It must be evident to all who have had experience in the work of our Sunday schools that much time is wasted in the classes. Many teachers do little more than mark the attendance and hear the lessons; this being done, time hangs heavily on their hands till the school is dismissed. They do not or cannot explain what they are teaching, and the children have no interest in the study.
The Explanation of the Baltimore Catechism is intended for their use. The explanations are full and simple. The examples are taken from Holy Scripture, from the parables of Our Lord, from incidents in His life, and from the customs and manners of the people of His time. These are made applicable to our daily lives in reflections and exhortations.
The plan of the book makes it very simple and handy. The Catechism is complete and distinct in itself, and may be used with or without the explanations. The teacher is supposed, after hearing the lesson, to read the explanation of the new lesson as far as time will allow. It may be read just as it is, or may be learned by the teacher and given to the children in substance.
The Explanation of the Baltimore Catechism will be found very useful also for the instruction of adults and converts. The priest on the mission is often called upon to instruct persons who can come to him but seldom, and only for a short time; and who, moreover, are incapable of using with profit such books as The Faith of Our Fathers, Catholic Belief, or works of controversy. They are simply able to use the Child's Catechism when explained to them. If the Explanation of the Baltimore Catechism is in their hands, they may read the explanations and study the Catechism with pleasure.
Indeed the book should do good in any Catholic family. The majority of our people are children as far as their religious knowledge goes. They may, it is true, have books on particular subjects, such as the Duties of Parents to Their Children, The Sure Way to a Happy Marriage, etc.; but a book that explains to them in the simplest manner all the truths of their religion, and applies the same to their daily lives, ought to be useful.
The chief aim of the book is to be practical, and to teach Catholics what they should know, and how these truths of their Catechism are constantly coming up in the performance of their everyday duties. It is therefore neither a book of devotion nor of controversy, though it covers the ground of both. As in this book the explanations are interrupted by the questions and answers of the Catechism proper, it will, it is hoped, be read with more pleasure than a book giving solid page after page of instructions.
Wherever a fact is mentioned as being taken from Holy Scripture, it will generally be given in substance and not in the exact text; though the reference will always be given, so that those wishing may read it as it is in the Holy Scripture. The children are not supposed to memorize the explanation as they do the Catechism itself, yet the teacher, having once read it to them, should ask questions on it. The book may be used as a textbook or catechism for the more advanced classes, and the complete list of numbered questions on the explanations—given at the end—will render it very serviceable for that purpose.
As the same subject often occurs in different parts of the Catechism, explanations already given may sometimes be repeated. This is done either to show the connection between the different parts of the Catechism, or to impress the explanation more deeply on the minds of the children, or to save the teacher the trouble of always turning back to preceding explanations. The numbering of the questions and answers throughout the Catechism, and the complete index of subjects and list of questions at the end, will, it is hoped, make these comparisons and references easy, and the book itself useful.
With the hope, then, that the Explanation of the Baltimore Catechism may do all the good intended, I commend it to all who desire a fuller knowledge of their holy religion that they may practice it more faithfully.
Rev. Thomas L. Kinkead
June 21, 1891,
Feast of St. Aloysius