Because of the Answer to Question 108 of the Baltimore Catechism

Sometimes, my faith lets me roll with what life presents to me. At my college teaching job yesterday, one of my students approached me at my desk in the middle of class as students were revising their work. It was clear he wanted to talk, and he didn’t need privacy. Several other students listened in on the conversation.


 He leaned down to look me in the eyes and calmly shared his anguish over a personal matter involving a child, a custody battle, and a broken home that had been visited by violence.

I don’t know my student’s religious beliefs and he doesn’t know mine.  But I felt immediately a sense of peace about  this difficult situation  because of the answer to Question 108 of the Baltimore Catechism, What is hope? “Hope is a Divine virtue by which we firmly trust God will give us eternal life and the means to obtain it.” My personal addendum is: Hope is also a Divine virtue by which we firmly trust God will guide us through hardships on our earthly journey.

Whenever someone shares their difficulties with me, my first thought is: I need to be the face of Christ for this person. Yesterday I discovered something else about this kind of encounter.

Before I responded, what flashed through my head was this: I’ve taught this man for a year now. He’s in his thirties and a war veteran. He’s had his share of heartbreak and hard times, some of which I have read about in essays he has shared with me and the class. School was not always a place where he experienced success. He has no shame or embarasssment about some of the messier details of his earlier life, nor should he.

I asked him a few follow-up questions and then I told him, “It’s going to be all right.” Commuting home, I  mulled our encounter. It’s easy to imagine that I am the face of Christ to this man in distress. But had I ever considered that he was the face of a suffering Christ to me? He needed to tell me that he was aching because of the brokenness of the world. And I needed to offer him hope.

So now I pray for this child my student is so worried about.

We beseech You, O Lord, visit this home and drive far from it all the snares of the enemy; let Your holy angels dwell therein so as to preserve the family in peace; and let Your blessing be always upon them. Through Christ our Lord. Amen. 

  • Mary P.

    I pray with you, Allison!

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/09158421880497827083 Athos

    A little off topic (but not much), you illustrate the way that rote memorization is extremely important. I've heard a friend of mine poo-poo such practices; but firmly disagree with him.All the Scripture, Creeds, Catechism that we can move from short-term to long-term memory are like pine cone: they "open" when tragedy or catastrophe occur. But if they aren't there at all, what will be there in extremis?Bravo for Question 108. Cheers/blessings

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/16021781602272064901 Allison

    @Athos. Agreed! Once, when my husband and I faced a difficult health problem with our newborn, our priest said to us: "This is your vows coming to life." (In sickness and in health) It was a powerful and beautiful moment to reflect on those vows.

  • Grace

    Allison,Did you learn the Baltimore Catechism as a child at a Catholic school…. or how? I thought it sort of went out of use recently. Now I'm wondering — what should we memorize from it?What should we have catechism class kids memorize?

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/16021781602272064901 Allison

    @Grace: It is out of use. I never learned it. I never learned anything in my catechism classes. I'm playing lots of catch up as an adult.My sons have the abbreviated version of the Catechism of the catholic Church. We also have teh biggie version in our home. frank: Is it on our YIM bookshelf?

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/01819831282677092730 Frank

    Yep, it's on the YIM Catholic Bookshelf. Go see :-) !

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/12442813565745123497 MUJERLATINA

    I too learned little to nothing in my CCD classes as a youth. The Baltimore Catechism had fallen out of use by the mid 1960s. My father can still rattle off the questions and answers from that book — I need to get a copy because I too believe that having 'the facts memorized' allows one to reflect more deeply upon matters of faith. That's why I find the Liturgy of the Mass so wonderful — As my lips say the words my mind can go more deeply into prayer and reflection.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/05040495946170037805 Julie Cragon

    First thing that comes to mind is, "Why did God make me?" "God made me to know Him to love Him and to serve Him in this world and to be happy we Him forever in Heaven." We still sell the Baltimore Catechism from time to time. I join you in praying for the child and all in similar situations. Too many.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/08339821804970482654 Lucy

    Homeschooling is a great way to learn the faith that we didn't learn growing up in Catholic schools. My husband holds Catechism class every Wednesday night in our living room with our five kids. They memorize the Baltimore Catechism questions and answers as well as verses from Sacred Scripture, and we are learning too by osmosis (seems backward doesn't it?). This practice creates a library in the brain, similar to a mental dictionary. The references are there when you need to employ them. They aren't sufficient in and of themselves, because a love relationship with the "person" of Christ needs to develop. The old way of "recite this prayer outloud or Sister will wrap your knuckles" is insufficient, but so too is the "God is love and that's all you really need to know" method. I think Julie describes the necessary balance when she quotes the Catechism statement that we are to know, love, and serve Him. We need to have truth written on our hearts so that we can come to "know" who God is and what he expects of us. We need to frequent the sacraments in a loving way–not simply out of duty–so we can learn to love Him and how very much He loves us. Reading and imitating the saints also helps us to grow in love of Him. And we need to perform the corporeal and spiritual works of mercy, again not out of duty, but as a result of the loving relationship we have established with Him.Allison, I will send a prayer request to the grotto for Our Lady of Lourdes for your student and the child.In Christ,Lucywww.mysticalrosedesign.blogspot.com

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/08339821804970482654 Lucy

    Oh just one more thing to add:Scott Hahn gave a great analogy which explains the two-fold dynamic necessary to a full understanding of the faith. He said that some people are like the bone. They have the solid truth, but they are hard and rigid and lack the joy and life in the Spirit. Others are like the flesh, they have the Spirit of the faith, but are formless and lacking in truth and formation. We need to have both, the bone and the flesh, the spirit and the life.In Christ,Lucywww.mysticalrosedesign.blogspot.com

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/12442813565745123497 MUJERLATINA

    @ Lucy: I love your the Scott Hahn analogy!! I think I have spent the first forty years of my life 'in the Spirit' and now more recently have begun to delve into the fundamentals of our Church beliefs and history/catechism. I yearn to rceive more formation in the core aspects of Catholicism.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/16021781602272064901 Allison

    @Lucy: Thank you for sharing your experiences and your insights. I'd love to be a fly on the wall at your home. And I truly appreciate your prayer request. How kind.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/06931475093653727831 Dee

    "Who Made Me"- God made me. "Why did God make me?" – To Know ,Love and Serve him. Interesting how we never forget the things we learn as children. I bet if I heard some more questions I would have the answer. Does the Baltimore Catechism still have a red cover?

  • Grace

    Some interesting posts!I just checked out the YIM Bookshelf.There are 1400 questions and anwers in that Catechism! I'm impressed– if people used to memorise all that in "the olden days."I definitely think rote memorisation has its place, and has gotten a bad rap in recent years.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/01819831282677092730 Frank

    Available for 10 bucks (and change) at Amazon.com. Follow the link from the YIM Catholic Bookshelf and work through it with your kids this summer!

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/16021781602272064901 Allison

    @Dee: Did you learn this at parochial school or in a CCD program? How long did it take to learn? Did you learn the questions in order, by number?Were you tested orally or in writing?

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/02270396127498411004 Shannon

    I once began a Sunday reflection with, "Why did God make you?" and the answer was immediate and correct from the over-45 in the crowd. Had I asked other questions, the rate of success would have dropped rapidly.While the Baltimore Catechism in its various incarnations is still around, it is seriously lacking in theology. For instance, on one page, a bride and groom exchange their vows. Underneath, the caption reads, "This is good." The picture to the right is of a priest at Mass. The caption? "This is better."But it's not. The caption is incorrect. Both Matrimony and Holy Orders are sacraments and there is no "better" between the sacraments.The thinking reflected in that one question is part of the thinking that has led to much of the sex abuse coverup. Until ALL Christians take their baptisms seriously, we will be tangled in a caste system where marriage is a less-than vocation.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/16021781602272064901 Allison

    @Shannon: Whoa. That is certainly not how I was taught post v2 or how our boys are being taught!! The talk is of all vocations being equal and the need to discern and take seriously what God calls you to do and to be – whether religious, single or married.I am not sure, however, the link you are making between that old thinking and the sex-abuse coverup? Can you clarify your thoughts? Thanks!

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/02270396127498411004 Shannon

    Allison, I was responding to the yearning for Baltimore Catechisms expressed in the comments on this page. Question and answer format, black and white thinking, and illustrations that were never questioned. Pre-Vatican II theology on a number of fronts. I used it for the first few years I was in grade school.10 years later, I was glad to see a different catechism used for after-school religion classes.


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