Sunday, March 29, 2009
Catechesis of the Good Shepherd (CGS) is a Montessori approach to Religious Education. The program has three developmental levels, with each level building upon previous levels. The curriculum stems from liturgical and biblical concepts in the Church, and the presentations for each level are presented in a three year cycle. Children receive the greatest benefit after being in each level for three years. In 1981, James Fowler wrote a book entitled Stages of Faith: The Psychology of Human Development and the Quest for Meaning. In this book, he details six developmental stages we go through in our faith lives. The first three stages are primarily age related, while higher levels may or may not be reached, depending on the faith development of the individual. The CGS program is an ideal program for recognizing the faith development of a person. Each of the three levels for children are age related and follow very closely the first three levels of Fowler’s stages of faith. Another strength of the program though is the formation for catechists. It allows for further faith development into the higher stages of adult faith.
Saturday, March 28, 2009
A review of the resource: The Stations of the Cross with Pope John Paul II, Joseph M. Champlin. Liguori, 1994.
During Lent praying the Stations of the Cross is a devotion that takes one through the events of Jesus’ suffering and death. There are fourteen traditional Stations of the Cross beginning with Jesus being condemned to death and the fourteenth station Jesus is laid in the tomb. Contemporary versions have a fifteenth station; The Resurrection. Pope John Paul II officially added the fifteenth station according to Joseph M. Champlin on Good Friday, 1991. On that Good Friday in 1991, Pope John Paul II also adapted some of the other traditional stations. This booklet takes the adaptation that the Pope created and provides a rich pilgrimage to follow Jesus’ steps. The format is a balance of traditional and contemporary. There are illustrations that are deliberately focused on the adapted stations of John Paul II, along with psalms and reflections that enrich the image of each station. The booklet serves as an enriching variation on an age-old devotion as one is reflecting on the self-giving love that Christ suffered for us.
Pope John Paul II had a connection with the youth, he established world youth days, and his global travels provided a sense of belonging to young adults. In section four of In Passing on the Faith: Transforming Traditions for the Next Generation of Jews, Christians and Muslims, James L. Heft provides the reader with insights from Brother John of Taizé in understanding youth and prayer traditions. Prayer and community in Taizé along with a searching for a deepening of their faith has been the constant strong hold for decades. Young adults responded to the authenticity of the Taizé community. John Paul II was authentic in his connection and commitment to young adults and his Stations of the Cross has a wide appeal to the meditation dimension of the prayer. Reflections focus on what is essential in accepting the love and passion of Christ. The Passion of Christ is the ultimate of witnessing. Brother John said, “Our community’s deepest aspiration is to make accessible the sources of trust, so that people, especially the young, can live their lives rooted in this trust.” (Heft, 160). The Stations of the Cross is a rooted and trusted devotional prayer. This resource that is based on the adaptation of the Good Friday pilgrimage of 1991 by John Paul II serves a young adult audience well, because of the trusted relationship the Pope had established with this group and the contemporary fresh version it presents of the Stations of the Cross.
Monday, March 23, 2009
1. Where am I with God in all of this?
2. Where am I with myself in all of this?
3. Where am I with others in all of this?
For this session, I have considered the use of THE RICH FOOL in Luke’s Gospel. This reading/parable is related to consumerism or materialism, which is the focus of this week’s reading.
Luke 12:13-21  Someone in the crowd said to him, "Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me."  Jesus replied, "Man, who appointed me a judge or an arbiter between you?"  Then he said to them, "Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; a man's life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions."  And he told them this parable: "The ground of a certain rich man produced a good crop.  He thought to himself, `What shall I do? I have no place to store my crops.'  "Then he said, `This is what I'll do. I will tear down my barns and build bigger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods.  And I'll say to myself, "You have plenty of good things laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry." '  "But God said to him, `You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?'  "This is how it will be with anyone who stores up things for himself but is not rich toward God."
As noted above, the focus this week is consumerism and America’s obsession with having more, and more never being enough. The readings are from The Anglican Theological Review, which include synopsis’ from, The Loss of Happiness in Market Democracies by Robert E. Lane, Dematerializing: Taming the Power of Possessions by Jane Hammerslough, Luxury Fever: Money and Happiness in an Era of Excess by Robert Frank and so on. The article was good at summarizing the various larger stories, in the context of American’s always wanting more. The concept of Affluenza is introduced and our need to have more and more stuff is considered. The theory is that the more stuff we accumulate the happier we are supposed to become. However, that doesn’t always happen. What people are missing is a right relationship with God, but finding that in this consumer-driver society is difficult.
When you consider these readings, the theme of consumerism, and the use of parables, the parable exercise would be most beneficial with older students and/or adults. Since parables are sometimes difficult to dissect, use with younger students might be difficult, unless they are working in conjunction with older students or adults. For my lesson plan for this week, I team second-graders with their parents, in preparing for their first communion. The parable referenced in this article would be better suited with the children and adults working and discussing it together. The relaxing exercise wouldn’t work with younger children either, since that sort of activity is beyond their conception. The focusing is beneficial for more mature persons. Otherwise, I like the parable exercise, the use of guided relaxation, and the three focus questions. In using those concepts with the parable cited above, the theme of consumerism and materialism can be easily tied to God and His love; and the negativity of greed.
From: Loyola Press Online
Loyola Press offers numerous suggestions for an intergenerational event that will help families engage in the Triduum. The resource offers 10 different activity centers that coordinators can mix and match to meet their time, space, and participant needs. It suggests ending with Good Friday prayer service that includes an Agony in the Garden skit.
Fowler's Stages of Faith clearly outlines 6 different stages of faith that you may find in any given parish setting. The challenge for any coordinator planning an intergenerational event is to include activities that cross both generations and stages of faith development. Unfortunately, Loyola Press' Activity Centers fails on both accounts.
Of the 10 suggested centers, 7 of them are entirely child centered. They include basic arts and crafts projects, coloring, planting seeds, etc. While there are times that adults are included in the lesson description, they're participation is limited to assisting the children in creating whatever project the activity calls for. 2 of the centers include family handouts that do reach across the parent-child generational gap including questions and comments that are appropriate for each generation. However, these handouts do nothing to include older children (the activities are all elementary or preschool level) or generations beyond the parent.
In terms of Fowler's stages of faith, a majority of the activities are geared toward stages one and two. The final prayer service and drama has the potential to reach beyond into stage 3, as do some of the parent-directed activities, but this potential will only be reached if the leader of the activity makes an active effort to reach into stage 3 during the activity. None of the activities suggested will reach stages 4-6.
While the variety of suggestions and the freedom to create your own event that fits your needs makes this resource appear to be very valuable, a closer look at the activity suggestions demonstrates that at it's core, this is really just an elementary/preschool resource that includes parents as volunteers. It has the potential to be a great resource for this age group, but does not truly live up to its name as an intergenerational resource.
Sunday, March 22, 2009
The resource reviewed in this entry is the Little Rock Scripture Study series. There are multiple courses available on the Hebrew Scriptures and the New Testament, as well as some thematic studies on topics such as the infancy narratives of Jesus and women of the New Testament. These studies are intended for small groups of about 8 to 12 adults. They require both individual study and communal sharing within the small group. The objective of these resources is for adults to gain a deeper understanding of the books and themes contained in the Bible.
The program is structured around daily personal scripture study which includes reading the selected passage(s) from the Bible and the commentary that goes with them. Then, the participants reflect on what they have read, asking themselves what the Scripture passages says, means, means to them, and what they are going to do about their understanding of the Scripture. Then, the participants answer a set of questions that are intended to help them further reflect on what they read. Once a week, the participants meet with their small groups to discuss the results of their personal reflections. The course of study concludes with a wrap-up lecture which is intended to clarify the themes of each of the daily lessons.
In the excerpt from Stages of Faith: The Psychology of Human Development and the Quest for Meaning, Fowler describes six different levels of faith that people progress through. For various reasons, some adults will be at different levels of faith development. The Little Rock Scripture Studies can be used with people who are at many different levels of faith development. This resource provides an opportunity for those at a lower stage of faith development, such as the Mythic-Lateral or Synthetic-Conventional levels to engage the Scriptures in a way that they may not have done previously. The
Overall, The Little Rock Scripture Study series appears to be a good resource for adult faith formation. It has the potential to engage people at multiple levels of faith development. As with any resource, there is the possibility that it will not be used to the fullest of its potential. Or that the participants who are at a lower level of faith development will not be able to engage in a discussion with those at a higher level. It is also possible that the participants who are at a lower level of faith development will feel intimidated by and have a difficult time connecting with the material. Most likely all of these problems can be alleviated through appropriate small group facilitation.
Thursday, March 19, 2009
Taize Prayer service offered by the Viatorian Community in Arlington Heights is a monthly service where people of all ages are invited to gather together in prayer fashioned after prayer services in Taize, France. Once a month, students, parents, neighbors, and clergy gather together for about an hour and a half to sing, chant, hear the Word proclaimed, and pray together. It is an evening of quiet and reflection, offering many the opportunity to take intentional time out of their busy lives to sit and just “be.”
In Fowler’s writings, he focuses on describing the six faith stages people may (or may not) go through. People do not necessarily go through all of the stages or in the same order. Stage one is described as Undifferentiated Faith. This is when there is complete reliance and trust on another. An infant who must completely rely on their guardian would be an example of this stage. The second stage is Intuitive-Projective faith. This stage usually includes those from ages 3-7. People in this stage are influenced by stories; they grasp concrete concepts through images in stories. The third stage is Mythic-Literal Faith, and it is where most adolescents and adults remain. This stage is literal and one-dimensional. The fourth stage is Individuative-reflective faith. Young adults are in this stage, although many adults don’t ever reach this point in their faith journey. In this stage there are tensions between individuality and associating the self with the group; it’s a time of demythologizing and critical reflection on self. The fifth and final stage is Conjunctive Faith. It’s the most complex, and it sees both issues/sides at the same time. Fowler even finds it difficult to fully describe this stage since it is not attained by many people. The six stage is reserved for saints or near saints.
I think Taize would be a great activity for many adults simply because it allows for individuality and can be experienced in different ways by people in different faith stages. Someone in earlier stages would appreciate the direction and concrete structure/flow of the evening. Members could simply sit and listen if they are uncomfortable singing/participating vocally. Those in higher stages, like 4 and 5, are able to allow the Taize experience to affect them in a multitude of ways. Since they realize everyone has their own world view and different life experiences, they are aware that Taize prayer can touch people in different ways at different points in their life. Overall, I think Taize offers much freedom for people from a variety of stages; it allows the individual to take what they can depending on where they are at.
Monday, March 16, 2009
Stages of Faith, the Psychology of Human Development and the Quest for Meaning, by James W. Fowler, Harper:San Francisco, 1981,
Fowler covers six stages of faith. These faith stages go along with the psychological development of humans. He starts with a pre-stage which covers early infancy but moves quickly into the first stage Institutive- Projective Faith. Here speech and symbols of communication begin. Infants learn to manipulate what they receive example: crying brings mother, and mother sooths. The perceived perspectives are absolute or the only perspectives. Stage 2 is the Mythic-Literal Faith stage. This is when bind our experiences to a meaning with stories. We can retell stories and even imagine new ones but cannot reflect upon them. We are stuck in concrete operational thought. Stage 3 Synthetic Conventional Faith begins with a greater concept of others in the world. Fowler uses the phrase “I see you seeing me” to help reflect on this stage. God is often a significant other that provides and confirms acceptance. We begin to question and reflect upon what we know. Stage 4 is Individuative-Reflective Faith. This stage is where Fowler would place most adults. In stage 4 we see the world as having different view and ways of being. We are no longer defined by our perceived roles we have developed to choose our own roles. We have choices and use a conscious effort to define our boundaries. Fowler believes that stages 5 is obtained by an experienced human, or in other words “old”. For Fowler stage 6 is reserved for saints or near saints.
I feel that the RCIA program is a great way for those of us in or between stages 3 and 4 to communicate. Often faith is a personal topic and asking questions of another person’s faith is not proper or polite. The stage 3 people may be too caught up in self perception to feel comfortable discussing what they have not yet answered. For those in stage 4 they may recognize and even accept that there is a faith and a journey but if they do not perceive themselves as on the journey it is very hard to change their view. To truly affect these adults a strong emotional connection must be made. However great the RCIA program is there is never enough time to reach every participant. The RCIA model brings people from many different stages and provides a safe and encouraging arena to speak your mind. This arena at Holy Family is called a small Christian Community.
Title: "The Other Side of Youth"
Author: Willard Conchin
Copyright 1987 by Williard Conchin, Meridanville, Alabama
When I was 16 years old, my congregation used this workbook as a resource for family home Bible studies. The purpose of the home Bible studies was to get the congregation to spend time with families, outside of the typical meeting times, studying the Bible and discussing topics with each other. The groups would change on a quarterly basis allowing for different families to interact and visit each other's homes. Often, the focus of the studies was topical and topics were chosen with the idea that entire families would be involved in the studies. This particular workbook focuses on topics which the author believed important for teenagers to discuss with each other, their parents, and for the church as a whole to bear in mind.
The workbook itself is broken into eleven chapters and the idea is that each chapter will be the focus of one weekly Bible study. Because the studies are intended to spur discussion, the workbook itself introduces a topic, offers several points to consider, and the remainder of the lesson is filled with series of Bible passages the student is asked to read and fill in (blanks are left to insure the student has read the passage and was able to complete the missing words). [I remember as a teenager calling the last part, "Fill in the King James," because the authors of workbooks always seemed to use the King James version of the Bible, which I did not use and always had to borrow my mom's old study Bible.]
Due to the emphasis the Church of Christ places on a Christian's ability to handle the scriptures and always refer to the scriptures when discussing a topic, I believe the workbook is a sound resource for what is attempts to achieve. For someone who was raised in the tradition of the Church of Christ (CoC), this workbook does a very good job of introducing topics and scripture passages that may deal with that topic and leaving the heart of the discussion to those leading the class or study. Converts to the CoC tradition can also find in this workbook a good resource for beginning to understand the way in which the CoC deals with scripture when discussing topics. The topics in the workbook range from "Ye are Strong" in lesson one to "You Have Much Going For You" in lesson eleven, building the confidence of the young Christian while not forgetting to warn of "Some Pitfalls To Avoid" in lesson six. From the basis of Christian faith, to how it can be build up, what attempts to tear it down, and the responsibilities of a young Christian, (using the example of young Timothy), this workbook has been effectively used for years as a tool to discuss important aspects of transition in the life of young Christians to young adult Christians.
However, no one workbook is perfect or complete in dealing with the wide range of needs of a teenager seeking to find a place in a religious community. While this resource provides the diligent family with a mechanism to discuss some challenging topics facing the youth of the church, it does indeed take a diligent student to make it through the "fill in the King James," and the rather traditional discussion of topics in the workbook. This workbook was written in the 1980's by a man who is very evidently the product of a post reformation Church of Christ family. Certain ideas are presented as doctrine that I would now venture to say are matters of opinion, and matters of admitted opinion seem rather dogmatic in their presentation.
Also, the idea of an individual who is dealing with topics of a coming of age youth are often introduced as if they are obvious topics of concern and I question whether someone raised outside the tradition of the CoC would see the concern with many topics. Does an individual's failure to spend regular time with the scriptures in meditation concern a teenager who is battling with a family who does not support his/her decision to be a part of the CoC? Surely the majority of the CoC would have much to say on the benefits of time spent with scripture and in meditation, but again, that is coming from within the faith tradition.
I believe this to be a solid resource for those in the tradition for which it was intended, but I would recommend its use outside of the tradition be limited, and where used it may be well accompanied by some sort of disclaimer lest it cast a less than genuine on the Church of Christ as an antiquated tradition of faith out of touch with modern concerns.
While this workbook is intended for teenagers, I believe it could be well adapted to students of any age who were able to use a Bible and discuss topics contained therein. The manner in which it was used in the home Bible studies allows this book to be adapted to any maturity level and provides congregations and families with great opportunities to discuss faith formation, faith development, and faith preservation. Because the emphasis of this workbook is discussion after each student has spent time with selected Bible passages, I believe it is able to be manipulated to benefit students of all ages and maturities. Adults in the studies are also provided the opportunity to pass on their faith tradition while allowing students to develop and decide on their own application of traditions, truths, and dogmas.
This is a review of The Decalogue by Krzysztof Kieslowski. The Decalogue
is a DVD collection that depicts the Ten Commandments via (10) one-hour
stories. The DVD’s are a resource that can be used with a variety of age
groups and across various cultures as a way to live the Ten
Commandments in modern-day life. Each story is layered with multiple
messages and dilemmas, just as real life is. Sometimes the message and
the “sin” are easy to see and sometimes they are hidden under layers of
The Ten Commandments have been around for thousands of years as a
guide for living. Each and everyday we break various commandments and
don’t even realize it. The DVD’s are worth a view from every minister and
religion teacher - although I would caution you to use with older teens, like
juniors and seniors, all the way through adulthood.
Decalogue 1: “I am the Lord thy God; thou shalt have no other gods before
me.” This is a story of a son and father and the mysteries of the computer.
There’s an aunt who’s religious, verses the father who’s very practical. Who
do we trust in our lives? God? or other things in life, like the computer?
Who do we turn to when things don’t work out as we’ve computed?
Decalogue 2: “Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain.”
A wife, a husband, a doctor, a lover, and an unborn baby. Will the wife, who
had an affair with a work colleague, keep her baby or have an abortion?
Well, it all depends if her husband, who is very ill, will live or die. Will, or
can, or should the doctor tell her what she needs to know?
Decalogue 3: “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy.” Does that only
mean that you must attend Sunday service? Or does this commandment
apply to other things? This is the story of a husband and wife at Christmas
time, and the husband’s past lover. The lover interrupts her ex’s Christmas.
Decalogue 4: “Honor thy father and thy mother.” What makes a parent a
parent? A 20-year old girl and her father tread down some unchartered
waters in their relationship. Are they related? All is to be revealed in a letter
that was left behind by the girl’s deceased mother.
Decalogue 5: “Thou shalt not kill.” A disturbed young man murders a cabdriver
in a random act of violence. We are introduced to the young
murderer and a lawyer who was just admitted to the bar. We see their
struggles in dealing with the trial and the death-sentence that’s handed
down. Is is right to kill a killer?
Decalogue 6: “Thou shalt not commit adultery.” We meet a peeping tom
and a promiscuous lady. He is obsessed with her and she doesn’t know
how to love. They have a discussion that leads to an act of desperation.
What about obsession?
Decalogue 7: “Thou shalt not steal.” Our characters include a controlling,
loveless mother, a controlled father, a confused daughter, and a little girl
that is the focus of both women. Is it stealing if you take something back that was once yours?
Decalogue 8: “Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor.” In
this small world, a woman comes face-to-face with the Jewish woman, who she turned away as a child, during the Nazis occupation. The woman
explains her cowardice.
Decalogue 9: “Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s house.” A husband and
wife want children, but the husband is impotent. He convinces his wife to
take a lover and she does. This causes much grief in the marriage and
Decalogue 10: “Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s wife, nor his manservant, nor his maid, nor his goods, nor anything that is yourneighbor’s.” Two brothers are left a valuable collection, but one piece is missing. They locate the piece which makes the collection complete, but it
will cost one of the brothers his kidney. After the surgery, the collection is
stolen. The brothers suspect one another.
These DVDs are an awesome way to start a conversation about the commandments and break-open what each means. They can be used as are source with older teens; to complement a lesson plan on the commandments. They can be used with young adults in a Theology on Tap
set-up or with any adult group as part of an adult formation series.
Teachers and ministers will want to review them to help their audiences
better understand the commandments in today’s world.
Besides using the DVDs across generational lines, they are a good resource across cultural lines. The Ten Commandments are understood
world wide and throughout various religious groups. The stories are done in Polish with subtitles, but the themes and messages are universal.
In reviewing the following text, Stages of Faith, the Psychology of Human
Development and the Quest for Meaning, by James W. Fowler, Harper:San Francisco, 1981, (Part IV, Stages of Faith), we are introduced to a human
development model that is crossed with a faith development model. As
psychology has given us developmental models from Piaget, Erikson, and others, Fowler, uses the human development model to show the reader
how faith develops, grows and changes throughout one’s life.
He begins with the Undifferentiated Faith Stage in infants and moves us
towards the final stage, Stage 6, Universalizing Faith. As people develop physically, mentally, psychologically, intellectually, and so on, they also
develop some form of faith. Individuals travel through Erikson’s and other’s
life stages along, or simultaneous to Fowler’s Faith Stages.
The stages (Intuitive-Projective Faith, Mythic-Literal Faith, Synthetic-
Conventional Faith, Individuative-Reflective Faith, Conjunctive Faith, and Universalizing Faith) are symbiotic to the various age-related stages of growth and development. Just as individuals reach the various age-related stages at certain times in theirs lives, people reach Fowler’s stages in thesame way. Each stage is marked by certain achievements and awareness
that the individual has achieved. Each stage builds on the last stage.
As such, the DVD resource is best understood by older teens and up. This
is simply because some of the material is for more mature audiences and for individuals that can think abstractly, because some of the material is
nuanced with themes that require more intelligent processing. The junior or senior in high school would be developmentally better equipped to draw conclusions and tie the DVDs into faith-related issues. Additionally, the
adult, at his/her various developmental and faith-related phase, would be
able to draw their own parallels to their own life experiences. It would
actually be a great learning environment to have the various generations inthe same group reviewing the DVDs from their life experiences and their faith experiences.
Sunday, March 15, 2009
REVIEW OF RELIGIOUS EDUCATION RESOURCE:
Resources: Catechist’s Guide
Title: Confirmed in a faithful Community: A Senior High Confirmation Process
Printing Date: Winona: St. Mary’s Press, 2006, Third Edition.
Authors: Therese Brown et al.
Reviewed by: William, March 15, 2009
The Confirmed in a Faithful Community for a Senior High Confirmation Process is effective Guide Manual which the senior high students preparing for the Sacrament of Confirmation will appropriately find fascinating, engaging, and fun to enjoy.
This Catechist’s Guide follows the themes, readings, and list of activities in corresponding Candidates’ Handbook, Catholic Catechism, and Scriptural Readings. Its design envisions flexibility allowing parish components like orientation, parent and sponsors meeting, announcement, to be incorporated. The idea is to offer individual candidates an opportunity to enter into faith journey through personal discernment and reflection of thoughts and doubts of faith, curiosity to come and see if they are ready to be prepared for the Sacrament of confirmation.
The students’ handbook and Guide emphasize faith lived in baptismal promises and the Eucharistic nourishment as being witnessed in a faith community celebration. The Guide wants the Confirmation candidates and the religious education process to see the connection of Confirmation Sacrament together with the baptism they received and the Eucharist frequently received as part of Sacrament of Initiation.
It is encouraging to note the intention of the authors on the role played by the Christian community. As the Confirmation process begins already the entire faith community opens up themselves as the supportive resource, witnesses, and stewards of candidates for sacramental preparation.
The whole resource book divides the entire preparation process program into four parts with different sessions for each part. The youth ministry leaders and religious educators are companions of the candidates on their faith journey. They offer guidance and help for the students to discover the gifts of the Holy Spirit working within the sacrament as well as encouraging them to face the challenge of practicing baptismal and Eucharistic love and discipleship for service, mission for human welfare, and heralds of Good News.
The first part of the division is the invitation to personal uniqueness. The sessions help the youth to deal with promise and pain; find their identity, faith, trusting in God and be a community of disciples in an active church. This is the foundation and basis of self knowledge in order to know God.
Personal Formation is the second part and sessions are centered on God, his kingdom, personality and mission of Jesus, death and resurrection, and the work of the Holy Spirit.
Any body reading the handbook and following the Catechist’s Guide will find its programs very welcoming and self motivating. In the third part, the candidates are to concentrate on period of reflection where the guidance and strength of the Holy Spirit is inter twined with sessions of prayer, Christian morality, service and social action and justice, in depth look at each of the Sacraments of Initiation, and Rite of celebrating Confirmation.
After going through periods of invitation, Formation, Reflection, the program concludes with Period of Mission in the fourth part. It has only one session on Life after Confirmation. The Mother Church shall entrust and commission her newly confirmed children into the mission in the Spirit of Jesus.
This is a very interesting and fun-oriented religious education resource. The authors were influenced and guided by the church’s old metaphor of a farmer who first prepares the ground, then tills the ground, plants the seeds, weeds them, continues to water and prunes the seeds till they produce abundant fruits.
I highly recommend this resource to any youth ministers and religious educators who want to help young people in the faith journey and mission.
This activity has two main parts, an eggshell mosaic craft and an egg meditation (the author provides an alternative to the egg meditation which will not be reviewed here). In the eggshell mosaic craft, the students use pieces of eggshell that have been dyed to make a picture that represents new life and the possibilities that God has given them, e.g. an egg, a chick, flowers, a cross, etc.
Following this craft, the students are guided through an egg meditation. During this meditation, they imagine that the egg represents all of the hidden possibilities that God has placed within them. They then imagine that a chick hatches out of the egg and talks to them about all of their hidden potential. Lastly, they are directed to visualize that they are talking to Jesus. The children are to thank him for the new life that he has given the world. The meditation ends with a short time of silence in which the students are directed to thank Jesus for all of the possibilities that God has given them and to listen to what Jesus says to them. When evaluated in light of the discussion by James L. Heft and the contributing authors in Passing on the Faith: Transforming Traditions for the Next Generation of Jews, Christians, and Muslims, this activity has both positive and negative aspects.
In his article, “A Spiritual Crossroads of Europe: The Taizé Community’s Adventure with the Young,” Brother John states that the young are very capable of performing intense spiritual practices and that we should not doubt their ability to do so (152). The egg meditation provides an age-appropriate opportunity for this type of spiritual practice. It also exposes the children to a spiritual practice that they may not have previously encountered. Both of these things will help to form the young child for future participation in intense spiritual practices.
Brother John also emphasizes the importance of small-group discussion and some form of involvement and responsibility on the part of the youth (156-157). This activity does not involve any form of discussion after the eggshell craft or the egg meditation. Presumably, that is because it is geared toward children in elementary school. However, this does not prepare them for participating in this practice as teenagers or adults. It is vital to begin engaging children in meaningful religious discussion as even young children are capable of extraordinary spiritual insight. In this activity the children are the recipients of a lesson that is given to them. They do not have the opportunity to engage in discussion with each other about the key points of the activity.
The Egg and You: New-Life Eggs and Letting-Go Shells has the potential to be a helpful tool to assist children in realizing all of the possibilities that God has provided for them. In order to do this successfully, however, there needs to be some form of discussion about these various potentials incorporated into the activity. As it stands, the children are the passive recipients of the lesson. The craft is nice, but in order to be more meaningful, a discussion of the possibilities that God has given them should follow it. If used along with a discussion, the eggshell craft could be a great visual reminder of the potential in the child’s life. The egg meditation, on the other hand, is a wonderful, way to introduce the children to a new spiritual practice. With a few slight modifications, this activity could prove to be a very powerful experience for its audience.
Tuesday, March 10, 2009
From: LifeTeen, Inc. (Spotlight Resource)
This discussion guide for Pixar's The Incredibles is a sample from Life Teen's newest resource called In Focus: A Movie Guide for Catholics. In Focus is a guide for youth ministers, catechists, teachers and parents that will help young people see movies in a new way. All too often teens absorb popular media without question or discernment; In Focus helps reveal how the person of Christ and the teachings of the Catholic Church are relevant in the world today.
This resource breaks open The Incredibles with a complete synopsis, Scripture and Catechism references, and discussion questions. It also offers some information on Catholic Undertones in the movie and offers suggested activities that will help take the issues brought up in the discussion to life in the daily lives of the teenagers.
In Heft's Passing On the Faith: Transforming traditions for the Next Generation of Jews, Christians, and Muslims, contributing author Christian Smith comments that religious communities "are up against a number of significant social and cultural forces that make [the task of nurturing faith] quite difficult." He mentions that the relationships between adults and teens - particularly parents and their teen children - serve as a source of much of this tension. The Incredibles Discussion Guide does an excellent job of getting teens to analyze the relationships in their families, troubleshoot potential obstacles that threaten their family personally, and take action to improve communication with their family now - all within the context of the move The Incredibles (which deals with multiple family relationship issues).
At the same time, Smith accuses religion classes of dumbing down their content in favor of activities that are more engaging and fun. Spending a full hour and a half watching a fun movie in order to get to a few good questions about family relationships may seem like a poor use of time in that context. The resource does offer suggestions on ways to incorporate the discussion using only certain clips of the movie rather than the whole thing that would probably help this problem.
Other than a few comments on Catholic symbolism that is present in the movie, there is not a lot of overt Catholic teaching that comes from this activity. While the authors do a good job of pointing to some solid religious resources (including The Catechism, and books like My Life with the Saints by James Martin and The Founding of Christendom by Warren H. Carroll), it would be nice to see more integration of religious concepts not watered down by Pixar in the activity. For example, a comparison between superheroes and saints or a look at Catholic Social Justice teaching in light of the actions of the superheroes would have add a little more substance to the activity.
Monday, March 9, 2009
Review of “An Online Retreat: A 34 Week Retreat for Everyday Life” by Creighton University’s Online Ministry
In sections 4 and 6 of Passing on the Faith Christianity is looked at more closely as well as some evaluations of the current research done on young adults. One major theme is not to underestimate the young of our world in any way especially not in prayer. Along with the respect of our young everyone for all religions is responsible for the forming of young identities, either positively or negatively. One major way of forming identities during all stages of life is through experiences.
While websites are a cultural way of reaching our young the authors found in Passing on the Faith would disagree with mode and content of much of these websites. Providing websites so poorly designed gives the impression we don’t care or that we underestimate the reader. While having pop-up ads with positive messages may be a nice they are still pop-up ads and they are still the worst way of advertizing. The web can be a wonderful world of knowledge and yes fun, but in order for a faith based website to work advertising and profit must take a back seat. A good religious identity should be based on community and respect, not on consumerism. No wonder our youth are frustrated with religions, if they are seeing these frustrating websites as their religious identity.
Wednesdays, at St. Lawrence O’Toole parish in Matteson, Illinois. During
lent, two lay ministers in the parish head-up a prayer service to enhance
the lenten journey and to provide fellowship. The music minister also
assists with the service.
The prayer service begins at 6:00 p.m. with an opening song. Then the
group moves into a psalm (this past week it was Psalm 130). The Sunday
Gospel is used, this past week it was Mark 9:2-10. The service continues
with reflection, petitions, closing prayer, and a closing song.
The lay ministers lead the service, but all guests participate. The various
sections are read with distinct pauses to offer a time for reflection. The
atmosphere is decorated with purple, a cross and candles. The service is
approximately 15 to 20 minutes.
After the service is completed, the group shares soup, bread and
fellowship. A couple of people volunteer to bring soup, bread and
beverages. This is where relationships and community are formed.
Overall, I like the soup and prayer service ideology. Its an awesome way to
increase one’s lenten journey; to get closer to Christ. Its also a good way to
In reviewing the following text, Passing on the Faith, Transforming
Traditions for the Next Generation of Jews, Christians, and Muslims, by
James Heft, S.M., and others, Fordham University Press: New York, 2006,
(sections 4 and 6), the authors note that young adults, ages 18 - 30 are
more likely to describe themselves as “spiritual” as opposed to “religious.”
In section four, Brother John of Taize, discusses the spiritual quest of young
adults and how they are drawn to a tiny village in Burgundy, France, Taize.
The village is a monastic community that is involved with prayer three times
a day, they work to support themselves, and they offer hospitality to others
(page 149). The young adult visitors are enthralled with the spirituality, and
the Taize community lives their lives without making changes for the
visitors. That doesn’t seem to distract the visitors from continuing to flock to
Taize and joining in the communal life experience during their visit.
Brother John describes the experience at Taize as “freedom” (page 154)
and “simplistic” (page 157). The relationships at Taize are enveloped in
“trust” (page 159), just as the Gospel is rooted in trust. The Taize
experience is not marketed or advertised, it just is. The young adults find
In comparison, these same young adults are preoccupied with
consumerism, more than secularism (page 249). If they don’t find what they
need in one religion, they can “shop around” for what they want (page 257).
The world is very secular, pluralistic, and consumer driven. Young adults
have many choices and they are used to getting information quickly and in
various formats. They believe in God, but one that is removed and not
involved in daily life, and not involved in areas of life that the young adult
does not want God involved with (page 267).
In summary, we have two competing forces. This group, as a whole, is
putting off “life events” to later in life, compared to a generation ago. In a
pluralistic society, they can shop around for what they want. However, they
are intrigued by Taize, which is a very simple lifestyle, yet very powerful.
Would young adults like to participate in the Soup and Prayer service? I
think its a nice, simple way to invite young adults into prayer.
In Heft, we see that young adults “are touched by its (Taize) liturgical and
communitarian practices” (page 258). The prayer service just described
offers prayer and community. Heft also shows us that young adults like to
“discover things” and they prefer things that are “authentic” (page 263). In
the service described, there’s opportunity built-in for reflection, discovery,
and authenticity. Additionally, the service is not too long and structured that
individuality is lost. If the young adults in the area are willing to attend the
service, they will find a nice opportunity to pray and become community.
Sunday, March 8, 2009
Monday, March 2, 2009
Audience: Upper middleclass, suburban Catholic high school seniors in Northwest Pennsylvania
I will be using the 2009 Operation Rice Bowl Home Calendar Guide as an Opening prayer for Sunday evening Religious Education class sessions. We will follow the directives from the Calendar for each Sunday of Lent. The directive for March 1st is:
Visit our brothers & sisters in Egypt
• Using a computer with an internet connection, visit the Interactive Map at http://orb.crs.org and look for Egypt.
• Pray for women working to transform their families’ lives by establishing small businesses. (We will pray for these women by praying the Lenten Prayer printed on the front of the Calendar.)
• Learn about Amal, an Egyptian woman who benefited from a Catholic Relief Services microfinance project small business loan by reading her story from the 2009 Home Calendar Guide.
Annually, Catholic Relief Services publishes a Home Calendar Guide with daily reflections, prayers and activities based on Catholic Social Teaching, hunger issues, Sacred Scripture and The Stations of the Cross. Six different countries and recipes are featured, one for each week. The story of a recipient of CRS services and support from each of these countries is shared.
This Calendar is designed to grow your spiritual life during Lent. It is meant to teach about our brothers and sisters in need around the world. It is also meant to solicit contributions for Catholic Relief Services. Operation Rice Bowl has been a Lenten tradition for more than 30 years. The 2009 Home Calendar Guide is accompanied by a cardboard Rice Bowl meant to hold alms. Each young person in the “audience” has a Calendar and a Rice Bowl at home and is encouraged to use them daily .
Both the Calendar and the Rice Bowl exhibit extremely high production values, which is an indication that it takes its audience and its mission of “prayer, fasting, learning and giving” (Calendar) very seriously.
ORB’s audience is multi-generational & intergenerational. While I am utilizing it on Sunday evenings with high school seniors, it’s been distributed to my entire Religious Education program of over 600 families with the hope that it will be used by families together. Again, see http://crs.org And also, it can be used by families with young children, or families with teenage children, or it can be used by single young adults or senior citizens living at home alone—hence, multi-generational and intergenerational.
The Calendar is full of websites inviting the participant to learn ever more. In addition, it tells engaging witness stories of those beneficiaries of CRS funding. It provides specific alms giving dollar amounts to the participants. It educates and strongly encourages work toward social justice.
Interestingly, while it the Guide does refer to “brothers and sisters around the world”, not once in the daily activities, or the recipes, nor in the stories does the 2009 Home Calendar Guide refer to the audience participant’s own father or mother, sister or brother, or even guardian. Once, it uses the word “sibling.” The Guide very much holds the participants themselves at more than an arm’s length: In the welcome it says: “Just as we celebrate the Eucharist on Sundays, we can use ORB as a way to ‘break bread’ together with family and loved ones…Prepare simple meatless meals enjoyed by our neighbors in other countries with the weekly recipes.” ORB shies away from saying that the participants themselves can break bread together with their own families. And that they can prepare simple meatless meals together with their own families. Are we no longer allowed to identify who constitutes our family members?
I see this as a contradiction . On one hand, CRS distributes ORB to parishes, schools and religious education programs as a family activity, but, on the other hand, it does not use family based language. Apropos to our discussion, by failing to draw parents into this activity, ORB is missing out on an opportunity that many teenagers would like to have: that is “ a chance to be closer to their parents. “James Heft, S.M., and others, in Passing on the Faith, Transforming Traditions for the Next Generation of Jews, Christians, and Muslims, Fordham University Press: New York, 2006, p.59
Heft also says that the religious faith of most teenagers today can be summed up as Moralistic Therapeutic Deism with the following as hallmarks:
1. “A God exists who created and orders the world and watches over human life on earth.
2. God wants people to be good, nice, and fair to each others, as taught in the Bible and most world religions.
3. The central goal of life is to be happy and to feel good about oneself.
4. God doesn’t need to be particularly involved in one’s life except when he is needed to resolve a problem.
5. Good people go to heaven when they die.” (p.64)
In applying this description to the witness stories as told in the Guide, they all may be described by at least 2, 3 & 4. Applying them to Martin of Honduras’ story:
• Martin “prayed for the day when [he] could make [his] small farm more productive. My prayers were answered when CRS came to the region….” #4
• Martin and “some other farmers and I formed a local co-op.” #2
• [Martin’s] income has increased and his life has changed….today [he is]the president of the local co-op and a member of the Fair Trade network in Honduras. #3.
The other stories may be broken down similarly, although Martin’s story is the only one which mentions prayer. All of the stories read like “happily ever afters” once CRS enters their lives. None of the witness stories mention a belief in God or any religious belief at all.
Overall, however, the 2009 Home Calendar Guide and Rice Bowl are a worthwhile Lenten activity. “It nurtures regular religious practices in the lives of youth” (p.71) and helps to “focus attention on strengthening parents’ religious and spiritual lives.” (p.69) I believe that it will lead my target audience along a growth filled spiritual journey.
" Oh loving Lord,
during this Lenten season I lift up my voice to you.
Instill in my heart the desire to hear your voice
in the voices of the poor, your people.
May I find in their example the path to my conversion.
Bless my Prayer, Fasting, Learning, and Giving
in this season of grace.
May these actions answer the call
to transform our world.
Sunday, March 1, 2009
A review of two resources: 1) A mini-movie “This is Love” Big Pie Publishing 2) Lent Booklet “God is rich in mercy” from J. S. Paluch Co., Inc.
A review of two resources:
1) A mini-movie “This is Love” Big Pie Publishing
2) Lent Booklet “God is rich in mercy” from J. S. Paluch Co., Inc.
1) A mini-movie “This is Love”
“This is Love” is a 3:47 minute mini-movie. This short film will aid in discussion as teens and parents explore an understanding of what God’s love is. The song entitled “This is Love” is a powerful accompaniment to scripture verses and an artists’ time-lapse drawing of Jesus’ crucifixion. If we want to love God we need to know God better and to know what is God’s love. The mini-movie is effective because it has an appealing style of bold scripture verses flashed on the screen followed with an artist’s drawing of Jesus evolving as the film goes on. The music is dynamic and powerful. It packs a lot in a short amount of time. It assists by providing a stimulus for discussion.
2) Lent Booklet “God is rich in mercy”
“God is rich in mercy” is a Lenten booklet produced by the J.S. Paluch Company. Many parishes use this company for producing their weekly Sunday bulletin as well as their publications. This booklet has a simple array of Lenten information. It provides concrete activities for family and opportunities for spiritual growth during Lent. The booklet also has accurate explanations and references to Lenten terminology and practices.
In Passing on the Faith: Transforming Traditions for the Next Generation of Jews, Christians and Muslims, James L. Heft has contributing author Christian Smith in his section on Moralistic Deism indicating several of the challenges of religious faith traditions being passed on to the next generation. To have the youth become more interested and involved in their faith traditions, attention to the parent’s involvement is key. Along with this is the importance of providing opportunities for teens to articulate their faith, and to practice their faith. Confidence and creativity are needed in religious educators. The mini-movie “This is Love” is imaginative in a style appealling to the teen culture. The format is creative and to the point. The mini-movie and discussion can strengthen the parents along with the teens in reflecting on understanding what God’s love is.
The Lent Booklet “God is rich in mercy” is simple in the fact that is has specific activities and references. There is vocabulary, facts, and explanations of common Lenten terminology and practices. There is a page dedicated to Lenten Household Practices. From these suggestions parents can come together as a family to practice their faith. “Nurturing regular religious practices in the lives of youth also seems to be an important piece of the socialization puzzle. That is if youth are to be effectively socialized, they will need to be taught to practice their faith - ” (Heft, 71).