confessionAll too often religious education programs help prepare children for their First Reconciliation but struggle to assist the parents in preparing their children.  They, after all, are the primary educators or might I say     “prepare-rs”.  This year I really wanted to look at our First Reconciliation parent meeting in a different way.  I wanted to touch parents lives so that in return they would be able to impact their children.  I found a very powerful video and showed it (outline below).  I didn’t want the meeting to just be me or someone talking up front, but since all these parents are part of our church family I wanted them to grow together and share their lives together. That is why I then had them interact at tables with small group discussion questions.  Below I have additional details regarding what I did but first and foremost it was about touching the hearts of the parents because if we can engage their hearts and minds it will naturally overflow onto their children.  I was grateful to hear that it was well received and parents were in fact touched by what they experienced.

 

I opened with a prayer and then went right into this video:

Forgiveness Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n9J6xOT3Ldw

Then I had parents answer some questions about the video and about how theyprodigal Sonpic
have taught their kids about forgiveness and hope to prepare them as they
prepare their child for their First Reconciliation.

Following the small group discussions our Pastor spoke for about 5 minutes encouraging parents and then I showed the following video:

Sacrament of Reconciliation Explained: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QtbpOERgMvk

Afterwards, I shared a few thoughts and went into some specifics from a folder of material we give about helping their children prepare for their First Reconciliation.

I ran out of time but I wanted to then share this video:

Beautiful Things: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Is6weMrenls
picturegirl

 

 

What do you do to impact the parents at meetings like this?  I’d love to hear from you!


Here are 5 ways to encourage parents to contribute to making their child’s Faith Formation most impactful:

parent working with child

 

 

 

 

 

 

  1. Parents are first – You are the first and primary educators of the faith to your children. How are you helping them, as Pope Francis says, “meet Jesus”?  How are they growing in “grace and wisdom” (Lk. 2:52) during the years you have them under your roof? Do your children see you taking time to pray & grow in your faith? The habits and attitudes you model are the most important ones in your child’s life and make the most impact. Your words & actions speak to what your kids see as most important to you.

 

  1. Attitude – Your attitude can make a world of difference to your child(ren). Weekly class attendance, family discussions about what was covered in class and general attitudes on going to Mass, praying together and involvement in the parish have an effect on your child.

 

  1. Faithfulness – God desires to reveal Himself to us because He loves each one of us so very much. Through weekly attendance in our School of Religion Program you are witnessing your faithfulness to the promise you made at your child’s baptism: to raise them in the faith and assist them in their spiritual growth. Your goal is to help your kids get to heaven – this is the most important thing you can do as parents.

 

  1. Prioritize – When your child sees (even when she/he doesn’t always like it) that you put weekly faith formation as a top priority they become aware by your example how important faith is to you as parents. Your actions and choices speak volumes!

 

  1. The power of praying parents – Pray daily for holiness in your family and for the spiritual needs of your parish community. Put your trust completely in God, our heavenly Father, who will hear you and do what is best for you.  After praying and seeking God’s intercession for a specific intention which was answered, St. Faustina said: “Now I can see how much power intercessory prayer has before God”(Diary 202).

What tips do you have?  Please share!


In the Early Church followers of “the way” (Acts 9:2) would gather on the “first day of the week” (Acts 20:7) for “the breaking of the bread”((Acts 2:42).  This practice has been at the heart of the Church from the very beginning.  It is essential for the life of the Christian Community to gather each Sunday to honor God on the Lord’s Day.  Sunday Mass is foundational to living and bearing fruit in the Christian life.  Here are ways to encourage children and their parents to attend Mass every Sunday:

1) Share with them that they will be missed if they to not attend.family and mass

2) Communicate what God does every week at Mass (sharing His Word and His Body and Blood).

3) Discuss how faithfulness to the Commandments and the Precepts of the Church draw us closer to God.

4) Share the impact of the Mass in your life.

5) Pray for parents and kids to have the grace to respond to God’s love by coming to praise and honor Him each Sunday.


magiIt feels like it’s been a long time since I’ve had the time to post on my blog.  Today, I wanted to share a power point I shared with parents just last night on helping them prepare for Christmas.  This power point does not do my presentation complete justice but it gives a glimpse of things that I talked about.  I must give much credit to Lacy of catholicicing.com for many of these ideas that fit right into what I wanted to share with parents.

Life tends to be pretty busy this time of year.  Preparing and celebrating with family and friends and wanting everything to be just right.  Sometimes we let all the pre-Christmas celebrations and all the “have to do’s” prevent us from actually doing what Advent seeks to help us do (make more room for Christ in our lives).

Here is the Powerpoint Preparing for Christmas Like Never Before from my presentation.  I hope you enjoy it (it’s very simple).

Let us together walk more slowly, be more patient and take a little more time to spiritually prepare for Christmas.  Come Lord Jesus!


Recently our parish gathered all the parents and 2nd graders for a meeting.  This year was different than in years past because I’m trying to include the parents in more things this year.  Our parish is trying to make an concerted effort to involve the parents in all our programming.  We have approxamately 166 2nd graders this year.  With a group this large we put half of them in the church for the 1st 25 minutes and half in the Parish Hall and then we switched.  The part in the church was with our pastor talking about the Sacrament as well as my coordinator who spoke about many logistical things.  I led the part in the parish hall.

Here is what I did with the kids and parents:

1) I opened with prayer reading the parable of the Vine and the Branches (John 15:1-6)

2) I then had parents and kids read it from the Bible at their table and answer 5 questions (and then having kids come up and share their answers):

  • Who is the Vine and who are the branches (verse 1)?
  • What does Jesus ask us to do (verse 4)?
  • What happens if we do what Jesus asks us to do (verse 4-5)?
  • What does Jesus say happens when we sin and cut ourselves off from the vine (verse 6)?
  • How does this relate to the Sacrament of Reconciliation and our relationship with Jesus?

3) Next I asked for a Dad volunteer and about 5 kids.  They helped me reenact the parable:  Dad was the Vine and the kids were the branches.  When I shared that when we do things that are not what God would have us do (when we sin) we break off from the vine (a few kids broke off) but then when we are cleansed (through going to the Sacrament of Reconciliation – kids went over to a poster I had that said Sacrament of Reconciliation) we are connect back onto the vine (kids reconnected to the Vine).  And finally when we do God’s will and are connected to him we “bear much fruit”.  Everyone was given an apple to illustrate this.  

4) Then I asked all the 2nd graders to go to a table where I had two things: 1) a branch from a tree and 2) a holy card illustrating an icon of the Jesus the vine.

5) I shared with the kids and parents to take the branch home and watch it for a week and reflect how when the branch is not connected to the vine it withers and dies.  We are called to stay connected to Jesus and he wants us to.  This time of preparation for the Sacrament of Reconciliation is a good time to help us remember the need to be connected to Jesus the vine.

6) I closed with a brief prayer.

I think it went over very well.  I was pleased with how it turned out and the good vibe I received about these two 25 minute experiences.

 

What things have you done with 2nd graders and parents at the beginning of the year parent meeting?  I’d really enjoy hearing about what others do to engage both parents and kids.

 

 


As I get ready to have a parent meeting for First Communion here are some practical suggestions for parents as they help their child prepare for this most significant event/encounter – their First Holy Communion.

Practical Ways to Help Your Child Prepare for their First Communion

 

      1. Go to Sunday Mass with your children. Nothing is more important!

        1. Talk about what went on at Mass.
        2. Share how special it is to receive Jesus.
        3. Make Mass important and a valuable experience & not merely a “gotta go and get it done for the day” experience.
        4. Pray a special prayer daily as they prepare.
        5. Take the time to really go through the assignments…make them a special time.

a. Establish a weekly time

b. Show enthusiasm

c. Take the time to be thorough

6. Make visits to the Blessed Sacrament

a. Come early to Mass (or stay after) and pray before the Blessed Sacrament

b. Spend time in the Adoration Chapel

7.  When passing by a Catholic Church make the sign of the cross and/or say a prayer with your child.

   8. Talk about how God is working in your life and what the Eucharist means to you.

a. Share your experience

b. Of your First Communion (have grandparents and aunts & uncles share their experiences).

c. Of how receiving Eucharist every week impacts your life and helps you grow in your relationship with Christ.

d. Read a book on the Eucharist.

9. Help your child to know how to pray after Communion.

10. Make it a priority to eat dinner together as a family.  This helps them understand more clearly how the Eucharist is the family meal of the Church.

11. Pray regularly for a greater love of Christ who is truly present in the Eucharist.  For example: Jesus, as I prepare for my First Communion please help me love you more and do your will.               

12. Have them write a letter to Jesus or to journal over these next couple months.

Please share your suggestions on how parents can help prepare their children.


Quotes on the Mass

“What graces, gifts and virtues the Holy Mass calls down … repentance for sin … victory over temptation … holy inspirations which dispositions to shake off tepidity … the grace of final perseverance, upon which depends our salvation … temporal blessings, such as peace, abundance and health…”                                                                                – St. Leonard of Port Maurice

“It would be easier for the world to survive without the sun than to do without Holy Mass.” – St. Pio

“The Blessed Virgin Mary once told Her faithful servant Alain: “My Son so loves those who assist at the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass that, if it were necessary He would die for them as many times as they’ve heard Masses.”

The Center of Our Faith

The Christian Liturgy is at the heart of our Catholic Faith.  The Holy Mass is of inestimable value surpassing all other forms of worship.  How come today there are so many Catholic’s not going to Mass?  I read a statistic from the CARA Survey that found only 33% of Catholics attend Mass weekly.  Why the low number?  Are people too busy?  Do they not care that it is one of the 10 commandments?  Do they believe they have more important things to do?  Do they not know the value in participating at Mass each week?  It is probably all the above depending on who you talk to.

9 Ways to Foster Mass Attendance

Catechist Magazine posted a great article by Patricia Mathson on ways to encourage family participation in Sunday Mass.  I wanted to post it on my blog but Catechist Magazine asked if I would just provide the link.  Click the link above and it’ll take you right to it.  In a time when so many Catholics are not going to Mass on a weekly basis, it is so important to find ways we can encourage Mass attendance.


How will you make room?

It’s about that time of year when I begin to reflect and consider what I might do to make this year a meaningful Advent.  I do this both personally(my life and my families) and professionally (what can I do in my religious education program that would be valuable).

This time of year is the calm before the storm…once the week before Thanksgiving hits, the holiday season seems in full force and people are going even faster than usual in their daily lives.  It’s important to take some time now to consider how this Advent will lead you closer to Christ this Christmas.  I realize some of you might be thinking: it’s just a little too early for me to be thinking that far ahead.  Well, maybe it is, but it’s not too early in my life.

3 things to consider/reflect upon:

1. Ask a few questions… How is God calling me to grow closer to Him this Advent?  During Advent what might I consider that is a challenge but realistic for where I’m at in my life?  Will the sacrifice I make, activity I choose or the attitude I seek to foster make room for Jesus and welcome Him more fully into my life and those around me on Christmas and beyond?

2. Advent is actually a penitential season, therefore doing a little penance is worth considering.  Penance helps one to refocus, to keep in mind that Mary and Joseph had a long journey and a challenging time leading up to the glorious “Advent” of Jesus’ birth.  What could you do during the 4 weeks of Advent that unites your sacrifice with that of the holy family?

3. Consider something like the popular “advent conspiracy” project. Check out this video and website.  It offers great ideas about how to give “presence” instead of presents.  This is not merely about saving money or being cheap about what you give but the difference it could make if you give yourself or a donation over merely a gift that will be forgotten in 6 months.  It’s something to consider and discern.    Or check out this great article entitled “A Different Kind of Advent”.

What do you do before things get too busy when considering the upcoming Advent Season?


familyonporchThe other day I was talking with a fellow DRE and we were discussing an interesting and very sad mindset of some parents today. We’ve both have had parents tell us “why do I have to do this activity at home regarding religion with my child?” that it why I send him/her to your program.”

It cannot be understated that parents are the most important formers/ educators of their children.  They know their child best emotionally, physically and spiritually more than any other person.  Weather a child attends Catholic School or not, parents have the primary responsibility of helping their children grow in faith.

Check out what the Church Documents say: the-churchs-teaching-on-the-role-of-parents-in-the-education-of-the-faith

It is clear that Religious Education Programs and Catholic Schools must reengage parents in their primary role as educators of the Christian life. Parishes and schools are partnering/collaborating with parents. It is true that parents are very busy and their time and energy is admirable to send their child to grow and learn about the Faith in the many programs provided by parishes and schools, but they are secondary to what parents should be fostering and doing in the home. May the Holy Spirit lead and guide parents to be authentic and equipped witnesses of the Faith.

3 Ways to Equip Parents

1. Always communicate with parents how important their role in passing on the faith is.

2. Continually provide ideas on how families can live the Faith at home.

3. Require parent involvement in sacramental preparation and faith assignments and activities.


Being that it’s Father’s Day weekend I wanted to post this great video called The Dad Life.  I think it is a great video put out by a church to show that to be a Dad has responsibilities…it is a vocation with important implications on society.  Most parents will get a great laugh out of watching this but also it is a great teaching tool.  If you have a few minutes check it out. I couldn’t figure out how to embed it into my post this time so I’ve given the link above.

I also found this great video:

In Familiaris Consortio, the Apostolic Exhortation of Pope John Paul II, the Holy Father spoke about “Men as husbands and fathers”: 

“Within the conjugal and family communion-community, the man is called upon to live his gift and role as husband and father…In his wife, he sees the fulfillment of God’s intention: ‘It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him,’ and he makes his own the cry of Adam, the first husband: ‘This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh!’ ”  “Authentic conjugal love presupposes and requires that a man have a profound respect for the equal dignity of his wife: ‘You are not her master,’ writes St. Ambrose, ‘but her husband; she was not given to you to be your slave, but your wife….Reciprocate her attentiveness to you and be grateful to her for her love.’ With his wife, a man should live a ‘very special form of personal friendship.’ As for the Christian, he is called upon to develop a new attitude of love, manifesting towards his wife a charity that is both gentle and strong like that which Christ has for the Church.”

Pius XII addressed a pilgrimage of fathers, entitled Un pelerinage de peres (September 18, 1951), in which he says that

“if the mother is the heart, the father is the head of the family, and consequently its health and efficiency depend on the vigor, the virtues and the activity of the father…It is clear that your first duty in the sanctuary of the family home is to provide–with due respect and the perfection, humanly possible, of its integrity, of its unity, of the natural hierarchy which unites the members among themselves–for the preservation of the physical, intellectual, moral and religious sanctity of the family. Evidently, this obligation includes that of defending and promoting its sacred duties; in the first place that of fulfilling the obligations due to God, to constitute a Christian society in the full sense of the word; secondly to defend the rights of the family against all attacks or external influences which could attack its purity, faith, and holy stability.”

That last sentence is so important for me as a father to remember that it is my responsibility to defend against external influences which could attack the purity, faith and holy stability of my family.  Fathers need to reflect on this more.  I know I will.

Happy Father’s Day!


Most of the schools were out for the summer this past Wednesday my neck of the woods.  I thought it was a good opportunity to send some book recommendations and a few family faith ideas to parents.  Summer is a great time to help kids grow in their faith since most do not have regular school.  Making room for additional reading during the year can be a challenge.  I think summer is the perfect time for parents to encourage their children to read some great faith oriented books.  Here is the list, by grade level, that I sent to parents.  What are you suggestions?  I’d love to read about your recommendations!

Pre-School – 1st grade
The Gospel for Little Children by Maite Roche
Brother Juniper – A great storybook teaches important lessons by Diane Gibfried
The Eight Beatitudes Coloring and Activity Book by Author:Virginia Helen Richards, FSP and D. Thomas Halpin, FSP
Hail Mary by Sabrina Bus
Friday Night with the Pope – One special sabbath is remembered in this storybook
The Bible for Little Children by Maite Roche
Who Built the Ark?
by: Sally Ann Wright

2nd and 3rd Grade
Little Acts of Grace by Rosemarie Gortler and Donna Piscitelli
Catholic Tales for Boys and Girls by Caryll Houslander
The Apostles’ Creed by Vicki Pastore
The Clown of God by Tomie dePaola
Princess & the Kiss: A Story of God’s Gift of Purity by Jennie Bishop (for girls)
The Squire and the Scroll: A Tale of the Rewards of a Pure Heart by Jennie Bishop (for boys)
Saint Therese and the Roses by Helen Walker Homan

4th – 6th Grade
Loyola Kids Book of Saints by Amy Welborn
The Imitation of Christ for Children by Elizabeth Ficocelli
Joseph and Chico: The Life of Pope Benedict XVI as Told by a Cat by Jeanne Perego
Saint George and the Dragon by Margaret Hodges
The Life of Saint Brigid: Abbess of Kildare by Jane G. Meyer
My Path to Heaven: A Young Person’s Guide to the Faith by Geoffrey Bliss

7th – 8th Grade
Beorn The Proud by Robert T. Reilly
U Got 2 Believe! by Fr. Stan Fortuna, CFR
Saint Catherine Labouré and the Miraculous Medal by Alma Power-Waters
St. Philip of the Joyous Heart by Francis Connoly
St. John (Don) Bosco and St. Dominic Savio by Catherine Beebe
Vincent De Paul – Saint of Charity by Margaret Ann Hubbard
St. Elizabeth’s Three Crowns by Blanche Thompson
The Father Brown Reader: Stories from Chesterton by Nancy Carpentier Brown

Ideas for the Whole Family
˜ Play games together and watch a great movie (Letters to God, Ann of Green Gables, The Ultimate Gift, Faith Like Potatoes)
˜ Pray a Rosary while traveling to and from your vacation destination
˜ Read from the Bible as a family weekly
˜ June is the month of the Sacred Heart of Jesus (pray a prayer to the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus this month http://www.catholicculture.org/culture/liturgicalyear/overviews/months/06_1.cfm)
˜ Reach out as a family to someone in need.
˜ Spend less time watching TV or surfing the internet and more time together as a family…outdoors, around a pool or in your front/backyard.

Do you have any ideas for the whole family to foster faith during the summer?


icon-of-christ

The ministry of catechesis has many challenges in the Third Millennium. Some of the challenges going on in my ministry of Directing a School of Religion (Religious Ed.) Program is the fact that we only have the students once a week for an hour and 15 minutes (grades 1-6) to pass on the faith.  The middle schoolers meet for an hour an a half. Most of the time students struggle to remember what they learned the week before due to the length of time between lessons (sometimes it is longer than a week). Most parents are so busy and over committed that they do not have the time to follow up and discuss with their child what they are learning. I’m not speaking about all parents but most of of the parents I’ve ever worked with this is the case. This poses a huge challenge to passing on the faith. One thing I’m doing is improving the lessons and equipping the catechists at our parish. Also, I’m trying to find ways to communicate with parents and encourage parents to grow in their faith and share it with their children.

There is a lot of work to be done and progress to be made but I’m continuing to learn the need to engage parents in their primary role of educating their children in the faith. Our program has a collaborative role, we are not the primary educators. Yes, we probably have more resources at our disposal and have catechists who maybe know the faith to a greater degree than parents who have not taken the time that an average catechist does to grow in the faith,but that does not change our role.

It would be great to hear from anyone who has insights regarding these challenges. Come Holy Spirit!


A couple of weeks ago our second grade parents who’s child is preparing for their First Holy Communion were invited to participate in one of the regular Wednesday night classes with their child.  Here is the outline of the night:

1. Children brought their parents to their regular classroom for an opening prayer service (and usual housekeeping things).

2. All the 2nd grade classes came to a large gathering area where parents interacted with their child doing the following (I was the MC helping facilitate and transition):

a. They looked up First Communion related Scripture verses and then shared with the whole group (I called upon volunteers) what they had discovered.

b. Parents worked with their child on a letter to Jesus expressing their excitement of approaching the day of their First Communion.

c. Everyone participated in a re-enactment of the Last Summer (we had matzah bread and grape juice and a script at each table).

This class allows for parents to be a part of their child’s First Communion preparations.  I hope parents are doing things at home to prepare and assist their child’s faith formation.  This opportunity which I do once during their First Reconciliation preparation and once before First Communion is always a way to give parents the opportunity to come together with other parents to continue their child’s preparations.

If you want any additional information about this class please feel free to email me at woleary@kcascension.org

What do you do in your parish to involve parents as their child prepares for First Communion?


Since parents have given children their life, they are bound by the most serious obligation to educate their offspring and therefore must be recognized as the primary and principal educators. This role in education is so important that only with difficulty can it be supplied where it is lacking. Parents are the ones who must create a family atmosphere animated by love and respect for God and man, in which the well-rounded personal and social education of children is fostered…It is particularly in the Christian family, enriched by the grace and office of the sacrament of matrimony, that children should be taught from their early years to have a knowledge of God according to the faith received in Baptism, to worship Him, and to love their neighbor. Here, too, they find their first experience of a wholesome human society and of the Church. Finally, it is through the family that they are gradually led to a companionship with their fellowmen and with the people of God. Let parents, then, recognize the inestimable importance a truly Christian family has for the life and progress of God’s own people. (GRAVISSIMUM EDUCATIONIS, Paragraph #3).

Recently, I had the opportunity to check out a great family program in Ham Lake, Minnesota where Religious Education is as it should always be – first carried out within the family and secondarily fostered by the parish community.  The Church of St. Paul has over 500 families enrolled in their religious education program called “Family Formation”.  Many home school, Catholic school and public school families participate in this dynamic program.  Here is a brief overview:  Parents and children gather once a month at the parish for about an hour and a half.  Students attend their grade level class and parents stay and attend a parent gathering learning about the same topic their children are learning about in class as well as receiving tips and insights regarding the 3 home lessons that are given for families to do at home over the next 3 weeks.  This program truly puts faith formation back into the hands of the parents.  It also fosters scripture reading, growing in prayer and making faith a normal part of everyday family life.  Check it out at http://familyformation.net.

I’m going to begin it at my parish in the Fall and according to an initial survey and what I’m hearing I think I’ll have about 30 families signing up for Family Formation.  Come Holy Spirit!!!

How do you include families in your Religious Education Program?  I’d love to hear about what you and/or your parish does.

“The family is fundamental because it is the first place where people learn the meaning of life”              ~Pope Benedict XVI


My family goes to my wife’s parents house for Christmas.  It is a joy to celebrate with family!  We then come home a few days later and continue to celebrate Christmas by having our kids open one gift each day until they have opened their gifts.  We also try to do something at meals and/or during the day that helps our family focus on Jesus’ Birthday and God’s blessings in our lives.  These are two ways we try to continue the Solemnity of Christmas beyond the 25th.  For most people in our culture Christmas was over on the 26th of December, but for Catholics we enter into a new liturgical season where the Church celebrates the wonders of the mystery of the Incarnation for 8 days like it is one (called the Octave of Christmas).  In addition the Christmas Season continues until the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord (always the second Sunday after Christmas).  The splendor of Christmas and God becoming man cannot be contained in just one day (or a few).  We are a liturgical people and need to seek to enter into each season as the Church calls us to do and draws us into.

Here are 2 thoughts I had about how to foster Christmas beyond one day:

1. Find ways in your religious education programs to encourage the celebration of Christmas beyond one day.  Most religious education programs are on break during the two weeks after Christmas.  However, finding ways to promote it to families before they go on break would be a good beginning.  In addition possible send an email or two during the Christmas Season promoting ways to celebrate it.

2. Foster the Christmas Season in the home.  The Word, Jesus, began His humble earthly life within a family and so it is with us, we must begin and continue our journey of holiness in our families.  Nothing is more important for a family than to foster a faith-filled home that learns to love Jesus and love one another as He loves.  Fr. Fernandez said “The Messiah wanted to start his redemptive task in the bosom of a simple, ordinary family.  The first thing that Jesus sanctified with his presence was a home” (pg. 230 of In Conversation with God).

Here is the closing prayer for both morning and evening prayer yesterday:

Father, all-powerful and unseen God,
you dispelled the shadows of this world
when Christ, the true Light, dawned upon us.
Look favorably upon us, Lord,
and we will praise and glorify his birth as man.
He lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
God for ever and ever.

Happy Second Day of Christmas and Feast of the Holy Family!  Jesus, Mary and Joseph teach all of us the way to Holiness.  The Church has always spoken of the Holy Family as a model and inspiration for each family ever since – they are the domestic church (as well as each of us who have families).  Here are a few thoughts regarding the Holy Family:

1. They are the holy family not because of what they “accomplished” but because of who they were – souls devoted to God.

2.  Today families are very busy doing lots of things (many of them for their children).  Every family is called by their Baptism to be a holy family and we don’t “accomplish” this as much as we live in the grace of God.  Our call and challenge is to be children of God, faithful to His ways and be at His disposal/service.  This is what draws us to holiness and forms us into a family that is modeling the Holy Family.

3. There is not one way of acting to be a holy family but there are a some essentials for parents to consider when striving to be a holy family – personal holiness (prayer life), faithfulness to the Commandments, a spirit of joy lived throughout the week, and an openness to God’s providence each day.

What are the characteristics you think are essential?  What qualities are present in a family that is emulating the Holy Family?

Father,
help us to live as the Holy Family,
united in respect and love.
Bring us to the joy and peace of your eternal home.
Grant this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever.
~New Saint Joseph Sunday Missal (from the Collect of the Liturgy)


Last night I went Trick or Treating with my family.  It was a joy to watch my kids get excited about dressing up and going trick or treating.  My son went as St. George who “fought the dragon”.  He was so excited about it!  My daughter’s went as a princess and a Bumble Bee – not quite as inspirational.  In my experience with secular holidays I find that people are liturgical by nature – they want to celebrate.  They want to decorate and manifest a sense of joy, excitement and celebration in their lives.  Our Catholic faith is so rich because we have this as a natural part of our tradition.  Unfortunately we struggle to decorate and manifest the various Solemnities, Feast Days and Memorials of various saints and events during the Church year.  At least in our homes we struggle to decorate and celebrate like we do for holidays like Halloween, Valentines Day and Fourth of July.   I believe there are various reasons for this but suffice it to say we as Catholics should really work toward celebrating various Feasts of the Church Year.

3 Ways to Celebrate:

1. Celebrate All Saints Day as a special day – not just the day after Halloween.  Make going to Mass on All Saints Day a very special event.  Have a special dessert celebrating All Saints and talk about your favorite saints.

2.  Celebrate the saint your child is named after.  Make that day a special day where that person gets to choose what is for dinner.

3. Always connect the secular holidays to our Catholic Faith.  For example share with children that Halloween focuses (as least much of it) on what is scary and dark.  Christ is the light who dispels the darkness.  Also, the Saints are the opposite of darkness and fear because they were filled with the light of Christ.  It is the saints who we can go to in order to be protected and who can guide us on our path to heaven.

Happy Solemnity of All Saints!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

All You Holy Men and Women of God…Pray For Us!


“There cannot be too great an effort on the part of Christian parents to prepare for this ministry of being their own children’s catechists and to carry it out with tireless zeal…help parents to perform their task: the service they are doing to catechesis is beyond price.”

~ Pope John Paul II in Catechesi Tradendae (On Catechesis in Our Time)


“Parents are the most influential agents of catechesis for their children. They have a unique responsibility for the education of their children; they are the first educators, or catechists. They catechize primarily by the witness of their Christian lives and by their love for the faith. One way that parents communicate Christian values and attitudes to their children is by loving each other within the context of a Christian marriage and their love for Christ and his Church. Their participation in the life of the parish – above all in the Sunday Eucharist – their willingness to evangelize and serve others, and their dedication to daily prayer demonstrate the authenticity of their profession of faith.”

~ The National Directory For Catechesis


The Vatican News Services reported on the Pope’s message on the Feast of the Visitation(May 31).  Below is the message he gave and it has great relevance for those in the ministry of catechesis.  There is much to ponder here regarding our call as witnesses of the Gospel message in a world “longing for Jesus”.

Pope Benedict XVI:  “We recognize the clearest example and the truest meaning of our path as believers and the path of the Church itself. By its nature, the Church is called to proclaim the Gospel everywhere and at all times, to spread the faith to every man and woman and to every culture”.

“Mary remained with Elizabeth for three months to offer her loving nearness, concrete assistance, and all the everyday services that were needed. In this way, Elizabeth becomes the symbol of the many aged and ill, even more, of all those who need assistance and love. How many of these persons there are today in our families, in our communities, in our cities! And Mary — who called herself ‘the handmaid of the Lord’ — made herself the servant of mankind. More specifically, she served the Lord whom she encountered in her brothers and sisters”.

“It should be noted that ‘Mary’s charity’ is not limited to concrete assistance but achieves its highest form in bestowing Jesus himself, in ‘making him present'”, the Pope said. “This is the heart and the height of the evangelical mission. This is the true meaning and the most genuine purpose of every missionary path: to offer human beings the living and personal Gospel, which is the Lord Jesus himself”.

“Jesus”, he continued, “is the true and only treasure that we have to give humanity. Today’s men and women have a profound longing for Him, including when it seems they are ignoring or rejecting Him. The society we live in, Europe, the entire world has great need of Him”.

The Holy Father concluded by underlining that “we have been entrusted with this extraordinary responsibility. Let us live it with joy and devotion so that ours might truly be a civilization in which truth, justice, liberty, and love reign, the fundamental and irreplaceable pillars of a truly shared life that is ordered and peaceful. Let us live this responsibility remaining steadfast in listening to the Word of God, in communal life, in breaking of the bread, and in our prayers. May this be the grace that together this evening we ask of the Most Blessed Virgin Mary”.

This summer may we consider the following:

1) Share Jesus with 3 unlikely people you encounter.

2) Email parents and/or your students and encourage them to live like Jesus so they can bring him wherever they may find themselves this summer.

3) Pray that those who are Catholics may faithfully go to the source – Sunday Mass where they receive the one the world longs for.  Only then can we truly radiate Jesus to others.


I found this from the Catholic Heritage Curricula website and thought I’d post it.  Praise a great skill to bring into the classroom.  ~ William

Words of praise, indeed, are almost as necessary to warm a child into congenial life as acts of kindness and affection.  Judicious praise is to children what the sun is to flowers.   — Christian Bovee, 19th century English author


Can you guess which teaching tool is age-appropriate for all grades, takes no prep time, warms the heart, and doesn’t cost a nickel?  Good for you!  You guessed it!  It’s praise.

To be effective, praise should not be vague, but must be directed at a specific action or work.

‘What a good boy!’ is vague and ineffective praise.  ‘See what a good job you did, staying between the lines on your handwriting page!’ is specific.  The former is a ‘warm fuzzy’ alone; the latter is a ‘warm fuzzy’ with directions embedded: praise as a teaching tool.

For example, you might say, ‘See how you made this letter ‘o’ stay right between the lines?  This is your best one.  Do you see any others that are really well done, like this one?’  Rather than pointing out only the o’s that are too small or go above or below guidelines, this method of ‘teaching praise’ demonstrates to the child what the goal is, and also points out that he can do it.  Pointing out the positives is a way to point out the negatives without mentioning them specifically. [If the letters that touch the top and bottom line are best, then it follows that dinky or wandering letters aren’t the best.]

Ineffective praise lets the child know that you are happy with him, but without knowing exactly what he has done to please you.  Specific, effective praise not only lifts a dear little heart and brings a beaming smile to his face, but encourages him to continue his efforts, now that he understands what is expected.  ‘Oh, so that’s what it’s supposed to look like!  Hey, I really can do this.’

St. Philip Neri said, ‘If we wish to keep peace with our neighbor, we should never remind him of his natural defects.’  This advice works for children as well.  However, there are times when pointing out errors is unavoidable.  In these instances, offer the child a ‘praise sandwich’:   ‘Look at all these good letters, here and here and here.  Now, see how this one keeps wandering below the line?  I’ll bet you could bring this one up, just like the others.  See?  Here’s another one that is exactly right!  Way to go!’

‘Praise phrases’ are sincere and specific; they point out the positive rather than the negative.  ‘Beautiful work on your spelling test; you got 16 out of 20 right.  You are improving.’ is much better than the deflating, ‘You missed four this week.  I guess that’s better than missing six like you did last week.’

Some useful ‘praise phrases’ are:  ‘Good job on the———-‘  ‘Look at the nice work you did on—‘  ‘Wow!  Your—–just keeps getting better and better.’  ‘I like the way you are——–‘

Good use of teaching tools, Mom!

In Their Hearts,

Theresa Johnson
http://www.chcweb.com


 Here are some ways I suggested tofamilies in our parish to grow in their faith this Lenten Season. 

picture-of-cross

Get your Lent off to a great start by making plans for the upcoming 40 days.  These 40 days can be a great way to grow as a family and slow down a little bit in order to take more time to grow in your love for God and neighbor.  The three primary areas of focus during Lent are prayer, fasting and almsgiving.  Lent is often seen only from the fasting lens where adults and kids “give up” something.  This may be the best thing for your child to do but if they do not grow closer to Jesus as a result then it might not be the best idea.  I would like to share with you 5 ways to make this Lent a great opportunity to grow in holiness. 

5 ideas

1.         Family Focus Discuss as a family what you will do this Lent. 

        Take the time to talk about what you will do to grow closer to Christ this Lent.  This year try doing something as a family as well as something that each person in the family does individually. 

2.         Consider doing something different each week. 

        No, it might not be as challenging, but it might help keep the focus on making many  sacrifices in order to grow closer to Jesus constantly during Lent.  Keeping it fresh can be a way to keep your child and family    engaged during the weeks of Lent.

3.         Make Sunday Special

        This Lent go to Mass 15 minutes early so you can really prepare for the Holy Mass.  You might want to stay after Mass and have a time of thanksgiving for receiving Jesus in the Eucharist and for this time of prayer and worship with your family.  Also, consider doing a special devotional (Rosary, Bible reading, Stations of the Cross) at home. 

4.         Attend A Parish Event 

        This Lent Ascension will have many opportunities to grow in your faith.  Consider coming to Stations of the Cross at 7pm (Fish Fry at 5pm) on Fridays or an adult faith enrichment event. Also, the parish has a theme this year called “Lent and beyond”. See the bulletin each week for more details.

5.         Pray, Fast, Give

        Take the opportunity to be prayerful this Lent.  Fast from extras to help remind you of the Sacrifice Christ made for you and me.    Finally, seek to give through the operation rice bowl (given in SOR class), possibly performing some service outreach with your family.  Support a need  in our community (Catholic Charities, homeless shelter, kid organizations). And don’t forget to give your love and help to your family members.

God bless your Lent!!!

 


first-communion21

Parishes throughout the country are preparing children to receive their First Communion in the next few months. Here are some suggestions on how parents can help connect and prepare their child who will be receiving the greatest of gifts.

1. Go to Mass as a family. Make the next few months special by helping your child see how important Sunday Mass is to your family. Spend time on Sundays talking about the Scripture readings.

2. Have parents go over the lessons they are covering related to the Sacrament of the Eucharist (and the Mass). At my parish parents receive a book (this year we are using Loyola Press’ First Euchairst Book) which consists of 7 chapters and a handout with each chapter. Parents are instructed to sit down with their child and cover the chapters and complete the worksheet. We encourage them to make it a special time for their child and to show enthusiasm as they cover the material.

3. Make visits to the Blessed Sacrament. It is very important to foster your love for the Eucharist by taking the time to visit Jesus who is really present in the tabernacle. If your parish has Eucharistic Adoration, be sure to take your child their for some time of prayer and help him/her come to know Jesus and love being in His presence.

4 . Parents – share how God is working in your life. Show your child that you have a personal relationship/friendship with Jesus that affects your whole life.

5. Pray. Gather as a family to pray the Luminous Mysteries of the Rosary. Pray with your child for a open heart as they prepare for their First Communion. Show your child that your prayer life is an important part of following Jesus.


knowledge3

Here is a great quiz put out by Catholic Answers about some key aspects of the Catholic Faith. Test your knowledge and see how you do.

www.catholic.com/thisrock/1993/9302fea1.asp


giftsConsider 3 Gifts to bring not only in the days leading up to Christmas but during the Christmas Season from Matthew 2:10-12:

[10] When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy;
[11] and going into the house they saw the child with Mary his mother,        and they fell down and worshiped him. Then, opening their treasures, they offered him gifts, gold and frankincense and myrrh.
[12] And being warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they departed to their own country by another way.

The wise men brought 3 wonderful gifts:

Gold… Gold is a gift for a King.  Gold reveals something about a treasure.  Christ is that treasure and king!  What gold can you give in your life to be a gift and treasure to others?  How can you use your gift or talent during Christmas to show Christ to others?

Frankincense…This is usually burned when offering something to God or in prayer.  How can your words and actions this Christmas be an offering to praise and love God?  This is a holy time, don’t miss the opportunity to make your actions and words an authentic offering to Christ, the newborn king.  Offer Him your committment to live for Him as he comes into your heart this Christmas is the gift Christ wants! After all, it’s his Birthday!

Myrrh…This is an odd gift.  Myrrh is a scent or a balm usually used at the time of death.  This gift is a a prefiguring of Christ’s death on the cross.  Our gift is to die to our sinful ways and our imperfections so we can be the best-version-of-ourselves for Christ to use.  We want to die to what does not lead us and others closer to God’s will.

They departed…by another way — May we depart by another way having really lived this Advent Season and Christmas Season to the full.

May Christ reign anew in your hearts this Christmas!  The world longs for the gifts of our Gold, Frankincense and Myrrh!