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What Catholics Believe - Chapter One

My Soul Longs for You, O God" (Ps 42:2)

United States Catholic Catechism for Adults - Introduction

In 1992, the Catechism of the Catholic Church was published and promulgated by Pope John Paul II. This is the great exposition of Catholic faith to be used all over the world as a sure and authentic reference text and to help national conferences of bishops produce local catechisms that could effectively teach what the Church believes, how it celebrates what it believes, how we live what we believe, and how we express what we believe in prayer.

The catechism that many older adults might remember is what we called The Baltimore Catechism. It was in the format of questions and answers that were to be memorized. I can still see my brother Ralph in the kitchen on Saturday night reciting the answers to the questions as my mother asked him. And of course, his little sister (with big ears) listened and learned right along with him.

Last year, at a meeting with Bishop Richard Malone, the discussion for the assembled group was how we could help our people today learn more about their faith and know what the Church teaches. One of the ways discussed was utilizing Harvest to relate sections from the newly published United States Catholic Catechism for Adults (USCCA), the first official catechism promulgated by the U.S. bishops since the Baltimore Catechism, which dates back to 1885. The format of the USCCA is very user friendly. It starts with a story of someone who has lived a life of faith, usually about a saintly person from our own country. It then teaches a matter of faith and how it is applied to our faith life. It connects this teaching to our culture and presents questions for discussion. At the end of each chapter, it includes a short meditation and prayer.

Harvest will publish reflections by a variety of authors on different chapters from the USCCA in the coming editions. We hope this long-term project will be helpful as we present the Catholic answers to some of the important questions raised by so many of our Catholic people today.

The first chapters are a reminder that God is in search of us long before we realize we are looking for God. St. Elizabeth Ann Seton’s story exemplifies that. While actively looking for God, she discovered that God was drawing her to Himself in mysterious ways and preparing her to become the person He needed her to be. She longed for God and God answered her prayers by caring for her, her family and her new religious community. She gradually came to know and experience the love of God, which empowered her to face any and all difficulties that came her way.

We are all born with that same longing for God, although our pursuit of Him may become lost in our cluttered schedules. Some may have moved away from God because of pain or suffering. Others need us to make them aware of His presence. Still, God remains within us and around us…in our own desire for moral goodness, in the kindness shown to us by others and in the beauty of the autumn leaves and the first fallen snow.

Our desire to want to know God better and to understand His presence in our lives will draw us to join others in the Catholic community who are also on this quest for knowing God. Sometimes it is an invitation to become part of a book review group or a member on a parish committee that serves meals to the homeless or collects food and clothing for those in need. All of us desire to live a fully human life, a life that has meaning. This is deeply a part of our humanness. When we search our hearts for God, we will often find that God wants us to help other persons who are on that same journey to their heart of hearts.
As we search for God and long for His presence in our own lives, let us remember this quote from St. Augustine: “God loves each one of us as if there were only one of us to love.”

Barbara Smith
Director of Catechetics & Initiation
Roman Catholic Diocese of Portland

What Catholics Believe is an ongoing Harvest series on the United States Catholic Catechism of Adults.