I can remember the first time I read a Baltimore Catechism when I was in my thirties. I wondered, "Where was this all of my life?!"
I could have answered Sr. Mary Smartie Pants in tenth grade when she opened up a 4 month long classroom "debate" on abortion. Oh, how I wish that I could have told her what my favorite teacher in college had said, "Abortion is murder."
I was so struck by his words that I immediately wrote those three words around the margin of my notes - several times! Needless to say, I am very happy to have found traditional Roman Catholic catechisms for our own children.
The Baltimore is not hard to find anymore as it is available online or you can buy the booklets. You can also use our worksheets, audios, and coloring pages to help you teach and to help your students memorize or review. The Baltimore makes common issues plain and simple so that it is easier to know, love, and serve God.
But - there are so many versions. Which version should you use? I'll explain the books in the picture above through this page and the BC pages that are linked from this page.
If you are new to the faith or are teaching children about Communion, the First Communion Catechism is what you want to use and I explain some differences in the First Communion Catechism here.
Proper Age to Teach the First Communion Baltimore Catechism:
For the prayers and Ten Commandments, an appropriate age to start learning the Baltimore Catechism (BC) is as soon as a child can pronounce the words well. Oh, how hard it can be to correct baby pronunciations later. The Rosary prayers are the main prayers learned for First Communion, plus the Act of Contrition. The Baltimore teaches the Perfect Act of Contrition.
In my experience most children can learn the prayers by Kindergarten and First Grade, especially if they learn them with the family Rosary. On top of that, it is very handy if they would know these the year before they study the other questions for First Communion, so there's less work to do in the First Communion year.
For First Communion? Most children learn the questions from the Baltimore Catechism No. O or No. 1 in First or Second Grade (6 to 9 years old). They do not always have to memorize every answer, yet it is important that they know and understand the Act of Contrition, the Hail Mary, and the Ten Commandments for their first Confession. Our Saint Anne's Helper First Communion audio, worksheets, and e-booklets cover the main answers and prayers.
If you or those you are teaching have already been Baptized, received Communion, you'll want to use our Confirmation Catechism. It teaches about the Holy Trinity, the sacraments, and more on the graces on which we can depend every day to be strong in our faith. It also reviews the main Catholic prayers and the Ten Commandments.
For Confirmation you'll also want to have books on the saints so that you know which patron saint you will choose for your Confirmation name as is traditional, or to know more about your name saint if you will be using your own name. Most saint names have several saints and variations: Teresa of Avila, Therese of Lissieux; Thomas Apostle, Thomas of Canterbury, Thomas Aquinas, Thomas More, etc. See more about Catholic saints here.
Proper Age to Teach the Baltimore Catechism for Confirmation:
For Confirmation? The Baltimore Catechism questions on the Blessed Trinity, Redemption, and the questions related to the sacrament of Confirmation are usually required and are found in the BC No. 2 and are learned from Third to Eighth Grade (9 to 14), although in recent years some dioceses have moved the age for Confirmation to 18 years. The No. 0 and 1 are simply subsets from the No. 2, so if you already own the No. 2 you would not need to buy the lower numbered booklets. Our Saint Anne's Helper Confirmation audio, worksheets, and e-booklets cover the main questions and prayers asked for Confirmation.
The old Baltimore Catechism is the most widely known, best trusted, and easiest to memorize. The info in the BC Nos. 1-2 are the same. If you own the No. 2 you'll have the info in the No. 0 and the No. 1. I explain further differences here:
The New Saint Joseph catechism series may seem old, yet it was first published in 1963. There have been many changes between then and 2012, and I describe them in this three part article with five to ten photos on each page.
Until our oldest was preparing for First Holy Communion, I hadn't known anyone that had had to memorize the Ten Commandments. I know that I knew them well enough to make my first confession, but I hadn't memorized them.
Looking back I sure wished that I had memorized them before our oldest child started learning them, it would have made it easier to teach her. If you can, do. You'll find teaching this catechism so much easier.
I always had to have a copy in my hands before I dared try to say them with her, although maybe that's a good idea anyway.
My folks had always said the family Rosary, so I already had known the prayers well. As a family, we did the same for our children. If your children know the Rosary prayers before catechism class, they will already know the main prayer requirements in the BC. The trick here is to be certain that they say the words well.
Otherwise, the main thing is to practice saying the answers frequently. Help them to learn the specific wording as it is very helpful in later life to know the full, yet concise answers.
Our First Communion and Confirmation downloads can be a huge help to both yourself and the children for review and memory work. They also include a copy to print so you have the actual words handy.
The old Baltimore Catechism had been the basic catechism Catholic Church publishers used in the USA ever since the 1880s. It spared the fluff so the answers were easy to memorize. It was "originally issued by the Third Plenary Council of Baltimore in 1885" (Inside jacket cover, Baltimore Catechism No. 2 , Tan Books).
Even today, most BC versions use more good definitions than other popular catechisms: Baptism "is", Confirmation "is", etc. rather than the subjective "What does Baptism do for you?"
The numerical order of the questions originally followed throughout the series began with 0 (zero) being a First Communion Catechism. The other levels had more questions and answers as "levels" would require for those teaching children through the school years, as with the Baltimore Catechism No. 1 , No. 2 , and No. 3.
The No. 2 has all the questions from the No. 0 and the No. 1. If you're starting to use the BC with older children simply start with the No. 2. It covers all the basics of any Catholic catechism and every question of 0 and 1.
Adult converts, or those Catholics wishing to relearn their catechism, would read one of either the No. 3, or No. 4. These last simply go into greater detail and have more questions than the No. 2.
Me? I have found the Catechism of the Council of Trent itself or The Catechism Explained were very helpful and would use them rather than the No 3. The BC was founded on the CCT in the first place and this last uses the BC and ads Bible stories, counsel, and historical research.
The Baronius Press and TAN Books new Baltimore Catechism editions seem to be verbatim to what TAN used to sell. Pro Multis Media has a verbatim audio CD for the BC No. 1 (see CD and books below). See them below.
The Baltimore Catechism, like any good catechism, teaches God's Will. What is God's Will for me?
The BC teaches me to know, love and serve God in order to be happy with Him in Heaven. Being happy with Him in Heaven is why we exist.
How do I know God's will for me personally, especially if I should not "interpret the Scriptures" to my own "perdition" as according to the book of St. Peter? Knowing the answers in the catechism and keeping a good spiritual life are the beginning.
We know Him, love Him, and serve Him when we
These ask us to obey our lawful superiors and practice the virtues. Certitude is as easy as this! This is how we know God's Will. If we violate these, we disobey God's will.
Some people spend a lifetime wondering these answers that they could have learned in First Communion class. We learn what God wants through the Catholic Church, so I heartily recommend that even adults read a child's BC to learn the basics. It is wonderful that parents learn the Faith at the same time as their children, yet think how much better it would have been if they'd known before.
We know His will through the Catholic Church. Jesus formed His Church and the Holy Ghost sanctifies her so we can learn and keep the Faith.
Remember that God's Will is adorable and ours is not (often).
He honors obedience even to the point of miracles! Think of St. Vincent Ferrer who had been performing too many miracles for the peace of his religious community that his superior ordered him to stop. When St. Vincent saw a man falling from a scaffolding full of bricks he stopped mid-miracle remembering that he wasn't supposed to work a miracle. He left the man suspended while he ran to ask permission of his superior. Of course, the superior said "Yes!" His devoted obedience made two miracles.
A traditional Roman Catholic catechism teaches the Catholic answers succinctly with definitions. There's little fluff. If you need the answer, you can often find it in one sentence.
Also, it is objective. Instead of asking in a subjective manner: "What does Baptism do for YOU?" or "What does Confirmation do for YOU?" (These sacraments essentially do the same thing for YOU as they do for EVERYONE who is well disposed!) the BC answers ask and teach "What IS Baptism?" and "What IS Confirmation?" You'll know the objective answer.
Most Baltimore Catechism versions give objective answers that give certitude. No more wondering what to do. Certitude, knowing for certain what I should do, is a real blessing.
Subjective answers cannot be easily universalized, yet objective answers can be related to the subject's own life at any time. Once you know the definition you can think well independently without the searching that is so prevalent today. Truth is truth and always concurs with truth!
If you're teaching others I hope that you'll make the Baltimore Catechism the basis for your Religious Education program.
Through the years, there were revisions to the catechism answers, only a few of which were good. As above, the best book we have seen for a First Communion Catechism 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.
The Confraternity for Christian Doctrine (CCD) approved the Jesus Comes version of several BC answers that had needed some precision (1917 Code of Canon Law), especially in light of growing errors of evolution and corporate guilt/confession in this last century. Jesus Comes has the best answers. It also has wonderful short lessons for children on the related Bible stories. Even the pictures are modest and edifying.
Questions such as "Who made the world?" was made more specific as "Who made you?" The question "Who is God?" is teaches that "God is the Creator of Heaven and earth and all things." This is a great help against the error of evolution that is so slippery in our time. The Confession and Penance answers are much better, too, in that they use singular answers ("we" do not have one conscience).
The Confirmation questions have had fewer changes throughout the years; yet here is one to watch in your catechism: the BC says that Holy Chrism is made of olive oil. The Catechism of the Council of Trent goes further to say that it cannot be "just any" oily greasy substance. That's a certain definition, so it's a good sign of a catechism that you can trust.
Actually, the Baltimore was based on the early Catechism of the Council of Trent (CCT) that took many years to publish. Why? The CCT was not widely available till the late 1880s.
In the meantime we needed the catechism in English in the United States, and the BC is what the Bishops in Baltimore produced to answer this need. It is similar to Deharbe's Catechism which was translated from German at the same time, again filling a need.
The Catechism of the Council of Trent is the definitive catechism that the Church created with purpose to be the catechism that all could use. Pope Saint Pius V helped start it and Saint Charles Borromeo helped finish it. Pretty good recommendations there!
One can go blind sorting through the many variations called the Catechism of the Catholic Church, so it's good to read the Catechism of Trent as it is a definitive catechism that no one refutes. I learned many new things in it and found it to be easy to read without the question and answer format.
Deharbe's Catechism is an excellent catechism. I found it to have been better than the old BC, because the questions and answers were better.
It was translated for the English and Americans from the German catechism in the 1860s and 1880s. I found no confusing places in either Deharbe's Small Catechism or the Large. You can buy Deharbe's Catechism of the Catholic Religion at Amazon.
The Catechism Explained can be bought at Amazon and is a wonderful book that explains the Baltimore Catechism in a way that priests and other adults can use as a reference.
As old a book as it is, it is nice to see its excellent index which makes it so much easier to research real life issues.
I like it much better than the BC No. 3, as it adds in stories from the Bible and the saints lives. It seems to have better definitions in some places.
In conclusion, I'd like to add that even though there are many versions of the Baltimore, these are the best that we have been able to find for teaching the Catholic faith.
The Jesus Comes version from the 1950s is what the Sisters used to teach our children about Communion and they required that our children memorize the answers.
It was their insistence on this version that lead to our Saint Anne's Helper Catechism downloads. They have the singular answers to the confession questions and the better Catholic answers that have been changed in the BC through the years.
We have audio downloads, copywork, and booklets for First Communion and Confirmation. They use only the best questions and answers and they teach the prayers and Ten Commandments as well.
See our Saint Anne's Helper products here.
See more about the 1885 Baltimore Catechism on these pages:
Use printables in your Roman Catholic catechism class, Faith formation, or Sunday school lesson. ~Mary Fifer