Guide to Catholicism

Question: As a future Catholic (I will join the Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults program later this year), I am already reading the Catechism of the Catholic Church. I find some of it hard to understand. I saw that there is a Compendium of the Catechism. Would that be easier to read? 

— Gordon R., Wichita, Kan.

Answer: I don’t recommend that people start their study of the faith by diving headlong into the Catechism of the Catholic Church. While I recommend that every future Catholic at some point buy a copy, they should use it more as further reading to something more accessible. 

Before I deal with the Compendium, there is a very readable little book called “Handbook for Today’s Catholic” (Liguori, $4.95) that is the most readable introduction I know for those becoming Catholic. It is based on the Catechism and is fully indexed to it. This economically priced little book is a real gem and would be an excellent starting place for the study of the faith. 

As to the Compendium of the Catechism, I recommend it highly. And, yes, it is easier to read than the full Catechism. The Compendium was produced as a follow-up to the Catechism, which was published in 1992. Pope John Paul II set up a commission, under the presidency of then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, to devise a question-and-answer overview of the Catechism. 

The Compendium, published in 2005, is, in the words of Pope Benedict XVI, “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,” thus constituting a guide “which allows believers and nonbelievers alike to behold the entire panorama of the Catholic faith.” 

Missalettes at Mass 

Question: Our parish priest is dismissive of people bringing their own missalettes to Mass. He believes the Scripture readings are meant to be “declared” and publicly assimilated, so that reading along somehow inappropriately pri-vatizes the moment. What is your opinion on this? 

— Name withheld, West Virginia 

Answer: In the best of all possible worlds, readers and clergy would proclaim the Scriptures perfectly, the sound system would be first class, nobody would have a hearing problem and everybody would understand everything instantly and with complete clarity. But we don’t live in a perfect world, so it doesn’t bother me when people bring their own missals and missalettes to Mass. The bottom-line question is: Do missals and missalettes help or hinder the hearing and reception of the Scriptures? If the answer is they help, then I see no good reason not to use them. The notion that they privatize participation is, in my view, not compelling. 

At this point, however, I don’t recommend that people go out and buy new missals. As many OSV readers know, within the next couple of years a new edition of the Mass prayers will be published in English. This will make current missals for the people obsolete, and undoubtedly publishers will be bringing out new popular missals with the revised prayers. When these become available, I would recommend that every Catholic household buy one and, even if they don’t bring it to Mass, they use it to become familiar with the new prayers. 

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 mfmannion@osv.com. Letters must be signed, but anonymity may be requested.