Catechisms and Saintly Catechisms: Padre Pio

Where do catechisms come from? They’re recent instruments for forming people in their faith. Martin Luther was the first to compose a catechism in question and answers for ordinary people in the 15th century.

In response to Luther, the Dutch Jesuit Peter Canisius composed the first Catholic catechism in 1555 followed by three others afterwards. The Council of Trent directed a catechism be written as a resource for the clergy and that appeared in 1556. Robert Bellarmine later composed an important catechism requested by Pope Clement VIII and after that bishops from all over the world composed catechisms for their people. I can still recite questions and answers from the Baltimore Catechism of my youth.

Catechesis was done in earlier centuries without catechisms, through preaching, sacraments, the feasts and seasons of the year. The Second Vatican Council changed the language of the liturgy from latin to the language of the people and revised the liturgical prayers and rites so that they better serve as catechesis. Some today want to maintain the primacy of the catechism in catechesis but, while they’re still useful, we need to catechize more through the liturgy, sacraments, feasts and seasons. It’s a task of the Second Vatican Council remaining to be done. 

Today’s the feast of Padre Pio, the Italian Capuchin friar who’s one of the most popular saints of modern times. I would say he’s a saint who’s a catechism. He was a stigmatic, who carried the wounds of Christ in his body. Church officials were wary of him;  investigation after investigation questioned his credibility, but ordinary people recognized his holiness. To them he was a striking sign of God’s presence in an ordinary human being. Padre Pio taught that, not through a book, but through himself.

In 2006 the bishops of the USA published the United States Catholic Catechism for Adults, which interspersed stories of saints and others as examples of the faith expounded in the book. They were acknowledging what we all know: people are better catechisms than books. 

Padre Pio reminds us of that today.

2 thoughts on “Catechisms and Saintly Catechisms: Padre Pio

  1. cenaclemary12

    Wondering how many have the Cathechism as a reference on their shelf but seldom open it. It’s a hefty text book! For sure our Liturgies and actions that follow speak louder. “Christ has no hands but yours….” as St. Teresa of Avila said.


  2. fdan

    Dear Father Victor, Thank you for your reflection. I prayed and meditated on these Padre Pio words of faith with you in mind: “Every Christian soul ought to be familiar with this saying of the holy apostle [St. Paul], ‘To me to live is Christ’ – Philippians 1:2. I live for Jesus Christ, I live for His glory, I live to serve Him, I live to love Him. And when God wants to take our life from us, our sentiment and our feeling should be those of a person who at the end of his toil goes to collect his wages, who, at the end of the fight, goes to receive the prize.” St. Padre Pio, pray for us! Blessed Mother, pray for all your holy sons and daughters. Help them to continue to inspire and bring the word of God to the people of God! Amen.


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