The Baltimore Catechism

Baltimore Catechism

The first Catholic catechism I read was the Catechism of the Catholic Church. I read this early (while still in RCIA) and it is still my favorite. Since then, I have also read the United States Catholic Catechism for Adults. The former is sometimes called the “universal catechism” as it is not specific to any area and is the “gold standard” reference for our faith. The latter is the US specific catechism, an approved national version, not so much a reference as instructional.

A few months ago, my friend Bernadette loaned me a copy of her 1945 Baltimore Catechism #2. It is tiny compared to the other two and was superseded by them in the late 1960s. This catechism was intended for students and came in 4 versions (#1 to #4) for different audiences. #1 was abridged, had larger type and was intended for younger children. #2 was the standard version. #3 was for studies by older students. #4 was a more annotated teacher version.

There is something about it that is timeless. It is less wordy, less cross-referenced, little or no attempt to reference authoritative sources, etc…   just to-the-point. It also is easy to read and a wonderful review of our beliefs.

Researching the history a bit, I found that the 1945 version was a descendant of the original 1885 version. The 1891 version is no longer covered by copyright so it may be freely shared. Every so often, I will post a chapter from the 1891 #4 catechism right here. This includes the questions and answer format of the #2 standard version, but with quite a bit of annotation for the teacher. Just read the Q&A if you want to get a feel for the standard version.

There are 37 “lessons” in total. Subsequent student editions of the catechism were also Q&A, but included summaries, definitions of words and various exercises.

For some it may be nostalgic or historic. Others might see it as a quick refresher on the basics. Those interested in Catholicism will get a good introduction in bite-sized chunks. I think that you will find it very interesting.

The only risk is that some practices have changed a little. Not our dogma or doctrine, of course, but some disciplines have been modified in the last 120 years. Where I notice it, I will make a notation so that no one is misled.

Sometimes I may comment and when I do, it will be clearly marked and will follow the original text.

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