Monday, March 26, 2012
THE BALTIMORE CATECHISM FOR ADULTS? YES, PRAISE THE LORD AND PASS ME THE BOOK!
Almost each Sunday we have an adult religious education hour following our 9:30 AM Mass, during the period of time our CCD program meets for children who do not go to Catholic school.
Our program for adults is called "Coffee and Conversation." It is meant to be informal and discussion based for the participants. This year we have been studying the USCCB's catechism which we also used for the RCIA. It is very good, but a big book packed with a great deal of good doctrine. But it can be intimidating to those who may not be inclined to read such a hefty book.
I was scheduled to lead Coffee and Conversation yesterday. Since the class was on "the resurrection of the body" I decided to use the chapter on it from the Baltimore Catechism (#2). Earlier in the year for I had used a chapter from the Baltimore Catechism (#1) which is geared to elementary age children; #2 to middle school age children.
The chapters in the Baltimore Catechism are very brief, no more than two to three pages. I feared that I wouldn't have enough information to fill the full hour. But I was wrong; there was enough discussion generated by the Baltimore Catechism's chapter on the resurrection of the body, to last more than an hour. I had to cut it short.
This is my point: the structure of the chapter, the examples that were used and simply reading the questions and answers to the adults then piqued their interest and religious imagination and there was great discussion.
Keep in mind that this catechism is for middle school children and written in a way to capture their religious imagination and make them think. It did the same for the adults yesterday. And like the adults yesterday, I was amazed at how little so many adult and children Catholics know today about the very basics of the Catholic faith.
The Baltimore Catechism is very straight forward in handing on the very basics of the faith, that which should be the foundation for any further building on the basics and developing a mature Catholic understanding of these with the various nuances that are necessary for adults.
These are the questions we went over yesterday:
LESSON THIRTY-SEVENTH ON THE LAST JUDGMENT AND THE RESURRECTION, HELL, PURGATORY, AND HEAVEN
408. Q. When will Christ judge us? A. Christ will judge us immediately after our death, and on the last day.
409. Q. What is the judgment called which we have to undergo immediately
A. The judgment we have to undergo immediately after death is called the
410. Q. What is the judgment called which all men have to undergo on the last day? A. The judgment which all men have to undergo on the last day is called the General Judgment.
411. Q. Why does Christ judge men immediately after death? A. Christ judges men immediately after death to reward or punish them according to their deeds.
412. Q. What are the rewards or punishments appointed for men’s souls after the Particular Judgment? A. The rewards or punishments appointed for men’s souls after the Particular Judgment are Heaven, Purgatory, and Hell.
413. Q. What is Hell? A. Hell is a state to which the wicked are condemned, and in which they are deprived of the sight of God for all eternity, and are in dreadful torments.
414. Q. What is Purgatory? A. Purgatory is a state in which those suffer for a time who die guilty of venial sins, or without having satisfied for the punishment due to their sins.
415. Q. Can the faithful on earth help the souls in Purgatory? A. The faithful on earth can help the souls in Purgatory by their prayers, fasts, alms-deeds; by indulgences, and by having Masses said for them.
416. Q. If every one is judged immediately after death, what need is there of a General Judgment? A. There is need of a General Judgment, though every one is judged immediately after death, that the providence of God, which, on earth, often permits the good to suffer and the wicked to prosper, may in the end appear just before all men.
417. Q. Will our bodies share in the reward or punishment of our souls? A. Our bodies will share in the reward or punishment of our souls, because through the resurrection they will again be united to them.
418. Q. In what state will the bodies of the just rise? A. The bodies of the just will rise glorious and immortal.
419. Q. Will the bodies of the damned also rise? A. The bodies of the damned will also rise, but they will be condemned to eternal punishment.
420. Q. What is Heaven? A. Heaven is the state of everlasting life in which we see God face to face, are made like unto Him in glory, and enjoy eternal happiness.
421. Q. What words should we bear always in mind? A. We should bear always in mind these words of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ: “What doth it profit a man if he gain the whole world and suffer the loss of his own soul, or what exchange shall a man give for his soul? For the Son of man the shall come in the glory of His Father with His angels; and then will He render to every man according to his works.”
These questions led to the reasons why the Church requires Christian burial or entombment, mutilation of the body today; organ donation and donating one's body to science; the horror of damnation as a real possibility; the nature of purgatory and other images for it; the nature of heaven and what makes us happy; the nature of our resurrected bodies and loving what we and others have through the eyes of God not through the prejudice of the world; the nature of the last judgment as a judgement on all the institutions of the world, including the Church.
We could have gone on and on! It also helped us to realize that if as adults the only catehecesis we had was the Baltimore Catechism as children, we would have the basics but we would still be infantile in terms of knowledge of God, the Church and morality, that we need to grow as adults into an adult faith to have our questions answered with more nuanced statements and discussion. But the Baltimore Catechism did that yesterday with the adults I had and the discussion it created.
If you have an adult religious education group, I recommend the Baltimore Catechism, any of them as a spring board to further discussion. It's as easy as pie!
You can find the entire Baltimore Catechism on line, but the on-line doesn't have the simple art drawings and examples that are so important too for the religious imagination. THIS IS #2 on line, press here.