Catechist Corner

It's all about 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.

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.)

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.

Wabbit Season or Duck Season?

Neither, but it sure does seem to be Webinar Season.

I have been lucky enough to have participated in two excellent webinars over the past couple of weeks that have really helped me to reconsider how I should engage in my ministry.

The first webinar was presented by Jonathan F. Sullivan, who is the Director of Catechetical Ministries for the Diocese of Springfield in Illinois.  The webinar was titled “Catechizing Digital Natives” and focused on the different ways that today’s kids process and learn information.  Below is the video recording of the webinar and here is a link to some of the resources discussed in the video.

The second webinar was presented by Joe Paprocki from Catechist’s Journey.com and Loyola Press.  Joe is well known among Catechists as not only an author of numerous books about being a Catechist, but also as an 8th Grade Catechist himself.  His webinar was titled “Growing as a Catechist: A Self-Evaluation Based on 7 Critical Tools from The Catechist’s Toolbox” and focused on how to reflect on our own ministries with the goal of tweaking our approach and preparation to add more impact when we catechize.

I found both of these webinars so valuable that I just had to share them with you.  As Catechists, sometimes we feel like we are left to our own devices and it’s nice to know that there are others out there who share their ideas with us.  It’s amazing when you find out that the problems you face in your classrooms and parishes are not as unique as you might think.

Until next time, keep sharing the faith!