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book reviews287 The Catechism Yesterday and Today: The Evolution of a Genre. By Berard L. Marthaler, O.F.M.Conv. (CoUegevUle, Minnesota:The Liturgical Press. 1995. Pp. 176. $15.95.) The pubUcation of the Catechism of the Catholic Church has generated widespread interest in and has occasioned the plurification of books, articles, commentaries, and studies on the catechism and catechisms. Every age has its catechism. However, for the first 1200 years the Church had no catechism as we know it today. "Catechism" meant catechesis; that is, the content of Christian teaching, handed down orally and calling for a response of faith. It demanded a conversion, a turning over of one's Ufe and love to God. It was a lifelong process centered around the Uturgy, the celebration of the seasons and feasts of the church year and memorized prayers such as the Creed, the Our Father, and the Ten Commandments, and emphasizing the virtues of faith, hope, and charity. GraduaUy by the end ofthe Middle Ages and especiaUy after the Reformation and after the invention of printing the Catechism came to mean a book, a short, concise, accurate summary of the central truths of faith—smaU catechisms for the instruction of chUdren and the uneducated and large ones for pastors and preachers. Father Berard Marthaler, the Warren-Blanding professor of reUgion in the CathoUc University of America and editor of Living Light, has provided us a clear study of catechisms used throughout the Ufe of the Church, an exceUent history of the development of this genre, dividing the work into fifteen short chapters from its first use as a tool for catechesis in the Middle Ages. He discusses Reformation catechisms, the Catechism of the CouncU of Trent, catechisms ofthe Counter-Reformation, English, Irish, LatinAmerican,andAmerican catechisms prior to Vatican Council II, the Dutch, German, and French catechisms , afterVatican Council II, the Catechetical DUectory and finaUy The Catechism ofthe Catholic Church. Father Marthaler has devoted a Ufetime to the study and teaching of reUgious education.This pubUcation is a distillation ofyears of research on the history of catechisms. It is fascinating how often in history the same issues keep coming up. Catechisms were seen as guardians of orthodoxy, a means of keeping the Christian faithful on the straight and narrow path to salvation, and even used for political purposes.Another frequent theme was the desirability ofunUormity and a common language and at the same time the need to keep the distinction between those teachings that are revealed by God and those that are theological opinions or appUcations of those teachings. One smaU point: I would have liked to see something in the study about that special American type of catechism—the graded textbook series which is al- 288BOOK REVIEWS most universaUy used in Catholic schools and religious education programs for the instruction of chüdren and youth. Marthaler stresses the monumental importance of the Catechism of the CouncU ofTrent, which together with the Roman Missal did much to shape the spirit and language and the theology of theTridentine Church. Perhaps today's renewal of the Uturgy and the new Catechism ofthe Catholic Church wiU have a simüar effect on the postconcUiar era. Father Marthaler's book is in every way a helpful and readable analysis of the "evolution of a genre." Most Reverend Raymond A. Lucker Bishop ofNew Ulm America Pontificia, III. Documentipontifia nelTArchivio Segreto Vaticano riguardanti l'evangelizzazione dell'America: 1592-1644. Edited by Josef Metzler, with the coUaboration of Giuseppina RoselU. [CoUectanea Archivi Vaticani, 38; Pontificio Comitato di Scienze Storiche, Atti e Documenti, 5.] (Vatican City: Librería EditriceVaticana. 1995. Pp. 861.) The first two volumes of this series, America Pontificia, embracing the years 1493-1592, contain a valuable coUection of papal documents relating to the evangelization of the New World. Drawn from the Secret Vatican Archive, they are pubUshed in their Latin original and were reviewed by Stafford Poole, CM., ante, LXXVIII (October, 1992), 601-606 (see also LXXLX [July 19931,602-603). This third volume, embracing the years 1592-1644, is structured dtfferently however, as it comprises summaries in ItaUan of 1409 documents that are of lesser value, as a survey wiU show. Only those of...


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