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What is the Catechism anyway? How can I use the Catechism? How does it teach me the Catholic faith?

txt-01catechism-uscca[H]istorically the term catechism has acquired a variety of meanings. It comes from a Greek word that means “to echo.” Before the invention of the printing press in 1450, in the Church and elsewhere learning was mainly an oral experience. A Church teaching would be recited, and the listener would be instructed to “echo” it, or repeat it, until it was learned. This way of learning has been around since before the Church. Jewish teachers from both before and after the time of Jesus taught the Scriptures by again and again asking the learner to repeat verses.

The invention of the printing press made it possible to adapt the “speak and echo” method of catechesis into a question-and-answer approach that could be fixed in print. The Church adopted this approach. It is especially evident in the influential catechisms of St. Peter Canisius (1521-1597) and St. Robert Bellarmine (1542-1621).

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The goal of the Catechism of the Catholic Church is to help facilitate the lifelong conversion of the whole person to the Father’s call to holiness and eternal life. At its heart is the celebration of the Christian mysteries, especially the Eucharist and the life of prayer. Users of the Catechism are called to witness Christ, the Church, and God’s Kingdom of salvation, love, justice, mercy, and peace in the world.

While the Catechism is addressed to a number of audiences—bishops, priests, teachers, writers—it is meant for all the faithful who wish to deepen their knowledge of the Catholic faith. Further, it is offered to every person who wants to know what the Catholic Church teaches.

The United States Catholic Catechism for Adults is an adaptation of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, and it is presented to Catholics of the United States who are members of both Latin and Eastern Churches, with the understanding that the Eastern Churches may develop their own catechisms for adults emphasizing their own traditions.

This text follows the Catechism’s arrangement of content: “The Creed”; “The Sacraments”; “Moral Life”; and “Prayer.” It emphasizes the Trinity, Jesus Christ, the Sacraments, moral principles, and the heritage of the Doctors and saints of the Church. It is an organic and systematic expression of the Apostolic Tradition, expressed in an inspired way in Sacred Scripture and authoritatively interpreted by the Magisterium of the Church. This text also reflects the sacramental language, practice, and discipline of the Eastern Churches to the degree necessary to provide basic information to Latin Catholics about the Eastern Churches.

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It is our hope that this United States Catholic Catechism for Adults will be an aid and a guide for deepening faith. It may serve as a resource for the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults and for the ongoing catechesis of adults. It will also be of interest for those who wish to become acquainted with Catholicism. Finally, it can serve as an invitation for all the faithful to continue growing in the understanding of Jesus Christ and his saving love for all people.

You can read more from the United States Catholic Catechism for Adults, order your own copy, or read questions about it at the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops website.

Copyright © 2006, United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, Washington, D.C. All rights reserved. No part of this work may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the copyright holder.