Compendium #1

The beginning of any catechism is significant in giving a foretaste of the whole. For example, the Compendium to the Catechism of the Catholic Church begins:

1. What is the plan of God for man?

God, infinitely perfect and blessed in himself, in a plan of sheer goodness freely created man to make him share in his own blessed life. In the fullness of time, God the Father sent his Son as the Redeemer and Savior of mankind, fallen into sin, thus calling all into his Church and, through the work of the Holy Spirit, making them adopted children and heirs of his eternal happiness.

For comparison, the shorter westminster catechism which various Reformed groups use has:

Q. 1. What is the chief end of man?

A. Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever.

Q. 2. What rule hath God given to direct us how we may glorify and enjoy him?

A. The Word of God, which is contained in the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments, is the only rule to direct us how we may glorify and enjoy him.

The Compendium will go on to say, in question 9, that “In the sending of the Son and the gift of the Spirit, Revelation is now fully complete, although the faith of the Church must gradually grasp its full significance over the course of centuries” whereas the westminster catechism only uses the word ‘church’ once in its entire catechism (in question 95, regarding baptism).

I intend to go through the entire Compendium, one question at a time, in future postings. As Pope Benedict XVI wrote:

The Compendium, which I now present to the Universal Church, is a faithful and sure synthesis of the Catechism of the Catholic Church. It contains, in concise form, all the essential and fundamental elements of the Church’s faith, thus constituting, as my Predecessor had wished, a kind of vademecum which allows believers and non-believers alike to behold the entire panorama of the Catholic faith.

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