The faith consists of more than just a catechism, but a catechism is a huge boon to nurturing a mature and intelligent faith.
While our faith consists of Scripture and prayer, a personal encounter with our Lord and an ongoing encounter with our fellow Catholics in community, the framework for this faith, the superstructure that gives it strength and resilience is the content of our belief.
That is why the most lasting legacy of John Paul II's papacy may have been the publication of the Catechism of the Catholic Church.
In many ways, it marked the beginning of the end of what In Focus this week calls "the lost generation." The Lost Generation consists of Catholics between the ages of about 30 and 50 who suffered through a time in the Church when catechetical experiments and digressions replaced a rote style of learning that had fallen into disfavor. Some endured clowns and collages. Many were deprived of the substance necessary to develop a mature understanding of the faith.
That is a generalization, of course. Even in the 1970s, there was a splendid upwelling of lay religious movements that emphasized catechesis. In 1976, Our Sunday Visitor published the first really sound post-Second Vatican Council catechism called "The Teaching of Christ," and in 1978 Pope John Paul II was elected.
The Catechism -- released in 1994 -- was the recognition by the Church that it needed a definitive articulation of its teachings that would be both true to Vatican II and to the nearly 2,000 years that preceded that council.
In less than 15 years it has become the definitive source book for a new generation of students and catechists, publishers and writers. It weaves together Scripture and Tradition, it speaks with authority, and it has lead to a reinvigoration of the teaching of the faith.
The children of that Lost Generation are now benefiting from a much better-rounded catechesis -- growing in their knowledge of Scripture and prayer and doctrine. But it remains a priority of the Church to reclaim their parents, that Lost Generation that is still searching for what it was never adequately taught.
One area gaining increasing attention is the opportunity to introduce more doctrinal teaching into Sunday homilies. A recent conference for bishops held near the University of Notre Dame focused on preaching and the Catechism. There is a growing awareness that for virtually all practicing adult Catholics, the minutes spent listening to a homily are the only minutes of religious education they will likely receive all week.
Intergenerational meetings that bring together families to be catechized can be quite successful if properly administered. And a variety of catechetical efforts ostensibly aimed at teaching the children are also tools for reaching their parents.
Catholic media of all sorts have also shown a greater willingness to deliver educational content as well as inspiration and current events. Catholic radio, television, the Internet and traditional print media are more and more see themselves sharing in Our Sunday Visitor's mission to communicate "what the Church teaches and why."
All of us are called to continually grow in knowledge of our faith. The good news is that the Church is seeking to develop many new ways of making this possible.
Please note: Comments left online may be considered for publication in the Letters to the Editor section of OSV Newsweekly.
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