By Christopher Gunty
A priest discussed the Year of Faith with a group of Catholic business people at the end of Mass in late September, a few weeks before Pope Benedict XVI formally opened the year Oct. 11 at the Vatican. The priest noted that if one were to read a few pages a day of the Catechism of the Catholic Church from the start of the Year of Faith, it could be finished by the year’s closing, Nov. 24, 2013.
Oddly enough, just a few days earlier, I had found a worn, and occasionally highlighted, copy of the Catechism at a thrift store, on a day when all books there were 10 cents a piece. Since the Catechism was published 20 years ago, I have always had a copy on my desk or bookshelf, but I figured it couldn’t hurt to have another copy. You never know when you might need to look up something, or pass it along. And for a dime, how could I pass it up?
The Catechism includes 2,865 paragraphs; the latest copy I picked up has 688 pages, plus 110 pages of endnotes and indices. Breaking that into daily portions over the course of the 409 days of the “Year” of Faith, makes about seven paragraphs of reading, or less than two pages, per day. Page count may vary in other editions. The first week’s worth should take a reader through the prologue and the first chapter of the first section.
I’ve consulted the Catechism more times than I can count, and have read pertinent sections and passages, several more than a few times. Thanks to the index and concordances for the hard copy, and now, the search function on the Vatican website, it’s easier than ever to find sections germane to any topic. But I have not ever tried to read it from start to finish.
That’s going to change for the Year of Faith. I’m making a commitment to read the Catechism, start to finish, by next November. It might take 10 or 15 minutes to actually read seven paragraphs a day. Reflection time adds a little more.
However, reading the Catechism is not about rote memorization, or having an eidetic memory. Just knowing the words is not the same as taking it to heart.
Archbishop William E. Lori of Baltimore proclaimed three tasks for Catholics as he anticipated the opening of the Year of Faith with a Mass at St. Mark Parish in Catonsville Oct. 7: Believe and accept the church’s teachings. Let its truths guide our lives. Share that faith.
If we come to understand what is expected of us, we can better embrace that faith within our lives. And once we have embraced that, we can invite others to join us in a personal relationship with Christ.
The Catechism urges the same, in the prologue: “Those who with God’s help have welcomed Christ’s call and freely responded to it are urged on by love of Christ to proclaim the Good News everywhere in the world. This treasure, received from the apostles, has been faithfully guarded by their successors. All Christ’s faithful are called to hand it on from generation to generation, by professing the faith, by living it in fraternal sharing, and by celebrating it in liturgy and prayer” (CCC #3).
Plenty of resources can help you, if you decide to attempt to read the whole Catechism in 13 months. The book is available online from the usual sites; with shipping, you can get a used copy for as low as $4 or $5. You could also get lucky scanning thrift store shelves. Those who prefer digital formats can always consult the Vatican website, and electronic versions are available on iTunes and Kindle. Of course, “there’s an app for that” that includes the whole text of the Catechism. And the official Year of Faith Facebook page features news and a reflection each day from the Compendium of the Catechism of the Catholic Church.
In a year, you’ll walk through the faith: belief, the sacraments, life in Christ, and finally, prayer. The Catechism ends with a reflection and explanation of the basic prayer – the one Jesus taught his followers – the Lord’s Prayer.
I look forward to getting to that section, sometime around day 400.
For the full text of the Catechism visit vatican.va/archive/ENG0015/_INDEX.HTM. For the Year of Faith on Facebook, “like” facebook.com/YearofFaith.va