Darkness Into Light"
Resource Page for Teachers
by Lynn and Bob Gillen
St. Anthony Messenger
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Curriculum Connections -
This classroom resource guide will support curriculum in:
- Religion - Christian life-styles; prayer; coping with trials; peer counseling
Glossary of Basic Terms
Your students may find it helpful first to create a glossary of terms relating to this month's article. Definitions can be researched from the article itself, or from the resource materials cited throughout the resource guide.
"Dark night of the soul"
Rite of Anointing
Idea One Challenges to Teen Faith
This months article cites personal crises in faith experienced by adult men and women. Besides discussing these situations, you may find it helpful in your class or discussion group to translate those adult experiences to ones felt by teen girls and boys in their own lives.
- Identifying Personal Teen Crises
Guide your students first in identifying crisis situations and problems that they or other teens experience. Crisis situations that could test faith in God might include:
- Losing a friend in an accident or to suicide
- Seeing violence or abuse in schools, families, neighborhoods
- Suffering through divorce or death in the family
- Teens in prison or detention halls
Other experiences that can cause struggle, helplessness, pain, sorrow and self-doubt for teens might be:
- Struggling with alcohol or drug abuse
- Pressure to experience sexual intimacy
- Ending a romantic relationship
- Struggles with personal appearance
- Difficulty in maintaining grades
- Pressure to achieve in sports
- Pressure to score well on college exams
- Pressure to find the right college
- Inability to buy a car when needed for school or work
- Efforts to be a good friend
- Personal taunting or rejection by friends because a teen wont go along with them
The online article prompts readers to share their own experiences of
troubled times and how they came through them. Encourage the teens to
take part in this interactive exercise, if possible.
- Some Answers to Teen Suffering
Identifying crisis situations and painful circumstances is often too easy. Finding answers comes harder. You can guide your students in looking for resources they can tap into as they struggle with their own crises.
Look at the people cited in this months article. Are there common threads to their stories? Can you see what helped them through their struggles? Some common helps were: prayer, reading Scripture, the sacraments, friends and loved ones, support programs and listening to Jesus.
Direct your students in identifying some of the solutions they or other teens find helpful.
Service to others -
Sometimes, taking an interest in something outside ourselves helps us see more clearly and put troubles in perspective. Many high schools and parish teen programs offer opportunities to do service for the poor or the less fortunate. Teen volunteerism in soup kitchens and homeless shelters, for example, can bring a sense of satisfaction to their lives.
Service to other teens -
Satisfaction can come from being a retreat leader in school or parish. Sharing both struggles and successes with other teens, and acting in a leadership role, is a powerful experience for many teens. The Kairos retreat program usually conducted in senior year offers teens an opportunity to share with their peers how they live out their faith, no matter how ordinary they may think their life is.
Teens can find other opportunities, whether structured or informal, to act as peer counselors to other teens. Supporting a classmate who has lost a parent or who struggles with substance abuse or who has difficulty making friends can be an uplifting experience.
Examples abound of teens working to help one another. One California high school conducts the Clothesline Project every spring. Sponsored by the National Organization for Women, the project displays T-shirts depicting womens stories of sexual violence. The purpose is to educate and increase awareness on the high school level. See the Los Angeles Times (http://www.latimes.com/), May 28, 1998. Can your students find similar stories in their own communities?
Adult support -
Often teens dont see just how wonderful they are. As a teacher, you can influence parents and other teachers to support teens more actively. Parents and teachers work hard to model appropriate faith behaviors for teens. But we can be slow to acknowledge our teens when they actually do live out those modeled behaviors in their own lives. When teens do Christian service in parish and school programs, for example, we dont always thank them or praise them. Their generosity and enthusiasm can wane quickly when adults dont support them in what theyre doing. You can encourage parents and fellow teachers to partner with teens in desired model behaviors, to thank teens individually and by name for their service, or to cite a specific act of generosity they have done.
Listening for the pain of others -
Violence in schools is unfortunately too common today. The tragic shootings in recent months are chaotic and senseless, and can certainly cause teens to fear even their everyday environments. But violent teens and children can be identified and stopped. See U.S. News and World Report, June 1, 1998, for a helpful sidebar, "Violent children and the clues they leave." This might be a good discussion starter for your students. For an in-depth look at the topic of violence in schools, see http://www.cnn.com/specials/1998/schools.
Support groups -
Seeking professional or group help is a solution for some. Teens with drinking problems, or with a problem drinker in the family, can use Al-Anon or Alateen for support. See http://www.alateen.org. Your students can research other local and regional support groups and hotlines.
Finding God in our own hearts can elude us in our hectic lives. Offering your students resources for personal and shared prayer can satisfy their hunger for a loving God. A song called "Hosea," often sung at parish liturgies, tells us that in the wilderness we will find our hearts, where God will speak. Silent prayer, meditation, quiet walks, retreats all are "wilderness" experiences that can bring us closer to God and to a peaceful heart.
Your students could benefit from reading and discussing even a chapter or two from one of Anthony de Mellos books on prayer and meditation. Father de Mello offers simple, practical ways to achieve quiet moments in our lives. One example is Sadhana: A Way to God, Image Books, New York, 1978.
Idea Two Inspirations for Teens
There are many examples of individuals of all ages who not only lived through doubt and pain and came out into the light, but also shared their experiences with us in story or in self-revelation. Your students can also find stories of courage and struggles with faith from people in their own lives.
Mary, the mother of Jesus, was a woman of incredible faith. And she was, like some young girls, an unwed teen mother who initially faced her future with fear. Hearing and responding to Gods word carried her through her lifes role. Even seeing her only son executed in the then-popular form of capital punishment called crucifixion did not sway her from her faith. While we have no autobiography from Mary, reading the Gospels, especially St. Luke, will offer your students highlights from Marys life.
In the June 1998 online resource, we referred to Cardinal Joseph Bernardin. Cardinal Bernardin was a well-known and respected leader of the Church in America who died in 1996 of pancreatic cancer. To understand his faith in time of illness, see The National Catholic Reporters online site, http://www.natcath.com, for archive access to articles on Cardinal Bernardins life and impact. You can also read about Cardinal Bernardins life at http://www.AmericanCatholic.org/. One book resource reviewed in the May 30, 1997 issue is The Gift of Peace: Personal Reflections, Cardinal Bernardins own account of his spiritual journey in the three years before he died. A new video has just been released on the life of Cardinal Bernardin. For information on the video, when it will air and how you can obtain a copy, see http://www.bernardin.org/.
The Actor Christopher Reeve suffered a tragic debilitating accident several years ago. You can read the inspiring story of his courageous comeback in his book, Still Me, Random House, New York, 1998. Researching online in Time, People and other magazines will give your students background to Reeves accident and his struggles.
Anne Frank is certainly an inspiration to teens. See the site http://www.annefrank.com, for a history of her short life and photos of her surroundings.
Encourage the teens to brainstorm and research other individuals who may have served or serve as an inspiration to them.
Further Online Resources
Try accessing some of these Internet sources for further reference. Be aware, however, that some of these sites may charge for downloading articles contained within the site's archives.
http://www.nytimes.com/ - The New York Times
http://www.latimes.com/ - Los Angeles Times
http://www.time.com/ - Time magazine
http://www.cnn.com/ - CNN
http://www.msnbc.com/ - MSNBC
http://www.pathfinder.com/ - This site will take you to a number of online publications.
http://wire.ap.org/ - The Associated Press
http://www.chicago.tribune.com/ - The Chicago Tribune
http://www.people.com/ - People magazine
http://www.washingtonpost.com/- The Washington Post
http://www.herald.com/ - The Miami Herald
http://www.closeup.org/ - The Close Up Foundation
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