Something to be said of the Baltimore Catechism

Fr. Kevin Dillon

Fr. Kevin Dillon is the Pastor of St. Boniface Martyr Parish, Sea Cliff, Long Island, NY.

A couple of years ago, I had a conversation with a young man who recently graduated from a prominent Catholic high school in the New York area.  In the course of the conversation, we spoke about our Diocese and its Bishop.  I was surprised to learn from him that he had no idea who the Bishop of Rockville Centre was, nor did he even know the name of our Diocese.  Giving him the benefit of the doubt, I asked him who was in charge of the Archdiocese of New York.  I figured that His Eminence Timothy Cardinal Dolan is a very public figure and his name is often in the news, so at the very least the young man I was speaking with would have some recollection or knowledge about the chief shepherd for the Archdiocese.  Unfortunately, he had no idea about those matters or other teachings of the faith, like fast and abstinence during Lent just to name one, and it wasn’t that he had no interest.  It just seemed to appear that he did not know.

“Why did God make me?”  To know Him, love Him and serve Him in this life and to be happy with Him in the next life.”  Anyone reading this article that graduated high school before 1970, I am CERTAIN knows this question and answer by heart.  It was probably drilled into you by an army of Religious Sisters and Brothers.  This question and a myriad of others is a part of the compilation of the famed Baltimore Catechism which became the National Catechism for children in grades 1-12 across dioceses of the United States.  It was the first such catechism written for Catholics in North America.  It was a standard and a staple in Catholic Schools from 1885 to the late 1960’s.  One volume (number 4) was an advanced textbook with explanations of many little known questions pertaining to the Catholic faith designed to reward the questioning reader.  Four generations of Catholics were taught using this question and answer methodology of learning and large numbers of Catholics actually knew the faith!  So there is something to be said of The Baltimore Catechism.

I am not a product of the Baltimore Catechism, but as I grow older and perhaps a little wiser, I sometimes feel regret I did not learn about our faith this way, at least in part.  Most of my elementary school days in Religion were spent making collages, and simply being told God loves you.  I realize the first couple of decades after Vatican II the Church was “experimenting” in  new ways of trying to impart the faith but in conversations with Catholics many unfortunately do not know a lot about the faith. Some Bishops and Theologians now seem to realize that all these trendy and flashy programs have not worked.    After Vatican II,  the Church strived to move forward and make it more relevant and pertinent to contemporary culture.  In many ways that is good, but now her leaders and many of the faithful realize that maybe it’s time to get back to basics, and teach the current generation of young Catholics more tenets of the faith and why the Church believes and teaches what it does.

Here at St. Boniface we are going to change the Religion textbook series.  Currently we are using Pflaum Gospel Magazines which remind me more of a Scholastic Weekly Reader than a Religion textbook.  One of the main goals of the Religious Education Program here at St. Boniface is to produce informed and enlightened generations of Catholics prepared to know the faith, proclaim the faith and live the faith.

– Fr. Kevin

Fr. Kevin’s letter appears online here each week and in our Parish Bulletin

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