The Bible Miracle Food Pyramid; scroll down to Class #4.
The Bible Miracle Food Pyramid; scroll down to Class #4.
The 7 Arks of Salvation History, scroll down to class 3.
Volunteer catechists are amazing people.
I love them. In fact, I often refer to them affectionately as “my people” because they understand the importance of the challenging work they do, even when it’s hard to see the fruits of their efforts. They’re gutsy, generous people.
When speaking to this particular population, it’s critical for catechetical trainers to communicate–not just thou-shalts and shalt-nots–but a life-changing message they can grasp and envision for themselves in a personal way, a message that impacts not just their teaching but their whole lives.
If it is your happy task to train your parish or dioceses’ catechists, there are five components I consider essential to ensuring that your sessions will be both engaging and motivational.
1. Personal Witness
People like to know a little about you as a person when you stand up in front of them. They tend to open their hearts to you if you are willing to risk it yourself and honor them with some personal testimony. Ask yourself a few questions as you prepare: Why is the Catholic faith the center of my life? Am I a convert? A revert? A contented “cradle Catholic” whose life is proof of the richness of our faith? Has my faith helped me withstand great suffering, given meaning to my life, healed the wounds of my past? Share very briefly about the importance of your faith in making your life holy, happy, and purposeful.
2. Lay a Spiritual and Intellectual Foundation
Emphasize the supernatural partnership that is essential to fruitful catechesis. We need a well-informed, prayerful approach if we want our ministry to bear fruit for eternity. Inspire your listeners to seek a greater knowledge of God and a more intimate relationship with the Blessed Trinity by sharing excerpts from Scripture, the Catechism, and the lives of the saints, challenging your team to work with God the way he works with them: via baby steps. Since God draws us closer to him over time, incrementally calling us to deeper conversion in various areas of our lives, we can manage our commitment to growing in faith and love of God by taking a gentle, gradual approach. Any effort we make to move in God’s direction will produce substantial rewards. A bit of prayer time each morning (especially if it involves the Rosary or Sacred Scripture), prayerful CDs in the car, a short reading each evening from a good Catholic book, and a faithful commitment to Mass on Sunday and monthly confessions will add up over time and bring an abundance of graces.
3. Catechizing Attendees
In small, memorable doses, it’s possible to slip in quite a bit of catechesis while you’re sharing the how-to’s of teaching. For example, if I’m sharing tips or lesson plan ideas around the topic of Reconciliation, what better time to address the power of this intimate encounter with the Divine Physician to refresh and strengthen our souls, as it compliments and completes the healing power of the Holy Eucharist. As examples of great classroom content, stirring stories of the martyrs and video clips about Eucharistic miracles or Marian apparitions can inspire a thirst for more knowledge and elicit stimulating questions and comments. While you are encouraging volunteers to share exciting examples of the transformational power of our Catholic faith, you are immersing them in beautiful and intriguing material that thrills their souls and imaginations, inspiring them to take a bolder approach with their students.
4. Provide Practical Tips and Resources
Catechists get precious little training because of time and financial limitations within the parish and in their own lives, so make sure you pack your workshops with tips on areas of particular interest to your volunteer staff: suggestions for improving classroom discipline, understanding developmental issues and learning styles, ways to use music and movement to vary the lessons and bring joy to the learning process, free resources for downloading beautiful works of religious art or inspiring video lessons (see callout). Ideas for explaining tough concepts like the Trinity or Redemption, activities designed to embody abstract ideas like contrition or absolution, memory games, assessment techniques, and encouraging stories of lives changed through the work of dedicated catechists can all motivate your team to bring more passion to their teaching efforts.
Make sure you close your time together with a few words of encouragement from scripture. For example, the Second Letter to Timothy is packed with rousing calls to faithful witness.
And when your workshop is finished, place it all in God’s hands. Take joy in your mistakes and omissions; they are reminders that, through our humility, God’s power conquers all.
(This article was originally published in the November 2014 issue of RTJs Creative Catechist magazine)
Final Seven Winners!!!!
The final seven winners of our Ascension to Pentecost Lighthouse CD giveaway have been chosen!
Mary Ann Pickering
CONGRATULATIONS TO ALL OUR WINNERS! Check your email for official notification! We’ll be doing lots more giveaways, so stay tuned!
First Seven Winners!!!!
Congratulations to the first seven winners. You have all been contacted via the email address you used to register at the site. Please send me a mailing address in the continental U.S., if possible, ASAP!
ENRICH YOUR FAITH: TODAY BEGINS OUR RANDOM DAILY DRAWING FROM THE SUBSCRIBER LIST FOR LIGHTHOUSE CDs! From today (Ascension Thursday) through May 24 (Pentecost) I’ll be selecting winners at random from those registered at the site. If you are not already registered, just go to the home page and fill in the short form on the right to sign up for our newsletter!
This talk “covers” the Bible-Catholic significance of overshadowing. Scroll down at the link to Class 2.
Link to the first of a planned dozen summer lectures. Kinda nervous dealing with a roomful of adults instead of kids- should do better next time.
“Let it begin with me.” St. Francis of Assisi
The images all over the news are disturbing: Riots, beheadings, crime and families hurting. At times, it can feel insurmountable and as if we are too small to have any impact. Then, I remember Martin Luther King, Jr. One man, huge impact. Or Irene Sendler, the nurse who saved 2500 babies in the Warsaw Ghetto in Poland, during WWII. Every important change starts with one person.
Change needs to begin with each of us, and we are assisted by looking to what the Church teaches about conflict resolution and what skills we need to start working at solutions, rather than focusing on differences and problems.
1/ Pray. Before we enter into any situation where conflict is possible (probably) we need to pray. Ask the Holy Spirit to give us the gifts of wisdom, understanding and counsel in all the conversations we will have.
2/ Find common ground. Even two completely diverse individuals or groups can find something they agree on. Start with the idea and build. For example, in areas with racial tensions we can all agree that we love our kids, want a better world for them and that there are problems with perception and communication. Once we have agreed on that we can discuss different ways to address the differences we face.
3/ Focus on the dignity of each individual. The Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC) emphasizes that we need to see the dignity of each individual, in that God Himself created them. Respect is tied to seeing that dignity (1944). The CCC states that each person is given different gifts and that we are entrusted with those gifts for the building up of the body of Christ. It reminds us that these gifts make us different and are not distributed equally (1934-35).
4/ Share our gifts. Whether our gifts are spiritual or financial, we are called to share them. The CCC states that we are to reduce “excessive social and economic inequalities.” We are encouraged to get rid of ‘sinful inequalities’; this will help us in working towards social justice. Focusing on what a sinful inequality is (right to life vs abortion, excessive wealth vs poverty) and discussing solutions to those issues, rather than points of view about those issues, can help diffuse difficult discussions.
5/ Use Steps for Conflict Resolution! Many people think conflict will just dissipate on its own, and that is rarely the case. Researching steps to Conflict Resolution and utilizing them can provide a framework in which to work. The American Management Association* puts out the following steps:
A/Identify the source of conflict.
B/Look beyond the incident.
D/Identify solutions both disputants can support.
“Five Years in Heaven: The Unlikely Friendship That Answered LIfe’s Greatest Questions” by John Schlimm, is a memoir that recounts a young man’s five-year friendship with an elderly Benedictine nun.
First, I want to say that I thoroughly enjoyed this moving and extremely charming account of a transformative friendship, and I recommend it heartily, with one caveat: This is not a catechism and not intended to be a guide to the Catholic faith. It is a memoir. And because it is a memoir, the reader must understand the personal, subjective nature of the work and offer the narrator a leniency that a serious, catechetical work would not deserve. Again, I thoroughly enjoyed it, and I’ll share some of the beauty of this lovely book, in a moment. But bear with me.
I am a catechist, and one of the most painful realities for me is the lack of understanding that is so prevalent in the world–even among catechists–of the Church’s foundational traditions and teachings. John Schlimm’s memoir, along with its tender beauty, gives us some examples of that lack of understanding. But first, let me tell you why you just might treasure this book anyway.
After abandoning a career in public relations and still suffering from childhood wounds, 31-year-old John Schlimm returned to his home town (St. Marys, Pennsylvania) to try and sort out the next phase of his life. At the suggestion of a friend, Schlimm visited the ceramic shop of the local Benedictine convent and made the acquaintance of a remarkable woman. From their first meeting, the 87-year-old Sister Augustine’s radiant interior beauty attracted the young man’s heart, drawing him quickly into the sanctuary of her friendship and her busy art studio. Along with the techniques of making and molding clay, glazing and firing her exquisite works of ceramic artistry, her deep faith and personal, homespun wisdom eventually turned his heart from discouragement to hope, from fear to joy, and from doubt to faith. That journey is well worth the price of the book.
A talented, intuitive artist with a humble heart, some of Sister Augustine’s most valuable gifts to John Schlimm were her insights:
“Simplicity is something you should definitely not overthink.” (54) “When we clear away the physical clutter around us, we set our spirit free on the inside, as well.” (55)
Later, when the author points out the difficulty of being grateful for unjust treatment, Sister says, “That’s when gratitude counts the most. It’s in those challenging moments when we get a little closer to our true purpose in this life. We need to be thankful for those challenges.” (62)
“Forgiveness is the crucial turning point for so much of what happens to us in this life. People often see it as an end goal. But it’s really a beginning. With it, we move forward. Without it, we are at a standstill.” (76)
“Those people, who forgive under the most extreme circumstances, they are messengers.” (84)
Here’s a favorite insight from the author:
“I realized that while the adage ‘To whom much is given, much is expected’ holds true, even more potent is the understanding that from whom much is taken, much is also expected.” (84)
[Reviewer’s note: the “adage” is actually a scriptural reference: Luke 12:48]
This memoir is valuable, not just for the lessons that John Schlimm learned during his visits to Sister Augustine’s studio, but in the way the story illuminates the mutual give and take of a holy friendship. Sometimes God brings a person into our lives who has something powerful to teach us. It’s one of the ways he shows that he loves us and watches over our souls. This story comes together so fruitfully because the author had the good instincts to keep coming back to the sanctuary he found and the saintly woman who became his most treasured friend.
Now, as a catechist, I would be remiss if I didn’t point out some potential issues.
In Parts Five and Six, Schlimm asks Sister Augustine to opine on the topics of women priests (190) and the study of other religions (220) . Her answers are harmless enough, except they in no way reflect the actual teachings of the Church. The possible issues for the reader are threefold.
First, Sister Augustine’s view–that women are just as good as men and should be able to do anything men do–seems to support the false charges of misogyny so often lobbed at the Church by those who are ignorant of its actual teachings. The Church has always upheld the equal-but-different understanding of feminine dignity and has never attempted to assert the male priesthood on any such offensive grounds. From the earliest beginnings of the Church–and indeed, human history–there have been misogynists and every other type of sinner in our midst. We are all sinners, from the Popes on down to the ordinary person in the pew. We cannot escape this reality in this lifetime. But those sins do not reflect the consistent teachings of the Church, which urge all people to respect and uphold each other’s dignity. Some great resources–many of them by Dr. Peter Kreeft, one of my heroes– for understanding the traditions and theology behind the male priesthood can be found here and here and here and here. Prepare to be surprised and nourished.
Second, Sister’s statement on the religions of the world essentially boiled down to their being all equally valuable: “Just the terminology and practices are different.” (220) While the Church certainly upholds the respect due to other faiths and even seeks common ground, it is critical that Catholics understand the wealth of their inheritance. Jesus Christ, the God-man, gave us a Church and seven sacraments so that we would not wander endlessly in a sea of alternatives, but be fed and nourished on his Body and Blood, his Word, his Spirit, and the community of the faithful. Those gifts are beyond price and should not be lumped in with other religious practices as being all of the same cloth. The fact that so few Catholics believe in the Real Presence of Jesus Christ in the Eucharist and do not understand the power of Jesus to forgive them and heal them in the sacrament of reconciliation is a tragedy, not a sign of sophistication.
Finally, the author’s sudden injection of controversial material into an otherwise gentle and big-hearted portrait, felt out of step with the rest of the book. The word “agenda” came into my mind, for the first time. I pictured certain friends of mine closing the book for good, without reading further–which would have been a shame, because the book has so much good in it. Remember that this is, first and last, a personal story.
All of that said, I’m quite happy I read this book. It’s an energetic and appealing story, well written. Most importantly, two of its strongest themes are that our lives can have great meaning and purpose at any age, and that we should take the time to listen to each other and encourage each other’s growth throughout our lives. Amen to that.