Welcome to the study of the Catechism of the Catholic Church.
Since the invention of the printing press in 1450, the Catholic Church has written the catechism as a way to present to the faithful a summary of Catholic beliefs. The word Catechism comes from a Greek word that means “to echo.” Knowledge of the catechism helps us to “echo” forth the Church’s beliefs.
The most recent universal catechism, called the Catechism of the Catholic Church, was promulgated by the late Pope John Paul II in 1992. This 800-page book was written primarily for bishops and professional teachers of the faith. But, of course, anyone can benefit from studying it.
When issuing the universal Catechism of the Catholic Church, John Paul II encouraged countries to write a National Catechism which would speak more directly to local situations and cultures. Responding to this exhortation, the United States Catholic Conference of Bishops produced in 2006 the United States Catholic Catechism for Adults. This 600+ page book is an easier read than the universal Catechism.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church is divided into four parts, sometimes called the “Four Pillars” of the Church.
Part One ― The Creed: The Faith Professed
Part Two ― The Sacraments: The Faith Celebrated
Part Three ― Christian Morality: The Faith Lived
Part Four― Prayer: The Faith Prayed
I have written 28 articles on the “four pillars” of the Catechism. In the course of writing these articles, I was especially aware of explaining Catholic beliefs not stated explicitly in the Bible, e.g., Purgatory, Marian doctrines. I also tried to bring a pastoral approach to the articles. For example, in my article on the Eucharist, I name five behaviors that will help us to become more fully engaged in the Mass. In my article on the Sacrament of Reconciliation, I respond to six questions often asked about this sacrament.
Below you will find: (Scroll down)
The articles are appropriate for anyone wanting to grow in their understanding and appreciation of the beliefs of the Catholic Church. They will be especially helpful to RCIA groups, faith formation catechists, and any small groups looking for resource material.
“Fr. Tobin’s articles are a helpful tool for Catholics to grow in a deeper knowledge of the faith and to be able more readily to share it with others. I recommend this as a valuable catechetical resource.”
— Cardinal Donald Wuerl
“Fr Tobin’s catechism articles are an excellent and comprehensive catechetical resource for all involved in faith formation in our parishes. It is the handout that every RCIA catechist should give to catechumens; it is the handout that every catechist should give to all adults in faith formation. It is a thorough, easy to read summary of the basic tenets of faith as set forth in the Catechism of the Catholic Church. It is a “must have” treasure that should be part of all adult faith formation curriculum.”
— Mary Birmingham, national clinician in RCIA ministry, author of Word and Worship Workbook, series Years A,B,C; Year Round Catechumenate; Faith, Life and Creed: A Complete Catechesis for Christian Life (TEAMRCIA.COM); Formed in Faith; Confirming Adult Catholics and Purified and Enlightened.
(For her year-round catechetical sessions, Faith, Life, & Creed, visit http://teamrcia.com)
“Be sure to take advantage of Fr. Tobin’s articles on the Catechism. He is a master teacher, with a pastor’s heart.”
— Fr. Alfred McBride,O.Praem – Author of Essentials of the Faith
"We wholeheartedly recommend to small groups the use of Fr. Tobin’s articles on the Catechism of the Catholic Church. The teachings in these lessons are down-to-earth explanations and help to make sense of what we have read in the catechism. The “Pause boxes”, with thought provoking questions, always make for some lively discussions."
— Diane Hankle and Virginia Gallo, Women’s Bible Study Facilitators at St. Helen’s Catholic Church (Vero Beach, FL)
Here you will find 28 lessons on the Catechism. The universal Catechism and the United States Catechism are referenced in each lesson in the following way: “C” stands for the Catechism of the Catholic Church and is followed by the referenced paragraph number/s (e.g. C142-184); “USC” stands for the United States Catechism, and is followed by the referenced chapter/s or page number/s (USC Ch 1 or USC p.4).
**Part 1 (11 articles) were updated in June 2016 after Father Eamon's Catechism discussion sessions.**
THE CATECHISM, PART ONE. THE CREED: THE FAITH PROFESSED
Part One comprises eleven Lessons.
Lesson One. Divine Revelation and Our Faith Response. What do we mean by Divine Revelation? How has our invisible God revealed himself to us? How are we to respond to his revelation? What is faith? Is Catholic faith different from Protestant faith? This Lesson gives a brief summary of ten aspects of Catholic faith.
Lesson Two. Sacred Scripture, Sacred Tradition and the Church. Confronting the Sola Scriptura Issue. How are the contents of Divine Revelation faithfully transmitted from one generation to another? Our Protestant brothers and sisters would answer: “through the Bible.” The great clarion cry of the Protestant Reformation was “sola scriptura,” or “scripture alone.” In contrast, the Catholic Church looks to Scripture, Tradition, and the Church as the way to faithfully transmit the teachings of Christ. This is a very important lesson for all who wish to learn how Scripture, Tradition, and the Church are linked. These are essential for understanding why Catholics have certain beliefs not explicitly mentioned in the Bible, e.g., purgatory, certain beliefs about Mary and the saints, etc.
Lesson Three. The Mystery of God. Who is God? How did belief in the doctrine of the Trinity develop and how has the Church sought to express this inexpressible truth? What are the five “proofs” of God’s existence according to the great medieval theologian, St. Thomas Aquinas? What are other beliefs about God?
Lesson Four. Creation of All that is Visible and Invisible. Where did we come from and where are we going? Can Catholics believe in evolution? Where did angels and demons come from? What is special about the creation of human persons? Why does a loving God allow evil and suffering? What is original sin? Why does the Church believe in it when it is not mentioned in the Bible? What do we mean when we say we are born with original sin?
Lesson Five. Jesus (Part One): Son of God and Son of Mary, Fully Human and Fully Divine. Why did God decide to join the human race? Why were Jesus’ early years lived in obscurity? What was the central theme of Jesus’ mission on earth? Did Jesus have brothers and sisters? What are miracles and exorcisms? How did the Church come to believe that Jesus is both human and divine?
Lesson Six. Jesus (Part Two): Salvation in Christ, His Death, Resurrection and Ascension. Was it God’s will that Jesus die a cruel death for us? If so, what does that say about God? Why do we proclaim in the Apostles’ Creed that “[Jesus] descended into hell”? What is the meaning of the cross for our lives? What is the significance of the Resurrection and Ascension? What does it mean to be “saved?”
Lesson Seven. The Holy Spirit, Our Divine Guide and Strength. Who is the Holy Spirit? Was there a Holy Spirit in the Old Testament? What was the role of the Holy Spirit in the life of Jesus and the early Church? What are the “gifts” and “fruits” of the Holy Spirit? How can we develop a relationship with the Holy Spirit? What are the four scripture images of the Holy Spirit?
Lesson Eight. The Church (Part One): The Sacrament of God’s Love and Salvation. What is the basis for the teaching that the Church was planned by God, founded by Jesus and sanctified by the Holy Spirit? What are five scripture images of the Church? What make up the Church’s membership, ministries and hierarchical structure? What is papal infallibility?
Lesson Nine. The Church (Part Two): The Four Marks of the Church. What are the four marks or signs of the Church? How do these marks help to distinguish her from heretical or false churches? What are some of the ways we can respond to the call for Church reunification? Is salvation exclusive to Catholic Christians only? What about non-Catholics? Non-Christians? Non-believers?
Lesson Ten. Mary the Mother of Jesus and the Mother of the Church. Why is Mary often called “the Mother of the Church”? Why does the Catholic Church pay so much attention to Mary? What are the four Marian doctrines proclaimed by the Church although they are not explicitly mentioned in Scripture? Do Catholics worship Mary? What are some of the devotions to Mary?
Lesson Eleven. What Will Happen to Us After Death? The Last Things. Does the Church believe in reincarnation? What is meant by “particular judgment”? Who will attain heaven and what will it be like? Why does the Catholic Church believe in purgatory? What are the pain and joy of purgatory? Why does an all-loving God send people to hell? What is meant by the Second Coming of Jesus? What is the communion of saints?
THE CATECHISM, PART TWO — THE SACRAMENTS, THE FAITH CELEBRATED
Part Two of the Catechism, which comprises seven Lessons, focuses on the liturgical and sacramental life of the Church, and her official public prayer in contrast to personal and private prayer.
Lesson Twelve. Introduction to the Liturgy and the Sacraments. What is the liturgy? Who celebrates the liturgy, and how, when, and where is it celebrated? What are sacraments? Why seven sacraments and not five or ten?
Lesson Thirteen. Baptism and Confirmation. Is Baptism necessary for salvation? What are the effects of Baptism on those who receive the sacrament? What are by baptism of blood, baptism of desire and baptism of implicit desire? Why does the Church baptize infants when they cannot repent of sin and profess faith in Jesus? What are the origin and essential rite of the sacrament of Confirmation? Who may receive Confirmation and what are its effects on the confirmand?
Lesson Fourteen. The Eucharist. When was the Eucharist instituted? Why does the Church believe that the Mass is a sacrifice? Wasn’t the sacrifice of Christ on the cross sufficient? What does “transubstantiation” mean? Why doesn’t the Catholic Church invite non-Catholic Christians to Holy Communion? Five behaviors that can help us to be active participants in the Mass.
Lesson Fifteen. Reconciliation. Why does the Church have the practice of private confession when this was not the practice in the early church? What are the three acts of the penitent in this sacrament? What are the spiritual effects of this sacrament? What is the “seal of confession”? Responses to seven questions frequently asked about this sacrament.
Lesson Sixteen. Anointing of the Sick. What was Jesus’ attitude towards sickness? What is meant by “redemptive suffering”? How did Vatican Council II reform this sacrament from a “sacrament for the dying” to a “sacrament of healing for the sick”?
Lesson Seventeen. Holy Orders. What is the difference between the priesthood of the laity and the priesthood of the ordained? How did the orders of deacon, priest, and bishop develop? Why doesn’t the Catholic Church ordain women? Why mandatory celibacy? Why not ordain married men?
Lesson Eighteen. Marriage. What did Jesus teach about marriage? What is meant by the term “domestic church”? What is an annulment? What is the Church’s attitude towards Catholics who marry outside the Church?
THE CATECHISM, PART THREE — CHRISTIAN MORALITY: THE FAITH LIVED.
Part Three of the Catechism is divided into two sections: Foundations of Christian Morality and the Ten Commandments.
I. FOUNDATIONS OF CHRISTIAN MORALITY
Lesson Nineteen. Foundations of Catholic Morality (Part 1). How do we use our freedom responsibly? What are the three elements of a moral act? What is conscience and how is it formed? Should one always follow one’s conscience? What is the difference between mortal and venial sins? What are the seven capital sins?
Lesson Twenty. Foundations of Catholic Morality (Part 2). What is a virtue? What are the cardinal and theological virtues? How do we promote the common good as Christians (at home, the workplace, among friends, locally and globally)? What is the role of law in Catholic morality? What is “grace” and how does it work in us?
II. THE TEN COMMANDMENTS
Lesson Twenty-One. First and Second Commandments. What does the first commandment call us to (faith, hope and love of God)? What does the second commandment call us to (reverence for God’s name)? What do both of these commandments forbid (idolatry, superstition, all forms of disrespect for God’s name, etc.)?
Lesson Twenty-Two. Third and Fourth Commandments. What do these two commandments call us to do (rest, communal worship of God, family relationships, etc.) and what do they forbid?
Lesson Twenty-Three. Fifth Commandment. Why does the Church condemn as morally wrong abortion, euthanasia, suicide, death penalty, stem cell research? What is the just war theory?
Lesson Twenty-Four. Sixth and Ninth Commandments. How do our positive and negative experiences affect our sexual formation? What is chastity? What are helpful ways to living a chaste life? What are the obstacles? What are some sins against chastity? What does the Church teach regarding family planning? What is the Church’s stand on contraception? On artificial insemination and in vitro fertilization?
Lesson Twenty-Five. Seventh and Tenth Commandments. What are the seven principles of Catholic social teaching? What are some ways we, as responsible stewards of God’s creation, can do to protect the planet and its resources? Why did Jesus warn against the danger of material riches? How do we deal with greed and envy?
Lesson Twenty-Six. The Eight Commandment. How are we called to be witnesses to the Gospel? What are three obstacles that we face as we seek to live the truth of the Gospel? Is lying a mortal sin? Is it okay sometimes to withhold the truth?
THE CATECHISM, PART FOUR — PRAYER: THE FAITH PRAYED
Lesson Twenty-Seven. Prayer (Part 1). What is prayer? What are the five traditional forms of prayer? What should we pray for? Dealing with unanswered prayer, distractions, prayer in painful times, and spiritual dryness.
Lesson Twenty-Eight. Prayer (Part 2). What do we mean by vocal, meditative and contemplative prayer? What are the seven petitions in the Lord’s Prayer?
As a way to get all participants involved, consider going around the room when it comes to responding to the questions. You can say something like: “Let’s see what spoke to you in what we have just read or let’s see your response to the “pause question”. If you are not ready to respond say “pass”.
After each person had a chance to respond to the “pause question” you can invite up the sharing for further general sharing. Does anyone have anything else to share about what we have read, anyone have any questions about what you have read? If questions are raised that you are unable to answer, contact your priest or some other competent person.
If you get into a general discussion on a particular question, you will need to keep your eye on the clock to make sure you cover most if not the whole article. The group will need to decide on the length of the meeting. (I recommend 90 minutes.)
If you have any questions about the articles and how to use them in a small group, do not hesitate to contact me.
Ongoing small groups could decide to read all twenty-eight articles over a set period. Or seasonal small groups could decide to pick and choose certain articles for study and reflection. If you choose the latter option, the following is one way to pick and choose 14 articles to be covered over two seasons.
If you have any questions about using the articles in small groups, do not hesitate to contact me. If you use the articles, I would love to know how your experience was.
Blessings on your study.
Fr. Eamon Tobin, Pastor
Ascension Catholic Church
- The Catechism of the Catholic Church
- The United States Catholic Catechism for Adults
- Catholic Christianity — Peter Kreeft
- Fr. McBride’s College Catechism — Alfred McBride, O. Praem.
- Essentials of the Faith — Alfred McBride, O. Praem.
- This is our Faith — Michael Francis Pennock
- Our Catholic Faith — Michael Francis Pennock
- The Catholic Faith Handbook for Youth. — Brian Singer-Towns
- The Essential Catholic Catechism — Alan Schreck
A special word of thanks to Fr. Alfred McBride, O Praem, world-renowned catechist and author of several books on the Catechism of the Catholic Church, who was my mentor and guide through the process of writing these articles. Fr. Al read each article and offered many suggestions along the way on how the articles could be improved. He was also most helpful in making sure that each article reflected the authentic teaching of the Church. I am personally responsible for any and all other shortcomings in the writing of these articles.