I was among the last generations to be formed by catechetical material rooted in the “Baltimore Catechism.”

In 1829, the early American bishops decreed: “A catechism shall be written which is better adapted to the circumstances of this Province; it shall give the Christian Doctrine as explained in Cardinal Bellarmine‘s Catechism (1597).”

 Today, I find myself asking what kind of catechetical approach Jesus used. I have no indication he used any such catechism.

In this Vincentian Mindwalk, I explore the various catechisms used over millennia.

Catechisms before the internet and the printing press

Cathedrals as catechisms

Years ago, I visited the famed Chartres Cathedral in France. Looking up in awe, I realized that each of the amazing 200 windows served as the most magnificent example of the catechism available at the time.

I listened to a historian “read the stories” of selected windows. I realized I was “experiencing” the catechism in use for almost 1,000 years. Church windows served as the main catechism .

A picture is worth a thousand words took on new meaning!

At the same time, I realized that Jesus did not have access to the majesty of such great cathedrals.

Before Jesus

Long before Jesus, the Book of Wisdom put it starkly…

How dull are all people who, from the things-that-are, have not been able to discover God-Who-Is, or by studying the good works have failed to recognize the Artist… Through the grandeur and beauty of the creatures we may, by analogy, contemplate their Author. (Wisdom 13:1, 5)

Jesus himself commonly points to things like the red sky, lilies, a fig tree, a donkey caught in a pit, the birds of the air, the grass in the field, etc. He read “the signs of the times” in a seemingly “nonreligious” world.


Ordinary things all around him spoke volumes. It is no accident that most of Jesus’ stories and metaphors are based on human and natural observations, not classroom theology.


No wonder St. Paul saw nature itself is the primary Bible. He writes,

 “What can be known about God is perfectly plain, for God has made it plain. Ever since God created the world, God’s everlasting power and deity is there for the mind to see in all the things that God has created.” Romans 1:20

September Season of Creation

Ahead of the ecumenical celebrations of the World Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation Sept. 1 and the monthlong “Season of Creation,” Pope Francis said he is writing a follow-up document to his 2015 encyclical on the care of creation.

“I am writing a second part to Laudato Si’ to update it on current problems.”

Laudato Si, in many ways, represents Pope Francis’s attempt at providing a basic catechism for us to learn more about ourselves and the common home God has given us.

He reportedly feels so many things have changed in the near decade since then that there is a need to update it. Alongside the issues already covered, there will be others, new ones.

Each September, leaders of the world’s 2.4 billion Christians call for all to unite in prayer and action for our common home.

Once again, they invite us to Listen to the Voice of Creation.” God’s creation moans ever louder and suffers more every day amidst the ongoing climate emergency and biodiversity crisis.


  • Do I hear creation speaking of the wonders of God as Jesus did?
  • Can I also hear the cries of creation today?
  • Have I asked the Vincentian question, “What can I… must I… do to care for the home God has given us?