The New Saint Joseph Catholic Sunday school series is a darling Catholic catechism for children; yet here are some serious considerations that I think that you would 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 daily classes or review
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 that the 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, so be sure to send notes to their parents to this effect.
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, so be encouraged to take a week or two to cover them. 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.
So how did I see the changes? I simply compared versions that I was fortunate enough to have inherited. This made it easy to see the changes.
During the mid-1990s when we were first teaching our own children about Communion, I had noticed that certain pictures had items missing from the altar at Mass. Through the years as our 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 publishing dates were the same, there was no note as to the changes, and the changes were sprinkled throughout the pages in the book. If you have an older copy than your students, you may want to check that they have the same information as you have if you wish to continue using this book.
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 the 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.
It is good to have certitude. How was I certain that these things were supposed to be on the altar?
Through the course of ten years after I first used the NSJFCC for Sunday school 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 as you can see in the top photo on this page.
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. He died forty five years earlier in 1967.
How are these changes not marked?
It's a bit of a trick or sleight of hand.
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. The oldest book belonged to a boy that was two years older than I and the other had been used by my sister who was nine years younger than I. I personally bought the copy our family used in the 1990s.
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.
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If you use the Baltimore Catechism, you'll love Saint Anne's Helper!
So what are the changes?
In the pictures below the older booklet from the 1960s, the middle one will have the 1970s booklet, and the booklet on the right will have the booklet from the 1990s. 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 these catechisms to your own. In 2012 there was a new version that I did not discern before taking the photos for this page.
The rest of these photos are in order of page number forming a list of comparisons. See them below this list:
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.
Heads-up: This next may seem like a sniggling item, yet years ago my sister who is a long time catechist in Texas 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. I agree with her 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 Consecration in the top picture on this page. What a heart breaking edit.
Other images like this are called Mysterium Fidei. It is a beautiful image; yet it is so sad to see that the very Mystery of our Faith is being removed. The Catholic tabernacle, Crucifix, and candles are removed by the mid 1990s from this image and the altar card stands up by itself.
Note: 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 clear by teaching that "The priest changes the bread and wine into the Body and Blood of Jesus at the Consecration."
Even though this distinction is not in printed in most children's Catholic Sunday school catechisms, many good pastors do ask the children what the white host is before and after the Consecration. The knowledge of this change is requisite for being allowed to receive Communion.
It's the main truth children that need to know about the Consecration, 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 on this page.
Further, the title on page 48 "The Mass is our gift to God" is not an actual definition. In brief, point out that the Mass is a sacrifice as in older catechisms….
On page 53 the picture of Jesus as priest facing the congregation in the 1970s, 1990s, and 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 Pope Paul VI's 1969 Mass changes precisely because priests did not face the people through most of Mass before 1960.
Otherwise, this is a lovely opportunity to explain that these images represent Jesus' one action in several aspects. 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.
The Catholic Crucifix is a symbol of the Catholic Faith. It is hugely important to have at the altar and we try to teach such symbols in Catholic Sunday school. The children are often eager to know the symbols as they like pictures of ideas. So why were they progressively removed from the book?
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 to this Catholic Sunday school booklet twenty years later. The third booklet on the right shows lots of white space around the priest and altar where articles are successively removed from the artwork.
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. There's almost nothing left!
In 2012 there is a new phrase added to the Consecration of the Chalice (which is closer to the Consecration from before 1960):
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 included in the 1963 version; yet were removed by the 1970s and 1990s.
These dialog responses are not all the altar server responses.
The were meant for the laity to learn or read. The Judica Me, Confiteor, and Suscipe Sanctae Pater were not included, so there was not sufficient material in the book for an altar boy to learn to serve Mass.
There were Dialogue Mass revisions through many years during the mid-1900s, yet it was still rare to see a Dialog Mass 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.
Kindergarten Catechism For Young Catholics by Seton Home Study is an improved alternative to the NSJFCC, as it removed some of the difficult passages about the Resurrection.
The good answers are included in Saint Anne's Helper downloads and Seton's revision.
In general and in its defense, the New Saint Joseph Communion Catechism teaches the Catholic Faith well for the most part. The text of the questions and answers is better than that in the prose that surrounds the Q&As.
It does have some very good Catholic Sunday school questions and answers, especially number 33. The NSJ has two answers that are better than those in many Baltimore Catechism versions:
It has the singular version of a Penance question on page 41 as does the Our Holy Faith series Book Two Jesus Comes and Saint Anne's Helper Catechism. The 1950s Our Holy Faith corrected the plural confession answers from the original 1885 Baltimore Catechism.
One very good NSJFCC answer covers that other catechism booklets do not study is what happens to those who die in mortal sin on page 25:
Another good question and answer to know is number 49 on page 48; yet many catechisms do not teach this truth:
If you do not use this booklet, remember to teach that Jesus Christ is present in the Holy Eucharist during the Sacrifice of the Mass 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 a very good Catholic Sunday school resource; 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. This wording is similar in all three levels of the New Saint Joseph series.
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. This confusion 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. These events happened 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.
The New Saint Joseph series does not say plainly that Jesus Christ rose from the dead by His own Divine Power and this is true even in the 1963 edition.
If you use this series, be sure to make notes in your copy to remember to explain these truths well to your students.
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. My best recommendation is to use the old Baltimore Catechism.
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Baltimore Catechism Communion single or bundled downloads: audio, ebooklet, and digital worksheets for kids and adults. Verbatim text in all formats.