On October 11, 1992, Pope St. John Paul II declared the Catechism of the Catholic Church “a sure norm for teaching the faith and thus a valid and legitimate instrument for ecclesial communion.”[i] Let us examine the key terms in this statement. They help us to understand the character of the Catechism.
In the previous article I wrote of the Catechism as an instrument that would help us to reconnect the fragments of the faith back into a living whole.[ii] In other words, it is an instrument fitted for bringing about ecclesial communion. In the situation of the new evangelization, many whom we catechize live without a strong awareness of the organic wholeness of the Catholic faith, its beauty, symmetry, and coherence. They have even less recognition that this organic wholeness of the faith flows from the living Body of Christ, having God the Son as its Head. Many of the baptized and confirmed members of the Body of Christ, therefore, have only a partial understanding that the life of Christ, as Head of the Body, is available to them—his strengths, his virtues, his faculties. As St. Gregory the Great put it, “Our redeemer has shown himself to be one person with the holy Church whom he has taken to himself.”[iii]
We long for the Holy Spirit to lead those whom we catechize into a lively consciousness of this loving union that God has established with them in his Church. This union is the “marvelous exchange” that we celebrate in the Christmas season when the Creator of all became man, born of the Ever-Virgin, making us “sharers in the divinity of Christ who humbled himself to share our humanity.”[iv] Only in this way, we know, through living in the light of these truths, can the lives of those we catechize be more perfectly formed into the likeness of Christ. We long for the Holy Spirit to “indoctrinate”[v] those whom we teach—to imbue them with the teachings, the doctrines, of Christ.
The Catechism is given to us precisely for the sake of enabling such an indoctrination to make the teachings of the Church accessible and available to every member of Christ’s Body so that each can become “fully mature with the fullness of Christ himself.”[vi] We saw in the previous article how the Catechism has been carefully designed specifically to reach out to bring the saving doctrine of the faith to the “edges” and “peripheries” of the Church. This happens when we attend to those still holding to “fragments” of faith in order to gather and bring them into communion with the living whole.