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November 12, 2008
Faith Formation Update is a free monthly e-newsletter for catechetical leaders with a focus on parish catechesis beyond textbooks and classrooms. I'm Jeanne Hunt. In each issue, I offer a brief starter and my “Every Family” column. My co-worker and fellow religious educator Joan McKamey offers media resources and ideas in her “Seen and Heard” column. Our co-worker Chuck Blankenship suggests other faith-formation resources for adults from St. Anthony Messenger Press in his column, “Sowing Sampler.” Finally, we encourage YOU to share views and program ideas about this month's topic on our online bulletin board, “Faith Formation Forum.”
One of the greatest treasures of our Church is our long tradition. Staying connected with the stories of faith from past generations provides a wealth of catechetical grace. In this issue we will offer ways to encourage those connections.
—Jeanne Hunt
Try to Remember
The neighborhood parish holds within its walls a thousand stories of faith. Too often we miss the miracles of those who have come before us because we have not taken the time to listen. The older generation knew a Church full of reverence and mystery. While the modern Church is vibrant with prayer, music and challenging teaching, it is so important to know our roots. As our thoughts turn to the family Thanksgiving table, it is good to take a look at our spiritual family and give thanks as well. During these days of November, invite older members of your parish to share the story of their faith with your students. Ask your guests, for instance, what Sunday Mass was like when they were the age of your students and what role their Catholic faith plays in their life. This glimpse of history offers an important perspective for our students. Young Catholics will begin to see the broad expanse of the Catholic faith before their own time. Catechists should stress that while the culture changes, the Church remains beautifully the same. This message is worth a prayer of thanksgiving.
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Looking Back on Faith
There is a cookbook I received from a friend in New Orleans entitled, Who Are You, Can You Make a Roux and Is Your Momma Catholic? It is full of anecdotes about Catholic life in New Orleans and hundreds of great recipes. What I love about the book is that it invites me into the experience of people’s stories.
A way to do the same thing in the classroom is to create a parish timeline. We ask the students to find out everything they can about the history of their parish church: When was it founded? Who was the first pastor? What significant events have taken place in the parish (a fire, building a school, the arrival and departure of religious sisters, etc.)? Then, we draw a horizontal line and fill in the events and dates on the line. We have even depicted the timeline with photographs and illustrations. This exercise is a wonderful way to connect today’s parish and students with their history and point the way to the future. The lesson is that the parish family has a “God story” and that each young person in the class is a part of that story. Next, we can take this local lesson to the broader Church. Just as each parish family has been on a journey of faith, the American Church has an amazing adventure worth telling. American and Catholic by Clyde F. Crews is a great resource for telling this history of Catholicism in the United States. The book is real history presented in an engaging way that teaches the impact Catholicism had on the life of the country. Crews’s history can be used as a catechist resource shared in the classroom. Whatever tool catechists use to connect our students with the past, it is essential that we realize God’s hand in our faith journey and give thanks for his faithfulness.
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Audio Resource About the ‘Old’ and ‘New’ Church
Born in 1965, the final year of Vatican II, I attended Catholic schools during transition years in religious education. We didn’t use the Baltimore Catechism. Mass was in English. The priest faced us. I learned that God loved me and was inviting me to respond.
Many people my age and younger explain their attraction to the style of church and liturgy of the years prior to Vatican II as resulting from something lacking in their formative years. They desire a more black-and-white way of living and worshipping.
Many from the generations older than mine miss the Church of their youth and have never embraced the spirit of Vatican II—whether because of the Church’s failure to share the vision or a resistance to change.
I feel very “middle”-aged and out of sync with many in our Church family. This hits home every Sunday as our new (young) pastor makes changes to our liturgy that I judge are a step toward the Mass prior to Vatican II—an experience neither he nor I nor anyone my age or younger have had.
This unsettling tension between the old and new is not my experience alone. A growing number of “tribes” in our Church are criticizing one another instead of being united in calling others to Christ. Invite parishioners who are troubled by these divisions in our Church to dialogue sessions. Use Richard Rohr on Church for your own reflection and preparation. I’ve selected a clip from his talk, “Faith: Recovering the Language of Belief,” to give you a sample of his message (Windows Media | RealMedia).
Jesus prayed that we may all be one as he and the Father are one (Jn 17:20-23). Let’s do our part to build bridges within the body of Christ!
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Prayer and Inspiration
It was just 50 years ago this month that one of the most beloved popes of our time was unexpectedly elevated to the chair of Peter. It was in the fall of 1958 that Pope John XXIII was, by the grace of the Holy Spirit, elected to serve as shepherd of the Church of Rome. A new book by Servant author Patricia Treece, Meet John XXIII: Joyful Pope and Father to All, offers an inspirational look at the life and character of Angelo Roncalli, Pope John XXIII. His holy life and warm personality were anchored by a solid, practical spirituality that will inspire you as you get to know this man who maintained his good humor through decades of difficult assignments, choosing instead to “seize the good...and multiply it.” Inspirational advice in these hard times.
Servant Books also is offering two helpful new prayer books that would make great gifts. Prayers for Catholic Men by Mike Pacer, a pocket-sized prayer book for daily prayer to help men focus on God throughout the day and in times of special need, includes a wealth of traditional prayers, as well as the rosary and various litanies.
Jesus, Present Before Me: Meditations for Eucharistic Adoration by Father Peter John Cameron, O.P., is a beautiful collection of meditations, prayers and probing questions for reflection that invites you to see beyond the appearances and enter into the mystery and miracle of Jesus present in the Eucharist. This book contains 30 separate eucharistic meditations, eucharistic reflections on the 20 mysteries of the rosary, and many more features designed to help you offer your time of adoration wholeheartedly, without weariness or distraction.
Study guides from St. Anthony Messenger magazine
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