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November 03, 2010
Teaching Gratitude
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.”

This month, we will take a look at teaching gratitude. Can it be done? Teaching values is at the core of good catechesis. In a secular world where everyone thinks they deserve blessings, we have our work cut out for us.

How do you teach children to be grateful? Share your ideas and questions on our Faith Formation Forum.
Using God's Gifts for the Kingdom
In James Fowler’s study of the stages of faith development, he mentions that the second level of faith is an awareness of God’s gifts and our gratitude for these gifts. It comes to us around the age of seven. It is the time when children start thanking God for puppies, sunshine, red crayons, etc.

It is the parents’ and catechists’ role to connect this urge to be grateful with God’s delight in giving to us. Gratitude and God’s love will lead us to a deeper faith. It is not good enough to recite a litany of things we have received. These litanies can excuse us from the responsibility to use God’s gifts for his Kingdom.

Teaching children to give thanks from the heart means leading them into reflection on what their blessings mean to their lives. Try a litany that goes “Thank you, God, for Grandma because she always hugs me when I am sad. Thank you, God, for snow because…. The “because” can lead all of us to see gratitude as an open door. We are grateful for gifts given and compelled to do likewise for the love of God and his Kingdom.
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Saying Thank You the Old-Fashioned Way
Prayer books are coming back into style. When I really want to say it right, there is nothing as fine as a well-written prayer. Every catechist should teach different forms of prayer, but formal prayers are real gems in the Church’s treasure chest of traditions.

I suggest The Catholic Prayer Book, Large Print Edition, compiled by Msgr. Michael Buckley; edited by Tony Castle, Servant Books. This beautiful book is easy to use, from oldsters to youngsters. Grace before meals, thanksgiving for creation and special prayers of gratitude fill the pages. This resource serves as a treasury of Catholic worship from ancient times up to the present day.
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Wonder Leads to Praise and Thanksgiving
Friends of my family have three children (grades 1, 2 and 6) who manage to maintain an innocence and sense of wonder that so many children seem to lose early these days. They play their video games and watch Pokémon like their classmates, but their delight in the simplest of things is really striking to me.

These children appreciate so much that it’s a natural step to invite them to offer prayers of praise and thanksgiving. We need to work harder to do this with some children who come to us with the hardened shell of a sense of entitlement. It’s sad how those who have more often appreciate less.

Teaching children to pray is an important task of catechists. Prayers of praise and prayers of thanks are closely tied. Inspiring the wonder and gratitude that lead to prayers of praise and thanksgiving is vital to really teaching them to pray and develop a personal relationship with God. Once they open their minds and hearts to the wonder of God’s creation, it’s a natural next step to thank God. Other prayers—of petition, contrition, quiet, memorized, spontaneous, song, poetry, journaling—will grow from there.

A DVD resource that will help your catechists teach children (grades 1-5) to pray is Prayer With Young People (Windows Media). It offers four programs: Prayer of Praise; Prayer Any Time, Any Place, About Anything; Prayer of Asking and Prayer of Quiet. These video programs, along with your catechists’ modeling and guidance, will help children make the important leap from knowing their prayers to being pray-ers.

A DVD resource for catechists, Doorway People: Prayer and Gospel Living for Catechists, will help your catechists develop their own spirituality and prayer lives. Use it for catechist formation and retreats.
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A Joyful Journey Through Advent
A Joyful Journey: Advent Day by Day by Gloria Hutchinson

In this issue of Catholic Update, author Gloria Hutchinson provides lectionary-based reflections for each day of Advent. Her aim is to guide readers from the First Sunday of Advent to Christmas “without detouring into the traffic-jammed regions of Distraction, Frustration or All-out Anxiety.” She writes, “…[If] we walk mindfully, taking one Scripture-formed step at a time, we can get there from here in a spirit of calm readiness and joyful anticipation.”
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