Catechism 101: Cross Referencing

My dear friend Alan Badia pulled a rabbit out of a hat on Saturday.  Heck, this may have been even more impressive: He demonstrated the direct link between the Immaculate Conception and the Church's observance of an hour-long fast before receiving Communion.

Explaining in detail how he went about this within the context of the article would have weighed down his wonderful introductory post considerably.  In this space, we'll wade into the depths of the CCC's cross-referencing system.

If you'd like to walk through this with me, go ahead and crack open your CCC.

They can come up with something as cool as this, but the Vatican website still has a parchment background.

They can come up with something as cool as this, but the Vatican website still has a parchment background.

See those italic numbers in the margins, next to nearly every paragraph?  Those numbers are paragraph numbers. They're telling you that the topic or theme in the current line of that paragraph you're reading comes up again in some form elsewhere, and you may find those paragraphs relevant or useful as well.

So let's take a look at what Alan did in his "Why I Long to Give Einstein a Catechism."

Alan was apparently doing a little light reading on Grace when he came upon paragraph 2001. 2001 tells us:

"The preparation of man for the reception of grace is already a work of grace...God brings to completion in us what he has begun."  

The cross-reference for 2001 is paragraph 490.  This should catch our attention, because the gap between the two paragraphs suggests that we're being referenced back to is a previous pillar of the CCC (in this case, from Life in Christ (Morality) to Profession of Faith (Creed)).

 490 is, lo and behold, about the Immaculate Conception.  It tells us that,

"To become the mother of the Savior, Mary 'was enriched by God with gifts appropriate to such a role,"

and that,

"in order for Mary to be able to give the free assent of her faith to the announcement of her vocation, it was necessary that she be wholly borne by God's grace."  

That is, she was prepared by God for what was to be completed in her, as we read in 2001.

The other paragraph Alan used was 1387.  Now, 1387 is not listed as a reference for either 490 or 2001.  Apparently Alan, being the good little Steubenville-graduate that he is, was reminded of the hour-long fast as he was doing all this reading about preparing for grace.  Going to the index, we see under the topic of fasting that the fast before communion is discussed in paragraph 1387.   And what does 1387 tell us?

 "To prepare for worthy reception of this sacrament, the faithful should observe the fast required in their Church" (emphasis mine).

All of this enables Alan to say that he has "discovered a moral action in which we celebrate a reality of our Creed."  

In fulfilling the hour-long fast, we are in some sense imitating Mary: we too are "prepared" for grace, as she was in a singular and unique fashion in the Immaculate Conception.  Likewise, we are honoring her singular and unique preparation for Christ by preparing ourselves to receive her Son.

This is the profound unity of the Faith which Alan wrote about and a prime example of the incredible riches awaiting us in the Catechism.


Greg Hurst is from Dedham, MA. When he's not serving up a master espresso he's reading Pope Benedict. @gchurst