Strategies for Keeping Your Kids or Grandkids Catholic

August 18, 2013 under Syllabus 2013-2014

Summary

A child’s faith trajectory is fairly established by the time they reach 14 years of age. Young adults are considered one of the most un-churched generations. The challenge is to help young people experience Catholicism as fulfilling their spiritual hunger. What can we do to help our children and grandchildren nurture and remain active in their faith?

Objective

Children tend to follow the faith of their parents. Roman Catholic families have traditionally had a passive approach to educating their children about the Catholic faith, delegating the responsibility of teaching our faith to others (teachers, schools, priests, nuns, etc.). As Fathers, we have a critical role in establishing the importance of faith in our families. Our children look to us for guidance. We have a narrow window of time to influence their beliefs and establish the faith as an important part of their lives. The powerful memories that we give our kids will sustain them and give them roots, when temptations of the world challenge them. Research has consistently shown that the chosen path of Faith by Adult Children is more impacted by Fathers than Mothers (even very devout Mothers). As Leaders of our Families, Fathers must lead by the example of “living our Faith” and teaching our children/grandchildren the Truths revealed by Jesus in the Bible and in the teachings of the Catholic Church.

Bible Readings

1. Proverbs 22:6

“Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it.”

2. Ephesians 6:4

“Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.”

3. Matthew 19:13-14

Then children were brought to him that he might lay his hands on them and pray. The disciples rebuked the people; but Jesus said, “Let the children come to me, and do not hinder them; for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven.”

Catechism Readings

1. Paragraph 2223

“Parents have the first responsibility for the education of their children. They bear witness to this responsibility first by creating a home where tenderness, forgiveness, respect, fidelity, and disinterested service are the rule. The home is well suited for education in the virtues. This requires an apprenticeship in self-denial, sound judgment, and self-mastery – the preconditions of all true freedom. Parents should teach their children to subordinate the “material and instinctual dimensions to interior and spiritual ones.” Parents have a grave responsibility to give good example to their children. By knowing how to acknowledge their own failings to their children, parents will be better able to guide and correct them.”

2. Paragraph 2228

“Parents’ respect and affection are expressed by the care and attention they devote to bringing up their young children and providing for their physical and spiritual needs. As the children grow up, the same respect and devotion lead parents to educate them in the right use of their reason and freedom.”

Small Group Questions

1. What type of spiritual example are you setting for your children?

2. Do you pray with your kids? (ie, evening meal or bedtime) Do you look for opportunities to pray the Rosary with them. (ie, on a routine basis like once each week or in the car on the way to a fun activity or after a death in the Family or to thank God for something good in the Family or when they are grounded or punished, etc)

3. What events/things do you do with your kids to put faith in action?

4. Do you use the Bible and/or Catechism to teach the Catholic Faith (ie, about the Mass and the Holy Eucharist or about morality or current social issues, etc)

5. Do you focus unique Catholic teachings that separate us from other Christians? (ie, the Holy Eucharist, the Mass, Sacrament of Reconciliation, moral teachings that are counter-cultural like marriage or contraception, the Virgin Mary, teachings on salvation, Sacred Tradition, Papal Authority, the Saints, etc)

6. Can you explain how Jesus founded the Catholic Church and all other Christian Churches were founded by another human being?

Recommended Resources

1. “8 Strategies for Keeping Your Kids Catholic”, by Robert McCarty, 2008 Liguori Publications (Most of pamphlet included below)

2. Strong Catholic Families, Strong Catholic Youth by Michael Theisen (National Federation for Catholic Youth Ministry):

http://www.diojeffcity.org/Ministries/ChristianEd/ReligiousEd/Strong%20Catholic%20Families/A2FamilyFaithResourceBookBWrevised.pdf

3. “Soul Searching: The Religious and Spiritual Lives of American Teenagers”, by Christian Smith and Melina Lundquist Denton, 2009

4. “Soul Searching: The Religious and Spiritual Lives of Emerging Adults”, by Christian Smith and Patricia Snell, 2009

5. http://www.catholic.com which is an excellent resource to answer Catholic questions and to find Biblical and Catechism references (ie, great search engine)

Accountability

1. Set a positive image and be your child’s spiritual example.

2. Review the 8 strategies with your wife and look for ways to be engaged with your kids regarding putting the faith in action.

3. Conversation starters about faith and religion you can use with you kids:

a. Do you understand the Church’s teachings on the “Real Presence” of Jesus in the Holy Eucharist and do you know what the Bible says about this Sacrament? How much of this is just accepting what Jesus says about the Holy Eucharist? Can you accept this teaching because “Jesus says so” or must this be proven scientifically before you can accept this teaching? Are there other things that you accept as true without scientific testing?

b. How and why do you pray? What kind of relationship do you have with God?

c. Why do you love Jesus?

d. What is sin and why is avoiding sin important? Can you name sins that are common in our society? Do the 10 Commandments apply to today’s world?

e. On a scale of 1 to 10, how important is going to Mass on Sunday for you? What makes it that number?

f. Have you ever had an experience where your faith was really tested?

g. Have you ever had an experience where your faith has really helped you?

h. Who do you consider to be a genuine person of faith?

i. What church teaching most confuses you?

j. How is your faith different now from when you were younger?

k. What experiences, places, or persons have really fostered your growth in faith?

l. Should we conform to what God has revealed through the Bible and His Church or should we pick and choose what we like best? Why?

Author(s): Michael Copfer and Ken Mai (amended by George Cullen)

Included Resources

8 Strategies for Keeping Your Kids Catholic, by Robert McCarty, 2008 Liguori Publications

1. Practice and Participate:

Contrary to popular opinion, the Number 1 influence in the faith life of young people is the faith life of their parents. Young people really do mirror the faith life of their parents, so the way we practice our religion is very important. Our participation is Sunday Mass and other special liturgical celebrations, as well as our active involvement in the life of the parish, shows our children that our religion is a significant part of our lives. In addition to Mass attendance, we can participate in retreats, Bible study groups, church organizations and ministries, or adult catechesis sessions.

If you want your young adults to go to Mass, invite them to go with you – even if it’s just on a special holy day or anniversary. They may decline, but your invitation will remind them that Mass is a meaningful part of your life and that you wish to share your faith with them.

2. Model Our Faith:

In addition to worshiping with our children, we can have a great impact on the faith of young people when our faith guides our daily routines and interactions. Faith should influence our lifestyle choices, use of time, how we handle conflicts, the relationships we form, and even how we handle work issues. It may sound trite, but the two most obvious challenges to the practice of faith in real life are how adults drive their cars and how they behave at sports events! Our spontaneous reactions in emotional situations can reveal to others whether our faith and values influence our behavior.

So we might ask ourselves: Do we pray at home in the evening? Before family meals? In restaurants? Do we remember people who are less fortunate in our prayers? Do we pray for our children’s intentions? For their friends? Do we model forgiveness and reconciliation in our lives by admitting when we are wrong and forgiving others who hurt us? How do we handle crises such as death, divorce and illnesses? Does our faith impact how we celebrate Christmas, Easter, or other holy days? Do we volunteer our time and talent to ant service organizations or civic programs? All of these situations are part of life. Our young people watch to see if faith makes sense to us, if faith works for us. They are looking for a faith that provides meaning in all areas of their life, not just on Sundays.

If you want your young adults to go to Mass on Sunday, model your Catholicism at all times and in all settings.

3. Include Young Adults:

What a blessing it would be if all our young people were greeted by name when they walked through the church doors! We begin to meet their hunger for connection by welcoming them on Sunday and fostering their participation in the faith community. A sense of belonging is a very strong bond.

These experiences begin with the parish young adult ministry program. Young adults need to gather with their peers right in their own church. They need opportunities to build community with their peers, to feel connected with other faith-filled persons, and to interact with caring, believing adults. Parents should encourage their young adult’s participation in appropriate parish activities Parishes must be intentional in including young adults in their liturgical, pastoral, and leadership ministries. We can’t wait until young people ask or volunteer: we must actively invite them into responsible participation in the life, work and mission of the faith community.

Of course, the experience of community goes beyond the local Church. Gathering with other young adults through national groups such as Theology on Tap or at diocesan or international events like World Youth Day will give them a sense of belonging to something bigger. One of the main benefits of these events is that participants connect with their peers from other regions and cultures. It helps bring home the truth that they are part of an important and inclusive global community.

If you want your young adults to go to Mass, help them experience their membership in the greater Catholic family. Encourage them to be involved in liturgical ministries and invite them to be leaders in parish programs.

4. Doing Faith:

One of the most important characteristics of the spirituality of young adults is their need to “do faith.” Actions inspired by faith are powerful experiences. Perhaps the most profound experience of doing faith is involvement in justice and service projects. Serving in soup kitchens, participating in a work camp, working in a community shelter program or emergency-outreach center, tutoring children, or participating in public events for justice can have a significant impact on the faith of young adults and respond to their hunger for justice.

Similarly, young people “do faith” when they participate in retreats, pilgrimages, or public Stations of the Cross. These can be moving experiences of faith in action, too. All of these experiences are even more powerful when young adults and their parents participate in events together.

If you want your young adults to go to Mass, encourage them to “do faith” through their participation in service to the community, in parish ministries and in special liturgical events.

5. Learning Opportunities:

Young adults do need to know the traditions, creed, teachings and stories of our faith community. They need to know the story of Jesus and the gospel message. Many are genuinely interested in reading and understanding Scripture. They need to know to know what it means to be Catholic, and they want to learn how to participate in the rituals and worship of the Church. The faith community needs to be a safe place where young adults can bring their questions and where they can search with others for answers that make sense, meet their needs and provide meaning and purpose in their lives.

Further, our young people need to know about that unique dimension of our faith often described as our Catholic “imagination.” Catholics “see” the world differently. Through our sacramental lens, we encounter a world filled with God’s presence. Our traditional practices, our use of images, our symbols, and our rituals provide an avenue to an encounter with an imminent, loving God.

If you want your young adults to go to Mass, find opportunities for them to learn more about their faith through Bible study, faith-sharing groups, or other diocesan programs-and offer to go with them!

6. Prayer Skills:

Young adults need both personal and communal experiences of prayer. They can be creative and enthusiastic when they are invited to compose original prayers or spiritual poems that incorporate their favorite music and symbols. Often they are very open to traditional contemplative Catholic approaches to prayer, such as the Ignatian exercises, which enable them to connect with Spirit within.

They should also be encouraged to participate with the faith community in worship experiences, sharing in the Catholic community’s understanding of God, our traditions, our unique rituals and our ways of prayer. This “both/and” approach to the personal and communal dimension fosters their experience of prayer as the outpouring of their relationship with God and deepens their faith.

If you want your young adults to go to Mass, talk with them about personal prayer and the value of praying together at Mass.

7. Faith Sharing:

As young adults search for a personal understanding of God, they must be able and encouraged to look for God’s presence in their lived experiences. Young adults should be assisted in naming their experience of a God who is active and present in their lives. God does not wait to be invited into the lives of young people. God takes the initiative and is present, but God waits to be identified or named. Many young adults need language to help them understand and express their experiences of God.

Parents and other caring, faith-filled adults can assist young adults in identifying God’s presence in their joys and sorrows, in their hopes and dreams and in their day-to-day lives. Of course, this requires that we have the language to name the presence of God in our own lives. We can ask our young adults where they experience God, where they pray best, where they feel joy and sorrow, for God is present there. And we can share our own experiences.

This faith sharing is a very important task because young people will never understand the Hebrew-Christian Scriptures until they can read the Scriptures of their own lives. Therein young adults experience the God who is always active and resent. And we should be open to having our own understanding of God challenged and perhaps deepened by our young adults’ experience of God.

If you want young adults to go to Mass, ask them questions about their faith life.

8. Compelling Adventure:

At the heart of their spiritual hunger is the desire of young adults for a compelling vision of life that provides a genuine sense of meaning and purpose-a noble adventure worthy of their commitment. The Catholic Church inherited the noble adventure and compelling mission of Jesus Christ-to build the reign of god-to make the world better for all people.

Participation in this spiritual adventure requires a community of companions also committed to thus mission-that is, the Church. There is also a need to celebrate this adventure regularly-that is, at Mass. At its best, liturgy is a spiritual drama that tells the story of Jesus and connects that story with building the reign here and now.

If you want your young adults to go to Mass, call them to a compelling adventure worthy of their lives.

You & Your Wife – Differences in Spiritual Lives

August 18, 2013 under Syllabus 2013-2014

Summary

You and your wife invariably have different views on all sorts of things. What if one of these differences is how you practice your faith? Perhaps one of you is Catholic and one is not. Perhaps one of you is very active and engaged with your faith, and the other is not as much. You still have to make it work as a couple. If you have children, you have to make it work for them too. How do you handle this potentially sensitive topic?

Objective

Spiritual intimacy in marriage is about more than just spending time in God’s Word. It’s about learning how to connect with your spouse through your faith. Often times, couples say that they “can’t connect with their spouse” because they’re not in the same place spiritually. But, there are small things you can do as a couple to become more like-minded in your spiritual walk. Whether you and your wife are of different religions, or just varying “degrees” of Catholic, explore ways to more effectively relate to your wife regarding your faith(s).

Bible Readings

1. 1 Corinthian 7:12-14,16

12 To the rest I say: if any brother has a wife who is an unbeliever, and she is willing to go on living with him, he should not divorce her; 13 and if any woman has a husband who is an unbeliever, and he is willing to go on living with her, she should not divorce her husband. 14 For the unbelieving husband is made holy through his wife, and the unbelieving wife is made holy through the brother. Otherwise your children would be unclean, whereas in fact they are holy. 16 For how do you know, wife, whether you will save your husband; or how do you know, husband, whether you will save your wife?

2. 2 Peter 1:5-11

5 For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, virtue with knowledge, 6 knowledge with self-control, self-control with endurance, endurance with devotion, 7 devotion with mutual affection, mutual affection with love. 8 If these are yours and increase in abundance, they will keep you from being idle or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. 9 Anyone who lacks them is blind and shortsighted, forgetful of the cleansing of his past sins. 10 Therefore, brothers, be all the more eager to make your call and election firm, for, in doing so, you will never stumble. 11 For, in this way, entry into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and savior Jesus Christ will be richly provided for you.

3. Luke 17:5-6

5 And the apostles said to the Lord, “Increase our faith.” 6 The Lord replied, “If you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you would say to [this] mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and planted in the sea,’ and it would obey you.

4. Romans 1:14-17

14 To Greeks and non-Greeks alike, to the wise and the ignorant, I am under obligation; 15 that is why I am eager to preach the gospel also to you in Rome. 16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel. It is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes: for Jew first, and then Greek. 17 For in it is revealed the righteousness of God from faith to faith; as it is written, “The one who is righteous by faith will live.”

Catechism Readings

1. Paragraph 1634

Difference of confession between the spouses does not constitute an insurmountable obstacle for marriage, when they succeed in placing in common what they have received from their respective communities, and learn from each other the way in which each lives in fidelity to Christ. But the difficulties of mixed marriages must not be underestimated. They arise from the fact that the separation of Christians has not yet been overcome. The spouses risk experiencing the tragedy of Christian disunity even in the heart of their own home. Disparity of cult can further aggravate these difficulties. Differences about faith and the very notion of marriage, but also different religious mentalities, can become sources of tension in marriage, especially as regards the education of children. The temptation to religious indifference can then arise.

2. Paragraph 1644

The love of the spouses requires, of its very nature, the unity and indissolubility of the spouses’ community of persons, which embraces their entire life: “so they are no longer two, but one flesh.” They “are called to grow continually in their communion through day-to-day fidelity to their marriage promise of total mutual self-giving.” This human communion is confirmed, purified, and completed by communion in Jesus Christ, given through the sacrament of Matrimony. It is deepened by lives of the common faith and by the Eucharist received together.

3. Paragraph 818-819

818 “However, one cannot charge with the sin of the separation those who at present are born into these communities [that resulted from such separation] and in them are brought up in the faith of Christ, and the Catholic Church accepts them with respect and affection as brothers . . . . All who have been justified by faith in Baptism are incorporated into Christ; they therefore have a right to be called Christians, and with good reason are accepted as brothers in the Lord by the children of the Catholic Church.”

819 “Furthermore, many elements of sanctification and of truth” are found outside the visible confines of the Catholic Church: “the written Word of God; the life of grace; faith, hope, and charity, with the other interior gifts of the Holy Spirit, as well as visible elements.” Christ’s Spirit uses these Churches and ecclesial communities as means of salvation, whose power derives from the fullness of grace and truth that Christ has entrusted to the Catholic Church. All these blessings come from Christ and lead to him, and are in themselves calls to “Catholic unity.”

Small Group Questions

1. In what ways is your own faith journey a solitary experience? A communal experience?

2. Do you and your wife have different levels of commitment to your faith? If so, how have you handled this? How have you handled your children’s faith formation?

Recommended Resources

1. http://www.focusonthefamily.com/marriage/strengthening_your_marriage/spiritual_intimacy/blending_two_spiritual_lives.aspx

2. http://www.sandiego.edu/interchurch/religiousdifferences/religiousdiffedu.htm

3. http://www.catholic.com/quickquestions/what-does-the-church-say-about-mixed-faith-marriage

4. http://foreverfamilies.byu.edu/Article.aspx?a=146

Accountability

1. If your wife and you are not “on the same page”, set aside some time to discuss this topic. The following are sample questions:

a. How important to each of us is our own religious faith?

b. How involved in religion do we want our child to be?

c. How involved does each of us want to be in our child’s religious formation?

2. Related to the above, write down a list of the five most important religious or spiritual beliefs that you have in common with your wife. After each of you have composed your lists, share them with one another. How are the lists similar or different? Are there any surprises? If so, why?

Author(s)

Steve Frazer

Included Resources

1. FAITH AND MARRIAGE — WHEN SPOUSES HAVE DIFFERENT BELIEFS
BY: DONNA ERICKSON COUCH, M.A.
http://www.americancatholic.org/Newsletters/EDC/preview.aspx?id=231

After the romantic dust of my marriage settled, the fundamental questions of life surfaced dramatically when my closest friend was killed in a car accident. As I grappled with grief, my husband, Dana, comforted me as best he could. When I talked, however, about my need for God and church (I had drifted away from my Catholic faith), he was silent. Eventually he told me that, while he didn’t mind if I wanted religion again, he would not participate.

About 10 years into our marriage, I not only forged my way back to my faith alone, but also embarked on a spiritual quest that changed my life. Through years of confusion and struggle, I prayed and suffered in silence as I tried to reconcile my simultaneous love for God and for my nonparticipant husband. I worried about my role in Dana’s salvation and agonized over how to raise our children in the faith by myself.

Nagging questions plagued me: Why had this happened? Would God come between us? Was there anyone else like me in the community? Many years passed until, with the help of my studies in faith development, interpersonal communication and mysticism, I finally made peace with the uncertainties. These rather different topics resonated with me at an opportune time, and I received four transformative insights:

1. After a few years married, it’s common to experience a spiritual awakening.

The richness of Catholicism often doesn’t resonate until long after the wedding day. Upon completion of Confirmation class or during college, many churchgoers drift away from their practice of the faith. When thoughts turn to marriage, faith is frequently downplayed or discarded by those with limited adolescent or childhood views of faith. We may allow the naïve presumption that “love is all you need” to prevail. Religious practice becomes low or sometimes not even on the priority list.

Later, perhaps after a child or two, it’s common to experience an awakening, a need for God and community again. Frequently, those who return are surprised to discover a treasury of meaning in their original faith. Along with the elation of this breakthrough, however, may linger thoughts about the negative effects this may have on significant relationships. Does God come between people?

2. Authentic spirituality isn’t divisive.

As my inner life grew and I couldn’t share it with Dana, I felt an increasing distance developing between us. When I tried to describe my feelings to a friend, he quoted me the words of Jesus, “I have not come to bring peace, but a sword….and one’s foes will be members of one’s own household” (Matthew 10:34-36).

Though discouraged, I nonetheless pressed on and, with the help of prayer and a spiritual director, found deeper meaning in this biblical passage. I learned that, even though the incompatible beliefs we hold about God can indeed feel insurmountable, time and maturity quell the fear. Like with marriage, when we commit to God for the long haul, it’s natural to experience times of tension.

Perseverance matters most when it comes to love and provides the backbone of authentic spirituality. This awareness led to yet another related insight: All expressions of love are expressions of divine love. As our capacity for God’s love increases, so does our ability to love others. Paradoxically, my deep love for God empowered me to love Dana on an even deeper level. In the end, the “sword” of God’s love actually keeps us together.

3. The inner journey is a solitary journey into God.

In another Scripture passage, Jesus says that there is no marriage in heaven (Mark 12:25). This was in response to the Pharisees when they questioned him about the eternal consequences of multiple marriages.

If we can imagine this concept as a blueprint for the spiritual journey, an important insight is revealed: While there are many companions on the outer journey, no one may walk the inner path with us. While we can try to describe our personal relationships with God, no one else—not even those to whom we are wed—may share those experiences completely.

God calls each of us into a type of “mystical marriage” which demands that we forsake all others. No one escapes the rigors of the solitary inner journey. Those of us who walk in faith without our spouses have the opportunity of learning this sooner and in a slightly different way.

4. All relationships are mirrors of the divine relationship.

Admittedly, we have a need to share what is deep inside and we long for someone to understand our zeal for God. Fortunately, an “inner landscape” reverberates throughout creation and is communicated through the many people we call friends and intimates. All of our relationships, not just with those who share our faith walk, teach us about God.

Can we see and hear the divine in everyone? Equipped with a bigger vision, we can welcome the challenges of living with those who, without words, can teach us about the subtleties and whispers of God’s presence. Meanwhile, spiritual directors and friends can help us process the complexities of relationship with God. Frequently, others serve this need better than the ones with whom we live.

If you find yourself in the middle of a spiritual awakening, while simultaneously married to someone not on the same page, you can take heart. The challenge of living an intentional, God-centered life provides an opportunity to experience what it means to fall in love again and again—with your spouse, your faith and the beloved Holy One.

When God means something different to your spouse, it’s not the end of the world but rather the starting point for a profound encounter with love’s sacred mysteries.

What advice do you have for an “unequally yoked” marriage?

http://family.custhelp.com/app/answers/detail/a_id/25920/~/what-advice-do-you-have-for-an-%22unequally-yoked%22-marriage%3F

Here are a few principles to keep in mind as you face the daily challenge of living with a mate who doesn’t share your deepest spiritual commitments:

1) Be patient. Try to remember that God loves your spouse even more than you do. He may be taking your partner on a spiritual journey that you know nothing about. He may choose to use you in the process, but He doesn’t need your help. So don’t play the role of the Holy Spirit. Stay in prayer and trust the Lord to do what He wants to do.

2) Don’t stand in the way. While perfection isn’t possible or even necessary, your behavior can attract or repel your spouse where spiritual things are concerned. You’re living out what you’re experiencing with God. Is it appealing? Is your relationship with Christ making you a more enjoyable person to live with – or just a more religious one?

3) Be authentic. You should not only share your faith with your spouse, but your concerns as well. In other words, don’t be afraid to reveal your personal weaknesses. It would be hypocritical to pretend that you’re not worried when you really are, or that you don’t have doubts when you really do. Your transparency can be especially healing if your mate has felt – accurately or not – that spirituality has become a competition in your marriage. The spouse who struggles with faith issues needs a “safe” and gentle partner to come home to. A holier-than-thou approach is sure to deepen the divide – not only between your partner and yourself, but also between your partner and God.

4) Stay balanced. There’s no doubt about the importance of faith. But it’s possible to lose a healthy perspective when you’re worried about your spouse’s spiritual welfare. You can’t be too devoted to Christ, but overspiritualization and hyper-religiosity will hurt your efforts as much as falling into the opposite error of apathy.

5) Examine the reasons. Take time to explore and understand the underlying reasons for your spouse’s skepticism. What was his religious experience as a child? Was his faith nurtured or hindered? Was his parents’ faith real and meaningful or a hypocritical chore? The Bible is clear: we’re not authorized to judge others (Matthew 7:1). Sometimes in marriage we’re prone to judge because of what we know – or think we know – about our spouses. Only God can see the individual heart.

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Do We Really Know Enough About Our Faith?

August 18, 2013 under Syllabus 2013-2014

Summary

We are Catholic Christians, but do we really know what that means? Can we explain what that means to others, or even ourselves? Can we defend our faith?

Objective

Explore what the Bible and Church say about defending the faith. It is the responsibility of each of us as practicing Catholics to be properly Catechized. Understand some techniques to increase your knowledge of your faith. Discuss the question of why be catholic. Be prepared to defend the faith, and answer our friends and family of other faiths with respect and humility.

Bible Readings

1. 1 Peter 3:15-16

15 “Always be ready to give an explanation to anyone who asks you for a reason for your hope, 16 but do it with gentleness and reverence, keeping your conscience clear, so that, when you are maligned, those who defame your good conduct in Christ may themselves be put to shame.”

2. Matthew 10:16-20

16 “Behold, I am sending you like sheep in the midst of wolves; so be shrewd as serpents and simple as doves. 17 But beware of people, for they will hand you over to courts and scourge you in their synagogues, 18 and you will be led before governors and kings for my sake as a witness before them and the pagans. 19 When they hand you over, do not worry about how you are to speak or what you are to say. You will be given at that moment what you are to say. 20 For it will not be you who speak but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you.”

3. Luke 12:8-9

8 “I tell you, everyone who acknowledges me before others the Son of Man will acknowledge before the angels of God. 9 But whoever denies me before others will be denied before the angels of God.”

4. Matthew 28:18-20

18 Then Jesus approached and said to them, “All power in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age. “

Catechism Readings

1. Paragraph 186

From the beginning, the apostolic Church expressed and handed on her faith in brief formula normative for all. But already very early on, the Church also wanted to gather the essential elements of her faith into organic and articulated summaries, intended especially for candidates for Baptism:

This synthesis of faith was not made to accord with human opinions, but rather what was of the greatest importance was gathered from all the Scriptures, to present the one teaching of the faith in its entirety. And just as the mustard seed contains a great number of branches in a tiny grain, so too this summary of faith encompassed in a few words the whole knowledge of the true religion contained in the Old and the New Testaments.

2. Paragraph 95

“It is clear therefore that, in the supremely wise arrangement of God, sacred Tradition, Sacred Scripture and the Magisterium of the Church are so connected and associated that one of them cannot stand without the others. Working together, each in its own way, under the action of the one Holy Spirit, they all contribute effectively to the salvation of souls.”

3. Paragraph 856

“The missionary task implies a respectful dialogue with those who do not yet accept the Gospel. Believers can profit from this dialogue by learning to appreciate better “those elements of truth and grace which are found among peoples, and which are, as it were, a secret presence of God.” They proclaim the Good News to those who do not know it, in order to consolidate, complete, and raise up the truth and the goodness that God has distributed among men and nations, and to purify them from error and evil “for the glory of God, the confusion of the demon, and the happiness of man.”

Small Group Questions

1. How did you learn about your faith? How do you keep learning?

2. If you are Catholic, why? If not, why not?

3. What are some reasons to be Catholic?

4. Have you had to defend or shared your faith? If so, please explain.

Recommended Resources

1. https://www.ewtn.com/faith/teachings/index.htm (Teachings of the Catholic faith)

2. http://www.catholicscomehome.org/ (For Catholics and non-Catholics)

3. http://www.catholic.com/ (Catholic Answers website)

4. “A Pocket Guide to Catholic Apologetics” By Patrick Madrid, published by Our Sunday Visitor

Accountability

1. Spend some quiet time this week following up on the resources shared here.

2. Do at least one thing to increase you knowledge of the faith and what the church teaches such as listen to “Catholic Answers” from 6:00 PM – 8:00 PM on Sacred Heart Radio (EWTN Radio), or spend some time reading from the Catechism of the Catholic Church.

3. Pray for opportunities and the gifts of the Holt Spirit to share and defend the faith.

Author(s)

Steve Frazer (updated from material from Michael Copfer and Tony Heekin)

Included Resources

1. “CHRISTIAN, YES… BUT WHY CATHOLIC?” By Rev. JOSEPH M. ESPER, This Rock Magazine October 1999 and at http://archive.catholic.com/thisrock/1999/9910fea1.asp

Summary of his 10 Reasons of Why to be Catholic (Description of each item is available at the link above):

(1) Only the Catholic Church can trace its roots back to Christ Himself.

(2) The Eucharist—the Real Presence of Christ—is not found in Protestant churches.

(3) Unlike other Christians, Catholics have a fully sacramental understanding of God’s saving activity.

(4) Because of the Church’s magisterium, Catholics have the assurance that their beliefs are divinely revealed truths, not human interpretations and opinions.

(5) The Catholic Church, more than any other, gives fitting honor to the Mother of God.

(6) More than any other Christian religion, Catholicism takes Scripture seriously.

(7) The Church has survived and even thrived for almost two thousand years, in spite of every form of persecution, opposition, and difficulty.

(8) Of all Christian religions, Catholicism has the most accurate and complete understanding of human nature.

(9) Catholicism reflects the nature of heaven more accurately than any other religion.

(10) Because it is rooted in, but also transcends, time and history, the Church is able to help its members discover and live by God’s unchanging truth.

2. Eight Good Reasons for Being Catholic by Richard Rohr, O.F.M., and Joseph Martos

http://www.americancatholic.org/Newsletters/CU/ac0888.asp

Many of us who are older and who grew up in the Church before the Second Vatican Council never seriously faced the question, “Why be Catholic?” Not being Catholic was almost unthinkable for us, as unthinkable as not being American.

Yet today, many people are in fact asking the question, “Why be Catholic?” They ask that question when their parish liturgy becomes intolerably boring, when they disagree with the pope or bishops on social issues, when they divorce and remarry and are told that they can’t receive Communion. Often the question is, “Why remain Catholic?”

Following Vatican II, Catholics rightly rethought the narrow approach they had taken with the belief that outside the Church there is no salvation. They broadened the idea of salvation so that it could embrace God’s love for all Christians, and indeed all persons of good faith.

If good people of other religious persuasions can be saved, then why be—or remain—Catholic?

The answer is Catholicism’s rich 2,000-year tradition of living the gospel. And this tradition is a “wisdom tradition.” Unlike some of the younger Churches which sprang up after the Protestant Reformation and often splintered into further divisions, Catholicism has maintained unity and diversity over the course of 20 centuries. It embraces the wisdom of the ancient world, the Middle Ages and modern times.

We can summarize the wisdom of the Catholic tradition under eight headings. Each of these values represents not only a challenge but also a good reason for being Catholic.

1. An optimistic view of creation

There is an old poem that reads: “Wherever the Catholic sun does shine, There’s music, laughter and good red wine. At least, I’ve always found it so: Benedicamus Domino!”

The last line is Latin for “Let us bless the Lord!” And this poem captures a very basic Catholic sensibility: that creation is good. It represents God’s wisdom as God looked out on the world just after its creation and pronounced it “very good” (Genesis 1:31).

From time to time some Christians have not believed in the full goodness of creation. Early Gnostics and other “super-spiritual” groups felt that the material world was bad—but they were regarded as heretics by the majority of the Christians. In the Middle Ages some monks thought that sex was sinful—but the Church replied by affirming the sacramentality of marriage. A few centuries ago Catholic puritans (called Jansenists) condemned all worldliness and sensuality—but the Church officially rejected their teaching.

Many of us who come from northern European backgrounds (especially Irish and German) inherited this Jansenistic negativity anyway. Priests, nuns and others who shaped attitudes often portrayed sexual misconduct as the worst possible sin. As Americans we also adopted a good deal of puritanism from our Protestant neighbors. Our immigrant grandparents didn’t want to appear less moral than the people around them!

The older and larger Catholic tradition, however, has Mediterranean roots. Palestinians and Greeks, Italians and French, Spanish and Portuguese have generally been more comfortable with their bodies than northern Europeans. Peasants and poor people—most “Catholic countries” even today are poor—have always been among those who best appreciate the good things that nature has to offer. Food and drink, sex and children are the simple but most basic pleasures that life can give us. They are, after all, gifts from God intended for our enjoyment when wisely used.

This is why Catholicism is fundamentally sacramental. A sacrament is a sign of God’s goodness to us. Catholic wisdom says that the world and everything in it is a gift from God and a sign of God. The seven sacraments we celebrate in church use water and oil, bread and wine, and human touch as signs of God’s graciousness. Catholics see God shining through all of creation, and so they use the gifts of creation in their most important rituals. Thus Catholics are very comfortable bringing sculpture, painting, stained-glass windows, music, drama and other elements of the created world into their worship.

2. A universal vision

The original meaning of the word catholic is “universal.” The Church was first called catholic in ancient times after the entire Roman Empire had been converted to Christianity. The first universal Church council met in Nicaea in the year 325, and in similar councils the world’s bishops formulated the Church’s catholic faith. The summary of that worldwide faith is the Nicene Creed, which we say at Mass every Sunday.

The Catholic Church still has a worldwide faith, and the Church’s vision is still universal. Pope John Paul II travels every year to meet Catholics around the world. The Pope’s vision and the Church’s vision stretch beyond national boundaries. Wherever the pope goes he is greeted by Catholics—our brothers and sisters in the Lord.

The Catholic Church is not a national Church. It is one of the few truly international institutions in the world today. The Catholic Church is also a multicultural Church. It is not just European and American but also Latino and African and Asian. People of every race and culture embrace the Catholic faith and are embraced by the universal Church.

Because the Church is universal, it calls us to a universal vision. As the world gets smaller every year, we need to regard everyone in it as our neighbor. Our faith is already larger than most of us realize, challenging our narrowness and preparing us for global citizenship. The pastoral letters of the U.S. bishops on peacemaking and on economic justice seek to promote this global outlook.

If we are truly Catholic, we must look at the world and all people in it from God’s perspective, and not from a nationalistic or ethnocentric point of view. The Catholic vision, when fully lived, reflects God’s concern for the entire human family.

3. A holistic outlook

The Church has always been concerned with holiness. At times in the past people have equated holiness with becoming a plaster saint, aloof from others and abstracted from life. Today we realize that holiness is wholeness. And if we look at the Catholic past, we see that this wholeness has always been the ideal.

Catholicism has never said you need to be a secluded monk or a cloistered nun to be holy. When we look at the Church’s calendar of saints, we see fishermen and farmers, husbands and wives, rich and poor, soldiers and scholars, even kings and queens honored there. Everyone is called to achieve his/her fullest potential, to be a truly whole and holy person.

This holistic spirituality is very rewarding, but it is also very demanding. Catholic holiness is not a Jesus-and-me attitude. It’s not enough to go to Church on Sunday and leave the rest of your life unchanged. True holiness requires a conversion of the whole person, a transformation of the total personality, a concern for bodily as well as spiritual health, and a balance between prayer and action. This may require a conversion of our lifestyle, no matter where we live or what we do for a living.

4. Personal growth

The Catholic vision of human potential begins with conversion—a conversion that is ongoing. It sees life as a process of continuous conversion and growth. There is no one moment when a Catholic claims to be “saved,” as fundamentalists do. The stories of the saints show that they continuously strove for holiness. Even the Catholic devotion known as the Stations of the Cross suggests that the Christian life is a process, a journey that goes through stages, introducing us to different challenges, pitfalls and personalities along the way. Those who persevere in fidelity and trust enter more deeply into God’s life.

Fortunately, our salvation and our happiness do not depend on us alone. God is with us and lovingly takes the initiative in offering us salvation and calling us to holiness. This is the meaning of grace. Grace is God’s invitation and power reaching into us. But we have to open ourselves to God in order to be filled with the Spirit. We have to cooperate with grace.

Curiously, our cooperation is not so much a “doing” as a “not doing.” The wisdom of the saints is that they stopped long enough to listen to God in their hearts and let God tell them how to be truly happy. Growth in the Spirit, growth in spiritual perfection (as we used to call it), is the same as growing in Christ. It means surrendering our own shortsightedness about what we can be and entering into the process of becoming like Christ.

Paradoxically, personal fulfillment means abandoning ourselves and putting others first. In the Catholic tradition, ultimate satisfaction is promised to those who give up their desire for self-satisfaction. This is part of the meaning of crucifixion. The cross leads to resurrection, to new life. When we let go of ourselves, our lives become filled with grace. The lives of St. Francis of Assisi, Pope John XXIII and Mother Teresa of Calcutta radiate a grace that people of all religious traditions admire.

5. Social transformation

Society has been transformed again and again by Christianity. Jesus proclaimed the coming of God’s Kingdom, and the Church has tried again and again to make the Kingdom real. The Church has always been concerned for human betterment.

In ancient Rome the Church protested against gladiator fights and other forms of killing for sport. In the Middle Ages, prophetic voices in the Church were raised to defend the peasants against the tyranny of the nobles. Monasteries were the first hospitals for the sick and the first hotels for weary pilgrims. The Church has always cared for widows and orphans. It has fought against slavery, against the dehumanization of factory workers and against the exploitation of migrant laborers. In the 1960’s Catholics marched for civil rights, and today they march for the right to life in its many forms as well as for many other social causes.

This concern for the poor and the underprivileged springs directly from the Catholic understanding of holistic growth and universal salvation. God wants everyone to reach full potential as a human being created in God’s image. This means first having basic human needs met and then growing to full maturity in Christ through meeting the needs of others. The gospel is a message to be shared at every level of human life, and the good news is that God’s power is available to redeem the world.

Accepting the Catholic vision means never accepting things the way they are. People are always hurting and suffering oppression. People are always needing to be healed and set free. But to stop much of the pain and hurt, society itself has to be transformed. Being Catholic means standing with those social reformers who have always wanted to change the world, making it more like God’s Kingdom.

6. A communal spirit

To a great extent, we in America have lost the Catholic sense of community. Our large parishes are often very impersonal; at Sunday Mass most people feel more like an anonymous audience than a faith community.

The reason for this is that we Catholics have bought into the American myths of rugged individualism and middle-class success. We believe that we have to make it on our own and that, if we are successful, we should have our own separate houses , our own private cars, and all the appliances to live comfortably by ourselves.

This individualism and self-centeredness is disastrous for community. It is not the ideal taught us by our Catholic tradition. The Christian way of living is communitarian. Early Christians were so connected to one another that St. Paul called each community a “body of Christ.” When the Church grew larger, some Spirit-led Christians left the cities to live together in the countryside. They worked and prayed together in what were then called monasteries. Today we might call them Christian communes.

Monasteries were centers of Christian living all around Europe in the Middle Ages. In time, community-minded Christians discovered other ways of joining their lives together even in cities. Usually these communities focused on some apostolic work such as caring for the sick, the homeless or the uneducated. That’s the origin of today’s religious orders.

The peculiarly Catholic gift to the Church is community. Protestantism broke away from the tradition of monasteries and religious orders. This is not to say religious orders are the only way of achieving a communal spirit within the Catholic and Protestant traditions. Indeed, in many cases, Catholics can learn much from the degree of “fellowship” achieved in numerous Protestant communions. However, Catholic theology—if not always our practice—challenges us to see the Church as community.

Today, when many of our traditional orders have grown to institutional proportions, Catholics are searching for new forms of communal life. Many in religious orders are moving into smaller, more personal living arrangements. Prayer groups, spiritual movements and base communities are all attempts to revive this Catholic charism in a modern setting. In our individualistic society, there is a felt need for this gift of community.

7. A profound sense of history

The Catholic Church has been around for a long time—nearly 20 centuries. That’s four or five times the age of the oldest Protestant denominations, and 10 times as old as the United States. Belonging to a Church with that sort of history gives us a unique historical perspective. At least, it should!

Too often we as Americans live in the immediacy of the present. We forget that most of the problems we face today as individuals and as a society have been addressed by the Church for centuries and centuries. How quickly we forget that the English once were our enemies, as were the Germans and the Japanese even more recently. How quickly we forget the conversion of Russia some 1,000 years ago, and that the majority of people who live under communism are Christians. When we forget that most people who would be killed by our nuclear attack are our sisters and brothers in Christ, it is easy to picture them as our enemies. Yet our history shows that those who were once considered enemies can become friends.

In its 2,000 years, the Church has lived under kings and emperors, in democracies and dictatorships, under capitalism and communism. The Catholic perspective on history shows that we do not have to fear any political or economic system. The gospel can be lived in any place, at any time, under any conditions. Our strong sense of roots and continuity with a rich Catholic past is certainly a value to be cherished.

8. A respect for human knowledge

After philosophy (which dates back to pre-Christian times) the oldest intellectual discipline in the world is theology. Catholicism has never been a matter of blind faith. One of the earliest definitions of theology is “faith seeking understanding.” The Catholic ideal is to respect reason and promote understanding.

When barbarian tribes swept across Europe and caused the fall of the Roman Empire, monks carefully copied fragile manuscripts so that ancient science would not be lost. Even in the “Dark Ages” that bred the anti-intellectualism of the Inquisition, Christian scholars were founding schools which eventually became the great universities of Europe. Despite the obtuseness of the Church officials who condemned Galileo, modern science grew out of the efforts of Christians to understand the universe that God created.

St. Augustine tried to understand all of history from the perspective of Catholic faith. St. Thomas Aquinas studied all medieval science before writing his great Summa Theologica, a four-volume “summary” of theology. Other Catholic scholars advanced medicine, law, astronomy and biology. Catholics believe that if they are firmly grounded in their faith, they do not have to feel threatened by any scientific knowledge. Teilhard de Chardin integrated evolution into his Christian understanding of the cosmos.

This openness to human knowledge is not true of all Christians today. Some fundamentalists close their eyes against the evidence for evolution. Others insist so strongly on the truth of the Bible that they have little respect for what psychology and sociology can teach us. Some Catholics fall into this same trap regarding Church dogmas. But the broader Catholic wisdom is that all truth comes from God, whether it is revealed or discovered.

Our heritage points to Christ

To be truly Catholic therefore means to enter into the Catholic wisdom tradition. It means appreciating all of creation and looking at the world from a universal perspective. It means adopting a holistic outlook that encourages personal growth and social transformation. It means building community and learning from history. It means not being afraid to ask questions about faith, about the Church, or about the world in which we live.

Yet all this heritage is pointless unless it also points us to Christ, and to living the gospel. The reason for accepting the Catholic tradition is to learn better from our rich past how to live our faith more deeply today.

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Catholicism Today – How Do We Respond to Attacks Against Our Faith?

August 18, 2013 under Syllabus 2013-2014

Summary

It seems that Catholicism is being attacked in the secular world in an increasing amount. How do you respond to these challenges? Discus how to articulate and defend the Catholic position on important issues facing us today. Use these opportunities to build the Kingdom of God and defend your faith.

Objective

We are constantly bombarded with the messages that Catholicism is old fashioned and out of touch with the “modern culture”. The Catholic Church is the leading voice in key issues such as sanctity of life, definition of marriage, contraception/natural family planning, religious freedom challenges and other important issues. Use this session to explore and these and how we can effectively and courageously speak out on the Catholic perspective. Explore who among attending Fathers has recently experienced challenges to the Catholic view on key topics and how they responded. Do we have the knowledge and courage to as Pope Francis said at World Youth Day to “make a mess” or “shake it up”.

Bible Readings

1. 1 Peter 3:15-16

15 “Always be ready to give an explanation to anyone who asks you for a reason for your hope, 16 but do it with gentleness and reverence, keeping your conscience clear, so that, when you are maligned, those who defame your good conduct in Christ may themselves be put to shame.”

2. Romans 1:19-23

19For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. 20For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. 21For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22 Claiming to be wise, they became fools, 23and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things.

3. Philippians 1:7

7 “you who are all partners with me in grace, both in my imprisonment and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel.”

4. Psalms 119

46 “I will speak openly of your decrees without fear even before kings.”

5. Mathew 10:16-20

16 “Behold, I am sending you like sheep in the midst of wolves; so be shrewd as serpents and simple as doves. 17 But beware of people, for they will hand you over to courts and scourge you in their synagogues, 18 and you will be led before governors and kings for my sake as a witness before them and the pagans. 19 When they hand you over, do not worry about how you are to speak or what you are to say. You will be given at that moment what you are to say. 20 For it will not be you who speak but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you.”

6. Luke 12:8-9

8 “I tell you, everyone who acknowledges me before others the Son of Man will acknowledge before the angels of God. 9 But whoever denies me before others will be denied before the angels of God.”

7. John 6:67-69

67 Jesus then said to the Twelve, “Do you also want to leave?” 68 Simon Peter answered him, “Master, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. 69 We have come to believe and are convinced that you are the Holy One of God.”

8. Mathew 16:18

18 “And so I say to you, you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it.”

Catechism Readings

1. Paragraph 849

The missionary mandate. “Having been divinely sent to the nations that she might be ‘the universal sacrament of salvation,’ the Church, in obedience to the command of her founder and because it is demanded by her own essential universality, strives to preach the Gospel to all men”: “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you; and Lo, I am with you always, until the close of the age.”

2. Paragraph 856

“The missionary task implies a respectful dialogue with those who do not yet accept the Gospel. Believers can profit from this dialogue by learning to appreciate better “those elements of truth and grace which are found among peoples, and which are, as it were, a secret presence of God.” They proclaim the Good News to those who do not know it, in order to consolidate, complete, and raise up the truth and the goodness that God has distributed among men and nations, and to purify them from error and evil “for the glory of God, the confusion of the demon, and the happiness of man.”

3. Paragraphs 905

Lay people also fulfill their prophetic mission by evangelization, “that is, the proclamation of Christ by word and the testimony of life.” For lay people, “this evangelization . . . acquires a specific property and peculiar efficacy because it is accomplished in the ordinary circumstances of the world. This witness of life, however, is not the sole element in apostolate; the true apostle in on the lookout for occasions of announcing Christ by word, either to unbelievers…or to the faithful.”

Small Group Questions

1. Have you been engaged in discussions about the Catholic position on key social issues in the world today? How did you respond?

2. What is it about being Catholic faith that inspires you to defend your faith?

3. Are there any ways that your team might be able to improve your knowledge of the Catholic faith and teaching on critical issues in the world today so you could defend it?

Recommended Resources

1. How to Defend the Faith Without Raising Your Voice: Civil Responses to Catholic Hot Button Issues By Ivereigh Austen

How to Defend the Faith without Raising Your Voice is a new sort of apologetics. It is for those moments when you are thrust into the spotlight as the token Catholic whether the spotlight is simply at the office water cooler or whether it is front and center at the in-laws Thanksgiving celebration. How to Defend the Faith without Raising Your Voice gives Catholics a fresh way of explaining the Church’s teaching on contentious issues humanly, compellingly, and succinctly.

Ten Principles of Civil Communication

Here are the ten principles which helped Catholic Voices develop the mind-set needed for this work:

Look for the positive intention behind the criticism.

Shed light, not heat.

People won’t remember what you said as much as how you made them feel.

Show, don’t tell.

Think in triangles.

Be positive.

Be compassionate.

Check your facts, but avoid robotics.

It’s not about you.

Witnessing, not winning.

2. http://www.usccb.org/issues-and-action/faithful-citizenship/upload/forming-consciences-for-faithful-citizenship.pdf

3. http://www.catholic.com/magazine/articles/seven-principles-of-catholic-social-teaching

4. http://www.catholic.com//

5. Catholic Answers is great resource to for all things Catholic

Accountability

1. Take an action to increase your knowledge of this faith this week and church teaching on social issues.

2. Read How to Defend the Faith Without Raising Your Voice: Civil Responses to Catholic Hot Button Issues

3. Listen to “Catholic Answers Live” on Sacred Heart Radio from 6:00-8:00pm M-Fr and/or Al Kresta from 4-6 PM

Author(s)

Mike Suter utilizing some previous material from Dan Lape and Michael Copfer

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Do you believe in miracles?

August 20, 2012 under Syllabus 2012-2013

Summary

No, we’re not talking about Al Michael’s famous call of the 1980 Olympic Games when the USA beat Russian in hockey. Well, then again, maybe we are. Miracles are happening every day. Some small and some not so small.

Objective

The bible is full of miracles from both the old and New Testament. The important thing about miracles is not the greatness of the event. Our Lord wants us to keep in mind that miracles need to be heaven sent and we shouldn’t need them to validate our belief in him. He also warns of false prophets in the final days and to be wary of the things they say and do.

That being said, let’s thank our Lord for all we have and not take things for granted. There are miracles happening every day in our lives. The miracle of birth, the miracle of communion, the miracle of a new day dawning, and the miracle of skyline’s great taste. Just want to make sure you’re reading. Identifying these things as miracles from our Lord help keep us focused on him and the great miracle and promise of everlasting life.

Bible Readings

1. John 3:2

The same came to Jesus by night, and said unto him, Rabbi, we know that thou art a teacher come from God: for no man can do these miracles that thou doest, except God be with him.

2. Matthew 10:1

And when he had called unto him his twelve disciples, he gave them power against unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal all manner of sickness and all manner of disease.

3. Matthew 24:24

For there shall arise false Christs, and false prophets, and shall shew great signs and wonders; insomuch that, if it were possible, they shall deceive the very elect.

Catechism Readings

1. Paragraph 548

The signs worked by Jesus attest that the Father has sent him. They invite belief in him. To those who turn to him in faith, he grants what they ask. So miracles strengthen faith in the One who does his Father’s works; they bear witness that he is the Son of God. But his miracles can also be occasions for “offence”; they are not intended to satisfy people’s curiosity or desire for magic. Despite his evident miracles some people reject Jesus; he is even accused of acting by the power of demons.

2. Paragraphs 434

Jesus’ Resurrection glorifies the name of the Savior God, for from that time on it is the name of Jesus that fully manifests the supreme power of the “name which is above every name”. The evil spirits fear his name; in his name his disciples perform miracles, for the Father grants all they ask in this name.

Small Group Questions

  1. What miracles have you witnessed this week?
  2. What are some things you have taken for granted that can now be looked at differently?
  3. Have you ever asked for anything in “Jesus” name? If not, do so this week.
  4. Is it a miracle we are here at 6:03 every Friday?

Recommended Resources

  1. http://www.bible-verses-by-subject.info/bible-verses-by-topic-starting-with-m/bible-verses-about-miracles.htm
  2. http://catholiceducation.org/articles/apologetics/ap0048.html
  3. http://christiananswers.net/dictionary/miracle.html
  4. Al Michaels 1980 call of the miracle on ice
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QTev5pSuYLk

Accountability

  1. Really look at the weekend and the week ahead in a different light. Pray that Christ reveals to you the miracles of every day. Ask for his help and to help other in his name.
  2. Report back to your group next week and discuss what you saw.

Author(s)

David Karsten

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Getting Through Spiritual Dry Spells

August 20, 2012 under Syllabus 2012-2013

Summary

Ever feel like you are just going through the motions. Like you are going to church because you know it’s right, but it just isn’t making that special connection. How do you work your way out of it? What can you focus on to bring you back to a rewarding relationship with God and the church?

Objective

It seems like a lot of people go through spiritual dry spells. People sometimes feel apathetic about their relationship with God and/or feel like God’s voice is silent during a difficult time. The objective is to provide some practical tips for getting through times of spiritual dryness.

Bible Readings

1. Hebrews 11:6

And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.

2. Job 30:20

“I cry out to you, O God, but you do not answer; I stand up, but you merely look at me.

3. Matthew 8:26

He replied, “You of little faith, why are you so afraid?” Then he got up and rebuked the winds and the waves, and it was completely calm.

Catechism Readings

  1. Paragraph 2088

The first commandment requires us to nourish and protect our faith with prudence and vigilance, and to reject everything that is opposed to it. There are various ways of sinning against faith:

Voluntary doubt about the faith disregards or refuses to hold as true what God has revealed and the Church proposes for belief. Involuntary doubt refers to hesitation in believing, difficulty in overcoming objections connected with the faith, or also anxiety aroused by its obscurity. If deliberately cultivated doubt can lead to spiritual blindness.

  1. Paragraph 162

Faith is an entirely free gift that God makes to man. We can lose this priceless gift, as St. Paul indicated to St. Timothy: “Wage the good warfare, holding faith and a good conscience. By rejecting conscience, certain persons have made shipwreck of their faith.” To live, grow and persevere in the faith until the end we must nourish it with the word of God; we must beg the Lord to increase our faith; it must be “working through charity,” abounding in hope, and rooted in the faith of the Church.

Small Group Questions

  1. What do you do when you are going through a spiritual dry spell?
  2. Is there some activity, sacrament or inspirational book that helps you get back on track with your spiritual journey?
  3. Have you talked with a priest or spiritual advisor during this time? How has this been helpful?
  4. How has FathersTeam been helpful in this process? How can FT be improved in this regard?

Accountability

  1. Ask yourself – is there anything I am doing to block God’s voice? Take time to reflect on what you have been doing lately.
  2. Have you been praying, receiving the sacraments, going to Adoration etc.?
  3. Are you filling your life with other distractions?

Author(s)

Tony Heekin and updated by John Fahrmeier

Included Resources

From http://www.conversiondiary.com/2009/07/9-tips-for-spiritual-dry-spells.html

Make sure you’re not doing anything to block out God’s voice
– Is there specific sin in your life that is blocking you relationship with God?
– Are you holding a grudge against someone?

Keep praying (no, seriously, keep praying)
– Mix up your prayer life a bit. Add the rosary if you are not currently saying it. Pray with your spouse.
– A spiritual dry spell is not the time to start subtracting spiritual practices that you once felt called to do.

Receive the sacraments

– Increase the frequency with which you receive the sacraments of the Eucharist and Confession. As with prayer, it’s tempting to slack off on going to Mass or Confession if it doesn’t lead to an emotional experience, but the sacraments are channels of grace regardless of how we feel when we receive them.

Read inspiring spiritual books
Mother Teresa’s Secret Fire

In the Shadow of His Wings

Come Be My Light

He Leadeth Me

Finding God’s Will for You

10 Prayers God Always Says Yes To

Make sure there’s not a physical cause

-Though we always have free will to turn to God no matter what the circumstances (as I was recently reminded), I’ve found that if I’m staying up too late, constantly eating junk food, not exercising, pushing myself too hard, etc., I’m far more tempted to turn away from God than when I’m feeling good physically — and this alone can lead to spiritual dry spells.

Make sure you’re recharging your batteries
-This is similar to the above, but it’s so important yet so often overlooked that I think it’s worth addressing as a separate point. It is critically important to understand how you recharge your batteries, i.e. knowing what activities give you energy vs. what activities drain your energy.

Find a spiritual director
-Spiritual directors can help you work through questions like, “Am I doing something to block out God’s voice?”, “What could be the purpose for God’s silence in my life right now?”, “How can I keep praying when I feel so unmotivated?” etc.

Consider counseling

-If you think you might have serious unresolved issues in your life that are impacting your relationship with God, you may want to consider finding a Christian counselor to help you gain peace in those areas of your life.

Research the Christian understanding of spiritual dry spells

-If you’ve done all of the above and nothing is better, it may simply be that God is withholding spiritual consolation from you for a reason.

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Stages of Faith and Power

February 26, 2012 under Meeting Materials

Chris Pollock had referenced Stages of Faith and Power by Janet Hagberg during the presentation of Finding a Spiritual Advisor.

 

Here is a short excerpt:

We need all the stages of faith for full spiritual formation

The six stages of faith and the Wall that are highlighted in The Critical Journey are all important in our spiritual journey. Each one has a profound impact and role in our lives. For instance,

  • Stage One humbles us
  • Stage Two grounds us
  • Stage Three rewards us
  • Stage Four unsettles us
  • the Wall unmasks us
  • Stage Five transforms us
  • Stage Six transcends us
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Four ways to Encounter Jesus in the Mass

September 7, 2011 under Syllabus 2011-2012

Objective

Pay more attention during mass and learn to encounter Jesus

1. In the community

2. In His Word

3. Through the Priest

4. Through the Eucharist

When we learn how to “be on the lookout for Jesus Christ at Mass; when the Mass is no longer just a ritual that repeats the same old thing every time, but becomes an event through which we encounter Jesus Christ, then it will be anything but boring.

Bible Readings

1. 1 Cor. 11:23-26

For I received from the Lord what I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it, and said, ‘This is my body which is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.’ In the same way also the cup, after supper, saying, ‘This cup is the new covenant of my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.’ For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes”

2. Matthew. 5:23–24

Assemble on the Lord’s day, and break bread and offer the Eucharist; but first make confession of your faults, so that your sacrifice may be a pure one. Anyone who has a difference with his fellow is not to take part with you until he has been reconciled, so as to avoid any profanation of your sacrifice.

3. Luke 22:19

And he took bread, and when he had given thanks he broke it and gave it to them, saying, ‘This is my body which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me’.

Catechism Readings

1. Paragraph 1382

The Mass is at the same time, and inseparably, the sacrificial memorial in which the sacrifice of the cross is perpetuated and the sacred banquet of communion with the Lord’s body and blood. But the celebration of the Eucharistic sacrifice is wholly directed toward the intimate union of the faithful with Christ through communion. To receive communion is to receive Christ himself who has offered himself for us.

2. Paragraph 1378

Worship of the Eucharist.

In the liturgy of the Mass we express our faith in the real presence of Christ under the species of bread and wine by, among other ways, genuflecting or bowing deeply as a sign of adoration of the Lord. “The Catholic Church has always offered and still offers to the sacrament of the Eucharist the cult of adoration, not only during Mass, but also outside of it, reserving the consecrated hosts with the utmost care, exposing them to the solemn veneration of the faithful, and carrying them in procession.

Small Group Questions

1. What effort do you put in to understanding what is going on during Mass? You only get out of it what you put in.

2. Do you challenge your family to participate and be attentive during Mass?

Recommended Resources

1. The Mass: Four Encounters with Jesus That Will Change Your Life, Dr. Tom Curran

2. “The Holy Mass- The Testimony of Catalina” – Document is on the Father’s Team website

3. “The Lamb’s Supper – Scott Hahn

Accountability

1. Next time you attend Mass actively try to encounter Jesus through your fellow parishioners, in the readings, through the priest’s homily and through the Eucharist.

Author(s)

Tony Heekin

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Why Does God Allow Suffering?

September 7, 2011 under Syllabus 2011-2012

Summary

Some wonder how to reconcile the evil and suffering in the world with a God who is all-powerful and all-good. God really does care… He loves us.  He did not have to, but He proved it when He became one of us and took on our pain and suffering and sin. His death on the cross for you and for me is the greatest act of love ever performed. And it does not end there. But why? Why is there so much pain and suffering in the world? Why does God permit suffering?

Objective

To be called to suffering in this life is to be called into the mystery of Christ’s Passion and to cooperate in the redemption of mankind. 

Bible Readings

1. Romans 5:3-5

3 Not only so, but we[a] also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; 4 perseverance, character; and character, hope. 5 And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.

2. Romans 8:18

I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.

3. Romans 8:28

We know that in everything God works for good with those who love him, who are called according to his purpose.

4. Colossians 3:24

Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I complete what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the church.

5. 1 Corinthians 10:13

No trial has come to you but what is human. God is faithful and will not let you be tried beyond your strength; but with the trial he will also provide a way out, so that you may be able to bear it.

Catechism Readings

1. Paragraph 310

But why did God not create a world so perfect that no evil could exist in it? With infinite power God could always create something better. But with infinite wisdom and goodness God freely willed to create a world “in a state of journeying” towards its ultimate perfection. In God’s plan this process of becoming involves the appearance of certain beings and the disappearance of others, the existence of the more perfect alongside the less perfect, both constructive and destructive forces of nature. With physical good there exists also physical evil as long as creation has not reached perfection.

2. Paragraph 311

Angels and men, as intelligent and free creatures, have to journey toward their ultimate destinies by their free choice and preferential love. They can therefore go astray. Indeed, they have sinned. Thus has moral evil, incommensurably more harmful than physical evil, entered the world. God is in no way, directly or indirectly, the cause of moral evil. He permits it, however, because he respects the freedom of his creatures and, mysteriously, knows how to derive good from it:

For almighty God. . ., because he is supremely good, would never allow any evil whatsoever to exist in his works if he were not so all-powerful and good as to cause good to emerge from evil itself.

3. Paragraph 312

In time we can discover that God in his almighty providence can bring a good from the consequences of an evil, even a moral evil, caused by his creatures: “It was not you”, said Joseph to his brothers, “who sent me here, but God. . . You meant evil against me; but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive.” From the greatest moral evil ever committed – the rejection and murder of God’s only Son, caused by the sins of all men – God, by his grace that “abounded all the more”, brought the greatest of goods: the glorification of Christ and our redemption. But for all that, evil never becomes a good.

4. Paragraph 313

“We know that in everything God works for good for those who love him.”180 The constant witness of the saints confirms this truth:

St. Catherine of Siena said to “those who are scandalized and rebel against what happens to them”: “Everything comes from love, all is ordained for the salvation of man, God does nothing without this goal in mind.”181

St. Thomas More, shortly before his martyrdom, consoled his daughter: “Nothing can come but that that God wills. And I make me very sure that whatsoever that be, seem it never so bad in sight, it shall indeed be the best.”182

Dame Julian of Norwich: “Here I was taught by the grace of God that I should steadfastly keep me in the faith. . . and that at the same time I should take my stand on and earnestly believe in what our Lord shewed in this time – that ‘all manner [of] thing shall be well.'”183

5. Paragraph 314

We firmly believe that God is master of the world and of its history. But the ways of his providence are often unknown to us. Only at the end, when our partial knowledge ceases, when we see God “face to face”,184 will we fully know the ways by which – even through the dramas of evil and sin – God has guided his creation to that definitive sabbath rest185 for which he created heaven and earth.

Small Group Questions

1. Think about a situation where you or a loved one experienced pain and suffering. Looking back, was there even the slightest scenario in which some sort of good came about out as a result?

2. In what ways can you view suffering as a means in which God can work toward his plan or glory?

3. Has God ever used pain and suffering in your life to get your attention? What was he attempting to get across to you?

Recommended Resources

1. Article: Why Does God Allow Suffering? http://www.integratedcatholiclife.org/2011/07/bickerstaff-why-does-god-allow-suffering/

2. Book: “Why Suffer” by Mary Ann Budnik. http://www.scepterpublishers.org/product/index.php?FULL=312

3. Why Does God Let Us Suffer? (A Catholic Perspective) Archbishop Michael J. Sheehan

http://www.users.qwest.net/~dkturner/why9.html

4. Book: “The Problem of Pain”, C.S. Lewis

5. Book: “Grief Observed”, C.S. Lewis

6. Salvifici Doloris [On the Christian Meaning of Human Suffering], Pope John Paul II

7. Book: “Making Sense our of Suffering”, P. Kreeft

Accountability

1. Think about some ways in which a pain or hardship you are currently suffering could be used to help God fulfill some sort of purpose for good.

2. Think of any past situation in which you may have blamed God for your suffering. How does God’s allowing of free will and evil in the world fit into this picture?

3. This week, consider prayerfully asking God to reveal to you ways in which you can view suffering as a means of glorifying Him. Share any thoughts or experiences during your next small group meeting.

Author(s)

Graham Galloway

Included Resources

I offer you, Lord, my thoughts: to be fixed on you;
My words: to have you for their theme;
My actions: to reflect my love for you;
My sufferings: to be endured for your greater glory.

I want to do what you ask of me:
In the way you ask,
For as long as you ask,
Because you ask it.

Lord, enlighten my understanding,
Strengthen my will,
Purify my heart,
and make me holy.

Teach me to realize that this world is passing,
That my true future is the happiness of heaven,
That life on earth is short,
And the life to come eternal.

– from The Universal Prayer of Pope Clement XI

Why Does God Allow Suffering? – Karl Erickson

The unfolding tragedy in Japan is surely prompting many to ask hard questions such as why does a good God permit the evil of suffering? While I can’t do more than scratch the surface of such a deep question, we can certainly say what the answer is not. After every natural disaster resulting in tragic loss of life, some misguided people–e.g. Hillsboro Baptist Church–always insist that the earthquake, tsunami, etc. was a direct punishment from God. Sometimes, I think this serves as a personal coping mechanism, a way to make sense out of destructive chaos. In the case of the aforementioned church, though, I suspect that the motivation is darker in nature.

It’s a misleading and dangerous line of reasoning to pursue, however. Since we read in James 1:13 that God is not tempted by evil, nor does He tempt us, it would be impossible for Him to be the source of such suffering. This is simply an example of what the CCC calls “physical evil” as opposed to “moral evil”. The world is a complicated machine in which God does not constantly insert His hand when something is about to break and cause harm. He permits nature to run its course. To do otherwise, would be heaven, and we’re not there yet (except in Mass, as Scott Hahn might say).

Here’s a small part of what the Catholic Encyclopedia offers on the three different dimensions of evil. (I’m not sure I’ve ever actually heard of “metaphysical evil” before. It’s also not mentioned once in the entire Catechism of the Catholic Church.)

With regard to the nature of evil, it should be observed that evil is of three kinds — physical, moral, and metaphysical. Physical evil includes all that causes harm to man, whether by bodily injury, by thwarting his natural desires, or by preventing the full development of his powers, either in the order of nature directly, or through the various social conditions under which mankind naturally exists. Physical evils directly due to nature are sickness, accident, death, etc. Poverty, oppression, and some forms of disease are instances of evil arising from imperfect social organization. Mental suffering, such as anxiety, disappointment, and remorse, and the limitation of intelligence which prevents humans beings from attaining to the full comprehension of their environment, are congenital forms of evil each vary in character and degree according to natural disposition and social circumstances.

Are all types of pain and suffering, then, because of the Fall of Man? The simple answer is Yes. The choice of Adam and Eve, already created in the image of God, to disobey their Creator in a tragically misguided attempt to be “like God,” led to evil being allowed to enter the world, permanently changing every facet and dimension of our lives. With the barrier of sin now present between us and our Heavenly Father, however, God never gave up on mankind, but He continually sought to give us the means to seek and receive redemption and freedom from the sin. While the sin weakens us, the suffering may build spiritual strength and endurance.

The simple answer to Why does God allow suffering? is really impossible until we first have a solid understanding of the nature of sin and evil. Once that is understood, we can say that suffering allows us to become the people God created us to be, refined by fire as it were. As previously mentioned, God allows our broken world to run its course. When my grandmother lay dying in a coma some years ago in a small hospital room overlooking the brilliant fall tapestry of the Yakima Valley below, I remarked to my grandfather “that it wasn’t ever supposed to be this way.” By that statement, I was trying to say that God had other plans for us–even though his omniscient nature was fully aware that we would fail. If there was no free will, we could not truly say that we could independently love God; we would be automatons, machines. Likewise, suffering may also be tied to this free will. We are held accountable for our bad choices and decisions–sin being the worst.

Along our journey, it’s important to remember that every person we meet within our hectic daily schedules is someone for whom Christ’s blood was spilled, and, therefore, a fellow member or potential member, of the Body of Christ. As C.S. Lewis reminds us in The Weight of Glory, there aren’t “ordinary people.” We all have everlasting souls. We are familiar perhaps with the idea of redemptive suffering, offering our pains and struggles up to God. If we can apply this kind of internal reverence to our daily lives, we are offering these routine activities up to Christ. In this way, we are also acknowledging that we our identity is greater than what our daily life may trick us to believe. That is, our identity should not necessarily be tied so closely to our work or vocation. We are more than what we do from 8-5; our jobs should not define us. When we understand this, we are transforming the mundane to the eternal as we strive to live Paul’s words from 1 Corinthians 10:31: “whatever you do, do for the glory of God.”

Not only may suffering lead us to a closer union with Christ, but God can bring good out of the evils we face. In conclusion, here is a passage from Saint Thomas Aquinas’ masterpiece Summa Theologica. It’s also followed by a short quote from C.S. Lewis’ The Problem of Pain.

I answer that, It must be said that every evil in some way has a cause. For evil is the absence of the good, which is natural and due to a thing. But that anything fail from its natural and due disposition can come only from some cause drawing it out of its proper disposition. For a heavy thing is not moved upwards except by some impelling force; nor does an agent fail in its action except from some impediment… (Saint Thomas)

Pain hurts. That is what the word means. I am only trying to show that the old Christian doctrine of being made perfect through suffering is not incredible. To prove it palatable is beyond my design. (C.S. Lewis)

HOW SHOULD THE CHRISTIAN RESPOND TO PERSONAL SUFFERING?

“My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness.”
2 Corinthians 12:9a

Have you have been waging a battle against forces that threaten you and your family?  You need to be assured that the Savior who loves you and who died that you might live with Him throughout all eternity will give you the strength of faith to endure your ordeal of suffering.  You must claim the promise our Lord made to us through His Apostle Paul that He will not give you more than you can bear, “None of the trials which have come upon you is more than a human being can stand.  You can trust that God will not let you be put to the test beyond your strength, but with any trial will also provide a way out by enabling you to put up with it.” [1 Corinthians 10:13].  As you experience your trials I urge you to unite your suffering, both emotionally and physically, with the suffering of our Lord Jesus Christ and to take courage from the words of our late Pope who wrote that “God is always on the side of suffering” [Crossing the Threshold of Hope, Pope John Paul II, page 66].  God the Son’s love and mercy are demonstrated by the fact that He freely chose to suffer as the means of His plan of redemption for the salvation of mankind, as from the cross He spoke the words of Psalm 22:1, “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me,” the words of all those who suffer in this life.  Those very words are the proof that He chose to unite our suffering to His!  What greater demonstration could there be to the depth and sincerity of His love for us?  He loved us in His suffering to the end of His life’to His last breath as the Apostle John testifies in John 13:1, “having loved those who were his in the world, loved them to the end.”

Why would a just and loving God allow suffering?  When God created man to “know, love, and serve” Him, God desired a purity of love which cannot be exercised without the human freedom to choose to love or not to love [cf. Catechism of the Catholic Church # 1604].  With this freedom of choice to love God expressed in obedience of faith or not to love expressed in our disobedience comes the possibility of sin, and with the possibility of sin comes the resulting suffering which can lead to sickness, mental anguish, pain and even death.  God did not create evil.  Evil is the result of the willful turning away from God and His infinite love, but God did allow for the possibility of sin and the resulting evil so that the greatest of human good’genuine love, could be manifested in mankind.  The negative result of that freedom of choice is sadly, sin and suffering.

In the Old Testament Book of Job God exposes us to the incomprehensibility of suffering in that even the good and the innocent must endure suffering in this life as a result of sin in the world.  The full depth of the injustice of and gravity of the suffering of the innocent is fully revealed in the humanity of Jesus of Nazareth when God unites Himself to the suffering of man.  There is no more complete answer as to why a just God allows the innocent to suffer than the answer that is offered up to humanity in the saving work of Jesus Christ.  In addressing the question of human suffering in the document Salvifici Doloris [1984], Pope John Paul II writes “Christ does not explain in the abstract the reasons for suffering, but before all else he says: ‘Follow me!  Come!  Take part through your suffering in this work of saving the world, a salvation achieved through my suffering!  Through my cross!'” [Salvifici Doloris, 26].  In Jesus the Messiah, the dimension of the suffering of the innocent is revealed to be a redemptive suffering’a suffering transformed and redeemed through the cross of Christ.  Reflecting on this mystery John Paul II wrote, “Christ has opened His suffering to man…  Man, discovering through faith the redemptive suffering of Christ, also discovers in it his own sufferings; he rediscovers them through faith, enriched with a new content and meaning” [Salvifici Doloris, 20].

To be called to suffering in this life is to be called into the mystery of Christ’s Passion and to cooperate in the redemption of mankind.  The Catechism of the Catholic Church assures us in article 307 that  we can all become collaborators with God’s plan of salvation “…to human beings God even gives the power of freely sharing in his providence by entrusting them with the responsibility of ‘subduing’ the earth and having dominion over it (Genesis 1:26-28).  God thus enables men to be intelligent and free causes in order to complete the work of creation, to perfect its harmony for their own good and that of their neighbors.  Though often unconscious collaborators with God’s will, they can also enter deliberately into the divine plan by their actions, their prayers, and their sufferings.  They then fully become ‘God’s fellow workers’ and co-workers for his kingdom (1 Corinthians 3:9; 1 Thessalonians 3:2; Colossians 4:11).”  We can become collaborators with God’s plan of salvation when we unite our sufferings with the sufferings of Christ and offer up our prayers for the salvation of our neighbors, our communities, and the world.  Our suffering offered up to Christ places us at the pivot point of the history of man’at the side of the suffering Jesus who gave Himself up, Body and Blood, pain and tears for the salvation of the world.  Our suffering also places us in a unique proximity to His mother, the Blessed Virgin Mary, our example of the model Christian, who also as prophesized [Luke 2:33-35], suffered united with her son and Savior.  The Catechism of the Catholic Church addresses this unique opportunity to participate in Christ’s sacrifice by uniting our suffering to His in article 618, “The cross is the unique sacrifice of Christ, the ‘one mediator between God and men (1 Timothy 2:5).’  But because in his incarnate divine person he has in some way united himself to every man, ‘the possibility of being made partners, in a way known to God, in the paschal mystery’ is offered to all men.  He calls his disciples to ‘take up [their] cross and follow [him]’ (Matthew 16:24), for ‘Christ also suffered for [us], leaving [us] an example so that [we] should follow in his steps.’ (1 Peter 2:21).  In fact Jesus desires to associate with his redeeming sacrifice those who were to be its first beneficiaries.  This is achieved supremely in the case of his mother, who was associated more intimately than any other person in the mystery of his redemptive suffering [see Luke 2:35].

Pope John Paul II defined human suffering as “a great test not only of physical strength but also spiritual strength” [Crossing the Threshold of Hope, page 25]. Saint Paul understood this testing and the necessity to unite suffering to the suffering of Christ for the sake of the redemption of man when he wrote to the Christians at Colossus “It makes me happy to be suffering for you now, and in my own body to make up all the hardships that still have to be undergone by Christ for the sake of His body, the Church, of which I was made a servant with the responsibility towards you that God gave to me” [Colossians 1:24]. Paul is not saying that Jesus’ suffering was insufficient’His suffering was wholly and completely sufficient, instead Paul is keenly aware that as the battle against sin continues and the resulting suffering from sin continues that when a Christian offers up his personal suffering united with Jesus’ suffering that this mystical union works toward the continual call to salvation in the world.  The Son of God willingly suffered to establish the Kingdom of Heaven on earth – the Catholic Church, and anyone who continues in Christ’s work and takes up the cross of our Lord must share in the suffering of that cross.  In our suffering for the Kingdom we must unite our suffering to Christ’s suffering and in that struggle some of us will be called to deep physical suffering while others to emotional suffering and persecution for the sake of the Kingdom, for “Apart from the cross there is no other ladder by which we may get to heaven.” ~Saint Rose of Lima

Therefore, suffering is not in vain.  There is the promise of an eternal reward for faithful endurance in submitting to the will of God as well as the opportunity to cooperate in God’s plan of salvation.  In 2 Corinthians 1:5 Paul writes “For just as the sufferings of Christ overflow into our lives; so too does the encouragement we receive through Christ.  So if we have hardships to undergo, this will contribute to your encouragement and your salvation; if we receive encouragement, this is to gain for you the encouragement which evokes you to bear with perseverance the same sufferings as we do.  So our hope for you is secure in the knowledge that you share the encouragement we receive, no less than the sufferings we bear.”   This is the Pascal mystery’in our suffering we behold the risen and glorified Christ as we take our part in the New Creation and as we are hounded and wounded by the sufferings that are still our link to the old creation which is still held by the last threads of sin, suffering and death.  Our suffering united with Christ and our prayers not only can work toward the salvation of those in whom we come in contact when we share His message of salvation in love in the midst of our suffering, but our sufferings united to Christ can also free us from the accountability and deserved penance of past confessed sins as well as strengthen our faith and the depth of our imaging Christ in our daily lives.  All suffering united to Christ’s sufferings counts to the good for us and for our fellow man.  In Philippians 1:20 Paul also writes, “…all in accordance with my most confident hope and trust that I shall never have to admit defeat, but with complete fearlessness I shall go on, so that now, as always, Christ will be glorified in my body, whether by my life or my death.  Life to me, of course, is Christ, but then death would be a positive gain…”  But what we must never do in our suffering is to despair.  Despair is a sin for in despair we no longer acknowledge confidence in God’s love and His plan for our lives as the best plan and the right plan.

Through our rebirth into the family of God through the Sacrament of Baptism and through the most Holy Eucharist, in which the believer receives Jesus Christ, Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity’a Christian is so mystically united into the divine life of Christ that the whole of the believer’s life’including his sufferings and death, are mystically united to Christ living in him and being glorified in him [see Romans 14:8; 1 Corinthians 6:20].  Our earthly suffering allows us a special intimacy with our Savior in those hours when His love for us was most visible. We must embrace our suffering when He calls us to suffering as though we were embracing Him and have the courage to repeat the words of St. Paul in his suffering:  “I will rather boast most gladly of my weaknesses, in order that the power of Christ may dwell with me.  Therefore, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and constraints, for the sake of Christ; for when I am weak, then I am strong” [2 Corinthians 12:9b-10].  May our loving and merciful God bless you and keep you in the arms of the Savior who loved you to the end.

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Eucharistic Adoration

September 7, 2011 under Syllabus 2011-2012

Summary

Lifestyle hectic? Kids, work, meetings, sports, school – it all adds up. How do you take a break, clear your head, and focus on what really centers your life? Learn how Eucharistic Adoration provides you the opportunity to get closer to your Lord and savior and focus on the things that really matter in life.

Objective

We Catholics as Christians hold many beliefs in common with the other Christian religions and that’s a wonderful bond that promotes peace, tolerance, and understanding. However we Catholics are different in that we take Jesus Christ at His word. We believe that Jesus gave His own body and blood in the special sacrament we call the Holy Eucharist. Why do we believe this? Not because some theologians say so, or even because the Church says so. We believe this because Jesus Christ says so, and we believe him. Jesus said “This is my body, which will be given up for you. This is my blood, which will be shed for you. Do this in memory of Me.”

The objective of this session is to explore the unique belief that Catholic’s have regarding the Blessed Sacrament of Holy Eucharist. What makes this special for us? How can we make Eucharistic Adoration a bigger part of our relationship with Christ through understanding, worship, and perhaps quiet time with him through the parish Eucharistic Adoration opportunity?

Bible Readings

1. Matthew 26:26-28

While they were eating, Jesus took bread, said the blessing, broke it, and giving it to his disciples said, “Take and eat; this is my body.” Then he took a cup, gave thanks, 16 and gave it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you, for this is my blood of the covenant, which will be shed on behalf of many for the forgiveness of sins.

2. Mark 14:22-24

While they were eating, he took bread, said the blessing, broke it, and gave it to them, and said, “Take it; this is my body.” Then he took a cup, gave thanks, and gave it to them, and they all drank from it. He said to them, “This is my blood of the covenant, which will be shed 8 for many.

3. Luke 22:19-20

Then he took the bread, said the blessing, broke it, and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body, which will be given for you; do this in memory of me.” And likewise the cup after they had eaten, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which will be shed for you.
The above three Gospel passages record the Institution of the Holy Eucharist by Christ Himself at the Last Supper. Take note that He does not say “This resembles my body” or “This is symbolic of my body”. He says “This is my body.” His words in the passage below from the Gospel of John confirm this.

4. John 6:53-58

Jesus said to them, “Amen, amen, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you do not have life within you. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him on the last day. For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me and I in him. Just as the living Father sent me and I have life because of the Father, so also the one who feeds on me will have life because of me. This is the bread that came down from heaven. Unlike your ancestors who ate and still died, whoever eats this bread will live forever.”

Catechism Readings

1. Paragraph 1374

“The mode of Christ’s presence under the Eucharistic species is unique. It raises the EUCHARIST above all the sacraments as ‘the perfection of the spiritual life and the end to which all the sacraments tend.'[St. Thomas Aquinas, STh III, 73, 3c.] In the most blessed sacrament of the EUCHARIST ‘the body and blood, together with the soul and divinity, of our Lord Jesus Christ and, therefore, the whole Christ is truly, really, and substantially contained.'[Council of Trent (1551): DS 1651.] ‘This presence is called ‘real’ – by which is not intended to exclude the other types of presence as if they could not be ‘real’ too, but because it is presence in the fullest sense: that is to say, it is a substantial presence by which Christ, God and man, makes himself wholly and entirely present.'[Paul VI, MF 39.]”

2. Paragraph 1384

“The Lord addresses an invitation to us, urging us to receive him in the sacrament of the EUCHARIST: ‘Truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink his blood, you have no life in you.'[Jn 6:53 .]”

Small Group Questions

1. How does the presence of Jesus Christ in the Eucharist effect your ability to feel a deeper relationship with God?

2. Do you understand the differences between the Catholic faith and beliefs versus other Christian religions like the Protestant, Methodist, or Baptist faiths? What is it that makes us unique?

3. How can you promote a greater understanding of the beliefs of the Catholic faith with your family? Your friends? The people that you meet.

4. Have you ever done Eucharistic Adoration as a practice? What did you feel? Are you still doing it?

Recommended Resources

1. http://ihom.org/GETINVOLVED/Ministries/PerpetualEucharisticAdoration.aspx – IHM’s Perpetual Eucharistic Adoration web page.

2. http://ihom.org/GETINVOLVED/Ministries/PerpetualEucharisticAdoration/Contacts/Adorers.aspx – IHM’s Perpetual Eucharistic Adoration schedule of Adorers.

3. http://blog.archny.org/?p=1363 – Blog by Archbishop Dolan on Eucharistic Adoration value

4. http://www.therealpresence.org/eucharst/pea/holyhour.html – How to pray the hour.

5. http://pope2008.typepad.com/weblog/2008/05/how-to-pray-a-h.html – More prescriptive how to pray the hour.

6. http://www.therealpresence.org/eucharst/pea/prayers.html – Eucharistic Adoration Prayers.

7. http://www.therealpresence.org/eucharst/pea/a2.html – much more included below from here.

8. http://www.medjugorje.org/adore.htm – has many things about Eucharistic Adoration.

Accountability

1. Discuss with your family the gift of the Blessed Sacrament of the Eucharist that we have.

2. Focus on the Eucharistic prayer with special attention this week and feel the power of this part of the mass.

3. Consider filling a slot on the IHoM Eucharistic Adoration calendar. Could you do it as a team of Fathers?

Author(s)

Dan Lape

Included Resources

http://www.therealpresence.org/eucharst/pea/whyadore.htm

It’s still good for us Catholics to know what beliefs we hold to in common with other Christians, but now, it has become more urgent that we Catholics know how we are different; to recognize the treasures of faith that we have; treasures rejected or abandoned by other Christians. Today, we will concentrate on the principal Catholic belief that makes us Catholics different – different from the great majority of other Christians. That, of course, is our belief in the Real Presence of Christ in the Holy Eucharist.

We Catholics are different because we take Jesus Christ at His word. We believe that Jesus gave us His own body and blood in the special sacrament we call the Holy Eucharist. We Catholics actually believe that Jesus is really present in this sacrament! For us Catholics, the Holy Eucharist is not just a symbol. It is not just a memory. It is not just a promise. It is really Jesus Christ. The Holy Eucharist is not some ‘thing’. It is some ‘one’. It is Jesus, our Lord and our God. This is what we mean by the Catholic doctrine of the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist. This is why we call the Holy Eucharist “the Blessed Sacrament”.

All the sacraments are blessed! All the sacraments give us the grace of Jesus but this sacrament gives us Jesus himself. This is what we Catholics believe.

Why do we believe this? Not because some theologians say so, not even because the Church says so. We believe this for only one reason, because Jesus Christ says so, and we believe Him.

Many who try to follow Jesus do not believe this, as we Catholics do. This fact should not surprise us any. Jesus had the same problem with some of His own disciples. When Jesus first told His own followers that He would give His body and blood as food and drink as spiritual nourishment for the soul, many of His followers – His disciples – would not accept that. They could not believe Him, so they left Him. Jesus did not try to call them back. He didn’t say, “Now, wait a minute! You misunderstood me! I was only talking symbolically”. No! He let them go. If they could not believe Him, they could not be His disciples. It was that simple.

Then Jesus asked His apostles if they wanted to leave Him too. He was ready to let His apostles go also. We know that Peter, speaking for the group said, “Lord, to whom should we go? We know that you only, have the words of eternal life”.

The apostles took Jesus at His word, and we do too.

This sacrament of the Holy Eucharist comes to us through the sacrifice of the Holy Eucharist, the sacrifice of the Mass. This is evident because the Mass is the renewal of Jesus’ death on the cross. In this sacrifice He gave up His human life, His physical body and blood, for our salvation. It was at the Last Supper that Jesus instituted the sacrament and sacrifice.

It was the night before He died. Jesus knew that He soon had to leave His friends. Friends He loved so much. He wanted to leave them something to remember Him by, but He did much better than that, He left Himself.

At the Last Supper, Jesus was looking ahead to the next day when He would die on the cross. This is why He said, “This is my body, which will be given up for you. This is my blood, which will be shed for you”. Then He commanded “Do this in memory of me”. We fulfill that command every day. As Jesus at the Last Supper was looking ahead to Calvary, so we in the sacrifice of the Mass, look back to Calvary.

This is why St. Paul could say: “When we eat this bread and drink this cup, we proclaim the death of the Lord”. It’s the same sacrifice on the cross and in the Mass – the same sacrifice.

Jesus chose this very special way to remain here with us. It was not just an empty promise when Jesus said, “I will be with you all days, even to the end of the world”. He meant that! Jesus remains here with us today in the Mass as our Savior, in Holy Communion, as our spiritual food and in our tabernacle as our friend. Jesus died on the cross to give us this sacrament of His presence among us. This is the sacrament of Jesus’ love for us.

A personal testimonial on the value of Eucharistic Adoration from a parishioner:

Back in 1997, I had a strong inspiration from the Holy Spirit to attend mass during the week. I did some research and started calling around to see who had a noon mass that was close to where I worked. I was led to Old St Mary’s church downtown. I started going to Noon mass every day at Old St. Mary during my lunch hour. Fr. Al Lauer was a very devout and holy priest who said mass there. His message was always very strong, and straight forward. In his homilies he urged us to practice holiness, and to visit the sacrament of confession often. After about a year of attending his daily mass, we had several conversations after mass. He mentioned he was starting Eucharistic adoration everyday downtown in the evening.

I agreed to commit to Eucharistic adoration every Wednesday evening from 6 to 7. I found this to be a very peaceful and quiet time to reflect on my life, to pray, and strengthen my relationship with God. At times my job tends to be very hectic, and adoration seemed to lift up my spirit no matter what the situation. This also gave me a chance to improve my relationship with God.

Since attending adoration it gave me a chance to pray for all members of my family, relatives, friends, workmates, and anyone who needed to be prayed for. About 8 years ago, I was asked to devote an hour for IHM also. I am blessed to be able to offer Eucharistic adoration twice a week.

I feel I have received many blessings, and answers to prayers since I’ve started adoration. Sometimes my prayers are not always answered the way I want, but I know that God gives me what I need, not what I want. I have learned over the years that I must follow God’s will, not my own will. I feel very blessed to be a part of adoration. I highly recommend you visit the blessed Sacrament whenever you have the chance, and maybe even commit for an hour. I promise if you spend an hour with the Lord every week, after prayerful discernment , Jesus will help you to understand His will for you.

Here is one quote of many by Mother Teresa of Calcutta on Eucharistic devotion:

“ Every holy hour deepens our union with Him and bears much fruit. “

A second personal testimonial on the value of Eucharistic Adoration from a parishioner:

With the renovations made and the new Chapel so visible on Beechmont, I would often think to say a prayer as I drove by on my many trips to and from McNick. On one such trip, I had picked up our boys from an afterschool activity, it was late in the evening, homework still needed to be completed and they were not in a good mood. I don’t know what came over me (well, maybe I do) but I swerved over and pulled into IHM’s parking lot. My sons looked at me in astonishment. What are you doing, we still have homework, it’s late, etc. I said we needed an attitude adjustment and were going to spend a few minutes in the chapel with Jesus. What peace we found there. After a short time, not wanting to keep them up too late, I motioned that we could leave. Now, to my surprise, one of the boys was motioning back that he wasn’t ready yet.

That was one of my earliest experiences with adoration. I became an infrequent visitor. There were always excuses and never enough time. In the fall of 2007, Jeff and I decided to make a commitment to adore once a week together. There was a need for Friday at 5:00 p.m. and we decided to give it a try. The time commitment has been a lot easier to keep than anticipated. It has become a peaceful start to our weekend. That one hour with Jesus has helped us to refocus our lives each week. It has made it easier for us to continually put our lives in God’s hands and to trust His direction – His will. It’s a great thing to share that hour with Jesus and with each other. When I first brought up the subject of committed adoration to Jeff his thought was what am I going to think or talk about for an hour with God. He finds himself reflecting about self, spouse, children (living and past), parents (living and past), saying the Rosary and before your know it the hour is up. We always find ourselves thanking God for the 60 minutes with Him one on one. It’s a great time to get out of the daily fast paced life and sit in a reflective environment where you have no one to impress but the Creator who knows you best.

The week after Easter, 2008, we drove our 19 year old son to New York for a co-op job. He would be living on his own, many hours from home, not knowing anyone for three months. We were scared to say the least. While there I looked up the local Catholic Church (Immaculate Heart of Mary!) and we drove there for a visit. I entered the chapel with all my fear and I felt it literally lift away. I realized that the Jesus I visited in our chapel was here for my son too. What peace! At that moment I knew he would be okay.

What a blessing we found in that Chapel and what a blessing we find in our Chapel. Our continued commitment to adoration has opened a constant dialog with God. He is with us every step of our lives. What a wonderful thing to not only know that but to feel it in our hearts.

http://www.therealpresence.org/eucharst/pea/define.htm – Definitions of different parts of Eucharistic Adoration to promote a better foundation and history.

Monstrance (emblem)

A symbol of the Blessed Sacrament since the monstrance is the sacred vessel which contains the consecrated Host when exposed or carried in procession. It is a well-known emblem of St. Clare, who is reported to have repulsed unbelievers who assaulted her convent of nuns by presenting to their gaze Christ in the monstrance. St. Peter Julian Eymard, founder of the Blessed Sacrament Fathers, is symbolized carrying the monstrance and blessing the people with it. St.Thomas Aquinas has the monstrance among his many emblems as the author of the famous hymns Lauda Sion and Pange Lingua, written to honor the Eucharistic Lord. St. John Neumann, who first established the forty hours’ devotion in America, and St. Paschal Baylon, patron of Eucharistic Congresses, are both represented in art with the monstrance. (Etym. Latin monstrans from monstrare, to show, point out, indicate.) See also OSTENSORIUM.

Ostensorium

A monstrance, a metal vessel usually gold- or silver-plated with a transparent section in which the Sacred Host is placed in its lunette when exposed for adoration or carried in procession. It varies in shape and ornamentation, popular models being tower-shaped or round; a metal circlet surrounded with rays or bars resting on a stem rising from a heavy base, many ornamented with jewels. The ostensorium in the Cathedral of Toledo took more than a hundred years to make and is reputed to be of gold brought by Columbus from America.

Perpetual Adoration

Prayer before the Blessed Sacrament, either reserved in the tabernacle or exposed in a monstrance, continued by successive worshipers day and night without intermission. The practice of perpetual adoration of God by psalm and prayer has been maintained by monks and nuns since early Christian times, e.g., by the akoimetoi in the East, and the monastery of Agaunum, founded by King Sigismund of Burgundy in A.D. 522. Similar practices were current elsewhere before the ninth century. It was in France that perpetual adoration of the Eucharist began. Mother Mechtilde of the Blessed Sacrament pioneered the custom on request of Pére Picotte. The Benedictine convent, founded for this purpose, opened on March 25, 1654. Since then many religious communities have made perpetual Eucharistic adoration either the main or an essential part of their rule of life. Confraternities of the faithful have also been organized to practice the devotion, along with the religious or, in some cases, in their parish churches.

Tabernacle

A cupboard or boxlike receptacle for the exclusive reservation of the Blessed Sacrament. In early Christian times the sacred species was reserved in the home because of possible persecution. Later dove-shaped tabernacles were suspended by chains before the altar. Nowadays tabernacles may be round or rectangular and made of wood, stone, or metal. They are covered with a veil and lined with precious metal or silk, with a corporal beneath the ciboria or other sacred vessels. According to the directive of the Holy See, since the Second Vatican Council, tabernacles are always solid and inviolable and located in the middle of the main altar or on a side altar, but always in a truly prominent place (Eucharisticum Mysterium, May 25, 1967, II, C).

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