Catechist Corner

It's all about sharing the faith.

Living In This Moment

This week, when visiting with my spiritual director, we ended up on the topic the Lord’s name based on a comment around my reading the Bible this year.  Afterwards, he happened to send me this short poem.  I liked it so much that I thought I would share it with you for a little perspective.

 

I was regretting the past and fearing the future…
Suddenly, my Lord was speaking:
 
“My name is I AM.” God paused.
I waited. God continued,
“When you live in the past, with its mistakes and regrets,
it is hard, I am not there.
My name is NOT, I WAS….

When you live in the future,
with its problems and fears,
it is hard, I am not there.
My name is NOT, I WILL BE….
 
When you live in this moment,
it is not hard, I AM HERE.
My name is I AM.”

 

Until next time, keep sharing the faith.

Storytelling and a Stiff-Necked People

Day 55.  I have been following my Bible and Catechism in a Year reading plan, which I mentioned in a prior post,  for 55 days now.  As of today, I am through Genesis and Exodus, through Psalm 57 and through the Gospel According to Matthew.  I’m also through Paragraph 440 in the Catechism of the Catholic Church.

There is so much to gleam from these two inspired works and so many observations and lessons to learn from them as well.  Two things that have struck me so far as I read the scriptures in a focused way.  The first is the use of parables by Jesus as a means of teaching.  While the use of this method of teaching by Him is not new knowledge for me, reading these parables consecutively like this brings a new perspective as a catechist.  It is so easy for me to “teach” something, but seeing Jesus use them in context like this reminds me of a saying that fellow blogger Joe Paprocki of Catechist’s Journey often quotes from St. Ignatius of Loyola, “entering through their door but leaving through your door”.  This is exactly what Jesus does with these parables.  He frames it in a way that his disciples can relate with, but uses that to bring his lesson out.  It’s very easy to fall back to catechizing from our viewpoint without remembering to catechize from their viewpoint so it has more meaning.

The second observation is from my readings in the Old Testament.  Both the LORD and Moses use the term “stiff-necked people” when referring the people of Israel.  As I’ve been reading, my initial impression is that these people just don’t get it.  Why are they so dense?  I mean, God just smote the first born of an entire nation for them, split a sea in half and fed them out of no where and they are just a bunch of spoiled brats!!  Then it hit me.  We are a “stiff-necked people” too in our day.  In fact, I myself am a “stiff-necked people”, if I am honest with myself.  How many times have I turned my back on God, whether a little of a lot?  Whether I’m choosing to do something else over prayer, or deciding to do something other that what my conscience is telling me to do, I have many time done something contrary to what God wants me to do, even in the face of all the reminders of His will for me.  This makes me just as much a “stiff-necked people” as the decedents of Israel in the Book of Exodus.  We are all sinners and stiff-necked in our own way.  And just how many times did Jesus imply the same thing in Gospel I just finished reading?  This ends up being a good reminder for me for the next time I end up at that crossroads (which should be any minute now).

Deciding to undergo this activity is turning out to be a great method of spiritual growth for me.  I am starting to appreciate scripture so much more by doing this.  I do find myself challenged in relating to the Psalms very well at this point of my readings, however.  I have a tendency to be literal when I read and I’m just not in the middle of a physical war or a battle where I can relate to the psalmist’s plight.  I recognize that I am in a spiritual sense, but I still have trouble relating to many of them.  I’ll have to pray on that point.

Until next time, keep 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.)

The Spirit and the Bride

I wanted to offer one brief follow up on my previous post titled “Come!”  The retreat started out with a YouTube video for Matt Maher’s new song, “The Spirit and the Bride”.  I had not heard this one before since I had not yet purchased his album, but it was so powerful to me and it was such a great way to start off the retreat around Advent that I wanted to post it here.  Enjoy!

 

 

Until next time, keep sharing the faith.

Of Dogs and God

Last week, I was taking out the trash and when I opened up the door, out of the corner of my eye I saw a big-black-something on my back deck that I knew didn’t belong.  After my heart attack subsided, I noticed it was a dog.  She seemed a little bit old and having had a dog when I was younger, I was concerned at the fact that she wasn’t wagging her tail when she saw me.  I blew her a kiss and that seemed to warm her up a bit, which was a good sign.  I still gave her some room as I walked around her to deal with the trash.

Moving to a sitting position from her original laying position, she eyed me the entire time as I took out the trash barrel.  As I returned to where she was, she seemed to be significantly more friendly.  She was a bit dirty, which told me she had been outside for a while.  I also noticed that she had a collar and that it had a somewhat dated Dog License from a town about 10 miles away.  As I was looking at her collar, she offered me a paw and then the other to follow.  I began to wonder how she ended up at my back deck.  I went ahead and got her some water, which was really all I had to offer her at the time.  I had to take my daughter to school and my wife to work, so I left her on the deck with the water.

As I drove my wife to work, we talked about what we should do with our new visitor.  We agreed that I would call the town that issued her license to see if they could give me owner information.  I know that dogs are very much a part of one’s family and someone might be quite sad that this dog was missing.  We agreed that we would care for her until we could find her owners.  On the way back home, I took a detour to the supermarket and bought some dog food, a bowl and a leash.  When I got back home though, she was gone; off on her travels to who-knows-where, I guess.

As I thought about this experience, it reminded me of one of the initial lessons in our 6th Grade Religious Education Curriculum — Stewardship.  In Gen 1:28 we see that God has given us responsibility over His creation.  He has an expectation that we will responsibly use what he has given us to meet our needs and to care for what He has created.  Sometimes, you don’t know in what way you might be called to take action as a steward.  It can be fighting to save a rain forest, it can be defending the right to life, or it can even be helping a dog that unexpectedly shows up at your back door.  To be honest, I was a little sad that she was gone when I returned home, with the water still where I left it.  I hope I did my part in caring for one of God’s creatures, but I think this was God’s way of reminding me that I have a responsibility to care for what he puts on my path to knowing, loving and serving Him.

On a side note, this reminded me of one of my favorite videos.  I include it below in the hopes that it makes you smile.

 

 

Until next time, keep sharing the faith.