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December 07, 2011
Advent, Christmas and Holy Family
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.”

New Company Name—Same Great Products!

St. Anthony Messenger Press has become Franciscan Media.

Why the name change? Father Dan Kroger, O.F.M., our CEO and publisher, points out, “The term Franciscan means something characterized by the life, teachings and values of St. Francis of Assisi.” He is known for his care for the earth and all creation, lifestyle of simplicity and love of the poor. All were outward signs of his devotion to Jesus Christ. “These values make St. Francis very relevant today,” says Father Dan. “Issues concerning the environment, social and economic justice, aggressive consumerism and the need for inspiration and hope dominate our lives.”

While we shift our patron from St. Anthony (an early follower of St. Francis) to St. Francis himself, Father Dan says, “Note that we still pray to St. Anthony of Padua, who remains the patron saint of our St. Anthony Messenger magazine.”

Chestnuts are roasting on an open fire, and it’s time to put aside our textbooks and focus on the Incarnation and all the sparkles and delight of December’s feasts. Join us in this issue as we offer a few ways to make the Advent and Christmas seasons merry.

FOR SHARING AND DISCUSSION: Share your ideas and questions on our Faith Formation Forum.
What are some ideas you have for keeping Advent in your classroom and home?
What can you do to keep the 12 days of Christmas? 
Advent Waiting
It’s time for the annual warning: Don’t succumb to celebrating Christmas before the 25th. Advent deserves a place in our classrooms, homes and hearts.

So, how do we stem the tide of Christmas and honor this wonderful waiting time? First, we need to put an Advent wreath in the center of our December lessons. Begin with the wreath and focus on the lessons of Mary and Joseph’s journey to Bethlehem. Assemble the crèche and, as you add the figures, talk about their stories. Shepherds, sheep, angels—all have a prayer and a story as they wait. Of course, leave the manger empty. It’s great fun to hide the Baby Jesus and, in the last minutes of the last Advent class, go looking for him, just as the Jewish people search for the Messiah.

Darkness and light are also a part of this winter season. As you gather around the wreath, turn out the lights and talk about what light means to us as we wait for Christ, our light. But, above all, bring your children to the true meaning of Advent: It is a blessed time to await the wonder. Every year is new again as we encounter the ancient mystery of Emmanuel—“God with us.”
Online Catalog
St. Nicholas: Messenger of Generosity
Santa Claus and St. Nicholas are the same guy. This is the best-kept secret in the Christmas village. When we teach our children that St. Nicholas is the saint behind the myth, we’re teaching them the true meaning of the generosity of God.

Catholic Update offers a new special issue, “St. Nicholas: The Original Santa Claus,” that every catechist and parent needs in his or her bag of tricks. This issue offers a wealth of information on Old St. Nick and helps us connect the dots between the secular version and the real thing. We should never stop believing in Santa Claus. He is the saint who comes to proclaim that our generous God sent his Son as an act of love and generosity. Connecting those dots might be the best Advent lesson you will ever teach.
Online Catalog
Seasonal Features
Along with our new company name, we also have a new portal for accessing our websites: There you’ll find all the features you’ve come to rely on us to provide online. One of those is simply refered to as “Seasonal Features.” From Catholic e-greeting cards, to “Sunday Soundbites,” to a video interview, to relevant excerpts from St. Anthony Messenger magazine, the Christmas to Epiphany seasonal feature provides a variety of resources to enrich your celebration of the season of Christmas.

Share this link with your catechists and parishioners so that they too may benefit from the material gathered here. Note that the collection also includes a seasonal feature on Advent and many other holy days and holidays throughout the year.
Franciscan Radio
A Catholic Christmas Gift
At Christmastime, I always try to find a gift for catechists that not only shows appreciation for the time and talent they’ve given the parish, but also that’s spiritual or somehow related to Christmas. It also has to be affordable. This year, I have found that gift in A Catholic Christmas by Kathleen M. Carroll.

From the Feast of St. Andrew to the Baptism of Our Lord, Carroll explains why we Catholics celebrate the way we do and the significance that these events hold for us. Do you know why Christmas is celebrated on December 25? How much do you really know about Saints Andrew, Nicholas, Lucy and Stephen? What about the other feasts within this Christmas season? How does it all fit together?

This year, I’m giving our parish catechists A Catholic Christmas to help remind them that Christmas is more than just a day to give presents and eat dinner with family. I’m sure they will enjoy the easy, conversational tone of this book as they grow in understanding of their faith and our Christmas traditions.
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