Wednesday 29 May 2013

The Explanatory Catechism

I mentioned The Explanatory Catechism on Twitter today, and promised to blog some examples, as people (or the one person who commented, to be precise) hadn't heard of it.

It was published (according to the imprimatur) in 1921, though my copy includes updates referring to 1960, so clearly dates from after that time.

It is essentially the Penny Catechism, of fond memory, but with lots of notes added to give a fuller understanding.

For example:
2. Q Why did God make you? A. God made me to know Him, love Him and serve Him in this world, and to be happy with Him for ever in the next.
To know God.  By hearing instructions, reading good books, knowing what He is, and what He has done for us.
To love and serve God. By keeping His commandments and doing all we can to please Him.
5. Q. How is your soul like to God? A. My soul is like to God because it is a spirit and is immortal.
Spirit. An immaterial being, having free-will and understanding, as God, the Angels and our souls. We cannot touch or see a spirit.
Immortal. Not mortal, can never die. The soul has a two-fold life - (1) natural, which it receives at its creation, and never loses; (2) supernatural, or the grace of God, received in Baptism, lost by mortal sin, but regained by a worthy reception of the Sacrament of Penance, or by an act of perfect contrition. 
Amongst other things, that seems to me to give the lie to the claims that the Penny Catechism was all about rote learning without understanding.

What is clear is that the Q & A format is remarkably helpful. Off the top of my head, I can think of several successful examples of its use very recently: YouCat, Did Adam and Eve Have Belly Buttons? and Faith in the Family.  So concerns that the format may be out-of-date seem groundless.

The Penny Catechism also benefits from clarity, simplicity and comprehensiveness.  This version adds depth to those virtues.  Perhaps the CTS should re-publish it.


blondpidge said...

Sounds similar to YouCat which also has a simple explanatory element.

Sitsio said...

What does #273 say Ben?

Ben Trovato said...


Yes, similar; but YouCat of course, references the new CCC. The Penny Catechism is, I think, simpler; certainly the answers are generally shorter, and therefore I think it useful for an earlier age.


273 is the same as in the Penny Catechism, with no additional notes.

Joseph Shaw said...

The Penny Catechism is also remarkable for it concise, memorable, and accurate theological formulations. Although there is less detail than the Baltimore, in this it has the edge.

I prefer the Baltimore, but my children prefer the Penny Catechism! We use them both.

The Penny Catechism has been reprinted; my copies are from Tan, copyright 1982. If the Explanatory Catechism hasn't been, that would be the one to get reprinted.

Joseph Shaw said...

Is this it?

Not widely available!

Ben Trovato said...

Yes, that looks about right: different cover from mine, and mine only runs to 64 pages, but I think it is the same thing. Mine is The Explanatory Catechism of Christian Doctrine. Burns & Oates Publishers to the Holy See' I don't know what happened to Washbourne!

Ttony said...

My copy (which lives in reach of where I sit at the computer without standing up) is 96 pages long. it appears to be the 1921 edition (from the imprimatur, and the lack of any subsequent date. The cover differs slightly from the one in the Amazon picture.

I might be persuadable to OCR it if somebody can convince me that it's out of copyright - unlikely if there were fresh editions up to 1960.

Ben Trovato said...


That's interesting; that's what the Amazon description says, too.

Mine has the Q&As up to p47, then a long appendix. Is yours more spread out, or does it have a VERY long appendix?

Ben Trovato said...

BTW the reference to 1960 occurs in the List of Principal Feasts in the Appendix: The Octave-day of Cheistmas until recently (1960) called The Circumcision...

Ttony said...

Q&As up to p68 then the Appendix Last "explained" clauses (moving backwards) are 358, 356, 353, 352, 345, 344, 343, 339.

Ttony said...

Feast No 2 is the Circumcision and is marked as a Holy Day.

Is your version another example of pre VII "Spirit of VII" I wonder.