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March 11, 2009
Prayer and Fasting
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.”

As Lent continues, the ancient practices of prayer and fasting impact our personal disciplines as well as the curriculum in our classroom. What can we say to students about the mandates of Lent: fasting, almsgiving and service? What is the value of prayer in our lives? In this month’s issue, we will answer these questions and encourage every catechist to embrace these Lenten disciplines
—Jeanne Hunt
A Family Fast
Lent offers a perfect time to “do what we teach.” It is fine to talk about offering things up. Yet, we learn so much more when we live a Lenten fast. In every family, a group fast can bring a grace. There is certain strength in numbers when it comes to changing behaviors. Weight-loss groups give us impressive statistics on the power of working to change behaviors with a team. So, as this Lent continues, we can look at our family’s needs. Where do we need to improve? What collective effort can support this change, and how do we translate that into a holy fast? Perhaps the house could use an evening of silence because of constant electronic media blaring in the air, or a call to prayer as a family. Fasting is meant to restore wholeness and goodness to our spirit. The deeper question this Lent is: What is missing in your family’s spiritual health?
Online Catalog
Praying With Ease
Prayer is a skill. We learn to pray well by praying. As catechists teach children to pray, the explanation of prayer is far less effective than being sure that every lesson plan has a prayer component. Jesus said, “When you pray, pray like this.”  So it is for us. We can speak volumes about prayer by being people of prayer before we ever reach the classroom. In her book, Awakening to Prayer, Clare Wagner invites her readers to pilgrimage with her on a prayer journey. If we are struggling with prayer, Wagner points the way to enter into a relationship with the Holy Presence. This book is part of a series for women entitled, “Called to Holiness.” However, everyone can profit from the insights of noticing, awakening, thirsting, struggling, nurturing and transforming that create the framework of this book. I suggest leading your class in prayer sessions through Lent based on rituals in this book.
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Video Resource on Self Discipline
Prayer, fasting and almsgiving, the traditional spiritual practices of Lent, are good for us throughout the liturgical year. How well we live them out—during Lent or at any other time—hinges on our self discipline.
By now, a good number of us have broken our New Year’s resolutions. We’re growing tired of the long winter, yet the promise of spring may remind us of our abandoned resolve to lose weight before the swimsuit season begins. Curbing one’s appetite, controlling one’s temper, quitting smoking, making regular time for prayer, sharing with the poor all require self discipline. We may welcome the opportunity that Lent offers us to try again—whether with the same resolution or another—for a shorter time period and a spiritual purpose.
Father Michael Himes teaches that “the point of asceticism, of self discipline, is to get one’s own hopes and dreams and fears and anxieties out of the way so one can see what’s there to be seen.” Learn more of what he has to say on this topic in the video presentation “What Is Spiritual Discipline?”—one of five presentations on the DVD Questions of the Soul. I’ve selected a video clip from this presentation to share with you (RealMedia | Windows Media).
Other topics in this program include: “What Is Spirituality?”; “What Is Prayer?”; “What Can Suffering Teach Us?”; and “Do I Really Need Community?” Use these presentations—especially the one on spiritual discipline—for your own personal Lenten reflection. Choose one or more to share in gatherings of adults for faith formation. Invite small Christian communities to cover these topics over five sessions. These “questions of the soul” are year-round and lifelong, just as prayer, fasting and almsgiving are good spiritual practices at any time of the liturgical year. Peace!
Franciscan Radio
A Hearty Lenten Meal of Peace, Nonviolence
St. Paul talks about milk for beginners and meat for those really ready to eat. Well, for those of you who are up to a hearty meal on peace and nonviolence, Patti Normile’s John Dear on Peace is the best entrée in the library.
While the book offers a basic understanding on the nature of a peacemaker, it is an invitation to grasp the true nature of discipleship. Normile guides the reader on a challenging journey into the radical side of what it means to live the gospels’ mandate of peace. Murray Bodo calls it a “tough prayer book,” and that is a gentle description! Parish-discussion, small-faith and peace-and-justice groups can count on a challenging and engaging conversation with this book as their agenda. The chapters serve well as a weekly study-group guide with well-placed reflections and questions for discussion.
As Lent comes into its own, the tough issues of living peace and nonviolence are a perfect companion to the Sunday lectionary and the journey of Jesus toward the cross. John Dear is the centerpiece of our response to the demands of Jesus’ teaching. This is a book for those who need encouragement and hope that the message of the gospel is still being proclaimed by modern-day prophets of peace and nonviolence.
For the gospel-minded, our Bringing Home the Word newsletter continues to support parish lectionary-based study. This online publication gives the parish the right to produce as many copies as they like for one subscription rate. For a free monthly sample, contact
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