Baltimore Catechism 3

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Why I Am a Catholic


 * Q. 500. How does our reason point out the truth of the Catholic religion?
A. Our reason points out the truth of the Catholic religion by these principles: first, there is a God; second, the soul of man is immortal; third, all men are obliged to practice religion; fourth, the religion God has revealed through Christ is worthy of belief; fifth, Christ established a Church which all are obliged to join; sixth, the only true Church of Christ is the Catholic Church.


 * Q. 501. How can we prove that there is a God?
A. We can prove that there is a God because this vast universe could not have come into existence, nor be so beautiful and orderly, except by the almighty power and the wisdom of an eternal and intelligent Being.


 * Q. 502. How can we prove that the soul of man is immortal?
A. We can prove that the soul of man is immortal because man's acts of intelligence are spiritual; therefore, his soul must be a spiritual being, not dependent on matter, and hence not subject to decay or death.


 * Q. 503. How can we prove that all men are obliged to practice religion?
A. We can prove that all men are obliged to practice religion because all men are entirely dependent on God and must recognize that dependence by honoring Him and praying to Him.


 * Q. 504. How can we prove that the religion God has revealed through Christ is worthy of belief?
A. We can prove that the religion God has revealed through Christ is worthy of belief, because: first, Jesus Christ, announcing Himself as the ambassador and the true Son of God, Whose coming was foretold by the prophets, preached doctrines which He said all must believe; second, Christ worked wonderful miracles, which show that the God of truth approved His teachings.


 * Q. 505. How can we prove that Christ established a Church which all are obliged to join?
A. We can prove that Christ established a Church which all are obliged to join, because: first, He gathered about Him a group of disciples, and called it His Church; second, He promised that this Church would last until the end of time; third, He declared that all men must believe and be baptized, that is, join His Church, in order to be saved.


 * Q. 506. How can we prove that the only true Church of Christ is the Catholic Church?
A. We can prove that the only true Church of Christ is the Catholic Church, because: first, only the Catholic Church possesses the marks of the Church established by Christ, that is, unity, holiness, catholicity, and apostolicity; second, the history of the Catholic Church gives evidence of miraculous strength, permanence, and unchangeableness, thus showing the world that it is under the special protection of God.


 * Q. 507. Whence do we chiefly derive our historical knowledge of Jesus Christ, His life and teachings, and of the Church He established?
A. We derive our historical knowledge of Jesus Christ, His life and teachings, and of the Church He established chiefly from the books of the Bible, which can be proved to be reliable historical records.


 * Q. 508. What else are the books of the Bible besides being reliable historical records?
A. Besides being reliable historical records, the books of the Bible are the inspired word of God that is, written by men with such direct assistance of the Holy Ghost as to make God their true Author.


 * Q. 509. How is the Bible divided?
A. The Bible is divided into the Old Testament and the New Testament; the Old Testament being the inspired books written before the time of Jesus Christ, and the New Testament the inspired books written after His coming.


 * Q. 510. Are all the truths revealed for us by God found in the Bible?
A. Not all the truths revealed for us by God are found in the Bible; some are found only in Divine Tradition.


 * Q. 511. What is meant by Divine Tradition?
A. By Divine Tradition is meant the revealed truths taught by Christ and His apostles, which were given to the Church only by word of mouth and not through the Bible, though they were put in writing principally by the Fathers of the Church.


 * Q. 512. Why must Divine Tradition be believed as firmly as the Bible?
A. Divine Tradition must be believed as firmly as the Bible because it also contains the word of God.


 * Q. 513. How can we know the true meaning of the doctrines contained in the Bible and in Divine Tradition?
A. We can know the true meaning of the doctrines contained in the Bible and in Divine Tradition from the Catholic Church, which has been authorized by Jesus Christ to explain His doctrines, and which is preserved from error in its teachings by the special assistance of the Holy Ghost.


 * Q. 514. How can we best show our gratitude to God for making us members of the only true Church of Jesus Christ?
A. We can best show our gratitude to God for making us members of the only true Church of Jesus Christ by often thanking God for this great favor, by leading edifying and practical Catholic lives, by trying to lead others to the true faith, and by helping the missions.


 * Q. 515. How can we help the missions?
A. We can help the missions: first, by praying for the missions, home and foreign, and for missionaries that they may fulfill the command of Christ: "Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations"; second, by knowing the missions and making them known to others; third, by making sacrifices for the missions, that is, by helping to support them and by personal service; fourth, by fostering vocations of self-sacrificing young men and women for every need of the missions.




 * Many non-Catholics believe that Catholic faith is a blind acceptance of the Church's teachings without any attempt to use the powers of reason and logic. On the contrary, unless a person uses his own intelligence to come to the conviction that the truths of the Catholic religion have been revealed by God, he can never make a true act of faith. Even a child, before he can make an act of faith, must have some realization that it is reasonable to do so, at least from the testimony of his parents. And if an intelligent person examines the claims of the Church honestly and thoroughly, he will eventually conclude that the Catholic religion is the one true religion of God, and that all are obliged to believe it. Then, if he sincerely prays to God for light and strength to do what is right, he will surely be led to make a firm act of faith in the truths taught by the Catholic Church.

 * Bearing this in mind, the question naturally arises: Why are there so many persons outside the Catholic Church? There are many reasons for this. Many of those persons have never had the opportunity of studying the Catholic religion; many are so absorbed in the interests of the present life that they have no care for the welfare of their immortal soul; many have prejudices and false ideas concerning the Catholic Church. It must be admitted that sometimes Catholics themselves are to blame, by their wicked lives, which lead people to the erroneous conclusion that the Catholic religion cannot be true. For it is quite usual to judge the merits of a religion by the conduct of some of those who profess it.

 * Often the statement is made that Catholics are intolerant. This is partially true and partially false. Catholics are not intolerant toward persons belonging to other religions; for the Catholic religion commands that we be charitable toward all men and regard those who differ from us in religious matters as being sincere in their belief. But Catholics are intolerant toward doctrines opposed to the teachings of the Catholic Church in the sense that they logically regard such doctrines as false since they are contrary to the teachings of the true Church which is protected from error by the Holy Ghost.

 * The Catholic Church has been authorized by Christ to teach the truths of divine revelation, found in the Bible and in divine Tradition. The Bible contains 72 books-45 in the Old Testament and 27 in the New Testament. Most of the books of the Old Testament were originally written in Hebrew and most of the books of the New Testament in Greek. The Church can teach and explain authoritatively and infallibly not only the doctrines that are contained in the Bible and in divine Tradition, but also doctrines which have not been revealed but are connected with divine revelation; and Catholics are bound in conscience to accept these teachings of the Church.

 * There is need of Catholics who understand their religion and perceive how reasonable it is to accept its teachings, and who will bring to their non-Catholic friends, when the opportunity is offered, the arguments for their faith. Often a Catholic lay person can be the means of leading a soul to the knowledge of the truth. But only Catholics who know their religion thoroughly can hope to perform such a deed of charity, for objections and difficulties in great numbers are brought up, and if a non-Catholic sees that the Catholic cannot give a satisfactory answer, he will wrongly conclude that the Catholic religion offers a very unsatisfactory solution of the problems of the modern world. Of course, the Catholic himself must lead a good, honest life, if he wishes to persuade his non-Catholic acquaintances that his religion is the only true one.

 * Catholics themselves should show their appreciation of the great gift of the one true faith by studying it constantly and by daily endeavoring to put it more perfectly into practice in their lives. It is indeed a great privilege to be a Catholic. That privilege is possessed by only one out of every six persons in this world. Truly, a sense of gratitude should impel us all to live up to the duties of our Catholic faith so exactly that each day we shall draw nearer to God and increase our merit in the glorious kingdom of Christ, when we shall pass from the Church militant to the Church triumphant.



 * Resolve every day to thank God for the gift of the Catholic faith.


 * Complete Exercises For Lesson 39





 * (Check each of the statements given below as either true or false. The correct answers will be found in the preceding portions of the lesson.)


 * All the truths of revelation are found in the Bible.

 * Christ promised that His Church would last until the end of time.

 * The immortality of the soul follows from the fact that it is a spiritual substance.

 * The account of the life of Christ is found in the Apocalypse.

 * The books of the Bible have God as their true author.

 * Divine Tradition has as much value as the Bible.

 * If we read the Bible attentively and prayerfully we are sure to discover its true meaning.

 * Catholics are intolerant toward false doctrines.

 * Catholics are intolerant toward those who profess false doctrines.

 * The Church has the authority to teach infallibly doctrines not contained in divine revelation but connected with it.



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


 * Conon, a devout Catholic young man, is accustomed after meals to say this short prayer: "We return Thee thanks, 0 Almighty God, for Thy benefits, who livest and reignest, world without end. Amen." Is thankfulness for the gift of faith included in this prayer? Why?

 * Emiliana, a child in the third grade, has been taught by her pious mother to share her pennies with the Child Jesus. She does this by putting five of them in her penny back each week during the school year. During the Ember seasons, Emiliana, and her classmates, give the pennies to Sister Rosalia, in charge of the Holy Childhood Association. Is little Emiliana helping the Missions? How?

 * From early youth, Macarius, a non-Catholic, was taught to look down upon Catholics in general, and to despise priests and religious, in particular. If he sees a priest, or a brother, or a sister, approaching him on the same side of the street, he will cross over to the other side to avoid them. Is Macarius tolerant of Catholics? Comment charitably on the case in from 30 to 50 words. Presume that God is going to use you as the instrument of Macarius' conversion.

 * A Jewish widow, Basilissa, owns a delicatessen store. Every now and then, Christian boys and girls of the neighborhood, torment her, ridiculing her Jewish religious practices, and committing petty thefts of her wares. Can these children be called intolerant? Within 75 words, what would you say to them, if they would listen to you?

 * In a rain shelter on the golf course, three golfers while away the time discussing the doctrinal intolerance of the Catholic Church. Gerson, a Protestant, is a professor of mathematics in a Baptist College. Laban, a Jew, teaches chemistry in the local high school. Mel, a Catholic, is a structural engineer. Claver, Mel's colored caddy, is an honor pupil in the High School of St. Protus. He is shocked to hear Mel agree with his golfing companions that it doesn't make much difference what a person believes so long as he lives rightly. About to resume the game, Mel asks Claver for his point of view. He is humbly edified and corrected by Claver's answer, which is aptly illustrated by examples from mathematics, chemistry, and engineering. What is doctrinal intolerance? Try to duplicate Claver's achievement in three short letters to Gerson, Laban, and Mel. Confine your letters to about 250 words each.

 * Lambert, a friend of yours, has no formal religion; but he holds fast to two reasonable principles, namely, that there is a God, and that his own soul will live on forever. Drop him a short note, adding four more principles that will indicate to him as a reasonable friend, the truth of your own Catholic religion.

 * In the Islands, Sister Seraphia is teaching the little natives the truth that there is a God. These youngsters are not as familiar as you are with modern inventions; but they are perhaps more familiar with the powers and the grandeur of nature. Write a brief letter to the missionary nun, telling her how you would go about proving God's existence to these simple native children. Confine your letter to 200 words.

 * Alicia asked the religion teacher whether human beings would be bound to practice religion if God had not made any revelation. What answer do you think should be given? In that supposition, would men be bound to believe in God's existence, the immortality of the human soul, the Holy Trinity, the eternal happiness of heaven?

 * Days of Fast and Abstinence

 * Beginning with Lent, 1952 many of the bishops of the United States, using the provisions of Canon Law as modified through the special faculties granted by the Holy See, published the following regulations on fast and abstinence:

 * ABSTINENCE: All persons over seven years of age must abstain. This means that they may not take meat or meat gravy or meat soup at all on days of complete abstinence, which are all Fridays, Ash Wednesday, and the vigils of the Assumption and of Christmas. They may take meat, but only at the principal meal, on days of partial abstinence, which are Ember Wednesdays and Saturdays, and the vigils of Pentecost and of All Saints' Day. On Holy Saturday meat may not be taken until noon, when both abstinence and fast cease.

 * FASTS: All persons over twenty-one and under fifty-nine years of age must fast. This means that on a fast day they may have only one principal, or full, meal and two smaller meals. They may eat meat at this principal meal, except on days of complete abstinence. At the two smaller meals they may not have meat, but they may take sufficient food to maintain their strength. However, these two smaller meals together should be less than a full meal. Eating between meals is not permitted, but liquids, including milk and fruit juices, may be taken at any time on a fast day. The days of fast are the weekdays of Lent up to Holy Saturday noon, the Ember Days, and the vigils of Pentecost, the Assumption, All Saints and Christmas.

 * Those not bound to fast may eat meat as often as they wish, except on days of complete abstinence (when it may not be eaten at all), and on days of partial abstinence (when it may be eaten only at the principal meal). When a person's health or ability to work would be seriously affected by fasting or abstaining, the law does not oblige. Where doubt arises concerning fast or abstinence, a parish priest or confessor should be consulted.

 * In granting these concessions the bishops urged the faithful: to attend daily Mass during the period of fast and abstinence; to receive Holy Communion often; to take part more frequently in exercises of piety; to give generously to works of religion and charity; to perform acts of kindness toward the sick, the aged and the poor; to practice voluntary self-denial; to pray more fervently, particularly for the intentions of the Holy Father.

 * 1 (Since these regulations were issued, Holy Saturday has been made a day of fast and complete abstinence up to midnight by the general law of the Church. However, some Bishops dispense from the abstinence, either wholly or partially, or from the fast, or from both. The fast and abstinence for the vigil of the Assumption (August 14) have been transferred to the vigil of the Immaculate Conception (December 7). In regard to the observation of fast and abstinence on the day before All Saints, Catholics should follow the instructions of their respective Bishops.)


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