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.)

The Game of Life

Hey!  You guys may not remember me.  I’m the Catechist that used to post on this blog.  It’s been how long?  Oh yeah, a month and a half.  I’m embarrassed by the fact that I haven’t posted in so long.  Life got a little bit crazy for me in December.  Work picked up as we neared the end of the year, plus Advent and Christmas time always get busy with things happening at the parish, preparing for time with family and buying gifts.  Additionally, it’s gotten only crazier in January.  Oh, before I forget … a belated Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.

So what’s been going on you might ask?  Besides all the things at work that would bore you, I’ve been busy working on Religious Education stuff.  My classes have been going well.  In my 6th Grade class, we’ve discussed wisdom, focusing on individuals like King Solomon.  I was able to use one of my favorite Old Testament stories (1 Kings 3:16-28) to show wisdom in action.  It was great to see their reactions as I read parts of the story and stopped for impressions.  We’ve also discussed some of the prophets that foretold of the coming of the Messiah, like Isaiah & Zechariah.  I think the differences of how the Messiah was described were a bit tough for them to grasp.  With those topics, we wrapped up the formal curriculum around the Old Testament.

This week, we moved into the New Testament, exploring parts of the Gospels in a little more detail.  We got to focus on one of my favorite New Testament stories, “The Boy Jesus in the Temple” (Luke 2:41-52).  Oddly enough, the prior week I got asked the question if Jesus knew he was God from the time he was born.  I referred to this passage to help express my opinion.  As we reviewed this story, I chose to focus on Luke 2:51.  We discussed the significance of the fact the Jesus was “obedient” to his parents.  I always find it such a powerful example that Jesus, who is God, was obedient to His human parents.

On top of my 6th Grade lessons, I had the opportunity to present at RCIA this past week.  My topic was “The Sacraments of Healing”.  As much as I felt comfortable with my knowledge around the Sacrament of Reconciliation, I still felt that this needed to be spot on, so I did a lot of work with the Catechism and some other resources to help make sure I got it right.  Additionally, I had never done much work around the Anointing of the Sick, so this gave me an opportunity to increase my own knowledge as well.  I felt very good about my presentation and our catechumen asked some insightful questions which was a signal to me that my presentation was giving him reason to think.

On top of that, I’m also working with my CRE and fellow catechists in developing a plan for our 6th Grade Retreat that will be happening in early February.  My CRE provided me the framework and I helped build out a more detailed discussion plan.  The theme of the retreat will be the Ten Commandments.  Lastly, I’ve been methodically working on my pastor to allow me to create a Facebook page for our parish.  After months of my pastor not having time to focus on it, we met today and he agreed that we needed to do it.  And just like in the business world, the person who has the idea gets the project.  Don’t get me wrong.  I’m very excited about doing this.  It will be a great opportunity to stay connected to parishioners beyond the Sunday Liturgy, but for it to be successful, it needs constant focus.  Please pray for me as I deal with whatever the game of life throws my way.

Until next time, keep sharing the faith.

1 Kings 3:16-28 (Douay-Rheims)
View in: NAB RSVCE Vulg
16Then there came two women that were harlots, to the king, and stood before him:
17And one of them said: I beseech thee, my lord, I and this woman dwelt in one house, and I was delivered of a child with her in the chamber.
18And the third day, after that I was delivered, she also was delivered, and we were together, and no other person with us in the house, only we two.
19And this woman's child died in the night: for in her sleep she overlaid him.
20And rising in the dead time of the night, she took my child from my side, while I thy handmaid was asleep, and laid it in her bosom: and laid her dead child in my bosom.
21And when I rose in the morning to give my child suck, behold it was dead: but considering him more diligently when it was clear day, I found that it was not mine which I bore.
22And the other woman answered: It is not so as thou sayest, but thy child is dead, and mine is alive. On the contrary she said: Thou liest: for my child liveth, and thy child is dead. And in this manner they strove before the king.
23Then said the king: The one saith, My child is alive, and thy child is dead. And the other answereth: Nay, but thy child is dead, and mine liveth.
24The king therefore said: Bring me a sword. And when they had brought a sword before the king,
25Divide, said he, the living child in two, and give half to the one, and half to the other.
26But the woman whose child was alive, said to the king, (for her bowels were moved upon her child,) I beseech thee, my lord, give her the child alive, and do not kill it. But the other said: Let it be neither mine nor thine, but divide it.
27The king answered, and said: Give the living child to this woman, and let it not be killed, for she is the mother thereof.
28And all Israel heard the judgment which the king had judged, and they feared the king, seeing that the wisdom of God was in him to do judgment.
Luke 2:41-52 (Douay-Rheims)
View in: NAB RSVCE Vulg
41And his parents went every year to Jerusalem, at the solemn day of the pasch,
42And when he was twelve years old, they going up into Jerusalem, according to the custom of the feast,
43And having fulfilled the days, when they returned, the child Jesus remained in Jerusalem; and his parents knew it not.
44And thinking that he was in the company, they came a day's journey, and sought him among their kinsfolks and acquaintance.
45And not finding him, they returned into Jerusalem, seeking him.
46And it came to pass, that, after three days, they found him in the temple, sitting in the midst of the doctors, hearing them, and asking them questions.
47And all that heard him were astonished at his wisdom and his answers.
48And seeing him, they wondered. And his mother said to him: Son, why hast thou done so to us? behold thy father and I have sought thee sorrowing.
49And he said to them: How is it that you sought me? did you not know, that I must be about my father's business?
50And they understood not the word that he spoke unto them.
51And he went down with them, and came to Nazareth, and was subject to them. And his mother kept all these words in her heart.
52And Jesus advanced in wisdom, and age, and grace with God and men.
Luke 2:51 (Douay-Rheims)
View in: NAB RSVCE Vulg
51And he went down with them, and came to Nazareth, and was subject to them. And his mother kept all these words in her heart.

Bless Me Father, For I Have Sinned

You FirstFew words strike more fear and dread into the hearts of some Catholics then these: “Bless me Father, for I have sinned.”  That was clearly the sentiment of my 6th grade class last year.

Besides the standing time slot on Saturday afternoons, the parish offers the Sacrament of Penance twice throughout the year during class times for our students.  You’d think we were asking each student to hang upside down suspended by their big toes, nonstop for a week with no food or sleep followed by some tooth extractions minus the anesthesia.  The look of agony on their faces and the pleas by some to not have to participate clearly highlights a lack of understanding of the beauty of this Sacrament.

My sense is that this sentiment stems from fear, not just for my students but for other Catholics as well.  A certain fallen angel takes advantage of this fear and exaggerates it to keep people away from God’s loving mercy and grace.  Admitting your own faults and transgressions, whether big or small, is a difficult thing.  It takes humility and courage to overcome any embarrassment and to voice them to someone else.  For adults, it’s easy to make up excuses why you can put it off or worse, to rationalize why doing so isn’t really necessary.  For young people, they just don’t have that option in a Religious Education program where participation is an implied expectation.  Additionally, besides the needed virtues mentioned above, children have to overcome the added fear that they are admitting this to someone (specifically an adult) that they respect and view as having actual authority over them, creating the additional concerns of judgment and consequence.  With all of this on their minds, I can understand why they are stressed by the anticipation of the experience and therefore dread it.

Unfortunately, they are looking at it all wrong.

We are each given a Ticket to Heaven at Baptism.  Each ticket admits one, is personalized for a specific person, is non-transferable and you must present it for admission.  Most feel that Heaven is a long way away and people have a tendency to loose their tickets.  How heart wrenching is that?  Your one way into Heaven and you lost it.

But there is hope.  Holy Mother Church has given us a way to replace that lost ticket through the Sacrament of Penance.  We can go to Her, explain that we lost our ticket, explain how we lost our ticket, be sorry that we lost our ticket and Holy Mother Church will not only give us a replacement ticket but even advise us on ways to not loose it in the future.  And even if we do lose it again, we can still get another one by going back to Her for another replacement.  As long as we are truly sorry, we can get a replacement each time and She will not judge us in the process.  If this were a ticket to a concert or a ballgame, do you think we would hesitate?  Of course not, so why should we hesitate for something much more important?

Next year, each of my students is going to get a sample Ticket to Heaven.  Let’s see how quickly they lose it.  Even more exciting, lets see how quickly they can get a replacement.

St. John Nepomucene, Martyr of the Confessional and Patron Saint of Good Confessions, pray for us.

St. John Nepomucene, Martyr of the Confessional and Patron Saint of Good Confessions, pray for us.

1 Kings 3:16-28 (Douay-Rheims)
View in: NAB RSVCE Vulg
16Then there came two women that were harlots, to the king, and stood before him:
17And one of them said: I beseech thee, my lord, I and this woman dwelt in one house, and I was delivered of a child with her in the chamber.
18And the third day, after that I was delivered, she also was delivered, and we were together, and no other person with us in the house, only we two.
19And this woman's child died in the night: for in her sleep she overlaid him.
20And rising in the dead time of the night, she took my child from my side, while I thy handmaid was asleep, and laid it in her bosom: and laid her dead child in my bosom.
21And when I rose in the morning to give my child suck, behold it was dead: but considering him more diligently when it was clear day, I found that it was not mine which I bore.
22And the other woman answered: It is not so as thou sayest, but thy child is dead, and mine is alive. On the contrary she said: Thou liest: for my child liveth, and thy child is dead. And in this manner they strove before the king.
23Then said the king: The one saith, My child is alive, and thy child is dead. And the other answereth: Nay, but thy child is dead, and mine liveth.
24The king therefore said: Bring me a sword. And when they had brought a sword before the king,
25Divide, said he, the living child in two, and give half to the one, and half to the other.
26But the woman whose child was alive, said to the king, (for her bowels were moved upon her child,) I beseech thee, my lord, give her the child alive, and do not kill it. But the other said: Let it be neither mine nor thine, but divide it.
27The king answered, and said: Give the living child to this woman, and let it not be killed, for she is the mother thereof.
28And all Israel heard the judgment which the king had judged, and they feared the king, seeing that the wisdom of God was in him to do judgment.
Luke 2:41-52 (Douay-Rheims)
View in: NAB RSVCE Vulg
41And his parents went every year to Jerusalem, at the solemn day of the pasch,
42And when he was twelve years old, they going up into Jerusalem, according to the custom of the feast,
43And having fulfilled the days, when they returned, the child Jesus remained in Jerusalem; and his parents knew it not.
44And thinking that he was in the company, they came a day's journey, and sought him among their kinsfolks and acquaintance.
45And not finding him, they returned into Jerusalem, seeking him.
46And it came to pass, that, after three days, they found him in the temple, sitting in the midst of the doctors, hearing them, and asking them questions.
47And all that heard him were astonished at his wisdom and his answers.
48And seeing him, they wondered. And his mother said to him: Son, why hast thou done so to us? behold thy father and I have sought thee sorrowing.
49And he said to them: How is it that you sought me? did you not know, that I must be about my father's business?
50And they understood not the word that he spoke unto them.
51And he went down with them, and came to Nazareth, and was subject to them. And his mother kept all these words in her heart.
52And Jesus advanced in wisdom, and age, and grace with God and men.
Luke 2:51 (Douay-Rheims)
View in: NAB RSVCE Vulg
51And he went down with them, and came to Nazareth, and was subject to them. And his mother kept all these words in her heart.