Catechism stands as a light in the darkness Print
Bishop Hying's Column
Written by Bishop Donald J. Hying, Bishop of Madison   
Thursday, Oct. 17, 2019 -- 12:00 AM
Bishop Donald J. Hying's column

I was blessed to do a series of talks on the Catechism of the Catholic Church recently at St. Dennis Parish. I was impressed with the intense interest and attendance level every night.

People are hungry to learn more about the Faith and to put it into practice. Copies of the Catechism flew off the back table at an inspiring rate, which made this bishop’s heart very happy!

Compilation of Catholic Faith

Emerging as an idea from Saint John Paul II in 1985, the Catechism of the Catholic Church was almost 10 years in the making and is the first official compilation of the Catholic Faith since the Council of Trent in the 16th century.

Divided into four parts, the Catechism focuses on the Creed, the Sacraments, the Ten Commandments, and the “Our Father”. In other words, what we believe, how God shares His life with us, how we live in response to His grace, and how we pray.

In every parish I served, I would buy hundreds of copies of the Catechism, sell them to the parishioners for $5 a piece, and then hold classes. Interest was always intense.

By quoting John 17:3 “Father . . . this is eternal life, that they may know you, the only true God and Jesus Christ whom you have sent” in the Prologue, the authors of the Catechism remind us that the sole purpose of our life is to know, serve, and love God and that Jesus is the Door through whom we enter into the saving life of the Most Holy Trinity.

To fall more deeply in love with God and to steadily reorder our entire existence around His love for us is the process of conversion and the stuff of which saints are made.

Age of great confusion

We live in an age of great confusion. People question the divinity and uniqueness of Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. Many people, even some leaders in the Church, dissent from the Church’s teachings on life and sexuality.

There is a widespread rejection of absolute moral norms in our culture, and any assertion of such is met with accusations of intolerance, hatred, and imposition of religious belief. Politicians running for the presidency are positing that any church which does not surrender to the vagaries of the sexual revolution should have their tax-exempt status revoked.

A light in the darkness

In the midst of such moral chaos and intellectual confusion, the Catechism serenely stands as a light in the darkness, as an objective reference point regarding Catholic teaching.

What I have always appreciated both about our Faith and its exposition in the Catechism is its astounding clarity. Not everyone understands and knows the Faith. Not everyone agrees with its doctrines. None of us live up to its ideals.

Nevertheless, we have a sure and certain guide to lead us to the fullness of revelation which has been given to us by Jesus Christ Himself, as revealed through the Church He founded. Used as a complement to the Holy Scriptures, the Catechism is a sure and certain roadmap to the Kingdom of Heaven, a users’ manual to help us become excellent Catholics who are serious about Christian discipleship.

God never gives up on us

The Catechism reminds us that long before we even know God, He has already come in search of us, to save us and seek us out. I am thinking of the Parables of the Good Shepherd, the Lost Coin, and the Prodigal Son. In all of salvation history, we see God creating us in original goodness, humanity choosing to sin, God never giving up on us, and God ultimately restoring us to life and grace through Jesus Christ.

Our response to this gratuitous mercy, our decision regarding God’s invitation to enter into relationship with Him or not is literally an eternal life or death matter. The Catechism lays out this fundamental proposal of faith with intellectual clarity, burning charity, and moral urgency, encouraging all of us to live the abundant life of the Gospel by quoting the Scriptures, the Church Fathers, and the Saints to great effect.

My great hope would be that every Catholic in our Diocese would own, study, and live the Catechism. It narrates the great love story of God’s passionate desire for our salvation. With the exception of the Bible itself, what other book would be so worthy of our study and practice?