Catholic Way: Faith for Living Today [NOOK Book]


In The Catholic Way, Bishop Donald Wuerl, Archbishop of Washington D.C., has offered up an accessible, easy-to-use blueprint to the Catholic Church's most recent catechism, a detailed summary of Catholic thought compiled by a commission of church cardinals and bishops in 1992.
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Catholic Way: Faith for Living Today

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In The Catholic Way, Bishop Donald Wuerl, Archbishop of Washington D.C., has offered up an accessible, easy-to-use blueprint to the Catholic Church's most recent catechism, a detailed summary of Catholic thought compiled by a commission of church cardinals and bishops in 1992.
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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Anyone who wants to know the Catholic Church's position on just about any topic can easily find it by consulting the church's new catechism, a superbly organized and accessible compendium first published in 1992. For those intimidated by the catechism's language or overwhelmed by its sheer size, several guides have been produced, the latest of which is this easy-to-use companion volume, written by the bishop of Pittsburgh and chairman of the U.S. Bishops' Committee on Education. Although not intended as a substitute for the catechism itself, Wuerl's book provides a fitting introduction to the more detailed summary of Catholic thought, which was produced by a commission of church cardinals and bishops. Wuerl is an excellent teacher who has expanded on portions of the catechism's teachings in 83 chapters, each of them brief and followed by questions for discussion or reflection. He deals with the catechism itself, the place of Scripture, the sacraments, the commandments, moral conscience, natural moral law and prayer. Non-Catholics may be especially interested in his explanations of the church teachings that still separate Catholics and Protestants (namely Mary, the pope and the saints). Progressive Catholics will be happy to see that chapters on social justice issues and racism in America have been included, and traditionalists will be pleased that Wuerl chose to deal with such current concerns as the Catholic belief in the "real presence" and the teaching authority of the pope and bishops. (Sept.) Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780385506427
  • Publisher: The Crown Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 5/14/2002
  • Sold by: Random House
  • Format: eBook
  • Pages: 384
  • Sales rank: 731,991
  • File size: 614 KB

Meet the Author

Donald W. Wuerl is the sixth and current Archbishop of Washington D.C., previously serving as Bishop of Pittsburgh. He grew up in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and later studied at Mount St. Mary's Seminary in Cincinnati, Ohio and the Catholic University of America in Washington D.C. He continued his priestly formation at the Pontifical North American College in Rome and the Pontifical Gregorian University. After his ordination he recieved a Ph.D. in theology from the Pontifical University of St. Thomas Aquinas in Rome.
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Read an Excerpt


What Is a Catechism?

What will you find when you open the Catechism of the Catholic Church?

Basically, you will find what Jesus Christ came to teach and what the Church, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit over twenty centuries, has nurtured, applied, and articulated--the Catholic faith.

It is a wonderful gift to each one of us. The Catechism provides for every believer a summary of what we believe, of the faith that we so deeply cherish. In this little book you hold now, I hope we will deepen our understanding and appreciation of the richness and life-giving character of our Catholic faith as presented in the Catechism of the Catholic Church.


How did this catechism come about? Its roots go back deep into the Second Vatican Council, which took place from 1962 to 1965. From Pope John Paul II, we learned that "the principal task entrusted to the Council by Pope John XXIII was to guard and present better the precious deposit of Christian doctrine, in order to make it more accessible to the Christian faithful and to all people of good will" (Fidei Depositum).

Since its conclusion, the Second Vatican Council has continued to inspire the Church's life. Pope John Paul pointed out in 1985 how the council had been a "special grace" for him as a bishop and how as Pope the council was always "the fixed point of reference for all my pastoral activity" (Discourse of January 25, 1985).

But because some of the council documents have been interpreted in different ways, it became apparent that an authoritative compendium of the faith was not only desirable but necessary. In the middle 1970s, I spoke about these problems with Cardinal John Wright, who was then Prefect of the Vatican office responsible for--among other things--catechetics, the teaching of the faith. Out of that discussion came The Teaching of Christ: A Catholic Catechism for Adults, published in 1976 and subsequently revised three times. This catechism, a product of the collaboration and dedicated work of a large number of bishops, scholars, and catechists, was widely used almost immediately and was translated into more than a dozen languages. Yet there was still a need for a catechism for the whole Church.

At an extraordinary assembly of the Synod of Bishops in 1985, Cardinal Bernard Law, Archbishop of Boston, proposed that a new compendium of the faith be drawn up in the light of the teaching of the Second Vatican Council. This new catechism would function as a norm for all catechetical teaching. The idea was immediately and favorably received, and out of it came the decision of Pope John Paul II to create a worldwide commission of cardinals and bishops to produce a catechism for the whole Church--the Catechism of the Catholic Church.


Essentially a catechism is a means to an end. God gives us the gift of faith, and the Church nurtures and sustains that faith through her teaching and sacramental ministry. A catechism is a tool for those involved in teaching the faith--and we all know how important it is to have the right tool. Whether we work in the yard, in the kitchen, or in the workshop, if we have the right tool the task is a lot easier.

Why is the Catechism of the Catholic Church the right tool for the task of teaching the faith today? First, it is complete. In this long yet somewhat concise book, we find a full survey of the whole body of Catholic teaching on faith and morals.

In an age that has come to think of the teaching of the Church as a cafeteria line where one picks and chooses what one wants to believe, the Catechism is a reminder that the whole meal is necessary for a well-balanced spiritual diet. The Catechism provides completeness.

It is also authentic. Its content is not someone's opinion about what the Church believes or should believe. It is the true teaching of the Catholic Church proclaimed with authority by those who are responsible for guarding the integrity of the faith. (In the next chapter, we'll talk more about what it means to teach with authority.) The Catechism of the Catholic Church represents the effort of Pope John Paul II together with the bishops to present a complete and authoritative proclamation of the faith of the Catholic Church today.


What does the Catechism rely on for its sources as it presents the faith? It turns to "the teaching of Sacred Scripture, the living tradition in the Church and the authentic magisterium as well as the spiritual heritage of the Fathers and the saints of the Church" (Fidei Depositum 3). The foundation on which the Catechism rests is the teaching of Jesus. That teaching is contained in the pages of Sacred Scripture and the living tradition of the Church, and it is articulated in the magisterium, the teaching office of the bishops. It is also found over centuries in the writings of the Fathers of the Church and its saints, who have lived out the faith in loving response to the will of God. All of these are source material for the faith presented in the new universal catechism.


The Catechism is divided into four sections:

The first section deals with the creed or profession of faith. Here we find the revelation of Jesus that illumines and gives meaning to life.

The second section is devoted to the sacramental life of the Church, or, as it is called, the celebration of the Christian mystery. Here we consider how we express our faith through the sacramental presence of Christ.

The third part is devoted to how we live out in our daily lives the moral obligations of being a follower of Jesus Christ. How do we live in a way that pleases God? How do we become true followers of Jesus? This section unfolds the moral teaching of the Church and our vocation to live in the Holy Spirit.

The final section is devoted to prayer. Here the Catechism uses the petitions of the Our Father to guide us through an understanding of how we should pray and for what should we pray.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church is designed primarily for bishops, so that they will have an authentic source of teaching against which to gauge all catechetical efforts in their particular dioceses. However, this catechism is also for every believer. This present book, The Catholic Way, is meant to introduce you to the Catechism. Each short chapter explains one important idea in the Catechism, and at the end of each chapter are some questions to help you think about how the Catechism applies to your life. We start with the most fundamental ideas, of which the first is the most important question: Where does this Catechism's authority come from?

Chapter 2

The Bishops: Teachers of the Faith

We call the Catechism of the Catholic Church "authoritative" or "authentic." What does that mean?

Both of these words have the same Latin root: auctoritas. They mean that the teaching is more than opinion--it has authority.


In the New Testament, the followers of Jesus marveled that, unlike other teachers, he taught with authority. In Matthew's gospel, for example, we read: "Now when Jesus had finished saying these things, the crowds were astonished at his teaching, for he taught them as one having authority, and not as their scribes" (Matthew 7:28-29). Saint Mark recounts how Jesus "entered the synagogue and taught. They were astounded at his teaching, for he taught them as one having authority" (Mark 1:21-22).

Jesus had authority because of who he was. "I am the way, the truth, and the life," he proclaimed (John 14:6). The truth--the very reality of who Jesus is--is what he shares with us through the Church.

When Jesus was on trial, Pilate asked him, "Are you a king?" Jesus answered, "For this I was born. For this I came into the world to testify to the truth. Anyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice" (John 18:37).

We call the truth that Jesus brings us revelation.


In the early days of salvation history, God made himself known through the prophets. (See Chapter 5 for an explanation of what we mean by "salvation history.") God did not, however, communicate through them all that God wanted us to know. Finally, God spoke to us "by a Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, through whom he also created the world. He is the reflection of God's glory and the exact imprint of God's very being . . ." (Hebrews 1:1-3).

This explains why the teaching of Jesus is different from that of any other person. Christ, in his being, his deeds, and his words, is the perfect revelation of the Father. Jesus is God come into our midst to reveal to us the inner life and very word of God. Through him we have learned how we should live.

On our own, none of us could come to know the mind, heart, love, and identity of God because God is so far beyond us. But Jesus came to reveal truth--the truth about God and the truth about ourselves. As God's word among us, Jesus brings us a message from God that we could not otherwise have. Hence the teaching of Christ--his revelation--is spoken with full authority.

But how does the revelation of God in Jesus Christ continue to come to us?

It comes through the Church. God sent Jesus, and Jesus sent the apostles. And just as the word of God spread through the twelve apostles, so it must continue to be taught through today's apostles--the bishops. The Church continues to pass on the revelation of truth in the same way it has since the days of the apostles.

Because the teaching of the Church is rooted in the teaching of Christ that has come to us from the apostles, the Church is called "apostolic." That means it traces its origins to the apostles, and it still maintains continuity with them. It was Christ's will that his revelation should be preserved always for the salvation of all people. That was why he built his Church on Peter and the other apostles--the Catholic Church, which he protects by his own presence and the gift of the Spirit. It is through this teaching that God's revelation reaches us. Hence it is called authentic or authoritative teaching.


With the end of the apostolic age, the time of new public revelation came to a close. Since then, the task of the Church has been to hand on the word that had been entrusted to the apostles--the deposit of faith--to grow in it, to nurture its development, and to make it living and effective, a leaven to renew the earth.

We teach that revelation continues today, but only in the sense that the living God remains present to God's people, caring for them and providing the gifts of grace that enable them to recognize and love God and the good news of the gospel. But we affirm at the same time that Jesus proclaimed the full saving message and gave it to all who would continue after him. Now, as the Second Vatican Council teaches in the Dogmatic Constitution on Divine Revelation, "no new public revelation is to be expected before the glorious manifestation of our Lord Jesus Christ" (see 1 Timothy 6:14 and Titus 2:13) (Dei Verbum 4).

Theologians and scholars teach the word and help the Church to penetrate its full meaning. They are not official teachers in the way that bishops, the successors of the apostles, are; and theologians do not receive with the bishops that "sure gift of truth" (Dei Verbum 8) that apostolic witnesses of faith receive. But they are important companions of faith, for bishops look to scholars for appropriate assistance in understanding divine revelation.

Still other teachers are parents, whom the Second Vatican Council in its Declaration on Christian Education calls "the first and foremost educators of their children" (Gravissimum Educationis 6). Those who teach the faith in schools and in centers of catechetical learning are also very important teachers. They too do not rely on knowledge derived from human scholarship alone, from human philosophies and sciences: they rely on the teaching of Christ. They find a sure guide for their teaching in the voice of the pastors of the Church.


In the history of the Church there have always been people who have proclaimed their own interpretation of God's revelation. From time to time we hear people say "this is really what Jesus meant" and "that part of the teaching doesn't count, but this is the really important thing." People continue to make such claims today. They open the Bible, pick out a phrase, and conclude that their interpretation is authentic.

To avoid this confusion and the possibility of misunderstanding God's word, Jesus chose apostles and charged them and their successors with the responsibility of teaching the true faith, making sure that it is presented clearly and applying it to the problems and needs of the day.

Authentic Catholic faith is never partial or selective. It is always universal. We say "yes" to the whole mystery of the faith and to each of its elements because of our personal faith in God. We believe the truth that God reveals because we believe God, and we believe that God is still teaching in and through the Church. When Peter came to recognize that God was in Christ, he was prepared to believe any word of Christ, for it was clear to him that God is always to be believed. "You have the word of eternal life. We have come to believe and know that you are the holy one of God" (John 6:68-69).

While every Christian shares in the mission of spreading the truth and bearing witness to the gospel, the apostles, as we have noted, had the prime responsibility of guarding, proclaiming, and verifying the gospel message. For this reason the Catechism of the Catholic Church is directed primarily to the bishops, their successors, as an instrument to use in measuring the fidelity of all catechetical materials and as an authentic gauge with an authority rooted in the very revelation of Christ.


This brings us to the question of what means are available to us if we want to live the gospel and share the good news in a way that is faithful to the message of Jesus. It was precisely in the face of this concern that Pope John Paul II ordered the Catechism of the Catholic Church to be written so that everyone, bishops, priests, deacons, religious, catechists, teachers, and all the faithful would have a complete and authoritative presentation of the faith of the Church.
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Table of Contents

Preface ix
Papal and Council Documents Cited in This Book xiii
1. What Is a Catechism? 1
2. The Bishops: Teachers of the Faith 5
3. To Give an Account of Our Faith 9
4. The Human Capacity for God 13
5. The Revelation of God 17
6. Passing On the Faith 21
7. Sacred Scripture 25
8. The Creed and the Councils 30
9. God the Creator of Heaven and Earth 34
10. The Attributes of God 38
11. The Holy Trinity 43
12. The Works of God's Hand 47
13. The Fall from Grace 52
14. Jesus Christ the Only Son of God 56
15. Christmas and the Incarnation 61
16. Mary, Mother of Jesus, Mother of God 64
17. The Public Life of Jesus 69
18. The Cross and Our Redemption 74
19. The Resurrection 79
20. Jesus' Return in Glory 83
21. The Holy Spirit 87
22. The Mystery and the Images of the Church 92
23. The Marks of the Church 96
24. Who Speaks for the Church? 101
25. The Church's Teaching Office 106
26. Called to the Service of God 111
27. The Role of the Laity 115
28. The Role and Mission of the Pope 119
29. The Communion of Saints 122
30. The Forgiveness of Sins 127
31. The Resurrection of the Body 131
32. Life Everlasting 135
33. Amen--I Believe 140
34. Liturgy 144
35. Sacraments 149
36. Baptism 154
37. Confirmation 159
38. The Eucharist 163
39. The Real Presence 168
40. Order of the Mass 174
41. The Sacrament of Penance and Reconciliation 178
42. Anointing of the Sick 182
43. The Sacrament of Orders 186
44. Marriage 191
45. Family Life 196
46. Sacramentals 200
47. The Rosary 204
48. Christian Funerals 208
49. Life in Christ 212
50. Christian Freedom 216
51. Responsibility Before God 220
52. Christian Morality 224
53. Moral Conscience 229
54. The Human Virtues 234
55. The Theological Virtues 238
56. Sin 243
57. The Seven Capital Sins 247
58. The Person and Society 252
59. Social-Justice Issues in America 256
60. Christian Discourse: Building Up the Church and Society 261
61. Fashioning a Moral Compass 266
62. The Natural Moral Law 270
63. Justification 274
64. The Church, Mother and Teacher 278
65. The Ten Commandments 282
66. The First Commandment: Have No Strange Gods 286
67. Nurturing a Lively Faith 290
68. The Second Commandment: You Shall Not Take God's Name in Vain 294
69. The Third Commandment: Keep Holy the Lord's Day 298
70. The Fourth Commandment: Honor Your Father and Mother 303
71. The Fifth Commandment: You Shall Not Kill 307
72. Challenges to Human Life in Our Time 311
73. Medical and Moral Issues 316
74. Confronting Racism in America 321
75. The Sixth Commandment: You Shall Not Commit Adultery 325
76. The Seventh Commandment: You Shall Not Steal 331
77. The Eighth Commandment: You Shall Not Bear False Witness 336
78. The Ninth and Tenth Commandments: You Shall Not Covet 340
79. What Is Prayer? 345
80. Kinds of Prayer 349
81. Ways of Praying 354
82. The Lord's Prayer 358
83. The Seven Petitions 362
Conclusion 367
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Sort by: Showing 1 – 8 of 7 Customer Reviews
  • Posted July 23, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    Excellent !!!!!

    This book provides more than insight to the Catechism of The Catholic Church. It is a wonderful commentary that when used with the catechism that truly "opens" up the teachings of the Church. This is a must read for all Catholics.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted December 9, 2008

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    Useful Reference

    This book is extremely informative when used as a reference guide. Having spent my entire life as a Catholic and now teaching adult catechism, I often refer to this book for teaching ideas on major themes, i.e. the mortal/deadly sins, the seven sacraments, the meaning of the Lords Prayer. It is not as useful for someone trying to learn about Catholicism. Though the material is not intended for experts, it will not be helpful to a novice. As with many faiths, the first step to teaching someone about your beliefs is to lead by example through deed and word. For the finer points on Catholicism, I recommend this book as a reference, but not as a casual beach read.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted February 2, 2013

    great book

    Very appropriate for the Year of Faith. i will recommend it,

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  • Posted April 25, 2011

    I Also Recommend:

    A Great Resource for Continuing Education Courses and RCIA

    This book was written some years ago, even before its author became the Cardinal Archbishop of Washington, but it retains its usefulness and effectiveness nonetheless. It is especially handy for the ordinary "John or Jane Doe" Catholic who is interested in learning more about their faith. It can be read in conjunction with the Catechism of the Catholic Church or the U.S. Catholic Catechism for Adults. It is a very good and useful book by a noteworthy catechist in Cardinal Donald Wuerl of Washington. Those who teach in the RCIA program might find this book particularly helpful, either as a teaching resource or for a class textbook.

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