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December 10, 2008
 
Living the Generous Life
 
 
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.” As our pockets are emptied in the generous act of Christmas gift-giving, we will look at what true generosity means for us and those we teach. Advent is the perfect time to look very carefully at how we encourage our children to give their lives away in love for Christ.
—Jeanne Hunt
 
     
 
 
All I Want for Christmas…
 
 
Raising children is difficult in a world where many believe that the more you have, the better your life. Our children—in the classroom and in their homes—can be absolutely focused on their wish list these Advent days. So how can we turn their minds and hearts in a different direction? Living lives of generosity takes discipline and example, and the best way to teach children to begin to see the needs of others is by doing, not by talking about it. Recent studies concerning the disposition of the Millennials (those born after 1982) report that young people experience conversion by actively participating in the ways of the gospel. Take your students to work in a soup kitchen, organize a baby shower for the unborn at a Right to Life office, sponsor a needy family at Christmas, visit a nursing home or whatever you can think of to break the cycle of self-absorption. The catechist has a real advantage in these pre-Christmas days in teaching the gospel of generosity. It is in the doing that Christ lives among us.
 
     
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Generosity and Justice
 
 
Generosity and justice go hand in hand. It takes a generous heart to act with justice, with the desire to live fairly with compassion for others as the natural outgrowth. During Advent, the red kettles at every city corner, giving trees in our parish gathering space and pleas from soup kitchen and homeless shelters for our help demand that we mix justice and generosity if we have any hope of a “Holy Night.”

Joan Mueller tells us, in Living a Spirituality of Action: A Woman’s Perspective: “Sometimes in a dream of making a difference in the world, our number one enemy is ourselves…. Change is affected by ordinary people and most of us are simply that— ordinary.” Mueller’s book, the third in the St. Anthony Messenger Press “Called to Holiness” series, gives us hands-on directions about how to live justly.

When we teach our students that everyone, especially ordinary people like them, can do something to bring love to the poor, hungry and homeless, then we honor the vision of the gospel of Jesus Christ. It is a hand-to-hand witness that we teach. Generosity and justice are meant to be a spontaneous response to the needs of God’s children. We do not need a government or church program; we just need awareness and action. This is a valuable lesson that every catechist can offer this Advent. We need to take our students and our families out of their classrooms and homes to places where we can serve others. In fact, the lesson of living a just life may very possibly be that one gift you give this Christmas that will last a lifetime.
 
     
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Audio Resource About Living Generously
 
 
Sister Dorothy Stang, a Sister of Notre Dame de Namur from Ohio, was murdered in the Amazon forest in Brazil in 2005. She was 73 years old. She had gone to Brazil as a missionary in 1966 and worked for human rights and environmental conservation in the Amazon region. She is considered a modern-day martyr.

Jesus said, “No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends” (Jn 15:13). Everyday life requires many sacrifices, yet few of us will face martyrdom. We may worry about job security, loss of investments and paying our mortgages. We may tighten our belts and spend less on our daily coffee and Christmas purchases. While we feel the pinch of a tight economy, most of us know little to nothing about real poverty or significant sacrifice.

Sister Dorothy Stang had a missionary heart. Born during the Great Depression in 1931, she joined the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur right out of high school, taking vows of poverty, chastity and obedience. She appeared to view her simple lifestyle as one of abundance—overflowing with the love of God, joy in giving and the desire to help the poorest of the poor.

I’ve selected an audio clip from her biography, The Greatest Gift: The Courageous Life and Marytrdom of Sister Dorothy Stang, to give you a quick peek into her life as recalled by her friends and taken from her writings (Windows Media). We may not all be called to missionary work or martyrdom, but we are all called to trust in God and to live generously. Cultivate a generous spirit in your community by making sure this inspiring audiobook is in your parish lending library for use by individuals and small groups.
 
     
Franciscan Radio
 
Helpful Tools on Radio and DVD for Advent
 
 
The season of Advent is in full swing, and Franciscan Radio is a great companion for the season. Whether you connect with our radio program through a local station or at FranciscanRadio.org, the offerings will provide a place for much information and enrichment, including our currently available “Advent Radio Retreat.” Franciscan Radio invites you to take a deeper look into the season of Advent. Using the Windows Media Player, Real Player or any MP3 player, including Apple's iPod, take this opportunity to focus clearly on what God is saying to you this Advent.

Each Advent week, Franciscan Father Jim Van Vurst leads you through a reflection based on the week’s scripture readings. You’ll find wonderful ideas for celebrating Advent in your home as well as a teaching on Mary and the Christmas story. In addition, Franciscan Radio provides resources for your devotional life with Father Greg Friedman’s “Sunday Soundbites,” a weekly, 90-second radio homily based on the Sunday readings. “Sunday Soundbites” is a regular weekly feature at FranciscanRadio.org and is heard on Catholic radio stations around the country. For those who are working at a computer all day, Franciscan Radio is a good way to feed your soul, especially during these days of Advent and Christmas.

Another helpful tool to consider is Stories of Christmas, a visual anthology on DVD, hosted by Anthony Scannell, O.F.M. Cap., and Murray Bodo, O.F.M. These programs can help various age groups to focus on the deeper meanings of this liturgical season, meaning lost to many in the press of preparation and family festivities. “Behold This Child: The Gospel Stories of Jesus' Birth” features four segments for junior high to adult classes: “The Christmas Story: An Introduction,” “The Promise Fulfilled: The Annunciation Stories,” “And It Came to Pass: The Birth of the Messiah” and “What Child Is This? The Messiah Is Recognized.” Two segments are for all ages: “The First Christmas Crib: A Story of St. Francis of Assisi” and “The Mouse in the Manger.” To help in your work, there is a free leader’s guide available.
 
     
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