20 October 2016, The Tablet

Catholics need to move beyond the Catechism and develop their 'prayer life', Pope says

Pope advocates deeper relationship with Christ through regular prayer, silent adoration and being conscious of sinfulness

Simply knowing what the Church teaches does not make you a good Catholic, Pope Francis has said.

During a homily in his Vatican residence, the Casa Santa Marta, Francis said more was needed than simply knowing the Catechism and urged Catholics to develop their prayer life. “Studying the Catechism teaches us who Christ is. But this is not enough,” the Pope said.

Instead the Pope said that prayer, silent adoration and becoming conscious of sinfulness were the ingredients needed for an active faith. “We cannot worship without accusing ourselves,” Francis said. “In order to enter into this bottomless and boundless sea that is the mystery of Jesus Christ, this thing is necessary. [Firstly], prayer:  ‘Father, send me the Holy Spirit so that he leads me to know Jesus.’  Secondly, worship the mystery, enter into the mystery and worship Him. And thirdly, accuse ourselves. ‘I am a man of unclean lips.” 

The Pope, who rises each morning at before 5am to pray in silence, stressed in particular the need for silent adoration. “We cannot know the Lord without this habit of worship, to worship in silence, adoration,” he explained. “If I am not mistaken, I believe that this prayer of adoration is the least known by us, it’s the one that we do least.”

The Catechism is a synthesis of Catholic doctrine set out in a systematic way and is used as an educational text for children. In the past Catholics were asked to learn the Catechism by heart and conservative critics say today’s faithful do not know enough about their faith, calling for greater emphasis to be placed on learning Church teaching. 

This Pope, however, has placed an emphasis on members of the Church deepening their personal faith rather than just rote learning. He has also called on Catholics to use their faith as a motivation to carry out acts of charity to those in need. 

Francis has also been willing to go off-message when it comes to the Catechism on the matter of capital punishment. While the Catechism allows the death penalty under certain conditions the Pope has argued for the worldwide abolition of capital punishment. 

The current edition of the Catechism of the Catholic Church was produced in 1992 after John Paul II commissioned an updating of the text. While there is one version of the Catechism for the Church worldwide, local bishops can produce their own. A famous example of this was the Baltimore Catechism in the United States which was used as in Catholic schools from 1885 until the mid-1960s. 


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