Baltimore Catechism 3

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The Two Great Commandments


 * Q. 188. Besides believing what God has revealed, what else must we do to be saved?
A. Besides believing what God has revealed, we must keep His law.


 * God has clearly revealed that we must keep His law to attain eternal salvation. The revealed doctrines, which we must believe, give us the reasons for obeying the law.

 * The law of God is an expression of divine wisdom guiding man to his end and regulating man's relations to his Creator and to his fellow men. Some actions are good in themselves; others are good because they are commanded. Some actions are evil in themselves; others are evil because they are forbidden. Good actions are in conformity with human nature as created by God; evil actions are contrary to it. The law of God presupposes the divine will and also divine wisdom. Every rational creature must obey the law of God as made known through human reason and divine revelation.

 * > "If you love me, keep my commandments" (John 14:15).

 * > "He who has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me" (John 14:21).

 * > "But if thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments" (Matthew 19:17).


 * Q. 189. Which are the two great commandments that contain the whole law of God?
A. The two great commandments that contain the whole law of God are: first, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with thy whole heart, and with thy whole soul, and with thy whole mind, and with thy whole strength; second, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.


 * The whole law of God can be reduced to the commandment of love of God, because the proper motive of love of neighbor and love of self is God.

 * The first three commandments of the Decalogue refer directly to the commandment of love of God; the last seven regard the love of neighbor and imply love of oneself. Every person who has received or is capable of receiving sanctifying grace and eternal happiness is our neighbor. Only the devils and the souls of the damned are excluded from our love. 22

 * > "And one of them, a doctor of the Law, putting him to the test, asked him, 'Master, which is the great commandment in the Law?' Jesus said to him. 'Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with thy whole heart, and with thy whole soul, and with thy whole mind.'

 * > This is the greatest and the first commandment. And the second is like it, "Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself." On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets' " (Matthew 22:35-40).


 * Q. 190. What must we do to love God, our neighbor, and ourselves?
A. To love God, our neighbor, and ourselves we must keep the commandments of God and of the Church, and perform the spiritual and corporal works of mercy.


 * Just as the commandments of God determine in detail what we must do in order to love God, our neighbor, and ourselves, so the commandments of the Church and the spiritual and corporal works of mercy show us how to apply practically the commandments of God.

 * God, through His Divine Son Jesus Christ, empowered and directed the Catholic Church to make necessary and useful laws for its members to help them attain their eternal salvation. We prove our true love for our fellow man by performing the corporal and spiritual works of mercy, which should have as their motive the love of God and not merely humanitarian or natural reasons.

 * > "Give alms out of thy substance, and turn not away thy face from any poor person: for so it shall come to pass that the face of the Lord shall not be turned from thee" (Tobias 4:7).

 * > "Let love be without pretense. Hate what is evil, hold to what is good. Love one another with fraternal charity, anticipating one another with honor. Be not slothful in zeal; be fervent in spirit, serving the Lord, rejoicing in hope. Be patient in tribulation, persevering in prayer. Share the needs of the saints, practicing hospitality. Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. Rejoice with those who rejoice; weep with those who weep. Be of one mind towards one another. Do not set your mind on high things but condescend to the lowly. Be not wise in your own conceits. To no man render evil for evil but provide good things not only in the sight of God, but also in the sight of all men. If it be possible, as far as in you lies, be at peace with all men. Do not avenge yourselves, beloved, but give place to the wrath, for it is written, 'Vengeance is mine; I will repay, says the Lord' " (Romans 12:9-19).

 * > "Brethren, even if a person is caught doing something wrong, you who are spiritual instruct such a one in a spirit of meekness, considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted. Bear one another's burdens, and so you will fulfill the law of Christ" (Galatians 6:1-2).

 * > "And we exhort you, brethren, reprove the irregular, comfort the fainthearted, support the weak, and be patient towards all men. See that no one renders evil for evil to any man; but always strive after good towards one another and towards all men" (1 Thessalonians 5:14-15).

 * > "I urge therefore, first of all, that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all men" (1 Timothy 2:1).

 * > "Religion pure and undefiled before God the Father is this: to give aid to orphans and widows in their tribulation, and to keep oneself unspotted from this world" (James 1:27).

 * > "My brethren, if any one of you strays from the truth and someone brings him back, he ought to know that he who causes a sinner to be brought back from his misguided way, will save his soul from death, and will cover a multitude of sins" (James 5:19-20).

 * > "My dear children, let us not love in word, neither with the tongue, but in deed and in truth" (1 John 3:18).23


 * Q. 191. Which are the chief corporal works of mercy?
A. The chief corporal works of mercy are seven:


 * 1. To feed the hungry.

 * 2. To give drink to the thirsty.

 * 3. To clothe the naked.

 * 4. To visit the imprisoned.

 * 5. To shelter the homeless.

 * 6. To visit the sick.

 * 7. To bury the dead.


 * Our Lord taught explicitly that one can earn the eternal reward of heaven by performing the corporal works of mercy and that those who deliberately refuse to perform such works will be barred from heaven. One can feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, clothe the naked, and shelter the homeless not only by actually providing the necessities of life but also by working to correct economic abuses which cause unnecessary unemployment and poverty. Those who work to provide comfortable and sanitary housing for the poor perform a corporal work of mercy.

 * One can visit the sick by paying a social call or by providing the necessary medical care as far as means and circumstances permit. Those who help support hospitals for the poor and home-nursing organizations also perform this work of mercy. Doctors and nurses who attend the sick can gain the reward promised by Our Lord if they perform their duties for the love of God and not merely for money or for humanitarian reasons.

 * That Almighty God is pleased to reward those who bury the dead is distinctly taught in the book of Tobias. To visit a house of mourning or to attend a funeral is a mark of respect to the dead and a consolation to the relatives of the deceased person.

 * The Church has forbidden cremation not because it is wrong in itself nor because it is contrary to divine law, but because it is in opposition to the Jewish and Christian tradition and has been advocated by anti-Christians with the express purpose of destroying belief in the immortality of the soul and the resurrection of the body. The Fathers of the Church defended the custom of burial by reason of the doctrine of the resurrection of the body and the respect due to it as the temple of the Holy Ghost.

 * During great pestilences when it is impossible to bury the dead in time to prevent the spread of contagion, the Church permits mass cremation because it is neither wrong in itself nor expressly forbidden by the divine law.


 * Q. 192. Which are the chief spiritual works of mercy?
A. The chief spiritual works of mercy are seven:


 * 1. To admonish the sinner.

 * 2. To instruct the ignorant.

 * 3. To counsel the doubtful.

 * 4. To comfort the sorrowful.

 * 5. To bear wrongs patiently.

 * 6. To forgive all injuries.

 * 7. To pray for the living and the dead.


 * The spiritual works of mercy by their very nature excel the corporal works. They refer directly to the soul of man and to his eternal welfare. They are aids in healing the soul and in preserving it from spiritual disease; they help to foster the true happiness of mankind and are the most perfect fulfillment of the command to love our neighbor.

 * We are obliged to admonish the sinner and to try to persuade him to turn from evil and to practice virtue whenever prudence dictates. We are not obliged to do so when, for example, we judge that our words will not be heeded or that greater harm will follow. Persons in authority, for example, parents and teachers, have a greater obligation than others in this regard. Sinners may be admonished not only by kind words but also by good example.

 * Teachers in Catholic schools, missionaries, catechists, confessors, and Catholic writers perform in an excellent manner the spiritual work of instructing the ignorant. Those who help to support Catholic schools, colleges, and missions, as well as those who teach merely secular subjects, perform this spiritual work of mercy provided the motive of their actions is love of God and neighbor.

 * Whenever their words are likely to be heeded, Christians must be ready to give helpful advice to those who need it.

 * To console those who are in sorrow because of the death or sickness of loved ones or because of some other spiritual or temporal affliction is an act of Christian charity.

 * The true Christian imitates the example of Christ by bearing wrongs patiently and by forgiving all injuries because of love of God. While dying on the cross, Christ prayed to His heavenly Father to forgive His executioners "for they do not know what they are doing" (Luke 23:34). The true Christian loves all men, even those who reproach and persecute him.

 * The sublime doctrines of the Communion of Saints and the Mystical Body of Christ should make us pray for all our brothers in Christ.


 * Q. 193. Is everyone obliged to perform the works of mercy?
A. Everyone is obliged to perform the works of mercy, according to his own ability and the need of his neighbor.


 * The obligation to perform the works of mercy varies with one's vocation and condition of life and the degree of the neighbor's need.


 * Q. 194. Are all the ordinary deeds done every day to relieve the corporal or spiritual needs of others true works of mercy?
A. All the ordinary deeds done every day to relieve the corporal or spiritual needs of others are true works of mercy, if done in the name of Christ.


 * We can make all the good works done for our neighbor supernatural by doing them in the name of Christ and for the love of God.

 * > "For whoever gives you a cup of water to drink in my name, because you are Christ's, amen I say to you, he shall not lose his reward" (Mark 9:40).

 * > "Therefore, whether you eat or drink, or do anything else, do all for the glory of God" (1 Corinthians 10:31).


 * Q. 195. Which are the commandments of God?
A. The commandments of God are these ten:


 * 1. I am the Lord thy God; thou shalt not have strange gods before Me.

 * 2. Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain.

 * 3. Remember thou keep holy the Lord's Day.

 * 4. Honor thy father and thy mother.

 * 5. Thou shalt not kill.

 * 6. Thou shalt not commit adultery.

 * 7. Thou shalt not steal.

 * 8. Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor.

 * 9. Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor's wife.

 * 10. Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor's goods.


 * These commandments, engraved on two tablets of stone, were given by God to Moses on Mount Sinai. In giving these commandments God made plain and determined the obligations which arise from man's very nature.

 * > And the Lord spoke all these words:

 * > "I am the Lord thy God, who brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage.

 * > "Thou shalt not have strange gods before me.

 * > "Thou shalt not make to thyself a graven thing, nor the likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or in the earth beneath, nor of those things that are in the waters under the earth.

 * > "Thou shalt not adore them, nor serve them: I am the Lord thy God, mighty, jealous, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children, unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me:

 * > "And showing mercy unto thousands to them that love me, and keep my commandments.

 * > "Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain: for the Lord will not hold him guiltless that shall take the name of the Lord his God in vain.

 * > "Remember that thou keep holy the Sabbath day.

 * > "Six days shalt thou labor, and shalt do all thy works.

 * > "But on the seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord thy God: thou shalt do no work on it, thou nor thy son, nor thy daughter, nor thy man-servant, nor thy maid-servant, nor thy beast, nor the stranger that is within thy gates.

 * > "For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, and the sea, and all things that are in them, and rested on the seventh day: therefore the Lord blessed the seventh day, and sanctified it.

 * > "Honor thy father and thy mother, that thou mayest be long-lived upon the land which the Lord thy God will give thee.

 * > "Thou shalt not kill.

 * > "Thou shalt not commit adultery.

 * > "Thou shalt not steal.

 * > "Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor.

 * > "Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor's house: neither shalt thou desire his wife, nor his servant, nor his handmaid, nor his ox, nor his ass, nor anything that is his" (Exodus 20:1-17).

 * > "Do not think that I have come to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I have not come to destroy, but to fulfill. For amen I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, not one jot or one tittle shall be lost from the Law till all things have been accomplished. Therefore whoever does away with one of these least commandments, and so teaches men, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever carries them out and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven" (Matthew 5:17-19).


 * Q. 196. Should we be satisfied merely to keep the commandments of God?
A. We should not be satisfied merely to keep the commandments of God, but should always be ready to do good deeds, even when they are not commanded.


 * The commandments of God state the minimum requirements for salvation. They should be kept not merely according to the letter but also according to the spirit, which obliges us to strive for greater perfection.

 * > "And behold, a certain man came to him and said, 'Good Master, what good work shall I do to have eternal life?' He said to him, 'Why dost thou ask me about what is good? One there is who is good, and he is God. But if thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments.' He said to him, 'Which?' And Jesus said,

 * > Thou shalt not kill,

 * > Thou shalt not commit adultery,

 * > Thou shalt not steal,

 * > Thou shalt not bear false witness, Honor thy father and mother, and, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself."'

 * > The young man said to him, 'All these I have kept; what is yet wanting to me?' Jesus said to him, 'If thou wilt be perfect, go, sell what thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.' But when the young man heard the saying, he went away sad, for he had great possessions' " (Matthew 19:16-22).


 * Q. 197. What does Our Saviour especially recommend that is not strictly commanded by the law of God?
A. Our Saviour especially recommends the observance of the Evangelical Counsels-voluntary poverty, perpetual chastity, and perfect obedience.


 * These recommendations are called counsels because, although they extend an invitation to all, the obligation to practice them is assumed voluntarily. They are called evangelical because they are recommended in the Gospel

 * The Evangelical Counsels are the most perfect of the many counsels recommended in the Gospel; they remove impediments to sanctity and are positive helps to greater holiness. The observance of voluntary poverty enables a person to overcome the inclinations of greed; the observance of perpetual chastity helps in conquering the flesh; the observance of perfect obedience demands the entire subjection of the will.

 * The obligations of the Evangelical Counsels are assumed by the vows of the religious life, which is called the life of perfection. Those who make these vows do not thereby become perfect but they assume the obligation of tending toward perfection in a special way.

 * Any Catholic may voluntarily seek admission to the religious life who is free from legal impediments, has the right intention, and is fitted to discharge the duties of the particular institute of his choice. Married persons, and persons under fifteen years of age, as well as those whose parents need their help, are prevented by legal impediments from embracing the religious state. A person who wishes to please God, to save his soul, or to help his neighbor has a right intention in seeking admission to the religious state. The novitiate of the religious life is a period during which a vocation is tested and superiors and subjects are enabled to decide freely on the mutual obligations that are assumed by public profession in the religious state. By profession, members of the religious life publicly assume the obligations of their state through the vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience. These obligations are assumed for a definite period or for life.

 * Persons who do not embrace the religious life can tend toward perfection in their particular state by observing the spirit of the Evangelical Counsels. The spirit of poverty will make them freely give up many needless things in order to help the poor. Married persons will strive to govern their lives by marital chastity, realizing that they can place limitation of their family only through virtuous living. The spirit of obedience will make them docile to legitimate superiors, in whom they will see the representatives of God.

 * > "You therefore are to be perfect, even as your heavenly Father is perfect" (Matthew 5:48).

 * > "And Peter

 * > Poverty-See Scripture, question 196, Matthew 19:16-22.

 * > Chastity-"He who is unmarried is concerned about the things of the Lord, how he may please God" (1 Corinthians 7:32).

 * > Obedience -"For obedience is better than sacrifices" (1 Kings 15:22).




 * "Faith without works is dead" (James 2:26), says the apostle, St. James. This same lesson was taught by Our Lord when He said "Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord' shall enter the kingdom of heaven; but he who does the will of my Father in heaven shall enter the kingdom of heaven" (Matthew 7:21). In other words, we are obliged not only to believe all that God has revealed, but also to obey all that He commands.

 * Our reason tells us that certain things are good and obligatory, such as worshiping God and obeying our parents, while other things are bad and sinful, such as theft or murder. These obligations and prohibitions make up the natural law. To know this we need no revelation; yet, because human beings through ignorance and malice are apt to go astray even in this law, God gave the Israelites the Ten Commandments, which explicitly contain the chief obligations of the natural law, and implicitly contain all the rest. Thus, the fourth commandment explicitly commands children to honor their parents; yet it surely implies other obligations, such as love, respect and obedience, as also the duties of parents toward their children. God also laid down certain other laws for the people of Israel in addition to the natural law, such as the prohibition to eat certain kinds of food (). These constitute what we call the positive law. It is evident that God, Creator and Lord of all mankind, has a right to make any laws He wills, and men have the obligation to obey them.

 * It should be noted that the enumeration of the Ten Commandments differs in the Catholic Church from that followed by most Protestants. What is the first commandment for Catholics is divided into two commandments by Protestants, while the ninth and tenth commandments of Catholics form only one commandment for Protestants, so that our commandments from the second to the ninth are numbered one higher by Protestants.

 * Our Lord emphasized the necessity of obeying the natural law. He Himself also added some positive laws for all mankind, such as the obligation to enter His Church. He did away with the ceremonial laws of the Jewish people, such as the laws regarding the types of food that were forbidden and the observance of the Sabbath Day. In His law the prominent feature is love -love for God and love for our fellow men. That is why He said that all the laws of God could be summed up in the two commandments, to love God and to love our neighbor. For this same reason He wills that His followers shall not content themselves with merely obeying laws. He wishes them to do more than what is commanded. In the Christian religion the works of mercy, which are deeds of charity toward one's neighbor in his bodily or spiritual needs, are recommended to all. And to those who wish to practice Christian virtue in its highest forms our Saviour gave the counsels of perfection: poverty, chastity and obedience.

 * These counsels are the basis of the religious state. There are hundreds of different orders and congregations, each doing its own particular work for God's glory, but all leading their members nearer to God by the constant practice of Christian virtue. Some female religious teach, others care for the sick and the aged and orphans, others devote themselves entirely to prayer in the seclusion of their convents. Some male religious are priests; others are brothers. And the Church is ever holding the religious life before Catholic boys and girls as the most perfect way in which one may serve God and our neighbor and the surest way of winning the happiness of heaven.

 * Sometimes young folks feel a desire for the life of holiness which the religious state offers, but they fear that they have no vocation to this sublime state. It is possible that they entertain a false notion about a vocation. They seem to imagine that those who are called to the religious life receive a clear internal inspiration, inviting them to the monastery or the convent. On this point they are entirely mistaken. The very fact that a person has the requisite qualities of body and of soul to fulfill the duties of the religious life and feels an inclination toward this form of life can be regarded as an indication that he has a vocation and that he may lawfully seek admission to an order or congregation. During the novitiate he will have a sufficient opportunity to judge whether or not he is called to the religious state.

 * Today there is great need of candidates for the religious life, especially of those who will devote themselves to works of charity, such as the care of the sick and the education of children. The spirit of the age, so eager for material wealth and pleasures and honors, is indeed the very opposite of the religious spirit of poverty and self-denial and humility. But the very fact that there is so great a difference between the world and the cloister reflects great credit and merit on those who enter the religious life.

 * Young folks who think that they may have a religious vocation should pray fervently for divine guidance, read good books on the religious state, and consult an experienced confessor.




 * Resolve to perform at least once a day a work of corporal or spiritual mercy.

 * Complete Exercises For Lesson 15





 * (Check each of the following statements as either true or false. The correct answer can be found in the preceding portions of this lesson.)


 * The Catholic Church commands us to keep holy the Sabbath day.

 * We must love every person who has received or is capable of receiving sanctifying grace.

 * The corporal works of mercy are superior to the spiritual works.

 * If we perform the works of mercy for humanitarian reasons we are fulfilling our Lord's commandment to love our neighbor as ourselves.

 * A person can tend to perfection only in the religious life.

 * A person must be at least sixteen years old before he may enter the novitiate of a religious order.

 * Our Lord did away with the ceremonial laws of the Jewish people.

 * We are obliged to follow the counsels as well as obey the commandments.

 * All male religious are either priests or candidates for the priesthood.

 * God gave the Ten Commandments to Moses on Mount Sinai.



 * (Answer the questions orally or write them as your teacher may direct):


 * Before the arrival of the early Catholic missionaries, could the Indians of our country have known anything about any of the Ten Commandments? Explain your answer.

 * Try to condense the entire Law of God into as few as five words.

 * In a short paragraph of three or four sentences show that obedience and service are the best expressions of this love.

 * Restaurants, cafeterias and lunch-rooms feed the hungry. Saloons, soda counters, and tea-rooms give drink to the thirsty. Haberdasheries, dressmakers, and clothiers supply clothing to their customers. Are they performing corporal works of mercy? Explain your answer.

 * goes to St. Hope's Hospital to have a chat with his classmate Edward, who is very sick, and at the same time, very discouraged and sad. At the end of his visit, Dan has Eddie in good humor and resigned to God's will. On the way out of the hospital, Dan drops into the hospital chapel to recite five Our Fathers and five Hail Marys for his friend Eddie. How many works of mercy has he performed? Specify them.

 * Frances and Genevieve are good friends. Frances has great influence over her friend. She knows that Genevieve has been reading immodest publications and going with questionable companions. What spiritual work of mercy should Frances perform in Genevieve's regard?

 * Suppose Frances objects: "I'd prefer to mind my own business!" What answer should be given her? Explain why Frances is perhaps obliged to perform this particular work of mercy.

 * Nicholas, a Catholic Boy Scout, a very faithful fellow, seldom, if ever, misses his morning and night prayers. He is very charitably inclined, and a very willing helper. Tell him how to make doubly sure of being credited with his many daily good deeds.

 * In a general way, explain to Jacob, a Jewish lad of your acquaintance, what you have learned about the Ten Commandments, mentioning the points of difference that now exist between Jews and Christians in their regard.

 * Sophie, now in the graduating class at St. Mamertus', recently got the idea she would like to become a nun. Up to the present time she has been pretty lazy around the house, doing only those things she is compelled to do. Her constitution is weak. When asked why she wants to become a Sister she replies: "Because I like Sister Alphonsina, and I'm just crazy about the habit she wears!" Do you think Sophie has a vocation? What are the reasons for your answer?

 * Myles, an altar boy and daily communicant, would like to become a priest. He is in the eighth grade. Raymond, his chum, would like to join an order of teaching brothers. Both have confided their ambitions to each other, but to no one else. In six months they are to graduate. What should they do promptly?

 * Cite some words of Our Saviour Himself proving that more than faith alone is necessary to work out our salvation.

 * If a Protestant friend speaks to you about the fifth commandment, to which commandment is he probably referring according to the Catholic enumeration?


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