The previous article was the final installment in a series of 160 articles which treated each section of the Catechism of the Catholic Church.
The series began more than four years ago focusing on the first part of the Catechism which deals with the profession of faith, in particular the Apostles' Creed. Then it jumped to the back of the book to examine the section on Christian Prayer, followed by Celebrating the Christian Mystery (liturgy and sacraments) and then Life in Christ (morality).
Sometimes attacked as an attempt to drag the Church back into an earlier era, the Catechism is actually the greatest fruit of the Second Vatican Council.
It oozes Vatican II out of its pores and carries out the central task of the council -- "to guard and present better the precious deposit of Christian doctrine in order to make it more accessible to the Christian faithful and to all people of good will."
If the Catechism has a fault, it is its lack of accessibility. Its style is that of Vatican documents, full of long sentences and technical terms aimed at avoiding ambiguity in Church teaching.
It provides an organic presentation of the Catholic faith. But, to whom?
Well, ultimately, to bishops and theologians and the writers of "local" catechisms. That is one reason why I chose to write this series. The Catechism of the Catholic Church was not intended to be a catechism as we often understand the word. It is more a compendium or manual of the Church's essential teachings than a book to instruct ordinary Catholics in those teachings.
The Catechism itself called for local or national catechisms to be written to explain those teachings in ways most suitable to particular times and places. My series of articles was a step in that direction, an attempt to make the Catechism's teachings more intelligible to the large and varied readership of the WCR.
The overwhelming feedback I've received to this series of articles -- well beyond my expectations -- shows a hunger among the Catholic people of Alberta to learn more about their faith.
In more than 20 years as a journalist, I've never written anything which has drawn the level of positive response I've had to these articles. That is testimony not to the brilliance of the author, but to the desire of Catholic people to know more about their Church's teachings.
Now this series is finished. But the job of bringing the Catechism's teachings to life in the hearts of ordinary people continues. Today's world badly needs the ever-ancient, ever-new teachings of the Catholic Church. It badly needs the "new evangelization" about which Pope John Paul has spoken so often.
Formerly Christian countries have lost the faith both in the lives of the people and in the laws of the nation. The pope has called us to re-evangelize those nations and usher in a new springtime of faith.
This new evangelization will sink much deeper roots in people's hearts than did the first evangelization. It will create saints and it will transform the cultures of whole nations.
This is a heady task. Absolutely essential to that task is a proper presentation of the Catholic faith to huge numbers of people. If we successfully carry this out, our lives will be changed, we will see the world through new eyes and society itself will be shaken with a new energy.
Almost daily we see the need for this new evangelization. Innocent teens are slain in their schools, new reproductive technologies threaten to degrade the person into a thing, barbaric wars rage in supposedly Christian nations, and other Christian countries murder the unborn in the womb.
Marriage breakdown is rampant, understandings of the family which contradict human dignity are enshrined in law, and the holy link between sex and procreation has been shattered. We end up with a vast and growing gulf between rich and poor nations, millions of children raised in poverty at home, and generations of young people confused and lacking identity.
This is not what Jesus Christ wanted. Jesus wanted us to have life and we live in a society which often reflects a culture of death.
It is too much to expect the Catechism alone will heal our trauma. But it does represent an important step. A step which can be taken after the initial spark of the love of God has been lit in a soul. A step which will move love to well-grounded action to transform a hurting world.
Woven into the Catechism's instruction in faith are quotes from 67 men and women whose only authority to speak grew not out of their office in the Church, but from personal sanctity. These holy ones put faith into action. And perhaps their presence in the Catechism will inspire us to do the same.
For the new evangelization needs saints more than thinkers, holy ones more than those who are merely well instructed. May this new evangelization above all inspire a time of new ardour, new witness and an explosion of sainthood testifying to the goodness of God and the dignity of the human person. It is such sainthood which is the true hope for our broken world.
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