By Guest Blogger Mary DeTurris Poust
People often find it hard to believe that I can get so enthusiastic about the Catechism of the Catholic Church. I mean, just look at it. Clocking in at almost 1,000 pages, it’s more than a little intimidating to the average Catholic. But I had the good fortune of being asked to write a book that put it all into “plain English.”
When I first began writing The Complete Idiot’s Guide to the Catholic Catechism about six years ago, I had never read the full Catechism from cover to cover. I used it more as a reference tool in my work as a Catholic journalist. Page by page, however, as I worked my way through the intricate collection of topics and teachings, I found my own faith was being renewed. Prayers I’d said my whole life suddenly took on deeper meaning. Teachings I’d never really stopped to consider became fodder for reflection.
Although I’m a lifelong Catholic, my time spent with the Catechism prompted a conversion-like experience in my own spiritual life. I’ve since heard from lots of others who read my “Idiot’s” version of the real thing and began to understand for the first time how certain Church teachings fit into a bigger picture. That wasn’t so much due to anything in particular I had done as a writer but rather what the Church had done in bringing together everything Catholics believe and the reasons behind those beliefs.
Someone recently asked me what surprised me most during my research and study of the Catechism. I think it was the fact that it so beautifully weaves together in poetic fashion all the different aspects of Catholic teaching. All the things we profess each week — often without thinking — and all the controversial things we hear only in headline our sound-bite form from the secular media are put into the context of Scripture, Apostolic Tradition, and Catholic teaching down through the ages. There’s really no way you can read the Catechism and not know what Catholics believe, which is what makes it such a great teaching tool for adults and children alike.
When I taught fourth- and fifth-grade religion classes at my parish in recent years, I’d always make sure I had a copy of the Catechism and my own Idiot’s Guide on hand. I knew that at least once during every class I’d get a difficult question or need to explain something, and there’s no better reference tool than the Catechism.
Each of my own children has a copy of my Complete Idiot’s Guide to the Catholic Catechism on their bookshelf, and we have the full version of the Catechism in a family bookcase right alongside the Bible and other spiritual reading because, as far as I’m concerned, the Catechism is essential, foundational, necessary if we want to steep ourselves and our children in the teachings of our faith and the reasons behind those teachings.
In an age of increasing secularism, knowing the “whys” behind our beliefs can help us navigate our way through the questions and doubts others will inevitably throw at us. No matter what your age, the Catechism can be – should be — the go-to guide for all things Catholic.
Mary DeTurris Poust is the author of six books on Catholic spirituality, including The Complete Idiot’s Guide to the Catholic Catechism and The Essential Guide to Catholic Prayer and the Mass. Visit her blog at www.notstrictlyspiritual.com