Book Thoughts: United States Catholic Catechism for Adults

United States Catholic Catechism for Adults was a 2006 reference book by United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. This book uses many aspects of United States culture to relate the concepts of the Catechism to the typical American Catholic’s life. There are a total of 36 chapters with an introduction and a conclusion. Each chapter has a story of a saint or holy person, the catechism itself, discussion questions, meditation readings, and prayers. The chapters are designed to be a weekly study as part of the Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults.

I found this book to be much more readable than the Catechism of the Catholic Church, but that’s because it has a different purpose. The Catechism of the Catholic Church is meant to be a reference book for the experienced Catholic. They already know most of the concepts but might occasionally want to look up the details in the official Catechism. However, for the new Catholic or the Catholic that is just getting into studying the faith, I can’t think of anything better than the United States Catholic Catechism for Adults.

I wish I had a book like this when I was first studying the faith. It was a very entertaining read. I started with the official Catechism. It was so deep, I just couldn’t read it page to page. Instead, I had to space it out, only reading one section per day. That is because it is a reference book. Much like a dictionary, it is not meant to be read from page to page, just to be there to look up information as needed. However, United States Catholic Catechism for Adults is more like a typical book. It can be read chapter after chapter without needing a break or getting bored.

Because I come from a computer science background, I think of the various catechisms as layers of abstraction. At the core, is the Catechism of the Catholic Church. The next layer of abstraction is the United States Catholic Catechism for Adults. It applies the official Catechism to the typical American Catholic’s life. I call this the American Catechism. From there, you can go to the second layer of abstraction, which is the Personal Catechism. The Personal Catechism is applying the American Catechism to the specifics of my life. That is the purpose of the Personal Catechism book I have written on this website.

I am taking any gray areas of the Catechism and making them specific in my life. For example, Chapter 31 of United States Catholic Catechism for Adults (American Catechism) is based on the Seventh Commandment, You Shall Not Steal. The American Catechism says give to the poor and needy. It describes several ways of giving to the poor but doesn’t exactly say what I should do personally. What I decide I need to do personally is my Personal Catechism. In this case, I decided to give 10% of my income to charity and 2 hours of time per week. So I wrote that down in my personal catechism (Chapter 4: Service).

All Catholics need to decide what exactly they are going to do for their faith. The official Catechism and even the American Catechism won’t go into specifics because everyone’s life is slightly different. We need to do that extra legwork. What we decide to do should be based on the logic and reason that God has gifted us with as well as prayer to the Holy Spirit to guide our decision-making.


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