Visit our Web site
Visit our Web site
December 09, 2009
A Few Heroes
Faith Formation Update continues to offer free monthly encouragement and direction for catechetical ministry within the classroom and beyond. 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 Angela Glassmeyer suggests other faith formation resources for adults in her column, “Sowing Sampler.”

"A Gentler Christmas, Keeping It Sacred" is the theme of this month’s newsletter. My hope is that we might take a step outside the loop of seasonal busy-ness and know the Jesus Christ anew. May Christmas peace be yours!

—Jeanne Hunt
A Gentler Christmas
We all have expectations of this Christmas season: Our calendars fill up with social commitments and responsibilities; our gift list is figured and refigured, the radio blares secular versions of holiday music that seems to have forgotten the divine nativity as a part of the story. We are left with frazzled nerves, not enough money and no sense of the presence of God.

As we teach the faith to the next generation, I challenge you to make a few different choices during the octave of Christmas. For starters, we should actually celebrate Christmas from the 25th of December until Epiphany.

That first class after Christmas break must be a celebration of the Incarnation. We can focus on the crèche and the characters. There should be time to reflect on the grace of the nativity that every student should have experienced. If they look at you with blank stares, call them to examine what it was they worshiped this Christmas.

If there is a teaching moment during this time of year it is the first class during the Octave of Christmas. All of us, students and teachers alike, are called to seek a presence that cannot be found in the clamor of the world. It is found in stillness. It is the real lesson of the season.
Online Catalog
Raise a Cup of Kindness
As you run around looking for a gift that folks will appreciate and remember, I offer one of my old standbys: Rock Travnikar, O.F.M.’s The Blessing Cup: Prayer-Rituals for Families and Groups. It is a wonderful way to begin to pray as a family. I love to give a favorite family the book and a cup as a Christmas gift. I have found beautiful hand made cups, wooden cups, even pewter wine goblets to give with the book.

Praying together as a family is a difficult skill to begin and The Blessing Cup makes it so easy. I have known of families who begin with the book and then write their own, personal versions of the ritual. Drinking from the common cup reinforces our Eucharistic rite and is a rich expression of praise, celebration and unity that is the hallmark of Catholic prayer.

It could be the beginning of a new Christmas home ritual, as we call the family together around the crèche, offering the cup to each person as they offer a prayer to the Christ take a sip and pass the cup. The Blessing Cup is a Christmas gift for the soul.
Online Catalog
Electronic Media About Keeping Christmas
Every year as we drive home from celebrating Christmas with my in-laws, our family is saddened that radio stations don’t play Christmas music after Christmas Day. We know that Christmas has just begun, but in many homes, the tree and decorations come down on December 26.

Just as we work against the culture by encouraging families and catechists to celebrate the season of Advent (instead of jumping right into Christmas celebrations after Thanksgiving), we must help our people realize that Christmas is a season of its own, starting on the evening of Christmas Eve and continuing through the Baptism of the Lord.

This year, consider ways to invite your community to follow the lead of the Church in their homes and extend their celebration of Christmas through the Christmas season. Take advantage of the fact that children are off school and probably not meeting for religious education/faith formation to plan a casual event for them.

Invite adults who are interested in Scripture to gather to learn about the Gospel stories of Jesus’ birth. Or plan an intergenerational gathering—ask everyone to bring Christmas cookies; you supply the hot chocolate, milk and coffee.

Video resources for these gatherings can be found on the DVD collection Stories of Christmas. It contains three stand-alone programs: Behold This Child: The Gospel Stories of Jesus’ Birth (4 segments, junior high-adult); The First Christmas Crib: A Story of St. Francis of Assisi (all ages), and The Mouse in the Manger (all ages). It’s a great buy for $19.95!

I’ve selected a clip from The First Christmas Crib: A Story of St. Francis of Assisi (RealMedia | Windows Media) to share with you.

Have a blessed Advent and Christmas! Keep Christmas in your heart throughout the season and New Year!
Franciscan Radio
A Christian Response
Do you remember the first time you wanted a better understanding of the Church? I was in college and I will never forget my search for understanding.

Believing in Jesus: A Popular Overview of the Catholic Faith was one of many books I read to further my understanding. Now in its sixth edition, this best-seller covers the complete spectrum of the Catholic faith. This edition is updated to reflect the latest Church documents and events and is cross-referenced to the Catechism of the Catholic Church.

I am challenged by how our American society treats the mentally ill. So much misunderstanding, fear and misdiagnosis stem from our inability to even discuss the issue especially in our families.

The November issue of Every Day Catholic offers thoughtful articles, discussion and a prayer service regarding the neglected topic of mental illness. In a reflective moment, let us pray: “Mental illness touches all of our lives in some way. Perhaps it affects someone you know, or you may struggle yourself. Let us pray now for the healing touch of the Divine One.”

Here is the online group guide for this issue of Every Day Catholic

Every Day Catholic (November 2009) Mental Illness: A Christian Response

Preview full text of the latest issue and past issues!
Preview full text of the latest issue and past issues!
Subscribe to Bringing Home The Word!
Faith Formation Forum

Share your ideas on faith formation at our online bulletin board, Faith Formation Forum. Our editors will screen and post your thoughts, and you can learn from others' ideas. Submit your ideas by clicking here.