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Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2494

Private: Year of Faith

Dr Petroc Willey

This October we begin a Year of Faith and the Holy Father has asked for a study of the Catechism of the Catholic Church.

“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,” he wrote. “Here, in fact, we see the wealth of teaching that the Church has received, safeguarded and proposed in her two thousand years of history. From Sacred Scripture to the Fathers of the Church, from theological masters to the saints across the centuries, the Catechism provides a permanent record of the many ways in which the Church has meditated on the faith and made progress in doctrine so as to offer certitude to believers in their lives of faith. (Porta Fidei 11)”

Why is this study of the Catechism so important for the life of the Church today? Because it will help each one of us to re-discover, in and through its pages, the God who is ‘infinitely perfect and blessed in himself’ as the opening phrase of the Catechism has it. This is in the end the secret of the Catechism’s beauty, its appeal and its value – simply that it allows us, in page after page, to do this. And as we read and reflect this can address our deepest need, which is for us to be able to understand and to receive God’s work of healing in our lives as he draws us unceasingly home to himself.

The Catechism is utterly faithful to the Church’s saving doctrine and to her knowledge that no human need can begin to compare to the need for God, and that no relevance can be attached to any transitory moment which ignores the one who is the same yesterday, today and forever.

John Paul, in his encyclical on faith and reason, argued that, without God, the human being was caught in “the constrictions of a technocratic logic”. We turn in on ourselves and lose sight of our true glory because we can no longer look up to God.  The Catechism has been given to us as the great gift of God and of his Church in order to help save us from this stultifying anthropocentrism. The Catechism reminds us, at every turn, that God is real, that he is first, and that we are his creatures. This is the Good News that we have to proclaim: God exists and he holds us in being at every moment. God exists and he is our Father. Nothing falls through his hands, not even the smallest sparrow. He reveals his face in the Person of his Son and bestows on us his Spirit as the love with which we can love him as does his Son. Blessed are those who find joy in their adoption as children of the Father.

In its proclamation of these truths the Catechism provides us with the true bedrock of the new evangelisation. And it communicates through all of the features that make it up. So, for instance, the Catechism holds to a certain ordering and weighting of the four parts of which it is composed. God in himself, and then in his work of creation, redemption and sanctification, is presented first through a proclamation and explanation of the Creed. I am reminded that I believe, not in myself or in my works, but in God and his works. I believe in God, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Then I turn to how the works of God are poured out through grace to unite me to him, to strengthen, heal and restore me in him, through the sacraments.

In the third part, a study of my daily life in Christ, I learn that even the merit of my good works is “to be attributed in the first place to the grace of God” since my good actions “proceed in Christ, from the predispositions and assistance given by the Holy Spirit” (CCC 2008).

Finally, I learn how I am to pray in Christ, to the glory of the Father. What this ordering provides us with is a grace-led morality and a dogmatic spirituality. When we read the Catechism, with its perspective and approach, we are enabled to do so always from the perspective of how we are responding, under grace, to God’s action in our lives.

Dr Petroc Willey is a parishioner of Ss Peter and Paul, Newport, Shropshire.  He is Deputy Director of Maryvale Institute and a Consultor to the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of New Evangelisation.


This article first appeared in the autumn 2012 edition of the Shrewsbury Catholic Voice.