992, with the apostolic constitution entitled Fidei Depositum, Pope John Paul II promulgated a new universal Catechism of the Catholic Church. In his message to the faithful he explained that the new catechism has its origins in the Second Vatican Council.
The principal task entrusted to the Council by Pope John XXIII was to guard and present better the precious deposit of Christian doctrine in order to make it more accessible to the Christian faithful and to all people of good will. For this reason the Council was not first of all to condemn the errors of the time, but above all to strive calmly to show the strength and beauty of the doctrine of the faith. “Illumined by the light of this Council”, the Pope said, “the Church… will become greater in spiritual riches and, gaining the strength of new energies therefrom, she will look to the future without fear… Our duty is… to dedicate ourselves with an earnest will and without fear to that work which our era demands of us, thus pursuing the path which the Church has followed for 20 centuries.” (Fidei Depositum)
Many American Catholics remember the Baltimore Catechism, which was published in 1885 and used almost universally in the United States to teach the basic tenets of the faith. The new catechism was not created to replace locally created texts such as the Baltimore Catechism, but rather as an authentic reference for creating future teaching materials for the faithful.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church is different than many catechisms in that it is not written in a question and answer format. Rather it is structured around what are often referred to as the “Four Pillars of the Faith”. These four pillars are:
- The Profession of Faith
- The Celebration of the Christian Mystery
- Life in Christ
- Christian Prayer
These four sections highlight the most important areas of the Christian life. The first section focuses on what we believe and closely examines the Apostle’s Creed. The second section explores the Sacraments of the Church. The third section highlights how we are to live as disciples of Christ which includes detailed explanations of each of the Ten Commandments. The fourth section takes a look at Christian prayer, ending with a beautiful reflection on the Lord’s Prayer.
Reading the Catechsim of the Catholic Church is yet another opportunity for us to grow in our faith as Catholics during this coming Year of Faith. Reflecting upon small sections each day can, over time, become the seeds of a strong Christian life.