Catechist Corner

It's all about sharing the faith.

Penance and Detachment

penance-Fr.-Lawrence-Lew-OP-flickrCC-1110872_200x200[1]Our fallen nature leads us to pleasurable things.  As we see throughout history, whether salvation history or world history, in many cases it is about the “us”, not the “them” or the “Him”.  As a catechist, it is difficult to explain and “get through” the benefit and value of penance to young people.  No one likes to suffer and young people cannot rationalize the need or benefits of offering penance.  Some not-so-young people have that same challenge.

In its most basic form, penance is a way of making up for a wrong done.  In a Catholic sense, it’s a way of making up for a wrong or offense done to God.  The three most common forms of penance are prayer, fasting and almsgiving.  Prayer forces us to stop and prioritize God above all else.  It acknowledges that God is greater than us and by raising our hearts and minds to Him, we endeavor to grow closer to Him.  Fasting is the forgoing of something we find desirable.  Normally food, but it really can be most anything.  This causes suffering, whether an actual physical hunger for food or the fighting of another desire that we have chosen to set aside.  Need I say that suffering is not “fun” and can easily get a frown (and much more negative responses) from students?  Almsgiving is doing for others, generally for the glory of God and to please Him.  Most commonly viewed as helping the poor by providing money or goods, it can actually also be much more.  Giving alms includes giving of your time through volunteering or by helping a neighbor, giving of yourself to others in need, including emotional need, spiritual need, etc.  This means you have to forgo something to offer the other person.  Again, this can produce a form of suffering by not being able to use the thing being given or the time being offered for something else that might be more pleasurable.

However, the wisdom of penance is much greater than the obvious products of our efforts noted above, as is the case with all suffering.  A practice of penance and suffering can lead to detachment.  As you focus on these acts of penance, over time you begin to place less importance on the things you are giving up and even the pleasure they might otherwise bring you.  You begin to refocus your life through this detachment of earthly “things” and begin to focus on God and love for Him.

This is what Lent is all about.  Taking 40 days “in the desert” to refocus our lives back on God — to acknowledge where we have gone astray, with contrition ask for forgiveness and make up for our sinfulness.  By refocusing back on God, we should expect to take what we’ve learned and changed during Lent and do it for the rest of the year and the rest of our lives.

As catechists, we must bring these principles back to the forefront of our students’ lives.  While we can plant the seeds, the students must make the changes themselves, preferably with the guidance and support of their families.  We, however, should be tools to help them better understand the importance and value of these traditions that, through the Wisdom of God, the Church has charged all the faithful to follow.

Until next time, keep sharing the faith!

 

(Jonathan Sullivan has invited Catholic bloggers everywhere to write on a common theme today — penance — as part of the first Catholic Blog Day.  Please visit the Catholic Blog Day site to find other great posts from a variety of Catholic bloggers.)

In a Year

First, let me wish all of my readers a Happy and Blessed New Year!  I hope you have much joy throughout 2012.

As I look forward to the new year, I have been trying to set some goals for myself.  One thing I’ve been considering doing for some time now is to read the Bible completely.  It can easily be a daunting task when you look at the thickness of the book itself, but there is no doubt as to the value one can obtain from reading all of salvation history in Holy Scripture.

As I’ve considered how to best tackle the undertaking, I’ve come across a number of suggestions on how to read through the Bible.  The approach I’ve settled on is to read the Bible in one year.  Many of the one year plans I’ve seen are based on the Protestant Bible, but I did come across a document from an organization called The Coming Home Network International.  They have a plan to not only read the Bible in a year, but the Catechism of the Catholic Church as well.

I’ve taken their plan schedule and also built it into a spreadsheet format that allows me to keep track of my progress right on my iPad as I use my Bible app and a CCC link right off of that device.  I can read my daily reading from anywhere, and if I miss a day along the way, it’s very easy to catch right back up.  For those interested in the plan, below are links to the original PDF as well as my spreadsheet versions. I would suggest that one always looks at the PDF first, even if they want to use the spreadsheets because the PDF contains some additional guidance where the spreadsheets are exclusively the listing of the daily readings.

Read the Bible and the Catechism in a Year
Original PDF Format
Excel Spreadsheet Format
Open Document Spreadsheet Format

 

I’m looking forward to my own personal growth as I read through the Bible fully, along with the Catechism and I know it will absolutely help in my catechetical ministries.  I hope it can be helpful to all of you as well.

Until next time, keep sharing the faith.

HELLO-O-o-o? ECHO-O-o-o!

Is anyone out there?  It’s been a while since I’ve posted anything on this blog, so everyone that has stopped looking has rightfully done so and those that are still here have shown great hope.  I would especially like to thank reader Christian LeBlanc for giving me a much needed kick in the pants to get me to post again.  To be perfectly honest, I haven’t felt inspiration to post lately.  I don’t know if that is because my life has gone into overdrive, if it’s because I have a particularly challenging class this year, if it’s because the content of what we’ve chose to cover in our program seems to completely go over the students’ heads or if it’s something else altogether.

Last time, I mentioned that I was trying to begin a Youth Ministry group in our parish.  That has really taken up quite a bit of time.  The original core group of adults had a very different view of youth ministry than I did.  That being said, I tried to be accommodating because if it’s one thing I learned over the years, it’s that I do not have all the answers.  Well, the two other adults decided to leave the program and that left me having to do everything.  The good news is that I get to structure the group in a way I think best balances faith and social activities; the bad news is that it is all me at this point, which I think limits how much we can do.  I’m praying and asking for more help, but we’ll see what happens there.

As I mentioned, Religious Education is pretty challenging this year.  I have a group of 9th graders, and about a third of the class is made up of members of a local high school’s freshmen football team.  Additionally, two thirds of the class are boys that know and feed off of each other.  Discipline is a challenge and they seem so disconnected from their faith that they just don’t get the curriculum from this year.  I’m going to talk to my CRE about the possibility of changing the content for next year.  While I love the idea of going through the Mass in detail, there are some basic things these students seem to be missing, which significantly limits how much they can get out of the material.  Can you say “blank stares”?

Anyway, I’ve recieved some great feedback over the last few years on my blog and encouragement to keep it up.  I’ve also gotten a lot out of posting and reading the comments some of my readers leave, so I’m not ready to give this up.  I truly hope to have more content to offer going forward, but I also recognize that I’ve said that before and have then fallen off the face of the blogosphere.  I ask for your patience and forgiveness as I try to get back in a routine that will allow me to share with all of you again.

Until next time (which I hope will be much sooner than last time), keep sharing the faith.

WOW!

I saw Jesus the other night. I try to see Him in most places, but on Sunday night I saw Him very clearly in Jason Evert. If you are not familiar with Jason, he is a husband and a father. He has degrees in theology and counseling. But what is not on his resume is his ability to capture the attention of about 1,000 teenagers for over an hour without ever losing them.

On Sunday night, St. Patrick’s Parish in Stoneham, Mass. hosted Jason for a talk. They invited neighboring parishes and my CRE extended me a coveted seat. Jason’s topic was “Romance without Regret”. Yes, Jason is a chastity speaker. And my thoughts can be summed up in one word … WOW!

When Jason speaks, he weaves the message of chastity with a little comedy, some facts, some real-life examples and  some powerful, personal stories as well.  He touches on every aspect of love and human sexuality, in a clear yet loving way.  He presumes nothing, is not judgmental and recognizes that this is not a perfect world; so he addresses even the most difficult things that can and have happened to people, but in a gentle yet clear way.  He defines the difference between “love” and “lust” in a way a teen cannot only understand, but can directly relate to as well.

If you think that I’m being a little vague in my comments, that is intentional.  First, I cannot do his talk justice.  The power with which he delivered this message and the resulting energy in that church was amazing.  These are teens that often challenge what they hear from the church (which can be a good thing), but they got what Jason said.  They simply got it!  We’ve already gotten feedback from parents  on how their teens have reacted (positively) to what they heard!  Second, I don’t want to take away from what you can experience from hearing Jason’s talk.

Now I’m sure you’re thinking, “Carlos, how am I going to listen to Jason?”.  My response would be, “Virtually, of course!”  I highly encourage you to check out his website (http://www.chastity.com) and his YouTube Channel (http://www.youtube.com/jasonevert).  Under the Chastity playlist, you can view one of his “Romance without Regret” talks (broken into 9 parts) as well as many others.  Better yet, get him to your parish or a parish near you.

Very inspiring, Jason!  Thank you!

Until next time, keep sharing the faith!

Catechizing a Digital Generation

I was fortunate enough to attend a workshop sponsored by the Archdiocese of Boston’s Office of Religious Education yesterday focused on reaching our youth using media.  As you know, not only do I blog here but I am also an administrator for my parish’s Facebook page, so using these tools more effectively was of particular interest to me.  The workshop was lead by Sr. Helena Burns, FSP (Blog: Hell Burns, Twitter: @SrHelenaBurns) and Sr. Anne Flanagan, FSP (Blog: Nun Blog, Twitter: @nunblogger) of the Daughters of St. Paul.  They did a wonderful job of educating us on the importance of using new media if we hope to effectively reach our youth (and even some adults) today.  This seemed so appropriate considering Bishop Herzog’s comments around social media at this week’s USCCB Fall General Assembly.

There was a lot of good information offered throughout the day, with much of the focus being around media literacy.  The overreaching message that I got from the workshop was that this form of communication is not a fad.  Whether you “love” it, “hate” it or have a “love/hate” relationship with it, is here to stay and we must embrace it.  Also, this means of communication is a game changer.  It is interactive.  It must respect open communication.  Everyone wants to have a say and if you make it one directional, you will have very little, if any impact on the world.

This seems very different from how we traditionally think of communication from the Church.  The Church preaches from the ambo, it teaches the Truth as given to us by Jesus Christ and as revealed by the Holy Spirit.  This stuff isn’t up for discussion, is it?  Unbeknownst to most, the Church’s official position on its presence within the world of media is to be an active listener, not simply and authoritative teacher.  This is contradictory of the perception, but that position places the Church in a good position to participate effectively in the use of these tools.  It listens and responds with the Truth.

I think many would comment that the Church has been slow to embrace some of the tools available in the new media space, but through the leadership of the Venerable Pope John Paul II and the current leadership of Pope Benedict XVI, the Church is making great strides.  This must continue through the embracing of these technologies at the parish level.  As was made clear at the workshop, to be effective, the use of these tools must allow the opportunity for dialogue.  Pastors and catechist must listen first and teach as a follow up to that listening.  I don’t think the average parishioner is used to that, nor are many of the pastors and catechists out there; but I think our youth are definitely ready to engage us with the hope of learning and better understanding.  We need to engage them in a way that shows that we respect them, their concerns and their methods of communicating and learning.  Bishop Herzog said in his comments, “If the church is not on their mobile device, it doesn’t exist.”  We don’t have to change the message, only how we deliver it.  We must go to them, not expect them to come to us.

Thank you Sr. Helena and Sr. Anne for sharing your knowledge and experiences with us!  I, for one, have been given a deeper understanding of the importance of using these tools effectively.

Until next time, keep sharing the faith!