The Catechism as Map

Finding Our Way Out of the Woods of the Apocalypse

Once there was a Boy Scout group backpacking in the forest with their leader who, I am sorry to say, broke his leg and died because infection.

The Boy Scouts were in a bad way, having no idea where they were. Some thought they knew where to go to get out of the woods, following streams or paths, but others weren’t so sure.

After much deliberation, with factions formed, some in favor of streams, others paths, and still others in favor of smoke signals and staying jolly put, a quiet little boy raises his hand amidst the throng and meekly proffers what appears to be a mere piece of paper on which is scrawled some lines.

The eldest of the troop comes over to the little boy and asks what the heck he thinks he is doing. The little boy answers that it might be a good idea to use the map which fell out of the leader’s pocket when he fell down and broke his leg or whatever.

This not so well crafted moral tale has a moral. There are those with whom I meet here online who have their own ideas about the Apocalypse, and about what is going on, and other theological or prophetic speculation not unlike the boys who wanted to find a way out of the woods by following trodden paths or streams.

But I tend to think that kind of thinking is tricky and ultimately lands one in Protestant territory, if not in profession at least in spirit. That explains why there have been a few people who subscribe to the idea that there hasn’t been a pope since Pius IX or that Baptism of Desire is heretical or that marriage before non-Catholic witnesses is invalid.

Instead of consulting the map left by the leader, the catechism, which defines in clear delineation and definition the things we are to believe and do to save our souls and get out of the “forest dark,” people follow winding streams or paths deeper and deeper into the gloom of the wood, where the light scarcely falls.

We have a map. Let’s use it. Instead of going off in search of the way, let’s just use the way given to us, the way that was written for us laity, to understand what we are to do today. Will every single question we have be answered? No, but then not every question asked is important. But the catechism—make it any you please, just pre-1958–will serve you better than any other text to learn your faith.