BITE-SIZE THEOLOGY (221): What is the fourth part of the Catechism?

Rev. José Mario O. Mandía

We have previously seen that religion usually consists of a set of (1) truths about God, man and the world; (2) precepts which indicate how man should behave towards God, other men and the world; and (3) rites or ceremonies by which he worships God.

We can summarize them in these three words: (1) creed; (2) (moral) code; and (3) cult (worship).

Moreover, we can divide the topic of cult into two: (3.1) Sacraments and Liturgy, and (3.2) prayer (cf. BST 003 and 108). This is why our study of the Catholic Faith is divided into four parts, which Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger explained in the Compendium (no 10).

“The first part, entitled ‘The Profession of Faith,’ contains a synthesis of the lex credendi [‘the law of what is to be believed’], the faith professed by the Catholic Church, as expressed in the Apostles’ Creed which is further elaborated by the Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed. In the liturgical profession of the Creed, the Christian assembly keeps the principal truths of the faith alive in memory.

“The second part, entitled ‘The Celebration of the Christian Mystery,’ presents the essential elements of the lex celebrandi [‘the law of what is to be celebrated’]. The proclamation of the Gospel finds its authentic response in the sacramental life, through which Christians experience and witness, in every moment of their existence, the saving power of the paschal mystery by which Christ has accomplished our redemption.

“The third part, entitled ‘Life in Christ,’ recalls the lex vivendi, [‘the law of what is to be lived’] through which the baptized manifest their commitment to the faith they have professed and celebrated, through their actions and ethical choices. The Christian faithful are called by the Lord Jesus to act in a way which befits their dignity as children of the Father in the charity of the Holy Spirit.

“The fourth part, entitled ‘Christian Prayer,’ summarizes the lex orandi [‘the law of what is to be prayed’] the life of prayer. Following the example of Jesus, the perfect model of one who prays, the Christian too is called to the dialogue with God in prayer. A privileged expression of prayer is the ‘Our Father,’ the prayer that Jesus has taught us.”

The Catechism of the Catholic Church (2558) summarizes the above explanation as follows: “The Church professes this mystery in the Apostles’ Creed (Part One) and celebrates it in the sacramental liturgy (Part Two), so that the life of the faithful may be conformed to Christ in the Holy Spirit to the glory of God the Father (Part Three). This mystery, then, requires that the faithful believe in it, that they celebrate it, and that they live from it in a vital and personal relationship with the living and true God. This relationship is prayer.”

We have finished the discussion of the lex credendi, the lex vivendi, and the lex celebrandi. Now we will begin our study of the fourth part of the Catechism: the lex orandi.

These four aspects of our belief are summarized and embodied in Jesus Christ.

He is the Truth who teaches what we are to believe.

He is the Way who shows us how to live.

He is the Life who nourishes us in the Sacraments and in prayer.