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The Baltimore Catechism was the text from which many generations of American Catholics learned the basic tenets of their faith. The Baltimore Catechism was first introduced in 1885 under the formal title A Catechism of Christian Doctrine by the Third Council of Baltimore. Designed as a simple primer for the young and not fully literate, the "no. 2" edition became the textbook for many a Bob and Mary trapped under the watchful eye of Sister.

Last formally revised in 1969, the Catechism is divided by part and chapter. Part one "The Creed", deals with doctrine and dogma. Part two "The Commandments", explores the theory and application of the Ten Commandments. The final section, "The Sacraments and Prayer", concerns itself with the liturgy of the Church as well as Catholic devotion. Numerous chapters explore each one of these main divisions in detail.

Many concepts within the Catechism are presented in such a way as to impress the severity of an act into a ten to twelve year old mind permanently. To reinforce the effects of sin and the refusal to obey the Ten Commandments, a forked road is illustrated. One fork leads to the gates of Heaven, the other, labeled "HELL", leads to a fire. In further reinforcement, examples of what to do and what not to do are offered. Admittedly, the occasions of sin illustrated do not match up with modern expectations. For example, a young boy wonders whether or not he should smoke his father's cigarettes. He decides not so, since he was told by his father that "he is too young".

Where the Catechism is flawless is in its precise yet understandable explanation of dogma. By illustrating a sign in the form of a billboard, the Catechism demonstrates a sacrament to be something that makes visible what is not visible at the moment, the grace of Christ working within a soul. In this way even those who have fallen away from the Church but have been educated under the Catechism still know some of the basics of Catholicism. The use of everyday images tends to solder fundamentals into the mind.

Recent religious education texts have deliberately tried to get away from the intimidating aspects of the Baltimore Catechism. Yet there are some who still yearn for the more positive and explanatory elements of the Catechism. These advocates argue that modern religious texts do not give succinct explanations of belief, relying instead on paraphrases calculated to be the least offensive for most people. One thing is for certain: those who were raised under this text will never forget Who made them.

Second line in the Catechism: God made us.

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