ROWING UP, my parents spoke with a great deal of nostalgia about the Baltimore Catechism. Around the dinner table, they would often quote to me some of the questions and answers they still remembered decades after first memorizing them. As a result, without ever holding a copy of the famed tome in my hands, I came to memorize a good number of the questions and answers myself.
As it happens, when I went to the seminary, I actually came across reprints of the Baltimore Catechism, so now I have laid hands on the volumes my parents so loved. Without a doubt, the Baltimore Catechism comes from a certain time. In saying that, I do not mean to imply that its volumes have become outdated or are no longer useful. Quite the contrary, in fact. Some of the best features of the series are the little graphics, which accompany and elucidate the subject matter. I have actually found several of those illustrations useful in teaching little lessons to students today.
At the same time, however, revolutions in mass media have created new opportunities for how one might catechize & evangelize. Fr. Richard Barron has taken heed, and his “Word on Fire Ministries” produced in late 2011 a landmark, DVD catechism entitled Catholicism. Many readers have probably seen at least some of that ten-part series. I have watched the whole thing and found it mesmerizing. I mention it here because it is the type of thing that would interest folks who are interested in the work of sacred music and the Corpus Christi Watershed.
One of the ways Catholicism is remarkable is that it has universal appeal. It could be understood by the neophyte and used as a tool for basic instruction, yet at the same time it is profound enough to deepen the faith of the cradle Catholic. In addition to the quality catechesis, it employs sacred music, art, & architecture in a masterful way. Throughout the series, Fr. Barron appears on nearly every continent and in many notable edifices of our faith; he uses some of the world’s great paintings and fine literature to explain church doctrine; much of the music used in the background is very sacred and apt for the topic being discussed. These things all conspire together to form an integral work that is attractive—even compelling—and fit for communicating the faith to believers & seekers living in modernity. After watching all ten episodes, it is clear to me that Fr. Barron is not only well educated in philosophy and theology, but also a man who can appreciate the arts in all their splendor. He very adeptly uses the arts to demonstrate the beauty of God and of His ways.
My parish purchased a copy of the Catholicism series and used them for adult faith formation sessions during Advent and Lent last year. Now the DVD’s are available in our parish library. If you have not yet seen this monumental work, I could not recommend doing so highly enough. It will inspire you to know, love, and serve God with renewed fervor!