The Catechism and the Home in 1845: Wilhelm Löhe

Luther i Torslunde Kirke 15cmLuther emphasized that the Catechisms are meant not just for study by pastors, Church and school, but primarily for the Home. Fathers are to instruct their children and daily to pray the Catechism at home. The Church today cannot make the parents carry out this loving work. The Church can encourage, entreat, portray the value of this teaching. But as the cares and pleasures, the schedules and the concerns of this life take priority, the teaching of the young in the way of truth falters. And the young are taught to enjoy the good of this worldly life but loose hold on sin, repentance, and the forgiveness won by Christ, given to them in Word and Sacrament.

This is not a new problem. It is a persistent and old problem. And through the centuries the teachers of the Church have encouraged fathers, families to take up the Catechism for the benefit of the faith and salvation of their own households.

In 1845 Wilhelm Löhe wrote:

How many, who are acquainted with the Small Catechism, know its preface which together with the introduction to the Large Catechism offers an incomparable, simple, yet truly religious method of catechetical instruction? And again, how many know both prefaces without having observed that the Catechism was written not only for the Church or school, but also for the home?

Home, school and Church become One Church through the dear Catechism. Why is the very important factor of the home omitted? That is the reason why the Catechism is memorized so miserably, and sounds so wooden and flat, because it is not considered as something intended for the home, nor for daily life, nor as a life philosophy, but as a lesson for children and the school room. As a watch-word belongs on the lips of all who are united in one camp, thus the Catechism as a spiritual watch-word should be on the lips of all.

The father, the children, the servants should use it; pray, learn, appreciate it. Thus it will become the cruse of oil of the woman of Zaraphath that does not fail. Yes, when the Catechism again becomes a book for the home, then the people will realize what a flood of strength proceeds from it for the Church and for all her undertakings.

Johann Konrad Wilhelm Löhe 1808-1872 in his Drei Bücher von der Kirche (1845)

Found in:
Reu, M. 1929 Luther’s Small Catechism: A History of Its Origin, Its Distribution and Its Use. Wartburg Press, Chicago. Page 251f

[I added paragraphing and typographic styles to make the text easier to read]

About Pastor Joseph Abrahamson

Pastor Joseph Abrahamson serves Faith Ev. Lutheran Church, Clara City, Minnesota (E.L.S.). He and his wife, Mary, have 10 children. Pastor Abrahamson is a graduate of Bethany Lutheran Theological Seminary, and of the University of Wisconsin-Madison's Department of Hebrew and Semitic Studies. He has served on the Faculty/Staff at Bethany Lutheran College teaching Religion, Linguistics, Archaeology, and Self-Defense; and was on Staff at the University of Wisconsin as an Information Processing Consultant (Computer Geek) while doing graduate work in Semitics. Pastor Abrahamson served Clearwater Lutheran Parish (ELS) from 2001 to April 2015.


The Catechism and the Home in 1845: Wilhelm Löhe — 5 Comments

  1. My retirement project (in ten years God willing) is to give away pamphlet copies of the Small Catechism door-to-door. My wife thinks I’m nuts, but that’s the plan!

  2. @Ken Schmidt #1

    Excellent! We give them out to members and visitors alike… and members often take extra copies to give to others they know.

    I remember suggesting in a parish meeting once, that we should begin testing fathers and mothers on the Small Catechism, to ensure they were prepared to teach their children. You should have heard the gasps…

  3. Let’s get families to read the Bible first and then worry about whether they are studying the catechism at home. Biblical illiteracy in the Lutheran church is way too common.

  4. Reading and memorization of the Biblical proof texts should go hand-in-hand with studying the catechism IMO.

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