Q. Who made you? A. God made me.
Q. Why did God make you? A. God made me to know him, love him and serve him in this world and to be happy with him forever in the next.
Many readers will immediately recognize the first two questions of the venerable Baltimore Catechism. Although there were various editions of the Catechism, these are the first two questions as I remember them.
For several generations of American Catholics, the Baltimore Catechism served as the foundation of our faith. In each grade of elementary school we learned it, memorized it and repeated it back. As I travel around the diocese and sometimes use the Catechism as an opener to my homily, it’s fascinating to see how many older Catholics still remember the questions and answers, and always with a certain fondness.
In recent times, some commentators have disparaged the Catechism, arguing that there’s much more to our faith than the rote memorization of stock questions and answers. And of course that’s true. Our faith doesn’t end with knowing or memorizing things, but it does begin there. In any skill or art, you’ve got to learn the basics before you progress. A surgeon has to learn the anatomy of the body before he starts cutting people open. A musician has to learn to play the scales before she performs a violin concerto. And Catholics have to learn the essentials of the faith before they can live the faith with any conviction.
I wonder how many younger Catholics are learning the very basics of our Catholic Faith today. Do they know the prayers, the sacraments and the commandments? Do they know the Jesus story? Are they learning about our Blessed Mother and the saints? Do they understand the origins and mission of the Church? And, do they even know who created them and why?
Learning our faith is important, for if we haven’t learned about God, we can’t really know him, love him or serve him. Or as St. Paul says: “How can they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how can they believe in him of whom they have not heard?” (Rom 10: 14)
To be sure, the Baltimore Catechism wasn’t a complete picture of our faith. But it certainly provided an excellent beginning, at least in my book.
Something to think about: Who made you? Why did God make you?