Interview with Sonja Corbitt about her book “Just Rest” and much more!
Oh boy, is this a POWERFUL conversation about the spiritual life with one of my all-time favorites, Sonja Corbitt!
Come with us and see your “desert” times in a whole new way that will prove to you that the Promised Land is closer than ever!
Click the book cover image to join me and Sonja, as we “get real” about our desert times!
SONJA CORBITT is the Bible Study Evangelista and creator of the LOVE the Word® Bible study method–and journal, called “the best modernization of lectio” by the Associate Publisher of Thomas Nelson Publishing.
A best-selling author and Telly Award-winning broadcaster, Sonja’s weekly radio and television shows, as well as a variety of other unique approaches to Scripture, create space for busy Christians to hear and experience God though the scriptures.
Through her Bible studies and books, one-on-one consultations, pilgrimages, retreats, television and radio shows, Sonja uses Scripture and a healing charism to lead others to deeper rest and healing.
Find Sonja at BibleStudyEvangelista.com
Get Sonja’s Book! https://www.avemariapress.com/products/just-rest
Your Talent, God’s Purpose: FREE Event
Talent awareness improves professional performance, relationships, and teams–which translates into all spheres: marriage, ministry, and business.
As a certified coach specializing in cultivating natural strengths, I feel deeply called to the mission of helping Catholics really shine in this dark world–now more than ever. I’m passionate about helping them to ditch misunderstandings and false shame about their talents, stand with confidence in God’s design for their lives, and experience the growth and enthusiasm that comes with that holy and humble clarity.
To that end, I’ve started doing free online events, and this month’s is called, “Wonderfully Made: Your Talent. God’s Purpose.”
We will start at 8:00 pm ET on November 12th, in my Zoom room, and run about 60 minutes. If people want to stay and chat or ask questions beyond that point, I’ll linger, but my prayer and presentation together should be no more than 30 minutes, with time for people to get settled beforehand and Q&A afterwards rounding out the hour.
The Zoom link and password are at the bottom of this post.
Those of you who sign up here by midnight November 11, will receive a reminder the day of the event. No registration is needed, but you’ll need to be on my mailing list to receive a reminder.
Invite Your Lists
I’d be grateful for any support, especially prayer, and your presence would be wonderful. You’ll probably see this invitation in other places, too, as I get the word out. I’d appreciate your help with sharing.
FYI, my primary audience tends to be Catholic women, but I also work with and welcome men, teens, young adults, and people of other faiths (as long as they’re not hostile to Catholicism). Feel free to share this with anyone you think might be interested.
Again, this is a free opportunity to have fun learning, to share your own insights, and to help me discover how best to serve our community.
Thank you, so much!
Gallup-Certified Strengths Coach
Join Zoom Meeting at 8:00 pm ET, November 12th
Meeting ID: 631 235 9340
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Meeting ID: 631 235 9340
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Coaching happens in the gap between where you are and where you want to be
Dear Friends in Christ,
Attached are the resources I shared in my recent webinar for Catholic creatives, utilizing coaching techniques to break through in life and art. Please feel free to email me with questions or to request additional resources. I may eventually create a monthly newsletter for breakthrough resources if it seems helpful, but in the meantime, I will keep updating this page.
Text or Email the word COACHING for information on private breakthrough coaching and/or groups for Catholic creatives.
Coaching is About Your BEST Life:
- Breakthrough: a prayerfully facilitated exploration of your challenges, personal values, dreams, and goals brings accelerated progress toward living a powerful life
- Empowerment: learning to live into your authentic values and vision creates clarity and momentum, as you acquire skills that last a lifetime
- Satisfaction: learning and growing beyond your expectations, while knocking down barriers to success
- Teaching: optional group sessions provide a like-minded association of Catholic creatives prayerfully connecting and providing support, as participants learn from each other’s insights, struggles, and successes
- 1 free, private introductory session to help you decide if coaching is for you
- 3 private, 45-minute sessions per month, by phone
- Sessions begin with a brief prayer, which you may lead if you like
- Each session is a gentle, guided exploration of whatever brings you to the coaching conversation
- As the client, you are always in charge of the focus of every session
- As your coach, I listen deeply and prayerfully to what God is speaking into your heart
- I stay open to wherever that exploration takes us and ask powerful questions that help you step into new perspectives
- Coaching provides clarity that allows us to co-design steps toward your goals, with your preferred level of accountability
- Many additional resources are provided or recommended, as needed
- It is my pleasure to provide ongoing support between sessions
- $180 per month
Breakthrough Group Coaching:
- 1 free, private introductory session before your group begins
- 2 group sessions per month, online
- 1 private lesson per month, by phone
- No more than five participants to a group
- Every online session includes a short presentation on a topic of interest to the group
- One-on-one coaching, LIVE, in the group–with each participant in control of the focus of their coaching
- Takeaways, support, and observations from the group accelerate growth
- $125 per month
CREATIVITY BOOSTERS (summarized from recent webinar)
- Mind-mapping for non-linear brainstorming: https://www.mindmapping.com/mind-map.php
- Writing with pen and paper to get ideas moving faster
- Working out to release the subconscious
- Napping to awaken to creative ideas
- Dressing up to change your perspective
- Reading to calm your brain and generate ideas
- Asking open questions: who, what, why, how, when?
- Doing something backward (writing, walking, using your non-dominant hand)
- Naming wrong (spend a few minutes pointing at things and saying the wrong name for them)
- Sensory stimulation (get outside and use your senses)
FREE self-assessment tools for gifts and clarifying purpose: (Perhaps start with the VIA strengths test—a well-regarded alternative to Clifton Strengths.) This site has other assessments as well. https://www.authentichappiness.sas.upenn.edu/testcenter
values-exercise (superb worksheet for identifying core values, as a basis for visioning and purpose work)
Creating a Statement of VisionPurposeMission (worksheet with Scriptures)
Goal-setting Worksheet (.jpg)
Remember that you are irrevocably gifted and called:
For the gifts and the call of God are irrevocable.
Jesus’ Missionary Healers
A few years ago, as I was ushering my 3rd grade Sunday School class to our annual Advent confession day, I reminded them that Jesus was present in the Tabernacle. One of the girls repeated the word “Tabernacle” several times, as if chewing on the word, before proclaiming, “Tabernacle…that’s my favorite word!” It became the word that grounded us when lessons about the Trinity and Church teaching somehow became a weekly update about everyone’s pets. The Tabernacle was our anchor, and each class I reminded them that Jesus was present in that gold box called a Tabernacle whenever they saw that red sanctuary candle lit.
As our Church grapples with the sorrows of the past few months, I feel buoyed up by this memory. It reminds me that our Church is made of much more than the few people who have led us to disappointment and doubt, and I feel emboldened to pray the Creed. Yes, Lord I believe in One God…
I believe that there is a power in being a broken Church. Certainly the Apostles, who felt the corruption and blasphemy of the leaders of their faith at the Church’s very beginnings, must have felt similar emotions. Who can I trust? Is the Lord really present in this Church? Is it worth staying?
Years ago, when I lived in Rome, my parish was Sancta Maria in Trastevere. In the early Church, the taverns, which occupied the Church’s current location, became the very place where the Gospel was spread and hearts were converted to Christ. This bit of history reminds me that the Gospel is not meant to be experienced solely within the confines of the physical church building, and that Jesus Christ is not meant to be kept on reserve in the Tabernacle like a book in a library. Rather, we are all, priest and parishioner alike, meant to proclaim that Gospel and bring that Presence of Christ wherever we go. We are both Tabernacle and sanctuary candle, alive with Christ, present within us, and aflame with the joy of Love Incarnate.
A few years ago, the Holy Father challenged us to be “Missionary Disciples.” I think that, particularly now, we must also be Missionary Healers. Every person is wounded, even (and perhaps most especially) the wound-er. We must accept into our hearts the broken, those who feel alone and rejected. We must give them a resting place in our hearts so that they can experience the warmth of Christ’s Presence in our hearts. Often it is in this moment of mercy that I recognize He is really there.
The world is cold and dark, but His Presence is still aflame, even if it feels like the dying embers of a once roaring fire. The fact remains that light is more powerful than darkness. Even in the darkness we have the moon and stars for light, just as we have Our Lady and the saints (and each other!), giving us hope, pointing us to the sun we cannot see.
We must have faith even when those who promise to lead us go astray, and remain strong in our defense of Christ and His Church, even when our offense fails. We must pray for our leaders, our parish priests who are on the front lines, the offensive line, if you will, taking the hits even when the quarterback fumbles. We are the defense and special teams! We must support our faithful offense, the clergy, who lead us to closer to the endzone, to our Heavenly goal, to become saints in God’s kingdom.
Only God knows the trajectory of our Church. It is my hope, however, that this horrific experience will generate saints of all states of life. Our faith is stronger than sin, as it is made of the very Presence of Christ in our hearts, so long as we let Him remain there. We are living Tabernacles, charged with bringing healing to our broken world. Together we can rebuild His Church, a mission not unique to Saint Francis.
I would be remiss if I did not acknowledge that each of us is broken, wounded by sin, others, and the fallen world in which we live. To all of you, let Christ heal you! He accepts you, as broken as you are. You are never too broken for God.
When you find yourself feeling lost remember the anchor. You are a Tabernacle, Jesus Christ is with you, and you have a mission. Our Church will never crumble because Christ is truly present in our sanctuaries, in our hearts, and in those of countless other Christians. Wherever you are, at home or in your car, at work or school, in a bar or a tavern, you are a Missionary Healer, because you are His and He is yours.
The Sinner and The Hypocrite are Not Twins
The Struggle Is Real
William Gurnall once stated, “While the Christian commits a sin he hates it; whereas the hypocrite loves it while he forbears it.” We have all felt the frustration of falling into sin the same day as attending Mass or praying. The truth is that we all play many positive and not so positive roles in our daily spiritual lives. If you are anything like I am, you unwittingly focus more on the negative roles than the positive ones. You may tend to beat yourself up more for the slips than celebrating the wins.
That is not what Christ is all about. Surely, he wants us to see our faults. However, Jesus also wants us to be uplifted by our accomplishments as well. In fact, one of those accomplishments can often be gaining clarity amidst our stumbles. Such was the case when I called myself a hypocrite during confession. The priest gently corrected me, pointing out that hypocrites pretend to be something they are not while sinners merely fall. Hypocrites are liars and sinners, whereas sinners are usually not liars and hypocrites. Sinners fall a lot in a feeble effort to pursue his example of love and service.
Falling Is Not Hypocrisy
Do not consider yourself a hypocrite because you are a sinner. Rather, consider yourself the beneficiary of such a loving God that your sins can be washed away by your sincere desire to improve out of love. Do not scrupulously obsess over your falls. Rather, embrace the gift of hope and immerse yourself in the sea of love and mercy which Christ offers to all of us who fall on a daily basis. The devil wants you to wallow in shame, frustration, doubt, despair, and hopelessness.
Shed yourself of these negative and self-destructive lies. Christ chose you to glorify God despite your imperfection because he knew that there was greatness beneath your falls. Remember that Saul lost an S and gained a P in his name precisely through his greatest fall and proceeded to change the world. Remember that Paul fell because God loved him and wanted his greatness to emerge from that fall. We all have greatness just waiting to be discovered through our falls.
Hypocrisy Is Conscious Pretense
The person who pretends to be impartial while secretly favoring one side over another is a hypocrite. Individuals who pretend to love animals while secretly abusing them are hypocrites. People who pretend to follow Christ while promoting everything he spoke against act hypocritically. However, a common misconception in our society, especially among those who bash Catholics and Christians in general, is to call anyone who preaches following in the example of Christ while falling far from that example a hypocrite. It is not hypocrisy to promote and aspire to a standard and conduct one fails to obtain for oneself.
One’s imperfection (which we all possess) does not, therefore, tarnish, diminish, or destroy the virtue and value of one’s message of virtue. It is hypocrisy, however, to consistently promote a message which one consciously and purposefully rejects or ignores. The sin is not in failing to live up to one’s own message or supposed standards but, rather, in consciously rejecting that message and standard for oneself while applying it to others.
Many today turn this issue into a political one, conveniently bashing opponents and defending their own side regarding hypocrisy claims. Some of these even argue that this is all about a failure to self-reflect. I suggest that we begin by separating the validity and virtue of the message from its imperfect messengers. I also suggest that we distinguish between consciously pretending to that which one is not versus merely promoting a message one often fails to uphold through one’s own imperfection.
Many cite the Bible which speaks on the evil of judging others and pointing imperfect fingers (Mt 7:1-5) and of seeing oneself as better than another (Lk 18:11-12). Another point is judging over small matters while ignoring much more important issues (Mt 23:23). Ultimately, hypocrisy is found where one holds different standards for oneself than others (Rm 2:21-22), boasts outwardly or does things merely for show (Mt 6:2), holds others’ imperfections as proof of their supposed inferiority, or says one thing for outward appearance while internally believing something else (Ps 12:2). Hypocrisy exists where one has no sincere intention to change and even a desire to define one’s own standards apart from God’s (Rm 10:3).
A common thread in the Bible’s views on hypocrisy is that it is insincere and self-righteous. The sinner who sincerely aspires to and promotes that which he falls short of but never stops struggling to reach is not a hypocrite. The key issues are sincere intent and attempt as well as humble reflection and admission of imperfection. Hypocrites possess outward superficiality with no intent or attempt to change.
In the course of my teaching, I am often called upon to teach students the principles of logic and reasoning. One of the most common errors in this area is thinking that a good message is faulty or useless simply because the messenger is imperfect or even contradicts the very message he or she is conveying. Smoking causes cancer whether or not the one telling us so actually smokes. If imperfection disqualified us from bringing Christ to others, all of us including all saints would have to find another purpose in life. Our Lord knew all too well that he was gathering from imperfect ranks.
The Best Teachers Are Those Who Have Fallen
One of my many hats is tutoring people on how to pass the Bar Exam. Most students are shocked when I inform them that I failed the Bar Exam three times before finally passing it! After all, they reason, why would anyone admit to failing that which they now propose to help another pass? I proceed to inform them that my stumbles are the logs from which I burn the fuel of experience. By failing, I learned what not to do as much as what is simply a waste of time.
By failing, I learned how our own warped sense of perfection actually distorts our perception of humanity, practicality, compassion, mercy, and hope. Ultimately, those who have fallen are the best teachers on how to avoid some falls. More importantly, they teach us how to fall gracefully and rise masterfully. God knows that our falls can shape our greatness if we allow them to do so.
Falling is an Opportunity, Not a Failure
It is with all of the above experiences and revelations honed through setbacks and stumbles that I slowly realized that the ultimate sin is not in falling or often failing to practice what one preaches. Rather, the worst sin of all is failing to rise after one’s falls out of a combination of despair, lack of faith, pride, shame, or simply not loving enough. Yes, you must love to get up from your falls. You must love yourself enough to believe that you can rise and aspire. You must love others enough to realize that your rises can inspire them. Above all, you must love God enough to throw all pride and shame aside.
The hypocrite and the sinner are not always one and the same. Hypocrites lie while sinners simply fall. Our world obsesses over results. Our Lord, however, favors sincere effort to overcome falls. When the world sees a fall, God sees a potential for greatness. What becomes of our falls is up to each of us. Your sin is not hypocrisy unless you stop trying to change, start judging others harshly, or start lying to yourself. The best methods to fight hypocrisy include humble acceptance of your faults and sincerity to amend your life.
2018 Gabriel Garnica
MAC Notes For Praying With Children
It was a great joy to present some ideas about praying with children, this past Friday (February 16), at the Mid-Atlantic Congress, in Baltimore. It touched my heart very much to be in Maryland (Mary-land!) surrounded by dedicated people of faith.
I want to thank all of you who attended for your warmth, your attention, and most of all for your commitment to bring the Faith to others, no matter how difficult that task may seem. But we know that God is faithful, and what we plant He waters.
Please feel free to ask questions in the com boxes and I’ll add more material, as needed. Here are the bullet points, reading resources, Catechism quotes, Scriptures, and other elements of the talk:
I began by talking about the fact that we are all made for supernatural experiences and interactions. It is natural for us to experience the supernatural! From the beginning of our lives to the moment we enter heaven, we are accompanied by a guardian angel, a pure spirit so unique that it is a separate species from all other spirits (according to Catholic angelologists). This mighty being beholds the face of God in heaven and attends to our souls with perfect dedication and love.
I shared two prayers from my new book, Heads Bowed: Prayers for Catholic School Days. The first is from Week One and was written for the adult preparing for the school year (there are two weeks of preparation prayers), and the other is from Week Nine of the children’s prayers and provides a prayer lesson on the same topic: Angels!
Here they are:
Holy Angels, you surround us with your prayerful and protective presence at all times, and I thank you. I ask that you watch over our classroom throughout the coming year, filling it with your praises to God and guarding it diligently with your holy presence and your powerful prayers. Draw down from heaven every grace and blessing we need to heal our wounds, repent of our sins, and offer our sufferings in union with the cross of Jesus Christ for the good of souls. Amen. (Week 1: Theme: Strength in Weakness)
Dear Jesus, St. Anselm taught that from the moment we are created in our mother’s womb, God gives us a guardian angel to watch over us. We are precious to God no matter how small we are. Even though we are hidden away for a little while before we were born, God always sees us and loves us! After we are born, God’s angel stays with us throughout our lives and guides us safely to God, when we die. Our angel will not leave us or stop praying for us until we are ready to enter into the joy of heaven! Amen. (Week 9: Theme: The Unborn)
Nothing is more natural than teaching the Faith through prayer. We do this naturally when we are raising our own children. We call out the attributes of God, express our trust in His mercy, and use a language of love that helps each child feel they are a part of something beautiful and true.
Every one of the almost 300 prayers in my book is a short catechetical lesson, as well as a prayer. The collection spans about 10 months of school days, plus special occasion prayers, a glossary of challenge words, and a scriptural reference for each week. The traditional dedications of the days and months, the liturgical seasons, virtues, and mysteries of the Rosary, are also woven into the prayers, so that young children experience them simply and older children and adults have more to interest them.
We ourselves express an amazing nature that will be perfected, in heaven. On earth, we possess five senses that help us to access the intangibles of heaven, and after the Resurrection of the Dead, our glorified senses will be even more amazing! That’s why the Church is so wise about beauty, which is a gateway to truth and goodness–to God Himself.
Body and Soul: One Human Nature: CCC 365
The unity of soul and body is so profound that one has to consider the soul to be the “form” of the body: i.e., it is because of its spiritual soul that the body made of matter becomes a living, human body; spirit and matter, in man, are not two natures united, but rather their union forms a single nature.
When Jesus entered into time, He sanctified it. And when He took on human flesh, he sanctified that, too. That means that every moment of our lives is holy and our lives have meaning and purpose from our earliest biological beginnings to the very end of our natural lives. It is all His! Every moment is precious. The world tells us otherwise, discarding the helpless unborn and the elderly, which is the darkest kind of ignorance, masquerading as sophistication.
Note: Those who have been lied to, indoctrinated, pressured, and wounded by these evils (i.e., post-abortive women and families) are tenderly loved by God and need only seek His healing love to be restored and strengthened, to be given new life, and to carry out their true purpose in Him. Check out Rachel’s Vineyard for loving support in finding healing.
Never doubt the dignity of your own soul. God, who contains the entire universe and all of heaven–the angels, saints, holy souls, our beloved who are living and those who have died, the stars and planets, every layer of creation–this God abides tenderly and devotedly in our souls. Within our souls dwells the Holy Spirit, by virtue of our baptism, and each time we receive Jesus in the Eucharist, we become tabernacles of His holy presence. That Presence has an impact on the world around us, as it radiates through us.
- St. Therese of Lisieux said, “How great must a soul be to contain a God.”
- Jesus said, “If a man loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him.” (Jn 14:23)
- When the Lord is with us, we are empowered to live the adventure of our own lives, to fulfill the unique calling of God to our individual souls!
- God wants to make a masterpiece in our souls.
- Learning and teaching the Faith is a key to that wondrous transformation in Christ.
“For I know well the plans I have in mind for you, plans for your welfare and not for woe, so as to give you a future of hope.” Jeremiah 29:11
Learning our faith a little at a time draws us closer to God and empowers our mission.
As we move through our lives, studying our faith, we “scratch” at ideas that may be familiar, but perhaps we don’t fully understand, yet. The Liturgical year takes us round and round the treasure map of our faith, and we scratch a little every year, going deeper into the treasury of grace and knowledge that feeds our walk with Christ. If we keep scratching a little at a time, we uncover treasures that change our lives, light our souls on fire, and make it impossible for us to keep our excitement to ourselves.
I absolutely love Dr. Edward Sri’s book, A Biblical Walk Through the Mass: Understanding What We Say and Do in the Liturgy. He takes each piece of the Mass, scratches and digs deeply into the origins and biblical connections, and unearths the treasures within. He begins with the very start of the Mass:
“On the one hand, from a Scriptural perspective, the words ‘The Lord be with you’ remind us of the high calling we each have. As God’s children, we each have a particular mission to fulfill in the Father’s plan…each of us has a role that no one else can play…these words also assure us that we have access to a higher power that can support us through the trials and challenges of life and help us be faithful in whatever task God has entrusted to us.” (p. 26)
Dr. Sri goes on to explain that when God says, “I will be with you,” or an angel says, “The Lord is with you,” he is saying that we need not fear anything. He describes some examples: Moses, Joshua, Gideon, Mary. Each is empowered to accomplish the impossible, in friendship with God.
When we hear the priest say, at Mass, “The Lord be with you,” we should hear the voice of the Lord saying to us:
- I will equip you, I will provide for you, I will defend you, and I will give you victory.
- Through the gift of Himself in the Eucharist, Christ strengthens us.
- Our heroes are heroes because they trusted in the power of God.
- Prayer and study change us, opening us up to God’s grace (LIFE).
- When we persevere in prayer and sacramental life, we become radiant witnesses.
Pope Paul VI famously wrote: “Modern man listens more willingly to witnesses than to teachers, and if he does listen to teachers, it is because they are witnesses.”
We all want to be radiant witnesses, but I sometimes feel, working with children, that I’m ill-prepared or uninspired, so I pray, “Lord, light me up! You are my wattage!” And He never lets me down. If I walk out of class feeling like a failure, I say, “Lord, I don’t know what I did in there, but I know You did something!”
The amazing Venerable Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen always prayed before he taught: “Lord, send me Pentecostal fire!”
But to become Radiant Witnesses, we need sacramental healing and cleansing: confession. Here’s the fun commercial I do at all my talks. When you do this for your own presentations, have fun! Sell it! Make them laugh. It will help them remember.
Feeling tired? Rundown? Discouraged? Feel like Jesus hasn’t been answering your prayers, lately? Well, how would you like to get back in the game so fast it’ll make the enemy’s head spin? Get some religion, get your groove back? Let the light of the Lord shine right through you and out to the world? Well, you’re in luck! Because right now you, my friend, can get back in the race with some sanctifying grace. Discovering the elation of reconciliation. Free at last! Free of charge, at a Catholic parish near you, where a priest is waiting to take your call. Get back in the game. Get back to confession!
Why It is Important to Pray With Children
- Adults humbly approaching the throne of God is a powerful witness.
- Recognizing something greater than ourselves is an important reality check.
- Respecting authority in childhood—leads to exercising healthy authority as adults.
- Praying together gives children a blueprint for prayer—they mimic to learn the language of love.
- They realize they can have a relationship with God, Our Lady, the saints, angels, and the Holy Souls.
- They are reminded that they are made for supernatural encounters.
- Prayer empowers them to enter into the mystery—and the paradoxes of a life lived for God.
- Memories and habits of prayer, soaked in love, become rich in meaning and take root for a lifetime.
- An intimate relationship with God is an indispensable means to achieving their life’s purpose with clarity.
- The habit of prayer strengthens them to stand against dark influences and live for God.
Working prayer into our lessons and lessons into our prayers
Here, I shared some ideas about the naturalness of prayer as a way to teach, and lessons as a way to incorporate prayer, beginning with the Sign of the Cross–again, based on a lesson from Dr. Sri’s book. I began with this excerpt, however, from an EWTN interview with author and editor, Bert Ghezzi:
Bert Ghezzi (from EWTN interview):
- The sign of the cross is: a confession of faith; a renewal of baptism; a mark of discipleship; an acceptance of suffering; a defense against the devil; and a victory over self-indulgence.
- When you make the sign, you are professing a mini version of the creed — you are professing your belief in the Father, and in the Son and in the Holy Spirit.
- When you say the words and pray in someone’s name you are declaring their presence and coming into their presence— that’s how a name is used in Scripture.
Dr. Sri talked about “signs” in the Bible:
- Exodus 12: Passover: the Israelites were spared because of the lamb’s blood on their doorposts
- Revelations 7:3: the saints in heaven have a seal on their forehead
- Ezekial 9:4: those marked with the TAV were spared the wrath of God.
St. John Chrysostom said this about the Sign of the Cross:
When, then, you make the sign of the cross on the forehead, arm yourself with a saintly boldness, and reinstall your soul in its old liberty; for you are not ignorant that the cross is a prize beyond all price.
Consider what is the price given for your ransom, and you will never more be slave to any man on earth. This reward and ransom is the cross. You should not then, carelessly make the sign on the forehead, but you should impress it on your heart with the love of a fervent faith. Nothing impure will dare to molest you on seeing the weapon, which overcometh all things.
All of this to say that when we “scratch” below the surface and find treasures, we cannot help but share them and that passion ignites a fire in children.
Creating a Prayerful Environment for Children:
- No phones, please. The addictive quality of cell phones and other electronic devices is very real and should be prohibited in class.
- Basic discipline should create a safe environment for the shyest children. Don’t let alpha kids take over. Be forgiving but firm.
- Your own example of faith and reverence is contagious.
- Beauty! As we know, our souls are touched by beauty. Use it as much as you can: sacred art, candles, music, Easter and Christmas cards! God speaks through beauty and touches our hearts when nothing else can.
Meeting Them Where They Are
- Learning styles and developmental issues can be understood easily. Lots of information is available online.
- They remember how you made them feel, so ask Jesus to act through you and speak through you with the love only He can give.
- The grace of forgiveness and second chances: show mercy, while maintaining order.
- Children’s memories and associations: sometimes they surprise us with weird connections. They are making memories, as they connect their own ideas with the new ones. Don’t despair that they don’t seem to understand. They’re working on it.
- Communication and cleaning up messes: be sensitive to the children’s feelings. You don’t know how much you may matter to them or how God may be touching that child by your witness, without your knowledge. If you think you may have done something insensitive, circle back and make amends.
- Prayer Basket keeps the community strong: get the names of all their loved ones on cards that go in a basket for weekly prayer. They stay connected with the community of the classroom that way, even when they are not able to be present.
First Through Third Grade
- A decade of the Rosary takes five minutes! Inviting Our Lady into the classroom makes everything better. And Sister Lucia, one of the seers of Fatima (and many saints) have said, “…there is no problem that cannot be resolved by the recitation of the Holy Rosary.” It is a spiritual weapon par excellence!
- Intentions clarified: make sure the children understand what they are praying for. Invite feedback.
- Marching to hymns of praise gets their wiggles out and provides a liturgical feel as you transition to the next activity.
- Spontaneous prayer is important. If a child brings up a worry or concern, pray on the spot.
- Throwing their prayers up to God. I have them close their eyes and hold out their hands, palms up, giving God everything on their hearts and then making a tossing motion, giving it to him to take care of.
- God can make good come out of any bad thing, can bring beauty from ugliness, and hope from despair. Keep weaving this into prayer with them.
- Name saints! I research the children’s names at the start of the year and weave those saints into lesson time.
- Trips to the Church are essential: entering reverently, blessing themselves with holy water, and genuflecting with their eyes on the tabernacle (greeting Jesus silently in their hearts) can be practiced ahead of time, in class. I love to walk through the Stations of the Cross with them, having the boys say one half and the girls the other, and then switching halfway through (We bless thee oh Lord and we praise you; for by your holy cross you have redeemed the world). Talking about the altar as a table for a holy meal, a place of sacrifice (the Lamb of God), and connecting it all to the sacraments gives them more connection to the Mass.
- Sacramentals: have them reverently practice venerating blessed sacramentals: i.e., a crucifix, a sacred image, a relic, a medal.
- Living a moment in Scripture: I act out Bible stories with my kids after I read them aloud, so they get to experience in different ways: they hear the story, see the pictures, and then “live” it for a few short minutes. Every learning style is covered, this way, and it helps them remember. It’s all very easy and loose. For more information, see my booklet, Be An Amazing Catechist: Inspire the Faith of Children.
Fourth Through Eighth Grade and Beyond
- See above, plus…
- Cultivating silence: their lives are noisy. Give them opportunities to experience silent prayer.
- Spiritual bouquets for the Holy Souls: these powerful allies in purgatory need our prayers and pray for us with great impact when we pray for them. Establish this relationship early. It benefits the Church and many souls.
- Adopting a mission or ministry: choose something where they can receive progress reports and other kinds of feedback, so they see the impact of their prayers and a way to help out when they are old enough.
- Relationships with saints: through their name saints, the liturgical year, and martyr stories, children can be intrigued about the saints and want to know them better and learn from them. Also, namesaintgenerator.com is a great online resource. Have them pray to the Holy Spirit, then click the interface to choose a saint. They should study the saint’s life and pray, “Teach me what you know,” for a set period of time.
- Eucharistic miracles: true accounts abound and are fascinating to tweens and teens: see this website: https://therealpresence.org/
- Incorruptibles: these somewhat strange miraculous occurrences fascinate teens and tweens.
- Adoration: teens often find a personal relationship with Christ in front of the Blessed Sacrament. I even take very young children and tell them that Jesus is waiting for them, His arms loaded with gifts of grace. They should silently tell Him about their day, share their hopes and worries, and pray simply, “Jesus, I adore You!” With older students, we memorize the Anima Christi for after Communion and for Adoration:
Soul of Christ, sanctify me
Body of Christ, save me
Blood of Christ, inebriate me
Water from the side of Christ, wash me
Passion of Christ, strengthen me
O good Jesus, hear me
Within Thy wounds hide me
Suffer me not to be separated from Thee
From the malignant enemy defend me
At the hour of my death call me
And bid me come to Thee
That with thy saints I may praise thee
Forever and ever
- Special liturgies that involve them in the planning, reading, and music, help them to understand the Mass and their role as contributing members of the community.
- Conferences can do what we can’t. Chastity, TOB, the Real Presence, Vocations–youth speakers have a powerful calling to reach the hearts and minds of teens and tweens. Do whatever you can to get your middle and high school students to appropriate events.
Remember, what we plant, He waters!
Here’s my resource list! Let me know if you need anything else. I’m happy to help!
Heads Bowed: Prayers for Catholic School Days, by Lisa Mladinich (Liguori Publications)
Be An Amazing Catechist: Inspire the Faith of Children, by Lisa Mladinich (in English and Spanish, from Our Sunday Visitor)
Be An Amazing Catechist: Sacramental Preparation, by Lisa Mladinich (in English and Spanish, from Our Sunday Visitor)
A Biblical Walk Through the Mass: Understanding What We Say and Do in the Liturgy, by Edward Sri (Ascension Press)
The Happiness of Heaven: The Joys and Rewards of Eternal Glory, by Fr. J. Boudreau, S.J. (1870) (TAN reprint)
Champions of the Rosary: The History and Heroes of a Spiritual Weapon, by Father Donald Calloway (Marian Press)
What Matters Most: Empowering Young Catholics for Life’s Big Decisions, by Leonard J. DeLorenzo (Ave Maria Press)
Prayer for Beginners, by Peter Kreeft (Ignatius Press)
Free Online Resources:
Article on praying with children: https://amazingcatechists.com/2018/02/teach-kids-pray-5-simple-steps/
CatholicMom.com (my puppet scripts)
Fisheaters.com (tour of the church)
VIDEO: My Visit With Doug Keck on EWTN Bookmark
My new book for parents, catechists, and Catholic school teachers, helps adults and children learn their faith together!
It was an honor to be interviewed by Doug Keck, on EWTN’s BookMark, on location at the Catholic Marketing Network Tradeshow.
In this episode, Doug featured me and three other members of the Catholic Writers’ Guild, talented Catholic writers with a true heart for the Church: Joe Wetterling, A.J. Cattapan, and Cathy Gilmore.
My interview starts at about the 5 1/2 minute mark, FYI.
Email me directly, if you’d like to gift a bundle of discounted copies of my book to your catechists, faculty, or homeschool network!
Blessings of Advent
Three Secrets That Lead to Advent Joy, Not Exhaustion
Advent comes from the Latin word, “adventus,” which means “coming.” Jesus is coming, we know, and there is much to do! But life can be intensely stressful, noisy, and draining, especially when we are caught up in the material demands of the Christmas season.In the race for the perfect gifts, decorations, foods, and cards, we can easily forget something central to our faith: that the richness and depth of the color purple that adorns our Advent liturgies is a reminder to us to atone for sin and open our hearts in more trust, more purity, and more love to the Infant Jesus. It is He who comes into the world and into our hearts to save us (John 3:16). Being ready for him takes an attentive and humble heart.
Here are three easy ways to weed out unnecessary distractions and plant our hearts firmly in Advent:
1. Give away your stuff:
Many charities will come right to your house or apartment building, pick up your boxes and bags full of giveaways, and leave you a tax-receipt, making it extremely easy to clear out closets, book cases, and cupboards–to bless someone else with your plentiful belongings. Gently-used clothing, housewares, books, toys, costumes, knickknacks, artwork, crafting supplies, unused office supplies, and almost anything else that is still in good condition can touch the lives of others less fortunate, while the charity truck gives us the clutter-free environment we long for.
It is a spiritual truth that we have to clean out our hearts to receive Jesus more fully (more on that, soon). Let’s clean out our homes and unburden ourselves from the guilt and stress of useless clutter. Just as Jesus can transform a heart open to his love, He can transform our homes into sanctuaries of of peace and simplicity.
2. Pop the question:What are your family’s favorite Advent and Christmas traditions? If you’ve never asked them, you’ll be amazed at the answers. While you’ve been slaving to duplicate every household display, every traditional recipe, and chase down the perfect Christmas cards, surprises, and gatherings, your family has been secretly waiting for just one or two moments to arrive.
Each person has a touchstone, a particular event or practice that says, “Christmas joy” more than anything else. For me, it’s caroling and decorating our tree. For our daughter, it’s Christmas brunch and opening presents with Grandma. For my husband, it’s a Christmas Eve celebration with old friends. Knowing that these are the most important touchstones for my family helps me to discard anything that simply adds to our busyness and stress. It simplifies our lives and takes away that feeling of having to “do it all” before it’s too late. It also minimizes the let-down after Christmas–that feeling that you worked yourself to death for an experience that faded within hours.
3. Prepare spiritually:
- Get to confession more regularly!
Oh, joy, right? I’m laughing because Reconciliation is the sacrament that people avoid like the plague, when it is precisely the pathway to joy that we all need. When we leave our little sins unconfessed, we become comfortable with them, and they weaken us spiritually, making it easier to commit more serious sins. We also block the graces that Jesus longs to pour into our hearts in Holy Communion.
C. S. Lewis wrote, in a collection of his essays called, The Weight of Glory, that the sins we cling to are the “dead places” in our hearts. It makes sense, doesn’t it? If we block the Lord of Life from entering certain areas of our lives, then those are dead places.
If we want our lives healed, if we want to grow in virtue, if we crave joy and intimacy with God, it’s critical that we get to confession. The Holy Eucharist is the Real Presence of Jesus Christ under the appearance of bread and wine, and His power to heal us is infinite; however, Jesus is a gentleman and never forces himself into our hearts, so we must prepare–and make room for him in the inn, so to speak. It is only then that He can pour the graces needed to free us from attachment to sin, heal us from the wounds of our past, and bring us into lives of great freedom and fulfillment.
You see a priest in the confessional and hear the words of absolution from another human being, and that may seem awkward and embarrassing, but what is really happening is an astonishingly beautiful encounter: it is Jesus who forgives, absolves, and heals through the words and actions of the priest. Do not miss this precious and life-changing encounter with God!
Here are some resources for making a solid examination of conscience before confessing your sins:
The Sacrament of New Beginnings, of Freedom! (includes a wonderful short video)
The Ten Commandments (article from Our Sunday Visitor about the “yes” behind every “no” in God’s laws)
- Choose a meditation for the four weeks of Advent:
(HINT: I love all of these but usually only try to do one at a time)
- Advent With Saint Teresa of Calcutta: Daily Meditations, by Heidi Hess Saxton
- Brief, beautifully-written daily meditations have a freshness and inspirational quality I have not found in other daily prayer guides. Highly recommended.
- The St. Andrew Christmas Novena
- This traditional prayer honors the first Apostle called by Jesus, St. Andrew. Pray this short prayer 15 times daily throughout Advent for a special intention (many graces will follow):Hail and blessed be the hour and moment in which the Son of God was born Of the most pure Virgin Mary, at midnight, in Bethlehem, in the piercing cold. In that hour vouchsafe, I beseech Thee, O my God, to hear my prayer and grant my desires through the merits of Our Savior Jesus Christ, and of His blessed Mother. Amen.
- Simply “hold” the Baby Jesus to your heart.
- One year I was stressed and distracted and had no “Christmas spirit” at all, so I asked Jesus for help. A vivid and tender image came to me of the Infant Jesus in the manger, and I bent to gather the sweet Child into my arms. From that moment on, just the thought of cradling the Baby against my shoulder and holding him close brought me to a quiet, reverent, and joyful place in the privacy of my heart. Christmas Eve mass and Christmas day were extraordinarily meaningful, that year.
- Pray with the children in your life, every day.
- Here’s an excerpt of Week 20: Christmas, from my new book, Heads Bowed: Prayers for Catholic School Days:
God, when I think about Jesus coming to earth, I realize the he must love each of us very much. Jesus is God and can do anything he wants to, but he chose to become a helpless baby born to poor parents, to teach us that love is what makes us rich. Remind us that when his mother laid him in a manger that animals eat out of, Jesus was already teaching the world that he would one day become our spiritual food. Amen.
UPDATE: Here’s the prayer I shared on Relevant Radio’s Morning Air show, today:
Also from Week 20: Christmas, from my new book, Heads Bowed: Prayers for Catholic School Days:
Holy Spirit, you brought Jesus to earth through your divine power. Thank you for giving us the best Christmas gift of all. Our Lord Jesus is a gift beyond price. Inspire us, O Lord, to love the Baby Jesus and carry him in our hearts at all times. When we fail, give us the grace to return to Jesus and confess our sins, since he always loves us, no matter what. Praise be to God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Have a very peaceful, beautiful, and holy Advent!
Summer of Falling in Love: A Video of My End-of-Year Talk for Catechists
“Let’s make this the summer of falling in love with Jesus, again!”
In this presentation, videotaped at St. Elizabeth of Hungary Parish in Melville, NY, I give a short lesson on grace and sacramental confession (comedy alert!), and then I go over some fun, practical tips and tools for teaching well. Lots to ponder over the summer.
My workshop is featured in four “sequences” of approximately 15 minutes each.
I hope you enjoy it as much as I did!
Have a blessed summer!