New Catechism tools enrich Year of Faith
Apps make reading the Catechism easier than ever. Shutterstock

The Year of Faith marks not only the 50th anniversary of the Second Vatican Council, but the 20th anniversary of the publication of the Catechism of the Catholic Church. Created, in the words of Blessed John Paul II, as a “valid and legitimate instrument for ecclesial communion and a sure norm for teaching the faith,” the Catechism is a fidei deposition: an expression of the deposit of the Catholic faith. 

Catholics can enrich their experience of the Year of Faith by a steady course of reading in the Catechism, and several electronic and mobile tools are available for the task. 

The first point of departure should be the text itself, with a Bible near at hand. Various editions of the Catechism in English are available on Kindle for $10, although it has not yet appeared in the Nook store. The Kindle version is readable on any Kindle device, a mobile device running the Kindle app, and Mac or PC, and has the benefit of being word-searchable. The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops offers its own epub version (also for $10) that should run on the Kindle, Nook or other devices compatible with epub files.

Navigating websites

The entire Catechism is published in English by the USCCB in an online, browser-based ebook version. This has the benefit of being free and always available to anyone with a browser and Internet connection. A pane along the side offers a complete interactive table of contents, allowing you to skip quickly to any place in the text.  

Catechism Apps
Thanks to mobile technology, people are able to explore the jewels of the Faith like never before. Vast theological collections can be carried around in a pocket for about the price of a cup of coffee. The mobile revolution is not just one of convenience or communication, but of catechism, and two fine apps are part of that process.
 
iPieta
 
(Apple iOS or Android, $3)
 
The most impressive Catholic resource for mobile devices is iPieta. Huge, both in size and scope, it demands 365 MB of storage, but earns that space by placing a staggering library of documents and prayers at your fingertips.
 
The documents are divided into four sections: Bible, Calendar, Prayers and Veritas. The Bible tab includes the full text of both the Douay-Rheims and the Latin Vulgate. You can access these separately or as an interlinear page, alternating English and Latin line-by-line.
 
The Calendar section offers both Ordinary and Extraordinary calendars, with the ability to switch between the two by shaking the device. Date, feast, readings and liturgical color are all indicated.
 
The selections included under the prayers section is vast, with separate sections for Divine Mercy, Sacred Heart of Jesus, Passion, Mass, Eucharist, Stations of the Cross, Devotions to Jesus, Holy Spirit and vast selections of Marian prayers, novenas, saints prayers and common prayers. These can be bookmarked or searched.
 
Finally, there is the Veritas tab, which includes so many complete books that they can’t even be listed here. The Fathers, council documents, St. Thomas, various Catechisms (including a link to the contemporary Catechism), and countless devotional and theological works, from the Rule of St. Benedict to the Cloud of Unknowing, are all on hand, making it the greatest (and cheapest) portable Catholic library ever. (Please note: the app is spread over several, smaller purchases for Android because Android devices can’t handle large files.)
 
Answers 4 Catholics
 
(Apple iOS or Android, $2)
 
Answers 4 Catholics takes a different approach, with the focus squarely on apologetics. It begins with a large selection of “2 Minute FAQs,” offering quick answers to questions like “Are Catholics ‘Saved’?,” “Where is the Pope in the Bible?,” “Is Purgatory in Scripture?,” and many more. These are handy summaries, mixing Scripture citations with straightforward explanations.
 
Bigger issues are covered in more depth throughout the rest of the app. Special sections tackle sola Scriptura, the sacraments, the Inquisition, pro-life arguments, veneration of Mary, rapture and more, with a generous selection of Scripture passages and apologetic summaries.
 
The app also contains streams for Catholic radio stations as well feeds from news sources, blogs, podcasts and YouTube, all of it thoroughly orthodox. Media links allow downloading of audio and video explaining various points of the faith.
 

In addition, any cross-references within the text are hyperlinked, so you can move rapidly between related sections. Each reference is hyperlinked to show up in a floating box, but (disappointingly) Scripture passages are not cross-referenced. So, you may be able to see that a footnote refers to 1 Timothy 3:15, but you can’t pop right over to that passage. The entire Catechism is found under the “Beliefs & Teachings” tab of the USCCB website. 

Matthew Warner’s Flocknote.com is a service for keeping parishes connected by harnessing email, texting, Twitter, and other social networking.  

For the Year of Faith, Warner is offering a free “Read the Catechism in a Year” program to deliver bite-sized portions of the Catechism every morning. People can read the text in their email or, if they want to explore a passage, in a little more depth, follow a hyperlink to a website of the full Catechism. Fifty thousand people are registered to participate in the reading plan. 

If users would like to comment upon or discuss the passages for the day, they can go to Flocknote.com by clicking “View/Reply” in the email. This takes you to the Web version for that passage, where people can post comments and discuss the Catechism with other users. Sign up at Flocknote.com/catechism

Worth the price

The most powerful tool for studying the Catechism in a year is Logos Bible Software, but, unlike the options mentioned so far, this one isn’t free or low-cost. Although the Logos software itself is free to download, there’s an additional cost for the books. Those who can afford one of the Catholic base packages (which start at $250 for 150 books) are able to reference a wide array of texts. For a simple study of the Catechism with a Catholic Bible for looking up citations, the cost is about $25. “The Catechism Collection” costs $50, but offers a nine-volume set that includes a Revised Standard Version Catholic Edition, Douay-Rheims, documents from the Council of Trent and the First and Second Vatican Councils and the Catechism. 

Using Logos Bible Software and their Faithlife tools, people can study the Catechism along with a group, make comments, add notes, ask questions and discuss issues. Once you connect Faithlife with your Logos software, an icon listing a few weeks of Catechism readings appears. This once-a-week approach involves slightly longer sections than Flocknote, but is still a manageable 52-week reading program. 

The Faithlife tools allow you to comment and discuss each section with other Catholics, and more than 100 are already signed up for the program. Logos offers free apps for the major mobile devices, so you can follow the reading plan and discussions. The beauty of Logos is that it hyperlinks all the biblical and other citations so you can pop to them instantly. If you have one of the bigger Logos sets, this power extends to even more citations, so if St. Thomas Aquinas is cited and you own the Summa for Logos, you can see a quote or reference in context. It’s a more expensive option than the others, but it’s also significantly more powerful. You can learn more at Logos.com/catholiclibrary

In Porta Fidei, Pope Benedict XVI’s apostolic letter announcing the Year of Faith, he urges a yearlong study of the Catechism, where Catholics can find “the wealth of teaching that the Church has received, safeguarded and proposed in her 2,000 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. 

“In its very structure, the Catechism of the Catholic Church follows the development of the faith right up to the great themes of daily life. On page after page, we find that what is presented here is no theory, but an encounter with a person who lives within the Church.” 

Given how connected we all are with social networks, mobile devices and computers, we have a rich opportunity to study the Catechism with a whole new set of tools. It’s a good way to make the most of the Year of the Faith. 

Thomas L. McDonald is a certified catechist working on his masters in theology. He blogs at godandthemachine.com.