O Radix Jesse: “O Flower of Jesse’s stem, you have been raised up as a sign for all peoples; kings stand silent in your presence; the nations bow down in worship before you. Come, let nothing keep you from coming to our aid.” Isaiah had prophesied, “But a shoot shall sprout from the stump of Jesse, and from his roots a bud shall blossom.” (11:1), and A On that day, the root of Jesse, set up as a signal for the nations, the Gentiles shall seek out, for his dwelling shall be glorious.” (11:10).
                                                                                                                         ~ Fr. William Sanders
Reflection:
Remember also that Jesse was the father of King David, and Micah had prophesied that the Messiah would be of the house and lineage of David and be born in David’s city, Bethlehem (Micah 5:1).This antiphon reflects on the Jesse tree family. Jesus was a descendant from King David whose father was Jesse and his father was Obed and so on. But the root goes deeper, even to creation itself. Christ superseded David and indeed all rulers of this earth because He is King of all creation. Today we pray that we may recognize our Lord’s sovereignty in our lives.
 
O Root of Jesse, you left your heavenly throne in order to let us share in your heavenly kingdom; Come, O Holy Spirit prepare our hearts so that we recognise Christ rule in our hearts. Amen.
                                                                                                 ~ http://mariannedorman.homestead.com

 


O Adonai: “O sacred Lord of ancient Israel, who showed yourself to Moses in the burning bush, who gave him the holy law on Sinai mountain: come, stretch out your mighty hand to set us free.” Isaiah had prophesied, “But He shall judge the poor with justice, and decide aright for the land’s afflicted. He shall strike the ruthless with the rod of his mouth, and with the breath of his lips he shall slay the wicked. Justice shall be the band around his waist, and faithfulness a belt upon his hips.” (11:4-5); and “Indeed the Lord will be there with us, majestic; yes the Lord our judge, the Lord our lawgiver, the Lord our king, he it is who will save us.” (33:22).

~ Fr. William Sanders

Reflection: 

This antiphon reflects firstly on Moses’ encounter with Adonai manifesting himself firstly in the burning bush and secondly on Mt. Sinai. The fire symbolised God’s presence and like the fire is not consumed. That fire was a sign that God would be fully revealed in His Son.
The coming of Christ expanded that Law on Sinai given to Moses for the Israelites. Our Adonai has given us a wider Law based on love – love one another as I have loved you. Today let us pray that our lives will be ones of love in which there is no bitterness, resentment, anger or fear, but only tenderness, gentleness and compassion.
O Adonai, you so loved us that you became incarnate so that we may have your example of divine love in giving us the Law of Love. Come, O Holy Spirit prepare our hearts to acknowledge you as our leader this Christmas. Amen.
                                                                                                                                                  ~ http://mariannedorman.homestead.com

Today the Church enters into the most holy of days prior to the Solemnity of Christmas.  These holy days are marked by the O Antiphons“O Antiphons” prayed at Mass and in the prayer of the Church – the liturgy of the hours.  I like the way catholicculture.com put it: “December 17 marks the beginning of the “O” Antiphons, the seven jewels of our liturgy, dating back to the fourth century, one for each day until Christmas Eve. These antiphons address Christ with seven magnificent Messianic titles, based on the Old Testament prophecies and types of Christ. The Church recalls the variety of the ills of man before the coming of the Redeemer.”  
O Sapientia (December 17) “O Wisdom”, O holy Word of God, you govern all creation with your strong yet tender care. Come and show your people the way to salvation.” Isaiah had prophesied, “The spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him: a spirit of wisdom and of understanding, a spirit of counsel and of strength, a spirit of knowledge and fear of the Lord, and his delight shall be the fear of the Lord.” (11:2-3), and “Wonderful is His counsel and great is His wisdom.” (28:29).

~ Fr. William Sanders

I want to reiterate that the significance of the O Antiphons is twofold:

1) If refers to one of the 7 messianic titles given to Christ.

2) They are linked with 7 prophecies regarding the Messiah from the Prophet Isaiah.

Reflection:
In the Christian tradition Wisdom has always existed in the second Person of the Godhead and it is Wisdom through which God created the world, when she spoke. That second person of the Trinity is Jesus, God incarnate. So He is not only the Word but He spoke the Word. And those Words are true, the life and the Way for us to live. Today let us pray that we shall use the gift of wisdom, given to us at Confirmation, to discern the things of God so that we grow to love the virtues of God’s kingdom.
 
O Sapientia teach us the truth and to be truly wise; Come, O Holy Spirit and prepare our hearts to welcome you at Christmas. Amen.
                                                                                                                                                                ~ http://mariannedorman.homestead.com

Waiting For Justice

Image

Pope Benedict XVI said:

We are waiting for justice but it cannot be merely the expression of a certain requirement with regard to others. Waiting for justice in the Christian sense means above all that we ourselves begin to live under the eyes of the Judge, in accordance with the criteria of the Judge; that we begin to live in his presence, doing justice in our own lives. Thus, by doing justice, putting ourselves in the Judge’s presence, we wait for justice in reality. And this is the meaning of Advent, of vigilance.

The watchfulness of Advent means living under the eyes of the Judge and thus preparing ourselves and the world for justice. In this way, therefore, living under the eyes of the God-Judge, we can open the world to the coming of his Son and predispose hearts to welcome “the Lord who comes”.

The Child whom the shepherds adored in a grotto on the night of Bethlehem about 2,000 years ago, never tires of visiting us in our daily lives while we journey on as pilgrims towards the Kingdom. In his expectation, therefore, the believer becomes an interpreter of the hopes of all humanity; humanity yearns for justice and thus, although often unconsciously, is waiting for God, waiting for salvation which God alone can give to us.

Action:

Live under the eyes of the Judge who desire for you to live in His truth and His ways.

Prayer:

Lord, you are the just Judge who never tires of visiting us in our joys and sorrows.  Thank you.  I pray for my enemies today and those who I don’t prefer to spend my time with knowing that you judge them and judge me with the same fatherly love.


A Creche: “School of Life”

crecheTraditionally in Rome on the 3rd Sunday of Advent people bring out their little baby Jesus’ from their creche’s to be blessed.  A few years ago Pope Benedict said the following:

“[A] crèche can be “a school of life, where we can learn the secret of true joy.” That secret, he said, is that Holy Family is “full of intimate joy because they love one another, they help one another and, above all, they are certain that God is at work in their story.” For the shepherds, he added, true joy comes from “feeling that our individual and community lives are touched by and filled with a great mystery, the mystery of the love of God..”

On this Gaudete Sunday where we rejoice because the coming of our Lord is near.

Action: 

Do you reach out to those around you?  Do you only love those who love you or do you love even those that are difficult for you to love? Today, resolve to live this 3rd week of Advent with the joy of Jesus and bring kindness, mercy and joy into the lives of the people around you.

Prayer:

Your birthday is almost here Jesus –  a little over a week away.  I beg of you the grace to forget about myself and to give the gift of you to others through my thoughts, words and actions.

Collect: O God, who see how your people faithfully await the feast of the Lord’s Nativity, enable us, we pray, to attain the joys of so great a salvation and to celebrate them always with solemn worship and glad rejoicing. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.


St. John of the Cross’ Advent Poem

If you want, the Virgin will come walking down the road

Image
pregnant with the holy, and say,
“I need shelter for the night,
please take me inside your heart, my time is so close.”
Then, under the roof of your soul,
you will witness the sublime intimacy,
the divine, the Christ, taking birth forever,
as she grasps your hand for help,
for each of us is the midwife of God, each of us.
Yes there, under the dome of your being
does creation come into existence eternally,
through your womb, dear pilgrim – the sacred womb of your soul,
as God grasps our arms for help:
for each of us is his beloved servant, never far.
If you want, the Virgin will come walking down the street
pregnant with Light and sing..
Action:
St. John of the Cross is a Doctor of the Church because of his wisdom on prayer.  A great gift to give God today is to take 15 minutes of silent prayer today just adoring our Lord and preparing more and more for the coming of Christ.
Prayer:
Collect: O God, who gave the Priest Saint John an outstanding dedication to perfect self-denial and love of the Cross, grant that, by imitating him closely at all times, we may come to contemplate eternally your glory. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.

St. Lucy – Bearer of Light

12_13_lucy3

Responsorial Psalm: Those who follow you, Lord, will have the light of life.
Blessed the man who follows not
the counsel of the wicked
Nor walks in the way of sinners,
nor sits in the company of the insolent,
But delights in the law of the LORD
and meditates on his law day and night.

~ Psalm 1

Today’s feast can easily be harmonized with Advent themes. The very name Lucy pulsates with light, a living symbol amid the season’s darkness (the days are now the shortest of the year). As a wise virgin Lucy advances with a burning lamp to meet the Bridegroom. She typifies the Church and the soul now preparing their bridal robes for a Christmas marriage. (catholicculture.org)

Action: 

Today, I will recall the Advent candles, lights on trees and around town as procliaming Christ and recall that Christ has come to disspell the darkness.

Prayer:

Light of Jesus fill my life and most importantly the darkness of my heart so your light can transform it!


Our Lady of Guadalupe

Our Lady of Guadalupe

“Do not be afraid, Mary,
for you have found favor with God.
Behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son,
and you shall name him Jesus.
He will be great and will be called Son of the Most High,
and the Lord God will give him the throne of David his father,
and he will rule over the house of Jacob forever,
and of his Kingdom there will be no end.”

Action: 

What are you afraid of – surrender to what you can’t control, looking too religious, not be accepted because of your Catholic beliefs, giving God your life and not being self-sufficient?  Take one thing for the next week to prayer; something that you are afraid of – something that prevents you from growing in your relationship with God.

Prayer: 

Your promises are true Lord God and your grace is sufficient. Please help me to trust in you.  I can’t do this by myself – I need you! I will pray as the Angel did: Hail [Mary] full of grace…


Warning Advent Virus

WARNING……WARNING: ADVENT VIRUSwarning

Be on the alert for symptoms of inner Hope, Peace, Joy and Love. The hearts of a great many have already been exposed to this virus and it is possible that people everywhere could come down with it in epidemic proportions. This could pose a serious threat to what has, up to now, been a fairly stable condition of conflict in the world.

Some signs and symptoms of The Advent Virus:

  • A tendency to think and act spontaneously rather than on fears based on past experiences.
  • An unmistakable ability to enjoy each moment.
  • A loss of interest in judging other people.
  • A loss of interest in interpreting the actions of others.
  • A loss of interest in conflict.
  • A loss of the ability to worry. (This is a very serious symptom.)
  • Frequent, overwhelming episodes of appreciation.
  • Contented feelings of connectedness with others and nature.
  • Frequent attacks of smiling.
  • An increasing tendency to let things happen rather than make them happen.
  • An increased susceptibility to the love extended by others as well as the uncontrollable urge to extend it.

Please send this warning out to all your friends. This virus can and has affected many systems. Some systems have been completely cleaned out because of it.

~ Author Unknown

Action:

I will aim to spread the effects of this virus onto others.

Prayer:

Come Lord Jesus!


Conversion of Sinners = Joy

prayer at foot of Jesus

If a man has a hundred sheep and one of them goes astray, will he not leave the ninety-nine in the hills and go in search of the stray?

And if he finds it, amen, I say to you, he rejoices more over it
than over the ninety-nine that did not stray.
In just the same way, it is not the will of your heavenly Father
that one of these little ones be lost.” (Mt. 18)

Action: 

Offer up all your little struggles and make little sacrifices for the conversion of sinners this Advent.  It is a penitential season.  Consider people in your own family, people at work, those who will attend Mass on Christmas but don’t go throughout the year and yes, for yourself to have a humble and contrite heart.

Prayer:

Jesus, I thank you for humbling yourself and taking on human flesh in order to bring salvation.  I pray for the conversion of sinners and for them to experience your joy in a powerful way. Amen!


Immaculate Mary

immaculate conceptionThe Catechism speaks beautifully about Mary who is the Immaculate Conception:

490 To become the mother of the Savior, Mary “was enriched by God with gifts appropriate to such a role.”132 The angel Gabriel at the moment of the annunciation salutes her as “full of grace”.133 In fact, in order for Mary to be able to give the free assent of her faith to the announcement of her vocation, it was necessary that she be wholly borne by God’s grace.

491 Through the centuries the Church has become ever more aware that Mary, “full of grace” through God,134 was redeemed from the moment of her conception. That is what the dogma of the Immaculate Conception confesses, as Pope Pius IX proclaimed in 1854:

The most Blessed Virgin Mary was, from the first moment of her conception, by a singular grace and privilege of almighty God and by virtue of the merits of Jesus Christ, Savior of the human race, preserved immune from all stain of original sin.135

492 The “splendor of an entirely unique holiness” by which Mary is “enriched from the first instant of her conception” comes wholly from Christ: she is “redeemed, in a more exalted fashion, by reason of the merits of her Son”.136 The Father blessed Mary more than any other created person “in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places” and chose her “in Christ before the foundation of the world, to be holy and blameless before him in love”.137

493 The Fathers of the Eastern tradition call the Mother of God “the All-Holy” (Panagia), and celebrate her as “free from any stain of sin, as though fashioned by the Holy Spirit and formed as a new creature”.138 By the grace of God Mary remained free of every personal sin her whole life long.

The most Blessed Virgin Mary was, from the first moment of her conception, by a singular grace and privilege of almighty  God and by virtue of the merits of Jesus Christ, Savior of the human race, preserved immune from all stain of original sin.135

Action:

Pray the Joyful Mysteries of the Rosary asking Mary to draw you into the Heart of our Savior.

Prayer:

Hail Mary full of grace….


A Voice is Crying Out

st. John the baptistJohn the Baptist appeared, preaching in the desert of Judea
and saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand!”
It was of him that the prophet Isaiah had spoken when he said:
A voice of one crying out in the desert,
Prepare the way of the Lord,
make straight his paths.

Action:

Today I will make plans to go to the Sacrament of Reconciliation before Christmas.

Prayer:

Jesus, I know you thirst for my soul.  Assist me who is weak and busy with many things to prepare a way in the wilderness of my heart for you!  Help me grow closer to you during this second week of Advent!  Amen.


Pace Yourselves

advent2“Pace yourselves in these holy days. Enjoy the richness of the Advent days. They should be days of calm reflection on the Mystery of the Incarnation, God taking on human nature.  Decorate slowly and deliberately, not putting everything up at once.  

                                                                                                                     ~ Fr. Roger Ansparger

Action:

This Advent I will seek to be more calm and reflective.  I will begin today or renew today my commitment to do this.

Prayer: 

God our Father, in the fullness of time you sent your son to bring salvation to us.  May our thoughts and actions be filled with you this holy season.  We ask this through Christ our Lord! Amen.


St. Nicholas, more than a chubby happy fellow

 

St. Nicholas“As bishop of Myra, Nicholas seemed more aware than ever of people’s needs. He would appear all over the city offering help to anyone in difficulty, then quietly disappear without waiting for thanks. He shunned publicity. Still, his reputation as a holy man grew and grew, even spreading to distant cities that had never seen him.

 

SpacerHe was especially interested that families had enough to eat and a good place to live, that children got ahead in life, and that old people lived out their lives with dignity and respect. And he always loved the sailors living so dangerously on the sea. Without their ships, people everywhere would be without food and other goods they carried for trade.

 

SpacerYet it is as a lover of children that Nicholas is best remembered today. While he lived, he gave the little ones he met small gifts– some candy, a toy. His kindness, which always managed to surprise them, touched their hearts, and they learned from this holy man what a beautiful thing giving is.

 

SpacerIn the figure of Santa Claus, whose name and activity Nicholas inspired, we have this saint with us today.”

~ Fr. Victor Hoagland, C.P.

 

Action: 

Today, I will remember that this Season is about Christ and proclaiming and celebrating Him through my desire to love Christ and serve Him in my neighbor.  Seek to do a kind deed or two to surprise another.

Prayer:

St. Nicholas, you sought to give without any recognition and you did it because of your desire to reflect Jesus Christ.  We pray for all children that they may be the people you have called them to be through their Baptism. Bless them and draw them closer to Jesus! Amen.


St. Nicholas


Lord, Lord!

Jesus said to his disciples:
“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’
will enter the Kingdom of heaven,
but only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven.

Too often today the idea of “being a good person” is all you need to get to heaven is too common.  “I’m a good person and God knows that”.  Yes, each of us is good by nature of being created in His image and likeness. However, we if we are to enter the Kingdom of Heaven we must be more than “a good person, a nice person” but we must seek to do the will of God which requires something of us.

Advent is a time of spiritual preparation for being ready for when Christ comes again to judge the living and the dead.

Action:

Today pray often of doing God’s will…. “Thy will be done” could be your phrase of the day.

Prayer: 

Jesus give me the grace to do your will and not my own today.


ImageJesus said today in the Gospel: “I do not want to send them away hungry,
for fear they may collapse on the way.” Jesus is our savior and without Him we fail – maybe not immediately but in the end He is our only hope and He is the hope of the world.  The world needs Jesus!  In our society everyone is saying its Christmas time and how “magical” it is.  But non-Christian and Christians alike seek to feast on things that are not what Jesus wants to feed us with.  What in your life might cause you to “collapse on the way”?

Action:

Seek to attend a daily Mass for Jesus to fill you with the most delightful of food – Himself.  Or if you are not able to attend Mass read the daily Mass readings so that Jesus may fill you with His Words of life!

Prayer:

Jesus nourish and guide me this Advent Season!  May others know your goodness and love through my witness of you! Amen.


advent3

   “Each year, God asks us to shed one more coat of awareness, one more dream state and come alive to the vision of God’s plan for each of us and the world-at-large.

   “The older we get, the harder this is to do. As children we had a sense of wonder. Our eyes were wide open and drinking in the fascinating gifts we beheld…Our thirsty souls could not have enough of the wonders of creation.

   “Then, somehow, we grew too old to dream. We tired of the abundance of the world, or at least grew weary of keeping up with the feast of life, and stepped away from the banquet of life.

   “The natural gift of wonder God gave us as children was meant to be kept alive.…Instead we let wonder go to sleep. We entered the typical dream state of most humans.

   “Why else does Jesus tell us today, ‘Stay awake!’…Advent says, ‘Wake up and realize the gifts of love you have received.’

   “…Psychology says, ‘Let go.’ Spirituality says, ‘Wake up.’ In both cases there is a withdrawal from the busyness of daily life (our dream state) and a waking up to the subconscious and spiritual depths of ourselves.”

                      ~Rev. Alfred McBride, O. Praem.,THE PRIEST, Oct. ‘87, p.26

Action:

I will take a few moments today to “Wake Up” by being a sign up hope to someone, or to pray today or go to Mass.

Prayer:

Jesus, my life can be so busy, please give me your strength to set aside all of the busy but good things in my life so I can take time for you.  Amen.


Take Time to Be Aware

Annunciation

 

 

 

 

 

 

“Take time to be aware that in the very midst of our busy preparations for the celebration of Christ’s birth in ancient Bethlehem, Christ is reborn in the Bethlehems of our homes and daily lives. Take time, slow down, be still, be awake to the Divine Mystery that looks so common and so ordinary yet is wondrously present.

   “An old abbot was fond of saying, ‘The devil is always the most active on the highest feast days.’

   “The supreme trick of Old Scratch is to have us so busy decorating, preparing food, practicing music and cleaning in preparation for the feast of Christmas that we actually miss the coming of Christ. Hurt feelings, anger, impatience, injured egos—the list of clouds that busyness creates to blind us to the birth can be long, but it is familiar to us all.”

~Edward Hays, A Pilgrim’s Almanac, p. 196

 

Action:

Will you make the time to be aware of what Christ wants to do in your life? At the beginning of each day ask for Jesus’ help to carve out more space for Him.

Prayer: 

R. Let us go rejoicing to the house of the Lord.
I rejoiced because they said to me,
“We will go up to the house of the LORD.”
And now we have set foot
within your gates, O Jerusalem.

 

 


Image

A blessed Advent to you and a happy new year!  This Advent I will be sharing a brief moment of reflection each day during Advent.  I pray that it may draw each of us closer to the Lord Jesus as we prepare to celebrate his birth as well as prepare for when he will come again!

In Christ,

William O’Leary

Moment #1:

In today’s 1st Reading from Isaiah it says:

This is what Isaiah, son of Amoz,
saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem.
In days to come,
the mountain of the LORD’s house
shall be established as the highest mountain
and raised above the hills.
All nations shall stream toward it;
many peoples shall come and say:
“Come, let us climb the LORD’s mountain,
to the house of the God of Jacob,
that he may instruct us in his ways,
and we may walk in his paths.”

Action: Make a resolution to “climb the Lord’s Mountain” that you may be open to Christ “that he may instruct us in his ways and [that] we may walk in his paths.”

Prayer: God is the universe, God of my heart, may my Advent be simple and pleasing to you.  I want to climb, I want to be instructed, I want to open my heart to you! Give me your grace and wisdom.  Amen.


Image

This time it’s not the cart before the horse but the sled before the turkey.  What happened to preparations for Thanksgiving?  According to all that I’m see and hearing it’s about Christmas and that the Christmas Season is here.  So much of what we hear speaks about this being the happiest time of year and Christmas being the best day of the year.  Why does society find it to be such a great time of year? Is it in celebrations of Christ’s Birth which is one of the single greatest events in human history?  Is it that it is an opportunity to prepare for His second coming when he will come again to judge the living and the dead?  Unfortunately, I’m afraid non-Christians and even Christians alike tend to “love” this time of year because it raises up in them warm and happy feelings (not that it and of itself that is bad) and of people feeling like it is a magical time of year.  Some factors are: the weather, the decorations are different, the music playing is full of delight and of course we get to do one of the most enjoyable things as a society — Buy Stuff!  Image

Before we enter into the Advent Season which is still a half a month away, as followers of Christ let’s not respond to the upcoming holiday season as merely magical but as something deeply spiritual.  I like the holiday season as much as anyone, but I believe God is calling me to be rooted in the true reasons why the holiday season is special.  It’s about what God has done for us and his great care, kindness and mercy for us – for me. 

As disciples, as catechists, as parents let us seek to be in Christ, with Christ and seek Him to act through us so that the world may know Jesus, know the goodness of God the Father who provides for his people and know that presents, annual holiday parties are only secondary to celebrating the wonders of God and his infinite blessings!!!


New-IdeasIs the New Evangelization merely about New Methods?

It is true that communicating the faith in the Third Millennium does call for a re-proposing the Gospel Message in a way that will be received by the People of God today.  We know that people are less receptive to lectures regarding the truths of the faith than they once were.  Therefore, various tools and methods need to be incorporated (e.g., Video, dialogue, small group interaction, etc.).

At the same time Our Faith must be presented from the living sources of the faith – the liturgy, the Fathers of the Church, the saints, Council documents.  The Catechism does this is an unprecedented manner.   The reality of presenting the immeasurable riches of the Faith from these living sources is key to the New Evangelization.

What do you think?  It would be great to hear your thoughts on this.


all saints1The Halloween Season is probably the most popular of all celebrations (outside of the holiday season).  At least we can say this is true from a secular perspective.  Even in Religious Education Programs and Catholic Schools I see Halloween decoration and “trunk or treat” events that, in many cases, promotes Halloween with no faith lens.  All Hallows Eve reflects the darkness and the effects of sin in our world and All Saints reflects the light of those who have followed the light of the world – Jesus Christ.  We have to make an impact in the little things.  This year in our Religious Education Program our students are being encouraged to come to class on October 30th dressed as saints.  They are encouraged to be creative and come with 2 facts they know about that saint.  All those who dress up as a saint will get to be a part of a pizza part toward the end of class.  We are looking forward this this next week!

What is you doing in your program to celebrate the Solemnity of All Saints?


Image

 As the Church approaches the end of the Year of Faith, the Vatican held a Catechetical Congress.  Thousands of catechists attended. Pope Francis said some things worth pondering:

1. Being a catechist “begins with Christ.”

2.   “The first thing, for a disciple, is to be with the Master: to listen to and learn from Him. This is always the case, and it is a way that lasts a lifetime!”

3. “In the heart of the catechist, there always lives this ‘systolic- diastolic’ movement: union with Jesus; encounter with the other, if one of these two movements is no longer beating, then you do not live.” 

4. “Be careful. I have not said to do the work of a catechist, but rather to be one, because it involves all your life. It means guiding towards the encounter with Jesus with words and with life, with your witness.”

 

It would be easy to comment about all these but for now I encourage you to ponder these thoughts from Pope Francis. 

 

What did he say that spoke to you most?Image

 


catechesis of childrenI had the privilege to be a lecturer for adults in the Maryvale Certification in Catechesis program at the Maryvale Center in Kansas City.  My topic was Catechetical Methodology.  Before discussing methodology I covered the things that must be included in our catechesis.

Divine Revelation is given to mankind through Sacred Scripture and Apostolic Tradition and is celebrated within the Liturgical Life of the Church.

Catechesis therefore must be…

1. Scriptural

2. Doctrinal

3. Liturgical

Each of these components is essential if our catechesis is to be systematic and organic.  We always want to present the faith as a unified whole.  St. Thomas Aquines said The Catholic Faith “is one thing”.  It is not merely a whole bunch of teachings, rules or regulations, but it is one.  When we catechize with this in mind we will help others see that the faith is a unified whole rather than seperate topics all under the umbrella of Catholicism.

Scriptural

Catechism Paragraph 102 says: “Through all the words of Sacred Scripture, God speaks only one single Word, his one Utterance in whom he expresses himself completely:

You recall that one and the same Word of God extends throughout Scripture, that it is one and the same Utterance that resounds in the mouths of all the sacred writers, since he who was in the beginning God with God has no need of separate syllables; for he is not subject to time.”

The Scriptures reveal God’s plan of salvation through history.  Jesus is the interpretive key to the whole Bible (everything in the Old Testament points to Him and everything in the New Testament is referenced to Him).

Our Catechesis must be grounded in Sacred Scripture.  Scripture should be a “driving force” in your adult presentation, retreat, RCIA, evangelization efforts and in the classroom with kids and teens.  The more a disciple of Christ is “soaked” in the Scriptures the more efficacious is his catechesis.

Doctrinal 

Doctrine means “teaching”.  In the Catechism paragraph 89 it speaks about Dogma’s being “lights along the path of faith”.  Dogma’s are doctrines formally defined.

The Teachings of Christ and His Church are rooted in Scripture and passed on through the Apostles and their successors.  Doctrine is not dry and static but it is God’s revelation and leads others to a greater understanding in what we as Catholic believe.  There are for key foundations of our Faith: The “Faith Professed” (as expressed in the Creed), the “Faith Celebrated” in the liturgy and Sacraments, the “Faith Lived” in and through the Commandments and the “Faith Prayed”, as seen in the prayer that Summarizes the Gospel Message (the Our Father).

The 4 foundational truths that need to be not only included in our catechesis but should also be integrated in order to show that the faith is organic and unified.  In addition there are the hierarchy of truths that need to be considered in our catechesis: The Holy Trinity, first and foremost, being the central mystery of our Faith.  Also, the Incarnation, the Paschal Mystery, the dignity of the human person and the Church.  These are considered the “Golden Threads” which are seen on every page of the Catechism.  Catechesis to truly “echo” the Faith must include the foundational truths and interrelate the golden threads.

One thing we often forget is that teaching about doctrine assumes that we are catechizing with the awareness of 1) The primacy of grace (God’s initiative is always first), 2) The Faith is attractive and beautiful.  And how what we believe is 3) personal – Christ’s message to us is a personal invitation and a personal encounter. When we pass on the faith with these three things in mind we help others discover the beauty of our Catholic Faith and its treasures.

Liturgical

Liturgy is “the participation of the people of God in “the work of God” (CCC 1069). Our Catechesis should help people participate in the work of God in the present moment (during our catechesis) and lead them to the communal Eucharistic Liturgy at Mass.

Why?  I can’t say it any better than the Catechism

“The liturgy is the summit toward which the activity of the Church is directed; it is also the font from which all her power flows.”13 It is therefore the privileged place for catechizing the People of God. “Catechesis is intrinsically linked with the whole of liturgical and sacramental activity, for it is in the sacraments, especially in the Eucharist, that Christ Jesus works in fullness for the transformation of men.”14  (CCC 1074)

Since it is the summit toward which the activity of the Church is directed we would be remiss in not seeking to draw those we catechize more deeply into the life of the liturgy which includes their participation in the Sacraments – most especially Reconciliation and Eucharist.

When our catechesis is scriptural, doctrinal and liturgical the faith is authentically being handed on with the mind and the heart of Christ and His Church.  What a privilege it is to hand on the faith, whole and entire, with the assistance and guidance of the Holy Spirit.

How is your catechesis scriptural, doctrinal and liturgical?


busy-family1Husband: Honey, I have to work later than usual tonight and Thursday night so you are going to have to find a way to get Joseph and Abbey to their commitments on those days.  I don’t know is Susan has anything but check with her and see.

Wife: Honey, I also need work late on Thursday, so who can we ask to help get our kids to their commitments?  I also have something I committed to on Saturday so you are going to need to get the kids to their events and figure out meals for them.

Kid #1: My friend is going to church and learning about God why don’t we do that?

Dad: Because we have so much going on we are not able to do that right now.  You’ve committed to this team and you need to take responsibility and be committed to your teammates and not let them down.  God understands that we are busy and that we love Him.

Kid #2: Mom, can I go to the middle school youth program every Wednesday evening from 5:30 to 6:30 – they have lots of great things going on and my friends are really excited about hanging out at church?

Mom: That sounds great, but I have to get your brother to his practice and then run to the store to pick up groceries for the week.  Maybe if we don’t have anything next week we can do it.

Kid #3: Mom and Dad when are we going to go out for Pizza like you promised?

Mom: Your Dad and I will look to see when we can do that, but probably not this week because there is a lot going on.

Kid #1 &3: But that is what you said last week.

Chaos, I tell you, Chaos

Our world is spinning at such a fast pace and well intentioned parents (myself included) say yes to doing x, y and z.  It’s mostly for my kids or for my work or for an organization I help out at.  With all the well intentioned committments parents make where is the time for God, for Religious Education, for family time and for quiet?  If you ask me it seems that the devil is pretty happy right now about the state of our busy lives.  We are so busy doing “good things” that we don’t have much time for God, much time for one another, much time for silence and prayer, much time to clear our minds so that we can make sure what we want most is happening – to get our family to heaven and to do it according to how God wants us to do it.

Challenge #1challenge

Ok, Ok, I know what your thinking: I bet I could list 20 challenges and you are beginning with #1.  Challenge #1 is key: Do you have a clear picture about what is most important and how we can accomplish this with our family?  Usually the answer is no.  Families often jump into the rat race becuase they want the best for their kids, they want to provide for their family and they want their kids to be involved.  However, what ends up happing is that at the end of the day or more specifically the end of the year, or “the years” will we see the fruit of all we did or will we wished we’d spent a little more time and energy on other things – time with our kids, time growing in our faith, time with our spouse?

I have never heard someone say: I wish I would have spent more time on the practice field, more time at work making a little more money, more time watching the football game or “The View”.  You know where I am going with this.

Challenge #2

The World…  It has sold us a bill of false goods.  Our friends, extended family, surrounding influences are encouraging us to get our kids involved, that we are building character in our kids through all these activities, that working more at work will help us provide well for our families and numerous other commitments often don’t lead us to the place we hope to arrive at.  The problem is we don’t know how to begin again, or change direction.

Solution #1

Not so fast.  The solution is not singular yet it is simple.  One of the most important steps is to take time to consider what is most important for your family.  And doing this with the lens of faith.  After all we have been created for a purpose: To know, love and serve God here on earth so we can be happy with Him forever in Heaven.solution

Solution #2

When we look back on our lives will we see the decisions we made as intentionally helping our spouse and our children not merely be a “good person” that is well respected in society, but will they be a person who desire to live for the glory of God and to serve as Christ would serve?

My friend Ryan, speaks about his intense involvement in middle and high school and how he was told that it built character and all the other things that justify the intensity of his involvement.  As a parent he now says what it didn’t build character as much as “bring his character out”.  He shares now how important family time is and how important helping your kids development academically.  He will have his kids be involved in sports but is clear about how it is not as important as God, family and or academics.   I would add helping kids interact with adults properly and have proper etiquette makes them much more successful and happy than the busyness of their childhood and not getting to see Mom and Dad enough because they were so busy “doing good things”.  Also, Mom and Dad were so busy that they put aside the “best things” — faith and family until later and when later came it was too late.

Helping Families

How do we help families discover what is most important or put another way how do we help families realize that having their kids (and themselves) over-scheduled is not what is best for their family (and that fact that it doesn’t have to be that way)?  It goes back to what I said earlier – parents struggle to stop once they have gotten on that busy schedule and the “next level” is expected of their kid and of the parents.

Holy Families

Families find their joy and peace most in seeking and serving God.  Currently too many families are so busy that they don’t have time for this and at times don’t see the great benefit to be holy.  Too many families are ok with just being “good” or “nice” person.  We must continue to pray for families and encourage them one by one to seek the things that are above.  This is not an easy task but with persistence and the Holy Spirit’s help we can help families create a more balanced and grounded family life.  Our world desperately needs this!


The Church has called for a “New Evangelization” to meet the situation in which many who would describe Catechism of the Catholic church picthemselves as Catholics have moved away from the practice of their faith. The Catechism was written precisely to help those who transmit the faith of the Church to address this situation. It is enormously important that the Catechism shows us how we can announce the kerygma in and through our presentation of each aspect of the faith. This means that when we catechize, we can reach out to those who are already committed and need a catechesis for the deepening of their faith, and at the same time make a proclamation of the essentials of the faith so that those who need to receive the more basic message with its call to conversion also benefit from our teaching. Whatever a person’s situation, and however far a person is from the full practice of the faith, he or she will be able to hear the core message of the Good News and can, with the help of the Holy Spirit, make a response to this call that comes through us from the unfathomable love of God made flesh in the divine Son.

~ Dr. Petroc Willey


goalsYour Religious Education/Faith Formation Program begins soon.  What can Catechists do to assist their young parishioners to grow in their faith lives this year?  Here are three goals to consider:

 

1)   Be God’s Instrument

  1. Your faithfulness to your prayer life and weekly Mass spills over into your catechesis.
  2. Your time of preparation for each class will ensure greater fruit while in class.
  3. Your joy and enthusiasm of God will make an impact and inspire your students.

2)   Engage

Engage your students in “The Story” of God’s plan for humanity and for them.  Use various learning styles to draw them in: Audio, Visual and Kinesthetic.  We don’t want them to just know about God but we want them have an encounter that draws them deeper into their friendship with God. They have a hunger for wanting to know and love God. 

3) Build Community

Help your students see that their class is a part of the parish community.  Help them form a bond so that they understand that together we are the body of Christ and we profess a common faith and we are part of the People of God.    A real sense of community unites them more firmly within the parish community, a place where they know they belong. 

 

These are 3 things I shared with my catechist as the year begins.  I believe they can have a real impact on the students in their classroom.

How about you what goals to you have this year?


For years I’ve understood that the textbook was just a tool and not the end-all of the catechetical lesson.  One of the challenges today is to equip volunteer catechists to go beyond the textbook, i.e., not relying on the textbook as a crutch which they have to teach from in order to convey the content of the chapter.  Although I have some ideas on what we need to do about that, I want to share a few things that seem to be essential in this Ministry of the Word and the Proclamation of the Good News of Christ and His Church today. This are some things needed for Catechesis in the Third Millennium:

 

1. We need a holistic approach to catechesis.

As many have been saying, we need to do more than pass on content – we need to see our catechesis as initiating people into the Christian Life.  Much has been said about this, especially in the last number of years. Nevertheless, we must keep in mind that it’s not a victory to get through the 30 chapters of the textbook.  It’s a victory if over the course of a year we have helped those we catechize be inspired, grow in hunger for being in communion with Jesus Christ and desire to continue that friendship they have with Him.

2. We need to help Catechists see that what they are transmitting is something that is unified.

Textbooks, among other resources, can have a tendency to compartmentalize the content of the Faith.  At times for the sake of order this is understandable and necessary.  However, too often we struggle to catechize seeing that the faith is unified not just a set of various truths.  For example, in the 3 part of the Catechism in the second paragraph of that section it expresses this truth I’m speaking of beautifully:

The Symbol of the faith confesses the greatness of God’s gifts to man in his work of creation, and even more in redemption and sanctification. What faith confesses, the sacraments communicate: by the sacraments of rebirth, Christians have become “children of God,”2 “partakers of the divine nature.”3 Coming to see in the faith their new dignity, Christians are called to lead henceforth a life “worthy of the gospel of Christ.”4 They are made capable of doing so by the grace of Christ and the gifts of his Spirit, which they receive through the sacraments and through prayer. (Paragraph 1692)

Even in the 3 part of the Catechism it has not “moved on” from the first two parts to now cover the 3 part (although it does cover the Christian Life lived out and what we believe about that).  But it does so in a unified manner helping the believer see that the faith in intricately woven together as a unified whole.  Catechesis today needs to keep this in mind and make positive strides in helping others see the unity of the Catholic Faith.

3. We need to root our Catechesis in the Holy Trinity.

Yes, I’m sure we all have heard that the Trinity is the central mystery of the faith and how as the Catechism says: “It is therefore the source of all the other mysteries of faith, the light that enlightens them” (#234).

If what we are teaching does not relate to one of the persons of the Trinity then we should not be teaching it.  As stated above regarding the unity of the faith we have to show those we catechize that God, who is Father, Son and Holy Spirit is revealing Himself to us and inviting us to community with Him.  When you have a moment take a look at Ephesians 1:3-14 which conveys beautifully the Trinities Mission.  Our catechesis should always be linked with the Trinity.

4. We need to present the faith today as a compelling story — of God’s loving plan.

The Good News is a story to be told, a story to be celebrated, a story to be lived and a story to be in communion with.  It is not romanticizing to say that it is a love story because it truly is, but it is a love story that has tragedy, hope, love and joy which are all a part of the human condition.  We have a tendency in catechesis to present the faith as a lot of great truths but can struggle to help those we catechize see that it’s more a story we are a part of than a number of great truths that happened in the past.  The more we can show others that what we are proclaiming and teaching is all part of a beautiful story of God’s plan and purpose for creation then we help others see just how compelling God and his ways are.

5. We need to put people in contact with Jesus (in relationship with Him).

If we begin and end each catechetical session with a brief prayer lasting no more than 30 seconds then it is not likely that we are able to allow for the proper setting to help those we catechize come into contact with Jesus.  We need to have more prayer in our catechesis, more time in front of the Blessed Sacrament, more time of silence and reflection (as challenging as all this can be).  I recently heard a story about how two priests had devoted much time to being present to the First Communion class by stopping by the classes to talk with the 2nd graders and how they also were present at the parent meetings.  Even so, after First Communion none of the parents brought their children to Mass.  One of the things the priests discovered is that they never took to time to take them to the church and have direct contact with Jesus.  They did not take them into the church to show them how this is where the Christian community gathers to celebrate, proclaim and encounter God.  Therefore, helping find more opportunities of putting people in contact with Jesus Christ is essential for fruitful discipleship.

6. The Catechism needs to be better utilized in elementary catechesis

When Blessed Pope John Paul II spoke of the Catechism as a reference text he did not intend for it to merely be something we use as one among many resources.  Textbook publishers have a tendency to site the Catechism as a reference or a way to show that the teaching in a particular chapter is linked to a teaching in the Catechism.  Although this is a great first step to what we had 20 years ago it lacks something significant.  The Catechism is the essential Deposit of Faith which the Church guards as a most important and vital treasure to the universal Church. The Catechism helps articulate the beauty of the Faith.  The Catechism shows how the Faith is organic and unified.  The Catechism threads the faith together in a way that we can see just how unified and simple the faith is.  When I say simple, I mean that at the heart of the Deposit of Faith we see the simple Gospel Message that God so loved the world that he gave his only son that we may not perish but have eternal life (Cf. John 3:16).  The Catechism conveys the simplicity of God’s plan accomplished through Creation, through His relationship with us, through sending His Son to redeem us and sending the Holy Spirit to sanctify the world and prepare us for the world to come.  Therefore, the Catechism needs to be used more fully in equipping catechists in their ministry of catechesis.

These are 6 things I see as vital to Catechesis in the 21st Century.  May God our heavenly and gracious Father direct us and lead us to greater renewal and communion with Himself.

What do you see as things that are needed for Catechesis in the 21st Century?


Our Lady of Misericordia“It is from Mary that the Church learns true discipleship,”… “that is why the Church always goes out on mission in the footsteps of Mary.”

“I too come to knock on the door of the house of Mary … that she may help all of us, pastors of God’s people, parents and educators, to pass on to our young people the values that can help them build a nation and a world which are more just, united and fraternal.”

 

~ Pope Francis


girl pointingI had the wonderful opportunity the last 5 days to attend the St. John Bosco Catechetical Conference at Franciscan University in Steubenville, OH.  There were many blessings and a lot I want to share in future posts about catechesis today in the Church.  Today, I want to share with you a very inspiring story told by a Salesian of Don Bosco who spoke at the conference, Fr. Louis Molinelli, SDB.  He shared the following:

One day I had a meeting with other presidents of schools and had to go to a place I had not been to before.  After driving around for what felt like ages I found a building that I thought was the place (not realizing there were two Sacred Heart Schools).  As I went into the school I saw loads of children and had no idea where to go.  A young girl about 5 years old came up to me and said, hello, can I help you?  I said, yes you can; would you please take me to the one in charge?  The girl said, yes, come with me and she took my hand and lead me down a long hallway past many classrooms until finally we entered a room where she pointed to the front and said their, He’s in charge: she was pointing to Jesus in the tabernacle.

This is a touching story which drew my thoughts to how important it is to point to Jesus in our catechesis and lead others to Him.  Not only are we showing them the one who is in charge but we are helping others grow spiritually.

3 Ways

Here are 3 things to consider in leading others to Jesus Christ:

1. Are you praying each time you prepare to lead catechetical sessions for the Holy Spirit to use you and to speak to the hearts of those you are catechizing?

2. Are you trying to cover the topic at the cost of drawing them into a deeper relationship with Jesus?  Our catechesis can too often be informational without being transformational.

3. Are you helping those you catechize to grow in prayer and helping them be in friendship with God.  Each of us need to use our God given gifts to help others grow in their spiritual lives.

The Big Question

Can you take me to the one in charge?