A Long-Hidden Heritage
“Where can I learn the Faith?” For centuries, this question has prompted men and women to seek after clear and concise reference texts for Catholic doctrine: a need often met by catechisms, those humble guidebooks for an average readership, simply restating Church teaching on matters of faith and morals as it was handed down from the Apostles.
Over the last millennium, hundreds of these little manuals have been issued by Catholic bishops and councils around the world. Saints and heroes have been among their authors, writing across vast distances of space and time. From medieval Italy to post-industrial England, from the forests of South India to the suburbs of North America, these portable field guides of faith display the amazing continuity of the apostolic doctrine, presenting the same essential content in ways fitted to their own setting and audience.
Particularly after the invention of mechanized print, wherever the seed of Catholicism was planted, catechisms sprang up almost overnight. As the Church’s teaching mission expanded over oceans and deserts to every nation on earth, by the 20th century it became almost facetious to ask a Catholic to “look something up in his catechism.” For, among the thousands issued in every major language, one found the need to clarify: “Which one?”
Each catechism holds unique value. Some are written for young children with simple, memorizable language and lovely illustrations. Others are for adults; filled with anecdotes, examples, and practical applications. Many have parents in mind, helping them instruct their own children at home. Some are for priests, seminarians, or scholars; heavily annotated and loaded with technical terms and assessment tools. Still others approach the poetic and mystical, inflaming hearts with devotion and zeal as they fill the mind with truth.
Some have been the cherished possession of native peoples, newly converted to Christ in the Age of Discovery. Others were the supernatural life-support of persecuted Catholics amid storms of Reformation and Revolution. Some of their publishers are still unknown; printers who worked secretly to produce the books that preserved right doctrine under anti-Catholic governments. Not a few purchased these catechisms at the price of their own blood.
Sadly, most of these brilliant gems have been lost to obscurity, and even many Catholics are unaware of this great wealth that is their heritage. Tradivox, a Catholic nonprofit whose mission is “Giving Voice to Tradition,” is aiming to change that.
Timely and Reliable Guides
For the first time in history, Tradivox is researching and painstakingly restoring dozens of these priceless works, to offer them as one cohesive series: the Catholic Catechism Index . This is a project that, in the words of Bishop Joseph Strickland, “promises to be a treasury of truth and tradition that is desperately needed in the world today.”
Across twenty beautifully hardbound and embellished volumes, the Catholic Catechism Index reveals the truths of the Faith as never before.
Through this cross-indexed collection of the most outstanding classical catechisms ever assembled, an entire chorus of priests and bishops from the past are given a clear and united voice, teaching the timeless Catholic doctrine with refreshing clarity to the men and women of our turbulent time.
Bishop Athanasius Schneider, serving as Episcopal Advisor to the project, states: “The Catholic Faith remains always the same throughout the centuries and millennia until the coming of Our Lord at the end of the time,” and “this project will convincingly show the essentially unchanging nature of the apostolic doctrine across time and space… not only to many confused and disoriented Catholic faithful, but also to all people who are sincerely seeking the ultimate and authentic truth about God and man.”
In a compelling use of new data technologies, Tradivox is also launching a companion digital tool to harness the doctrinal content of these traditional catechisms, and make brief and consistent answers to questions of faith instantly available from the most respected catechists in history.
Given the great confusion and loss of faith witnessed today both outside and inside the Church, this resource could hardly be more timely. As Gerhard Cardinal Müller, former Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, points out: “Tradivox presents ancient truths easily and in a user-friendly manner, especially to our young Catholic faithful who are often desirous of knowing the depths of the faith yet do not know where to start… particularly today, at a time in which we often lack a good understanding of the continuity and stability of Catholic teaching.”
Like a great symphony, the Catholic Catechism Index brings together the instruments of many times and nations to show the beauty, constancy, and universality of Catholicism in a striking new light for contemporary seekers. For all those looking for a readable and reliable guide to the perennial Catholic doctrine, Tradivox stands as an invaluable resource.
Editor’s note: the Catholic Catechism Index from Tradivox is available in hardbound volumes from Sophia Institute Press and your local Catholic bookstore. They can be ordered individually or you can subscribe to receive a new editions every three months.
Learn more about Tradivox and their ongoing work at their website, Tradivox.com.
image: Petrus Canisius: Catechismus Graecolatinus, photo by Pakeha / Wikimedia Commons (CC BY-SA 4.0)