John Paul II called the Extraordinary Synod of 1985 to assess what had gone right and what had gone wrong in two decades of implementing the Second Vatican Council. In Vaticanese, it was styled “extraordinary” because it fell outside the normal sequence of synods. But Synod-1985 was extraordinary in the ordinary sense of the word, too.
It occasioned an almighty row over a book-length interview, The Ratzinger Report, that pretty well set the terms of debate in the Synod hall. It was the Synod that came up with an interpretive key that linked the sixteen documents of Vatican II, through the image of the Church as a communio, a communion of disciples in mission; thus Synod-1985 accelerated the Church’s transition to the Church of the New Evangelization. And it gave us the Catechism of the Catholic Church.

At a press conference shortly after the Synod, Bishop James Malone of Youngstown, the president of the U.S. bishops conference, was asked about the new catechism the Synod fathers recommended. Don’t worry, Bishop Malone, replied, you’ll never live to see it. The bishop was, of course, wrong about that, and John Paul II promulgated the Catechism of the Catholic Church on October 11, 1992.

For those expecting a Q&A format like the old Baltimore Catechism, the Catechism of the Catholic Church was a surprise. While divided into 2,865 bite-size sections, the Catechism is a discursive exposition of Catholic faith in full. Its structure, which mirrors the Catechism of the Council of Trent, reaches back to the early Church and the patristic catechumenate. Thus the Catechism’s four parts reflect the four pillars of Christian initiation: the “Profession of Faith” (the Creed); the “Celebration of the Christian Mystery” (the Sacraments); “Life in Christ” (Christian Morality); and “Christian Prayer.”

Each of these four parts is then subdivided. Part One begins with a reflection on revelation and our response to it before examining the twelve articles of the Apostles Creed, the baptismal creed of the ancient Roman Church. Part Two is structured around the seven sacraments. Part Three vastly enriches the Tridentine pattern by beginning with the Beatitudes and our vocation to beatitude or happiness, which sets the framework for the exposition of the Ten Commandments. Part Four begins with a meditation on Jesus and the Samaritan woman, explaining the Lord’s “thirst” for souls as the beginning of prayer, before illustrating Christian prayer through the seven petitions of the Lord’s Prayer.

Read more at Denver Catholic.