Catechism

Introduction

The following pages are catechetical; that is to say, their purpose is to catechize, to instruct religiously, those who are listening. But what is catechism? The word is derived from the Greek verb katechein, a compound verb that means I echo downward, I shout from the top. Consequently, catechism is a sounding from above. What does that really mean? To put it plainly, it means that the voice is from Heaven. The voice of God. But does God speak to us and is He present during catechetical lessons? Do we actually hear God’s own voice? Without any doubt God is present, since He is always present anywhere and everywhere. During catechetical lessons God speaks to us through the mouth of the catechist. If we look at this more closely, catechism is the systematic teaching that teaches us what we should believe, how we should believe it, and how we should behave; that is, what our conduct should be and our deeds, and how we as Christians should worship God in order to be worthy of the name of Christian. In the first centuries of Christianity, whoever wished to become a Christian first had to receive religious instruction before being baptized. They had to learn their religion well first in order to become one of its members. But the instruction they received was not just dry knowledge. They had to accept the faith and be ready to make it a part of their life. They had to learn the right doctrines and the moral principles of their religion, and they had to know what it was they received in baptism, where they were going, what their duties and obligations were, and also what were their rights and benefits. This instruction before baptism was called catechism. Those who attended this teaching and accepted it were called catechumens. In other words, they made up the class of catechumens. The Divine Liturgy itself was divided into two parts, a part for the catechumens and a part for the faithful. The catechumens stayed only for the first part of the Liturgy. After that they would leave. They could not attend the Liturgy of the Faithful and, naturally, they were not able to receive Holy Communion, the Body and Blood of Christ, since they were not baptized and were not yet members of the Church, members of the Christian religion, members of the Mystical Body of Christ. This class or group of catechumens was later eliminated because infant baptism had been introduced. A child was baptized within a few days or months of its birth, as is still the practice today. But the neophyte or newly baptized child, even though he was baptized and was a member of the Church and of the Mystical Body of Christ, did not know his religion. He had to be instructed, even after baptism; that is, he had to be taught faith in Christ and the moral principles of his faith. This obligation to instruct the child in its religion as it grew up was the responsibility, as it is today, of the godfather or godmother with the assistance of the parents. But do all godparents and parents have a correct knowledge of the Christian religion? And are they in the position of giving good religious instruction to the child? If they are pious Christians, all is well and good, because they teach the child mainly by serving as an example. However, the Church has always felt the need to teach faith in Christ, to teach the moral principles of Christianity, and the duties and rights of Christians even to those who had already been baptized. In the pages that follow we will try in simple terms to do the same thing. Follow these lessons and you will discover what you do and do not know about our Christian religion. Pray that God will enlighten me to write correctly and will open all of our hearts to accept His teaching, His Word, as a true seed of Truth that falls on fertile soil so that it can bear plentiful fruit. O Christ, Who are the Truth, the Life, and the Way, the True Light that illuminates every one who comes into the world, make the Light of Your Divine Knowledge to shine in our hearts and open the eyes of our minds and hearts so that we may understand Your Teachings and accept Your Word. Although we are baptized, we are also sinners. Before we leave this earth in death, enable us to turn back to You, to give You our heart, to become Yours. Make us abide with You and within You, and do You abide with us. Make us become the branches joined to You, Who are the Vine, so that we may bear much fruit and work out our salvation.