The Legion and the Compendium of the Catechism of the Catholic Church

While attending Concilium for the last few years I have listened to many reports coming from nearly every part of the world. The presence of the Legion in the majority of the dioceses of the Universal Church is very impressive. And one of the items in these reports that is particularly striking is the number of legionaries engaging in the teaching of the Catechism. There are legionaries who prepare children for First Holy Communion and the other Sacraments. There are legionaries who are involved in Adult Catechesis and the instruction of converts to the Catholic Faith. Of course, the Patricians are a splendid way of teaching and learning the faith. The Handbook refers to the teaching of Christian Doctrine to children as ‘This supremely valuable work,’ and indeed it would be difficult to exaggerate its importance. It is a deeply Marian work, a sharing in the mission of Mary who is the supreme expert in teaching us about Jesus. It is her life work to lead us to a knowledge and love of Jesus in all his mysteries and saving activity.
We cannot offer anybody anything more precious than the truths of our faith. The faith is the key to eternal life. So obviously we must do everything in our power to become as effective as possible in communicating our faith. In the Legion we would always put before ourselves this consideration found in the Handbook: ‘How would the Mother of Jesus instruct those children, in each one of whom she sees her own Beloved?’ Another precious observation of the Handbook is as follows: ‘there is a natural tendency towards impatience with the children. But a worse fault would lie in the imparting to the instruction of a mere businesslike and secular tone, in such a way that these classes would only be regarded by the children as additional hours of school. If this comes to pass, nine-tenths of the harvest will be left unreaped.’
It is in the context of the profound commitment of the Legion to the teaching of Christian Doctrine that I want to strongly recommend to every Legionary this Compendium of the Catechism of the Catholic Church. One of the special graces of the Legion has been its constant openness and fidelity to the Teaching Authority of the Church. Now the Church offers us a tremendous instrument for all our works of evangelisation. We need to know and love our faith as deeply as possible. Pope Benedict writes, ‘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, which allows believers and non-believers alike to behold the entire panorama of the Catholic Faith.’ I am convinced it would be a great grace for every Legionary to read, reflect and try to live and to pray this Compendiumm. This would result in an authentic renewal of the Legion worldwide.
Let me quote Pope Benedict again: ‘I entrust this Compendium above all to the entire Church and in particular, to every Christian, in order that it may awaken in the Church of the third Millennium renewed zeal for evangelisation and education in the faith, which ought to characterise every community in the Church and every Christian believer, regardless of age or nationality.’ The Holy Father entrusts the Compendium to the Legion too as a great gift. Should we not be in the forefront of making it known and appropriated? It would be wonderful if every praesidium and higher Council discussed ways of putting this Compendium at the heart of every Legion’s work of evangelisation. For we cannot give what we have not got. We must know the faith to some extent if we are going to share it with others.
We cannot pretend that there is not great confusion among many of the faithful with regard to the basic truths of the faith. The Handbook stresses: ‘Special care is needed in selecting catechetical material which fully conforms to the Church’s teaching.’ With the Compendium we are on absolutely sure ground. Pope Benedict puts it very succinctly: ‘But this Compendium, with its brevity, clarity and comprehensiveness, is directed to every human being, who in a world of distractions and multifarious messages, desires to know the Way of Life, the Truth, entrusted by God to His Son’s Church.’
I started this Allocutio by saying that how deeply moved and impressed I have been by reports of the Legion’s catechetical apostolate throughout the world. It is truly wonderful. I end by suggesting that if we fully take on board the gift of the Compendium at the personal and group levels it will renew and enrich everything we are now doing. May the whole Legion make the Compendium its own. It would surely bear enormous fruit.