On my shelf is a marvelous book entitled the Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC). It is a large book—about 800 pages. There is one adaptation called The United States Catholic Catechism for Adults, which isn’t as dense, but is still substantial. This book, published by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, is a marvelous distillation of the CCC, but one that still covers the main topics.
The original edition that resulted from Vatican II is magnificent! It contains the results of the Church Councils—from Nicaea in 325 to the Second Vatican Council in 1962. The early Church Fathers dealt with deep theological questions that were raised as the faith spread.
But what is truly astounding is how simply our faith can be explained to someone asking, “Just what does the Catholic Church teach as basic to one’s faith?” When you come down to it, there are three basic and all-inclusive truths that we believe.
The first truth has to do with a doctrinal truth in three parts:
1) Who made me? God.
2) What is my destiny? To be with God for eternity, in union with the saints and our loved ones.
3) What must I do to obtain that eternal destiny? To be the best person I can be and to follow the moral code taught by Jesus.
The second truth is that Jesus died to save us from our sins and rose from the dead. The third truth is the moral code that Jesus gave us for everyday life: love God, love your brother and sister. If someone asked what you believe as a Catholic, just knowing the simple answers to those three questions would be a very good start. To pull out the CCC and say, “This is what I believe,” would be off-putting.
The apostles and first disciples began preaching the Gospels. And people welcomed it because they had never heard such truths in their lives. They not only believed, but also were willing to be martyred for those beliefs.
St. Paul, in writing to his community in Corinth, also put the faith in simple terms: “If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.” Simple, is it not? Of course, it had consequences: admitting to being a Christian often meant persecution and death.
It’s amazing how blessed we are to know and believe so much in so few words.
by Friar Jim Van Vurst, O.F.M.