sacred heartToday in our catechesis there is a great need to renew our devotion of the Sacred Heart of Jesus.  St. Thomas Aquinas defines devotion as a willingness “to give oneself readily to what concerns the service of God” (Summa, II-II, q. 82 a. 1).  As you’ve probably read many many times that our goal, our mission, our aim in catechesis is to “put people not only in touch, but also in communion and intimacy, with Jesus Christ” (GDC 80).  What better way to do this than fostering a devotion to the Sacred Heart.  Pope Pius XII said:

Devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, by its very nature is a worship of the love with which God, through Jesus, loved us, and at the same time, an exercise of our love by which we are related to God and to other men.

Fr. Timothy O’Donnel, who wrote a book on the Sacred Heart, The Heart of the Redeemer said the following:

From this definition it can be seen that authentic devotion to the Sacred Heart is not merely an optional set of pious practices (which may be very helpful) but an essential element of the Christian way of life. All Christians are called to the comprehension of certain truths concerning God and to a response in love to them. In living a life in imitation of Christ, as found in the Gospels and taught by the Church, the Christian should use all the spiritual aids offered to him by God. He should fill his life with an ever growing and deepening love for God and his fellow man. Every Christian will build his own unique spirituality upon this common foundation, which should include a response to the Heart of Christ that gives honor to the divine love and is offered for the sake of that love.

 

How Can we renew this Devotion in our Catechesis?

1) Expose students to images of the Sacred Heart and reference it so they can make the connection between Christ’s heart and our hearts which are called to respond to His love and grace.  Fr. James Kubicki, in his book Rediscovering Devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus said that this devotion is the devotion of devotions because, “devotion to the Heart of Jesus is a response to God’s devotion to us.”  Therefore, providing art that reveals this helps students and adults alike draw closer to Christ.

 

2) Always help students keep in mind that God has loved us first and his heart burns for us.  Pope John Paul II said “It is invaluable to converse with Christ and, leaning against Jesus’ breast like his beloved disciple, we can feel the infinite love of his Heart.”  Taking the time in our catechesis to do this is important.  Yes, it will require some silence, yes it will require us to maybe do things differently when we help kids enter into prayer, but it is infinitely valuable and worth it.

 

3) A few concrete ways to engage your students: Sacred Heart3

 

I close with words from the Catechism about the significant of the Sacred Heart image:

Jesus knew and loved us each and all during his life, his agony and his Passion, and gave himself up for each one of us: “The Son of God. . . loved me and gave himself for me.”116 He has loved us all with a human heart. For this reason, the Sacred Heart of Jesus, pierced by our sins and for our salvation,117 “is quite rightly considered the chief sign and symbol of that. . . love with which the divine Redeemer continually loves the eternal Father and all human beings” without exception.118

 

 

 

 


Monsignor Charles Pope of the Archdiocese of Washington posted a wonderful explanation of the qualities of an evangelist.  I have included most of the post below.  The General Directory for Catechesis and the National Directory for Catechesis are clear about the need to evangelize those we are catechizing.  Here a 7 qualities to consider:

At that time the Lord appointed seventy-two others whom he sent ahead of him in pairs to every town and place he intended to visit.  (Luke 10:1).

Now these lead teams, these evangelizers,  received seven basic instructions from the Lord on how to effectively evangelize. These seven basic habits are also for us who have receive the mandate to evangelize (cf Matt 28: 19). Let’s look at them briefly:

1. Supplication - Jesus said, The harvest is abundant but the laborers are few; so ask the master of the harvest to send out laborers for his harvest. Hence before any effective evangelizing takes place there must be prayer. In my own parish we are preparing to go out two by two in the Fall. Prior to this we have prayed for over a year, holding Eucharistic holy hours, praying at Mass and Bible study for a fruitful team of laborers sent, not by man, but by God. On Pentecost Sunday 50 people signed up to walk door to door. They are the fruit of prayer. So step one for effective evangelization is to have a praying community asking for laborers. When we go door to door fifty others have signed up to stay in Church and pray as we walk. Habit one: Pray!

2: Sobriety. The Lord tells them Go on your way; behold, I am sending you like lambs among wolves (Luke 10:3) We do have to be sober about the fact that we are in world that is both critical of and hostile to our faith. We are bound to experience persecution, ridicule, anger, being ignored,  misunderstanding, misinterpretation, misrepresentations and just plain missiles. That we experience the world’s hatred or anger does not mean we have done anything wrong. The Lord was clear that the hatred of the world was a sign of true discipleship: If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you. Remember the words I spoke to you: ‘No servant is greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also. (John 15:18-20). Too many Christians today want the world to like them and think that holiness is about winning a popularity contest and being nice. Well the fact is that Jesus did not end up on the cross by winning a popularity contest and just being nice. He had enemies and so do we. We are not to hate them. We are to love them but we have to be sober about accepting some degree of hatred from the world. And to those who have won the popularity contest and have no enemies Jesus warns: Woe to you when all men speak well of you,  for that is how their fathers treated the false prophets (Luke 6:26). The true disciple and true evangelizer will experience some degree of hatred, anger and scorn. We must be sober about this. We do not look for a fight, but hatred will come. An old spiritual says, “I been ‘buked and I been scorned. I been talked ’bout sures yo’ born…..” Habit 2 is sobriety

3. Simplicity – The Lord tells us to travel light: Carry no money bag, no sack, no sandals; and greet no one along the way (Lk 10:4) We are to bring nothing along that will weigh us down or hinder our task. The fact is we all have a lot of baggage in this life that hinders us from the more important work of Evangelizing our family and others. Too many parents barely know their kids because they work long hours at jobs to pay for a life style that is too expensive. On top of this we add endless projects and pursuits that keep us running all over God’s green acre. Perhaps good in themselves, they become too much of a good thing and we end up barely knowing the first people we are to evangelize, our children. The Lord says, lighten up, less, is more, simplify and do with less. Do what is more important first: God, family, parish and community. Learn to prioritize and say “no” when necessary. Bottom line is that we have too much baggage, too many distractions and the Gospel goes unlived and unpreached. The unusual instruction “Greet no one along the way” means that we ought not allow any relationship to hinder us either. There are folks who can sidetrack us hinder our progress and we ought to limit such contacts charitably.

4.  Serenity – The Lord says, Into whatever house you enter, first say, ‘Peace to this household’ (Luke 10: 5) Though the world may be hostile at times, the Lord tells us, upon entering into any place to say “Peace to the his household.” We do not go forth with hostility but with a serene joy and love. We must love those to whom we announce the Gospel. We are to radiate a serene confidence, joy and peace. We are not picking a fight or trying to win an argument. If we need to clarify a misunderstanding someone has we ought to do so peacefully and with serene confidence.  Because we are confident in the truth we are serene in it. Shalom, peace is at our core, not hostility or aggressiveness.

5.  Stability– The Lord instructs us Stay in the same house…..Do not move about from one house to another. (Luke 10:7) Thus the Lord tells us to find our place and stay there. In the end, the best evangelization takes place where there are deeper relationships. But deep relationships cannot exist when we are running all over the place and relating to others only superficially. We ought to stay put more with family, parish and community and have deep roots. Too many people barely know their own family. No wonder the faith is not passed on in the diffuse, rushed and sporadic climate of the family. Find home and stay there routinely. Build deep relationships.

6. Sensitivity – the Lord says Eat and drink what is offered to you,…..cure the sick in it and say to them, ‘The kingdom of God is at hand for you.’ In other words the Lord counsels simple human kindness where we do not criticize about unnecessary things like the quality of food, or matters of preference. Further he counsels that we have a charge to bring healing and help to others. We may cure the sick by physical cures but the kind of healing necessary is often more emotional and spiritual. We ought to manifest care for others. Even the simple act of listening to someone can bring great healing. Without simple human kindness, declaring that the Kingdom of God is at hand can not only be empty but it can make the kingdom seem odious. The say to others that the Kingdom of God is at hand means that they can start living a whole new life. We ought then to manifest kindness, bring forth cures by helping people find wholeness and healing from the many blows this world inflicts. The Kingdom of God is not only about doctrine, it is about healing, holiness, and the wholeness that comes from both as well as from true doctrine.

7. Soulful Joy– The disciples returned with great joy and the Lord celebrates with them and helps to deepen their joy. There is nothing worse than a sour-faced saint or a bored believer. In the end, the greatest evangelization is to manifest a joy at what God is doing in our lives. This joy is not a sentimental emotional joy necessarily but a deeper serene joy rooted in confidence, hope and love. Do people see you in this way? If they do the ground is fertile for evangelization. St. Peter says, Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have (1 Peter 3:15). Now of course giving an answer presupposes that someone notices the hope and joy in us and noticing this they ask. Does anyone notice this about you?


New-IdeasOver the last number of months I’ve been thinking about how the New Evangelization can affect parish life and ministry. Matthew Kelly gave an interesting talk to religious educators that makes some excellent points on things we need to consider in parish ministry today.  There is a great need to consider new ways and approaches to meet the needs of parishioners in the Third Millennium.

 

http://youtu.be/JLmp6u74KN8 

 

Here are some questions and reflections about the New Evangelization and parish ministry.

     1) In what ways are parishes in maintenance mode vs. mission mode?

     2) What needs to be considered today in ministry that get’s us out of merely being in                        maintenance mode towards mission mode?

     3) What does a parish in “mission mode” love like?

     4) In what ways do Q&S Catholics affect your ministry?

     5) What principles can we empower, inspire and implement to help ourselves, those in ministry and the faithful in general make Catholicism intriguing.  It is so rich and inspiring but what do we need to consider in ministry to bring that out?

6) Do you find that this video and it’s content contribute to the discussion on the new evangelization?


Is your catechesis evangelistic?  What does that even mean?  Well, it means a lot of things, but most importantly it means being a person to brings the light, joy, life and love of Jesus to others.  The heart of our catechesis to children, youth and adults must be evangelistic or it is not authentically Catholic/Christian.

How do I shine Jesus in my catechesis?  How do others encounter Jesus through my classes, presentations or by encountering me?  These are questions worth thinking about.  I found a compelling video clip by Fr. Robert Barron about Evangelization.  It’s a little academic, but it’s really good.  Take a couple minutes and check it out.


parents1Almost no one disagrees that we need to help parents pass on the faith but the perennial question is “How” to do that and “How” to equip parents.  Some might say that we need to drop our children’s catechesis programs and only have adult faith formation program, after all adult catechesis is the “chief form of catechesis”. Although this is true, it would seem that a more practical approach is to have both at the parish.  So how do we not only keep parents “in the loop” on what we are doing in our programs but also help them pass on the faith to their children?  I offer thee suggestions:

1) Pray, Pray, Pray for them to open their hearts.  Parents often are so busy doing good things for their kids, but too often the “One thing necessary” gets less attention.  Only the Holy Spirit can give parents the eyes and ears they need to see just how important their child’s faith formation is to their child’s development as a person.

2) Communicate, Communicate, Communicate.  Make them aware of what their child is learning about and how they can be involved in the learning.

3) Empower, Empower, Empower.  Find ways to educate the parents.  Offer workshops, enrichment sessions, provide articles and resources for them to be able to grow in their knowledge and love for the faith.

What are you doing to “keep parents in the loop”?  Please share ways you inform and involve parents in the faith formation of their children.


discipleship

Recently I read the following quote that got me thinking:

“This is the only condition that Christ really places on us: ‘Love one another as I have loved you.’  And we know very well how much he has loved us!  He died for us!”  ~ Blessed Teresa of Calcutta

 Let’s take a couple moments and consider what we might provide in our catechesis that helps others more fully embrace this condition (and others) by Jesus.

1. Do those you catechize know how Jesus Christ, God incarnate, who’s love is unconditional, does have conditions for His followers?  For example Christ calls us to “Take up our Cross and follow Him” (Mt. 16:24), Christ calls us in no uncertain terms to Love God with our whole heart mind and soul (Mt. 22:37), to love as he has loved us (Jn. 13:34) and even the call be humble (Mt. 19:24).  These “conditions” are calling us to respond to the message, the Good News and grace given as pure gift to His children (i.e., us).

2. Catechesis is meant to both echo the life saving message of grace, love, mercy and joy as well as call one to profess, to live a life that conveys one who has been changed, renewed, reborn into this abundant life promised by Christ.

“Conditions” can have a positive reality to them and I believe Christ shows us this truth.

What are your thoughts?


ImageThe French proverb “The more things change the more they stay the same” seems to be very appropriate for the hugely popular show on PBS of the post-Edwardian era in England.  Something that struck me about a recent episode is that the quest for ones happiness can often lead one away from the very thing they are searching for.  Lady Edith Crawley allows herself to be sweaped up into a romance with a Michael Gregson who’s wife is considered insane, but British law will not allow him to divorce (presuming he has every right to do so).  He’s going to great lengths to prove his love to Lady Edith by becoming a German citizen so he can divorce his wife and marry her. This example is just one among so many others of how we can distort truth.  The world back then and now too often sees fidelity in marriage to be good so long as your wife is not, as in the case of Mr. Gregson, insane (or a number of others reasons).   

Catechetical Takeaway 

3 catechetical points that are vital to catechesis in the Third Millennium:

1. Proclaiming the truth (whether on the issue of marriage or another aspect of life)  is essential to the freedom of God’s children.  Sometimes the truth is seen as judgmental because it challenges ones freedom and what is often socially acceptable (although not morally acceptable).   

2. Keep in mind that catechesis on “Life in Christ” is not merely “morality” but about life with God.  The Catechism paragraph 1691 says:

“Christian, recognize your dignity and, now that you share in God’s own nature, do not return to your former base condition by sinning. Remember who is your head and of whose body you are a member. Never forget that you have been rescued from the power of darkness and brought into the light of the Kingdom of God.” [St. Leo the Great Sermo 22 in nat. Dom., 3: PL 54, 192C] [790]

3. Let your message be clear.  Catechism paragraph 1697 goes onto say that “Catechesis has to reveal in all clarity the joy and the demands of the way of Christ”.  The demands of being a doctor, a professional sports player or a renowned scientist are quite high and so also are the demands of the Christian life (which so often we can resist because it is perceived that a loving God should help make our lives good and happy).  The Christian life, although having its challenges, is filled with abundant joy, peace beyond understanding, transforming grace and total charity which brings authentic freedom and true happiness.  

 

The life we’ve been given is a true gift even with all it’s demands.  May our eyes and heart always look to Christ for the ultimate answers that allow us to respond according to the truth of the Gospel and all that entails.  

 

 

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