Youcat for Kids: A Catholic Catechism for Children and Parents with foreword by Pope Francis
The YOUCAT series (short for Youth Catechism) has been going strong now for the best part of a decade. It was originally the brainchild of Cardinal Christoph Schoenborn Archbishop of Vienna, editor of the Catechism of the Catholic Church who worked on it with a team of authors and theologians based in the Southern German Diocese of Augsburg. Its innovative layout and brilliant use of quotes, illustrations, humorous stickmen and a refreshingly direct Q&A format made it a worldwide success and it continues to be a staple for many Confirmation candidates and (in my experience) adults of all ages! The original has spawned many follow up publications a Youcat Prayerbook, a Catechism of Catholic Social Teaching called DoCat, a Confirmation course and even a Youth Bible.
Youcat for Kids uses the classic Q&A Catechism format this time aimed at 9-13 year olds. The text is clear and the definitions well written. Each question is printed in bold and has a direct, sometimes one-word answer also in bold (e.g. Q: Is Jesus Christ really God? A: Yes.) This is followed by some explanatory text acts as a commentary on the answer. This section can be a little dry for younger children as it rarely gives examples or real-life analogies. The book is designed to be read together with parents and the bottom quarter of each page contains quotes and supplementary definitions that are aimed at the adults reading the text with the children. These are very interesting and usually well chosen (if a little overly Teutionic in origin) though I do wonder what a nine year old who strays into the bottom part of the page would make of the text on e.g the Psychology of Confession by a noted Austrian Professor of Psychiatry!
The publication retains the 4 part division of the Catechism (Creed, Sacraments, Commandments, Prayer) with less text and more illustrations than the original Youcat. There is much judicious use of classic Sacred art but the use of contemporary photos, which was an attractive element of the original Youcat has been reduced.
Overall this is an innovative presentation of the faith which has set itself a difficult age range, where reading ability and understanding can vary hugely. It has mitigated this problem in an authentically Catholic way by inviting the Children’s primary educators and catechists (their parents) to get involved and has given them some help within the book itself. So don’t think of this Catechism as something that will teach the faith to a child by itself but rather as a conversation starter that will help in passing on the faith alongside some solid definitions and fun illustrations.
Review by Pierpaolo Finaldi (Formation Adviser, CCF)
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