The New Saint Joseph Catholic Sunday school series is a darling Catholic catechism for children, yet here are some considerations you want to know.
This page is the second of three articles that compare NSJ Baltimore Catechism series changes. On this page you'll see ten photos that show revisions from 1963 through 2012.
At the end I suggest several good alternatives. Enjoy!
The NSJ Communion Catechism (NSJFCC) is the most popular booklet for Catholic Sunday school lessons. It is widely available and has been in publication for over fifty years. It has many lovely pictures and some very good ideas.
It is divided into eleven lessons that children can learn in eleven weeks depending on how much time they have. Each lesson has two to six questions and answers based on the Baltimore Catechism. This is perfect for one week's classes.
Add a week or two at the beginning to teach the Catholic Communion prayers for children. The Rosary prayers and the Act of Contrition for going to Confession are the main prayers children need to learn. They can learn them pretty easily with review if you say the prayers together at the beginning and end of each class, especially daily. Praying the family Rosary is the best way for kids to learn these prayers.
Do note that the Ten Commandments and the Seven Sacraments are listed inside the back cover. They are not included in the eleven lessons. The Ten Commandments are very important to review before going to Confession which comes before receiving Communion. See our related coloring pages and Sunday school ideas:
It is important that Catholic children go to Confession before their First Holy Communion so that they can receive Jesus with pure hearts and minds.
During the mid-1990s when we were first teaching our children about Communion, I had noticed that certain pictures had items missing from the altar at Mass. Through the years as my family moved, and later when my parents died, I received the other two booklets. I was amazed to find that the removals were successive, meaning that through the years more and more images had been removed from the pictures by the publisher, Catholic Book Publishing Company. Few teachers and parents would have noticed the changes as the covers were the same, the dates were the same and the changes were sprinkled throughout the books. If you have an older copy than your students, you may want to check that they have the same information.
When I used the 1990s Catholic Book Publishing Company catechism myself, I thought it odd that a booklet that said that it was published in 1963 would have items missing from the altar that in 60s would have been required on the altar. As in the photo above, on page 54 the tabernacle and the Crucifix were missing on the altar diagram, yet they were still listed as numbers six and seven in text below the diagram. We also noticed the omissions because we had started attending the old Mass and, at the time, I simply drew the tabernacle and the Crucifix in place for our children to see. A couple years later, it was fun to show the children that the earlier booklets had indeed had the Crucifix and tabernacle in the original altar diagram.
How was I certain that these things were supposed to be on the altar?
Over ten years after I first used the NSJFCC and when I had had three books to compare at the same time I could see the successive changes in the catechism at-a-glance, since I could put the booklets open side by side.
Using due diligence I looked in the front pages to see what years these several books were published. I was surprised to find that they all had the same publishing date, 1963. +Francis Cardinal Spellman, New York, gave his Imprimatur and it remains in all three booklets and is maintained in 2012 even though he died forty five years earlier in 1967.
How are these changes not marked?
Copyright law does not require that minor omissions or revisions be noted in new editions of books, so it is common that newer books do not note revisions. Actually, it makes sense for such as misspellings and other little revisions; yet on matters of faith and morals, omissions, revisions and purposeful removals can be dangerous.
If the first three had the same printing dates, how did I know which book had been printed first? Easy. I knew the children who had owned the books. As far as I know, they had all been in parish schools, so they would not have been in a Catholic Sunday school. I have known these people all my life. My brothers and sisters recognize them, too, and they are all still living. Throughout the last twenty or more years I recognized that other truths had been removed, altered, and rearranged.
During the last 15 years I have shown many of my friends the differences in these three booklets. It was easier to show them the differences with the actual books than to describe the changes in conversation. When I showed them the books, they could see in one look the purposeful removal of items. Compared to the technology we have today, these omissions look silly; they look like the publishers had used Post-it notes and Wite-Out. In some pictures the priest looks strange with his hands stretched over nothing.
I placed the booklets together with all three books side by side with their dates in order. I do the same for you in photos below, and I'll explain what I've seen. This will give you an easy view of some of what's missing, and a web page to share when you try to explain these changes to others.
The picture on the left will have the older booklet from the 1960s, the middle one will have the 1970s booklet, and the booklet on the right will have the newest book. Otherwise, the oldest book is on your left and the newer book is on the right. That way you'll see them in chronological order, if you want to compare the catechisms.
If you've seen enough and are looking for a good Catholic Sunday school Communion catechism, I recommend our Saint Anne's Helper booklet, worksheets, and recordings.
Just a heads-up: This may seem like a sniggling item, yet years ago a catechist had thought it was important and had even called to ask, "Hey, what's up? Isn't the Father usually on the top of the triangle that shows the Blessed Trinity?"
Hm…. Yes, I hadn't caught that. This arrangement may make it seem as if the Son is more important than the Father. Or whatever. This runs in all four booklets.
This picture from the original 1963 New Saint Joseph FCC page 16 shows the Blessed Trinity where the Son is at the top. Usually the Father is seen at the top in an equilateral triad with the Son on the left and the Holy Ghost on the right.
Holy Ghost is newly reprinted as Holy Spirit on this page and in many places in 2012.
The beautiful 1960s picture of the Consecration on page 48 of Catholic Book Publishing Company's Communion Catechism was removed by the 1990s. See the top picture on this page. What a heart breaking edit. Other images like this are called Mysterium Fidei. It is so sad to see that the very Mystery of our Faith is gone. The Catholic tabernacle, Crucifix, and candles are removed by the mid 1990s and the altar card stands up by itself.
Also question 49 on page 48 offers a good opportunity to teach that Jesus Christ becomes present in the Holy Eucharist during the Sacrifice of the Mass. I like to add "at the Consecration". It's a simple phrase to add and since pastors frequently ask this question, you'll get a lot of miles for your effort with this addition.
You can be more explicit by teaching that "The priest changes the bread and wine into the Body and Blood of Jesus at the Consecration."
Even though it's not in most catechisms, many pastors ask the children what the white host is before and after the Consecration. It's the main truth children need to know, that Jesus is present; so it's good to teach that the host is bread before and It is Jesus after the Consecration. I like to write this phrase in my books so that I remember throughout the years. I have a fifth copy that has written notes that I do not show here.
Further, the title on page 48 "The Mass is our gift to God" is not a definition. In brief, point out that the Mass is a sacrifice….
On page 53 the picture of Jesus as priest facing the congregation in 2012 is the same as it was in 1963 when the priest did not face the congregation at the Consecration.
It is a lovely image of His sacrifice in promise at the Last Supper, in reality on Calvary, and sacramentally in the Mass; yet it was an unusual image to show in 1963 before the 1969 Mass changes. Children love when you explain the heartening stories involved in this picture.
Here you can see the progression where Catholic Book Publishing Company removed images from the NSJFCC on page 55. By the 1970s it removed the tabernacle from the bottom picture. By the 1990s it had also removed the Missal and altar cards. These remain missing in 2012.
The Catholic Crucifix is a symbol of the Catholic Faith. These are hugely important to have at the altar and we try to cover such symbols in Catholic Sunday school. The children are often eager to know the symbols as they like pictures of ideas.
Normally in history you could find the tabernacle centered on the altar in a Catholic church. It is a symbol of the meaning of the Mass as it is where Jesus resides in the Blessed Sacrament between Masses.
Progressively, you can see that by the 1970s the tabernacle has been removed at the Elevation of the Host on page 56.
The next picture shows what happened twenty years later. The third booklet on the right shows lots of white space around the priest and altar….
The following picture shows the same pages as the photo above, yet in this spread you can see at a glance how many altar pieces had been successively removed by Catholic Book Publishing Company during the 1990s.
In 2012 there is a new phrase added to the Consecration of the Chalice (which is closer to the Consecration from before 1910):
THIS IS THE CHALICE OF MY BLOOD.
This is closer to the words of the Consecration, yet I wonder why they bothered to change it. I would think that Catholic Sunday school teachers would have complained one way or the other.
The following photo shows the Latin dialog responses on page 59 that were removed by the 1970s and 1990s.
These dialog responses are not all the altar server responses. The Judica Me, Confiteor, and Suscipe Sanctae Pater were not included.
There were Dialogue Mass revisions through many years during the mid-1900s and it was rare in the USA through the 1960s. Either way, Latin has been generally suppressed since the 1970s.
The next photo shows what replaced the Dialogue Mass responses.
It shows several versions of page 59 in the New Saint Joseph. On the left hand page is the Responses For A Dialogue Mass and the other two pages show the new material.
In general and in its defense, the New Saint Joseph Communion Catechism teaches the Catholic Faith well for the most part. It does have some very good questions and answers, especially number 33. The NSJ has two answers that are better than those in many Baltimore Catechism versions:
Both answers are included in Saint Anne's Helper downloads and Seton's revision.
If you do not use this booklet, remember to teach that Jesus Christ becomes present in the Holy Eucharist during the Sacrifice of the Mass and specifically "at the Consecration".
(See Saint Anne's Helper questions 60, 61, and 64)
As above, one would think that the older 1963 NSJFCC book would be very good; yet I think you would want to know a dangerous wording about the Resurrection in the NSJFCC and the higher level NSJBC No. 1 and No. 2. It is important to teach beginning Catholics that Jesus Christ rose by His omnipotent power - as He said He would.
This section will compare what Catholic Book Publishing Company printed and what The Catechism of the Council of Trent wrote so you can see how the Catholic Church has always taught this truth. I have actual references like these for you to use as a New Saint Joseph reference guide.
First, Saint Paul says that it is a pivotal point of our Faith that Jesus rose from the dead. He says in 1 Corinthians 15:12-14:
Here is what The Catechism of the Council of Trent says on page 66 of TAN Books' version under the subheading "He arose again":
The Catechism Explained says on page 189:
The Catechism Explained also has several pages of explanation following number 2. A Practical Commentary on Holy Scripture also covers this with excellent commentary on page 711:
This is followed by several explanations of how the Resurrection fulfills the prophecies, and it gives the Bible quotes and explanations on page 712, ff. Children love to learn, "See? God kept His promise!"
Even the earliest NSJFCC that I own explicitly says that the Father raised Jesus on page 33. It is repeated on page 49, and it is enlarged in the New Saint Joseph Baltimore Catechism No. 1 and No. 2 (which I discuss in part three of this article). On page 33 and 49 remember to teach that Easter and the Ascension were forty days apart, over a month away from each other.
Jesus went home to Heaven to prepare a place for us on Ascension Thursday, forty days after the Resurrection on Easter Sunday. This association can help children remember the Ascension as a holy day of obligation throughout their lives.
If you use the NSJFCC you will want to know that, because there are at least four different editions, students may have different wording and different pictures from what you are using. This can help you keep track of changes.
It's helpful to have a reference chart, so I've made this list starting at the beginning of the book of most of what I have found in these editions for your convenience. Keep it like a New Saint Joseph Catechism Teacher's Manual:
If you would like to see more about the Communion questions and answers for your Catholic Sunday school class, see our Saint Anne's Helper Catholic answers page here.
The best Baltimore Catechism book that I have seen for a First Communion Catechism for children is Jesus Comes (available at Amazon), from the Our Holy Faith series, Vol 2, re-published by Neumann Press and now owned by the new TAN Books.
It has the Baltimore Catechism questions for the Holy Eucharist, the sacraments, Ten Commandments, and Communion prayers.
It has extra questions for each Commandment that I call "The Tells and the Forbids". This commandment "tells me" and this commandment "forbids me", etc. They can be way too much for many first and second grade children to memorize; yet they are excellent for teaching children how to prepare for confession, and for older children to read and study.
It's also got beautifully modest pictures. Even Adam and Eve are decent. Saint Anne's Helper has downloads to go with this book.