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September 01, 2010
Lasting Rites
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.”

Many catechists teach sacramental preparation. When we pass on the living signs of faith to children and adults, we need to present these “pearls of great price” as the Church’s greatest treasures. This month, we will bring wisdom, teaching tips and a little more inspiration to this graced task.

Share your own triumphs and trials with sacramental preparation on our Faith Formation Forum.
Outward Signs, Sources of Grace

“A sacrament is an outward sign, instituted by Christ, to give grace.” I memorized this definition of a sacrament when I was seven years old, and it still rings true. The catechist can teach more about a sacrament than any textbook can offer by focusing first on that “outward sign.” What is so very unique about Catholic ritual life is that we actually are given the opportunity to touch, feel, smell and hear grace moving in our midst. Our Middle Eastern roots bring a tactile dimension to ritual and prayer that the Northern Hemisphere denominations do not replicate.

So, when we want to teach the Sacrament of Baptism, we should splash in water, drink water, look at the light of a candle in a dark room, touch a soft white garment and smell the holy oils. These wordless connections are the initial teachers of what Baptism is.

All the sacraments have their holy touchstones. When we put aside our heads and encounter sacraments through physical signs, we enter the world of mystical prayer, and God leads us on a sacred journey. In fact, that time-honored definition of my childhood never made sense until I touched, smelled, ate, saw, heard the outward sign.

Online Catalog
Celebrating Rituals
Many of you know that I love rituals. Celebrating Faith–Year-Round Activities for Catholic Families by Mary Cronk Farrell is a delightful resource for bringing children and adults to the experience of ritual. This book is filled with sacred rituals found in the ordinary experiences and objects of life. And the best part is that Farrell connects us with the abiding grace of the signs and symbols of the sacraments.

Celebrating Faith is a great resource for all parents and for any catechist who teaches sacramental preparation. Keep it on your desk, next to your bed and even on the coffee table. Consider it an invitation to dance with God through all the days of your life.
Online Catalog
Christ at Work in Ritual
Most of us have settled back into some kind of school-year routine by now. As we return to old routines and develop new ones for new situations, it’s a good time to reflect on the value of rituals in our lives, especially in our shared life of faith.

Don’t get me wrong, our religious rituals are far more than mere routines. But there is one significant common characteristic: Both follow regular patterns upon which we come to depend. These patterns can be helpful to us in moving through tasks or organizing our days (routines) and delving more deeply into the mystery of that which we are celebrating (rituals).

Our seven sacraments are our most significant rituals, those that, through signs and symbols, “make actively present the salvation wrought by Christ, and prefigure and anticipate the glory of heaven” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, #1152). The Church uses the word efficacious, meaning “producing the intended effect,” when it refers to the sacraments “because in them Christ himself is at work” (CCC, #1127).

We have many opportunities to share the signs and symbols of our sacramental rites—whether that is with children in our Catholic schools or parish religious education programs, teens in youth ministry or Catholic high schools, or adults in RCIA or other forms of adult faith formation. Sacramental preparation of youth, parents and sponsors is one such opportunity.

The DVD program Initiation Sacraments for Young People is a resource that contains three different programs for use in preparing youth for Baptism and Confirmation. I’ve selected a clip (Windows Media) from the program The Spirit and Confirmation: Part 2 to share with you. Use it to help explain the rite’s signs and symbols to parents, sponsors and Confirmation candidates as they prepare to celebrate Confirmation. New catechists will benefit from this too!
Franciscan Radio
Bring Home the Word
Are you looking for an easy, inexpensive way for your parish to “bring home” the gospel message each week?

Bringing Home the Word, a weekly publication, allows you to send a copy home with your school or parish newsletter. Give copies to your small Christian community leaders or to other groups that gather within the parish. Use the reflections and questions for your RCIA groups as they break open the word.
Bringing Home the Word, a weekly digital publication, allows you to print as many copies as you need—for one low annual fee.
Consider ways your parish may bring the word home each week. Find out more about our digital delivery options and inexpensive annual license here.
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Faith Formation Forum

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