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Links for Learners

by Lynn and Bob Gillen

September 2000

The following Links for Learners resource is offered to those who would like to use St. Anthony Messenger in an educational setting or for further study at home. This resource is prepared with high school students in mind, but can be adapted for other age groups. We will feature one article for further study each month. Back issues, beginning in May 1997, contain this resource. Up until December 1998 it was called a teacher's guide or classroom resource. Teachers with access to computer labs should encourage students to access the article directly online. Students have our permission to print out a copy of the article for classroom use. We encourage you to subscribe to the print edition of St. Anthony Messenger, where you will see all of the graphics, and more articles that you might find useful on a variety of topics. Please let us know how we can improve this service by sending feedback to

Click here for a complete listing of Links for Learners

Please see our links disclaimer located at the end of this document.

Links for Learning

Finding Curriculum Connections for High School Teachers and Students

This month’s Links for Learners will support high school curriculum in:

    • Religion—Church leadership; world religions; ecumenism; role of the Holy Spirit
    • Wold and American History—world events paralleling papal reigns
Finding Links for Discussion Group Leaders and Participants

Look for connections for use in programs outside the classroom, such as:

  • Parish sacramental preparation programs and CCD classes; young adult discussion programs; seasonal discussion groups; RCIA programs.
  • Parents will also find this material useful in initiating discussion around the dinner table, in home study, at family activities.

Understanding Basic Terms in This Month’s Article

Look for the key words and terms below as you read the article. Definitions or explanations can be researched from the article itself, or from the resource materials cited throughout the Links for Learners. You can also find a list of terms on the glossary page of AmericanCatholic Youth.


"Heroic virtues"



Congregation for the Causes of the Saints






salvation history



Vox Populi

Vatican II

Christian unity

Roman numerals

Society for the Propagation of the Faith


Pope John XXIII—the Man, the Blessed

In positioning Pope John XXIII among the beatified, the small group of candidates for sainthood, the Church holds him up as a role model. Indeed, Pope John XXIII teaches us much about Jesus.

Read through this month's article to identify John XXIII's "heroic virtues." You should find, for example, a passion for charity, for justice, for peace. Compile a list of 10 to 15 virtues. Why do these virtues constitute a potential for sanctity? Which virtues came easily to John, and which, in your opinion, did he have to work hard to develop?

What characterizes a saint? One of the best descriptions is someone whose behavior is very much worth imitating.

The author points out that John XXIII was not universally considered to be especially saintly. But an examination of the lives of the saints will show that none of them was perfect. While this lack of perfection may prove disillusioning, upon thought we realize how encouraging this is for all of us. We who consider ourselves imperfect and unworthy can be saint-like; we too can possess characteristics and habits worth imitating.

Look over a list of saints. Select three or four you find interesting or inspirational. Look for saints from different time periods in the life of the Church. Edith Stein, one of the Church's newest saints, died in the Holocaust of World War II. Elizabeth Seton's life of dedication to education and medical care served early 20th century Americans. St. Francis lived his life of charity in the 13th century. St. Peter, our first pope, died in the early days of the Church. See also Saints in Due Season: Essays on the Art of Christian Aging, Thomas P. McDonnell, Our Sunday Visitor, Inc., 1983. This book provides inspiration for elderly and mature Christians by profiling saints who share common characteristics with persons in the second half of life.

Research the biographies of your chosen saints just enough to get a sense of their virtues and their imperfections. What do they have in common? What strengths, what behaviors do they display? Look closely, too, at their faults.

Compare the strengths and weaknesses you identified in your list of saints to those of someone whom you love or respect. Who are the "living saints" in your life, in the community of saints that is the Church? What do they have in common with the canonized saints?

Now make the same comparison to your life. Where do you compare favorably to the saints? Where is there room for development/improvement in your life? We are all "saints-in-training," all women and men striving to be more like Jesus. Isn't it encouraging to see that we already share some virtues with the saints!

Pope John XXIII's Place in World History

A second reading of the article will help you appreciate the world context of John XXIII's life. Where does John XXIII fit in history? What events shaped his "heroic virtues"? You can benefit from creating a timeline of events that paralleled his life.

Start with the period from the mid-1950s through his death in 1963. John XXIII died in the same year that Martin Luther King delivered his "I have a dream" speech, that John F. Kennedy was assassinated and that the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine was awarded to three doctors for their discovery of the molecular structure of DNA.

Build a timeline using these suggested components:

  • World events, such as wars and international crises
  • Social consciousness and culture
  • Science and technology
  • Faith and religion

Using resources such as print and online encyclopedias, almanacs, history and reference books (such as What Happened When: A Chronology of Life and Events in America, by Gorton Carruth, 1991), and the article itself, develop the timeline. If you are working in a classroom or discussion group setting, you can assign each component to a small group for research, then assemble the components as a larger group.

One of John XXIII's most influential activities was convening the Second Vatican Council. John XXIII opened his own heart and that of the Church at large to the healing breath of the Holy Spirit. From your timeline, what events or issues may have influenced John's thinking in convening the Council? Would the social and spiritual consciousness of the Church and the world have lent themselves easily to John's openness to reform?

Beginning in the year 325, with the Council of Nicea, the Church has called 20 councils to address major issues facing the Church. Vatican II is the most recent, and its impact is ongoing. (For a strong exposition of what happened during Vatican II, read The Rhine Flows to the Tiber, by Ralph M. Wiltgen.)

The Papacy in World History

How do the concerns of the popes parallel the interests and issues of the global community?

Using the same approach as with John XXIII's timeline, create a broader timeline to cover the papacy of the 20th century. From Pope Leo XIII, who died in 1903, to our present Pope John Paul II, nine popes have spanned the 20th century. For an informal study of all the popes, see From Peter to John Paul II, Frank Korn, Alba Books, 1980. You might also add a column for the encyclicals written by the popes of the 20th century. How do the topics of the encyclicals parallel the concerns of the world? For example, the 1961 encyclical Mater et Magistra (Christianity and Social Progress) expresses the Church's concerns for the daily struggles people face, for their education and livelihood, for their temporal welfare and prosperity.

What was going on in the world in the early 1960s that John wanted to recognize and address? The longest steel strike in America's history ended in January 1960. The bishops of the Episcopal Church approved some methods of birth control. School integration had reached only six percent of Southern schools. The United States broke diplomatic relations with Cuba. The 1960s saw worldwide television transmission for the first time in history.

CNN in its Millennium Series calls the 20th century the century of the globe: humankind sees the world as a whole for the first time. Is the Church experiencing this as well? Is this world consciousness influencing the actions and recent teachings of Church leadership? The CNN site offers educator guides, historical perspectives and religious themes.

Also, see the RCL video on Vatican II, Faithful Revolution: Vatican II, especially the first video "Genius of the Heart."

Part of John XXIII's legacy is a strong concern for the unity of all Christians. John, as with St. Peter and all of his successor popes, was not merely a symbol of unity; the papal office, its mission, is a positive service to the unity of all Christians. For a thorough examination of the papacy, see The Papacy and the People of God, a book of essays edited by Gary MacEoin. Selected chapters have been running in issues of The National Catholic Reporter. (Search under "John XXIII".)

Pope John Paul II demonstrates a dedication to the unity of all faiths. John Paul has spoken out on, or intervened in, situations such as the embargo against Iraq, the strife in Northern Ireland, famine in Africa, the plight of the Church in Cuba and the war crimes in Bosnia. What does his extensive travel to so many countries say about his concerns? In March 2000 John Paul asked pardon for the sins of the Church. The unprecedented plea was offered to Jews, other Christian faiths, women, the poor and various ethnic and racial groups. What occurrences in John Paul's own life, what world events may have influenced this action? (See The Hidden Pope: The Untold Story of a Lifelong Friendship That is Changing the Relationship Between Catholics and Jews, Darcy O'Brien, 1998.)

Research Resources

Try accessing some of these Internet sources for further reference. Be aware, however, that some of these sites may charge for downloading articles contained within the site’s archives.
Pathfinder - Access site to a number of online news publications
People magazine
The Close Up FoundationWashington, D.C.-based organization

Links Disclaimer:

The links contained within this resource guide are functional at the time the page is posted. Over time, however, some of the links may become ineffective.

These links are provided solely as a convenience to you and not as an endorsement by St. Anthony Messenger Press/Franciscan Communications of the contents on such third-party Web sites. St. Anthony Messenger Press/Franciscan Communications is not responsible for the content of linked third-party sites and does not make any representations regarding the content or accuracy of materials on such third-party Web sites. If you decide to access linked third-party Web sites, you do so at your own risk.

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