Sunday, January 29, 2012

A MODEST ENDORSEMENT OF THE BALTIMORE CATECHISM

I visit our elementary school each Thursday. I spend about 15 minutes with each class. One week I visit the 1st, 2nd and 3rd grades and the next week the 4th, 5th and 6th. We only go to 6th grade, I can't handle kindergarten or pre-kindergarten, I leave that to Fr. Dawid our parochial vicar. He's closer in age to them. So every two weeks I visit the entire school except for K-4 and 5.

This year I've been using the Baltimore Catechism #1 as the source to keep me organized and methodical. In doing so, I've rediscovered it (as this is what I had in elementary school). It has a wonderful structure; is brief and interesting for children elementary age and it has a brief exam after each chapter.

I have found that the illustrations and examples capture the imagination of the children, their religious imagination and they ask wonderful questions during the course of the time I'm there.

But more importantly it is so simple and yet gives a wonderful foundation to our children for them to grow and develop and learn more as they get older and become adults.

But of course we know that many Catholics don't learn more as they get older. And this too is the genius of the Baltimore Catechism. It gives adults who as children learned the catechism something to go on that is foundational, that can remain with them until the Lord calls them to their personal judgment.

While there are some post-Vatican II nuances that I have to add to this pre-Vatican II catechism, these are rather minor and easily accomplished, but very little needs to be changed. After all it is the same Church before and after Vatican II--there is continuity, not rupture.

Almost everyone universally believes that the catechetical materials we have substituted for the Baltimore Catechism have not lived up to what was hoped for. In fact we have two to three generations who are illiterate in the Catholic faith for they did not have the foundational information contained in the Baltimore Catechism nor do these new catechetical materials in any way capture the religious imagination of our young children as the Baltimore Catechism does.

On top of that there are so many materials available that there is little or no consistency. In pre-Vatican II times in America, every Catholic in elementary and high school was taught from the same text book what is foundational for all Catholics to have a least a simple grasp of. All Catholic children in the USA were on the same page and what great unity that brought to us in our Catholic Faith.

On top of that sometimes these new materials give complex religious thought and ideas to our children before they get what is truly succinct and foundational which the Baltimore Catechism does extremely well.

With that said, much more must be built upon the foundation that the Baltimore Catechism gives, but the foundation the Baltimore Catechism gives will support the weight of weightier religious content which should follow. But again, if much more is not recieved by the adult Catholic, at least he will have a foundation given to him from the Baltimore Catechism.

14 comments:

Joseph Johnson said...

I have been teaching 6th grade PRE at my parish for 16 years and, in more recent years and with pastoral approval, have used the Baltimore Catechism as supplement to the regular textbook (I only have my personal copy and sometimes use it to teach from).

As you say, it is much more straightforward and "to the point" on doctrine and it explains things in an age-appropriate way with illustrations. I have wished for years that we had an updated version of these books to use as primary PRE textbooks. The closest thing I know of today is the "St. Joseph Catechism" but I am told it is not an approved PRE textbook in our Diocese.

PRE textbooks have been steadily improving over the past few years (they now include Latin versions of basic prayers and have the Papal exhortation that all Catholics should know these prayers in Latin as well). Still, I much prefer the straightforward style of the old Baltimore Catechism. Maybe it's because I hunger for these things myself because I received my religious education in the period 1967-1975 (first grade to eight grade in St. Joseph Academy, Waycross). The earliest years with the Franciscan sisters were good but it deteriorated after about 1970 and I don't remember us ever using the Baltimore Catechism, even in the earliest years.

Joseph Johnson said...

Oh, I forgot to mention, we didn't have Franciscan sisters at St. Joseph Academy in Waycross after about 1972. It became a Catholic school with lay teachers, many of whom were not even Catholic.

Anonymous said...

Interesting. Just yesterday I was looking for a copy of the Baltimore Catechism in the bookstore. I do have a small child's catechism published in 1946 that was used by my wife's family for all her siblings and her through the sixties. It is very simple and emphasises the reverence. That is what I personally see as the problem with what came out of Vatican II. I frankly used to have contempt for St Theresa until I finally understood how she undid that knot with simple reverence.

rcg

Mike said...

The Baltimore Catechism is available, free, online in various formats, even the Kindle.



Baltimore Catechism No. 1
at Project Gutenberg. An abridged edition for younger students.



Baltimore Catechism No. 2 at Project Gutenberg. The main edition.



Baltimore Catechism No. 3 at Project Gutenberg. An expanded edition for older students.



Baltimore Catechism No. 4 at Project Gutenberg. An annotated edition for teachers.

Templar said...

When I was very young I remember going to "Catechism Class". A few years later we began to call it CCD, which my parents said meant "Catholic Catechism and Doctrine". g my kids in "CCD" before I found out that it didn't mean that (not literally anyway) and that here in Middle Georgia a lot of folks just called it "Sunday School" so as "not to confuse the children who go to school with a lot of baptist Children". Sheesh.

Amen Father for using the Baltimore Catechism.

Anonymous said...

Mike, Thanks! Also, Pin was looking for an e-version of the new Missal. Do you know where he can find one?

rcg

Mike said...

rcg

With a bit of editing, the Missal PDF's, at Wikispooks can be adapted to a reader.

A polished e-version of the new Missal is sure to be available in the neat future.

Anonymous said...

There you go Pin, ready for your iPad.

rcg

Anonymous said...

There you go Pin, ready for your iPad.

rcg

pinanv525 said...

Very funny, RCG. No Ipads, Kindles, or Blackberry's for me, thanks. I think there is a new psychiatric disorder manifested in agitatedly poking and fingering hand-held devices all day long while totally unaware of people and events around you. It used to be call catatonic schizophrenia.

Bill Meyer said...

Thanks to the Internet, we have, freely available, the Baltimore Cathechism, and that of Trent, as well. I have delved into both, and in my searching to fill the monstrous gap left by the local RCIA classes, have also read This is the Faith, but Canon Francis Ripley. It is very much in the spirit of the Baltimore Catechism, but with more explanation.

Anonymous said...

Excellent post, father. The Baltimore Catechism is all the things the CCC is not: clear, straightforward, accessible to the laity in terms of language and concepts. The CCC is more of a reference book than a catechism (and one that cites almost exclusively only two sources: VII and the Bible, to the exclusion of 1900 intervening years of other documents.)

Henry said...

The new translation missal PDF's at the Wikispook site Mike links above can be read without editing on a Kindle. Just download them to your computer, then copy them into the documents folder of your Kindle.

I've done this with the Proper of Saints and Proper of Time to have the newly translated collects available for Liturgy of the Hours, the Collect for a memorial, feastday or Sunday Mass being the final prayer for the major hours of the day.

CeAnne @ Sanctus Simplicitus said...

The original Baltimore Catechism set is back in print and available at www.allthesaintsbooks.com under their catechism section along with a reprint of the Council of Trent and a few others. The Baltimore is great for children and young adults and the council of Trent is a great in depth study for those looking for something more detailed.