Baltimore Catechism 3

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The Second and Third Commandments of God


 * Q. 224. What is the second commandment of God?
A. The second commandment of God is: Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain.


 * > "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" (Exodus 20:7).


 * Q. 225. What are we commanded by the second commandment?
A. By the second commandment we are commanded always to speak with reverence of God, of the saints, and of holy things, and to be truthful in taking oaths and faithful to them and to our vows.


 * When we honor a name; we actually honor the person or thing related to the name. We reverence God's name: first, by using it reverently in prayer; second, by bowing the head or tipping the hat at the name of Jesus; third, by speaking reverently of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the angels, the saints, the Church, and persons, places, or things dedicated to the service of God; fourth, by public manifestations of reverence, such as rallies, parades, and processions proclaiming the divinity of Christ, devotion to His Blessed Mother, and the recitation of the Divine Praises.

 * > "Blessed be the name of the Lord both now and forever. From the rising of the sun unto its going down, may the name of the Lord be praised" (Psalm 112:2-3).


 * Q. 226. What is an oath?
A. An oath is the calling on God to witness to the truth of what we say.


 * > "Thou shalt fear the Lord thy God, and shalt serve him only: and thou shalt swear by his name" (Deuteronomy 6:13).

 * > "Now in what I am writing to you, behold, before God, I do not lie" (Galatians 1:20).

 * > "For men swear by one greater than themselves, and an oath given as a guarantee is the final settlement of all their disagreement" (Hebrews 6:16).


 * Q. 227. What things are necessary to make an oath lawful?
A. To make an oath lawful, these three things are necessary: first, we must have a good reason for taking an oath; second, we must be convinced that what we say under oath is true; third, we must not swear, that is, take an oath to do what is wrong.


 * An oath reverently taken is a meritorious act of divine worship; otherwise, it is sinful. It is lawful to take an oath, that is, to swear, because an oath is a guarantee of truthfulness; it is useful in having our word accepted in matters which concern the glory of God or the good of our neighbor or of ourselves. An oath, at times, is prescribed by civil or ecclesiastical authority. To take an oath without sufficient reason, or to swear rashly, is ordinarily a venial sin but can be a mortal sin if it is the occasion of perjury or scandal.

 * The binding force of an oath arises from the virtues of veracity and religion. The obligation to fulfill a promise made under oath is grave or light, depending on the gravity of that which is promised. If we take an oath to do that which is wrong, useless, or impossible, we are obliged not to keep it.

 * A promissory oath ceases to bind: first, if it is relaxed by the one to whom the promise was given; second, if the object of the promise changes substantially; third, if the object becomes sinful or useless; fourth, if the reason for making the oath ceases to exist; fifth, if a condition under which the oath was given ceases; sixth, if it is legitimately annulled, dispensed, or commuted.

 * An oath to observe civil constitutions does not oblige us to obey laws which are opposed to divine or ecclesiastical right. We are not permitted to swear unconditional obedience to a constitution containing laws against justice or the divine law. One cannot, for example, swear to observe a civil constitution which prohibits the teaching of the religion of Christ.

 * > "By my own self have I sworn, saith the Lord: Because thou hast done this thing, and hast not spared thy only begotten son for my sake" (Genesis 22:16).

 * > "And thou shalt swear: As the Lord liveth, in truth and in judgment and in justice" (Jeremias 4:2).


 * Q. 228. What great sin does a person commit who deliberately calls on God to bear witness to a lie?
A. A person who deliberately calls on God to bear witness to a lie commits the very grievous sin of perjury.


 * > "The person that sweareth, and uttereth with his lips, that he would do either evil or good, and bindeth the same with an oath, and his word: and having forgotten it afterwards understandeth his offence, Let him do penance for his sin" (Leviticus 5:4-5).

 * > "Thou shalt not swear falsely by my name, nor profane the name of thy God" (Leviticus 19:12).

 * > "Neither shalt thou bear false witness against thy neighbor" (Deuteronomy 5:20).


 * Q. 229. What is a vow?
A. A vow is a deliberate promise made to God by which a person binds himself under pain of sin to do something that is especially pleasing to God.


 * In making a vow, a person must act with freedom, knowledge, and deliberation, and with the intention of binding himself under pain of sin. What is promised by the vow must be possible, morally good, and better than it's contrary. We make vows to God alone, but we may make them to God in honor of the saints in order to have greater assurance of obtaining the favor which we seek. A vow, therefore, is an act of divine worship by which we acknowledge God's supreme dominion. Any act that pertains to a vow is an act of divine worship.

 * Vows may be public or private. A public vow is one made before a legitimate ecclesiastical superior and accepted in the name of the Church.

 * A private vow is made to God immediately without the intervention of an ecclesiastical superior authorized to receive it. A vow should never be made without due reflection and the advice of a prudent spiritual director. In making a vow a person should avoid haste and levity and should seriously consider the responsibility to be assumed.

 * The obligation of a vow depends upon the gravity of the object of the vow and the intention of the person making it.

 * > "When thou hast made a vow to the Lord thy God, thou shalt not delay to pay it: because the Lord thy God will require it. And if thou delay, it shall be imputed to thee for a sin" (Deuteronomy 23:21).

 * > "If thou hast vowed anything to God, defer not to pay it. For an unfaithful and foolish promise displeaseth him: but whatsoever thou hast vowed, pay it. And it is much better not to vow than after a vow not to perform the things promised" (Ecclesiastes 5:3-4).

 * > See Scripture, question 224, Exodus 20:7.


 * Q. 230. What is meant by taking God's name in vain?
A. By taking God's name in vain is meant that the name of God or the holy name of Jesus Christ is used without reverence: for example, to express surprise or anger.


 * > "Bless the Lord, O my soul, and let all that is within me bless his holy name" (Psalm 102:1).

 * > "And let not the naming of God be usual in thy mouth, and meddle not with the names of saints: for thou shalt not escape free from them" (Ecclesiasticus 23:10).


 * Q. 231. Is it a sin to take God's name in vain?
A. It is a sin to take God's name in vain; ordinarily, it is a venial sin.


 * To take God's name in vain is a mortal sin when it is done out of deliberate contempt for God, or when serious scandal may be given.


 * Q. 232. What is cursing?
A. Cursing is the calling down of some evil on a person, place, or thing.


 * Cursing is a mortal sin when a grave evil is deliberately willed. Cursing is a venial sin when it is done thoughtlessly or when only a slight evil is willed or when it is directed to animals or inanimate things.

 * > "He that curseth his father, or mother, shall die the death" (Exodus 21:17).

 * > "And he loved cursing: may it come upon him; he would not have blessings: be it far from him. And may he be clothed with cursing as with a garment. (Psalm 108:17-18).

 * > "Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse" (Romans 12:14).

 * > "Out of the same mouth proceed blessing and cursing. These things, my brethren, ought not to be so" (James 3:10).


 * Q. 233. What is blasphemy?
A. Blasphemy is insulting language which expresses contempt for God, either directly or through His saints and holy things. Blasphemy is a grievous sin. It can become venial only through lack of reflection or consent.


 * Blasphemy is heretical when it contains a denial of faith, for example, a denial of God's existence, His mercy, providence, or justice.

 * > "And thou shalt speak to the children of Israel: The man that curseth his God, shall bear his sin: And he that blasphemeth the name of the Lord, dying let him die. All the multitude shall stone him, whether he be a native or a stranger. He that blasphemeth the name of the Lord, dying let him die" (Leviticus 24:15-16).

 * > " 'Amen I say to you, that all sins shall be forgiven to the sons of men, and the blasphemies wherewith they may blaspheme; but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit never has forgiveness, but will be guilty of an everlasting sin.' For they said, 'He has an unclean spirit' " (Mark 3:28-30).


 * Q. 234. What is the third commandment of God?
A. The third commandment of God is: Remember thou keep holy the Lord's Day.


 * The obligation to worship God is imposed on all men by the natural law. Man is obliged to adore and to thank God for His continuous blessings. Since the nature of man makes it impossible for him actually to express his adoration and his thanks continuously, reason dictates that certain times be specified for this purpose. God defined more exactly how man is to fulfill this obligation by His divine precept given in the Old Testament.

 * > "And on the seventh day God ended his work which he had made: and he rested on the seventh day from all his work which he had done. And he blessed the seventh day, and sanctified it: because in it he had rested from all his work which God created and made" (Genesis 2:2-3).

 * > "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" (Exodus 20:8-11).

 * > "Observe the day of the Sabbath, to sanctify it, as the Lord thy God hath commanded thee. Six days shalt thou labor, and shalt do all thy works. The seventh is the day of the sabbath, that is, the rest of the Lord thy God" (Deuteronomy 5:12-14).


 * Q. 235. Why does the Church command us to keep Sunday as the Lord's Day?
A. The Church commands us to keep Sunday as the Lord's Day, because on Sunday Christ rose from the dead, and on Sunday the Holy Ghost descended upon the apostles.


 * The early Church changed the day of worship from Saturday to Sunday on the authority given to it by Christ. The New Testament makes no explicit mention that the apostles changed the day of worship, but we know it from Tradition.


 * Q. 236. What are we commanded by the third commandment?
A. By the third commandment we are commanded to worship God in a special manner on Sunday, the Lord's Day.


 * > "Keep you my Sabbath: for it is holy unto you. He that shall profane it, shall be put to death: he that shall do any work in it, his soul shall perish out of the midst of his people. Six days shall you do work: in the seventh day is the Sabbath, the rest holy to the Lord" (Exodus 31:14-15).


 * Q. 237. How does the Church command us to worship God on Sunday?
A. The Church commands us to worship God on Sunday by assisting at the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.


 * Catholics who have reached the age of seven years and have sufficient use of reason are bound under pain of mortal sin to hear Mass on Sunday.

 * To satisfy the obligation to assist at Mass on Sunday a person must actually be present at the place where Mass is celebrated. If he cannot enter the church because it is overcrowded, he can still hear Mass provided he is part of the assembly assisting at the Holy Sacrifice. A person who is a notable distance from the worshipers certainly is not bodily present at Mass

 * A person should be present for the entire Mass, from the beginning to the last Gospel. It is a venial sin to miss even a slight part of a Mass of obligation deliberately and a mortal sin to miss a notable part. The obligation to assist at Mass is not fulfilled if the Consecration or the Communion is missed. The obligation can be fulfilled by hearing parts of two or more Masses in succession, provided one is present for both the Consecration and the Communion of the same Mass.

 * To fulfill the obligation to assist at Mass a person must have at least an implicit intention of hearing Mass and must advert, at least in a vague way, to the celebration of the Mass. It would be a mortal sin if he paid no attention at all to the principal parts of the Mass at which he assisted on Sunday. A person is obliged under pain of venial sin to avoid deliberate distractions during Mass and to take ordinary care to assist attentively and in a becoming manner.

 * The Mass offers us an opportunity to gain great spiritual benefits, and the more frequently and more devoutly we hear Mass, the more grace we can obtain. Ordinarily the best way to hear Mass is to unite with the priest and follow him in reciting the prayers of the Mass.

 * A grave inconvenience to oneself or to another excuses one from the obligation to hear Mass on Sundays and holydays.


 * Q. 238. What is forbidden by the third commandment of God?
A. By the third commandment of God all unnecessary servile work on Sunday is forbidden.


 * Q. 239. What is servile work?
A. Servile work is that which requires labor of body rather than of mind.


 * Farming, mechanical and industrial labor, and business transactions are forbidden even though one does them for pleasure and without any gain. Reading, writing, typewriting, studying, drawing, painting, embroidering, playing music, traveling, hunting, fishing, and the like are not servile works even though they may require considerable bodily exertion.

 * The obligation to avoid servile work on Sunday is grave, and therefore, its violation is a mortal sin if one works for a notable time.


 * Q. 240. When is servile work allowed on Sunday?
A. Servile work is allowed on Sunday when the honor of God, our own need, or that of our neighbor requires it.


 * It is permissible on Sunday to do work directly concerned with divine worship; to perform necessary household duties which cannot conveniently be anticipated or deferred; to take personal care of the sick; and to do work required for the common good or necessary for one's own livelihood.




 * Like the first commandment, the second and third commandments of God are concerned with man's duties toward his Creator. The second regards his duties in the matter of speech, the third in the matter of external worship.

 * It is indeed sad to realize that many persons use one of God's greatest gifts, the gift of speech, to insult God Himself. Nowadays, the use of the name of God and of the holy name of Jesus as an interjection to mark any form of feeling or emotion has become common. Even children, barely able to speak, are thus using God's name in vain-often because they have heard it from their parents. Cursing and even blasphemy are also frequent. In the courtroom perjury is something often committed with little or no qualm of conscience. Truly, the world today has forgotten the commandment: "Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain".

 * Catholics should set an example of reverence toward the holy name of God and of His Incarnate Son. To incite Catholic men toward such reverence and to wage warfare on all evil talk, the Holy Name Society has been organized for Catholic men, and branches are established in almost every parish. It is a commendable practice of Catholics to bow reverently whenever they use or hear the name of Jesus.

 * A vow is an act of religion most pleasing to God. It is a deliberate promise made to God whereby a person binds himself under pain of sin to do something that is especially pleasing to God. The most common vows in the Catholic Church are the public vows of poverty, chastity and obedience taken by members of religious orders and religious congregations. By the vow of poverty, a religious promises to live frugally and not to use money or other material goods except in accordance with the rules of his or her order and with proper permission; by the vow of chastity, he or she promises not to marry or in any way violate the sixth or the ninth commandment; by the vow of obedience he or she promises to obey the Pope and the lawful superiors of his or her order.

 * The third commandment, as God gave it to the Jewish people, designated the seventh day of the week, the Sabbath, as the special day of worship of the Most High. God Himself laid down detailed rules as to the manner in which the Jews were to observe this day. Under the Christian law the first day of the week, Sunday, is the day set aside for the special worship of

 * God. The Church does not impose the many restrictions that were prescribed for the Sabbath among the ancient Jews; but all Catholics are obliged to attend Mass and to abstain from servile work. It makes no difference whether the work is performed for wages or not. On the other hand, the Church does not forbid lawful amusement, such as athletics, nor work that is of a literary, artistic, or intellectual nature. Sometimes it is not easy to distinguish between prohibited work and lawful occupation. Thus, to paint a house is servile work, to paint a picture is liberal. In doubt, Catholics should consult their confessor before commencing the work.

 * Finally we should remember that while the Church obliges us to no other religious service on Sunday but Mass, it is advisable to devote more time to the worship of God, particularly by attendance at Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament. Sunday is also an appropriate day for reading some good Catholic literature, especially the diocesan Catholic paper, and for tuning in on Catholic radio programs.

 * RESOLUTION: Resolve to bow reverently every time you hear or pronounce the Holy Name of Jesus; and if you hear this Holy Name taken irreverently, say in your heart: "Blessed be the name of Jesus".

 * Complete Exercises For Lesson 18





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


 * To call on God to bear witness to a lie is a venial sin, if it is only a slight lie.

 * A person may not swear obedience to a civil constitution which forbids the teaching of Christ's religion.

 * A person can make a vow to the Blessed Virgin.

 * It is usually a mortal sin to take God's name in vain.

 * Cursing is usually a venial sin when it is directed against animals.

 * The change of the Sabbath day to Sunday was explicitly commanded by Christ.

 * A child who has reached the age of reason but is not yet seven years old is strictly not obliged to attend Mass on Sunday.

 * Typewriting is a servile work.

 * A person can fulfill his obligation of Sunday Mass if he sees the Mass by television from a distance.

 * It is a mortal sin if a person deliberately pays no attention to the consecration in a Mass of obligation.



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


 * When our gift of speech treats of things divine, what commandment governs its use?

 * Which of the commandments regulates our external worship?

 * Which vows are most commonly made by Catholics? Explain them.

 * Hugo is a member of the parish Holy Name Society. He tries to induce Julian to become a member. Julian in the meantime asks you what the real purpose of the Holy Name Society is. Tell him.

 * Julian has been, for many years, an extremely profane fellow. He wants to know if the Holy Name Society will be satisfied if he reveres the Holy Name, or must he also give up his profanity. Answer him.

 * What practice is recommended to you when you use the Holy Name, or hear others use It?

 * In certain Catholic countries many boys receive in Baptism the name of Jesus. Does this lesson suggest to you a reason why it is not customary in the United States to confer this Holy Name in Baptism?

 * Urban, a boy with a fiery disposition, frequently takes the Holy Name irreverently. What resolution would you suggest he take, and what penance should he impose on himself every time he slips?

 * Father Elias, giving a children's mission, suggests to them that if they offend God by irreverent and profane speech they should make the sign of the cross over their lips, and say an ejaculation. Would you agree that this is a good practice? Why?

 * On Sunday morning after Mass, Cornelius was prevented from overhauling his motor boat by the reminder of his mother that he should not do servile work on Sunday. That afternoon he pitched a fifteen-inning ballgame. At supper, he tells his mother that he is more tired out than he would have been had he worked the whole day on his motorboat. Why was he allowed to play baseball, and forbidden to work on his motorboat?

 * Letitia, a schoolgirl, spends over an hour every Sunday reading the newspaper and the funnies. The diocesan paper comes to her home every week, but she seldom glances at it. Her sister, Antoinette, spends almost as much time on the Sunday papers, but she also reads regularly the youth section of the "Sunday Visitor" and the "Sacred Heart Messenger." In a paragraph of four or five short sentences tell us why you consider Antoinette's practice more commendable.


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