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.)

Come!

Office for the New Evangelization of Youth and Young AdultsI was blessed to attend a one day Advent retreat put on by the Office of New Evangelization of Youth and Young Adults (ONE) for the Archdiocese of Boston. This retreat was for anyone involved in youth ministry within the archdiocese. Our retreat director was Fr. Matt Williams, the Director of ONE and what a spiritually powerful retreat it was!

This retreat was completely structured around Advent with a focus on the word “come”. It gave me a new appreciation for the meaning of the season. It began with a reading from the Song of Songs 3:1-4. This passage speaks about searching for God, and when he is found, bringing him into the deepest, most private place in the house. We then had a silent meditation around our readiness to bring Christ into the deepest, most private place in our hearts, in our souls. Am I ready? What’s holding me back?  That was followed by a discussion that Jesus wants all of us, not just the perfect parts and that we need to remember that we need to bring everything, including the good and the bad, to God.  He wants us all!

Do you have any sense of how much the Church uses the word “come” in its prayers during the season of Advent? The Liturgy of the Hours uses the response, “Come, Lord Jesus”. Various antiphons, readings and Alleluia versus of the Masses throughout Advent all ask our the Lord to come. Just look at the O Antiphons for a perfect example of the Church, as the bride, asking her bridegroom, Jesus, to come. What a great image!!

Lastly, we focused on part of the nativity narrative from Luke (Luke 2:1-14). We had another terrific period of silent prayer to meditate on the scripture passage. Silence is underrated, by the way. What a wonderful opportunity to put oneself there with Mary, Joseph and baby Jesus. From the journey to Bethlehem, to the birth and the message of the angel to the shepherds, it gave me an opportunity to appreciate what people must have felt, not only emotionally, but physically as well.

In between all of that we had Mass, opportunity for the Sacrament of Reconciliation, lunch with friends and a sharing circle to round the day off. I’m so glad I went. The Lord spoke to me in a very special way at the retreat, not only through Fr. Matt and the other participants, but directly when in silent prayer. He knew what I needed (no surprise there) and showed me the way, not only for my ministry, but for me as well. I really need to make time to go on retreat more often, or at least find more opportunities for silent prayer during my day. Did I mention that science is definitely underrated?

Until next time, keep sharing the faith.

Hitting a Brick Wall

Spiritually speaking, I feel like I’ve been hitting a brick wall lately.  I feel like the passion is gone.  I feel like I’m talking into dead air.  I feel like there is no one listening or answering.  HELLO-O-O-o-o-o …  See?  Echo.  That’s what prayer has felt like lately.  This must be what they mean by Spiritual Dryness.

Now, I realize that what I’m feeling is not reality.  It’s not dead air and my faith tells me that someone, namely God, is always listening even if I don’t feel like He is.  With that faith as support, you keep on going.  You don’t give up.  You don’t let temptation win out.  And here’s the kicker … you need to PRAY about overcoming the dryness and until God reveals to you how to get past it, you offer up that dryness as suffering.

There is a great series about dryness in prayer over at Catholic Spiritual Direction.  Fr. Bartunek’s comments are very helpful in putting this into perspective.  If you are feeling spiritual dryness or want to read about it, I recommend going over there and reading the three articles Father has posted.

Until next time, keep sharing the faith!