Last week we saw an historical background to the teachings, writing, homilies and allocutions of such great thinkers as St. Augustine, St. Peter Canisius, St. Robert Bellarmine and others which were the basis of the catechism of the Council of Trent. From that time on all publications used in the teaching of the faith were based on the teaching and format of that catechism. The word "catechetics" is a term of 19th century origin describing that branch of pastoral theology devoted to ordering the principles of religious pedagogy as they apply in extra liturgical formation in Christ through the initiation into the mysteries of faith. It is allied to homiletics and pastoral liturgy, the theological disciplines that govern the formation of Christians within a context of formal worship.
Catechetical congresses were held throughout the years in Vienna, Munich, Milan and Rome among others. In the United States the Religious Education Association was founded at the University of Chicago in 1903. With it the Religious Education movement was launched to promote a new methodology, new materials, a new philosophy and a new understanding, in the teaching of the faith, particularly to the young. This was a direct fall-out from the structure of the Baltimore Catechism which had been approved at the Council of Baltimore in the 1860s. That Catechism had 421 questions in 37 chapters and more than 72 pages. Although that catechism had been intended as a structure, questions and answers forming the catechism familiar to a generation ago who learned their religion through question and answer, beginning with "Who made you? God made me. Why did God make you? God made me to know him, to love and to serve him in this world so that we would be happy with him in the next." In 1941 there was a revision of the Baltimore Catechism and that remained in use in the U.S. for almost the next four decades. At a Synod of Bishops in 1985 a proposal was made to approve a new catechism for use in the universal Church. It appeared first in French in 1992.
Subsequently an English translation was published in 1994. In September of 1997, the Latin Typical Edition was approved and promulgated by Pope John Paul II incorporating the addition of 100 more pages featuring an analytical index translated from the Latin text, a glossary of terms and the decree of promulgation of the official Latin text. The Catechism is the first new compendium of Catholic doctrine regarding faith and morals in more than 400 years and stands, in the words of Pope John Paul II as "a sure norm for teaching the faith" and "an authentic reference text." Anyone wishing to review the Catechism can do so in the library which we have in the Parish Center.
Fr John R. Mulvehill