Baltimore Catechism: last judgment, resurrection, hell, purgatory, heaven

Baltimore Catechism

Lesson 37

408 Q. When will Christ judge us?
A. Christ will judge us immediately after our death, and on the last day.

“Immediately.” In the very room and on the very spot where we die, we shall be judged in an instant, and even before those around us are sure that we are really dead. When we have a trial or judgment in one of our courts, we see the judge listening, the lawyers defending or trying to condemn, and the witnesses for or against the person accused. We are in the habit of imagining something of the same kind to take place in the judgment of God. We see Almighty God seated on His throne; our angel and patron saint giving their testimony about us – good or bad – and then we hear the Judge pronounce sentence. This takes place, but not in the way we imagine, for God needs no witnesses: He knows all. An example will probably make you understand better what really takes place. If you are walking over a very muddy road on a dark night, you cannot see the spattered condition of your clothing; but if you come suddenly into a strong light you will see at a glance the state in which you are. In the same way the soul during our earthly life does not see its own condition; but when it comes into the bright light of God’s presence, it sees in an instant its own state and knows what its sentence will be. It goes immediately to its reward or punishment. This judgment at the moment of our death will settle our fate forever. The general judgment will not change, but only repeat, the sentence before the whole world. Oh, how we should prepare for that awful moment! See that poor sick man slowly breathing away his life. All his friends are kneeling around him praying; now he becomes unconscious; now the death rattle sounds in his throat; now the eyes are fixed and glassy. A few minutes more and that poor soul will stand in the awful presence of God, to give an account of that man’s whole life – of every thought, word, and deed. All he has done on earth will be spread out before him like a great picture. He will, towards the end of his life, have altogether forgotten perhaps what he thought, said, or did on a certain day and hour – the place he was in and the sin committed, etc.; but at that moment of judgment he will remember all. How he will wish he had been good! How, then, can we be so careless now about a matter of such importance, when we are absolutely certain that we too shall be judged, and how soon we know not. When you are about to be examined on what you have learned in school or instructions in six months or a year, how anxious you are in making the necessary preparation, and how you fear you might not pass, but be kept back for a while! How delighted you would be to hear that a very dear friend, and one who knew you well, was to be your examiner! Prepare in the same way for the examination you have to stand at the end of your life. Every day you can make a preparation by examining your conscience on the sins you have committed; by making an act of contrition for them, and resolving to avoid them for the future. You should never go to sleep without some preparation for judgment. But above all, try to become better acquainted with your Examiner – Our Lord Jesus Christ; try by your prayers and good works to become His special friend, and when your judgment comes you will be pleased rather than afraid to meet Him.

409 Q. What is the judgment called which we have to undergo immediately after death?
A. The judgment we have to undergo immediately after death is called the Particular Judgment.

“Particular,” because one particular person is judged.

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.

“General,” because every creature gifted with intelligence will be judged on that day – the angels of Heaven, the devils of Hell, and all men, women, and children that have ever lived upon the earth. The Holy Scripture gives us a terrible account of that awful day. (Matt. 24-25). On some day – we know not when, it might be tomorrow for all we know – the world will be going on as usual, some going to school, others to business; some seeking pleasure, others suffering pain; some in health, others in sickness, etc. Suddenly they will feel the earth beginning to quake and tremble; they will see the ocean in great fury, and will be terrified at its roar as, surging and foaming, it throws its mighty waves high in the air. Then the sun will grow red and begin to darken; a horrid glare will spread over the earth, beginning to burn up. Then, says the Holy Scripture, men will wither away for fear of what is coming; they will call upon the mountains to fall and hide them; they will be rushing here and there, not knowing what to do. Money will be of no value then; dress, wealth, fame, power, learning, and all else will be useless, for at that moment all men will be equal. Then shall be heard the sound of the angel’s great trumpet calling all to judgment. The dead shall come forth from their graves, and the demons rush from Hell. Then all shall see our Blessed Lord coming in the clouds of Heaven in great power and majesty surrounded by countless angels bearing His shining Cross before Him. He will separate the good from the wicked; He will welcome the good to Heaven and condemn the wicked to Hell. The sins committed shall be made public before all present. Imagine your feelings while you are standing in that great multitude, waiting for the separation of the good from the bad. To which side will you be sent? Our Lord is coming, not with the mild countenance of a saviour, but with the severe look of a judge. As He draws nearer and nearer to you, you see some of your dear friends, whom you thought good enough upon earth, sent over to the side of the wicked; you see others that you deemed foolish sent with the good, and you become more anxious every instant about the uncertainty of your own fate. You see fathers and mothers sent to opposite sides, brothers and sisters, parents and children, separated forever. Oh, what a terrible moment of suspense! How you will wish you had been better and always lived a friend of God! The side you will be on depends upon what you do now, and you can be on the better side if you wish. Do, then, in your life what you would wish to have done at that terrible moment. Learn to judge yourself frequently. Say this, or something similar, to yourself. “Now I have lived twelve, fifteen, twenty, or more years; if that judgment came today, on which side should I be? Probably on the side of the wicked. If then I spend the rest of my life as I have lived in the past, on the last day I shall surely be with the wicked. If my good deeds and bad deeds were counted today, which would be more numerous? What, then, must I do? It will not be enough for me simply to be better for the future – I must try also to make amends for the past. If a man wishing to complete a journey on a certain time, by walking a fixed number of miles each day, falls behind a great deal on one day, he must not only walk the usual number of miles the next, but must make up for the distance lost on the previous day. So in our journey through this life we must do our duty each day for the future, and, as far as we can, make up for what we have neglected in the past.

*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.

“Deprived of the sight of God.” This is called the pain of loss, while the other sufferings the damned endure are called the pain of sense – that is, of the senses. The pain of loss causes the unfortunate souls more torment than all their other sufferings; for as we are created for God alone, the loss of Him – our last end – is the most dreadful evil that can befall us. This the damned realize, and know that their souls will be tortured by a perpetual yearning never to be satisfied. This is aggravated by the thought of how easily they might have been saved, and how foolishly they threw away their happiness and lost all for some miserable pleasure or gratification, so quickly ended.

Besides this remorse, they suffer most frightful torments in all their senses. The worst sufferings you could imagine would not be as bad as the sufferings of the damned really are; for Hell must be the opposite of Heaven, and since we cannot, as St. Paul says, imagine the happiness of Heaven, neither can we imagine the misery of Hell. Sometimes you will find frightful descriptions of Hell in religious books that tell of the horrible sights, awful sounds, disgusting stenches, and excruciating pains the lost souls endure. Now, all these descriptions are given rather to make people think of the torments of Hell than as an accurate account of them. No matter how terrible the description may be, it is never as bad as the reality. We know that the damned are continually tormented in all their senses, but just in what way we do not know. We know that there is fire in Hell, but it is entirely different from our fire; it neither gives light nor consumes what it burns, and it causes greater pain than the fire of earth, for it affects both body and soul. We know that the damned will never see God and there will never be an end to their torments. Now, all this is contained in the following: Hell is the absence of everything good and the presence of everything evil, and it will last forever. Now, a priest coming out to preach on Hell would not say to the people: “Hell is the absence of everything good and the presence of everything evil, and it will last forever,” and then step down from the altar and say no more. He must give a fuller explanation to those who are unable to think for themselves. He must point out some of the evils present in Hell and some of the good things absent, and thus teach the people how to meditate on these dreadful truths. If, then, you bear in mind that there is nothing good in Hell and it will last forever, and often think of these two points, you will have a holy fear of the woeful place and a deep sorrow for your sins which expose you to the danger of suffering its torments.

It should be enough, therefore, for you to remember: there is nothing good in Hell, and it will last forever. Think of anything good you please and it cannot be found in Hell. Is light good? Yes. Then it is not in Hell. Is hope good? Yes. Then it is not in Hell. Is true friendship good? Yes. Then it is not in Hell. There the damned hate one another. There the poor sufferers curse forever those who led them into sin. Hence, persons should try to bring back to a good life everyone they may have led into sin or scandalized by bad example.

414 Q. What is Purgatory?
A. Purgatory is the 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.

“Punishment” – that is, temporal punishment, already explained to you. After the general judgment there will be Heaven and Hell, but no Purgatory, for there will be no men living or dying upon the earth in its present condition to go there. All will be dead and judged and sent to their final abodes. Those in Purgatory are the friends of God; and knowing Him as they do now, they would not go into His holy presence with the slightest stain upon their souls; still they are anxious for their Purgatory to be ended that they may be with God. They suffer, we are told, the same pains of sense as the damned; but they suffer willingly, for they know that it is making them more pleasing to God, and that one day it will all be over and He will receive them into Heaven. Their salvation is sure, and that thought makes them happy. If, therefore, you believe any of your friends are in Purgatory, you should help them all you can, and try by your prayers and good works to shorten their time of suffering. They will help you – though they cannot help themselves – by their prayers. And oh, when they are admitted into Heaven, how they will pray for those that have helped them out of Purgatory! If you do this great charity, God will, when you die, put in some good person’s heart to pray for you while you suffer in Purgatory. There must be a Purgatory, for one who dies with the slightest stain of sin upon his soul cannot enter Heaven, and yet God would not send him to Hell for so small a sin. But why does God punish those He loves? Why does He not forgive everything? He punishes because He is infinitely just and true. He warned them that if they did certain things they would be punished; and they did them, and God must keep His promise. Moreover He is just, and must give to everyone exactly what he deserves.

*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, almsdeeds; by indulgences, and by having Masses said for them.

*416 Q. If everyone is judged immediately after death, what need is there of a general judgment?
A. There is need of a general judgment, though everyone 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.

“Providence of God.” Sometimes here on earth we see a good man always in want, out of employment, sickly, unsuccessful in all his undertakings, while his neighbor, who is a very bad man, is wealthy and prosperous, and seems to have every pleasure. Why this is so we cannot understand now, but God’s reason for it will be made known to us on the Day of Judgment. Sometimes the wicked do good actions here on earth – help the poor, or contribute to some charity, for instance; and as God on account of their wickedness cannot reward them in the next world, He rewards them chiefly in this world by temporal goods and pleasures. For all their good deeds they get their reward in this world, and for the evil their punishment in the next. The good man who suffers gets all his reward in the next world, that even his sufferings here atone partly for the evil he has done.

A second reason for a general judgment is to show the crimes of sinners and the justice of their punishment; also that the saints may have all their good works made known before the world and receive the glory they deserve. On earth these saints were sometimes considered fools and treated as criminals, falsely accused, etc., and now the whole truth will stand out before the world. But above all, the general judgment is for the honor and glory of Our Lord. At His first coming into the world He was poor and weak; many would not believe Him the Son of God, and insulted Him as an impostor. He was falsely accused, treated shamefully, and was put to death, many believing Him guilty of some crime. Now He will appear before all as He really is – their Lord and Master, their Creator and Judge. How they will tremble to look upon Him whom they have crucified! How all those who have denied Him, blasphemed Him, persecuted His Church, and the like, will fear when they see Him there as Judge! How they will realize the terrible mistake worldlings made!

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.

We honor the dead body and treat it with great respect because it was the dwelling place of the soul and was often nourished with the Sacraments; also because it will rise in glory and be united with the soul in the presence of God forever. For these reasons we use incense and holy water when the body is to be buried, and even bless the ground in which it is laid. “Faithful departed” means all those who died in a state of grace and who are in Heaven or Purgatory. They may be in Purgatory, and so we pray for them. We pray that they may “rest in peace” – that is be in Heaven, where they will have no sufferings.

*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.

The most delightful place we could possibly imagine as Heaven would not be near what it really is. Everything that is good is there and forever, and we shall never tire of its joys. All the pleasures and beauties of earth are as nothing compared with Heaven; and though we think we can imagine its beauty and happiness now, we shall see how far we have been from the real truth if ever we reach this heavenly home.

“God face to face” – that is, as He is. We shall not see Him with the eyes of the body, but of the soul. That we may see with our natural eyes, two things are necessary: first, an object to look at, and secondly, light to see it. Now, to see God in Heaven we need a special light, which is called the “light of glory.” God Himself gives us this light and thus enables us to see Him as He is. This beautiful vision of God in Heaven is called the “beatific vision,” and thus our whole life in Heaven – our joy and happiness – consists in the enjoyment of the beatific vision.

*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 shall come in the glory of His Father with His angels: and then will He render to every man according to his works.”

What does it benefit the poor creatures in Hell to have been rich, or beautiful, or learned, or powerful? If they had been good, it was all that was necessary to escape all their sufferings. Is there anything on earth that they would not give to be released? Why, then, did they sell their souls for so little while on earth? The present is the only time you have to merit Heaven and escape Hell. The past you cannot recall, and of the future you are not sure. Then use the present well and decide daily whether you wish to be in Heaven or in Hell.


This is the last chapter and conclusion of this series. What a powerful chapter it is indeed!

Click here to see the Baltimore Catechism archive. For general info on this series, see my initial post.

Baltimore Catechism: on our 3rd to 6th obligations

Baltimore Catechism

Lesson 36

397 Q. What is meant by the command of confessing at least once a year?
A. By the command of confessing at least once a year is meant that we are obliged, under pain of mortal sin, to go to confession within the year.

“Within the year” – that is, the time between your confessions must never be longer than a year, or, at least not longer than the period between the beginning of one Eastertime and the end of the next. All persons who have attained the age of reason are bound to comply with this precept, and parents should remind their children of it.

*398 Q. Should we confess only once a year?
A. We should confess frequently, if we wish to lead a good life.

Some seem to think that they need not go to confession if they have not committed sin since their last confession. Two graces are given in penance, as you already know: one, to take away the sins confessed, and the other, to strengthen us against temptation and enable us to keep our good resolutions. Now, as we are always tempted, we should go frequently to confession to get the grace to resist. The saints used to go to confession very frequently, sometimes every day. They used to go when tempted, to obtain the grace to resist and to expose their temptations to their confessor and ask his advice. Again the Holy Scripture tells us that the just man falls seven times; and “just man” in Holy Scripture means a very good man, that is, one doing for God, his neighbor, and himself what he ought to do. St. Joseph is called in the Scripture a “just man,” and he was the foster-father of Our Lord. Now, if the good man falls seven times, he must arise after each fall; for if he did not get up after the first fall, he could not fall the second time. This teaches us that we all commit some kind of sin, at least, and have always something to confess if we only examine our conscience closely. It teaches us also that when we have the misfortune to fall into sin, we should rise as quickly as possible.

*399 Q. Should children go to confession?
A. Children should go to confession when they are old enough to commit sin, which is commonly about the age of seven years.

“To commit sin” – that is, when they know the difference between good and evil.

400 Q. What sin does he commit who neglects to receive Communion during the Easter time?
A. He who neglects to receive Communion during the Easter time commits a mortal sin.

401 Q. What is the Easter time?
A. The Easter time is, in this country, the time between the first Sunday of Lent and Trinity Sunday, inclusive.

Trinity Sunday is the eighth Sunday after Easter. Therefore the whole Easter-time is from the first Sunday of Lent – that is, seven weeks before Easter – to Trinity Sunday, eight weeks after it, or fifteen weeks in all; and anyone who does not go to Holy Communion sometime during these fifteen weeks commits mortal sin.

402 Q. Are we obliged to contribute to the support of our pastors?
A. We are obliged to contribute to the support of our pastors, and to bear our share in the expenses of the Church and school.

And any charitable institution connected with the Church. The Holy Land was divided among the tribes of Israel, who were the descendants of the twelve sons of Jacob. Now, one of these twelve tribes was made up entirely of priests and persons who served in the temple of God, called Levites. They received none of the land, but were to be supported by the other eleven tribes. All the people were obliged by the law to give what they called first-fruits, and tithes – that is, one tenth of their income in goods or money each year to the temple for its support and the support of those who served it. In the New Law no definite amount is assigned, but every Christian is left free to give what he can to God’s Church according to his generosity. But if God left you free, should you therefore be stingy with Him? Moreover, all that we have comes from God, and should we return Him the least and the worst? For every alms you give for God’s sake He can send you a hundred blessings; and what you refuse to give to His Church or poor He can take from you in a thousand ways, by sending misfortunes. We read in the Bible (Gen. 4) that Adam’s sons, Cain and Abel, both offered sacrifice to God. Abel’s sacrifice was pleasing, but Cain’s was not. Why? Because, as we are told, Cain did not offer to God the best he had, but likely the worst; or at least, he offered his sacrifice with a bad disposition. Then when he saw that his brother’s sacrifice was pleasing to God, being filled with jealousy, he killed him; and in punishment God marked him and condemned him to be a wanderer on the face of the earth. We are told he was always afraid of being killed by everyone he saw. See, then, what comes of being unwilling to be generous with God. What we give Him He does not need, but by giving, we worship and thank Him. Do not people in the world often give presents to those who have done them a favor, that they may thus show their gratitude? Now, God is always doing us favors, and why should we not show our gratitude to Him by giving generously in His honor? When we give to the orphans, etc., we give to Him; for He says: “Whatsoever you give to these little ones you give to Me.” Again, when Our Lord tells what will happen on the Day of Judgment (Matt. 25:31, etc.), He says, the Judge will divide all the people of the world into two bodies; the good He will place on His right hand and the wicked on His left. Then He will praise the good for what they did and welcome them to Heaven; but to the wicked He will say, “Depart from Me, because when I was hungry you gave Me not to eat; when I was thirsty you gave Me not to drink; you clothed Me not,” etc. And then the wicked shall ask, when did we see You in want and not relieve You? He will tell them that He considered the poor just the same as Himself; and as they did nothing for His poor, they did nothing for Him.

*403 Q. What is the meaning of the commandment not to marry within the third degree of kindred?
A. The meaning of the commandment not to marry within the third degree of kindred is that no one is allowed to marry another within the third degree of blood relationship.

“Third Degree.” What relatives are in the third degree? Brother and sister are in the first degree; first cousins are in the second degree; second cousins are in the third degree. Therefore all who are second cousins or in nearer relationship cannot be married without a dispensation from the Church allowing them to do so. A dispensation granted by the Church is a permission to do something which its law forbids. Since it made the law, it can also dispense from the observance of it. The Church could not give permission to do anything that God’s law forbids. It could not, for example, give permission to a brother and sister to marry, because it is not alone the law of the Church but God’s law also that forbids that. But God’s law does not forbid first or second cousins to get married; but the Church’s law forbids it, and thus it can in special cases dispense from such laws. God’s law is called also the natural law. You must be very careful not to confound the marriage laws that the Church makes with the marriage laws that the State makes. When the State makes laws contrary to the laws of God or of the Church, you cannot obey such laws without committing grievous sin. For instance, the State allows divorce; it allows persons to marry again if the husband or wife has been sentenced to imprisonment for life; it does not recognize all the impediments to marriage laid down by the Church. Such laws as these Catholics cannot comply with; but when the State makes laws which regard only the civil effects of marriage, such as refer to the property of the husband or wife, the inheritance of the children, etc., laws, in a word, which are not opposed either to the laws of God or of His Church, then you may and must obey them; for the authorities of the government are our lawful superiors, and must be obeyed in all that is not sin. What we have said with regard to the marriage laws is true for all the rest. Thus the civil court might, on account of some technicality, free you legally from the payment of a debt; but that would not free you in conscience from paying what you justly owe. Again, the court might legally decide in your favor in an unjust suit; but that would not give you the right in conscience to keep what you have thus fraudulently or unjustly obtained.

*404 Q. What is the meaning of the command not to marry privately?
A. The command not to marry privately means that none should marry without the blessing of God’s priests or without witnesses.

If persons wishing to be married suspect that there is any impediment existing between them, they should express their doubts and the reasons for them to the priest.

Here it is well for you to know that if any Catholic goes to be married before a Protestant minister, he is, by the laws of the Church in the United States, excommunicated. [In 1966 the penalty of excommunication for this offense was lifted by the Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. Yet it remains a mortal sin for a Catholic to attempt to marry outside the Catholic Church, and such a “marriage” will be invalid.] You must know excommunication means cut off from the communion of the Church and the body of the faithful; cut off from the Sacraments and from a share in all the holy Masses and public prayers offered by the Church throughout the world. It is a punishment the Church inflicts upon its disobedient children who will not repent but persist in wrongdoing. If they die willfully excommunicated, they die in mortal sin, and no Mass or funeral prayers can be publicly offered for them; nor can they be buried in consecrated ground. Besides the excommunicated, there are others who cannot be buried in consecrated ground: namely, infants or others who have not been baptized; those who deliberately committed suicide; those who have publicly lived sinful lives and evidently died in that public sin; and all persons who are not Catholics. If a Catholic who is not publicly a sinner dies suddenly, we cannot judge that he is in mortal sin; and hence such a one may be buried in consecrated ground.

It is the desire of the Church that all its faithful children should be buried in the ground which it has blessed for their remains; and wherever it is possible Catholics must have their own burying ground.

*405 Q. What is the meaning of the precept not to solemnize marriage at forbidden times?
A. The meaning of the precept not to solemnize marriage at forbidden times is that during Lent and Advent the marriage ceremony should not be performed with pomp or a nuptial Mass.

Persons may be married at these times quietly, wherever it is not positively forbidden by the laws of the diocese.

*406 Q. What is the nuptial Mass?
A. The nuptial Mass is a Mass appointed by the Church to invoke a special blessing upon the married couple.

It is a Mass especially for them and cannot be said for anyone else. At the most solemn parts of the Mass the priest turns to them and prays that God may bless their union.

*407 Q. Should Catholics be married at a nuptial Mass?
A. Catholics should be married at a nuptial Mass, because they thereby show greater reverence for the holy Sacrament and bring richer blessings upon their wedded life.

The Church wishes to give to the marriage of its children observing its laws all the solemnity possible, and to impress its dignity and sanctity so deeply upon their minds that they may never forget the solemn promise made at the altar of God. The thought of that day will keep them from sin. On the other hand, the Church shows its great displeasure when Catholics do not keep its laws, but marry persons not of their own religion. At a mixed marriage the couple cannot be married in the church, nor even in the sacristy; the priest cannot wear a surplice or stole or any of the sacred vestments of the Church; he cannot use holy water, or the Sign of the Cross; he cannot bless the ring or even use the Church’s language – Latin. Everything is done in the coldest manner, to remind Catholics that they are doing what is displeasing to their mother the Church.

Again the Church wishes its children to prepare for the Sacrament of Matrimony just as they would prepare for any other Sacrament – Penance, Holy Eucharist, Holy Orders, etc. Imagine a boy going up for First Communion laughing, talking, or gazing about him, without any thought of the great Sacrament he is about to receive; thinking only of how he appears in his new clothing, of those who are present, etc., and spending all his time of preparation not in purifying his soul, but in adorning his body! Think of him returning from Holy Communion and immediately forgetting Our Lord! Now, Matrimony is deserving of all the respect due to a Sacrament, and hence the Church wishes all its children to be married at Mass; or at least in the morning. It does not like them to marry in the evening, and go to the reception of the Sacrament as they would to a place of vain amusement. For on such occasions they cannot show the proper respect in the church, and possibly turn the ceremony into an occasion of sin for all who attend; for they often seem to forget the holiness of the place and the respect due to the presence of Our Lord upon the altar. Indeed it should be remembered, at whatever time the marriage takes place, that conduct, dress, and all else must be in keeping with the dignity of the place and the holiness of the Sacrament, and the women should not come into the Church with uncovered heads.


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Click here to see the Baltimore Catechism portions published to date.
For general info on this series, see my initial post.

Baltimore Catechism: on our 1st and 2nd obligations

Baltimore Catechism

Lesson 35

389 Q. Which are the chief commandments of the Church?
A. The chief commandments of the Church are six:
  1. To hear Mass on Sundays and holy days of obligation.
  2. To fast and abstain on the days appointed.
  3. To confess at least once a year.
  4. To receive the Holy Eucharist during the Easter time.
  5. To contribute to the support of our pastors.
  6. Not to marry persons who are not Catholics, or who are related to us within the third degree of kindred, nor privately without witnesses, nor to solemnize marriage at forbidden times.

390 Q. Is it a mortal sin not to hear Mass on a Sunday or a holy day of obligation?
A. It is a mortal sin not to hear Mass on a Sunday or a holy day of obligation, unless we are excused for a serious reason. They also commit a mortal sin, who, having others under their charge, hinder them from hearing Mass, without a sufficient reason.

“Serious reason” – that is, a very good reason, such as sickness, necessity of taking care of the sick, great danger of death, etc. Some persons when they go to the country in the summer believe themselves excused from hearing Mass because the church is a little further from them or the Mass at more inconvenient times than in the city. When they are in the country they are bound by the same obligations as the Catholics who live in that parish the whole year round, and they must go to Mass as these do, even if it is more inconvenient than in the city. Persons who have it in their power to select their own summer resort, should not, without great necessity, select a place where there is no Catholic church, and where they will be deprived of Mass and the Sacraments for several months, and where there is danger of their dying without the Sacraments. Some excuse themselves from going to Mass because they are too tired to rise in the morning. They should be ashamed to give such an excuse. Was our Blessed Lord not tired when He carried His Cross? He was tired, for He fell under it several times. And where was He going? To Calvary, to offer up the bloody sacrifice of the Cross for you. Will you plead fatigue as an excuse when you come to be judged by Him? Others again have a great habit of coming late for Mass. No matter at what hour the Mass may be, they will always be late; and I am afraid these persons will also be too late to enter Heaven. By coming late they show disrespect to Our Lord and distract others; and to avoid doing so, they should, when late, take a place in the rear of the church. When you are very late for one Mass, you should wait for the next – at least, for as much of the next as you did not hear in the first. You should not, however, begrudge a little extra time to God. To hear Mass properly, you should be in your place a few minutes before the priest comes out, and make up your mind what blessing you will ask, or for what intention you desire to hear the Mass.

“Having others under their charge.” Some parents are very careless about their children attending Mass, especially on holy days. Now, they must remember that in such neglect the sin will be theirs as well as the children’s. Again, masters and mistresses do not at times give their workmen and servants sufficient opportunity to hear Mass, above all on holy days. All masters and mistresses must remember that they are bound not only to give their servants an opportunity to hear Mass, but they are bound as far as they conveniently can to see that they embrace the opportunity, just as they should see to their children in such matters. Catholics having in their employ others, such as engineers, drivers, conductors, etc., must make some arrangement between their men by which they will be able to attend Mass on Sundays and holy days. The same holds good for companies and corporations having under their charge a large force of men who are obliged by circumstances to work on Sundays.

*391 Q. Why were holy days instituted by the Church?
A. Holy days were instituted by the Church to recall to our minds the great mysteries of religion and the virtues and rewards of the saints.

For just the same reason that the government has legal holidays. What would the people of this country know or think at the present time about the Declaration of Independence, and all connected with it, if they did not celebrate from childhood every year, on the Fourth of July, the great day on which their forefathers claimed to be free and independent from the nation that was persecuting them? The Fourth of July keeps alive in our memory the struggles of our ancestors of one hundred years or more ago – their great battles, their sufferings and triumph, the blessings they secured for us, and for which we praise them. In like manner, the feast of the Resurrection of Our Lord keeps us in mind of the sad condition in which we were before Our Lord redeemed us, and how He liberated us from the slavery of the devil and secured for us so many wonderful blessings. Again, what would we remember about George Washington if we did not celebrate his birthday? That holiday keeps before our minds the life and actions of that great man and all he did for our benefit. So, too, when we celebrate every year the feast of a saint in the Church, it keeps before our minds his works and all that he did for God and the Church, and makes us anxious to imitate his virtues. On every day in the year the Church honors some mystery of our holy faith or some saint by saying Mass all over the world in honor of the feast, and by obliging the priests and bishops to say the divine office for the same purpose. The feast-day of a saint is generally the day on which he died; because that is considered the day on which he entered into Heaven – the day on which he was born into the new world.

The “divine office” is a collection of prayers, hymns, lessons, and psalms which every priest and bishop must read every day of his life. As it is said each day in honor of some particular mystery or saint, the greater part of it differs for each day. The prayers are to God, asking some grace or blessing in honor of the saint – generally such graces as were granted to the saint. The hymns are in the saint’s honor; the lessons are parts of the Holy Scripture, or an account of the saint’s life; and the psalms are those beautiful poems that King David composed and sang to God. The divine office is the prayer of the universal Church for its children, and if a priest neglects to say it he commits a mortal sin. It takes about an hour to say the whole divine office, but it is not intended to be said all at once. It is so divided that it is said at three times in the day. The part called “Matins” and “Lauds” is said very early in the morning and before Mass. The part called “Little Hours” is said later in the day; and the part called “Vespers” and “Compline” is said in the afternoon. See, therefore, how anxious the Church is for the good of its children, when it makes its bishops, priests, and religious pray daily for all the faithful, and send up in one voice the same prayer to the throne of God.

*392 Q. How should we keep the holy days of obligation?
A. We should keep the holy days of obligation as we should keep the Sunday.

393 Q. What do you mean by fast-days?
A. By fast-days I mean days on which we are allowed but one full meal.

According to the traditional Catholic method of fasting, one may eat “one full meal” each day with meat included, plus two smaller meatless meals, both of which together do not equal the one full meal. No eating between meals is allowed, although drinking beverages such as coffee and tea are allowed and are not considered to break the fast. (Milk, juice, and soft drinks are also considered not to break the fast, although they are in fact foods and mitigate the effects of the fast and work contrary to its intent because they satisfy one’s hunger to some extent, since they have food value.) They, therefore, who follow the above regulations obey the Catholic method of fasting. Today the prescribed days of fast for the whole Church are Ash Wednesday and Good Friday (these are also days of abstinence). However the Church today says that the meaning of the law of fasting during Lent remains, although the extent of the obligation has been changed. In other words, Lent remains as a season of penance in the Church, but how it is to be observed is greatly up to the individual, though no one may think himself excused from all penance whatsoever, and those who are in the fasting age group should still practice the Church’s form of fasting, since fasting is a primary and very efficacious form of penance.

Those who, for sufficient reasons, are excused from the obligation of fasting, are not on that account freed from the law of abstinence, for all who have reached their fourteenth birthday are bound to abstain from flesh-meat on days when it is forbidden – Ash Wednesday and the Fridays of Lent. The following persons are excused from fasting: (1) those who are not yet twenty-one or who have begun their sixtieth year (from their 59th birthday onward); (2) those whose infirmity, condition, or occupation renders it impossible or dangerous for them to fast. If you think you should be excused from fasting or abstaining, state your reasons to your confessor and ask his advice. On a fast-day, therefore, you have to look both to the quantity and the kind of food, while on a day of abstinence – as the Fridays in Lent other than Good Friday – you have to look only to the kind.

394 Q. What do you mean by days of abstinence?
A. By days of abstinence I mean days on which we are forbidden to eat flesh-meat, but are allowed the usual amount of food.

395 Q. Why does the Church command us to fast and abstain?
A. The Church commands us to fast and abstain in order that we may mortify our passions and satisfy for our sins.

“Mortify our passions,” keep our bodies under control, do bodily penance. Remember it is our bodies that generally lead us into sin; if therefore we punish the body by fasting and mortification, we atone for the sin, and thus God wipes out a part of the temporal punishment due to it.

*396 Q. Why does the Church command us to abstain from flesh-meat on Ash Wednesday and the Fridays of Lent and to abstain from flesh-meat or do some other chosen penance on the other Fridays of the year?
A. The Church commands us to abstain, from flesh-meat on Ash Wednesday and the Fridays of Lent and to abstain from flesh-meat or do some other chosen penance on the other Fridays of the year in honor of the day on which Our Saviour died.

It is amazing how little has changed in the last 123 years. The obligation (#6) for Catholics to marry only Catholics remains (and is wise, IMHO), but dispensation is far more common if no other impediments exist (Canon 1124 and 1125). The requirement for abstinence on non-Lenten Fridays (question 396 above, such as abstaining from meat) has been dispensed in the US but some alternate form of penance is strongly urged.

Click here to see the Baltimore Catechism portions published to date.
For general info on this series, see my initial post.

Baltimore Catechism: 7th to 10th commandments

Baltimore Catechism

Lesson 34

373 Q. What is the Seventh Commandment?
A. The Seventh Commandment is: Thou shalt not steal.

Stealing is one of those vices of which you have to be most careful. Children should learn to have honest hearts, and never to take unjustly even the smallest thing; for some begin a life of dishonesty by stealing little things from their own house or from stores to which they are sent for goods. A nut, a cake, an apple, a cent, etc., do not seem much, but nevertheless to take any of them dishonestly is stealing. Children who indulge in this trifling thievery seldom correct the habit in after life and grow up to be dishonest men and women. How do you suppose all the thieves now spending their miserable lives in prison began? Do you believe they were very honest – never having stolen even the slightest thing – up to a certain day, and at once became thieves by committing a highway robbery? No; they began by stealing little things, then greater, and kept on till they made stealing their business and thus became professional thieves. Again, the little you steal each day does not seem much at the time, but if you put all the “littles” together you may soon have something big, and almost before you know it – if you intend to continue stealing – you may have taken enough to make you guilty of mortal sin. If you intended to steal, for instance, only a small amount every day for the whole year, you would at the end have stolen a large amount and committed a mortal sin. There are many ways of violating the Seventh Commandment. Workmen who do not do a just day’s work, or employers who cheat their workmen out of wages earned; merchants who charge unjust prices and seek unjust profits; dealers who give light weight or short measure or who misrepresent goods; those who speculate rashly or gamble with the money of others, and those who borrow with no intention or only slight hope of being able to pay back, all violate this Commandment. You violate it also by not paying your just debts or by purchasing goods that you know you will never be able to pay for. Moreover, besides the injustice, it is base ingratitude not to pay your debts when in your power to do so. The one who trusted or lent you helped you in your need and did you a great favor, and yet when you can you will not pay, and what is worse, frequently abuse and insult him for asking his own. Though such dishonest and ungrateful persons may escape in this world, they will not escape in the next, for Almighty God will make them suffer for the smallest debt they owe.

Again, others often suffer for the dishonesty of those I have mentioned, for when some good person who really intends to pay is in great need and wishes to borrow or be trusted, he is refused because others have been dishonest. Everyone should pay his debts, and even keep from buying things that are not really necessary till he is thus enabled to pay what he owes. You must pay your just debts even before you can give anything in charity.

374 Q. What are we commanded by the Seventh Commandment?
A. By the Seventh Commandment we are commanded to give to all men what belongs to them and to respect their property.

“Respect their property” – that is, acknowledge and respect their rights to their property and do nothing to violate these rights.

375 Q. What is forbidden by the Seventh Commandment?
A. The Seventh Commandment forbids all unjust taking or keeping what belongs to another.

“Taking,” either with your own hands or from the hands of another; for the one who willingly and knowingly receives from a thief the whole or part of anything stolen becomes as bad as the thief. Even if you only help another to steal, and receive none of the stolen goods, you are guilty. There are several ways of sharing in the sin of another; namely, by ordering or advising him to do wrong; by praising him for doing wrong and thus encouraging him; by consenting to wrong when you should oppose it – for instance, a member of a society allowing an evil act to be done by the society when his vote would prevent it; again, by affording wrongdoers protection and means of escape from punishment for their evil deeds. This does not mean that we should not defend the guilty. We should defend them, but should not encourage them to do wrong by offering them a means of escape from just punishment. We share in another’s sin also by neglecting to prevent his bad action when it is our duty to do so. For example, if a police officer paid for guarding your property should see a thief stealing it and not prevent him, he would be as guilty as the thief. Your neighbor indeed might warn you that the thief was stealing your goods, but he would not be bound in justice to do so, as the officer is, but only in charity, because it is not his duty to guard your property. Parents who know that their children steal and do not prevent them or compel them to bring back what they stole, but rather encourage them by being indifferent, are guilty of dishonesty as well as the children, and share in their sins of theft. But suppose you did not know the thing was stolen when you received it, but learned afterward that it was, must you then return it to the proper owner? Yes; just as soon as you know to whom it belongs you begin to sin by keeping it. But suppose you bought it not knowing that it was stolen, would you still have to restore it? Yes, when the owner asks for it, because it belongs to him till he sells it or gives it away. If you have bought from a thief you have been cheated and must suffer the loss. Your mistake will make you more careful on the next occasion. Suppose you find a thing, what must you do? Try to find its owner, and if you find him give him what is his, and that without any reward for restoring it, unless he pleases to give you something, or unless you have been put to an expense by keeping it. If you cannot find the owner after sincerely seeking for him, then you may keep the thing found. But suppose you kept the article so long before looking for the owner that it became impossible for you to restore it to him, either because he had died or removed to parts unknown during your delay – what then? Then you must give the article or its value to his children or others who have a right to his goods; and if no one who has such a right can be found, you must give it to the poor, for you have it unjustly – since you did not look for the owner when it was possible to find him – and therefore cannot keep it.

376 Q. Are we bound to restore ill-gotten goods?
A. We are bound to restore ill-gotten goods, or the value of them, as far as we are able; otherwise we cannot be forgiven.

“Ill-gotten” – that is, unjustly gotten. “Value.” It sometimes happens that persons lose or destroy the article stolen, and therefore cannot return it. What must be done in such cases? They must give the owner the value of it. However, when you have stolen anything and have to restore it, you need not go to the owner and say, “Here is what I stole from you.” It is only necessary that he gets what is his own or its value. He need not even know that it is being restored to him, unless he knows you stole it; and then it would be better for your own good name to let him know that you are making amends for the injustice done. Therefore, no one need have any excuse for not restoring what he has unjustly, because he has only to see that it is returned in some way to its owner, or to those who have the next right to it, or to the poor. But you must remember you cannot make restitution by giving to the poor if you can restore to the proper owner. You must restore by giving to the poor only when the owner cannot be found or reached. Some persons do not like the duty of restoring to the proper owner, and think they satisfy their obligation by giving the ill-gotten goods to the poor; but they do not. You cannot give even in charity the goods of another without being guilty of dishonesty. If you wish to be charitable, give from your own goods. It is a sin to delay making restitution after you are able to restore. You must restore just as soon as you can, because the longer you keep the owner out of his property and its benefits, the greater the injury you do him and the greater the sin. One who, after being told by his confessor to make restitution, and promising to do so, still delays or keeps putting off, runs the risk of being guilty of sacrilege by receiving the Sacraments without proper dispositions. But suppose a person cannot restore; suppose he lost the thing stolen and has not the value of it. What must he do? He must have the firm resolution of restoring as soon as he possibly can; and without this good resolution he could not be absolved from his sins – even if he had not the real means of restoring. The good intention and resolution will suffice till he has really the means; but this intention must be serious, otherwise there will be no forgiveness.

377 Q. Are we obliged to repair the damage we have unjustly caused?
A. We are bound to repair the damage we have unjustly caused.

378 Q. What is the Eighth Commandment?
A. The Eighth Commandment is: Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor.

Either in a court, while we are acting as witnesses, or by telling lies about him at any other time.

379 Q. What are we commanded by the Eighth Commandment?
A. We are commanded by the Eighth Commandment to speak the truth in all things, and to be careful of the honor and reputation of everyone.

“Reputation.” If it be a sin to steal a man’s money, which we can restore to him, it is certainly a much greater sin to steal his good name, which we can never restore, and especially as we have nothing to gain from injuring his character. It is a sin to tell evil things about another – his sins, vices, etc. – even when they are true. The only thing that will excuse us from telling another’s fault is the necessity to do so in which we are placed, or the good we can do to the person himself or others by exposing faults. How shall you know when you have injured the character of another? You have injured another’s character if you made others think less of him than they did before. If you have exposed some crime that he really committed, your sin is called detraction; if you accuse him of one he did not commit, your sin is calumny; and if you maliciously circulate these reports to injure his character, your sin is slander. But how shall you make reparation for injuring the character of another? If you have told lies about him, you must acknowledge to those with whom you have talked that you have told what was untrue about him, and you must even compensate him for whatever loss he has suffered by your lies: for example, the loss of his situation by your accusing him of dishonesty. But if what you said of him was true, how are you to act? At every opportunity say whatever good you can of him in the presence of those before whom you have spoken the evil.

380 Q. What is forbidden by the Eighth Commandment?
A. The Eighth Commandment forbids all rash judgments, backbiting, slanders, and lies.

“Rash judgment” – that is, having in your mind and really believing that a person is guilty of a certain sin when you have no reason for thinking so, and no evidence that he is guilty. “Backbiting” – that is, talking evil of persons behind their backs. You would not like your neighbor to backbite you, and you have no right to do to him what you would not wish him to do to you. Besides, everyone hates and fears a backbiter; because as he brings to you a bad story about another, he will in the same manner bring to someone else a bad story about you. It is certainly an honor to be able to say of a person: “He never has a bad word of anyone”; while on the other hand, he must be a despicable creature who never speaks of others except to censure or revile them. Never listen to a backbiter, detractor, or slanderer – it is sinful. Another way of injuring your neighbor is revealing the secrets he has confided to you. You will tell one friend perhaps and caution him not to repeat it to another; but if you cannot keep the secret yourself, how can you expect others to keep it? Again you may injure your neighbor by reading his letters without his consent when you have no authority to do so. This is considered a crime in the eyes even of the civil law, and anyone who opens and reads the letters of another can be punished by imprisonment. It is a kind of theft, for it is stealing secrets and information that you have no right to know. It is dishonorable to read another’s letter without his consent, even when you find it open. To carry to persons the evil things said about them by others so as to bring about disputes between them is very sinful. The Holy Scripture (Rom. 1:29) calls this class of sinners whisperers, and says that they will not enter into Heaven – that is, as long as they continue in the habit. If ever, then, you hear one person saying anything bad about another, never go and tell it to the person of whom it was said. If you do, you will be the cause of all the sin that follows from it – of the anger, hatred, revenge, and probably murder itself, as sometimes happens.

*381 Q. What must they do who have lied about their neighbor and seriously injured his character?
A. They who have lied about their neighbor and seriously injured his character must repair the injury done as far as they are able, otherwise they will not be forgiven.

382 Q. What is the Ninth Commandment?
A. The Ninth Commandment is: Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s wife.

383 Q. What are we commanded by the Ninth Commandment?
A. We are commanded by the Ninth Commandment to keep ourselves pure in thought and desire.

384 Q. What is forbidden by the Ninth Commandment?
A. The Ninth Commandment forbids unchaste thoughts, desires of another’s wife or husband, and all other unlawful impure thoughts and desires.

*385 Q. Are impure thoughts and desires always sins?
A. Impure thoughts and desires are always sins, unless they displease us and we try to banish them.

386 Q. What is the Tenth Commandment?
A. The Tenth Commandment is: Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s goods.

“Covet” means to long for or desire inordinately or unlawfully. If I should desire, for example, my friend to be killed by an accident, in order that I might become the owner of his gold watch, I would be coveting it. But if I desired to have it justly – that is, to be able to purchase it, or another similar to it, that would not be covetousness.

387 Q. What are we commanded by the Tenth Commandment?
A. By the Tenth Commandment we are commanded to be content with what we have, and to rejoice in our neighbor’s welfare.

388 Q. What is forbidden by the Tenth Commandment?
A. The Tenth Commandment forbids all desires to take or keep wrongfully what belongs to another.

I have no comments on this particular lesson. Feel free to leave your own!

Click here to see the Baltimore Catechism portions published to date.
For general info on this series, see my initial post.

Baltimore Catechism: 4th to 6th commandments

Baltimore Catechism

Lesson 33

361 Q. What is the Fourth Commandment?
A. The Fourth Commandment is: Honor thy father and thy mother.

362 Q. What are we commanded by the Fourth Commandment?
A. We are commanded by the Fourth Commandment to honor, love, and obey our parents in all that is not sin.

“In all that is not sin,” because if our parents or superiors, being wicked, bid us do things that we know to be certainly sinful, then we must not obey them under any circumstances. God will not excuse us for doing wrong because we were commanded. But if, on the contrary, we are forced in spite of our resistance to do the sinful act, then not we but they have to answer for the sin. If, however, you simply doubt about the sinfulness of the act, then you must obey; because you must always suppose that your superiors know better than you the things that concern their duty. Even if they should be mistaken in the exercise of their authority, God will reward your obedience. Besides obeying them, you must also help and support your parents if they need your assistance. You must not scoff at or despise them for their want of learning or refinement, because they perhaps have made many sacrifices to give you the advantages of which they in their youth were deprived. Do we not sometimes find persons of pretended culture ignorantly slighting their plain-mannered parents, or showing that they are ashamed of them or unwilling to recognize them before others, ungratefully forgetting that whatever wealth or learning they themselves have came through the love and kindness of these same parents? Again, is it not sinful for the children, especially of such parents, to waste their time in school, knowing that they are being supported in idleness by the hard toil and many sacrifices of a poor father? Never, then, be guilty of an unkind or ungrateful act. No matter who they are or what their condition, never forget those who have helped you and been your temporal or spiritual benefactors. If you cannot return the kindness to the one who helped you, at least be as ready as he was to do good to another. It is told of a great man that, wishing always to do good, he made it a rule never to stand looking at the effects of a disturbance, disaster, or accident unless he could do some good by being there.

Wherever you are, ask yourselves now and then, Why am I in this particular place; what good am I doing here? etc. St. Aloysius when about to perform any action used to ask himself, it is said, What has this action to do with my eternal salvation? and St. Alphonsus de Liguori made a vow never to waste a moment of his time. These were some of the great heroes of the Church, and this is one of the reasons why they could accomplish so much for God.

363 Q. Are we bound to honor and obey others than our parents?
A. We are bound to honor and obey our bishops, pastors, magistrates, teachers, and other lawful superiors.

“Magistrates” – that is, civil rulers, like the president, governor, mayor, judges, etc.

*364 Q. Have parents and superiors any duties towards those who are under their charge?
A. It is the duty of parents and superiors to take good care of all under their charge and give them proper direction and example.

It is so much their duty that God will hold them responsible for it, and punish them for neglecting it; so that your parents are not free to give you your own way. They have to do God’s work, and, as His agents, punish you when you deserve it. You should take their punishment as coming from God Himself. They do not punish you because they wish to see you suffer, but for your good. Think of the terrible responsibility of parents. Let us suppose that the parents of a family give bad example; their children follow their example, and when they become heads of families their children also will grow up in wickedness: and thus we can go on for generations, and all those sins will be traced back to the first bad parents. What is true for bad example is true also for good example; that is, the good done by the children will all be traced back to the parents. Sometimes you may be punished when you are not guilty; then think of the times you were guilty and were not punished. Remember also how Our Lord was falsely accused before Herod and Pilate, and yet He never opened His lips to defend Himself, but suffered patiently. God sees your innocence and will reward you if you bear your trial patiently. Indeed, we are foolish not to bear all our sufferings patiently, for we have to bear them anyway, and we might just as well have the reward that patient suffering will bring us. Those who suffer should find comfort in this: by suffering they are made more like Our Lord and His blessed Mother. She lived on earth over sixty years, and during all that time she seems never to have had any of those things that bring worldly pleasure and happiness. She was left an orphan when quite young, and spent her early life in the temple, which was for her a kind of school; then she was married to a poor old carpenter, and must have found it very hard at times to get a living. Our Lord was born while she was away from home in a strange place. After she had returned and had just settled down in her little dwelling, she had to fly with St. Joseph into Egypt to save the life of the little Infant Jesus, whom the king’s officers were seeking to kill. In Egypt they were strangers, among people not of their own nationality or religion, and St. Joseph must have found great difficulty in providing for them; yet they had to remain there for some time. Then when our divine Lord was grown to manhood and could be a great comfort to His Mother, He was seized and put to death in her presence. Her most beloved and innocent Son put to death publicly as a criminal before all her neighbors! The same persons who insulted Our Lord would not hesitate to insult and cruelly treat His blessed Mother also. At His death He left her no money or property for her support, but asked a friend, St. John, to receive her into his house and do Him the favor of taking care of her. She must have often felt that she was a burden in that man’s house; that she had no home of her own, but was living like a poor woman on the charity of kind friends, for St. Joseph died before Our Lord’s public life began. The Blessed Mother was, however, obliged to remain upon earth for about eleven years after Our Lord’s Ascension. Thus we see her whole life was one of trials and sorrows. Now certainly Our Lord loved His Mother more than any other son could; and certainly also He, being God, could have made His blessed Mother a queen upon the earth, rich and powerful among men, and free from every suffering or inconvenience. If, then, He sent her sorrows and trials, it must have been because these were best for her, and because He knew that for this suffering here upon earth her happiness and glory in Heaven would be much increased; and as He wished her to have all the happiness and glory she was capable of possessing, He permitted her to suffer. If, then, suffering was good for Our Lord’s Mother, it is good also for us; and when it comes we ought not to complain, but bear it patiently, as she did, and ask Our Lord to give us that grace.

365 Q. What is forbidden by the Fourth Commandment?
A. The Fourth Commandment forbids all disobedience, contempt, and stubbornness towards our parents or lawful superiors.

“Contempt.” Showing by our words or actions that we disregard or despise those placed over us. A man who is summoned to appear in court and does not come is punished for “contempt of court,” because he shows that he disregards the authority of the judge. A thing not very bad in itself may become very bad if done out of contempt. For example, there would be a great difference between eating a little more than the Church allows on a fast-day, simply because you were hungry, and eating it because you wanted to show that you despised the law of fasting and the authority of the Church. The first would be only a venial sin, but the latter mortal. So for all your actions. An act which in itself might be a venial sin could easily become a mortal sin if you did it through contempt. “Stubbornness” – that is, unwillingness to give in, even when you know you are wrong and should yield. Those who obey slowly and do what they are ordered in a sulky manner are also guilty of stubbornness.

366 Q. What is the Fifth Commandment?
A. The Fifth Commandment is: Thou shalt not kill.

367 Q. What are we commanded by the Fifth Commandment?
A. We are commanded by the Fifth Commandment to live in peace and union with our neighbor, to respect his rights, to seek his spiritual and bodily welfare, and to take proper care of our own life and health.

“Proper care of our own life.” It is not our property, but God’s. He lends it to us and leaves it with us as long as He pleases: nor does He tell us how long He will let us have the use of it. Thus suicide, or the taking of one’s own life, is a mortal sin, for by it we resist the will of God. One who in sound mind and full possession of reason causes his own death is guilty of suicide. But it is sometimes very difficult to determine whether the person was really sane at the time he committed the act; hence, when there is any reasonable doubt on that point, the unfortunate suicide is usually given the benefit of it. It is also a sin to risk our lives uselessly or to continue in any habit that we are sure is injuring our health and shortening our lives.

Thus an habitual drunkard is guilty of sin against the Fifth Commandment, for besides his sin of drunkenness, he is hastening his own death. So, too, boys or girls who indulge in habits which their parents forbid are guilty of sin. For example, a boy is forbidden to smoke, and he does smoke. Now to smoke is not in itself a sin, but it becomes a sin for that boy, because in the first place he is disobedient, and secondly is injuring his health. Thus persons who indulge in sinful habits may commit more than one kind of sin, for besides the sins committed by the habits themselves, these vices may injure their health and bring sickness and disease upon their bodies.

368 Q. What is forbidden by the Fifth Commandment?
A. The Fifth Commandment forbids all willful murder, fighting, anger, hatred, revenge, and bad example.

Therefore it forbids all that might lead to murder. So we can violate any of the Commandments by doing anything that leads to breaking them. “Revenge” is a desire to injure others because they injured you.

369 Q. What is the Sixth Commandment?
A. The Sixth Commandment is: Thou shalt not commit adultery.

370 Q. What are we commanded by the Sixth Commandment?
A. We are commanded by the Sixth Commandment to be pure in thought and modest in all our looks, words, and actions.

We should be most careful about this Commandment, because almost every violation of it is a mortal sin. For example, if you steal only a little, it is a venial sin; for in stealing the greatness of the sin will depend upon the amount you steal; but if you do a real bad action, or think a real bad thought against the Sixth Commandment, it will be a mortal sin, no matter how short the time. Again, we have more temptations against this Commandment, for we are tempted by our own bodies and we cannot avoid them: hence the necessity of being always guarded against this sin. It enters into our soul through our senses; they are, as it were, the doors of our soul. It enters by our eyes looking at bad objects or pictures; by our ears listening to bad conversation; by our tongue saying and repeating immodest words, etc. If then, we guard all the doors of our soul, sin cannot enter. It would be foolish to lock all the doors in your house but one, for one will suffice to admit a thief, and we might as well leave them all open as one. So, too, we must guard all the senses; for sin can enter by one only as well as by all.

371 Q. What is forbidden by the Sixth Commandment?
A. The Sixth Commandment forbids all unchaste freedom with another’s wife or husband: also all immodesty with ourselves or others in looks, dress, words, or actions.

372 Q. Does the Sixth Commandment forbid the reading of bad and immodest books and newspapers?
A. The Sixth Commandment does forbid the reading of bad and immodest books and newspapers.

Reading brings us into the company of those who wrote the book. Now we should be just as careful to avoid a bad book as a bad man, and even more so; for while we read we can stop to think, and read over again, so that bad words read will often make more impression upon us than bad words spoken to us. You should avoid not only bad, but useless books. You could not waste all your time with an idle man without becoming like him – an idler. So if you waste your time on useless books, your knowledge will be just like the books – useless. Many authors write only for the sake of money, and care little whether their book is good or bad, provided it sells well. How many young people have been ruined by bad books, and how many more by foolish books! Boys, for example, read in some worthless book of desperate deeds of highway robbery or piracy, and are at once filled with the desire to imitate the hero of the tale. Young girls, on the other hand, are equally infatuated by the wonderful fortunes and adventures of some young woman whose life has been so vividly described in a trashy novel. As the result of such reading, young persons lose the true idea of virtue and valor of true, noble manhood and womanhood, and with their hearts and minds corrupted set up vice for their model.

Again, these books are filled with such terrible lies and unlikely things that any sensible boy or girl should see their foolishness at once. Think, for example, of a book relating how two boys defeated and killed or captured several hundred Indians! Is that likely? The truth is, if two Indians shook their tomahawks at as many boys as you could crowd into this building, every single one of them would run for his life.

Let me give you still another reason for not reading trashy books. Your minds can hold just so much good or evil information, and if you fill them full of lies and nonsense you leave no room for true knowledge.

Do not, therefore, get into the habit of reading foolish story-papers and cheap novels. Read good books in which you can find information that will be useful to you all through your life.

If now and then you read story-books for amusement or rest from study, let them be good story-books, written by good authors. Ask someone’s advice about the books you read – someone who is capable of giving such advice: your pastor, your teachers, and frequently your parents and friends. Learn all through your life to ask advice on every important matter. How many mistakes in life would have been prevented if those making them had only asked advice from the proper persons and followed it. Your parents have traveled the road of life before you. Now it is known to them and they can point out its dangers. To you the road is entirely new, and it will be only after you have traveled it and arrived nearly at its end in the latter days of your life that you also will be able to advise others how to pass through it in safety. This road can be traveled only once, so be advised by those who have learned its many dangers by their own experience. You should be very glad that those of experience are willing to teach you, and if you neglect their warnings you will be very sorry for it someday.


When this catechism was published (1891), abortion was not legal and was very rare. Sadly, it is now the largest, direct violation of the 5th Commandment.

Click here to see the Baltimore Catechism portions published to date.
For general info on this series, see my initial post.

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