The first time I read the Catechism

My love affair with the Catechism began while studying theology in Fribourg, Switzerland in the early 1990’s.  In 1991, I heard Fr Christoph Sch­önborn, OP speak about the vision and content of the not yet published text of the Catechism, for which he was the general editor. My interest was piqued, but I would need to wait another year and a half for the publication of the first edition, which was in French.

I remember the day clearly—I was checking out at the cash register of a supermarket on the ground floor of a Swiss department store when a voice came over the loudspeaker: “The new Catechism of the Catholic Church is now available. You can purchase a copy in our book department located on the fourth floor.” I went right up the elevator, groceries in hand, to purchase my copy, and then I dove in.

What I discovered was a treasure which, to this day, still amazes me. To what can I compare my first readings…? It was like hiking for hours in the mountains and, coming at last to a stream cascading from the snow fields above, tasting water so fresh, so pure, so satisfying that it seemed almost a new beverage. This water held secrets of the deep recesses of the mountain or of the skies above the clouds which dropped it down into the snows.

I had been studying the Catholic faith for a few years already, but the depths were expressed so well here. Or, it was like coming round a bend on a hiking trail in the Swiss Alps and encountering a vista that seemed too beautiful to be real: no matter which way I turned, I saw more beauty than I could fathom.

The beauty of the Catechism has its source, of course, in the doctrines which sum up the most precious realities we have: the Trinity, the Incarnation, the Church, the liturgy, and the dignity of the human person. But in this compendium of the faith, the truths are expressed through a specially chosen lens, in a masterful interweaving of Sacred Scripture, the saints, Church Fathers, the great councils, the liturgy and the prayers of the Church.

The lens, which must be the work of the Holy Spirit, is that of harmony. It is the way the revealed truths are put together, how the different “notes” are played (to borrow an image from Petroc Willey) in the “melodious symphony of the truth” (front cover logo description) that draws the reader beyond himself into the depths of the mysteries.

A Year with the Catechism is designed to guide the reader of the Catechism along that journey into the depths, providing the necessary lights on the way. Under Dr Willey’s direction, as editor and author, this new commentary captures the beauty and profundity of the Catechism itself.


Elizabeth Siegel is one of the authors – together with Dr Petroc Willey, Fr Dominic Scotto, and Dr Donald Asci – of A Year with the Catechism, which offers an achievable method of reading the Catechism in one year.



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4 comments on “The first time I read the Catechism

  1. Thank you Elizabeth for your touching reflection on the Catechism, as you called it “a treasure” and it surely is!
    Our men’s group and our wives all eagerly await our copies of A Year With The Catechism. Great work!

  2. Elizabeth, thanks to your godly example and impassioned writing style I cannot wait to begin reading this explanation of God’s love and plan for us all.


    February 9, 2018 at 5:22 pm Reply

    Having worked with the Catechism as Director of the RCIA classes I can heartily affirm what you have written about the Catechism. Over and over again I was impacted by the harmonious fashion in which the Catechism sets forth the truth of divine revelation. Thank you so much for expressing so incisively and persuasively the beauty and power of the deposit of faith as found in our Catechism.

  4. As evidenced above you are a marvelous writer. I’m so happy you were able to contribute your gift to this very special book.
    I have already begun reading it and it does not disappoint.

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