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Everything I ever needed to know about my Faith.

Two years ago, my 90-year-old grandmother surrendered her soul to God. Her death was hardly unexpected and, on the contrary, she anticipated joyfully that ultimate encounter with her Saviour. My grandmother was a well-educated, elegant lady who knew much of the New Testament by heart. Passionately Catholic, she enjoyed discussing Church politics and subscribed to numerous Catholic periodicals. She was an avid reader whose literary treasures included The Confessions of St. Augustine, True Devotion to Mary, and the Sermons of St. Alphonsus Liguori. Yet, in the final months of her life, a little blue and white book, the St. Joseph First Communion Baltimore Catechism, was her only literary companion. She told me that she wanted to meet Jesus with the simple and childlike faith of a first communicant. Everything she needed to know, she said, was summarized in that little blue and white book.

My grandmother's final days awakened long-suppressed memories of my own childhood in the catechetically challenged 1970s. Recognizing the grave deficiencies in the parish religious education programs, my mother, and other concerned mothers, conducted clandestine catechism classes using none other than the St. Joseph First Communion Baltimore Catechism. Even then, I sensed that we children would survive the confusion and liturgical abuses, if the doctrine of the faith was planted in our hearts. It was no coincidence that my siblings and friends identified powerfully with the Catholics of Elizabethan England.

Three decades later, as a physician and woman in the fullness of life, I recall little of the hours spent in my politically correct "Catholic" school, but the mysteries presented by the little blue and white catechism still fill me with awe. The glories of creation, the sanctity of human life, the tragedy of original sin, and the need for a Redeemer in a broken world were concepts instilled by the time I was seven. How easy it really was to make a good Confession, and how I knew that the Sacrament of Reconciliation was not merely an optional chat with Father, nor a counseling session, but a miraculous encounter with Divine Mercy. As a girl, I believed beyond doubt that the Living Jesus really was in that little white piece of bread. Today, I still believe as I did when I was hat child. If I acknowledge Jesus under the appearance of Bread on Sunday, I will be more likely to recognize Him on Monday in the sick, suffering, emotionally distraught, and dying of my medical practice.

With great joy, I now witness my sisters and friends preparing their little ones for the reception of the Holy Eucharist. In an increasingly secularized society, they lope to convey the sense of the sacred to the next generation of Catholic children. Fortunately, there are now contemporary, orthodox catechetical series, but in the opinion )f we who survived the devastation of liberalism, no book ;an surpass the blue and white St. Joseph First Communion Baltimore Catechism.

Occasionally, a so-called "expert" speaks disparagingly of the Baltimore Catechism, commenting that it is too simplistic for the modern world. It is a pity these experts did not have the opportunity to meet my grandmother, a woman who not only raised eleven Catholic children but intuitively knew that regardless of worldly stature and sophistication, we must encounter the Lord Jesus with the profound simplicity of a child.

"Amen, I say to you, unless you become like little children you will not enter the kingdom of heaven" Matthew 18:3).

Yes, everything I needed to know about my faith I earned in the St. Joseph First Communion Baltimore Catechism.
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Author:Mackalski, Barbara
Publication:Catholic Insight
Date:Oct 1, 2003
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