February 9, 2011| The Long Island Catholic Vol. 49, No. 41 | BISHOP WILLIAM MURPHY
Over last weekend I came across the kind of news that literally made my heart beat. Our Holy Father, Pope Benedict, has authorized a new catechism for young people! The idea grew out of the World Youth Days, the next one to be held at Madrid August 16 to 21 of this year. The Pope made this known last Friday and informed us that the principal author of the new youth catechism is Cardinal Christoph Schonborn, the same person who coordinated and edited all the work which went into the 1993 Catechism of the Catholic Church.
Called YOUCAT, this catechism is aimed at teen to 20 and 30-year-olds. The pope called this new catechism “extraordinary” because of its content but also because of its format. All of us who lived through the decade or so after the Vatican Council lived through a time when the great teachings of the Council were manipulated by pseudo-theologians and others bent on creating a new Church that would simply bend to whatever the currents of the day would demand. The Pope lived that period too and, reflecting on those years, points out, “many people no longer knew correctly what Christians should actually believe, what the Church taught … and how all this could be adapted to the new cultural climate.”
In response to a growing number of Catholics who simply did not know their faith, Pope John Paul II adopted a suggestion from the Extraordinary Synod of Bishops of 1986 and set the Church on the road toward having her first new catechism since the Council of Trent some 450 years earlier. It was a mammoth task in which I was privileged to have a minor role. But it has become the bulwark in which the true teaching of the Church can be found in all its richness; and the true faith of the Church is anchored against those who have been trying to change that faith and change that Church into forms that contradict the will of Christ, who founded the Church and whose revelation is the content of our belief.
YOUCAT is not a re-working of the large catechism. It attempts to present the faith in terms and in contexts that help “transition” the content of faith into the multifaceted youth culture that stretches across our earth and touches young people from every part of the globe. In a real sense this is born of the experiences of the World Youth Days (WYD). How often at WYDs have young people I have been with told me “we discovered guys from Australia and Tonga and Ghana and France and they are so much like us!” The sharing of the experience of faith reinforces the faith of young people; and the deepening of their sense of belonging to the one Catholic Church solidifies them in their own commitments and makes them ever more vibrant witnesses of Christ in an increasingly secular world.
The set-up of YOUCAT is such that it will encourage young people to explore deeper meanings of their faith together, encourage e-mail and Twitter and other means of personal exchange wherein they can discuss their faith, learn from YOUCAT and share with one another the joy of being disciples of Christ, members of His Body, one with all of us in the Church — pope, bishops, priests and deacons, consecrated women and men and faith-filled lay men and women.
The Holy Father is very optimistic about this new project. He noted that some thought there would be little interest but he was convinced otherwise. Young people today, he has said, are not superficial. They want to know the meaning of life. They are searching for answers that will disclose to them their destiny. We should not underestimate them but should provide them with material that will challenge them, point out new possibilities for them and give them a fuller view of life as transformed by Jesus Christ.
The English language version of YOUCAT is due at the bookstores on March 1. Published by Ignatius Press in our country, it promises to be a new moment in catechesis and faith formation for young people. I am excited about it. I can think of no better way to engage young people and help move them beyond some of the crippling attitudes of small groups of Catholics who in many cases have simply lost their faith but cannot bring themselves to admit it.
Instead I urge us all to welcome this new opportunity for young people so that this generation will not be disappointed by the mistakes of a passé catechesis. Urge them to study the new catechism, to grapple with it, challenge it, let the words challenge them and lead them into discussion, dialogue and prayer. The Holy Father has a vision that young people should read it together, form study groups and seek to discover if the message of Christ does not answer the mysteries of the human heart, show us more clearly our origins and our destinies, give us answers to our problems and our doubts and set us together along a path in which God is the ultimate goal and love of God and love of neighbor the yardsticks of our life choices.
As the Pope reminds us, in some of the darkest days of the life of Israel, Jeremiah was but a youth whom God called. He protested he was too young but God answered him by saying, “Do not say I am a youth; for all to whom I send you you shall go and whatever I command you you shall speak!” May YOUCAT inspire a whole new generation to know their faith and to live it, to know the Lord and to serve Him, to know the beauty of the one and holy Catholic Church and become her witnesses to the end of time.