Question: I read an article recently that described a new catechism for youth called YOUCAT. Do you know of this catechism, and what is your opinion of it?
— Name withheld, St. George, Utah
Answer: Though I only received it in the mail a few weeks ago, I have already added YOUCAT — Youth Catechism of the Catholic Church — to my list of favorite books. It is bright, crisp, clear, substantial and comprehensive. It could be a great supplemental work for the catechetical sessions of the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults or for any Catholic who would like to have a resource of the faith at hand.
The 300-page work, based on the 1992 Catechism of the Catholic Church, is now the official catechism for Catholic youth. The team of authors and editors who put the work together did so under the leadership of Cardinal Christoph Schönborn of Vienna, who was the general editor of the Catechism. The book is written in a language suitable for young Catholics, and deals with the whole body of Catholic faith, following the structure of the Catechism of the Catholic Church. Naturally, it does not have the breadth and depth of the Catechism; nevertheless, it packs a lot of material into a relatively small space.
YOUCAT is structured in a question-and-answer format, and each chapter refers the reader to the relevant sections of the Catechism of the Catholic Church. A commentary after each answer is meant to provide the reader additional food for thought. The margins of each page contain very useful features, including pictures, summary definitions, quotations from the Bible, quotations from saints and a great variety of commentaries on the faith, including quotes from nonreligious figures. The general appearance and layout is fresh and attractive.
YOUCAT (Ignatius, $19.95) carries an enthusiastic letter of recommendation of Pope Benedict XVI and has already been translated into a number of languages. The pope writes: “Study this Catechism! This is my heartfelt desire. Study this Catechism with passion and perseverance. Study it in the quiet of your room; read it with a friend; form study groups and networks; share with each other on the Internet. ... You need to be more deeply rooted in the faith than the generation of your parents.”
YOUCAT should become the basis for youth catechesis and youth ministry, for sacramental preparation, for Catholic school classes in the faith and for parish Sunday School sessions. I know of no resource like it. (My only complaint is that it sticks to the gender language of “men” and “man” when speaking of the human race. No doubt this will be a turn-off for some Catholic young women.)
This book is, in my opinion, the most significant work of a catechetical nature produced since the Second Vatican Council. Looking back over the past 50 years since the Council, it is difficult to be enthusiastic about the catechetical resources that have been in use. Even those produced more recently in light of the Catechism of the Catholic Church are very far from satisfactory. Having reviewed over the last decade the texts that are commonly used today, I remain convinced that there is a serious crisis in catechetics. In my opinion, we need a new beginning in catechetics, perhaps a “reform of the reform.” Maybe YOUCAT will spur the renaissance; but it will need the systematic and constant initiative of bishops and pastors to make this happen.
Msgr. M. Francis Mannion is a priest and theologian of the Diocese of Salt Lake City. Send your questions to Pastoral Answers, Our Sunday Visitor, 200 Noll Plaza, Huntington, IN 46750 or to firstname.lastname@example.org. Letters must be signed, but anonymity may be requested.