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Taken in the sense of "the act of teaching" and "the knowledge imparted by teaching", this term is synonymous with CATECHESIS and CATECHISM. Didaskalia, didache , in the Vulgate, doctrina , are often used in the New Testament, especially in the Pastoral Epistles. As we might expect, the Apostle insists upon "doctrine" as one of the most important duties of a bishop ( 1 Timothy 4:13, 16 ; 5:17 ; 2 Timothy 4:2 , etc.).
The word katechesis means instruction by word of mouth, especially by questioning and answering. Though it may apply to any subject-matter, it is commonly used for instruction in the elements of religion, especially preparation for initiation into Christianity. The word and others of the same origin occur in St. Luke's Gospel: "That thou mayest know the verity of those things in which thou hast been instructed" ( katechethes , in quibus eruditus es -- i, 4). In the Acts, xviii, 25, Apollo is described as "instructed [ katechemenos , edoctus ] in the way of the Lord". St. Paul uses the word twice: "I had rather speak five words with my understanding, that I may instruct [ katecheso , instruam ] others also" ( 1 Corinthians 14:19 ); and "Let him that is instructed [ ho katechoumenos , is qui catechizatur ] in the word, communicate to him that instructeth [ to katechounti , ei qui catechizat ] him, in all good things" ( Galatians 6:6 ). Hence the word, with its technical meaning of oral religious instruction, passed into ecclesiastical use, and is applied both to the act of instructing and the subject-matter of the instruction. The word catechism was also formerly used for the act of instructing ("To say ay, and no, to these particulars, is more than to answer in a catechism" -- As You Like It, act iii, sc. 2), as catéchisme is still used in French; but it is now more properly applied to the little printed book in which the questions and answers are contained. The subject will be treated in this article under the three heads:
I. HISTORY OF CATECHETICS;
II. PRACTICAL CATECHETICS,
III. MODERN CATECHISMS.
I. HISTORY OF CATECHETICS
(1) Oral instruction by means of questions and answers has occupied a prominent place in the scholastic methods of the moral and religious teachers of all countries and of all ages. The Socratic dialogues will occur to every one as brilliant examples. But many centuries before Socrates' day this method was practised among the Hebrews ( Exodus 12:26 ; Deuteronomy 6:7, 20 , etc.). They had three forms of catechizing: domestic, conducted by the head of the family for the benefit of his children and servants; scholastic, by teachers in schools ; and ecclesiastical by priests and Levites in the Temple and the synagogues. Proselytes were carefully instructed before being admitted to become members of the Jewish faith. The regular instruction of children began when they were twelve years old. Thus we read of Christ "in the temple, sitting in the midst of the doctors, hearing them, and asking them questions. And all that heard him were astonished at his wisdom and his answers" ( Luke 2:46, 47 ). During His public life He frequently made use of the catechetical method to impart instruction: "What think ye of Christ? Whose son is he?" "Whom do men say that the son of man is? . . . Whom do you say that I am?" etc. In His final charge to His Apostles He said: " Teach ye [ matheteusate , "make disciples, or scholars"] all nations; . . . . Teaching [ didaskontes , "instructing"] them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you" ( Matthew 28:19 ). And after this instruction they were to initiate them into the Church, " baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost " (ibid.).
(2) In obedience to Christ's command, St. Peter, "standing up with the eleven", declared to the Jews on Pentecost day, and proved to them from the Scriptures that Jesus, whom they had crucified, was "Lord and Christ". When they had been convinced of this truth, and had compunction in their heart for their crime, they asked, "What shall we do?" And Peter answered, "Do penance, and be baptized. . . . in the name of Jesus Christ, for the remission of your sins." "And with very many other words did he testify and exhort them" ( Acts 2 ). We have here an abridgment of the first catechetical instruction given by the Apostles. It is both doctrinal and moral -- the hearers are to believe and to repent. This twofold element is also contained in St. Peter's second discourse after healing the lame man in the Temple ( Acts 3 ). St. Stephen goes further, and brings out that belief in Jesus as the Christ (Messias) meant the ending of the Old Covenant and the coming in of a New ( Acts 6:7 ). St. Philip the Deacon preached "of the kingdom of God, in the name of Jesus Christ "; and the Samaritans "were baptized, both men and women " ( Acts 8 ). Furthermore, St. Peter and St. John came from Jerusalem and " prayed for them, that they might receive the Holy Ghost "; and doubtless declared to them the doctrine of that Holy Spirit (ibid.). The same deacon's discourse to the eunuch deals with the proof from Scripture, and notably Isaias (liii, 7), that " Jesus Christ is the Son of God ", and the necessity of baptism. No mention is made of penance or repentance, as the eunuch was a just man anxious to do God's will. So, too, Cornelius, "a religious man, and fearing God with all his house, giving much alms to the people, and always praying to God ", did not need much moral instruction; accordingly St. Peter speaks to him of Jesus Christ who "is lord of all . . . Jesus of Nazareth : how God anointed him with the Holy Ghost, and with power, who went about doing good, and healing all that were oppressed by the devil, for God was with him. And we are witnesses of all things that he did in the land of the Jews and in Jerusalem, whom they killed, hanging him upon a tree. Him God raised up the third day, and gave him to be made manifest . . . even to us who did eat and drink with him after he arose again from the dead; and he commanded us to preach to the people, and to testify that it is he who was appointed by God to be judge of the living and of the dead. To him all the prophets give testimony, that by his name all receive remission of sins, who believe in him" ( Acts 10 ). In this discourse we have the chief articles of the Creed : the Trinity ( God, Jesus Christ "Lord of all things", the Holy Ghost ), the Crucifixion, Death, and Resurrection of Our Lord ; His coming to judge the living and the dead, and the remission of sins. These are also the subjects of St. Paul's discourses, though, of course, in addressing the pagans, whether peasants at Lystra or philosophers at Athens, he deals with the fundamental truths of the existence and attributes of God (Acts, xiii, xiv, xvii). As he himself summed up the matter, he taught "publicly, and from house to house, testifying both to Jews and Gentiles penance towards God, and faith in [ eis ] our Lord Jesus Christ " ( Acts 20 ). We find also that though Apollo was "instructed [ katechemenos ] in the way of the Lord", Priscilla and Aquila "expounded to him the way Of the Lord more diligently" ( akribesteron -- Acts 18 -- See APOSTLES' CREED).
(3) The materials for describing the catechetical teaching of the ages immediately succeeding the Apostles are scanty. The books of the New Testament were available, and all that would be needed would be to supplement these. Thus, in the Didache we find little but moral instruction; but it is clear that those to whom it is addressed must have already received some knowledge of what they were to believe. Later on we find more explicit dogmatic teaching, for instance, in St. Justin's Apologies and in the writings of Clement of Alexandria . Still, even this is not much more advanced than what we have seen above as taught by St. Peter, except that Justin dwells on the Creation and proves the Divinity of Christ, the Logos and only-begotten Son of the Father.
(4) In the ages of persecution it became necessary to exercise great caution in admitting persons to membership in the Church. The danger of falling away, or even of betrayal, must be guarded against by a careful doctrinal and moral training. Hence the institution of the catechumenate and the Discipline of the Secret. The work of the Apologists had been to remove prejudices against Christianity, and to set forth its doctrines and practices in such a way as to appeal to the fair-minded pagan. If anyone was moved to embrace the true religion, he was not at once admitted, as in the days of the Apostles. At first he was treated as an inquirer, and only the fundamental doctrines were communicated to him. As soon as he had given proof of his knowledge and fitness he was admitted to the catechumenate proper, and was further instructed. After some years spent in this stage he was promoted to the ranks of the Competentes , i.e. those ready for baptism. As might be expected, he was now instructed more especially in the rites for this purpose. Even when he had been initiated, his instruction was not yet at an end. During the week after Easter, while the grace of first fervour was still upon him, the various rites and mysteries in which he had just participated were more fully explained to him.
In considering the catechetical writings of the Fathers we must bear in mind the distinction of these different grades. When addressing a mere inquirer they would naturally be more guarded and less explicit than if they had to do with one who had passed through the catechumenate. Sometimes, indeed, the language was so chosen that it conveyed only half the truth to the catechumen, while the initiated could understand the whole. The distinction between the elementary and advanced instruction is noted by St. Paul : "As unto little ones in Christ. I gave you milk to drink, not meat; for you were not able as yet" ( 1 Corinthians 3:2 ). For our present purpose it will be best to take as typical examples of catechesis in the patristic times the works of St. Cyril of Jerusalem (315-386) and St. Augustine (354-430), merely noting by the way the work done by St. Ambrose (the instructor of St. Augustine) and St. Gregory of Nyssa ("The Catechetical Oration", ed. J. II. Strawley, 1903). We have from St. Cyril twenty-four catechetical discourses, forming together a complete course of moral and doctrinal instruction. In the first of these, called the "Procatechesis", he sets forth the greatness and efficacy of the grace of initiation into the Church. The "Catecheses" proper (numbered i to xviii) are divided into two groups: i-v, repeating the leading ideas of the "Procatechesis", and treating of sin and repentance, baptism, the principal doctrines of the Christian religion, and the nature and origin of faith ; vi-xviii, setting forth, article by article, the baptisimal Creed of the Church of Jerusalem. The "Procatechesis" and the eighteen discourses were intended for the competentes during Lent, in immediate preparation for reception into the Church. The remaining discourses (19-24), called the "Catecheses Mystagogic", were delivered during Easter week to those who had been baptized at Easter ; and these, though much shorter than the others, treat clearly and openly of baptism, confirmation, and the Holy Eucharist, the veil of secrecy being now removed. This is not the place to point out how completely in accord with Catholic teaching are the doctrines of St. Cyril (see CYRIL OF JERUSALEM; TRANSUBSTANTIATION), and what valuable information he gives of the details of the Liturgy in his day. In studying these "Catecheses" we should bear in mind that they were intended for grown-up persons ; hence they are not couched in the simple language which we have to use in our instructions to our children. They resemble, rather, the instruction given to converts, for which purpose they are still of great use. The same remark applies to all the catechetical writings of the Fathers.
St. Augustine's treatise "De Catechizandis Rudibus" deals with both the theory and the practice of catechizing. It is divided into twenty-seven chapters: 1-14 theory, 15-27 practice. This short work, written about the year 400, shows that the great Doctor did not disdain to devote most careful attention to the work of instructing those who wished to learn the rudiments of the Faith. It could be written only by one who had much experience of the difficulties and tediousness of the task, and who had also pondered deeply on the best method of dealing with the different classes of converts. The Deogratias, who had consulted Augustine on the subject, complained (as so many of us still do) of the weariness of going over the same old ground, and of his inability to put any fresh life into his instructions. St. Augustine begins by words of encouragement, pointing out that we must judge of our discourses not by their effect upon ourselves, but by their effect upon our healers. The story may be familiar enough to us, who go on repeating it over and over again, but it is not so to those who are listening to it for the first time. Bearing this in mind, the catechist should put himself in the position of the hearer, and speak as though he were telling something new. Hilaritas , a bright and cheerful manner, must be one of the chief qualifications of an instructor; " God loveth a cheerful giver" applies to the giving of the word as well as to the giving of wealth. He should so speak that the hearer hearing should believe, believing should hope, and hoping should love (Quidquid narras ita narra, ut ille cui loqueris audiendo credat, credendo speret, sperando amet -- iv, 11). But the foundation of all is the fear of God, "for if seldom, or rather never, happens that anyone wishes to become a Christian without being moved thereto by some fear of God ". If he comes from some worldly motive he may be only pretending, though indeed a mere pretender may sometimes be turned into a genuine convert by our efforts. Hence, continues the holy Doctor, it is of great importance to ascertain the state of mind and the motives of those who come to us. If we are satisfied that they have received a Divine call, we have a good opening for instruction on the care of God for us. We should go briefly through the story of God's dealings with men, from the time when He made all things even to our own days; showing especially that the Old Testament was a preparation for the New, and the New a fulfilment of the Old (in veteri testamento est occultatio novi, in novo testamento est manifestatio veteris). This is a theme developed at greater length in the "De Civitate Dei". After we have finished our story we should go on to excite hope in the resurrection of the body -- a doctrine as much ridiculed in St. Augustine's day as it was in St. Paul's day, and as it is in ours. Then should come the account to be rendered at the last judgment, and the reward of the just, and the punishment of the wicked. The convert should be put on his guard against the dangers and difficulties in trying to lead a good life, especially those arising from scandals within as well as without the Church. Finally, he should be reminded that the grace of his conversion is not due either to his merits or to ours, but to the goodness of God. So far the saint has been speaking of persons of little or no education. In chap. viii he goes on to deal with those who are well educated, and are already acquainted with the Scriptures and other Christian writings. Such persons require briefer instruction, and this should be imparted in such a way as to let them see that we are aware of their knowledge of the Faith. Doubtless St. Augustine had in mind his own case, when he presented himself to be received into the Church by St. Ambrose. We note, too, the wisdom of this piece of advice, especially when we have to deal with Anglican converts. But though less instruction is needed in such cases, continues the holy Doctor, we may rightly inquire into the causes which have induced these persons to wish to become Christians ; and in particular as to the books which have influenced them. If these are the Scriptures or other Catholic books we should praise and recommend them; but if these are heretical we should point out wherein they have distorted the true faith. Throughout our instruction we should speak with modesty, but also with authority, that he who hears us may have no scope for presumption but rather for humility. Humility is also the principal virtue to be urged upon that intermediate class of converts who have received some education but not of the higher sort. These are disposed to scoff at Christian writings, and even at the Scriptures for their want of correctness of language. They should be made to see that it is the matter rather than the language which is of importance; it is more profitable to listen to a true discourse than to one which is eloquent. The whole of this chapter should be taken to heart by many who join the Church nowadays. After dealing with these different classes of inquirers, the saint devotes no less than five lengthy chapters (x to xiv) to the causes of weariness (the opposite of hilaritas ) and the remedies for it. This portion is perhaps the most valuable of the whole treatise, at least from a practical point of view. Only the merest outline of St. Augustine's advice as to the remedies can be given here. We must bring ourselves down to the level of the lowest of our hearers, even as Christ humbled Himself and took upon Himself "the form of a servant". We must vary the subjects, and we must increase in earnestness of manner so as to move even the most sluggish. If it seems to us that the fault is ours, we should reflect, as already pointed out, that the instruction, though not up to our ideal, may be exactly suited to our hearer and entirely fresh and new to him; in any case the experience may be useful as a trial to our humility. Other occupations may be pleasanter, but we cannot say that they are certainly more profitable; for duty should come first, and we should submit to God's will and not try to make Him submit to ours. After laying down these precepts, St. Augustine goes on to give a short catechetical instruction as an example of what he has been inculcating. It is supposed to be addressed to an ordinary type of inquirer, neither grossly ignorant nor highly educated (xvi to xxv), and might well be used at the present day. What specially strikes one in reading it is the admirable way in which the saint brings out the prophetical and typical character of the Old-Testament narrative, and insinuates gradually all the articles of the Creed without seeming to reveal them. The sketch of Christ's life and passion, and the doctrine of the Church and the sacraments are also noteworthy. The discourse ends with an earnest exhortation to perseverance. This short work has exercised the greatest influence on catechetics. In all ages of the Church it has been adopted as a textbook.
(5) When all fear of persecution had passed away, and the empire had become almost entirely Christian, the necessity for a prolonged period of trial and instruction no longer existed. About the same time the fuller teaching on the subject of original sin, occasioned by the Pelagian heresy, gradually led to the administration of baptism to infants. In such cases instruction was, of course, impossible, though traces of it are still to be seen in the rite of infant baptism, where the godparents are put through a sort of catechesis in the name of the child. As the child grew, it was taught its religion both at home and at the services in church. This instruction was necessarily more simple than that formerly given to grown-up catechumens, and gradually came to be what we now understand by catechetical instruction. Meantime, however, the barbarian invaders were being brought into the Church, and in their case the instruction had to be of an elementary character. The missionaries had to go back to the methods of the Apostles and content themselves with exacting a renunciation of idolatry and a profession of belief in the great truths of Christianity. Such was the practice of St. Patrick in Ireland, St. Remigius among the Franks, St. Augustine in England, St. Boniface in Germany. We should bear in mind that in those ages religious instruction did not cease with baptism. Set sermons were rarer than in our time ; the priest spoke rather as a catechist than as a preacher. We may take the practice among the Anglo-Saxons as typical of what was done in other countries. "Among the duties incumbent on the parish priest the first was to instruct his flock in the doctrines and duties of Christianity, and to extirpate from among them the lurking remains of paganism. . . He was ordered to explain to his parishioners the ten commandments; to take care that all could repeat and understand the Lord's Prayer and the Creed ; to expound in English on Sundays the portion of Scripture proper to the Mass of the day, and to preach, or, if he were unable to preach, to read at least from a book some lesson of instruction" ( Lingard, "Anglo-Saxon Church ", c. iv). The laws enacting these duties will be found in Thorpe, "Ecclesiastical Institutes", i, 378; ii, 33, 34, 84, 191.
(6) It is the custom with non-Catholic writers to assert that during the Middle Ages, "the Ages of Faith ", religious instruction was entirely neglected, and that the Protestant Reformers were the first to restore the practice of the Early Church. In the "Dict. de théol. cath.", s.v. "Catéchisme", and in Bareille, "Le Catéchisme Romain", Introd., pp. 36 sqq., will be found long lists of authorities showing how false are these assertions. We must here content ourselves with stating what was done in England. Abbot Gasquet has thoroughly gone into the subject, and declares that "in pre-Reformation days the people were well instructed in their faith by priests who faithfully discharged their plain duty In their regard" (Old English Bible and other Essays, p. 186). In proof of this he quotes the constitutions of John Peckham, Archbishop of Canterbury (1281), in which it is enjoined that every priest shall explain to his people in English, and without any elaborate subtleties ( vulgariter absque cujuslibet subtilitatis texturâ fantastic ), four times a year, the Creed, the Ten Commandments, the two precepts of the Gospel (viz. love of God and man ), the seven deadly sins, the seven chief virtues (theological and cardinal), and the seven sacraments. In these constitutions is contained a brief instruction on all these heads, "lest anyone should excuse himself on the ground of ignorance of these things which all the ministers of the Church are bound to know ". This legislation, after all, was nothing but an insisting on a practice dating from Saxon days, as we have already seen. Moreover, it is constantly referred to in subsequent synods and in countless catechetical writings. One of Peckham's predecessors, St. Edmund Rich (1234-1240), was not only a man of great learning, but also a zealous teacher of Christian doctrine among the people. He wrote familiar instructions on prayer, the seven deadly sins, the Commandments, and the sacraments. Cardinal Thoresby, Archbishop of York, published in 1357 a catechism in Latin and English, the "Lay Folks Catechism", for the purpose of carrying out Peckham's Constitutions, and it is based on Peckham's instruction. The two, with the English translation in rude verse, have been reprinted by the Early English Text Society, No. 118. In the episcopal Registers and Visitations we read how the people were asked whether their pastor fulfilled his duties, and they constantly answer that they are taught bene et optime . Chaucer's Poor Parson may be taken as a type:
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He was also a lerned man, a clerk,
That Christes Gospel trewly wolde preche,
His parischens devoutly wolde he teche.
His tale is practically a treatise on the Sacrament of Penance. As regards catechetical manuals we need only mention the "Pars Oculi Sacerdotis" (about the middle of the fourteenth century) which was very popular; "Pupilla Oculi", by John de Burgo (1385); "Speculum Christiani", by John Wotton, containing simple English rhymes as well as the Latin text. "One of the earliest books ever issued from an English press by Caxton. . . . was a set of four lengthy discourses, published, as they expressly declare, to enable priests to fulfil the obligation imposed on them by the Constitutions of Peckham" (Gasquet, op. cit., p. 191). The part which pictures, statues, reliefs, pageants, and especially miracle plays took in the religious instruction of the people must not be forgotten. All of these give proof of an extensive knowledge of sacred history and an astonishing skill in conveying doctrinal and moral lessons. If is enough to refer to Ruskin's "Bible of Amiens ", and to the Townley, Chester, and Coventry miracle plays. (Cf. Bareille, op. cit., pp. 42 sqq.)
(7) The invention of printing and the revival of learning naturally had great influence on catechetical instruction. The first great name to be mentioned, though indeed it belongs to a slightly earlier period, is that of John Gerson (1363-1429). He realized that the much-needed reform of the Church should begin by the instruction of the young; and though he was chancellor of the University of Paris he devoted himself to this work. He composed a sort of little catechism entitled "The A B C of Simple Folk". To enable the clergy to catechize he also composed the "Opus Tripartitum de Pr eceptis Decalogi, de Confessione, et de Arte bene Moriendi", in which he briefly explained the Creed, the Commandments of God, the sins to be mentioned in confession, and the art of dying well. This was printed many times and was translated into French. It was the forerunner of the Catechism of the Council of Trent. In the year 1470, before Luther was born, a German catechism, "Christenspiegel" (the Christian's Mirror), written by Dederich, was printed, and at once became very popular. Two other catechisms, "The Soul's Guide" and "The Consolation of the Soul ", were printed a little later and issued in many editions. Tn Janssen's great "History of the German People at the Close of the Middle Ages " will be found a complete refutation of the popular notion that the Protestant Reformers, and especially Luther, were the first to revive catechetical instruction and to print catechisms. It is, however, proper to acknowledge their activity in this matter, and to note that this activity stirred up the zeal of the Catholics to counteract their influence. Luther's famous "Enchiridion", which was really the third edition of his smaller catechism, was published in 1529, and speedily ran through a number of editions; it is still used in Germany and in other Protestant countries. In 1536 Calvin composed a catechism in French: "Le formulaire d'instruire les enfans en la chrestienté, fait en manière de dialogue oú le ministre interroge et l'enfant répond". He candidly admits that it was always the custom in the Church to instruct children in this way. Of course he takes care to introduce the chief points of his heresy : the certainty of salvation, the impossibility of losing justice (righteousness), and the justification of children independently of baptism. It is noteworthy that as regards the Eucharist he teaches that we receive not merely a sign, but Jesus Christ Himself, "really and effectually by a true and substantial union". In England the first Boo of Common Prayer (1549) contained a catechism with a brief explanation of the Commandments and the Lord's Prayer. The explanation of the sacraments was not added until the year 1604. If this catechism be compared with that of Cardinal Thoresby, mentioned above, it will be seen that the instruction given to Protestant children in the middle of the sixteenth century was far inferior to that given in pre-Reformation days. In 1647 the Westminster Assembly of Divines drew up the Presbyterian "Larger" and "Smaller" Catechisms.
On the Catholic side Blessed Peter Canisius published three catechisms, or rather one catechism in three forms: major (1555), minor (1558), and minimus (1556). Taking as his foundation Ecclus., i, 33, he divides his treatment into two great parts: wisdom and justice. In the first he deals with Faith (the Creed ), Hope (the Lord's Prayer and the Hail Mary ), Charity (the Commandments). In the second he deals with avoiding evil ( sin and the remission of sin ) and doing good ( prayer, fasting and almsdeeds, the cardinal virtues, the gifts and fruits of the Holy Ghost , the beatitudes, the evangelical counsels, and the Four Last Things ). To obtain and to preserve both wisdom and justice the sacraments are necessary, and hence he places the treatment of the sacraments between the two parts. After the Council of Trent (1563) Canisius added a chapter on the Fall and Justification. The form of the three books is that of questions and answers, some of the latter being as long as four or five pages. In striking contrast to the Protestant catechisms, the tone throughout is calm, and there is an absence of controversial bitterness. The success of Canisius' catechisms was enormous. They were translated into every language in Europe, and were reprinted in many hundreds of editions, so that the name Canisius came to be synonymous with Catechism (Bareille, op. cit., p. 61).
The Catechism of the Council of Trent ( Catechismus Romanus ) is not a catechism in the ordinary sense of the word. It is rather a manual of instruction for the clergy ( Catechismus ad Parochos ) to enable them to catechize those entrusted to their spiritual care. The fathers of the council "deemed it of the utmost importance that a work should appear, sanctioned by the authority of the Holy Synod, from which perish priests and all others on whom the duty of imparting instruction devolves may be able to seek and derive certain precepts for the edification of the faithful; that as there is 'one Lord one Faith' so also there may be one common rule and prescribed form of delivering the faith, and instructing the Christian people unto all the duties of piety " (Pr f., viii). The composition of the work was entrusted to four distinguished theologians (two of them archbishops and one a bishop ), under the supervision of three cardinals. St. Charles Borromeo was the presiding spirit. The original draft was turned into elegant Latin by Pogianus and Manutius, and this version was translated by command of the pope ( St. Pius V ) into Italian, French, German, and Polish. Brought out under such conditions (1566), the authority of this catechism is higher than that of any other, but is, of course, not on a level with that of the canons and decrees of a council, As to its value Cardinal Newman's estimate may be gathered from these words: "I rarely preach a sermon, but I go to this beautiful and complete Catechism to get both my matter and my doctrine" (Apologia, p. 425). (See ROMAN CATECHISM.)
Cardinal Bellarmine 's Catechism was ordered by Clement VIII to be used in the Papal States, and was recommended for use throughout the world. It appeared in two forms: "Dottrina Cristiana Breve" (1597) and "Dichiarazione più Copiosa della Dottrina Cristiana" (1598). The first is for scholars, the second for teachers; in the first the teacher asks the questions and the scholar replies, whereas in the second this process is reversed. The first, which is meant to be learnt by heart, contains eleven chapters and ninety-five questions, and is arranged in the following order: the Calling of the Christian and the Sign of the Cross ; the Creed, the Lord's Prayer, and the Hail Mary ; the Commandments of God, the Commandments of the Church, and the Counsels; the Sacraments, the Theological and Cardinal Virtues, the Gifts of the Holy Ghost, the Works Of Mercy, Sins, the Last Things , and the Rosary. It is an improvement on Canisius' catechisms, and hence it was recommended at the Vatican Council to serve as a model for the projected universal catechism.
The first catechism in English after the Reformation was "A Catechisme or Christian Doctrine necessarie for Children and Ignorante People, briefly compiled by Laurence Vaux, Bacheler of Divinitie"; 1st ed., 1567; reprinted 1574, 1583 (twice), 1599, 1605; 18mo. This has been reprinted for the Chetham Society, new series, vol. IV, Manchester, 1883. Next came a small volume, "A Briefe Instruction by way of Dialogue concerning the principall poyntes of Christian religion gathered out of the Holy Scripture , Fathers and Councels. By the Reverend M. George Doulye, Priest. Imprinted at Louvaine by Laurence Kellam, anno 1604": "A Shorte Catechisme of Cardinal Bellarmine illustrated with Images." In Augusta, 1614: "A briefe Christian Doctrine to be lerned by heart"; "A Summe of Christian Doctrine composed in Latin by Father Petrus Canisius of the Society of Jesus with an Appendix of the Fall of Man and Justification. Translated into English (by Fr. Garnet?) at St. Omers for John Heigham. With permission of Superiors: 1622"; "A Catechisme of Christian Doctrine in fifteen Conferences. Paris: 1637", 2nd ed., 1659. The author was Thomas White, alias Blacklow, of Lisbon and Douai. The most important, however, was the book which came to be known as "The Doway Catechism", "An Abridgement of Christian Doctrine with proofs of Scripture for points controverted. Catechistically explained by way of question and answer", printed at Douai, 1st ed., 1649; again 1661, and so constantly. The last editions mentioned by Gillow are London, 1793, and Dublin, 1828; the author was Henry Turberville, a Douai priest. There was also a smaller edition, "An Abstract of the Douay Catechism. For the use of children and ignorant people. London, printed in the year 1688"; it was reprinted many times, and continued in use until the Douai students came to England. In 1625, the Franciscan Florence O'Conry published an Irish catechism at Louvain, entitled "Mirror of a Christian Life". This, like the catechisms of O'Hussey (Louvain, 1608) and Stapleton (Brussels, 1639), was written for the benefit of the Irish troops serving in the Netherlands. In the same century another member of the Franciscan order, Father Francis Molloy, a native of the County Meath, Ireland, and at the time professor of theology in St. Isidore's College , Rome, published a catechism in Irish under the title "Lucerna Fidelium" (Rome, Propaganda Press, 1676). We should also mention Andrew Donlevy's "The Catechism or Christian Doctrine by way of question and answer. Paris, 1742". This was in English and Irish on opposite pages. "The Poor Man's Catechism or the Christian Doctrine explained with short admomitions", 1st ed., 1752; it was edited by the Rev. George Bishop. The author's name does not appear, but a later work tells who he was: "The Poor Man's Controversy, By J. Mannock, O. S. B., the author of the Poor Man's Catechism, 1769." Dr. James Butler, Archbishop of Cashel, published his catechism in 1775, and it was soon adopted by many Irish bishops for their dioceses. An account of it was given by Archbishop Walsh in the "Irish Eccl. Record", Jan., 1892. In 1737 Bishop Challoner published "The Catholic Christian instructed in the Sacraments, Sacrifice, Ceremonies, and Observances of the Church by way of question and answer. By R. C. London 1737." There is also "An Abridgement of Christian Doctrine with a Short Daily Exercise", "corrected by the late Bishop Challoner ", 1783. Bishop Hay's admirable works: "The Sincere Christian instructed in the Faith of Christ from the Written Word" (1781); "The Devout Christian instructed in the Faith of Christ" (1783); and "The Pious Christian" are catechisms on a large scale in the form of question and answer.
During the eighteenth century catechetical instruction received a fresh impulse from Pope Benedict XIII , who issued (1725) three ordinances prescribing in detail the methods: division into small classes and special preparation for confession and Communion. Against the rationalistic tendencies in the pedagogical movement of the century, Clement XIII uttered a protest in 1761. Pius VI wrote (1787) to the Orientals, proposing for their use a catechism in Arabic prepared by the Propaganda. In Germany the "Pastoral Instruction" issued by Raymond Anton, Bishop of Eichst dt (1768; new ed., Freiburg, 1902) emphasized the need and indicated the method of instruction (Tit. XIV, Cap. V). Prominent among the writers on the subject were Franz Neumayr, S.J. in his "Rhetorica catechetica" (1766); M.I. Schmidt, "Katechisten", and J.I. von Felbiger, "Vorlesungen über die Kunst zu katechisieren" (Vienna, 1774). In France, during the same century, great activity was shown, especially by the bishops, in publishing catechisms. Each diocese had its own textbook, but though occasional attempts were made at uniformity, they were not successful. Several catechisms composed by individual writers other than the bishops were put on the Index (see Migne, "Catéchismes", Paris, 1842). The French original of "An Abridgment of the Quebec Catechism" (Quebec, 1817) appeared in Paris (1702) and Quebec (1782).
The pedagogical activity of the nineteenth century naturally exerted an influence upon religious instruction. German writers of the first rank were Overberg (d. 1826), Sailer (d. 1832), Gruber (d. 1835), and Hirscher (d. 1865), all of whom advocated the psychological method and the careful preparation of teachers. Deharbe's "Catechism" (1847) was translated between 1853 and 1860 into thirteen languages, and his "Erkl rungen des Katechismus" (1857-61) has passed through numerous editions. In France, Napoleon (1806) imposed upon all the churches of the empire uniformity in the matter of catechisms and, in spite of the opposition of Pius VII, published the "Imperial Catechism", containing a chapter on duties towards the emperor. This was replaced after the fall of the empire by a large number of diocesan catechisms which again led to various plans for securing uniformity. Dupanloup, one of the foremost writers on education, published his Catéchisme chrétien" in 1865. At the time of the Vatican Council (1869-1870) the question of having a single universal catechism was discussed. There was great diversity of opinion among the Fathers, and consequently the discussion led to no result (see Martin, "Les travaux du concile du Vatican ", pp. 113-115). The arguments for and against the project will be examined when we come to speak of catechisms in the third part of this article. The most important event in the recent history of catechetics has been the publication of the Encyclical "Acerbo nimis" on the teaching of Christian doctrine (15 April, 1905). In this document Pius X attributes the present religious crisis to the widespread ignorance of Divine truth, and lays down strict regulations concerning the duty of catechizing (see below). For the purpose of discussing the best methods of carrying out these orders a number of catechetical congresses have been held: e.g., at Munich, 1905 and 1907; Vienna, 1905 and 1908; Salzburg, 1906; Lucerne, 1907; Paris, 1908, etc. At these gatherings scientific, yet practical, lectures were delivered, demonstrations were given of actual catechizing in school, and an interesting feature was the exhibition of the best literature and appliances. Two periodicals have likewise appeared: "Katechetische Blätter" (Munich) and "Christlich-pädagogische Blätter" (Vienna).
In the United States , the few priests who in the early days toiled in this vast field were so overburdened with work that they could not produce original textbooks for religious instruction; they caused to be re-printed, with slight alterations, books commonly used in Europe. Others were composed in the manner described by Dr. England, first Bishop of Charleston, who, in 1821, published a catechism which, he writes, "I had much labor in compiling from various others, and adding several parts which I considered necessary to be explicitly dwelt upon under the peculiar circumstances of my diocese." The first to edit a catechism, so far as is known, was the Jesuit Father Robert Molyneux, an Englishman by birth and a man of extensive learning, who, till 1809, laboured among the Catholics in Maryland and Pennsylvania. Copies of this work are not known to exist now, but, in letters to Bishop Carroll, Father Molyneux mentions two catechisms which he issued
- Unfailing Prayer to St. Anthony
- The Apostles' Creed
- Litany of the Blessed Virgin Mary
- Hail, Holy Queen
- Padre Nuestro - Our Father (Lord's Prayer)
- Act of Contrition
- A Guide for Confession
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