During the next year I plan to re-read the Catechism of the Catholic Church. I first read it several years ago, before I was received into the Church. I read it that first time mainly to see what I was getting into. It was an uplifting experience, and in some ways a relief. I came to the Catechism cautiously; I was feeling drawn to the Church but was worried that I might find some doctrine to which I couldn’t give assent. I thought that one way to deal with this was simply to read through the entire Catechism and put a check mark by anything I had problems believing. Once I was done reading, I’d deal with the topics I’d checked.
Fortunately after reading a couple of hundred pages I realized I could put down my pencil. I wasn’t making any check marks, and eventually I read through the entire Catechism without making any. (Many people who have struggled with their own journey to the Church will know how fortunate I was, and I am grateful.) This isn’t to say that the Catechism doesn’t contain profound material, since the faith is full of topics that can be hard to understand, and can provide material for a lifetime of contemplation. But as I read I found that insofar as I understood these topics, I believed what the Church taught. I also found the Catechism to be a superb summary of the teachings of the Church, no matter how complex they might be.
In Porta Fidei, the apostolic letter announcing the Year of Faith we have just entered, Benedict XVI says that “knowledge of the content of faith is essential for giving one’s own assent, that is to say for adhering fully with intellect and will to what the Church proposes.” This was my reason for reading the Catechism the first time – to know what I was getting into, as I said above. He also says that “the Year of Faith will have to see a concerted effort to rediscover and study the fundamental content of the faith that receives its systematic and organic synthesis in the Catechism of the Catholic Church.” Reading the Catechism, or reading it again, would seem to be one way to respond to this call.
So I invite you to read the Catechism with me during the Year of Faith. (You have until 24 November 2013!) If you are reading it, or re-reading it, I’d love to hear about your experiences. For those who’d like to get the Catechism in daily email doses, click the green button on the right of the page. If you want a searchable online version, check out those available from the USCCB or the Vatican. And of course, there’s always good old paper!