Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Mark's thoughts: The Small Catechism at home - A word from Loehe

The Small Catechism at home: A word from Loehe

When I was growing up, I “knew” what the Small Catechism was and where it was used.  The Small Catechism was a blue book of about two hundred pages and it was used at church.  Only at seminary did I learn that the Small Catechism itself is only the first thirty pages or so of that book and that it was explicitly intended to be used at home.  In fact five of the sections begin with the words, “As the head of the family should teach it in a simple way to his household.”

The task of returning the Small Catechism to use in the home is a great one.  I would like to think that recognition of the task is greater than it has been before.  It is not a new problem.  The following is a quote by Wilhelm Loehe writing in the nineteenth century (Wilhelm Loehe, Three Books About the Church [trans. James L Schaaf; Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1969], 173):

 “There are also many who know both prefaces [of the Small and Large Catechism] without ever having noticed that the catechism was not written only for church and school but also for the home.  Home, school, and church together become one church through the precious catechism.  Why is the important factor of the home left out?  The catechism is so wretchedly learned and recited and it sounds so wooden and stale because men treat it not as something for the home, not as something for daily life, not as wisdom for life, but as a lesson for children to learn in school.  Just as a battle cry should be on the lips of all who belong to an army, so the catechism belongs on the lips as a spiritual battle cry.  The father, the children, the servants should use it, pray it, learn it, and treasure it; thus it will become like the widow of Zarephath’s cruse of oil which never failed [1Kings 17:8-16].  Yes, when the catechism once again becomes a household book we shall learn what sort of strength come from it for all the church’s activities.”

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