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March 02, 2011
The Good News of God's Mercy
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.”

The words “I’m sorry” can roll off our lips without much thought. In this edition, we will take those words to heart as we look at sacramental forgiveness and how we can pass on the Good News of God’s mercy to those we teach.
FOR SHARING AND DISCUSSION: Share your ideas and questions on our Faith Formation Forum
What are some ideas you have for helping children and teens come to know our forgiving God?
What are some ideas you have for helping adults to become convinced of God's desire to be reconciled with us?
What personal experience of God's forgiveness helps you share the Good News of God's love and mercy with others? 

Teaching Forgiveness
Teaching others to forgive and to be reconciled is primary to the role of parents and catechists. The lesson is learned not from a textbook or catechism but from witnessing forgiveness in action. Lenten days are the perfect evangelizing moment to bring stubborn or prideful souls to understand the power of the words “Forgive me.”
When we choose to forgive and be forgiven, we are set free of the poison that turns loving hearts into hearts of stone. I like to put a large rock in the center of my kitchen table with a permanent marker next to it. Whenever I see someone in the family choose to forgive or act with mercy or kindness to an offender, I write his or her initials and the date on the rock. This stony heart soon becomes a symbol of a heart of flesh, reminding my family that we are called to act with mercy and there will always be grace sufficient.
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Bless Me, Father...
When I present Reconciliation workshops for parents, I am painfully aware that some of them have not been to the sacrament in years. If we want children to celebrate the sacrament, they must see the adults in their lives participate in the Sacrament of Reconciliation.
But what do you do if the formula has long been forgotten? Parents can be totally embarrassed that their child is more comfortable with the rite than they are. I offer you a handy little book perfect for the occasion: How to Go to Confession When You Don't Know How, by Ann M.S. LeBlanc. “If you’re nervous about confession, read this book,” writes the author, who was herself nervous about confession upon returning to the Church after years away from its enveloping arms.

Presented with humor, practicality and a deeply spiritual appreciation of the sacrament, this book offers a step-by-step description of exactly how to go about participating in the Sacrament of Reconciliation. This is also a gem of a resource for returning Catholics or new Catholics looking for a bridge to peace and healing.
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A Safe Place
Do you remember a childhood place where you’d daydream, write in a diary, read or hide from a tormenting brother (or sister)—a place where you felt totally safe? Do you have one now?
What about a safe person—one you could go to for acceptance, love, and even forgiveness when needed?
Feeling “safe” has a lot to do with our ability to ask for forgiveness from another and from God in the Sacrament of Penance and Reconciliation. Being anxious or uncertain that you’ll be forgiven can be a barrier to celebrating the sacrament. And let’s face it: Naming your sins to another isn’t the most comfortable thing to do anyway.
Some of the young people and adults with whom we work don’t have safe places or people to help them believe that God loves them unconditionally. A strong image I have of God’s love and forgiveness—one of my “safe” places and relationships—is from Pardon and Peace…Remembered. Some of you will remember the Franciscan Communications classic Pardon and Peace. If so, you can probably guess my safe image: a house at night with all the lights lit, welcoming a prodigal child home (Windows Media).
Offer this video story and powerful image of God’s desire to be reconciled with us. The original was updated a few years ago—the “old man” (played by the same actor!) looks back at young David’s journey home and shares with his granddaughter the impact this had on his own life.

Enjoy and share this story segment of the Catholic Update Video, “The God Who Reconciles.” Add witness, teaching and music video segments to the story, and you get a real bargain at $19.95. Not a bad deal if it softens a few hearts and opens others to God’s forgiveness!
Franciscan Radio
Keys to Forgiveness
“Sure, it’s hard to forgive. But it’s harder not to. The toxin of bitterness poisons the heart, and the burden of resentment weighs heavy on the soul. At the same time, forgiveness is the ointment that heals the hurt.”—from “Keys to Forgiveness,” Every Day Catholic

The topic of this particular Every Day Catholic couldn’t be more appropriate for Lent—a time when we focus on repentance and forgiveness. Forgiving others can be a difficult and painful process, but not forgiving others only prolongs the pain of the wrong done to you. In this issue, Fr. Paul Boudreau invites you to “unlock for yourself the healing way of forgiveness.”

Sometimes people need to talk it out. I invite you to use the free leader’s guide with this issue and gather a small-group for reflection and discussion on forgiveness. Or, just place the issue on a table by the church doors for anyone who needs help finding the power of forgiveness.

Click here to learn about more Lenten products for your parish.

Click here to access the entire list of popular Every Day Catholic parish handouts.
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