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February 11, 2009
 
Celebrating Love
 
 
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.”

February brings two important themes. Valentines are in the air, and catechists have a wonderful teaching moment as we link love for God and the beginning of Lent. This issue offers a few thoughts on the connection between seeing and doing the works of love during Lent and all year.
—Jeanne Hunt
 
     
 
 
Love One Another
 
 
St. Francis de Sales is credited with the statement, “Simply do the next loving thing.” As Valentine’s Day sings its secular tune in the consumer world, catechists have a teaching moment on the topic of love. Love is not about flowers and candy as much as it is a selfless choice to care for and serve another for the sake of love. Jesus shows the way, and the gospels proclaim it. Yet, St. Francis knew that it is all very simple: The formula for loving with success is to respond to the next moment with the heart of Christ. Lent is a time to fine-tune our ability to live that message. These February lessons can be seen through rose-colored glasses. Teach every topic with the end result of underscoring the content with the call to live in love. You will be amazed at the ease of making that connection. After you finish your lesson, go through it one more time and add comments that show how it all falls under the mandate to “love one another as I have loved you.” This exercise can bring the teacher closer to the divine lover who is always ready to share his heart with his students.
 
     
Online Catalog
 
 
A Witness Paints a Thousand Words
 
 
It is time in the history of our Church and our country to offer our students a few examples of courage and love. I believe the best teacher is example. As catechists, we can speak of faith, love, trust, fear, conversion, etc. Yet, it is far better to allow our students to see what those abstract things look like when a soul acts on them. Moments of Grace by Al Kresta and Nick Thomm gives us a glimpse of love in action.  We hear inspiring stories of well-known Catholics. These stories can serve as a stepping-stone to class discussions that connect what we learn in a religion class with someone who translates the message into action. For the most part, these are average, contemporary people who choose to lead extraordinary lives of faith. Moments of Grace is for adults and older children who need to witness “what faith looks like with skin” (as a high-school boy said to me recently). This book would be a wonderful RCIA component as well. How better to teach the Catholic faith than to give our newest members life-changing stories?
 
     
Online Catalog
 
 
Video Resource About Service and Outreach
 
 
In Luke’s Gospel, Jesus proclaims that he has been anointed “to bring good news to the poor” (4:16-21). In the story of the last judgment, we are told that we will be judged according to how we respond to the “least” ones (Mt 25.31-46).
Catholic social teaching is grounded in the conviction that every person has essential dignity that must be respected and guarded. It asks us to give “preferential option” to the poor and vulnerable. We must read the word option as a verb, to choose to view the world from the perspective of the poor and work for justice.
Many parishes and high schools require “service hours” of their confirmation and graduation candidates. These requirements give young people practice in looking for ways to help others and make a difference for good in our world. It’s training in Christian discipleship.
Service experiences often bring us face-to-face with the marginalized. Once we can connect a real person to an unjust reality, we are motivated to work for social change: create conditions for marginalized voices to be heard, defend the defenseless, and assess lifestyles, policies and social institutions in terms of their impact on the poor.
I’ve selected a video clip from the story segment of the Catholic Update VideoSealed With God’s Spirit: Teen Discipleship” to share with you (RealMedia | Windows Media). Show this story of high-school teens on a mission trip to young people as they prepare for their own service work.
Service is not just for our youth. We are all called to care for the poor and vulnerable. Young people, with their idealism still intact, often inspire adults to do more. Invite parishioners of all ages to explore the Christian call to service and provide them with opportunities for outreach.
 
     
Franciscan Radio
 
Lenten Journey With Father Michael Himes
 
 
What is your parish, small faith community or Bible-study group doing this Lent? Every group is looking for something to inspire and engage its members. Lent is a time to slow down, to reflect and to change.
World-renowned teacher Father Michael Himes helps us to do just that in his DVD series, A Lenten Journey With Father Michael Himes. Here is a wonderful way to let someone guide you into a meaningful Lent. 
This four-session program is a perfect lenten retreat for personal use or ideal for use with adults preparing for baptism, small church groups and those engaged in ongoing faith formation. Father Himes reflects on our baptismal commitment, drawing insights from the lenten Sunday readings, particularly the stories of water, light and life from John's Gospel. The four sessions—What Is Temptation, Really?”; “Danger and Desire”; “God Sees Into the Heart” and “Endless Possibilities”—bring the spiritual energy of each week of Lent into focus.
Free leader’s guides are available on our Web site. Father Himes’s series takes the busy work out of your parish lenten program and allows catechists and staff to receive a powerful retreat along with the parishioners.
For individual inspiration this Lent, Father Norm Langenbrunner’s Daily Reflections for Lent 2009 is a wonderful and affordably priced Ash Wednesday gift for everyone in your parish.
 
     
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