Catechist Corner

It's all about 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!

My New Office is so Divine!

DivineOffice.orgNo, I’m not talking about a new desk and chair with beautiful decor, I’m talking about the Divine Office, a.k.a. the Liturgy of the Hours.  From time to time, I would be intrigued by the Divine Office.  It seemed so mysterious, so “old” and that really sparked my curiosity.  I knew this was something that priests did and by the title “Liturgy of the Hours”, I figured it took a lot of time.  I have a bad habit of judging a book by its cover and this cover along with its title intimidated me; plus since I’m not a priest, how weird would it be for me to be praying this thing.  Over time, I learned that Religious brothers and sisters also prayed “the Hours” and the title was not about how long they took, but about when they were prayed.  (How embarrassing!!)  More recently, I’ve started seeing various blogs mentioning and recommending that the laity pray it as well, but I was still intimidated by it and determined that I just didn’t have the time to add yet another prayer to my list.  After all, those were some mighty thick books!!

A few weeks ago, Jeff Young, The Catholic Foodie had an episode on his podcast about the Divine Office.  This episode was not just about the prayer itself, but about DivineOffice.org.  The episode was primarily an interview with the crew of that ministry — Dane, Chriss, Denise and Greg.  DivineOffice.org is recording audio of the Liturgy of the Hours “with the purpose of promoting the tradition of praying always  through these ancient treasures of the Church, not only to Catholics but to all Christians universally.”

This interview had my headphones glued to my ears.  They not only explained how they ended up in this ministry but also explained what this prayer is really all about, and that helped demystify it for me quite a bit.  As I implied above, one of my biggest hesitations has always been how much time this employed-full-time-Catechist-by-night-husband-and-father would be able to commit to a prayer that could be lengthy.  I honestly never considered the possibility of just praying some of the prayers throughout the day.  The crew suggested that one begin with just one of the Hours of the day and grow from there.  I had always assumed it was all-or-none.  Additionally, the fact that you can pray the Hours together with these fine folks by downloading their recordings or listening to them directly off their site, made this even more of a possibility. One might otherwise feel lost or intimidated on how to pray them correctly.  Even though the recordings don’t contain specific instructions, they still almost double as a tutorial of sorts.

So I decided to begin praying the Divine Office.  I try to pray the three major hours each day — Office of Readings, Morning Prayer and Evening Prayer.  Occasionally, I’ll sneak Night Prayer in before going to bed.  These prayers are absolutely beautiful!  There is a lot of focus on the psalms and the readings thus far have flowed like stories.  This is this a great way to grow in your familiarity with the scriptures overall.  I’m starting to have a broadened understanding of salvation history even within the short time since starting this.

Have any of you contemplated trying the Divine Office?  If you have and have been scared off or have otherwise delayed doing so, let me strongly recommend that you listen to the interview on The Catholic Foodie, then go over to DivineOffice.org and have a look around.  The service is available for free directly through their website, RSS Feed or iTunes podcast.  They do have a paid iPhone app, but that is completely optional and not getting it will have no impact to your ability to pray the Hours.  (It’s a great app, by the way.)  I hope you will consider praying this beautiful prayer of the Church.

Until next time, keep sharing the faith!

iPods, Blogs and YouTube … Oh My!

Lions, Tigers and Bears ... Oh My!iPods don’t produce iPeas, a blog is not related to a blob and going on YouTube doesn’t mean you are riding on the subway.  Of course, most of us know that by now, especially if you’re reading blogs.

Last year, I decided to show my class a short video on the Sacrament of Penance from BustedHalo.  I saved the file on my laptop and took it in to show my students.  First, they were surprised that this 37 year-old fogey had a laptop to begin with, and then they got a look at my desktop icons!

“You have AIM?? How do you know what AIM is?” Of course I know what AIM is, and Yahoo Messenger and Twitter and Facebook and MySpace too.  “Is that World of Warcraft?  You play WoW?  What class do you play?”  A Paladin, of course.  That got a chuckle out of the boys.

Their reaction helped me realize something that day.  Before then, I think they really thought of me as an old fogey.  However, at that moment I was able to make a connection with them because, to a certain extent, I spoke their language.  Dare I say that I got a little bit cooler in their eyes simply because I knew of the “things of today”?  I knew the lingo and they hadn’t realize that before.

Personally, I’m comfortable with technology and I’m not afraid to use non-traditional methods to teach traditional concepts.  Additionally, I like what new media has to offer in helping us share our faith.  The Church has begun to see its value in recent years, most recently with the launch of Pope2You.  I think as Catechists, we need to be able to do the same.  We need to be able to speak their language because if we continue to teach the way we were taught, then our students will interpret what we teach as not being useful in their lives.  “You just don’t get it!”  We need to know their world and be able to speak to the issues and concerns of that world.

I’m interested in incorporating the use of new media in my classroom.  I’d like to use printouts from relevant blogs to supplement the material found in the text and produced by my church, or even have students read the blogs directly.  I’d like to turn students on to podcasts that I think are geared towards Catholic youth and can further enhance their learning of Catechesis even after they leave my class.  I’d like to speak their language, make the connection and get the message across.

Their are multiple challenges to doing that, however.  You can’t control the messages of podcasts or the content of blog posts.  There is a risk in that you could expose the students to concepts that may not be wholly in communion with the teachings of the Church.  That lack of control really scares me.  Additionally, parents may react negatively to their children using these additional resources.

Lastly, I don’t know if the space is mature enough to support that kind of use and I don’t know the landscape well enough to make that determination.  I’m sure there are a few blogs out there that I may be able to use, but the podcast space specifically covering child-friendly doctrine is just developing at best.

Has anyone else started incorporating new media into their Catechist ministry?  Do people have suggestions on child-friendly, Catechesis-based blogs and podcasts that I should be considering?