Catechist Corner

It's all about sharing the faith.

A New Year, A New Beginning

A New BeginningA new year can bring a new beginning with a fresh perspective … a focus on starting over. We set resolutions at the beginning of the new year. We decide to change things that we have previously done and begin to do new things too. As I reflect on 2012, one major disappointment has been my lack of blogging. Now, I can give you a list of reasons (or maybe excuses) as to why my blogging stopped, and many of them would be valid; but it doesn’t change the fact that I missed sharing things with all of you. So, as I said, a new year can bring a new beginning and that is true for blogging, so here I start here anew.

As is appropriate during Advent, I reflected on what I need to do to prepare for the coming of Christ.  I had the opportunity to look at what was important and focus on those things. Beyond focusing more on my blog, I also realized a need to focus more on my prayer life. That has always been a challenge for me, mostly due to the a busy schedule and there just not being enough hours in the day to do everything one wants. While that has not changed (yep, I’m still pretty busy), I have made the decision to make prayer a bigger priority in my life. I feel real joy when I’m spending time with our Lord and I know that that spending time with me is something He wants too. To help with that, I started keeping a prayer journal on Christmas Day. In the few days that I’ve been keeping that journal, it has really helped me to focus on what I want to say as part of my prayers.

Among the things I pray about are the scripture readings from Mass for the day along with anything that struck me from meditating or reflecting on those readings, how I’m feeling about a particular thing that has happened to me or how I’m feeling in general, asking for forgiveness, praying for intentions, etc. It has really proven to be a great way to organize my prayers and I look forward to writing in my journal each night.

You know, I’m excited about sharing with all of you again. I will probably expand this blog a bit to include the spiritual side of the catechist from time to time. While much if that will be based on my own experiences, I will try to find other things that can enrich the spiritual life of a catechist  as well.  I think it’s time to take this beyond the focus of the classroom, which has been the viewpoint of most of my posts in the past.

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

Spiritual Wellness

7 Keys to Spiritual Wellness

As catechists, one thing that is important for us to remember is that for us to best enrich the lives of the disciples entrusted to us, we must remember to take care to of our own spiritual needs too.  If your life is anything like mine, you are very busy and that makes it easy to get stuck in routines.  We can have a tendency to put our own spirituality on the back burner as we focus on our students, our families and our friends.  Additionally, in going through our hectic lives, we can pick up some bad habits that impact our spiritual health in a negative way.

I recognize these tendencies in myself and I’m sure that I’m not alone.  I’m always looking for opportunities to strengthen my own spirituality, not only to help me grow closer to God, but to be able to share Him more effectively with others that I come in contact with.  So, you can imagine my excitement then when I found out that Joe Paprocki was having another one of his free webinars, this time on this very topic.  If you don’t know Joe, his blog, Catechist’s Journey, was the first blog for catechists that I found on the web.  I consider him a sort of online mentor for me based on the content on his blog, not only regarding ideas and techniques for being a good catechist, but also by reflecting on his comments as a way of seeing where I need to improve in my ministry.

Joe’s upcoming webinar is titled “7 Keys to Spiritual Wellness” and is based on some of the information found in his new book by the same title.  While I have not read the book (yet), based on the description I was able to find on the Loyola Press website, it looks like a great resource for catechists, but it is clear from the description that this would be valuable for all sorts of people looking for spiritual renewal, whether in a formal ministry or not.  This webinar will cover some of the principles from the book and will similarly be a great resource for those looking to strengthen their spiritual health.

Like Joe’s prior webinars, this one is free.  It is scheduled for Tuesday, April 24, 2012 at 6pm EDT and should last about an hour.  If his prior webinars are any indication, the time will be well spent.  Below is a link to the post on Joe’s blog describing the webinar and that page also contains a link to sign up for the event.  You will need to sign up to get the link to the session.

 

7 Keys to Spiritual Wellness: A Webinar for Easter People

 

I know we are all on a spiritual journey and as human beings, we can have a tendency to not give our journey the attention it deserves.  This should prove to be a great opportunity to refocus ourselves on our spiritual wellness and can take us another step closer to our Lord.  I hope you’ll have the opportunity to attend.

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.)

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.

Post CNMC MMX

As my readers know, I attended the SQPN CNMC MMX this past weekend.  I have to admit, the initials are better then having to say the Star Quest Production Network Catholic New Media Celebration 2010.  This was a gathering of the best minds in Catholic Podcasting and Blogging, and I was hoping to learn a thing or two from the creativity that could be found there.

I will not recap the events of the event.  Many others have done that already and are much better at that sort of thing then I am.  I will highlight a few things that were most powerful for me.  First, I met people … a lot of people.  Many of these individuals I know from Twitter, Facebook as well as the podcasts and blogs that I follow.  I was amazing to talk to these individuals in person and to witness their drive and energy first hand.  People like Barb Gilman (a.k.a. Barb in Nebraska), a 3rd grade teacher in a Catholic school who has so much energy that she probably puts her 3rd graders to shame; and Maria “Bego” Johnson from another cup of coffee, who is the classic Cubanita and a hoot to be around.

There were so many others that I met and had the opportunity to chat with, including Pat and Brian Padley from In Between Sundays, Dr. Paul Camarata from The SaintCast, Fr. Jay Finelli from iPadre, Fr. Jim Tucker from The Catholic Creativity Community and even Dane Falkner who leads the team at DivineOffice.org.  I even made some new local friends while I was there too.

The highlight for me was being able to chat briefly with His Eminence, Cardinal Seán Patrick O’Malley, the “Blogging Cardinal” and who happens to be the shepherd of my Church.  He is such a humble man!  The Archdiocese of Boston is truly blessed to have him. His blog , Cardinal Seán’s Blog, gives you a peek into the life of a bishop and is a great way to stay on top of all the good work happening across our diocese.

Reflecting on the events and speakers of the CNMC, I have decided to add a new segment to my blog that will focus on catechesis.  I will select a topic monthly and write a reflection on the catechesis behind that topic.  Ultimately, I would not be using this blog to it’s fullest potential if I did not use it to share the Gospels in some way.  I hope this proves helpful to those that have questions about the faith and the Church’s teachings.

For those interested, you can view recording of the various sessions at SQPN’s uStream Archive and you can see pictures at the Archdiocese’s Flickr Page

Until next time, keep sharing the faith!