CatecheticalMaterials as Faithful Resources for Church Teaching
by Sr. Catherine Dooley, OP, PhD
The Year of Faith promulgated for the Universal Church by
Pope Benedict XVI offers a new opportunity for faith communities to revisit and
renew the teachings of the Second Vatican Council. The apostolic letter Porta Fidei of Pope Benedict XVI,which introduces the Year of Faith, is in
itself an important resource for catechists. In the letter, the pope lists the
documents of Vatican II and writes that the fiftieth anniversary of the opening
of the Second Vatican Council is a good opportunity to revisit the spirit and
content of the documents. "They need to be read correctly, to be widely known and
taken to heart as important and normative texts of the Magisterium, within the
Church's Tradition" (Porta Fidei [PF],
no. 5, www.vatican.va/holy_father/benedict_xvi/motu_proprio/documents/hf_ben-xvi_motu-proprio_20111011_porta-fidei_en.html).The pope has described this Year of Faithasthe time fora renewal of a
relationship with Jesus, and for reopening the "door of faith," which was first
opened at one's Baptism. "To enter through that door is to set out on a journey
that lasts a lifetime" (PF, no. 1), but now is a good opportunity to "open
it again" and renew the relationship with Christ and his Church.
For catechists, religious educators, study groups, and individuals, the
call to reread and study the documents is not only a "good opportunity" but
also a necessary one. Some adult faith formation groups choose to read the four
Constitutions and begin with The Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy (Sacrosanctum Concilium, 1963), because it
was the first document promulgated and had a major impact on community worship.
Other groups may choose to begin with the Constitution
on the Church (Lumen Gentium,
1964),devoting particular attention
to Chapter 2, which focuses on the People of God. It may not be easy reading
for some, but it is important that, even when an overview or introduction to a
document is provided for the group, the participants read the actual documents.
Some questions for discussion might include the following:
- What do I understand by faith? What role
does faith have in my life? How do I hand on my faith?
- The purpose of the Council was fourfold:
"to impart an ever-increasing vigor to the Christian life of the faithful; to
adapt more closely to the needs of our age those institutions which are subject
to change; to foster whatever can promote union among all who believe in Christ;
and to strengthen whatever can help to call all humankind into the Church's
- Which of these goals do you think has been most
adequately achieved? What is the reason for your choice?
- What insight did I get from the document into
the meaning of the Council? What aspect of a document was the most interesting
to me? What is the significance of this document in today's world/Church/my own
promulgation of the Year of Faith and the admonition to review the spirit and
content of the documents has produced a number of resources for the study of
Vatican II. It has also renewed interest in earlier studies such as the classic
four-volume series edited by Joseph A. Komonchak and Giuseppe Alberigo,
The History of Vatican II:volume 1, Announcing and
Preparing Vatican Council II;volume
2, Formation of the Council's Identity;
volume 3, The Mature Council: Second
Period and Intercession;and volume
4, Church as Community (Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books, 1996). Another
fine commentary is by Matthew L. Lamb and Matthew Levering: Vatican II—Renewal
Within Tradition (New York: Oxford University Press, 2008).
Among the many other resources that offer insight into the profound
meaning of the Second Vatican Council for the Catholic community today are the
- Pope Benedict XVI, Theological Highlights of Vatican II (Mahwah, NJ: Paulist Press,
2009). This book is both a report and
a theological commentary on the debates and struggles that made up each of the
four sessions of Vatican II (1962-1965).
- Massimo Faggioli, True Reform: Liturgy and Ecclesiology in Sacrosanctum Concilium
(Collegeville, MN: Liturgical Press, 2012). Faggioli asserts that Sacrosanctum Concilium not only discusses
reform of the liturgy but also offers an ecclesiology for the Universal Church.
- Rita Ferrone, Liturgy: Sacrosanctum Concilium in the Rediscovering Vatican II series (Mahwah, NJ: Paulist Press, 2007).
Ferrone outlines the major concepts of the document, their implementation and
importance, and whether they have been accepted in today's Church.
- Maureen Sullivan, The Road to Vatican II: Key Changes in Theology (Mahwah, NJ: PaulistPress, 2007),and John O'Malley, et al., Vatican
II: Did Anything Happen? (New York: Continuum International Publishing,
2011). These authors discuss the contexts of the Council that were important
for the interpretation of the Council.
- William Madges and Michael J Daley, eds., Vatican II: 50 Personal Stories (Maryknoll,
NY: Orbis Books, 2003, 2012). In this publication, fifty distinguished scholars
offer their assessments of Vatican II.
Together with the documents of Vatican II, Pope
Benedict XVI named the witness of believers, whose presence and profession of
faith implies public testimony and witness, as another important source in the
renewal of the church (PF, no. 6). Knowledge of the content of faith is
essential for giving one's own assent, that is, "for adhering fully with
intellect and will to . . . the saving mystery revealed by God" (PF, no. 10).
It is for this reason that Pope Benedict XVI recommends the Catechism of the Catholic Church, which
the pope calls "aprecious and
indispensable tool" for teaching the faith and as an "instrument for ecclesial
communion" (PF, no. 11).
A helpful resource for studying the Catechism of the Catholic Church is the United States Catholic Catechism for Adults (USCCA)
(Washington, DC: United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, 2006). The USCCA
follows the outline of the Catechism of
the Catholic Church:Creed,
Sacrament, Christian Life, and Prayer. Jem
Sullivan's Study Guide for the USCCA
(Huntington, IN: Our Sunday Visitor, 2006) is a practical catechetical
counterpart to the USCCA. The Guide
presents a process for catechetical sessions rooted in the Scriptures, offers
participants an outline for studying the doctrinal aspects of faith, and
addresses current situations in society, both affirming the positive in the
culture and challenging the negative. Each chapter also includes suggestions
for further reading and study. Another resource is the website of the United
States Conference of Catholic Bishops (www.usccb.org/beliefs-and-teachings/how-we-teach/new-evangelization/year-of-faith),
which offers family resources for the Year of Faith as another way of
"strengthening faith in the family."
The following sources provide excellent guides for
adult faith study:
- Father Robert Barron,
Catholicism: A Journey to the Heart of
Faith (New York: Image Books, 2011). This book, which offers insight into
the content of faith, is also published as a ten-part DVD with study guides.
Marthaler, OFM Conv, The Creed:
The Apostolic Faith in Contemporary Theology, 3d rev. ed. (Twenty-Third
Publications, 2007). This
expanded edition provides a helpful commentary and analysis of the context and
content of the Creed.
- Luke Timothy Johnson, The Creed: What Christians Believe and Why It
Matters (New York: Doubleday, 2003) offers a history of the Creed and an
exposition of the articles of the Creed.
- The papers
delivered at a symposium at the Irish College in Rome have been published under
the title Faith, Word and Culture: Forty
Years after Vatican II (Columbia Press,
2005). The four themes of the conference were the salvific value of other
religions (Gavin D'Costa); the Bible in Catholic life (Joseph Fitzmyer, SJ);
the Irish experience regarding the Council (Dermot Lane); and the controversial
area of liturgical change (Liam Bergin).
Many publishers, including the United States Conference
of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), RCL Benziger, W. H. Sadlier, and Our Sunday
Visitor, have developed materials that not only explore the documents of the
Second Vatican Council and teach about the importance of faith but also seek to
deepen the faith life of individuals, families, and parishes:
- In conjunction
with the Year of Faith, the USCCB Office of Evangelization and Catechesis has
prepared a series of short videos and provided links to a variety of resources
that are tools for studying and understanding the documents of Vatican II and
the Catechism of the Catholic Church
- Benziger has five 60-minute DVDs that cover
some of the most significant aspects of Vatican II. The videos also include
online study guides and participant handouts. Another Benziger publication helpful
for the Year of Faith is Exploring our
Catholic Faith by Fr. Louis J. Camelli, which "aims to engage adults
in a process of learning, reflection and prayer that leads to action." The text
is correlated with the Catechism of the
Catholic Church and the United States
Catholic Catechism for Adults.
- Sadlier offers a wide variety of resources
for the Year of Faith: articles, links to other websites, webinars, a Gather in My Name event, and a
correlation of the themes of the Year of Faith to We Believe with Project
Disciple, and more.
Growing Faith Project from Our Sunday Visitor is "for adults of all ages to
continue their faith journey and grow in love and understanding of the Church."
The program consists of a facilitator's guide and a series of forty-eight books
that focus on major teachings of the Catechism.
Each book opens up one important dimension of faith.
Pope Benedict XVI reminds us that "'the door of faith' . . . is always
open for us. . . . To enter through that door is to set out on a journey that
lasts a lifetime" (PF, no. 1). Part of that journey is to come to a greater
understanding of the texts bequeathed by the Council Fathers as an important
part of personal renewal and the renewal of the Church. Faith "is the lifelong
companion that makes it possible to perceive, ever anew, the marvels that God
works for us. . . . faith commits every one of us to become a living sign of
the presence of the Risen Lord in the world" (PF, no. 15).
Copyright © 2013, United States
Conference of Catholic Bishops, Washington, DC. All rights reserved. Permission
is hereby granted to duplicate this work without adaptation for non-commercial
Excerpts from Pope Benedict XVI, Porta Fidei, copyright
© 2011, Libreria Editrice Vaticana (LEV). Used with permission. All rights