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(kăt`əkĭzəm) [Gr.,=oral instruction], originally oral instruction in religion, later written instruction. Catechisms are usually written in the form of questions and answers. Almost as old as Christianity, they were used especially for the instruction of converts and children. Catechisms were popular in the later Middle Ages and assumed even greater significance in the Reformation through Martin Luther's emphasis on the religious education of children. His Small Catechism (1529) is still the standard book of the Lutheran church. The greatest Calvinist catechism was the Heidelberg Catechism (1563). It was revised at Dort (1619) and was used in Dutch and German Reformed churches; other catechisms are the Longer and Shorter Catechisms of 1647 and 1648, drawn up to supplement the Westminster Confession; they are used in Presbyterian churches. The catechism for the Anglican Communion is included in the Book of Common Prayer.

A catechism long in use in the Roman Catholic church was that prepared by the Jesuit Peter Canisius, which appeared in 1555. The catechism of the Council of Trent, a document of high authority issued in 1566, was essentially a manual of instruction for use by the clergy in combating the Protestant Reformation; nonetheless it remained influential for over four centuries. The best-known Catholic catechism in England for many years was the Penny Catechism, adopted by the bishops of England and Wales; that in the United States was the Baltimore Catechism. The first new universal catechism of the Catholic church since that of the Council of Trent was released in French in 1992 and in English in 1994. The book forgoes the traditional question-and-answer format, instead providing a compendium of Roman Catholic teaching and belief. A summary of the catechism that employs a question-and-answer formate was released in 2005.



(1) A handbook containing the basic principles of Christian doctrine. During the first centuries of Christianity, the catechism was the oral instruction of those about to be baptized as Christians. Beginning with the 16th century the catechism became a book, a manual of instruction, which popularly set forth (usually in the form of questions and answers) the teachings of the Christian church. The Orthodox, Catholic, and Protestant churches each have their own catechism.

(2) In the figurative sense, a catechism is a work written in theform of questions and answers.


instruction by a series of questions and answers, esp a book containing such instruction on the religious doctrine of a Christian Church
References in periodicals archive ?
We need more catechists because the vocations are going down.
Meanwhile, Cynthia Giarelli, the catechist in Lake Forest, felt the Holy Spirit at work this spring with her eighth graders.
Easily deployable, close to the people, the catechists were able to apply the gospel to the needs of the people in a way that stressed its compatibility with the values of traditional indigenous life.
In 1907, Black Elk was appointed a catechist or teacher of Christian faith in recognition of his enthusiasm and excellent memory for reading Scripture in Lakota.
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Gilbert Choondal, in which he says, "The papers [in the book] explore the dimensions of a catechist, including historical, religious, pedagogical, and Oriental models, as well as discussing the challenges of being a catechist today" (Catholic News Agency, 7 March 2014).
As a catechist, I always understood that I had a solemn responsibility to teach the church's official doctrines to the children.
Mullin's father was a Catechist (a lay missionary with training from Toronto Bible College) in the PCC for 20 years.
I have been a Catholic in the Los Angeles area for about 20 years and very active in the church as a choir member, catechist and lector.
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And what of the enthusiastic catechist who can't figure out what the problem is?
She was a longtime CCD teacher and Master Catechist.