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I grew up in unenlightened days. We learned our catechism--from a catechism, of all things. The propositions of the faith were set out in memorizable if dry answers that echoed equally dry questions. I still recall the first and most important pair: "Why did God make you?" "God made us to know him, love him, and serve him in this life and to be happy with him forever in the next." No two dozen words ever contained more truth. That simple exchange remains I think, the best answer to Why? ever printed.
Long years after reading the Baltimore Catechism, I came across Radio Replies, three volumes in which Frs. Leslie Rumble and Charles M. Carty collected four thousand questions they had handled during their long years on the air. I found their spirited answers engaging, and the questions were authentic, just as one might hear them on the street. Unlike those in my child's catechism, the questions posed to to Rumble and Carty expressed the ignorance, misinformation, and prejudice held by real people. That's why their volumes remain popular half a century after first seeing print.
As they did decades ago, today most Catholic magazines and newspapers have question-and-answer columns. The readers want them. Although self-styled pedagogical experts pooh-pooh such devices, the fact is that they work--they pass along the faith while keeping readers' attention. We like to see what others believe or don't believe (their problems often parallel our own), and we delight in quick-witted answers that bring closure. (Almost everyone likes detective stories. Questions-and-answer books and columns are miniature theological whodunits.)
Russ Ford's Missionary Catechism might be called a streetwise version of the Baltimore Catechism, an updated version of Rumble and Carty, or a question-and-answer column with an attitude. No matter how it is characterized, it presents the Catholic faith in an approachable and understandable way, in little morsels that are digested easily. Bon Appétit!
—Karl Keating, President, Catholic Answers
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