When I first began immersing myself in the study of Catholicism, I read everything I could get my hands on. I have already cited here on my blog The Catholic Truth Society, publishers to the Holy See, as a great resource. My neighbor and friend Sandy was a great boon as well, with her casual dropping off of books and offers to answer questions. But the Catechism was really the turning point. Of course the Didache, the Church Fathers, EWTN, the many adherent and well-written blogs, and my RCIA education were keys to the door, but reading the Catechism was like finding a road map to my own mind and body, a treasure map that had been hidden underground for thirty nine years. My most emotional moments, the ones where I had to put down the book and compose myself, came from reading the Catechism of the Catholic Church. Since then I have also read the Catechism of the Council of Trent and the Baltimore Catechism, but the definitive Catechism for The Church, the one that grew from these and addresses every modern issue we will confront in our day is the Complete Catechism bearing the signature of Blessed Pope John Paul II. Herein I have compiled for you what for me are the ten most impactful passages from our Catechism. These tenets shape my thinking, my behavior toward others, my opinions on how to heal our broken and continually breaking world, my attitude toward my marriage, and how I approach my vocation as a mother. I hope they enlighten and educate you if it is your first time seeing them, or serve as a refresher if you have read them but let them get away from you.
1. 66. No new public revelation is to be expected before the glorious manifestation of our Lord Jesus Christ. . . . yet it remains for Christian faith to gradually grasp its significance over the course of the centuries . . . Private revelations . . . have been recognized by the authority of The Church, but they do not belong to the Deposit of Faith. This was a huge relief for me. As I explored the implications and manifestations of this , I found it to be true over and over again. Catholics were not adding anything to the Scripture and Tradition left by Christ; they were guarding it FROM additions. That Deposit of Faith and what it precisely contains was a sacred pearl of great price. The entire structure and personnel of The Church now struck me as a fort armed by soldiers, protecting The Truth from the many assailants from within and without who would seek to undermine, change, add to, subtract from, finesse away, politicize, and altogether pervert Her. I soon learned about what Martin Luther *really* did and I was horrified. As my research continued and I read from sources closer to the time of when Jesus and the earliest members of His Church walked, studied, worshipped, and preached, I was left without doubt that THIS was The Deposit of Faith He left, and that the guiding body, the Pope and the Magisterium, were divinely led by the Holy Spirit (God Himself) in order to answer modern questions that are not addressed specifically in Scripture or oral Tradition.
2. 133. The Church forcefully and specifically exhorts all the Christian faithful to learn the surpassing knowledge of Jesus Christ by frequent reading of the divine Scriptures. 'Ignorance of the Scriptures is ignorance of Christ.' Coming from Protestantism, where it was "me, Jesus, and my Bible," I did have a vestige of false belief that the Catholic Church was less "into" Scripture than were the Protestants. Again, from hours of research into the history of the Church between the book of Acts and the time of the Reformation (a period which was previously left out of my religious education), I learned that the Catholic Church compiled and canonized Scripture, encouraged the reading of Scripture, and that the Catechism and every encyclical I read was filled with cross references and footnotes FROM Scripture. The saints fed themselves on Scripture. This passage from the Catechism uses very exact and purposeful language "forcefully exhorts" to communicate to Catholic Christians that we must immerse ourselves in Scripture. I learned about Lectio Divina. I watched as the Gospel was lifted and carried with reverence and singing at Mass. And I saw how there were more books in the Bible than I had thought there were, not due to Catholics adding books, but to Protestants removing them! Mostly I learned that the Bible was one of the things that would bring me into the Church, because evidence of The Real Presence, Purgatory, and other doctrines, were found therein.
3. 598. Since our sins made the Lord Christ suffer the torment of the cross, those who plunge themselves into disorders and crimes crucify the Son of God anew in their hearts (for He is in them) and hold Him up to contempt . . . when we deny Him by our deeds, we in some way seem to lay violent hands on Him. As a Protestant, I heard too much back and forth about who crucified Christ. Was it the Jews? The Romans? Upon whom could we lay blame? And could we, like Pilate, ever wash our hands of this act, so distant from us in history? Converting slowly into the Church revealed to me that I joined in with those who tortured and killed Christ every time I sinned against Him. And it seared on to my brain and heart the idea that I can never, ever, celebrate, condone, laugh at, view with pleasure, tinker with, dip my toe into, encourage and abet, throw parades for, or turn the other way from helping someone repent from the sins that my Jesus suffered whippings and humiliation for. Never.
4. 1395. The Eucharist is properly the sacrament of those who are in full communion with the Church. I took pride as a Lutheran in our open rail communion. How snobby those Catholics were, not letting anyone and everyone partake in their symbolic bread and wine. If Communion were just a symbol, then why not have an open rail? If it demanded nothing, no adherence or loyalty, no vow, no fasting, no state of grace, then why not let anyone walk in and eat? Understanding full communion, finally believing in the Real Presence, was like a punch in my gut. I had distributed communion to my fellow Lutheran parishioners. I had laughed at my friends' jokes about getting drunk on the leftover wine we had to finish. Obviously my view of the Eucharist has changed completely, perhaps more than anything else about my theological perspective and spiritual life. I could never leave the Eucharist. I could never walk away from the Real Presence now, and I do not know how anyone does. I am also acutely aware that the Eucharist must be withheld from people for the protection of their own souls, so that they do not receive it lightly or in a state of grave sin. And since Scripture backs this up, it was not a hurdle at all to my conversion.
She's got six more and I recommend you read them, if only to better understand what Catholics ought to be believing.
Thanks to Mr. Shea for the find.