The Christian Faith: A Mini Catechism (Sample)

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The Christian Faith A Mini-Catechism for Catholics

by Fr Stephen Wang

All booklets are published thanks to the generous support of the members of the Catholic Truth Society

CATHOLIC TRUTH SOCIETY publishers to the holy see

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All rights reserved. First published 2015 by The Incorporated Catholic Truth Society, 40-46 Harleyford Road London SE11 5AY Tel: 020 7640 0042 Fax: 020 7640 0046. Š 2015 Fr Stephen Wang.

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ISBN 978 1 78469 063 2

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Contents Introduction . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 7 Part 1: The Meaning of Faith . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 9 God . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 9 Revelation . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 10 Faith . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 11 Knowledge . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 12 Theology . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 13

Part 2: The Christian Story . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 15 The Apostles’ Creed . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . The Most Holy Trinity . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . The angels . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . The Devil and the reality of evil . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Human beings . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Original sin . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . The Jewish people . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . The Incarnation . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . The life of Christ . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . The sacrifice of the cross . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . The Resurrection . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Redemption . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . The Holy Spirit . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . The gifts of the Holy Spirit . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

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15 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27

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Part 3: Church, Tradition, Bible . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 29 The Church . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Tradition . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . The Bible . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . The Apostles . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . The Papacy . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Infallibility . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . The unity of the Church . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Non-Christians . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

29 30 31 32 33 34 35 37

Part 4: Sacraments of Initiation and Healing . . . . . . . . 38 Grace . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . The liturgy . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . The sacraments . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Baptism . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Confirmation . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . The Eucharist . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Forgiveness . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . The Sacrament of Penance . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . The Anointing of the Sick . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

38 39 40 41 43 44 45 47 48

Part 5: Sacraments and the Christian Vocations . . . . . . 49 Vocation . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 49 The laity . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 51 Marriage . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 52

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Consecrated life . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Single life . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Ordination to the diaconate . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Ordination to the priesthood . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Ordination to the episcopate . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

54 55 56 57 58

Part 6: The Vocation to Love . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 59 The universal call to holiness . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Love . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Freedom and conscience . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Morality . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Natural law . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . The Ten Commandments . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . The Beatitudes . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Love your neighbour . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Life and death . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . The social teaching of the Church . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Love for the poor . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Evangelisation . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Martyrdom . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

59 60 61 62 63 65 66 67 68 69 70 71 72

Part 7: The Spiritual Life . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 74 Christian prayer . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 74 The Our Father . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 75 Other key prayers . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 76

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Daily prayer . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Intercession . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Contemplation . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Devotions . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . The Rosary . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

77 78 78 79 80

Part 8: The Last Things . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 82 Death . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Judgement, heaven, purgatory, hell . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Hope . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Eternal life . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . The saints on earth . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . The saints in heaven . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . The Blessed Virgin Mary . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Two Marian prayers . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

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82 83 84 84 85 87 88 89

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Introduction This booklet presents the Christian faith in a series of short articles. Each article expresses, in a nutshell, the core ideas about each topic as they are found in the Catholic tradition. The aim is to give food for thought, and to provide a mini-catechism of the most important elements of the Christian faith. The richness and beauty of faith cannot be expressed in mere words; but the right words can point us to this richness and beauty, and encourage us to enter into it more deeply. I have tried to squeeze as much as possible into each article, in just two or three hundred words, and to make them more or less self-contained. As a consequence, some of the explanations are quite dense, some may appear simplistic, and now and then there is some repetition. If you want to open up any of these tightly packed articles, or to go deeper, you can look up a particular subject in the index of the Catechism of the Catholic Church. These articles were first published in The Portal, the online magazine of the Personal Ordinariates of Our Lady of Walsingham and Our Lady of the Southern Cross. They were presented there in a different format, as “An A-Z of Catholic Faith�. I would like to thank Ronald Crane and Jackie Ottaway, the UK co-editors of The Portal, for inviting me to undertake the project, for encouraging me over the two years of the serialisation, and for giving permission to reprint the articles in this booklet. Please do visit their

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website at www.portalmag.co.uk to see both their current issue and their archives. The articles were then presented as short catechetical talks to the students at Newman House Catholic Centre, which is part of the Catholic Chaplaincy to the Universities and Higher Education Institutions in the Diocese of Westminster. I would like to thank the students who attended for the many stimulating questions and insights they shared in the discussion times. I would also like to thank various friends who have commented on the text. I do not claim any great originality in this presentation of the Catholic faith. Many of the articles are simply summaries of the teaching found in the Catechism of the Catholic Church and the Compendium of the Catechism of the Catholic Church. But if there are any mistakes then they are mine. Some passages of the text are borrowed from other writings I have published with the CTS. The theology presented here reflects for the Western/Latin tradition, and so there are certain nuances in the Eastern tradition that are not alluded to. Biblical quotations are from the New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright 1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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PART 1:

The Meaning of Faith â–ś God Many people find it hard to believe in a loving God. They doubt his existence altogether, or their experience of suffering and human tragedy make them doubt his love. Yet there are good reasons for believing in God. To accept the existence of God is not a superstition or an irrational leap. The existence of the universe points to some kind of creative power that brought it into being and sustains it in existence. The fact that there is something rather than nothing at all requires an explanation that lies beyond the categories of science. The most fundamental laws of nature, on which all the other laws of nature depend, cannot have arisen just by chance. Even allowing for chaos and randomness, there is an underlying order to the universe that requires some deeper foundation, some transcendent cause. God is the one who created and sustains all that is. He is utterly transcendent, beyond time, existing for all eternity, without depending on anything else. Yet he is close to all that exists and to every person, and through his Providence he guides everything that happens. He is worthy of our praise, thanksgiving and obedience. Through faith we know that he is not an abstract being but a personal God: intelligent, free, loving; infinite in goodness, truth, beauty, wisdom, power, knowledge, tenderness, and

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forgiveness - even though these words can only point to the mystery of who he truly is. This personal God has revealed himself in history to his Chosen People, and called them to follow him, as we see in the Old Testament of the Bible. The central Christian truth about God, revealed by Jesus Christ, is the mystery of the Most Holy Trinity.

▜ Revelation The heart of Christianity is the belief that God has revealed himself and the mystery of his loving plans to us. He has not left us alone. He has come to our help. Christianity is more about God’s reaching out to us than it is about our search for him. He has spoken to us, through words and deeds, from the very beginning of human history, inviting our first parents into his friendship. He spoke to his Chosen People, through the patriarchs and prophets, giving them his Law, the covenant of Mount Sinai, and the promise of eternal redemption. Then, in a full and definitive way, he revealed himself through his Son, the Word made flesh, Jesus Christ, who is the Way to God, and the Truth, and the Life. By sending his Son, and the gift of the Spirit, revelation is now complete, although it will take until the end of time for the Church to fully appreciate and comprehend what this means. This fulness of revelation, entrusted to the apostles and to the Catholic Church, is called the Deposit of Faith. It is passed on through each generation and proclaimed to others so that they may know the saving love of Jesus Christ.

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This revelation is handed on through the Church’s living Tradition and through Sacred Scripture, both of which are given an authentic interpretation in each generation through the teaching office of the Church (the Magisterium), guided by the Holy Spirit. Tradition, Scripture and Magisterium are so closely united that one cannot stand without the others. When God reveals himself in different ways to individuals through Christian history (in “private revelation”) this is not to share new truths of faith but to help them understand the one Truth of the Gospel more deeply, or to guide them in the special circumstances of their lives.

▶ Faith Faith is our wholehearted response to God, as he reveals himself to us in Jesus Christ. It involves believing the Truth he has revealed to us, especially as it is handed on through the Holy Scriptures, the Christian Tradition, the Creeds, and the Teaching of the Church. It also involves entrusting our lives to him and staying faithful to him in the big and small events of each day. It gives new life, but it will sometimes be dark and costly. Faith is an utterly free gift, given by the Holy Spirit. It is not something we can earn by our behaviour. It is, however, something we need to say “yes” to, with humility, gratitude and obedience - just as the Virgin Mary said “yes” to God at the Annunciation. We do this by prayer, by listening to the Word of God and learning about the Catholic Faith, and above all by seeking the Sacrament of Baptism.

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Faith is intensely personal, but it always has a communal element as well: we receive our faith from the Church; we live it within the Church and the world and not in isolation. Faith does not contradict human reason or scientific truth, but it leads us to an understanding that is far larger than the limited understanding discovered by reason alone. It allows us to share in God’s own understanding of himself, and to see our own life and the whole of human history in the light of God’s loving purposes. We are saved by a living faith that expresses itself in love. Even now, in time, faith gives a foretaste of what it will be like to live with God and with each other in the eternity of heaven.

▶ Knowledge There are different kinds of truth and knowledge: for example, the truths of natural science, of morality, of human love, and of religion. Reason helps us to discover the truths of the natural world, especially through scientific investigation. Christian faith allows us to share in a knowledge of things that are outside the natural world and beyond the scope of reason, through the gift of the Holy Spirit. All truth, however, derives from the One Truth, who is God - who both created the world and gives the gift of faith. This is why there can never be any real contradiction between faith and reason, between religion and science. “God cannot deny himself, nor can truth ever contradict truth” (a quotation from the First Vatican Council).

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Faith and reason are meant to support and sometimes correct each other. Religion, as Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI has said, can help “purify and shed light upon the application of reason to the discovery of objective moral principles”. Without the corrective supplied by religion, reason “can fall prey to distortions, as when it is manipulated by ideology, or applied in a partial way that fails to take full account of the dignity of the human person”. Religion can also be distorted “when insufficient attention is given to the purifying and structuring role of reason within religion” (Address in Westminster Hall, 2010).

▶ Theology The word “theology” comes from two Greek words: theos (meaning “God”) and logos (meaning “word” or “reason”). So theology literally means “thinking or speaking about God”. St Anselm has given us the most widely quoted definition of theology: it is “faith seeking understanding”. Each word is important. Theology is that search to understand more deeply the faith that we have already received, the faith of the Church. It presupposes this faith - as it is expressed in Holy Scripture and the Christian Tradition. And it presupposes the faith of the one seeking, who wants to understand more deeply a gift that has already been embraced. It is an ongoing search, driven by wonder and curiosity and need, rather than just a restatement of received truths.

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It recognises that each person and each generation needs to break open anew the unsurpassable gift of faith, and that each culture may find new expressions of faith and will bring this faith to bear on radically new situations. And it is a search for understanding: to make sense of what we believe; to see what it means for our life; to see how it connects with other truths and other meanings. At one level, theology is an academic discipline done by specialists. At another level, it is the reflection that every Christian does when we try to discover the meaning and implications of faith for the concrete circumstances of our lives. Mere words can never fully express the richness and beauty of the Truth revealed by Christ, but they can help us draw closer to it and grow in our understanding.

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