I’ve discovered a new kind of Catholic nerdery! I like books and learning and grammar and trivia, so I’ve long considered myself a nerd with personality. When I came back to the Church just over a decade ago, I found it only natural to become a Catholic nerd, too.
There are, however, limits to my nerdery. I don’t play Settlers of Catan, I don’t dress up in character costumes, and I don’t play video games. Nevertheless, when I heard Mike “Gomer” Gormley and Luke Who-Shall-Not-Be-Last-Named on the Catching Foxes podcast mention a book by a college friend of theirs, it piqued my interest. I watch enough fantasy movie battles to know that using two weapons at once is super cool and also super difficult. It turns out there’s a word for that: dual wielding. So when Luke and Gomer talked about “dual wielding” the Bible and the Catechism of the Catholic Church, I knew I had to investigate. Edmund Mitchell explains the steps and importance of this style of prayer in his e-book Dual Wielding: A Guide to Praying with the Catechism and Scripture.
As a book, Dual Wielding does more than simply teach the method. It begins with a compelling explanation of how dual wielding can be useful for evangelization. Mitchell has the experience that so many evangelization trainers preach about—a chance encounter that leads to a discussion of life’s deeper questions, when he can share the story of Jesus—and he has it twice. That’s rare.
At the same time, you might be wondering what the Catechism is really good for, besides dry, sometimes awkwardly expressed theology or “insomnia cures” also found in the Code of Canon Law. Consider that our faith is universal, yet until the Catechism was published in the 1990s, there was no universal document laying out the essential aspects of the Faith. We could no longer live like the early Church, relying on actual church buildings as catechisms “in brick and mortar and paint and cloth and colors,” as Mitchell says. As Cardinal Christoph Schönborn asked in the discussions leading to the commissioning of the Catechism, “In a world where young people all over the world wear the same blue jeans, shouldn’t it be possible to express the faith in a common language?” Yes, it should. And with the Catechism, it is.
The goal of dual wielding the Bible and the Catechism is to understand how biblical lessons relate to our lives and to see how the teaching of the Church flows from Scripture and tradition. They’re not two disparate texts; they belong together. Just like in algebra class, the key is in the back of the book. In this case, it is the Index of Citations.
As Mitchell notes, not every print copy of the Catechism includes the Index of Citations. I have [the white mass-market paperback Catechism], and it’s not in there. That’s a shame. Helpfully, the Internet has come to the rescue! You can view a virtual flipbook version of the Catechism at the USCCB website that includes the Index of Citations, or you can search using Catholic Cross Reference’s hyperlinked Catechism. The latter site is particularly useful in that it indicates exactly what part of the Catechism you’re in: by part, section, chapter, article, and paragraph. That is amazing, because it gives you a context that you simply can’t get from a physical book. More than once, I’ve read something enlightening in my chunky white Catechism and wondered where I am in the catechetical story, so to speak. I shall wonder no more.
One of the best reasons for learning to dual wield, in my opinion, is to develop our skills as lay evangelists. It is tempting to dismiss contemporary debates in favor of eternal truths, to jump straight past practical applications to get to the theological “good stuff.” Mitchell explains:
Why do we argue so much about marriage, but hardly mention the Trinity? How can we dialogue about the death penalty without a strong argument for sin? Why argue about tattoos and diets without a basic understanding of the resurrection of the body? Why argue with the world about what sex means when the doctrines on the dignity of the human person aren’t compellingly integrated into our life? I’m being a tad reductive, and I’m guilty of getting consumed by these conversations as well. I’m definitely not saying that we should stop talking about these things all together [sic]. These conversations and these efforts are constructive. And I don’t think its [sic] as simple as saying “Wait a second, let me explain the Trinity first” anytime someone asks why Catholics are against same-sex marriage. But I think it helps highlight a pain-point many have experienced.
Learning to connect the Faith (as outlined in the Catechism) with the Word (found in Scripture) and our lives (which we’re living right now) is the key to relieving that pain point. One person with two “weapons”: that’s dual wielding.
I will leave the details of the method to Mitchell. If I just told you how to do it, you wouldn’t need to buy his book. It needs a thorough editing, but the method is solid. And there’s an additional bonus for purchasing the book: community. There’s a whole community of dual wielders out there. Our faith shouldn’t exist in a silo. We’re not meant to be alone. Learn the method from your e-ink and virtual paper teacher, follow the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, and join with others who want to know and share the fullness of the message of Jesus Christ.
I received a free e-book of Dual Wielding: A Guide to Praying with the Catechism and Scripture from Reverb Culture Press in exchange for my honest review. Many thanks for their generosity!