It took me a little over 12 hours door-to-door yesterday, travelling from Knoxville to the Bay Area to visit my family for my niece's confirmation at the Oakland Cathedral tomorrow. (Only about half that time was actually in the air, of course.) So I had a lot of time to read - and spent much of it reading the new YOUCAT (Youth Catechism fo the Catholic Church). I'm more than half-way through it, which means I should certainly be able to finish it completely on the way home!
I am a great fan of the USCCB's Catechism for Adults (sometimes referred to as the "Red Book"), which is a wonderful, reader-friendly adaptation of the much larger Catechism of the Catholic Church for use in adult catechesis in the U.S. At St. Paul the Apostle in NY, when I used to teach Adult Confirmation Preparation, I used to use it with great satisfaction. So I have been looking forward to reading this new Youth-friendly version. As I said, I am only half-way done with it, but I am easily ready to give it an A (maybe even an A+).
YOUCAT follows the standard order that catechisms have followed at least since St. Augustine - Creed, Sacraments, Morality, Prayer - and that both the full Catholic Catechism and the USCCB's Adult Catechism have faithfully followed. Its purpose is clearly stated by Pope Benedict XVI in his Foreword: "You need to know what you believe. You need to know your faith with that same precision with which an IT specialist knows the inner workings of a computer. You need to understand it like a good musician knows the piece he is playing. Yes, you need to be more deeply rooted in the faith than the generation of your parents so that you can engage the challenges and temptations of this time with strength and determination."
Amen to that!
YOUCAT is well written and attractively presented. The layout may seem a bit too "busy" to someone of my generation (but not so much so that one can't quickly get the hang of it if one is willing to make the very modest effort). There are lots pf pictures and cartoon-like illustrations. Each question has a bold-print answer, followed by a more extensive explanation. The margins are also filled with text - short quotes from the Bible, Church Fathers, modern saints and others, plus definitions of technical terms. (Some of the quotations are treasure, jus in and of themselves!) I guess it is supposed to look like a page on a computer. And to those used to reading pages on the internet it probably all seems perfectly normal!
The text also contains some really beautiful expressions - e.g., "The Bible is like a long letter written by God to each one of us."
The content is an honest, unapologetic presentation of the orthodox Catholic faith, which does not hesitate to present those aspects of Catholic teaching that are out of fashion in contemporary liberal society - especially contemporary elite culture (e.g., the media and academia). That alone makes it perhaps the best thing out there for catechizing young people today. Indeed, it is so well written and attractively presented that I think it would be a good catechetical text for people of almost any age!