Episco-Fact #33
February 5, 2017

What is Catechism?

The short answer is that catechism comes from a Greek word which passed down to us through Latin and means oral teaching.

We know this word primarily because this is who the basic tenant of Christianity were taught for centuries, usually around the oral memorization of answers to specific questions.

When I was in grade school I attended St. Pius X, Roman Catholic Church in Norfolk, Virginia. If you Google the church you will notice its architectural style leaves something to be desired, in my humble opinion. I had quite a few friends in my neighborhood who were Roman Catholic, and also, Jewish, and Baptists. The Episcopalians were concentrated in another part of town. Most of my Roman Catholic friend had their religious instruction at the grade school in the parish. Those who went to public school had to do their instructions on Saturday morning.

No matter which place the instruction was given, through my early childhood the basic instruction was from the "Baltimore Catechism," the official instruction of the American Roman Catholic Church. It was question and answer. It was drilled into the heads, willing and unwilling, most likely unwilling of the children of the Roman Catholic Church in America. Many Episcopalians who have transferred into the Episcopal Church call themselves "recovering Catholics" referring to their recovery from the hours of drill in this catechism. There were over 350 questions to memorize answers to.

Though I admit this was a routinized way to learn the faith, and many teachers never explored the implications of the answers more fully, it did have the advantage that the generations of Roman Catholics from 1885 through the late 1960's did have at their instant recovery, basic answers to many issues of dogma and belief.

On page 845 of the BCP you will find An Outline of the Faith, commonly called the Catechism. Note that on page 844 we are cautioned that neither answers nor the whole outline are to be considered a complete statement of faith.

But if you want quick answers to some very important questions of faith and religion, there are many worse options than to pick up the BCP and find out what the "official" though incomplete answer is to our questions:

Q. What is the mission of the Church?

A. The mission of the Church is to restore all people to unity with God and each other in Christ.


The Rev. David Lucey