The paralytic’s friends have just plopped him in front of Jesus (yes, they literally carried him in). Even though there’s not a lot of action in this impromptu skit, there’s way more audience engagement and participation, simply because it’s live and physical. The difference between teaching this story from behind a lectern and getting down on the ground with a volunteer is all the difference in the world.
Archives for January 2014
Looking for ways to make your marriage stronger?
Join me this February 3, 4, 10, or 11 in an online marriage enrichment retreat. Spend an hour or two, just in time for Valentine’s Day, to make your marriage stronger! Similar to an interactive webinar, the retreat offers talks illustrated by sacred artwork with a background of Gregorian chant.
If you’ve never attended an online retreat before, don’t worry — the technology is easy. All you need is high-speed Internet and speakers for your computer. You can ask and answer questions simply by typing in a chatbox. But if you wish, you can purchase low-cost earbuds with a computer mike and speak directly with me and the other participants. You’ll receive a link by email to enter the online environment and a friendly tech will help you get used to all the features.
You can participate as an individual or a couple, during the early afternoon or in the evening — whatever works for you. And if you can’t join live, you’ll have access to the recorded session through a link we’ll send you. Watch it just like you’d watch an online video.
We’ll have sessions on two different topics and would love to see you at both. To register for either session, click here. For more info on the great folks producing this retreat, click here and here.
I. Life-giving Unity: Becoming One with Your Spouse and Your Children
The marital relationship is the bedrock of any family. Reignite your appreciation for your spouse, and let your renewed unity strengthen your relationship with your children as well. Learn how to communicate better, pray more together, and grow closer to God together.
Mid-day Session: Monday, Feb. 3, at 12:30-1:30 pm EST
Evening Session: Tuesday, Feb. 4, at 7:30-8:30 pm EST
II. Holy Stewards: Making the Most of Your Time and Your Money
We all struggle to find enough time for work, family, and God. We might also sometimes let worries over money and professional advancement affect our marital relationship. Maintaining a good balance is difficult, but not impossible. Explore useful ways to make the most of what you have.
Mid-day Session: Monday, Feb. 10, at 12:30-1:30 pm EST
Evening Session: Tuesday, Feb. 11, at 7:30-8:30 pm EST
Cost: $ 10 for one session, $15 for both.
Some stuff about the last couple of Catechism classes:
We finished the Jan. 8 class by spending about 20 minutes on the Healing of the Paralytic: acting, drawing, discussion, Bible-reading, the usual. This week among other things, we covered Jesus healing a man’s withered arm on the Sabbath; a leper; Jairus’ daughter; the woman with a hemorrhage; and the centurion’s servant. Every story involved a little skit, with kids obliged to think on their feet about why the characters acted as they did, and draw conclusions. We ended with Jesus blessing the little kids, which sets the stage for next week’s Loaves and Fishes miracle.
But these healing stories aren’t just treated as disconnected snippets of Jesus Is So Nice. Like all Bible stories, they are explicitly connected to Catholic themes, both individually and also as a group. From the Paralytic to the Centurion, I emphasized these concepts:
1. Having a physical encounter with Jesus is the normal way to get a miracle. Nobody just stays home and prays if it’s at all possible to engage Jesus both spiritually and physically. People will make a hole in a roof if that’s what it takes. Nobody ever got a miracle in the NT without having a physical encounter with Jesus or one of his authorized agents.
2. Having a physical encounter involves an act of faith which anyone can see. That is, by what people do their faith can be seen.
3. Jesus will do someone a favor if someone else acts in faith on their behalf. That’s intercession, and it still works.
4. Jesus can work a long-distance miracle; but the miracle is still initiated though a physical encounter.
5. Jesus can work miracles through physical stuff just like the Moses and Elijah, as when the woman grabbed his tassel: boom! Healed! Who touched me?
6. Faith by itself is good; faith in action is better. We comprise a body and a soul; so our bodies acting in harmony with our souls just makes sense. If ya ain’t doin’ ya prob’ly ain’t believin’ either.
7. Jesus has a body and a soul, too. That’s why everyone was so excited: to be able to access God physically was a big deal.
8. It’s still the norm to have a physical encounter with Jesus. That’s what sacraments are for, especially the Eucharist and Confession. Eating God is a big deal. But just like the centurion, you have to believe without seeing.
9. Healing physical sickness matters; but healing spiritual sickness matters more.
The French proverb, “The more things change the more they stay the same,” seems to be very appropriate for the hugely popular show on PBS of the post-Edwardian era in England, Downton Abbey. Something that struck me about a recent episode is that the quest for happiness can often lead one away from the very thing one is searching for. Lady Edith Crawley allows herself to be swept up into a romance with Michael Gregson, whose wife is considered insane, but British law will not allow him to divorce (presuming he has every right to do so). He’s going to great lengths to prove his love to Lady Edith by becoming a German citizen so he can divorce his wife and marry her. This example is just one among so many others of how we can distort truth. The world back then and now too often sees fidelity in marriage to be good so long as your wife is not, as in the case of Mrs. Gregson, insane (or a number of other reasons).
3 catechetical points that are vital to catechesis in the Third Millennium:
1. Proclaiming the truth (whether on the issue of marriage or another aspect of life) is essential to the freedom of God’s children. Sometimes the truth is seen as judgmental because it challenges one’s freedom and what is often socially acceptable (although not morally acceptable).
2. Keep in mind that catechesis on “Life in Christ” is not merely “morality” but about life with God. The Catechism of the Catholic Church, paragraph 1691, says:
“Christian, recognize your dignity and, now that you share in God’s own nature, do not return to your former base condition by sinning. Remember who is your head and of whose body you are a member. Never forget that you have been rescued from the power of darkness and brought into the light of the Kingdom of God.” [St. Leo the Great Sermo 22 in nat. Dom., 3: PL 54, 192C] 
3. Let your message be clear. Paragraph 1697 of the Catechism goes onto say that “Catechesis has to reveal in all clarity the joy and the demands of the way of Christ.” The demands of being a doctor, a professional sports player, or a renowned scientist are quite high and so also are the demands of the Christian life (which so often we can resist because it is perceived that a loving God should help make our lives good and happy). The Christian life, although having its challenges, is filled with abundant joy, peace beyond understanding, transforming grace, and total charity, which brings authentic freedom and true happiness.
The life we’ve been given is a true gift even with all it’s demands. May our eyes and heart always look to Christ for the ultimate answers that allow us to respond according to the truth of the Gospel and all that entails.
Recently I participated in an online discussion about baptism. One of the comments made, by a non-Catholic, was that the Bible requires a person to be fully immersed during baptism. I wanted to share my reply to her with the readers of Amazing Catechists.
Scripture is not exactly clear on this. I can tell you, for the record, I have seen Catholic Churches where infants have water sprinkled on them and adults are fully submerged. It’s rare for full immersion in a Catholic Church, but it is out there.
After Peter preached his first sermon, it says in Acts 2:41 that 3000 were baptized. I’ve read that archaeologists have demonstrated there was not a sufficient enough water supply for so many to have been immersed and even if there was, the people of Jerusalem would not have allowed for the contamination of the city’s water supply to have 3000 dirty people immersed. If that is true, and it seems reasonable, then either 3000 people were not baptized or they were not baptized by full immersion. Something to think about.
I know you prefer to focus our conversation on scripture, so I want to look at the word for baptism using immersion: βαπτίζω or baptizō
In Luke 11:38, Jesus is going to have dinner. Luke writes, “The Pharisee was astonished to see that he did not first wash (baptizō) before dinner.” The word used for “wash” is baptizō. I suppose an argument could be made that Jesus would “fully immerse” his hands during washing, but isn’t it more likely that he would pour water over his hands above a small bowl or basin? So therefore, baptizō has meanings apart from full immersion baptism.
There is a Greek word for washing (hands). It is νίπτω or niptō and we can see it used in Mark 7:3: “For the Pharisees, and all the Jews, do not eat unless they wash (niptō) their hands, observing the tradition of the elders.”
Then we can see another use of baptizō. In Luke 12:50 we see Jesus saying, “I have a baptism (baptisma) to be baptized (baptizō) with; and how I am constrained until it is accomplished!”
So now we see baptizō being used metaphorically to describe the suffering (i.e his Passion) Jesus is to endure.
Final point regarding the use of baptizō: In Acts 1:4-5, Jesus instructs his followers not to leave Jerusalem but to wait for “the promise of the father,” for ”John baptized (baptizō) with water, but before many days you shall be baptized (baptizō) with the Holy Spirit.”
Now, an argument could be made that one would be fully immersed in the Holy Spirit, thus confirming the understanding of baptizō as full immersion. However, let’s look at the second chapter of Acts. In three instances in that one chapter (2:17, 2:18, 2:33), the Spirit is described as being “poured” out (ἐκχέω or ekcheō) (i.e. not immersed).
The point behind this linguistics exercise is simply to point out one thing: baptizō, the word used by born-again Christians to insist on full immersion as the only valid means for baptism, is used broadly enough in scripture to incorporate “pouring” as well as “immersion.” Combine the massive amount of scriptural evidence with writings apart from scripture and art from that period (below), and the evidence is overwhelming that pouring or sprinkling over the head is as valid a means for baptism as full immersion and possibly even the preferred option.
Inspired by Pope Francis’ recent attention to the seven sacraments — unique encounters with the Living Christ that should be made accessible to all Catholics — this monthly series will look at practical and creative ways the sacraments can come alive in our classrooms and in our homes.
Baptism is considered the gateway for all other sacraments. It marks the beginning of our Christian ministry as it frees us from original sin and makes us members in Christ and his Church. Baptism is most often conferred on infants and children too young to understand this important ritual. Therefore, our best option for evangelization is the parents.
Most parishes today offer a baptism class for parents wishing to baptize their children. This is our first opportunity to reach out and welcome these families. Preparing to have a child baptized can give parents an opportunity to reflect on their own relationship with God and the Church. We want to be able to answer their questions with charity and clarity to help them to understand the commitment they are about to make. Baptism in the Catholic Church requires parents to commit to raising that child in the faith–that is, to attend Mass regularly and see that the child is properly prepared for his/her sacraments. Through this sacrament, an individual joins our parish community in a special way and our parish is greatly enriched because of it. Baptism, therefore, is not a private family affair but a community celebration, which is why the sacrament is most often celebrated during or immediately following the Mass.
Here are a few suggestions to help enrich the baptism experience for the entire family:
Couple Prayer. Encouraging parents to pray together for the sake of the child they are about to baptize is an intimate and powerful experience that can truly unify a couple. Praying together for a tiny infant provides a great foundation and will segue easily and naturally to deeper prayer as the child grows and needs those prayers all the more.
Letter to Baby. Invite parents to write a letter to their child about the hopes they have for their son or daughter as he or she grows to follow God. This is an excellent opportunity for a parent to ponder their role in the spiritual life of their child. By putting their hopes and desires in writing, it deepens the commitment and can become a treasured keepsake.
Discernment of the Baptismal Name. The naming of a child has great significance and requires prayerful discernment. As Catholics, we have a wonderful tradition of naming our children after great saints. These holy individuals can provide our children with a strong and virtuous role model and a spiritual companion for life.
Choice of Godparents. Godparents are not figureheads in the Catholic Church but vital players in the spiritual life of the child being baptized. A carefully discerned Godparent will be convicted in their Catholic faith and committed to see that the child is raised as promised.
Easter Vigil. Easter Vigil is the Church’s grand celebration of the Sacrament of Baptism, with the blessing of the paschal candle and the entrance of all the catechumens and candidates into the Church. Yet many Catholics have never experienced it. Enthusiastically and personally invite families to attend!
Baptismal Anniversaries. Mark the anniversary dates of each family member on the calendar. Celebrate those special days by reminiscing over photos or lighting the baptismal candle. This is a wonderful opportunity for the family to recite together the baptismal vows.
On-Going Catechesis. Even though most children will have already been baptized by the time they begin to understand this sacrament, it doesn’t mean there can’t be on-going catechesis. Choose biblical “water stories” (i.e. Noah and the flood, the crossing of the Red Sea, Jesus’ baptism, etc.) as a teaching tool for explaining the sacrament, since each of these events pre-figure baptism in some way. If a baptism is going to take place during a Mass you are attending, give your children seats with a good view of all the action, while quietly pointing out symbols such as the chrism oil, the candle, and the white garment. And remember, when it’s time to renew the vows, do it loudly and proudly!
I had a great time a couple of weeks ago at 2nd & Charles, the new used bookstore. I was browsing the Bible shelves…rolling my eyes at the study notes in them: “Oh wow, that was easy…Jesus couldn’t possibly mean what he said.” A couple were next to me, the man had a huge book in his hands. He and she were talking about what it was for, how to use it. I turned toward them to go, and they asked me if I knew about the book: Strong’s Concordance. Wow, I love Strong’s Concordance! Yeah, lemme show ya how it works! If you’re wanting to learn more about how the Bible thinks, ya want this book (or the online equivalent). And I asked them some questions like I do my Catechism class kids, such as, “Y’all tell me why Sarah and Abraham were unhappy…yep, and then…uh huh, and what did Sarah do…laughed, that’s right..and they named him…Isaac. Yes, so we check Strong’s like so and see that Isaac means…and why does that matter? Yes. And so when God wanted Abraham to kill Isaac…yep! See, and without knowing the Hebrew you miss that very human and pro-life part of the story!” And we went through a couple more examples, and how the Concordance shows how similar Hebrew words share a common root, and that sometimes their meanings overlap in ways that matter, but won’t show up in English or Greek, like Adam and Ground. Where do I go to church? St. Mary’s? That’s Catholic right? The man was a former Catholic and now a deacon at his non-denom. We talked about growing up with the Latin Mass, how that alienated him, and how I loved reading the Latin and English out of my father’s Missal. Talked some more about faith journeys, other Bible bits, what some other Hebrew names mean, such as Elizabeth. Discussed our decisions to take Jesus seriously. So we had a great time faith sharing without arguing, and without me selling Catholicism the least bit short.
Lately, I have struggled with society’s misunderstanding of a sexual union. My husband and I give the sex talk in pre-Cana. We explain the Church’s teaching on the unitive and procreative nature of the sexual union and why it is a holy, blessed union between a husband and wife. I struggle with the misuse of this union that I witness daily.
One example, is the couple that has replaced food for intimacy. They rarely experience true sexual intimacy and have gotten into the habit of replacing it with activities that revolve around eating.
No less confused, is the physically fit couple who treat the gloriously beautiful sexual relationship as another activity to be checked off their list and plugged into their calorie counters.
Then, there are the couples who exude sexuality and do not understand that marriage is not an excuse for lust. They want everyone to know just how much they desire each other rather than protecting the privacy of their union.
Lastly, there are those couples who have given up on the intimate part of their marriage altogether. Perhaps they fell out of the habit, or didn’t make the time to nurture that part of their relationship.
When we lose sight of the importance of our married, sexual intimacy, we diminish the sacrament of marriage itself. God gave us the gift of our sexuality so that we can feel united to our spouse, heal hurts between the husband and wife, and so that the two can become one. He also provide us with the sexual union as a means to bring forth life and cooperate with the grace of God’s creation! What an extraordinary gift!!
When we understand the beauty of what has been entrusted to us, we will see our marriages in a new and luminous light. The intimate parts of our marriage need to be protected, nurtured, and appreciated as the precious gifts they are.
1. Being a catechist “begins with Christ.”
2. “The first thing, for a disciple, is to be with the Master: to listen to and learn from Him. This is always the case, and it is a way that lasts a lifetime!”
3. “In the heart of the catechist, there always lives this ‘systolic- diastolic’ movement: union with Jesus; encounter with the other, if one of these two movements is no longer beating, then you do not live.”
4. “Be careful. I have not said to do the work of a catechist, but rather to be one, because it involves all your life. It means guiding towards the encounter with Jesus with words and with life, with your witness.”
It would be easy to comment about all these but for now I encourage you to ponder these thoughts from Pope Francis.
What did he say that spoke to you most?
In November I gave four 1-hour presentations at Our Lady of the Rosary Parish here in Greenville, S.C. I’m the architect for their new church, and Fr. Longenecker asked me to speak after each Sunday Mass about how and why Catholic churches differ from other Christian churches. The overall subject was not Catholic church architecture per se. That is, I didn’t cover Early Christian, Romanesque, Gothic, and Baroque styles; nor the typical features of a Catholic church, such as narthex, nave, crypt, and apse. Instead I focused on the Bible sources of Liturgy; how those sources influence the Mass; and how the Mass influences what a Catholic church is.
To some extent it’s all boilerplate Catholicism. It’s derived from my 6th-grade Catechism class content, and repackaged for an adult audience. But the organization is similar to 6th grade, and follows a model. For any given subject I want to begin with its earliest antecedents in the Old Testament, and follow its development through the whole Bible; then show how it flourishes today in the life of the Church. For example, teaching the Eucharist begins with Manna; runs through many events in both Testaments to the Wedding Feast of the Lamb in Revelation; and extends to the Eucharist we receive at Mass.
Each of the four lectures followed a liturgically-significant thread from its earliest mention in the Old Testament clear through its last mention in the New. Then we learned how each thread is drawn into the Mass, and into the architecture that supports the Mass.
The four threads:
1. The Biblical concept of overshadowing. I traced different aspects of overshadowing, starting with the Shekinah cloud in Exodus 24, followed by the Meeting Tent’s overshadowing; the Cherubim’s overshadowing; the analogous horizontal “overshadowing” of the temple veils; a bride’s veil; some overshadowing bits in the Psalms; overshadowing themes continued in the Temple; Boaz overshadowing Ruth, and its covenantal implications; Elijah overshadowing Elisha; the role overshadowing plays even today in a Jewish wedding; Mary’s overshadowing in Luke 1; Peter overshadowing the sick and lame in Acts; and God pitching his tent among his people in Revelation. Then overshadowing/ shading oneself/ shading another was linked to the Tabernacle, and the Epiclesis during the Liturgy of the Eucharist. I also explained the symbolic overshadowing function of a baldacchino.
2. The Bible history of food miracles. I began with Manna and Quail in the desert. We followed that with a raven bringing Elijah bread and flesh in the desert; Elijah’s miracle at Zarephath; Elisha’s multiplication of loaves of bread; Jesus at Cana; Jesus multiplying loaves and fishes; the John 6 discourse; and the Last Supper, emphasizing its Passover context. Then we looked at the Liturgy of the Eucharist as a living participation in this miracle stream. Finally we discuss that liturgy means the public work, the people’s work, and connect the people-work we do in making bread and wine to the people-work in John 6, when the crowd provided Jesus with the loaves and fish.
3. The Bible history of Arks and Tabernacles. We began with Noah’s Ark; followed by Moses’ Ark; an explanation of the Latin word tabernaculum, meaning tent, hut, little house, etc.; the Meeting Tent; the Ark of the Covenant; a slight digression on the Holy of Holies in Solomon’s Temple; Mary; and the Tabernacle in a Catholic church, which is called a Tabernacle instead of an Ark for a very sensible reason. Then we discussed what it means that we are a pilgrim church; and saw a connection between Solomon’s Holy of Holies and our future dwelling in the New Jerusalem per the Book of Revelation.
4. The Bible history of offering sacrifice. We started by figuring out why in Eden there was no sacrificing. We followed that with Abel’s lamb; Abraham’s early offerings; Melchizedek’s offering; Abraham’s offering of Isaac first, then the ram; and Passover. Then we shifted to the Levitical system of sacrifice, and how the liturgical hierarchy of People (the royal priesthood), Levites-Elders, and High Priest was expressed physically at Mt. Sinai. Then we saw how the liturgy of the Meeting Tent functioned, and maintained the Mt. Sinai triple-hierarchy; and how that system carried through until Jesus’ day. We digressed a bit about Manoah’s thanksgiving sacrifice in the Book of Judges. We noted that Jesus transformed the Passover sacrifice at the Last Supper. Then we jumped ahead to Acts and learned how the now-fired-up Apostles were driven away from Temple and Synagogue; and that the Church developed its own New Testament analogue to the Temple-Synagogue mode of worship. Thus the Mass is comprised of the Liturgy of the Word (like a synagogue), and the sacrificial Liturgy of the Eucharist (like the Tent and the Temple); and that a church, like its O.T. antecedents, is based on the pattern in heaven. We looked at the plans of Tent, Temple and Church, and learned how the church plan functions liturgically on Earth in union with our great high priest in Heaven, as described in the Book of Hebrews. Then we jump ahead to relevant bits of the Book of Revelation, and how they apply to the Liturgy of the Eucharist. We discuss how Jesus unites all of the Biblical history of sacrifice into the Mass, and see how that’s explicitly stated in the Eucharistic Prayer. Finally we saw how Heaven and Earth are connected at Mass; and why a New Testament Meeting Tent should be as extraordinary a structure as was the first one built by Moses over 3,000 years ago.
The Powerpoint-free four hours included some Hebrew , Greek, and Latin; audience participation; frequent and welcomed interruptions; a bit of singing; sacred art handouts; a floor plan handout; props; lots of drawing; lots of Bible; lots of learning; and based on the comments, lots of fun.
To recap, this article isn’t particularly about these four concepts, these threads. It’s about a method of teaching Catholics, adults or kids, not just what the faith is; but also teaching them that the Church is the fullest expression of the most ancient connections between God and Man. As St. Augustine wrote: For the New (Testament) is hidden in the Old and the Old is fulfilled in the New. Catechists should say that; and then show how it’s true.