a course in religion for Catholic high schools and academics
by Father John Laux
(Four volumes, first published 1928, with illustrations 1934, reprinted by TAN Books, 1990.
ISBN: 978-0-89555-391-1, 392-8, 393-5, 394-2. Available from Freedom Publishing)
A number of years ago, a clergyman interviewed on TV said it was OK to have a fifth grade understanding of God, provided one was still in fifth grade! It has been the experience of this reviewer that many who reject Catholicism or lapse from its regular observance do so with very simplistic understandings of what the Church actually teaches. One of the challenges for anyone involved in teaching religion is finding material that systematically and accurately presents the faith in a manner that respects the intelligence of young people.
One series that has done so for 80 years is Fr Laux's Catholic Apologetics series. Originally published in 1928, it was written because the author recognised the need for a series of text books for secondary school students. This four-volume series became an equivalent in the United States to Sheehan's Apologetics and Catholic Doctrine in countries such as Australia, and remained a standard textbook for decades.
The truths of the faith are presented in a systematic and logical sequence. Volume One covers creation, original sin, Christ, faith, grace and eternal life; Volume Two, the Mass, seven sacraments, indulgences and sacramentals; Volume Three, God, Christianity and the Church; and Volume Four, sin, virtue and conscience.
One of the chief strengths of this work is that it does not dumb down the faith. Rather, it presents it as an intelligent system of belief in a manner that can be comprehended by adolescents and adults. Being a series of textbooks, at the end of each chapter there are "suggestions for study and review" and a series of questions and extension activities. Some of these could be easily used or adapted by modern educators.
It must be borne in mind that, being written a number of decades ago, this series does not make reference to some of the issues facing contemporary society, for example, in areas such as bioethics; nor, of course, does it draw on insights from more recent Church documents including the teachings of the Second Vatican Council and The Catechism of the Catholic Church.
References to the liturgy, particularly in the "suggestions for study and review" at the end of each chapter, are obviously to the Extraordinary Form (i.e., the Traditional Latin Mass). Furthermore, some of the Church disciplines discussed, such as certain days of fasting, have been superseded, as the editor notes in a footnote.
Nevertheless, this reprinted edition by TAN would be a useful reference book for a range of people from parents wishing to educate their children in the faith to adults wanting to refresh or acquire a solid understanding of Catholicism.