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December 7, 2006
 
Greetings and welcome to Faith Formation Update, a free monthly e-newsletter for catechetical leaders with a focus on parish catechesis beyond textbooks and classrooms. I'm Judith Dunlap. 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." Blessings on your work!
—Judith Dunlap

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Peace and Goodwill to All
 
 
This month you are bound to find the title phrase, or some semblance of it, on numerous Christmas cards and store ads. This is, supposedly, the season for peace and goodwill. Why not take some time during the season to find a little peace for yourself while discovering some ideas on how to find peace for our world? If you have a few hours, I’ve discovered a great little book to help with the process.
Through one of the world’s most beloved and inspirational prayers—the Peace Prayer—Franciscan priest Albert Haase offers a concise look at how we can help sow the seeds of peace in our world. In Instruments of Christ: Reflections on the Peace Prayer of Saint Francis of Assisi, Father Haase reflects on each phrase of the Peace Prayer. He gives us a clear vision of what it means to be a peacemaker.
This pocketbook has 81 pages. Each of its 12 chapters (the chapters are only three or four pages long) begins with a brief story and ends with questions for reflection. It is wonderful book for reflection or small-group sharing. In his introduction, Father Haase tells us:
Chapter One highlights how the first words of the two sections of prayer, “Lord…Divine Master”—remind us of our vocations “little Christs.” Chapter Two offers one interpretation of being a peacemaker. Chapters Three through Eight explore the six seeds that need to be sown if Easter peace is to bloom in this world. Chapters Nine through Eleven highlight the challenges and rewards of looking beyond “me” to “thee.” Chapter Twelve offers a brief summary of the book’s content.
He goes on to talk about who really wrote the Prayer of Peace. (Click here if you would like to read about the history of this beautiful prayer.)
Until next month, may you be aware of Christ with you and in you. May you know God’s peace and joy and enjoy all good things. Merry Advent!
 
     
Bringing Home the Gospel
 
 
Peace Be With You
 
 
Our theme for December—the month of Jesus’ birth—is peace. What follows is text from my book, Bringing Home the Gospel: A Weekly Journal for Parents. Feel free to make a one-time-only copy for your bulletin or Web site.
Being a peacemaker is just part of the job description for parents. Squabbles over who gets the last cookie, who pushed whom first and whose turn it is on the computer are normal household occurrences. The secret to peace on the home front is finding solutions that strengthen relationships.
Peace is not the opposite of conflict. It is a way of solving disagreements without hurting each other physically or emotionally—and certainly without resorting to violence. In their book, Parenting for Peace and Justice, Jim and Kathy McGinnis offer a four-step approach to bringing about peaceful solutions in volatile situations.
They tell us that unless children are threatening or engaging in abusive actions, stay out of the argument. Children need to learn how to broker their own disagreements. When someone is being hurt or threatened, however, you need to step in and separate the youngsters. Send them to different spots to cool down and think over the situation.
After a little time, go to each child and listen (without comment) to his or her story. Bring the children together with the understanding that they will have a certain amount of time to solve the problem by themselves before you impose your own solution. The McGinnises report that because their solutions were almost always less tolerable than their children’s, mutual solutions were usually found.
Learning to deal with conflict in a peaceful way is a valuable, lifetime skill—certainly one the world is much in need of. And by teaching our youngsters to be peacemakers we are helping them realize their call to be children of God.
I keep waiting for an opportunity to share with you the great series of Can You Find books that we publish. I’ve finally decided that I will have to use Christmas and gift-giving time as my excuse.
I have given each of my six grandchildren of reading or read-to age the book Can You Find Jesus? Introducing Your Child to the Gospel, written by Philip D. Gallery and cleverly illustrated by Janet L. Harlow. They love them. The books follow the Where’s Waldo? format, asking the youngsters to find not only Jesus in the scene but also several other objects.
Can You Find Jesus? has 13 two-page searches that take you from the birth of Jesus through his death, resurrection and ascension, up to the final chapter, “Jesus Lives On.” There is also a wonderful parent guide for each search to help parents and children talk about the picture and event. (Click here to see what the search and guide look like.) If you’re looking for a great gift for the children on your Christmas list, consider this book. You will enjoy it as much as they do.
 
     
Bringing Home the Gospel
 
 
Electronic Media Resources on Peace
 
 
Peace be with you.
Who today isn’t longing for peace—in their hearts, their homes, the world?
A college professor of mine signed letters with “Peace, eventually.” It rings true to my life—there is little peace to be found in my days, but I place my hope and faith in finding true peace, eventually.
I remember yearning for that short period between my daughter’s bedtime and my own. “Ah!” I thought, “Peace at last!” And when I was teaching junior high students and would return to my apartment after a long and trying day or week. “Ah!” I thought, “Peace at last!” And when all the parish buildings had emptied of religious education students and the parking lot of cars. “Ah!” I thought, “Peace at last!”
These short periods of welcome peace came following times of great activity. But I don’t begin to think that that kind of peace is all that I can find in my life. I want more. I long for more—something lasting, a peace in my soul.
I find the promise in Paul’s letter to the Philippians quite stirring: “…the peace of God that surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus” (4:7). It brings me comfort to think of God’s peace guarding both my heart and mind. I turn to God in anxious moments and in times of uncertainty and pray for God’s peace.
As we enter a particularly busy time of our year, my prayer for you is that you stay focused on Christ, the Prince of Peace. When I ground myself in Christ, my priorities line up correctly, I find time to take care of myself, I manage to get everything done that I need to do and even find enjoyment in the doing. It’s then that I feel the “peace of God that surpasses all understanding.” This makes me long for the day when I can keep a constant focus on Christ and experience that eventual and lasting peace that my college professor wished for me.
A new DVD resource that celebrates two saints we often think of when we hear the word peace is Assisi Pilgrimage: Walking in Faith With Francis and Clare. I’ve selected a clip (Windows Media | RealMedia) chronicling the visit of pilgrims to the dormitory of St. Clare at San Damiano. There they celebrate a healing service, praying for their own healing and that of others. As St. Clare was known to have the gift of healing, it is an appropriate and meaningful location for such a time of prayer. As Murray Bodo, O.F.M., a pilgrimage guide, states at the end of the clip, “I have seen through the years many, many healings there—especially healing of memories, healing of hatreds people are holding on to, grudges. They somehow fall off there.”
May you find peace in these busy days of Advent as we prepare to celebrate the birth of the Prince of Peace! Peace, eventually.
 
     
 
Of Private and Public Prayer
 
 
As Catholics, we benefit from a rich tradition of prayer, both private and public, shared and personal. Two new books, one from St. Anthony Messenger Press and the other from Servant Books, provide a marvelous look at our most public prayer as a community—the Mass—and practical help with our most personal prayer life.
Norbertine Father Alfred McBride has written a wonderful guide to the Eucharist: A Short History of the Mass. He offers an illuminating look at the history and meaning of each element of the Mass, stories of saints who illumined our understanding of it, and a window on the Church and political influences that challenged it. Dozens of illustrations and informative sidebars make this a fascinating “must read” for all Catholics—especially for RCIA candidates.
Ralph Martin is no stranger to the topic of prayer. In his involvement with Renewal Ministries in Ann Arbor for over more than two decades and as director of graduate programs in the new evangelization at Sacred Heart Seminary in Detroit, he has often spoken of the special role prayer plays in our relationship with God. His new book, Hungry for God, is a classic introduction to the tools needed for entering into an active life of prayer and a life as a Christian in a complicated world. There are lots of answers for anyone who has ever asked, “How do I pray?”
 
     
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