Rest assured of my lack of bias; I’m not even Catholic, I’m Greek Orthodox. In exchange for an honest review, Ascension Press sent me an advance copy of their new Foundations of the Faith edition of the Catechism of the Catholic Church. I’m glad they did! Simply put, this Catechism is one of the most beautifully and cleverly designed books I’ve ever seen. Let’s talk about what makes this indispensable volume truly shine, and why it deserves a prominent place on every Christian bookshelf.

Ascension Press’s Catechism of the Catholic Church, pictured with “The Catechism at a Glance” insert and presentation box.

Construction and Design

First, the product’s cosmetic aspects are exceptional. Design and practicality are met together; durability and beauty have kissed each other. Ascension Press’s Catechism features an exquisite, leatherlike white cover with floral embellishments, gold foil stamping, and on the corners, etched Borromean rings, a chi rho, a heart cross anchor, and an illumined candle. The binding appears to be smyth-sewn. I’m not sure of what material the cover is made, but it’s pleasing to the touch and tough – tougher than many of my bonded leather Bibles!

Ascension Press’s Catechism of the Catholic Church includes color-coded ribbons that work with its Foundations of the Faith approach

White is an especially bold color choice for a book of this size and importance as it tends to quickly show wear, tear, and dirt. Somehow, however, Ascension Press has achieved the impossible, because even after a week of moderate use, the volume still looks pristine. The paper is thick, and not glossy, and four silky, color-coded ribbons that align with the book’s Foundations of the Faith approach guide readers through Catholicism’s normative teachings.

Contents and Supplements

Ascension Press’s Foundations of the Faith approach uses a color-coding system to show how topics of the Catechism of the Catholic Church fit into four broad categories: what Catholics believe (teal); how Catholic worship (red); how Catholics live (green); and how Catholics pray (purple). This organization scheme extends downward from parts to sections to chapters to individual paragraphs, contextualizing every bit of the Catechism in view of the whole. Thanks to the Foundations of the Faith approach, the Catechism is transfigured from a disjointed puzzle of paragraph numbers into a harmonious mosaic that conveys unity of faith and vision.

Foundations of the Faith color-coding makes comprehending the Catechism immediately easy

Other supplemental aids include: an appendix, “Sources from Scripture and the Church,” that overviews everything cited by the Catechism and gives background details; vocabulary words to know, with a glossary containing thorough definitions; and helpful introductory materials that explain exactly how to use the book. For Catholics looking to learn about and understand the teachings of their Church, there truly is no better reference volume than Ascension Press’s Foundations of the Faith edition of the Catechism of the Catholic Church.

Use by Non-Catholics

But why should non-Catholics care about the Catechism of the Catholic Church and Ascension Press’s edition in particular?

For starters, the Catechism is one of the most influential documents of 20th century Christianity and has been referenced by everybody from the New York Times to Neil deGrasse Tyson to the humble team who put together the Eastern Orthodox Bible. As a Greek Orthodox Christian, setting aside a few paragraphs about papal authority and the treasury of merits, 95% of the Catechism aligns exactly with what my own Church teaches and what I believe and practice – and there simply is no better summary of the entirety of the Christian religion.

Ascension Press’s Catechism of the Catholic Church is a full-color reference and summary on the Christian religion, without peer

In fact, in preparing for this review, I learned from Paragraph 1032 that St. John Chrysostom held up Job as an example of how prayers for the dead can be beneficial: “Let us help and commemorate them. If Job’s sons were purified by their father’s sacrifice, why would we doubt that our offerings for the dead bring them some consolation? Let us not hesitate to help those who have died and to offer our prayers for them.”

If you’re a non-Catholic like me, one of the primary ways you’ll use the Catechism is to help navigate source documents across Christian history. Ascension Press’s Foundations of the Faith approach and “Sources from Scripture and the Church” are invaluable aids in this endeavor. You’ll probably only ever need to own one edition of the Catechism for reference, and this one is the most useful one to have. Online searches alone on the Vatican’s Web site won’t provide the same context and won’t offer anything close to the research value of Ascension Press’s supplemental aids.

Conclusion

Anyone who is serious about understanding and engaging Catholicism in an academic or informal context, or friends or family who are Catholic, needs this book. It perfectly weds beauty with utility and a reliable and complete presentation of Catholic belief and practice. The price tag of $64.95 USD is a bargain, and the supplemental aids like “Sources from Scripture and the Church” are worth the price of admission.

The team that put it together this Catechism edition should be commended!

11 thoughts on “Foundations of Faith Edition of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, by Ascension Press — Guest Review by Geoffrey, ObSB”

  1. This looks great but I also question the decision to give it a white cover. It looks like something you would give to a bride to carry down the aisle or a female First Communion recipient.

  2. That is a very, very nice volume, and I’m not opposed to white. It really makes it stand out. Am I to assume it’s bound in the same bonded leather as the GAB and presumably printed in the same place?

    1. It’s bound in the same leather-like material as the GAB and is indeed printed in the same place by the same folks. In many ways, it’s intentionally a companion volume.

      1. I suspect it is also meant to serve as a companion to the Catechism in a Year.

        I know I’m in the minority, but I’m not a big fan of the CCC. My impression is much like that of the author of the Catholic Catechism, Fr John Hardon, when he was asked to review it: it is is too wordy, and fails to distinguish between Church doctrine and current theological opinion. The inclusion of any theological opinion in a Catechism was a temptation that had largely been avoided until the CCC.

        The combination leaves it with an unfortunate tendency either of saying things it didn’t mean to say or of saying things it later wants to change. Both are rather antithetical to what it means to be a Catechism, as even though modes of expression and language changes over time, Catechisms should be essentially timeless as regards their content.

        By contrast, I think the Roman Catechism is a uniquely precious work, in that it manages to make what is essentially a didactic work simultaneously devotional and beautiful.

  3. I looked long and hard at the preorder page but ended up paying $8 at the used book store for a largish 1990s paperback edition (peach cover, very basic looking). It has the index at the back so it’s good enough for me.

  4. It’s nice, but I’ll probably stick with the regular hardcover CCC I have. That said, I think I will snag the CCC index tabs Ascension is selling because I’m not sure I’ve ever seen CCC tabs before.

  5. This is not even mentioned in the review but what Bible translation does The CCC: Ascension Edition use? From what text are Scripture citations given and what is used in the “Sources from Scripture” appendix? I would’ve assumed, and would’ve liked it to use the NABRE (not only the official English Bible here in the States, but my preferred translation due to its phenomenal accuracy and notes). Looking at other Ascension Press resources, such as the Great Adventure Bible, it seems they prefer the RSVCE put out by Ignatius Press. If that (RSV) is the basis of the text here, I’ll skip this publication since I won’t be able to follow along with my NABRE. I’d instead be looking back and forth at my NABRE for textual corrections.

    1. I seems somewhat unhelpful to characterize one approved translation (RSV) as needing to be “corrected.” by another (NABRE). I can appreciate that you have a fondness for the NABRE, and I hope you continue to relish the NABRE for the rest of your life, as it means you reading Sacred Scripture. But as someone who has fallen in and out of love with practically every major Catholic translation over the years (as well as some fairly obscure protestant ones) I can assure you, if you stare at any translation long enough, you’ll find something off-putting, lacking, or just plain annoying if you’re willing to be honest. They’re all translations, so none of them is every going to get it 100% right.

      Another point, I seem to recall the predecessor of this blog (Tim’s Catholic Bible Blog) had posted a deep dive on either the catechism or perhaps just recent Papal Encyclicals that seemed to indicate that the Vatican (at least going back about 10 years ago and earlier) seemed to demonstrate a preference for the RSV2CE when quoting Sacred Scripture, without explicitly stating that. Again if memory serves the Bible quotations were attempted to be matched to an English translation, and although the use of other English Catholic translations could be detected, it seemed from the analysis that more often then not the English quotes seemed to be coming from the RSV2CE, if this is the case, then Ascension possible use RSV2CE in the Appendix to this Catechism would seem more than appropriate.

      Anyway, love whatever translation you wish, but please try to do it without throwing shade at other approved translations.

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