What is the Catechism of the Catholic Church?
The Aim of the Catechism
The catechism aims at presenting an organic synthesis of the essential and fundamental contents of Catholic doctrine, as regards both faith and morals, in the light of the Second Vatican Council and the whole of the Church’s Tradition. Its principal sources are the Sacred Scriptures, the Fathers of the Church, the Liturgy, and the Church’s Magisterium
Structure of the Catechism
The plan of the catechism is inspired by the great tradition of catechisms which build catechesis on four pillars:
faith professed (the Creed),
faith celebrated (the Sacraments)
faith lived (the Commandments and Moral life),
faith prayed (Prayer).
Part One: the Profession of Faith
This section defines what it means to believe or to have faith. It explains that faith is a human response, a personal and free commitment to the self-revelation of God. God’s gratuitous and free self-revelation invites all people to the knowledge of God and the acceptance of salvation. The pinnacle of God’s self-revelation is found in the person of Christ whose message lives on in Scripture and Tradition. An individual’s response of faith is rooted in the God-given capacity to seek God in the world, especially through human persons who are made in God’s image and likeness. One of the chief functions of the Catholic community is to nurture the faith of its members.
(Hill, B. and Madges, W. The Catechism Highlights & Commentary. CollinsDove: Australia. P 20 )
Part Two: the Sacraments of Faith
Part Two presents the celebration of the mysteries of Christ’s life as expressed in the liturgical worship that is central to the church and the life of its members. The first section discusses the paschal mystery, the sacraments in general, and the celebration of the paschal mystery. Section two explains the seven sacraments. The treatment of liturgy begins with a discussion of the ‘why’ and ‘what ‘of liturgy, and explains why catechesis on the liturgy is important. The liturgy is described as the ‘work’ of God, Christ and the church. It is the commemoration of God’ saving work in history and the celebration of the mysteries of Christ’s life. These mysteries form the foundation of the seven sacraments that are celebrated by the church. The purpose of the sacraments is to help people toward holiness and to express worship to God. The sacraments confer grace by the power of God.
Liturgy is celebrated by the whole community, although not all members have the same function. Liturgy is celebrated through signs, symbols, words, actions, singing and music. These celebrations occur in various forms throughout the liturgical year.
(Hill, B. and Madges, W. The Catechism Highlights & Commentary. CollinsDove: Australia. P 62 )
Part Three: the Life of Faith
The third part of the catechism deals with Christian living and morality. It comes after the catechism’s discussion of the creed and the sacraments because the Christian life is the attempt to live out the faith with the assistance of the grace that comes through the sacraments. Section one discusses the nature of being human and the gift of salvation that brings human nature to its fulfilment and ultimate happiness. Section two explains in great detail how the Ten Commandments can be viewed as the basis of morality.
(Hill, B. and Madges, W. The Catechism Highlights & Commentary. CollinsDove: Australia. p 98)
Part Four: Prayer in the Life of Faith
This part explains the role of prayer in the Christian life. Prayer is presented as the means to respond to God’s initiative in people’s lives and as the means of maintaining a relationship with God. Without a relationship with God, the Christian life is impossible. Section one of part four discusses the role of prayer in the Christian life as well as the sources and types of prayer. Section two offers a detailed explanation for the Lord’s Prayer.
(Hill, B. and Madges, W. The Catechism Highlights & Commentary. CollinsDove: Australia. P 144)