QUAERITUR: A convert hungry to learn more

Catechism of the Catholic ChurchFrom a reader:

Now that I have been a Catholic for one year, I am finding that I am still thirsting for info on Catholic doctrine. I read all I can but at almost 60 I am finding it overwhelming. I am raising an 8 year old grandson who was baptized at the same Easter Vigil as my confirmation last year. The Parish that I am going to at the moment is very large, and the smaller ones have no kneelers and seem foreign to me. Please recommend somethings I can do to get a better understanding of my new faith.

Faith seeks understanding.

We always seek to know more about the things or people we love.

Fr. John Hardon, SJYou might try, for yourself, the Catechism of the Catholic Church, or its Compendium.  Also the Catholic Catechism by the late, great Fr. John Hardon is good for adults.  To help with the instruction of your grandchild, to give you ways of putting things in way he can understand, you could look at editions of the Baltimore Catechism, even perhaps finding a way to make a game of memorization (good for you too).  There are different editions of the Baltimore Catechism.  You can find the one that is age appropriate for an 8 year old.  Perhaps a reader here can chime in on which one that would be.  There is also My Catholic Faith, a wonderful book.

BTW… I my own conversion process I used Fr. Hardon’s book.  Very useful.

If there are any readers who were, shall we say, already “seasoned” when they came into the Catholic Church, perhaps they especially could offer some observations.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. daedalus1979 says:

    I would also recommend the United States Catholic Catechism for Adults.

  2. APX says:

    There are different editions of the Baltimore Catechism. You can find the one that is age appropriate for an 8 year old. Perhaps a reader here can chime in on which one that would be.

    It’s the New St. Joseph version you have pictured there. I remember my grade 11 Christian Ethics teacher showing it to us in class and explaining how it used to be that kids growing up had to memorize it. I keep a more adult-level version in pdf on my computer for quick reference. Other than that the only one I ever knew existed was the one from the Vatican, which I find is more like reading a university textbook.

  3. Travis says:

    Frank Sheed- Theology for Beginners and a good footnoted, annotated Catholic study bible.

  4. s i says:

    I am a catechist for 2nd grade. Our parish uses the Faith & Life series, ISBN 978-0-89870-895-0, http://www.faithandlifeseries.com, available through Ignatius Press. This is a very good instruction method and I highly recommend it (so does Mother Angelica!). I also have an 8-year old. I supplement this series with The New St. Joseph Baltimore Catechism, No. 1, (sorry, I don’t see an ISBN on it). No.1 covers all the Sacraments, as well as much more, and is perfect for that age.

    We also have classes for our catechists, based on Fr. John Hardon’s work: http://www.mariancatechist.com/index.html

    This is an excellent way to increase your knowledge and understanding of our Faith and Church. You can take the course at home – you don’t have to become a catechist to take the course. I am not sure of the cost, but I can assure you, it is well-worth the price, no matter what it is!

    These three items will be a wonderful way to accomplish your goals.

    My final recommendation? Keep close to this blog every day!!! ;-)

  5. Another good thing is to read lives of the saints – and for your grandson, the ones by Amy Welborn from Loyola Press are good (and good illustrations!). You’ll soak them up by reading them with him!

  6. theophilus says:

    You can also download a program I created called Credo Bible Study for PC’s (sorry no Macs) at http://www.azoic.com/ . Its free, and it has the Baltimore Catechism, Catechism of Trent, and links the current Catholic Catechism, and Sheen’s Catechism.

  7. Jason Keener says:

    You won’t go wrong with any of these:

    1) Leo J. Trese’s “The Faith Explained” (Look for an edition that was published before Scepter Press updated this book in 2000. The earlier editions are much clearer than Scepter Press’s 3rd edition update.) 2) Frank Sheed’s “Theology for Beginners” and 3) Frank Sheed’s “Theology and Sanity”

  8. AnAmericanMother says:

    Two kind of off-the-wall recommendations — but I really enjoyed them while studying to be received into the Church.

    Canon Francis Ripley’s This Is the Faith. It’s old (some time in the 50s), but very easy to read, and very informative. It was aimed at converting Anglicans (he was with the old Catholic Missionary Society) so it probably speaks particularly strongly to me. Our Catholic Education director protested that it was “too old fashioned”, but even she admitted that it was very good.

    Trigilio/Brighenti, Catholicism for Dummies. (Don’t laugh. It really is a good book.)

  9. benedetta says:

    I also had the opportunity when I lived in another part of the world to become acquainted with the Faith and Life series for young people and it is outstanding. However, purchasing the curriculum in book form can be somewhat prohibitive for individual families. Fortunately, Faith and Life now offers an online version which we use. Both grandmother and grandson could go through the online version together to great benefit to both in looking into the faith, and it is so worth it for the reasonable cost. There is a possibility to try it out for free as well. I always thought that the content of Faith and Life in book form was wonderful but I have to say that this online form is so outstanding, which includes music and Christian art and supplemental resources as well to go with each chapter.

    Here is Faith and Life online version:

    Also for young people I like the Catholic Bible Story Workbook. An 8 or 9 year old might need a little help to complete the written activities and questions but by 10 he would be able to do them on his own with some discussion before or after reading each passage. I wish there were follow up workbooks to this one published. The publisher is Fireside.

    I will remember this grandmother and her grandson in prayer.

  10. Dr. Eric says:

    I would recommend the gray New St. Joseph Baltimore Catechism. It’s simple enough for a beginner but it doesn’t talk down to the reader even though it’s meant for a 10 year old.

  11. What you read should both ground and expand you. Depending on how bookish you are, you are free to read any kind of dreck. But, your mind no longer belongs to you. It belongs to Christ. Develop it and strengthen it in His service. I heartily recommend many of the texts other commentors have suggested. These will tell you what the faith is, the objective statement of what we believe as Catholics. But, you will always want more than that if you are maturing spiritually. The mind’s reach is infinite. That’s to be expected because we were made for eternity. And, in eternity, we’ll still be learning and discovering. But on this side of the grave, after you have read a catechism, you could try using an ordered approach to continue exploring. Listen to and/or read the words of the most important people in your newly Catholic life. I have a Top Five for you to consider: 1) Read/Listen to Our Lord — read the New Testament and the Psalms all the time anyway. 2) Listen to His Vicar, B16 now — Read/Listen to/Download the Pope’s every Wednesday Audience. The Pope is always speaking to us in these public talks. Fortunately, it’s not always stuff and academic drivel. Often it’s quite accessible and useful. 3) Read your bishop’s homilies and articles, if he writes any. Or, go to his cathedral church occaisionally throughout the year to hear him preach. He is the primary teacher of the faith in your midst. 4) Read/Listen to the audiobooks of long dead white and other-colored men. Many of the spiritual and theological classics in the great treasury of the Church’s teaching are available in print and now on audiobook. These fellows (mostly fellows, a few ladies) are still your brothers in the faith. So many are saints, so they live in heaven. But they’ve left us, not only their good examples, but their words to help, comfort, and guide us. And, finally, follow the advice of the underappreciated theologian, Tom Petty, of the rock-and-roll band The Heartbreakers: LISTEN TO YOUR HEART. You are a unique, never-to-be-repeated, wonder of God’s creation. You will find all kinds of knowledge from reflecting on yourself, what you experience, and how you felt. That’s another way God will teach you. Through you, that unique prism for His light. Keep a journal. Observe what inspires you, and follow that. For example, a page or two of St. Therese of Lisieux will bowl me over. That means that I am attracted to that kind of literature and those kind of ideas. Tons out there. I’m never at a loss for more to read. But, what bowls you over? Notice that, and follow up. So, to sum up: Read/Listen to the Top Five: 1) Christ, 2) the Pope, 3) your bishop, 4) the saints, and 5) yourself. Just a suggestion.

  12. Luce says:

    As well as the Catechism, Catholic Radio helped me a great deal, especially the Catholic Answers program.

    I also recommend the 1962 Roman Missal. It has many explanations and information about the Church. That is the church I converted to, not some of the protestant versions of Catholicism I experienced.

  13. trad catholic mom says:

    For you as an adult I recommend This is The Faith by Canon Francis Ripley. For an 8 year old I’d recommend Baltimore Catechism number 2, I like the Tan Classics version. The difference between 1 and 2 is that 2 has a few more questions so you get a little fuller understanding.

  14. ReginaMarie says:

    Seton Educational Media (http://www.setonbooks.com/) has various levels of the Baltimore Catechism for different ages/grade levels. They have several, excellent religion books available for children (Lives of the Saints, etc).

  15. Gregg the Obscure says:

    Items of very recent provenance that helped me learn more about the faith: both volumes of Pope Benedict XVI’s Jesus of Nazareth, Catechism of the Catholic Church, Paul VI’s Credo of the People of God, Humanae Vitae.

    Less recent, but still modern-era resources: the documents of the First Vatican Council, helpfully available: here and Testem Benevolentiae Nostrae.

    Older resources: decrees of the Council of Trent, the Rule of St. Benedict.

  16. Capitana says:

    I am a relatively new convert and I have found Pope Benedict’s books very helpful. He is a great teacher. You can get them at Ignatius Press (www.ignatius.com). I recently read God and the World and it is pretty comprehensive. I have never been able to plow through the whole Catechism of the Catholic Church although I look up things there. We use the United States Catholic Catechism for Adults for RCIA. It’s in a textbook format with more digestible chunks.

  17. An excellent choice would be Apologetics and Catholic Doctrine, by Archbishop Michael Sheehan, revised by Fr. Peter Joseph. It is published now by Baronious Press. You can find it here: http://www.baroniuspress.com/book.php?wid=56&bid=52

  18. wmeyer says:

    Being 62, and a catechumen, although raised by a Catholic mother, I would add my support for numerous of the recommended volumes here. Because the catechists in my RCIA are pretty spirit of Vatican II motivated, I consider the full Catechism (not the USCCB volume) essential for verification of local teachings. It is illuminating to read the Catechism of Trent, as well, and to see in it the foundations of the current edition. Longevity helps to assure true teaching.

    I second the nomination of Pope Benedict’s books. Introduction to Christianity will fuel many hours of contemplation, and deepen your understanding.

    There are tremendous online resources:
    Papal Encyclicals
    St. Charles Borromeo Catholic Church
    Adoremus Online
    The Catholic Encyclopedia

    Obviously, this site is very helpful, and Fr. Z is a wonderful support to us all.

    Bless you, Fr. Z, for all your fine efforts.

  19. MissOH says:

    I agree with others that the Faith and Life Series is excellent. I used to teach in a CCD program that used that series and it was the only CCD program I encountered where the kids actually knew their faith. Part of that was that their parents did not leave the religious education of their children to the CCD program and the parish was excellent, but the Ignatius series teaches the essentials of the faith and it would be beneficial for both of you.

  20. Henry Edwards says:

    I think it’s crucial not to read too much too soon. A scatter shot shot approach is not good. You could not do better than Fr. Hardon’s catechism that Father Z references. Next you could read the Compendium of the CCC. Save the CCC itself for last.

  21. EWTN Rocks says:

    I have several books by Peter Kreeft as well as The Lamb’s Supper by Scott Hahn which I really like, but I do not have a catechism book so I plan to take Fr. Z’s suggestion and get Fr. Hardon’s catechism.

    Also, a few weeks ago someone on Fr. Z’s blog suggested buying a “My Sunday Missal” by Fr. Stedman, which was available for a good price on ebay. I found one in very good condition that was printed in 1941, and very inexpensive (mine cost $8.00). The illustrations are great and the missal is quite instructional. I like that it includes both Latin and English and is very compact (about 2″ x 3.5″), so it fits easily into a pocket or purse. I LOVE IT!

  22. shane says:

    These may of help – just click on the cover images to read in pdf:


  23. Glen M says:

    Tan Books is a good source of catechesis. They produce an edition of the Catechesim of the Council of Trent which I find much easier than our current.

  24. catholicmidwest says:

    I’m a convert too. The recommendations here are all excellent. Everyone is a little different in their interests, so although you should read a mixture of types, you might find that you like something extra much or that something helps you extra much.

    I’d recommend trying a few biographies of saints of your choice, a few good books about prayer to explore that, a little history to explore that, a little theology, a few books of beautiful photos, etc, to find out what you really like and what helps you. Try some different ways to pray like the rosary, the Divine Mercy chaplet, Christian Prayer, the Way of the Cross, etc. There are all books for that. You might try browsing a used book store, or an online catalog like Aquinas, EWTN (esp. recommended for good stuff) or TANBOOKS, which carries some of the older stuff in reprint. I like used book stores for vintage stuff myself. I have some treasures. =)

    The CCC is excellent, but it’s hard to read through in one chunk. It’s better taken in short sections with patience so that you can really understand it and remember what you read. Reading that with a group that suits your reading speed is excellent, if you can find one. [That’s what I did.]

    Using the Internet (coming here!) to keep up with what’s going on in the church is important too.

    AND, there shouldn’t be a “last,” Henry. It’s important to keep reading and keep learning for your whole life.

  25. digdigby says:

    “We Believe ” Monsignor Gilbey

  26. EWTN Rocks says:

    A big thank you to Fr. Z’s blog readers for posting excellent suggestions! I bookmarked this page so I can keep going back to it for reference.

  27. Imrahil says:

    “Introduction to the Book of Job” by G. K. Chesterton.

  28. Denise says:

    I highly recommend the Apostolate for Family Consecration web site. They have a family catechism as well as numerous resources for bringing the faith into your family life. There are many free downloadable resources as well as books and videos for purchase.

  29. Elizabeth D says:

    Fr Hardon’s book is a great choice, another one that someone recently received into the Church, and others, have praised to me is “Catholic Christianity” by Peter Kreeft. GK Chesterton’s “Orthodoxy” is also perennially popular, but maybe a little different kind of work.

    The catechetical kind of books are indispensible, and good and enriching reading even for more seasoned Catholics (I read all of the CCC during Lent), but after reading some of that, the writings of the Saints are highly to be recommended!!

  30. Jenice says:

    There are many great suggestions here. I would also add The Luke E. Hart Series published by the Knights of Columbus. This series of about 30 pamphlets is written by Peter Kreeft and based on the Catechism. The copyright is 2001, and they are available from the Catholic Information Serive of the KOC, Box 1971, New Haven, CT, 06521. The pamphlets are free, but they suggest a contribution for postage. I think I paid $10.

    Welcome home! May God bless and keep you as you seek to understand this enormous gift.

  31. Beach Girl says:

    For the mature older convert I would recommend 3 books that have not been stated so far, as a beginning because being a Catholic & also a Christian is a lifelong process of learning & discerning.
    1)7 Secrets of the Eucharist by Vinny Flynn. A very spiritual book & easy to read that gave me a better understanding of the Mass & Eucharist.
    2)Saints and Sinners: A History of the Popes by Eamon Duffy. Every Catholic should have a better understanding of the development of the papacy, the Church as a whole, & the influence both played on history & vice versa. It describes the very human side of the Church. After reading this book I came away with a feeling of awe: this has got to be God’s true church or else it would have ceased to exist centuries ago.
    3)Thy Will Be Done: Letters to Persons in the World, by St Francis de Sales. A pick of 58 letters out of 1000s written by St Francis who gave common sense advice in beautiful prose to individuals in various walks of life. I am currently reading this & I feel that some of these letters were written to me.

  32. EWTN Rocks says:

    Thank you!

  33. Bender says:

    Almost anything by Cardinal Ratzinger / Pope Benedict is highly readable and informative. Get on the Zenit news e-mail service and read his homilies and Wednesday Audience catecheses. Bounce around the library at the New Advent website too.

    But remember, as important as it is to have a bunch of doctrinal facts in your head, to know a lot of dogma and theology, it is more important to know Jesus in your heart. If you have an encyclopedic knowledge of the Catholic faith, if you are a walking catechism, but the love and truth of Jesus is not in your heart, you will not be getting into heaven despite all your brilliant knowledge.

    So read some biographies of the saints too. Especially perhaps the stories of the children saints. Consider St. Agnes, who at 12 years old obviously would not know a whole lot, but who was martyred at that age. Consider St. Bernadette, who was widely thought to be dull-witted at 14, and had trouble learning even the Creed, but because of the love of Christ in her heart, was able to see Our Lady at Lourdes. And consider our Blessed Mother herself, who was no extensive scholar of the Law and Prophets at 14-15 years old, but was nevertheless filled with God Himself (literally).

    Learning the substance of the faith is a very good thing, and it is to be commended, but only if the intellectual knowledge that you gain is used to inform your heart. Better that you know nothing other than Jesus died for you out of love and you have love for Him in your heart, than you can quote from memory the entire Bible, Catechism, every encyclical, and all the writings of the Church Fathers, but you have a heart of stone and a lifeless soul.

  34. ndmom says:

    “But remember, as important as it is to have a bunch of doctrinal facts in your head, to know a lot of dogma and theology, it is more important to know Jesus in your heart.”

    Picking up on that excellent suggestion, consider
    To Know Christ Jesus — Sheed
    The Life of Christ — Sheen
    The Lord — Guardini

    Not sure whether this book was already suggested, but “Catholic Christianity” by Peter Kreeft is a more accessible compilation of Catholic doctrine, based on the Catechism of the Catholic Church. Also by Kreeft is “Fundamentals of the Faith.

  35. Henry Edwards says:

    In addition to a concise catechism, I think converts and also TLM newcomers need a missal, not merely for use at Mass–where the ubiquitous missalettes and propers handouts may suffice–but as a companion and treasure, and a sense of personal ownership and investment in the liturgy.

    But sometimes a 2000-page daily missal can be more intimidating than encouraging at first. EWTN Rocks’ excellent choice of Fr. Stedman’s “My Sunday Missal”–one of the best old favorites–reminds me that it has been reprinted and is currently available at a fire sale price of $9 (as compared with perhaps $60 for one of the new 1962 daily missals):


    You get a handy little 400-page pocket-sized book that can go everywhere with you, and contains all the Sunday and Holy Day Masses as well as a section of novenas.

  36. James Joseph says:

    I would recommend quiet time before the Blessed Sacrament.

  37. Banjo pickin girl says:

    miscellaneous reading suggestions:
    Fulton Sheen: The Life of Christ
    St. Francis de Sales: Introduction to the Devout Life
    Thomas a Kempis: Imitation of Christ (Catholic Book Publishing edition, edited by Clare Fitzpatrick)
    Patricia Quintiliani: My Treasury of Chaplets
    Peter Julian Eymard’s writings on the Blessed Sacrament
    St. Alphonsus Liguori: Visits to the Blessed Sacrament and the Blessed Virgin Mary
    New St. Joseph People’s Prayer Book (Catholic Book Publishing)
    The 1957 Raccolta of Indulgences reprint
    Benedict Groeschel: In the Presence of the Lord
    Reginald Garrigou-LaGrange: Life Everlasting; Providence; Predestination (the last one especially good for a former Calvinist)
    The writings of the Church Fathers in the Liturgy of the Hours Office of Readings

  38. robtbrown says:

    Bender says:

    Learning the substance of the faith is a very good thing, and it is to be commended, but only if the intellectual knowledge that you gain is used to inform your heart. Better that you know nothing other than Jesus died for you out of love and you have love for Him in your heart, than you can quote from memory the entire Bible, Catechism, every encyclical, and all the writings of the Church Fathers, but you have a heart of stone and a lifeless soul.

    I prefer the approach of St Thomas.

  39. robtbrown says:

    I would probably first recommend trying a few of CS Lewis’ apologetic books, e.g., Mere Christianity, Miracles, The Problem of Pain. Also books by Dom Hubert von Zeller.

  40. robtbrown says:

    Should be: van Zeller.

  41. Allan S. says:

    I am a convert. Here’s what has worked (and continues to work) for me:

    1. This Blog. Fr. Z assumes a certain level of knowledge/context in his readers, but don’t be put off by that. Google the terms you do not understand and let your research journey go wherever.

    2. Another site with an AMAZING archive of traditional Catholic practices and devotions is fisheaters-DOT-com.

    3. I’m with the other commenter who recommened reading as much C.S. Lewis as you can get your hands on. He wrote for the uncatechized and those of us with no theological training. I find him to be an orthodox Christian (FYI he was a member of the Church of England).

    4. Your local RCIA program. OK, stop laughing, I made that one up.

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