THOMAS IN THE HISTORY OF CATECHETICS
original and traditional meaning of "catechesis" (from the Greek:
by word of mouth) was oral teaching or instruction by word. It is
this sense in the New Testament (e.g., in Luke i. 4; Acts, xviii.
"Catechetical" referred solely to this form of oral explanation of
Doctrine. This is the meaning that "catechetical instruction" had
time of St. Thomas and throughout the Middle Ages. 12 "In this
says one authority, "it must be remembered that the term
was very often applied to sermons and instructions for grown
not for children." 13 The conception of "catechetical"
as referring to the question and answer method of teaching
only during the Counter-Reformation. Thus, St. Augustine's
work on teaching religion, "De rudibus catechizandis" (On
the Ignorant), is straight exposition without question and
The famed "Roman Catechism" (Catechism of the Council of Trent) is
question and answer form. Hence, the catechetical instructions of
Thomas, which are oral explanations of Christian Doctrine, entitle him
place in the history of catechetics with St. Augustine, Gerson, St.
Borromeo, St. Peter Canisius and others. 14
method of explaining Christian Doctrine by giving detailed attention to
Creed, the Commandments, the Our Father and Hail Mary, goes back to the
centuries of the Church. One of the first great works which embody
fourfold division is the "Catechetical Instructions" of St. Cyril of
(d. 386). This division became general throughout the medieval
and the "Creed, Code, Sacraments and Prayer" came to be a formula
faith. Numerous Synods and Councils of the Church at this time
that sermons and instructions must be given the faithful according
fourfold division. 15 The "Roman Catechism" follows this
as do most of the Catechisms of modern times.
catechetical instructions of St. Thomas were used generally throughout
thirteenth and fourteenth centuries as manuals and text-books for
and teachers of religion. 16 "The Explanations of St.
"are remarkable for their conciseness and their simplicity of
they are especially noteworthy because the main parts of the
course of instruction are brought into connection with one
so that they appear as one harmonious whole." 17 The influence of
works is especially prominent in the "Roman Catechism" which the
of Trent ordered written for parish priests and for all teachers of
Many of the explanatory passages in both works are almost