A Guide to Catechisms
Catechisms – A Primer
If you’ve ever walked into a Catholic store and ventured over to the Catechism section, you’ve discovered there’s not just one book bearing the title ‘Catechism.’ How do you decide which one to buy? This primer will help you discover which Catechism (or Catechisms) suits your needs.
(Although this overview focuses on and explains the various available catechisms for adults, Aquinas and More does also carry children’s Catechisms.)
The Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2nd Edition – This is the official English language Catechism for the Catholic Church, revised in accordance with the official Latin text promulgated by Pope John Paul II. A catechism, the term derived from ancient Greek usage, is a summary and exposition of doctrine. The Catechism of the Catholic Church is a resource book, and contains a glossary and thorough analytical index to make it easy to find a particular topic. It is ideal for every Catholic household to have a copy of the Catechism of the Catholic Church.
Compendium of the Catechism – Due to the length and resource-style format of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, it can seem a somewhat daunting tome to delve into. To remedy this and help Catholics to understand their faith and the Catechism more fully, the Compendium of the Catechism of the Catholic Church was published. It is a condensed form of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, ideal for use in studying the fuller Catechism and as an aid in studying or teaching the core fundamentals of Catholic doctrine. Its “Q and A” format makes it a valuable resource for any Catholic and would also be a great tool for new converts or for non-Catholics seeking to learn about the faith of the Church.
Upon the publishing of the Compendium, Pope Benedict XVI said:
“The Compendium, which I now present to the Universal Church, is a faithful and sure synthesis of the Catechism of the Catholic Church. It contains, in concise form, all the essential and fundamental elements of the Church’s faith.”
The United States Catholic Catechism for Adults – This Catechism, published by the USCCB, is a guide based on the Catechism. The format, wording and layout are intended to make the book easy to read. The United States Catholic Catechism for Adults contains a concise form of the Church’s statements on Catholic doctrine, as well as additional discussion questions, meditations and prayers. It is especially popular as a teaching aid, for example within an RCIA setting.
The Aquinas Catechism – The Aquinas Catechism is a simple explanation of the Catholic faith in the words of St. Thomas Aquinas, considered the greatest Catholic theologian. Unlike with the Summa Theologica, Thomas did not sit down to pen this Catechism. He preached a very profound series of sermons throughout Lent of the final year of his life. These powerful sermons were written down by Reginald of Piperno. They were spoken in Thomas’s native Neapolitan dialect and directed at all the faithful Christians, not within a scholarly setting. This makes it, even in the English translation, a readable, accessible resource.
Catechism of Trent – The Catechism of the Council of Trent, promulgated in 1556, is also known as The Roman Catechism. As the name implies, it was commissioned by the Council of Trent. When published, it was not intended for the home but to be a tool for clergy to use in teaching the people. Today it remains a highly-regarded tool for both priests and the laity. However, it does not sit in place of the Catechism of the Catholic Church. The newer Catechism of the Catholic Church contains information and examples pertinent to our time, and is updated to reflect current practices that differ from those of the 16th century.
St. Joseph People’s Catechism – The St. Joseph People’s Catechism is another book that, similar to the Compendium, is a concise summary of Catholic faith. Its simple and straightforward style and “question and answer” format makes it a good resource for those first approaching the Faith. Unlike the Compendium, since it was published before the Catechism of the Catholic Church, it is naturally not based on the newer complete and updated Catechism.
A Scriptural Catechism – The book A Scriptural Catechism is primarily intended as a study or teaching aid on the subject of relating the aspects of the Catholic faith to Scripture. It is indexed to the Catechism of the Catholic Church and is meant to be a guide and companion to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, not a replacement of it. A Scriptural Catechism is a short guide and overview of the central teachings of the Church combined with related quotes from Scripture.
The Pocket Catechism – The St. Joseph Pocket Catechism is, as the title suggests, a pocket-sized booklet. It is very brief and concise, and, as such, is not detailed enough to replace a full, standard Catechism. It is, however, a handy little guide to keep in a pocket or purse or even the desk drawer at work. The simple wording and format also make it useful for parents to use in teaching the basics of the Faith to young children or answering impromptu questions from non-Catholic acquaintances.