Review of Catholic Religion Series
I pray that the Holy Ghost guides you as you read this information and that my poor method and inadequate ability in this task is not detrimental to your choice for your children. Both of these series were written to help children to know, love and serve God. The time period they were written in may effect the method, organization, and presentation of the material. With that said:
I am NOT an expert but we have, have used, and sell both programs. When we first started home schooling with our oldest in Kindergarten the only series that was available was the Living My Religion series. We used the primer in Kindergarten. I made flash cards and the children learned the words before they came to the words so that they could read the book. There were short stories to read to them from the Teacher's Manual but they could read over and over the text in their Primer. We then used Book 1 for First Grade and on through. The Baltimore Catechism questions and answers are highlighted in the text so along with the project book the children write these questions on 3"x5" cards as they come to them and we review these on Fridays.
A few points to highlight about the Living My Religion Series:
The text and subject matter are geared toward the age of the students and they have understood the material very well.
It is suggested many times for the teacher to stick with the text and the Teacher's Manual for further commentary and as long as we do this we have had no problem going off into conversations that can lead to heresy. I am not a theologian and in fact have learned so much as I prepare to teach our children that I know without the help of these materials it is very easy to stray off in conversation. Many of the other religion texts that we have tried do not follow the questions and answers of the Baltimore Catechism and even ask the child to define religious doctrine on their own without these aids. Since the line between heresy is so fine (the Arian heresy was based on the insertion/deletion of the letter "i"!) we must be watchful as we teach our children.
The two series are organized a little differently. Following is a table with some examples from each series. I have included the Table of Contents for grades 1 and 6 for your information. The topics that are covered in the series differ in content and in timing. The fourth grade Our Holy Faith book includes a section on the Liturgical Year which is not found in the Living My Religion Series. This is why we started to use both series but I soon found that using the Pictorial Lives of the Saints and The Liturgical Year solved this for us.
The tone of the series are different as you can tell from the information taken directly from the opening pages of the Teacher's Manuals below. It may just be the difference in the years that the books were published. The gentle trust in God that permeates the Living My Religion series has been very beneficial to our family. (For an example - see the first part of the table below)
Finally, may God guide you as you review this information and make this important decision for your family.
Our Holy Faith by Sister Mary Alphonsine, S.S.J., MA and Sister Mary Marcella, S.S.J., MA Imprimatur 1964 reprinted by Neumann Press 1998
From the General Introduction for the Series:
The Series, Our Holy Faith, is intended to provide a complete, integrated, and basic course in religion for the eight grades of the elementary school.
The Purpose of teaching religion in the elementary school is to see to it that the pupil has a clear and adequate knowledge of his holy Faith, so as to guide and influence his will to use grace in forming the image of Christ in himself. While primarily addressed to the intellect, it does not neglect the will or the child's attitudes and emotions. The first purpose of this religion Series, therefore, is clear and adequate knowledge of the Catholic religion.
The psychological basis for this is to be found in St. Augustine's little gem, "On Catechizing the Unlettered". St. Augustine tells us that in teaching religion we must lead the pupil from faith, to hope, to charity. The first step, therefore, is knowledge of our religion based on supernatural faith. The child is taught and accepts what Christ's Church, through her representative, proposes to be believed.
Living My Religion by Very Rev. Msgr. William R. Kelly, LL.D., Rev. Edmund J. Goebel, Ph.D., Sister Mary Imelda, S.L., MA, Rev. Daniel M. Dougherty, M.A. in association with Right Rev. Msgr. M.A. Schumacher, M.A., Litt.D. author of "I Teach Catechism", Imprimatur 1948 reprinted by Christian Book Club of America 1992
From the Outstanding Features:
- The text is presented in story form which prepares the pupil for the questions of the Catechism (many times a priest is talking to the children throughout the text).
- The Primer, Books 1 to 5 contain verbatim the text of the Confraternity Revised Baltimore Catechism No. 1. Books 6, 7, and 8 contain verbatim the text of the Confraternity Revised Baltimore Catechism No. 2.
- Each of the 9 books is adapted to the mental capacity of the pupil of the particular grade and is divided into Units.
- The course is so arranged that the pupil studies the same doctrine 3 times.
- The motivation of the course is to help each child live his religion, by correlating the text to Bible History, Church History, and the Liturgy.
- Diagnostic Tests following each Unit allow for gauging the pupil's progress.
The Teacher's Manual provides:
- A theme for the course
- The aim for each grade
- A Detailed Method for each lesson, including:
- Word Study
- Picture and Statue Study
- Emphasis on Salient Points
- Drills for Memorizing
- Project Book activities
- Key to tests of textbook
- A Five-Point Program, consisting of Study, Prayer: Oral and Mental, Devotions, the Mass, the Sacraments of Penance and Holy Eucharist provide a goal for the pupil's striving.
A Few thoughts from the Teacher's Manual:
"The truths revealed by God are vital to the life of God's children...Revealed truth is soul-food; heresy is soul-poison...Each teacher of Christian doctrine should be given a thorough course in Catechetics...In many cases, these courses are not possible at present; therefore, she should be familiar with one or two good books as a minimum of background:
Schumacher, I Teach Catechism
Spirago-Clarke, The Catechism Explained
Knecht, A Practical Commentary on Holy Scripture
All explanations of doctrine and all Bible stories which appear in the Living My Religion textbooks have been checked by competent ecclesiastical critics. The teacher who presents each lesson as it stands in the pupils' text has no need to fear error."
Living My Religion Series
Our Holy Faith Series
From the “Remote Preparation of the teacher”:
“We cannot give that which we do not possess.” If we would lead little children to know, love, and serve God, we must strive ever more and more earnestly to “live in the faith of the Son of God” who loved us and gave Himself up for us.
We can help ourselves climb to this lofty ideal by considering a few simple truths such as these:
God’s providence rules all things. It is then, His most holy will that I should guide these very children who are here and now confided to my care. God knows their needs; He knows mine, also. God knows what graces to bestow on them and on me. He will bestow them in abundance. God never fails.
Each one of these children is guarded by an angel; one of those wise, glorious, and mighty beings who fought under the standard of Saint Michael long ago. God has sent that angel to guide, not only the child, but also his teacher. God has sent a prince from heaven to help the child and to help me. I do not stand alone in the battle to win souls for God; all the hosts of the Lord are with me.
…I teach these holy truths of our faith under the very eye of Jesus Christ…I teach His truths. I try to lead to Him the children He died to save. He is at hand to bless my poor efforts and my stumbling tongue. Jesus never fails those who put their trust in Him.
From the Teacher’s Manual grade 6:
“The formation of the perfect Christian, whose life is patterned on the life of Christ, is our final goal. This cannot be achieved by teaching or by the school. It is a supernatural task, requiring supernatural means. These means are in the possession of the Church. All the teacher can do is instruct and influence the pupil to fulfill his destiny as a member of Christ’s Mystical Body, to see his role in the sacrifice it offers to the heavenly Father, to utilize the channels of grace it offers him. Solid, accurate, and full instruction by the teacher means much, but it does not guarantee the co-operation of the student. He still has his free will. The teacher can instruct, give good example, and pray – in doing these she does much. The home, too, can do much. But the grace of God, the Church and her means of grace, and the free will of the individual are all important. We must do our utmost to enlighten the intellect and train the will of our charges – then leave the rest to God.”
At the end of the chapter
At the end of the chapter
In the chapter and at the end of the book
At the end of chapters
One book includes the Syllabus by month and the Teacher’s Manual for each grade of the series
Softcover 8 ½ x 11 manual for each grade
The first few grade are quite large with a lot of reading to accompany the textbook the later grades are much more scaled back with the information in the text instead.
- God – Who God is, What a spirit is
- Perfections of God
- The Holy Trinity
- God the Creator
- Visible World
- Man – Our First Parents, Adam’s Sin
- Jesus Christ – God’s Promise, Annunciation, Birth of Christ
- Prayer – What Prayer is – Why we pray, how we must pray
- Commandments of God
- Jesus Christ – The Redemption
- What Christ Suffered – The Resurrection, The Holy Women, Mission of Apostles; Peter, The Ascension
- Grace – Our Lady of Grace – What grace is, The Church
- The Sacraments – The Holy Eucharist, Holy Communion, Penance
- The Virtues – Faith, Hope and Love
- The Church – God’s House
- God Our Heavenly Father
- The Lord’s Prayer
- God’s Goodness in Sending His Son to Us
- The Childhood of Jesus
- The Public Life of Our Lord
- The Greatest Proof of Jesus’ Love – The Passion and Death
- The Resurrection and Ascension
- God the Father and God the Son Show Their Love by Sending God the Holy Spirit
- Mary, Our Heavenly Mother
- Catechism Questions
- Our Goal: Eternal Happiness - Jesus shows us the way, Our Lord’s Public Life, Passion & Death
- The Church, Christ’s Living Voice – Why the Church was founded, The Pope, the Bishops, and the Priests, The Pope’s Letter about the Church
- The Marks of the Church – Which Church Christ Founded, The Oneness, Holiness, Catholicity, and Apostolicity of the Church, One Flock and One Shepherd
- The Communion of Saints – Christ, the King of Saints, All Saint’s Day, Remembering the Suffering Saints, The Pope’s Letter Again, The Forgiveness of Sins, God’s Love for Us
- The Redemption and Sin – The Stabat Mater, Original Sin and Our First Parents, Original Sin in Us, The Immaculate Conception, Actual Sin: Our Own Badness, Mortal Sin, Venial Sin
- The Resurrection of the Body and Life Everlasting – Our Resurrection after Death, The Assumption of Our Lady, The Particular and General Judgements, Purgatory, Hell and Heaven
- The Holy Ghost and Grace – What the New Testament Says about the Holy Ghost, What Some Saints Have Said about the Holy Ghost, Our Greatest Gift – Grace, Sanctifying Grace, Actual Grace, Losing Grace – Gaining Grace, Ways of Obtaining Grace
- The Virtues: and Gifts of the Holy Ghost
- The Sacraments and Prayer
- The Sacrament of Baptism
- The Sacrament of Confirmation
- The Sacrament of the Eucharist
- The Commandments of the Church
- The Sacrament of Penance
- The Spiritual Treasury of the Church
- Thanksgiving for the Faith
- List of Important Words (and definitions)
- Catechism Questions
- God and God’s Perfections – God is Our Father and Creator; God Has Many Perfections; Reason and revelation prove the existence of God; The unity and Trinity of God
- God: Creator of All Things – God created the Angelic World, the Universe, Man
- The Fall – Original Sin Comes Down to Us from Adam; Actual Sin
- The Birth and the Public Life of Christ
- Christ Redeems Us by His Passion, Death, and Resurrection
- I Believe in the Holy Ghost – The Holy Ghost is God, Third Person of the Blessed Trinity, dwells in the Church and Sanctifies Souls; Prayer and the Sacraments – especially the Holy Eucharist are the principal means to obtain grace; the virtues, gifts, fruits, and beatitudes
- Christ Sends the Holy Spirit to Guide His Church – The Church Leads All Men to Salvation, The Catholic Church Has Certain Marks and Attributes, Other things to know about the Church
- The Forgiveness of Sins and Life Everlasting – The forgiveness of Sins, The Resurrection of the Body and Life Everlasting
- Living According to What We Believe – The Works of Mercy; The Commandments; The Counsels
- The First Three Commandments: Love of God – The First Commandment – We must Worship God, permits us to honor the saints; The Second Commandment; The Third Commandment – Forbids Unnecessary Servile Work on Sunday
Also, I just had the opportunity to look at the 4th grade student guide and textbook for the Faith and Life series. (I tried using the 1st and 2nd grade materials years ago but found that the material covered in these grades was covered in a much more reverent and in depth - daily method - in the Living My Religion series.) The 4th grade student's book includes in the questions for chapter two, a question to the effect of "If you were God how would you answer Cain's question?" - The question referred to is "Am I my brother's keeper?" Putting ourselves in the place of God or Our Lord is blasphemous! There were other occasions in this text where this was done. Also, the questions and answers that are used are similar to but not the same as the Baltimore Catechism. The differences can lead to confusion and an incomplete understanding of the truths of our Faith. By contrast, the Living My Religion series clearly and concisely presents the truths of our Faith.