Getting Ready to Teach: What You Wear to Class Matters

As the new school year approaches, I’ve been thinking about the guidelines for the teachers and assistants in the small apostolate I help run.  A topic I didn’t broach last year but will this time around: Clothes.

I’m not a fashion person.  No one looks to me for wardrobe advice, except maybe if they’re required to do a character sketch of frumpy middle-aged absent-minded housewives.  But even I know that what we wear when we teach matters.  If someone like me gives serious thought to clothing before I teach, that means it must be important.

Why Do Clothes Matter?

It is absolutely true that outward appearances can be deceptive, and that the most important parts of catechesis happen on our insides, in our hearts, minds, and souls.  But humans are both body and soul, physical beings, and we use our bodies to express ourselves, relate to others, and accomplish our work. Our clothing matters for very practical reasons, because we need to be able to move around and do our jobs. It also matters in that what we wear teaches our students something about us.  It tells our students what we value, and what kind of message we have for them.

First Things: Clothing Suited to the Job at Hand

Sometimes I joke that the cover art on my book is aspirational: Catechists have fantasies about being able to paint with preschoolers while keeping the white shirt impeccably clean.  (Tip: Put on an apron.) In order to teach confidently, we need shoes and clothing that allow us to do our work.  Comfortable shoes if you are on your feet a lot; clothing that lets you reach, bend, lift, walk, run, play; fabrics that can hold up to the rigors of teaching.  If you know you’re going to have to get on your knees and scrub glitter glue off the floor after class, don’t wear delicates.

Professional Clothing Says You are Serious about Your Class

“Professional” is a broad category.  My first job in college was at a whitewater outfitter.  A well-chosen t-shirt and hiking shorts, paired with the right brand sport sandals, communicated credibility.  “She really does this stuff.  She knows what she’s talking about.”  That was professional attire for that job.   When I worked in a state government office several years later, business attire meant something completely different — I raided the local thrift store for good business-dress skirts and blouses.

There are catechists who rock the jeans-and-t-shirt look, and the message they send is one of confidence, enthusiasm, and competence.  “I can fix your truck and your theology, too.”  Some of us, though, just end up looking like we forgot to do the laundry.  There are catechists who swear by coat-and-tie, and erring on the side of slightly overdressed is prudent in classes with older students and adults for whom the number one question is, “Is this instructor credible?”  I would hazard the majority of us fall somewhere in between, on the vast spectrum that is “business casual”.

Two questions to ask are:

1. Does this outfit make me feel serious about my work?  What I’m wearing should make me feel confident that I can get the job done.  I should feel smart, competent, and ready to teach.

2. Does this outfit communicate the right message? “Pretty” “Elegant” “Handsome” “Youthful” “Mature” “Sporty” “Modern” or “Stylish” are all fair game.  If my clothing evokes words like “Sassy” “Sexy” “Flirty” “Edgy” or “Slacker,” I need to change.

There’s nothing at all wrong with dressing fashionably, so long as the fashion is consistent with our Christian values and with our role as classroom teachers.  Our clothing should express our unique personalities; we need to make sure, however, that we’re expressing those parts of our personality that make us good Christian leaders.

Modest Clothing Teaches Children Boundaries

Modesty is the whole range of attitudes and actions that we use to communicate our respect for ourselves and for others.  How we dress is not the only aspect of modesty, but it is an important element.  In the religious education classroom, dressing modestly also plays a significant role in teaching children about appropriate physical boundaries.

In sum: If we want children to understand and internalize the line between public and private body parts, we need to consistently demonstrate that distinction in our clothing.

Your parish or diocese may have a dress code, and in that case you’ll follow it, of course.  For the rest of us, a simple rule is this:

Don’t put on display for your students any body part or undergarment that a priest should never be allowed to touch.

Your students are trying to figure out the line between appropriate and inappropriate touch.  A mother breastfeeds her baby, that’s appropriate.  The nursery staff change the baby’s diaper, the doctor has to do a physical exam, the gymnast wears form-fitting clothing so that the judges can see precise body movements.   All of these are appropriate.

The classroom, the office, the sacristy: These are times and places when there is no appropriate reason for an adult (or fellow student) to be touching or looking at a school-age child’s private body parts.

If that sounds like blunt work, well yes, it is.  Children don’t have a finely tuned sense of adult intentions, and predators take advantage of that ignorance.  Dressing modestly on a consistent basis literally creates a boundary line, a do-not-cross line, that gives the child a sense of confidence about right and wrong actions.

Does it work? I know for a fact that when combined with all the other things that parents and teachers do to teach children personal safety and create a safe environment, yes, it does indeed work.

Bring Joy to Your Classroom

It is not necessary to spend a lot of money on new clothes for the new school year.  Figuring out what to wear this year shouldn’t be a cause of agony and dread.  Christianity is not a fashion show. Neat, clean, ready to do the job — that’s the essential.  Dig through the closet and put together something that makes you feel confident, professional, and excited about the first day of class.

Photo:  teachers in Parramatta Diocese in Australia

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Catholic Lesson Plan Contest – Deadline September 1, 2014

Heads up courtesy of Christian LeBlanc, Sophia Institute Press is hosting a Catholic Lesson Plan Contest:

Join Sophia Institute for Teachers in New Hampshire this fall as we sip mulled cider, enjoy bright autumn leaves, and write supplemental lesson plans for Catholic school teachers.

Selected teachers will earn an all-expenses paid trip to the Greater Boston Area and a$500 honorarium for contributing an original lesson for our next Teacher’s Guide. In addition, 5 teachers will win $100 honorable mentions for lessons in the following subject areas: English/Language Arts, Math, Science, Social Studies, and Religion.

Entering is easy!

The contest is open to all Catholic educators, including catechists and homeschooling parents.  Take a look, pick one of your favorite lesson plans, and enter to win!

 

How Do We Learn the Catholic Faith?

Should a good religious education program include lots of memory work, or should the focus be on the student’s personal relationship with Christ?  These kinds of debates can be helpful, in that they force us to step outside of catechesis-as-usual and examine what we are doing and whether it is serving our students.  They can be divisive, though, unless we remember that Christian formation is not one single educational act, but an entire collection of things we do to help each other grow in our faith.

Today I’d like to look at how education, in any subject, works.  This isn’t a scholarly piece, and you could take the components I’ve put here and divide them out differently.  (I tackled the subject from a completely different angle last summer, when I wrote about the Four Ways of Loving God.)  Think of this more as a rough framework to help you think about what you are teaching, and why it’s working as well as it is.

1. Interest

There’s no education happening unless the student has some desire to learn.  Ideally, in a parish faith formation context, the student desires to learn more about his faith because he is pursuing an active, personal relationship with Christ.  He wants to learn what he needs to know in order to become a better disciple.

Realistically, some come to class out of simple curiosity.  Young children may be motivated to learn their faith simply because it’s important to Mom and Dad; they instinctively know that what the parents think is important must be important.  In confirmation and RCIA, some students may have a baser motive: I need to please my parent or spouse by doing this thing, or I want to get caught up on my sacraments and this is the parish hurdle.

Great teachers in any subject have a passion for their topic.  Thus the most important prerequisite for being a catechist is having that passion for Christ.  In that way, students who aren’t coming to class out of their own personal desire to follow Jesus can at least hope to catch a little bit of the instructor’s passion.  It might be enough to ignite a full-fledged personal conversion, or it might be just enough to open the student’s mind to at least learning a few things that will prove helpful down the road.

2. Understanding

We can’t learn what we don’t understand.   There is a valid criticism of rote-memory learning, if that instruction is strictly memorization without comprehension.   When we teach, we need to teach so that students understand what we’re talking about.

There are levels of understanding, and in education it is tempting to jump straight to the “deeper meaning” before students even have a grasp of the essential facts of the situation.  In religious education, first we want to make sure students understand the basics: What happened at Creation? At Christmas? At Easter? What happens when we die?  What is a human soul?  What is the Trinity?  What are the words to the Our Father and what do they mean?   And so on.  Basic stuff.  Bible stories, essential theology and devotions, all the working knowledge we need in order to understand how we and God fit together.

It’s tempting to be dismissive of all this “fact” stuff, but without the facts, our learning is not grounded in reality. Once we have the facts, we can go deeper in our understanding.  We can ask, “Why is this true?”  “How does this fit together?” “How does this apply to my personal life?”  “How does this draw me into a closer relationship with God?”

3. Memorization

If we don’t remember what we’ve learned, we won’t get far.  Some types of information are best learned and remembered by using the framework of a story.  We humans are wired to learn stories, and thus through telling, listening, and retelling, we can know a story without memorizing a script word for word.

Many elements of the Christian faith we can remember in a general way without having to memorize a precise definition.  It’s important we know what the Immaculate Conception is, and how it differs from the Incarnation, but as long as the student can explain the two accurately, there’s no particular formula that absolutely must be memorized.  (It will be helpful for teaching, though, for the teacher to provide a concise definition that the student could choose to memorize.)

Certain prayers and devotions we need to remember only well enough to follow along with a guide.  If I’m fluent in using my hymnal, for example, and I’ve been given an opportunity to learn and sing the most important hymns of the faith, I can sing along at Mass without having to memorize every single one.   If I’m thoroughly familiar with the overall structure of the Bible, the key stories, and the essential verses, I can flip to the precise verse I’m looking for even if I haven’t memorized it verbatim.

We do well, though, to commit to memory certain facts and prayers.  Those we pray daily or weekly we’ll memorize by simple repetition.  It behooves the catechist to make sure students can in fact recite an Our Father easily and fluently, because when life presses in on all sides, memorized prayers can be the very instrument of sanity and salvation.  This is basic spiritual fitness.

Likewise, there are theological definitions (like God being three Persons sharing one Nature, and that a person is who we are and our nature is what we are) that students need to memorize. This is because it’s easy to get mixed up when trying to recall what we’ve studied if we don’t keep our terms straight.  Questions will come at us in life from the strangest directions, and having these essentials memorized precisely equips us to answer accurately.

4. Critical Thinking

There’s a fashion in education to favor “critical thinking” but to not be too critical about what that means.  “Critical thinking” does not mean “Whatever I made up because look at me I’m so creative let’s have an argument!”.  Critical thinking means being able to wade through a pile of noise and sort out what’s true and what’s not.

The foundation for critical thinking is a firm understanding and recollection of the truth.  When I taught Apologetics for Kids this fall, my students (ages 7-11) breezed through my first few weeks of planned class material in a couple minutes, because they happened to be extremely well-catechized.  They knew the truth, understood the truth, and thus could easily explain why various false assertions were false, and why, in contrast, the Catholic faith was true.

I’ve taught other classes where the students posed many questions concerning the faith.  They’d heard this or that in their regular life, but had never been given the facts about God that they needed in order to be able to think clearly on what they’d heard.  In such a context, we first need to go back and help the student know what the truth is — that basic understanding of reality.  Then we can help the student put together a critical response to attacks on the faith.

It is absolutely essential to the life of the soul that Christians be able to understand why their faith is true, and why false assertions are false.

5. Skill

Practice.  Experience.  I am prone to making fun of mandatory “volunteering” schemes, but the reality is that students do need practice in performing the works of mercy.  It’s not a fully-formed faith if I only go feed the hungry because I want my confirmation certificate; but I’ll never get good at feeding the hungry unless I practice it a few times.

Students don’t need to just know what the Mass is, or what the Rosary is, they need to spend time praying the Mass and praying the Rosary.  If I go to confession once when I’m seven and once when I’m fifteen, I’m not going to get very good at receiving that sacrament.  I build confidence and comfort in my faith by trying it out.  Using it.  Seeing what the hard parts are, and figuring out how to work through them.

Escape from One-Size-Fits-None Discipleship

So what do your students need?  I don’t know.  Who are your students? What are they like? What do they know already?  What are their questions?  What are their struggles?  Where are they in their relationship with God?

Catechism class isn’t the hour-a-week spiritual cure-all.  We are limited in what we can offer.  Religious education is one piece in a much bigger picture of everything families, parishes, and individuals do in order to help each other grow in the faith.

I can, however, pay attention to my students and try to make my class fill a few of their most pressing needs.

The Catholic Faith, Straight Up, No Agendas

If you teach the Ten Commandments to fifth grade boys, they are going to ask you about guns.

Guaranteed.

Is it okay to be a soldier?  Can you defend yourself if someone attacks you?  What if you see a bad guy attacking someone else? What if you know the bad guy is going to attack?  What if the bad guy attacks, but now he’s running away . . . the questions can go on for half an hour, easy.  If you’re the catechist, it’s your job to answer those questions.

What do you tell them?  You tell them what the Catechism says.  You keep it G-rated, of course.  And you leave your agenda at home.

Within the Catholic teaching on just warfare and legitimate self-defense, there is wide latitude for prudential judgement and personal charisms.  Some of your students will be the children of soldiers and police officers.  Depending on where you live, some of your students may have their own guns at home, that they use every autumn when they go hunting with their parents.  Some of your students may be the children of anti-war protesters or professed pacifists.

As a catechist, it is not your job to deliver your personal spin on what the “right” kind of Catholic is.  It’s not your job to provide your personal editorial on, say, the recent announcement by Archbishop Gregory concerning concealed carry in Georgia parishes.  (Of course you’ll inform students that they need to obey both the law and the bishop.)

You probably do have an opinion.  You might write about it on Facebook, or send a letter to the bishop thanking him or asking him to reconsider, you might rant and rave at the dinner table about all the poor souls in your parish who think exactly the wrong thing on this topic.

But that opinion does not belong in your class. Your job is to teach the Catholic faith.  That’s what you teach, and it’s all you teach.

And it’s fun!

Changing Your Course Plans to Fit Your Students

Career-in-TeachingLast fall I arrived to class with my course neatly mapped out: What we’d study, what activities we’d do, the works.  Five minutes into the first class session, I knew I’d have to scrap the whole thing.

My situation was unusual: I’d been asked by a group of parents to teach an “Apologetics for Kids” class, and it turned out the kids were so well-catechized that they could comfortably articulate all the basics I’d planned to cover as a foundation.  More often it will work the other way, and you the instructor will need slow down to review material that students should know, but don’t.  In either situation, or a combination of both in a single class, there’s no need to panic — it is for just this reason that you’ve been put on the job.

1. Always keep the essentials in the forefront of your plans.

No matter how introductory or advanced your course is, keep the basics of the Christian faith firmly in mind.  It does no good if your students can quote Aquinas all afternoon, but don’t understand the story of salvation.  There’s a time and a place for insisting that students meet certain prerequisites for a course, but most parish catechetical programs are not going to be that time and place.  You get the students God has entrusted to you, and it’s your job to make sure they hear the Gospel preached.

2. Consult your supervisor.

If the changes you need to make are more than just a quick pause to review and refresh, you need to keep your pastor or director appraised of the situation.  Resist the urge to whine, complain, or blame.  State the problem in objective terms:

  • “My students don’t know basics like the Sign of the Cross and the Our Father.”
  • “My students memorized these exact same Bible passages last year, and they are falling asleep on me.”
  • “I’ve got three kids who are ready for confirmation this morning, five who are working more or less on grade level, seven who don’t come to Mass and don’t know what I’m talking about when I discuss the parts of the Mass like we’re supposed to study this year, and one who keeps falling asleep at his desk because he gets up a 4AM to catch his bus.”

Then propose a solution:

  • “I’d like to take six weeks to review the checklist items from the bishop’s guidelines for grade-level subject mastery.”
  • “Since the students already know this material, would it be possible for us to do a quick review, and then use this free Youcat study guide I found to go a little deeper?”
  • “I’d like to divide the class into groups, and let the advanced students work independently on some special projects while I put most of my attention on the kids who need more help.”

3. Obey.

You might get the green light to go forward with your proposed changes, or to carry them out with some minor tweaking.  Your pastor or director might propose a completely different solution that also works.  Or you might get a firm, “Teach from the course plans as written, thank you.”

It is very frustrating if you feel that you cannot teach the course you are expected to teach.  Charitably assume that there are good reasons you are being asked to teach as directed; sometimes those reasons involve a situation that your director is not at liberty to discuss.  Even if you have to limp along with a curriculum that fits poorly, your students are better off in the hands of a skilled and loving instructor than they would be with no instructor at all.  Regardless of your situation, give it your best and keep preaching the Gospel.

What to Change and How to Change It

I can’t give you a template for the perfect set of class adjustments, because every class is different.  You are going to have to observe and discern, and figure out some solutions that work within the limits of your situation.  Some options to keep in mind as possibilities:

  • Include a review session at the start of each class, during which you revisit fundamentals from previous years.
  • Use part of the class for independent work, with the possibility of grouping students so they can each work at an appropriate level.
  • Allow the few especially advanced students to read independently during class time.
  • Spend relatively  more class time on the parts of the text that best match your students’ needs, and relatively less time on the portions that are too easy or too advanced.
  • Work with another instructor to regroup students so that one of you can work with the students who need the most help.
  • Find materials at the library or online that teach the topics in your text in a way that students understand it better.

The possibilities go on.  I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention my book, which includes a handful of chapters on teaching techniques that fit the most common problems in parish religious education.  I’d like to hear from you: What have you done that works?  What did you try that failed?  What advice would you give a struggling catechist in need of a course overhaul?

Lenten Warm-up for Catechists & Other Christians

Last summer I wrote a short column here that you might think of as “A Faith Formation Examination of Conscience.”  In it we surveyed the four ways of loving God mentioned in the Great Commandment, and looked at how each might make its appearance in your religious education class.

In preparation for a retreat being held today — the Feast of the Chair of St. Peter the Apostle — I put together a retreat workbook that develops those themes in much greater detail.  There are options within the workbook for using the retreat for personal discernment, for evaluating the condition of any ministry or apostolate, or for using the retreat to think about how your religious education program is coming along.

I’ve put a link to this little homegrown retreat up on my personal website, and you’re welcome to take a look, and pass it along.

Here’s the page with the link: http://jenniferfitz.wordpress.com/downloads/retreat-lord-you-know-i-love-you/

And here’s the direct link to the PDF file itself: http://jenniferfitz.files.wordpress.com/2014/02/retreat-workbook.pdf

Enjoy!

Marriage Only Has Meaning if It’s a Lifelong Commitment

Adriana Cohen at the Boston Herald surveys all the heartbreak in the world, and proposes that marriage licenses be issued for ten years, renewable.  This is my reply.  Prayers for a blessed Valentine’s Day, Adriana.

 

Dear Adriana,

This past weekend my husband and I lay in bed together, the lights dim, the room quiet, his head against my side. And he was crying. We were in the emergency room observation ward. He’d stopped in to check on me in between getting groceries, cleaning the house, and taking care of the kids. Like most men, when there’s a task in front of him, he’s good at setting aside his emotions and doing what needs to be done. But like any decent man, he also loves his wife dearly.

He’d die for me, I’m sure of it.

Are we extraordinary? No. We’re not. We’re a man and a woman who really liked each other, and so we got married.

If we’d gotten married under your ten-year-plan, I’m sure we’d have been married ten years and called it quits. We went through some difficult times at about the four-year mark, and if we hadn’t both been committed to lifelong marriage, we would have given it up then. I recall year twelve wasn’t so easy either. Frankly year seventeen or so is when we finally worked through a few of those problems that would have been the end of our marriage if only we’d believed in ending marriages.

The very fact that we knew we had to stay together is the reason our marriage is so beautiful and intimate. It’s the reason our children have happy parents who love one another, and do their best to create a joyful, peaceful home.

This is what marriage is. It’s not a hobby that you take up for a bit and then leave off when it gets old. It’s not a business partnership, or even an ordinary friendship. And even though we did a bunch of dumb stuff when we were young, the very fact that we both knew marriage ought to be lifelong meant that we worked pretty hard at choosing a spouse we’d want to be with lifelong.

Can you know the future? No, you can’t. Can you be utterly deceived by a sociopath in courtly disguise? Yes, you can. Bad things, terrible things, can happen when you live dangerously. Marriage is not about living cautiously. It’s about discerning carefully, and then throwing yourself in whole heartedly.

You hold hands and jump over the ledge together, and there’s no going back. It’s not a vacation, it’s a lifelong quest.

I’m sorry that you are so afraid of marriage. I’m sorry that someone’s given you the idea that all you can have is a very nice boyfriend. I’m sorry you don’t think it’s possible that a man could love you so much that he’d give anything – anything – to have just one more day with you.

But you really are that lovable.

Don’t sell yourself short.

Jennifer.

 

What Place for Parents in Religious Education?

Joanne McPortland, no stranger to religious education, writes here about “What’s Wrong with Religious Education? Everything.” I don’t agree with all her assertions, but she circles in on a point I’ve been meaning to address: Where are the parents?

I love teaching the Catholic faith, and I’ll teach anyone, anytime, anywhere.  I’ve spent a lot of hours of my life teaching kids, and I don’t for a moment think we ought to drop children’s faith formation.  But if I found myself facing one of those lunch-family and Bibletable no-win scenarios — “Would you rather be eaten by a tiger or crushed by an elephant?” — only it was, “Would you rather the parish teach only children or only adults?” I know what my answer would be: Adults.

Why?  Very simply: Parents are responsible for teaching their children.  Everything.  And the faith is not so difficult for parents to teach.  I would go so far as to hazard that there are very, very few parents who are truly unable to teach their children the Catholic faith.

So why does no one come to adult faith formation?  Well, for one thing, there’s the logistical problem.  To get parents in the room, you have to offer:

  • The course the parent actually needs
  • Taught by a competent teacher
  • At a time the parent can attend
  • In a place the parent can attend
  • With all the necessary childcare and eldercare the parent needs in order to attend.

This is why those 10 minutes in the Sunday homily are so important — it is, physically speaking, one of the most sure-hit combinations for reaching practicing Catholic adults.  (And likewise, why that four-hymn sandwich should be chosen carefully — precious minutes of catechesis there, if you pick well.)

But allow me to propose a more serious underlying cause than simple logistics, or habit, or poor priorities: We treat parents like babies.

You’re Responsible for This, Let Me Do It For You

Imagine you are a parent who says to your child, “It’s your job to clean your room, pack your lunch, and get your homework done.” And then, because you are a good parent, you make thorough preparations to help the child accomplish those goals.

What might that look like?  You might organize the child’s routine so that there was adequate time for completing each task.  You might gently steer your child away from distractions.  You might take time to help your child organize his room so it’s easy to clean.  You might teach the child how to make a PB&J sandwich neatly.  You might help the child make a list of his homework assignments, and periodically check in to see if he had any questions.

But you would not invite the child in for a semi-annual meeting in which you announced the child had these responsibilities, and therefore every Wednesday night from 7:00-8:30 you’d be cleaning his room, packing his lunch, and doing his homework, just in case he didn’t get around to it.  Imagine the conversation:

You have a responsibility for keeping your room clean, dear.  Unfortunately, I don’t think you’ll actually do it, and even if you tried you’d probably not do it very well.  So from now on, I want you to check with me once a week, and make sure I’m doing it for you.

And if you don’t keep your room clean the other six days of the week, that makes you very naughty, and I’ll tell everyone how naughty you are, and how I have to do everything for you.  But since I love you, and it’s very important that you learn to clean your own room, I’ll continue to do it for you every week.  Indefinitely.

This is the state of modern religious education. This is why Joanne McPortland’s modest proposal is so shocking: The thought of leaving parents to instruct their own children is unthinkable.

But we catechists know very well, since we’ve learned our catechism, that parents have the primary responsibility for educating their children in the faith.

Helping the Hapless

Where does that leave us?  We certainly have an obligation to help the widow and the orphan, and that means stepping in and filling the gap when parents are truly unable to educate their children in the faith.  Likewise, I’ve seen first hand the benefits of asking other adults to assist me in educating my children.  I don’t hesitate to send my daughter to an expert violinist for violin lessons, and I absolutely love being able to let her learn the faith from other adults in our community as well.

In the case of catechesis, it’s not because I can’t do it myself.  I do it myself every day of the week.  I do it because it is beneficial for my children to spend time learning from others who share our faith.  There is a very important role for catechists in the lives of the children of our parishes.

But that extra help from others should be just that: Extra help.  A little bonus.  A bolstering of what’s being taught at home.

The only way that our parish religious education programs can serve that purpose is if the children are, in fact, learning the faith at home.

That means we need to equip parents to truly be the primary educators of their children.

Don’t Mock Me, Teach Me

If I had dollar for every time I heard a catechist say, “The parents just don’t care!” I could buy a whole lotta YOUCATs.  But the thing is, it usually ends there.  We sit at our catechist luncheons telling stories about pathetic parents . . . and expect the parents to soak up all that love and respect we’re showing them (not!), and want to come seek us out for help?

Imagine you’re a nervous parent.  You’ve just shown up at church with your second-grader.  You haven’t been to confession in twenty years.  You usually forget to go to Mass. When you do go to Mass, you’re a little lost, and you really couldn’t say exactly what’s happening there.  You aren’t really sure what’s in the Bible, but you’re pretty sure it’s very good but very hard to understand.  But you want your child to receive the sacraments, so you turn out for the parent meeting.  And get a lecture.

Parents don’t need to be reminded how little they know. They need their questions answered.  They need someone to take them seriously.  To patiently, and yes, sometimes firmly, teach them how to be that responsible parent who knows the faith and passes it on.  Parents need you not to give up on them the seventh, or the seventy-seventh, time they goof it up.  Don’t wipe your hands of parents and announce, “I’ll do it all for you then!”  Keep going.  Keep teaching.  The grown-ups are just as hungry for Jesus as the children are.

The Sinner’s Guide to Natural Family Planning – Giveaway this Weekend

The Sinner's Guide to Natural Famiily Planning by Simcha FisherQuick book note for you, if you are looking for help with articulating the Church’s teaching on openness to life and responsible parenthood: Take a look at the Sinner’s Guide to Natural Family Planning.  It is absolutely my new go-to book for marriage-prep.

What it’s not: A book about how to practice NFP, nor a tour of the catechism and the going thinking in Theology of the Body.

What it is: An insightful and at times hilarious look at how marriage works, and how NFP fits into that, even when it doesn’t seem to fit.  Sarah Reinhard reviews it here, and I add a few comments about how unlikely it was I’d even read the book here.

I post additional thoughts at my place, where I’m hosting a giveaway this weekend, Nov 1 – Nov 4th, if you’d like a shot at winning a copy.  If you prefer to enter here at Amazing Catechists, you may do so in this combox, just leave your name and a comment.  Be sure to put an e-mail address in the indicated field (it is only visible to the site administrators), so that I can contact you if you win.  Drawing will be, approximately, Tuesday the 5th.

 Update: Congratulations to our winner, Angela!  Thanks to everyone for playing.  The rest of y’all go buy a copy!

Training for Catechists: Ho Kai Paulos by Joe Wetterling

Looking for training for catechists in plain English?  Veteran educator Joe Wetterling has relaunched his catechetical website, Ho Kai Paulos.  That bit of Greek means something to a few of you, and the rest of us can look here for the explanation.

I know Joe from his excellent presentations for the Catholic Writers Guild.  He’s on my favorites list because he’s well-read, and insightful, and hilarious, and a nice guy into the package.  He re-opens his site with a 101 on Objective vs. Subjective. If you need to bring a catechist up to speed, or refer someone for a review of the essentials of the faith, this is the place.