The Catechism Explained by Fr. Francis Spirago, edited by Fr. Richard F. Clarke, S.J., is such a well-known Catholic classic that it hardly needs any introduction. The book was written for three specific uses--to serve the preacher as a sourcebook for sermons, the catechist as a thorough explanation of the catechism, and parents as a complete statement of the entire Faith, to assist them in instructing their children. Written to achieve these objectives, the book specifically does not contain technical language so that it is not difficult to understand. But it is large, it is thorough, and it is interesting! Plus, there is no other book quite like it.
A person has only to think of a Catholic subject he wants information on, look it up in The Catechism Explained, and there he will find a number of pages explaining this or that aspect of the Faith with a thoroughness that is truly enlightening--the more so because the treatment is always supported by pertinent quotations from Scripture and/or the Fathers and Doctors of the Church to reinforce what is being said. Although first published in 1899, the writing style and truths transcend their era so that they are still beneficial to all Catholics now, and the result is an amazing picture of the Catholic Faith, showing its reasonableness, comprehensiveness, beauty, and charm--not to mention the challenge it presents to Catholics to live up to its teachings.
To make this 19th century text more accessible to the 21st-century reader, minuscule changes have been made throughout the text, most having to do with style: the titles of the Books of Scripture have been updated to reflect current usage (e.g., 1 Chronicles in place of 1 Paralipomenon) and the spelling of common biblical names were revised to their more familiar Hebrew (e.g., Noah in place of Noe; Joshua in place of Josue). The most important editorial addition to Fr. Spirago's text is the inclusion of footnotes directing readers to the appropriate paragraphs of the 1992 Catechism of the Catholic Church, where readers will find the most recent, magisterial articulation of the Church's faith.
Additional footnotes have also been provided to indicate where, since Fr. Spirago's writing in 1899, the Church has further clarified elements of Divine Revelation, such as the solemn definition of the Blessed Virgin Mary's Assumption into Heaven, or made changes to Church discipline such as the necessity to fast from midnight before receiving Holy Communion or the absolute prohibition of cremation. At all times the editor has sought to maintain the integrity of Fr. Spirago's original text. In a handful of instances, however, substitutions for antiquated terminology were necessary to successfully convey his meaning to today's reader.
It is with great pleasure, therefore, that we are reissuing The Catechism Explained and have added footnotes directing readers to the appropriate paragraphs of the 1992 Catechism of the Catholic Church. We are convinced that every Catholic adult should own a copy--whether he be a priest, for his sermon writing; or a catechist, to help him know and teach the Catechism better; or a parent, to help with the instruction of his or her children; or any other Catholic, simply to enable him to know his faith more fully. This book fulfills a unique role in Catholic literature.
It is a book, therefore, that should always be ready at hand in every Catholic home and office, because only through steady use and reference will it achieve the tremendous results it was designed to achieve--and which it most certainly will achieve if used on a continuing basis.