A lot happens in the parish at the beginning of September.  Everyone is busy getting ready to begin programs and carry out events.  It is so important that we don’t forget that prayer accomplishes far more than activity (although both are necessary).  St. Teresa gives some great advice for us busy folks.  Let us take moments and be sure to offer up all our ministry endeavors and seek the wisdom and strength we need from God, the giver of all good gifts.
“Much more is obtained by a single word of the “Our Father” said from the heart every so often, than by saying the whole “Our Father” many times but hastily and distractedly.”
 ~St. Theresa of Avila

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

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

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

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

 

How Can we renew this Devotion in our Catechesis?

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

 

 

 


31 days to becoming a better religious educatorJared Dees has just written a book entitled: 31 Days to Becoming a Better Religious Educator.  I had the opportunity to review it and enjoyed it very much.  He has been generous and given a glimpse below from his book.  Enjoy!

How and Why We Pray for Our Students

 

Be honest, how often do you pray for your individual students as a religious educator? I don’t mean a general intention like, “Lord, bless my class.” I mean, how often do you offer the specific needs, dreams, and desires of individual students to God during prayer? I know I don’t do this enough, but it is a hugely important practice to incorporate into your daily or weekly prayer life.

 

As religious educators, we’re called not only to be leaders for our students, but more importantly, we’re called to be their servants. One way in which we can serve our students is to pray for them. It is all about the way we think about our role. If we look at ourselves like kings expecting our students to listen and obey our every bidding, then we will fail. Pope Benedict XVI described Jesus’ role as king in this way:

 

“As king he is servant, and as servant of God he is king” (Introduction to Christianity, 220).

 

We’re called to be servants. So even when the kids drive you crazy, remember we’re supposed to pray for everyone, even our enemies. “Love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you” (Matthew 5:45).

 

How to Pray for Our Students

 

So, how should we pray for our students with a servant’s heart? Try the following approaches:

 

1. Pray for students individually. Blessed Teresa of Calcutta said, “Never worry about numbers. Help one person at a time and always start with the person nearest you.” Pray for each student one person at a time. Go deeper into prayer for them. Think quality not quantity.

 

2. Use a seating chart or an attendance sheet. It is hard to naturally remember each student in prayer. Try using a seating chart or attendance sheet and check off the names as you pray.

 

3. Spread students out over a one-week or a one-month period. Pray for them all, but try praying for each person in groups of three or four students at a time and rotate through the list.

 

4. Ask them about their needs. When they offer something during in-class prayer intentions, take note of it. Repeat the prayer in your personal prayer time. Or ask them in a conversation what they have going on in their lives right now. It is a great way to get to know the students better and to know what God can do for them in their lives.

 

5. Get help from the saints. Turn to the saints and Mary to intercede on their behalf. Do you know any patron saints that connect with their needs? Ask for their prayers. By default, turn to Mary, Christ’s first teacher, to intercede on behalf of your students.

 

6. Close with an Our Father. We are united in this prayer as one family. He is the Father for you, me, and all of our students. That is why we pray for each other. We’re in a family together and we need each other’s help.

 

This article is adapted from “Day 13: Pray for Your Students” in 31 Days to Becoming a Better Religious Educator now available at Amazon.com and AveMariaPress.com

 

Jared Dees is the creator of The Religion Teacher, a website sharing practical resources and teaching strategies for religious educators, and the author of 31 Days to Becoming a Better Religious Educator


The Gift of Prayer

Prayer is the life of the soul!  How are we drawing adults, parents, kids and youth into a life of prayer?  The Catechism is rich in what it says about prayer.

In paragraph 2560 it says:

“The wonder of prayer is revealed beside the well where we come seeking water: there Christ comes to meet every human being.  It is he who first seeks us and asks us for a drink.  Jesus thirsts; his asking arises from the depths of God’s desire for us.  Whether we realize it or not, prayer is the encounter of God’s thirst with ours.  God thirsts that we may thirst for him.”

Prayer and Catechesis

In many ministry settings prayer is seen too often as something to get out of the way (an attitude of “I know I should pray so let’s say a quick prayer and get on with the lesson of the day) instead of something that draws people into the mystery of Christ and a greater intimacy with Him.  It is essential in our catechetical settings to create an attitude of prayer that opens hearts.  Helping create an environment that draws souls into that relationship with Jesus is key if we are to lead adults and children into being truly disciples of Christ.

Not only is it important to lead people into prayer, but it will only occur if we ourselves are people of prayer; people who take time to foster a spiritual life and time for mental prayer.  Yes, it is great to pray at all times and make your whole day a prayer, but this is not sufficient.  We must be people who take time away from the busyness of jobs, social media that we are exposed to 24-7 and all our family responsibilities and be silent before God.  Taking time to pray and making prayer it a priority is necessary for our relationship with Christ as well as our success in ministry.  Catechists are then able to better engage and lead others into prayer if they themselves are people of prayer.

Practical Recommendations

I recently read a great article by Marianne Cuthbertson and Dr. Caroline Farey that gives wonderful recommendations for leading others into prayer in our catechetical settings.  Their numerous recommendations are exactly what we need to consider to allow our catechetical session to be times of grace and session soaked in prayer.

How do you help engage others in prayer in your catechetical sessions?  Let us be drawn into and help draw others into the “wonder of prayer”.


The Catechism says:

“Prayer is the life of the new heart. It ought to animate us at every moment. But we tend to forget him who is our life and our all. This is why the Fathers of the spiritual life in the Deuteronomic and prophetic traditions insist that prayer is a remembrance of God often awakened by the memory of the heart: “We must remember God more often than we draw breath.”1 But we cannot pray “at all times” if we do not pray at specific times, consciously willing it. These are the special times of Christian prayer, both in intensity and duration (Para. #2697)”.

Seek to take time as class begins and as you conclude class to draw your students into prayer.  I shared in a previous teaching tip that this could mean going into the church and being quiet and still, sometimes its gathering them around your a prayer space in your classroom and at other times it’s having everyone stand to take time for prayer and each person sharing a petition or two.

It is also very important to use Scripture as you pray since it is God’s very Word to us. For example, recently I was teaching on Baptism to 6th Graders and before class started I asked 3 students to read a specific Scripture verse during our opening prayer.  They read those 3 Scriptures (which spoke of Baptism) and then I prayed a spontaneous prayer building on what they read.

How are you building a habit of prayer into your lessons? How are you helping students know how to pray and listen to God?


Fr. Brian Cavanaugh of appleseeds.org wrote the following in his December newsletters a number of years ago.  I thought it was worth repeating since St. Joseph is often the forgotten member of the Holy Family this time of year.  St. Joseph…Pray for us and guide us to the mind and heart of your son Jesus!

St. Joseph, a Model of  Recollection

VATICAN CITY, DEC. 18, 2005 (Zenit.org).- With Christmas approaching, Benedict XVI exhorted the faithful to cultivate a spirit of interior recollection in an often noisy world that makes it hard to listen to God.

The Pope today presented St. Joseph, the adoptive father of Jesus, as a model of recollection. Joseph’s silence in the Gospel, the Holy Father said, “does not demonstrate an empty interior, but rather the fullness of faith that he carries in his heart. Let’s allow ourselves to be ‘infected’ by the silence of St. Joseph!”

Silence “is so lacking in this world which is often too noisy, which is not favorable to recollection and listening to the voice of God,” Benedict XVI said. “In this time of preparation for Christmas, let us cultivate interior recollection so as to receive and keep Jesus in our lives.”

He suggested that the faithful establish in these days “a kind of spiritual dialogue with St. Joseph so that he helps us live to the fullest this mystery of faith.”

The Bishop of Rome recalled that his predecessor, Pope John Paul II, “who was very devoted to St. Joseph,” dedicated the apostolic exhortation “Redemptoris Custos” (Custodian of the Redeemer) to the adoptive father of Jesus.

In that 1989 document, John Paul II gave “a particular importance to the silence of St. Joseph,” observed Benedict XVI.

Such a silence was “permeated with the contemplation of the mystery of God, in an attitude of total availability to the divine will,” Benedict XVI said. “A silence through which Joseph, together with Mary, guard the Word of God, known through sacred Scripture, comparing it continually to the events of the life of Jesus; a silence interwoven with constant prayer, a prayer of blessing of the Lord, of adoration of his holy will and of boundless confidence in his providence.”

The Holy Father added: “It is not exaggerated to say that Jesus will learn—on a human level—precisely from ‘father’ Joseph this intense interior life, which is the condition of authentic righteousness, the ‘interior righteousness,’ which one day he will teach to his disciples.”


St. Margaret Mary Alacoque contemplating the Sacred Heart

Yesterday I was listening to a presentation on CD by Dr. Petroc Wiley who is doing great work in the field of catechesis.  He is the Director of the Maryvale Institute in England.  One of the points that really caught my attention is when he spoke of the reality that catechesis is not based in praxis but in contemplation.  It got me thinking…

So often catechists and even directors of religious education programs (as well as other people in various ministries of the Church) focus excessively on the “practical application” tools and see the theology to be merely for theologians.  This causes one to lose focus I believe.  All the practical tools at our disposal are good at assisting us in helping make relevant the faith but it is not the heart of our work in catechesis.  On the other hand mere theory or theology about this doctrine or that doctrine is not the answer either.   Our catechesis must come from a knowledge and love for Christ and His Church.  Jesus says, “One thing is necessary, and Mary has chosen the better part” (Luke 10:42).

Contemplation of the divine mysteries is essential in catechesis.  When we seek to echo a message and most especially a person we must do so out of a heart overflowing with God’s life.  Prayer and reflection cannot be underestimated in the work of catechesis.  So often I want to get things done that I lose my focus regarding what is most necessary – prayer, entrusting this work to Christ, seeking the Holy Spirit’s guidance.

Come Holy Spirit, draw me to contemplate your mysteries so my catechesis will truly radiate you and draw others to know and love you more and more!

What are you thoughts about praxis and contemplation regarding the work of Catechesis?


classroom-catechesisHere are four themes essential to solid classroom catechesis:

1. The Importance of Prayer
Consider focusing on the following:
a. The example of prayer (how is prayer modeled by the catechists)
b. learning common prayer (yes, by memorization)
c. Experiences of prayer (praying the Scriptures, prayer services,
intercessory prayer)

2. Using Scripture
A. Scripture is the foundation for all catechesis. Use it as the foundation to each lesson.
B. Sacred Scripture nourishes, inspires, strengthens and sustains us as followers of Christ.

3. The Church

  • The Tradition of the Church is vital to hand on. This is the Deposit of Faith being handed on from one generation to the next. It is not “my faith” or “my vision of Church” its is from God and it is guarded by the Magisterium who seek to pass the faith whole and entire to others. Don’t be afraid of being old fashion or behind the times because you faithfully share the truths of the Catholic Faith and the teachings of the Church.

4. Connection to the Liturgy
A. The liturgy itself teaches
B. The Eucharistic celebration brings the community of believers together to pray and receive grace.
C. Without catechesis making the connection to the source and summit of our Faith we miss one of the most important aspects of our Faith…at the heart of our catechesis has to be the paschal banquet where we encounter Christ in the most profound of ways.