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Have you registered yet?

September 15, 2014

Capture

Registration is still open for the 2nd annual Rediscover Catholic Celebration sponsored by the Archdiocese of Saint Paul/Minneapolis, but I’m pretty sure they sold out last year, so don’t wait too long!   It’s a fantastic opportunity to get together with several thousand brothers and sisters in the Faith, to hear nationally-known Catholic speakers, visit with great vendors,  and hear inspiring music.  Friday is geared toward young adults (18-39 in the Church’s mind) and Saturday offers programs for kids in grades K-10, in addition to the adult program.  You can register here or check out these ways you can win tickets.

Last year, several members of the Family Formation staff carpooled over and all agreed that we needed to go back again, but next time as vendors.  We’re pleased to announce that you can find us in the Vendor Area this year!  Stop by to say “hi” when you’re there, and bring your friends.  We’d love to see Family Formation spread in this Archdiocese and your personal recommendation is a great way to make that happen.

Leading with beauty

September 13, 2014

Art for October Prayer Centers

Postmodern man might scoff at truth and goodness, but he’s still enthralled by beauty, says prominent theologian and evangelist Father Robert Barron.  Beauty, then, is the arrowhead of evangelization, the point with which the evangelist pierces the minds and hearts of those he evangelizes.  “Lead with beauty,” Barron said to an audience of Catholic journalists and communications professionals gathered in Denver for the 2013 Catholic Media Conference.

The post title comes from a talk given by Fr. Robert Barron.  You can read a summary of the concept of leading by beauty in this article (also quoted above).  I use it here because in many cases the prayer table in your classroom is the point with the greatest potential for beauty.  In the midst of classrooms built for function, whose use for Family Formation is temporary, your prayer table is a creative expression of beauty that can begin as a point of interest and introduction for each month’s topic, and lead to deeper prayer and understanding.

My goal in this series is to make that job a little easier for you by sifting through dozens of pieces of beautiful art to find one or two that fit well with the monthly classroom theme.  (Hey, it’s a tough job but I’m willing to take one for the team here. J)

CARREÑO DE MIRANDA, Juan, Mass of St John of Matha, 1666

This month’s topic is An Overview of the Mass, and the September Home Lesson your students will be doing soon is all about Angels.  I think these two topics converge very nicely in this work by Juan Carreño de Miranda.  There are so many beautiful realities portrayed here that it’s hard to know where to begin!

  • On an earthly level, Mass is being celebrated and the consecrated Host has just been elevated.  All eyes are on Jesus! Look at the devotion and love on every single face – no one is even a tiny bit distracted or bored.  They all recognize the Real Presence of their Savior in the Eucharist!
  • On the heavenly level, we see the same devotion as all are worshiping the three Persons of the Holy Trinity, clearly visible before them.  Can your students identify the Father, Son and Holy Spirit up there? (There’s a little side story going on in the upper left side; more on that below.)
  • Now look at the space between heaven and earth; there is no clear line dividing the two.  At least in my mind, this is showing the overlap that truly exists between the two realities.  We won’t typically see all the angels who are in our parish nave as Mass is being celebrated, but they are there worshiping God right along with us!  Regular Mass-goers may recognize these words: “And so, with all the choirs of angels in heaven we proclaim your glory and join in their unending hymn of praise: ‘Holy, holy, holy Lord, God of power and might, heaven and earth are full of your glory.'”  This is your connection between the September and October lessons, and the jumping-off point for imaginative students to pay better attention every time they are at Mass.  Amazing things are happening!
  • The side story is interesting, but not all that relevant to our lessons.  Nonetheless, I know some of you will be curious so here it is from the Web Gallery of Art (also the source for the image):   “In 1664 the Trinitarian order in Pamplona completed a new monastic complex and turned Carreño and Francisco Rizi to paint the altarpiece for the church. The Trinitarian order had been founded in the late twelfth century by the Frenchman John of Matha, and the altarpiece illustrates a key moment in his career. As St John of Matha raised the host during his first mass, he saw a vision of a young boy dressed in white (here converted into an angel), with arms crossed and hands resting on the heads of two prisoners, one a Christian, one a Moor. From this vision the saint divined his earthly mission, to establish a religious order devoted to the redemption of Christian prisoners.”

The Heart of Catechesis

September 12, 2014

This summer Laurie and I had the pleasure of representing Family Formation at the St. John Bosco Conference for catechists at Franciscan University in Steubenville, Ohio.  It’s always a wonderful time of fellowship with other religious educators, but more than that it’s a retreat, education, and inspiration all rolled up in just a few days.  (Highly recommended!)

This year the inspiration largely came through workshops given by Sherry Weddell talking about experiences that led to her book, Forming Intentional Disciples, and the thought that there are so many people out there (many in our pews) who may describe themselves as Catholic, but at the same time not even think it’s possible to have a relationship with Jesus.

This got me thinking about the gap between knowing stuff about Jesus and actually knowing Jesus.  Family Formation is really good at catechesis and the materials have led thousands of people to a greater depth of faith through the witness of family members to one another, family prayer and an ever-increasing knowledge of the Faith.  But because we want to make it just a little more obvious, we’re going to spend some time this year making sure we understand the connections to Jesus that are at the heart of each and every lesson, no matter what the topic.  In the words of one of the Bosco Conference professors, “Write at the top of each lesson - What does this have to do with Jesus?

Our founding pastor, Fr. Tim Nolan, used to joke with the kids that if they ever did not know the answer to a question in Family Formation class to just raise their hand and confidently say, “Jesus!”  Compare this with the words of Pope Saint John Paul II and you’ll see some pretty profound connections:

The fourth general assembly of the synod of Bishops often stressed the Christocentricity of all authentic catechesis. We can here use the word “Christocentricity” in both its meanings, which are not opposed to each other or mutually exclusive, but each of which rather demands and completes the other.

In the first place, it is intended to stress that at the heart of catechesis we find, in essence, a Person, the Person of Jesus of Nazareth, “the only Son from the Father…full of grace and truth,”(9) who suffered and died for us and who now, after rising, is living with us forever. It is Jesus who is “the way, and the truth, and the life,”(10) and Christian living consists in following Christ, the sequela Christi.

The primary and essential object of catechesis is, to use an expression dear to St. Paul and also to contemporary theology, “the mystery of Christ.” Catechizing is in a way to lead a person to study this mystery in all its dimensions: “to make all men see what is the plan of the mystery…comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth …know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge…(and be filled) with all the fullness of God.”(11) It is therefore to reveal in the Person of Christ the whole of God’s eternal design reaching fulfillment in that Person. It is to seek to understand the meaning of Christ’s actions and words and of the signs worked by Him, for they simultaneously hide and reveal His mystery. Accordingly, the definitive aim of catechesis is to put people not only in touch but in communion, in intimacy, with Jesus Christ: only He can lead us to the love of the Father in the Spirit and make us share in the life of the Holy Trinity.  

(Catechesis in Our Time, paragraph 5, emphasis mine)

All About Jesus logo

Whether we’re learning about angels or virtues or indulgences or Old Testament prophets or any of the other many topics we’re going to tackle this year, Jesus is the ribbon that ties them all together and gives them meaning and purpose!  In the Family Formation world it really is all about Jesus!

So anyway, this is my longish way of reminding everyone that the goal of Family Formation is NOT to prepare you to win the Worldwide Catholic Trivia Championship. (Although if such a thing existed, our families would take the trophy!)   Our real goal is to bring you closer to Jesus every week as you do your lessons, every day as your bring the Faith into your homes through family prayer, reading scripture, and establishing meaningful traditions, and every minute as you rely on His grace and increase your desire to love Him better.  And we’re so grateful for all of you who have joined us on that adventure!

This year’s theme (Cycle A/B)

August 20, 2014

It’s been three years since the implementation of the revised translation of the Roman Missal and we still see more than a few people pulling out the cards to help them remember the “new” Creed and Gloria during Mass.  If this is you, or if your family is just learning it for the very first time,this year’s challenge will be just right for you!  

To help you do memorize, each family will get a copy of flashcards containing the people’s part of the Mass.

Obviously, it’ll be helpful if you practice by bringing it to Mass each week, but this is a great chance for your family to work together to encourage each other toward the goal.  Like the Mass, the flashcards are designed to be a dialogue, and the nature of that will provide built in cues that will be a great help with your memorization.  There are brief explanations of each part to help us all gain a deeper appreciation of this prayer, followed by the cues we’re all used to hearing.

For example, the booklet begins by reminding us that the priest greets us in the name of the Trinity by saying,

“The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all.”

We return the greeting by replying, “And with your spirit.”

What a great blessing we’ll have this year to focus on something so central to our lives and so familiar with fresh eyes.

The entire Church in the United States has been blessed with this opportunity to deepen its understanding of the Sacred Liturgy, and to appreciate its meaning and importance in our lives.

 

From today’s Office of Readings:

August 15, 2014

O God, who, looking on the lowliness of the Blessed Virgin Mary, raised her to this grace, that your Only Begotten Son was born of her according to the flesh and that she was crowned this day with surpassing glory, grant through her prayers, that, saved by the mystery of your redemption, we may merit to be exalted by you on high.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.
– Amen.

 

Hi Mom!

August 14, 2014

CABEZALERO, Juan Martín , Assumption of the Virgin

Tomorrow is the Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary and related to that topic there are a few things you need to know and a few extra things you may want to know.

First the important stuff:

  • On this day we celebrate the fact that at the end of her life on earth, God took Mary into heaven, body and soul.  She did not go into heaven on her own power as Christ did, but was assumed (taken up by God).
  • The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches that Mary, “the new Eve, ‘full of grace’ of the Holy Spirit, is preserved from sin and the corruption of death.”  
  • From the very first days of the Church, Christians have always venerated relics of holy men and women (typically their bones).  There are many stories of the importance placed on relics and how they were guarded and prized around the world.  (Scroll down to “Relics of St. Mark” for one such story.)   Having said that, isn’t it interesting to consider that no place on earth claims to have the bones of the Blessed Virgin Mary?  Surely those would be the greatest of all relics, yet they are nowhere to be found.  Catholics would argue that this is simply because there were no bones left on earth as she was completely taken up into heaven.
  • It’s also interesting to remember that there are Old Testament precedents to this phenomena:  both Enoch and Elijah were taken up into heaven in a similar way.  (See Genesis 5:24 and 2 Kings 2:1, 11)
  • The lessons of this feast are so important that the Church has declared it to be a Holy Day of Obligation and all Catholics are to attend Mass in celebration.  Mass times at Church of Saint Paul tomorrow are 7:00 a.m. and 7:00 p.m. 

Now for stuff that is way less important (but still fun):

  • Friday is typically a day to fast, but tomorrow is a day to celebrate!  If you combine that with the fact that people tend to misunderstand the meaning of this celebration and that the vocabulary may be little outside of your kids’ range, you may want to create some memorable experience to tie all these things together.  
  • Of course, we recommend food and humor – both very memorable experiences for kids.  If there’s one thing the internet is good at, it’s quickly pulling together ideas from a wide variety of sources.  I’ve done a little search and have a few ideas for you just below.

Sky … clouds … looks heavenly to me and you can hardly make an easier dessert than jell-o and cool-whip!

“I told the kiddos that the bread is rising, just like Mary did today. It is sweet, just like the love between Jesus and Mary and the two pieces joined together are just like them going up into heaven, when Jesus came to get His mother and take her to be in heaven with Him, body and soul.”

Any foods that are cloud related will help make the association with Mary being taken up to heaven.

Or any cake (cupcakes/brownies/pancakes) that you can dye a lovely shade of Marian blue.

Thanks to Catholic Cuisine and Catholic Icing for the ideas and Web Gallery of Art for the beautiful image!

Welcome!

August 12, 2014

Hello all and welcome to our new readers!  It’s been a busy summer in the Family Formation office and we are excited for all the blessings God has in store for the upcoming year!

The most notable change is that Matt Brounstein, our Director of Children’s Religious Education for the past seven years, has felt called to get back into teaching and has accepted a position at a local high school’s theology department. The school’s gain is definitely our loss, but we’re also very happy for Matt and his family as they move into this new chapter in their lives. 

For the most part, I will be taking his place (although in all fairness, what he did is really being divided between several people).  It has been great to see God’s timing in all this and I hope you will all stop by the office and say hi sometime!

catWe’re planning a new family focus for learning more about the role of Catholic Authority and Tradition in our faith lives – look for instruction on C.A.T. Stats for families coming this fall. This is also the year for our Mass Challenge and, if you’re in the Church of Saint Paul program, don’t pack your Hawaiian shirts away after the State Fair because we have a great tropical theme planned for our Kick-Off Extravaganza in September!

On the Family Formation distance front, we are thrilled with all the new parishes and families who have registered and there are many, many more who have ordered Parish Intro Kits to help with their discernment process.  We are praying for all of you as you work to lead the families under your care closer to Jesus! 

And last, but not least, this is the year when we can finally roll out our Home Lessons in Spanish! Again, this is something that has been in the works for years, but in God’s good timing (and the generous work of all sorts of qualified people) it is ready to go just in time for lots of interest from the diocese of San Antonio. 

Every day when we come to work, we are just overwhelmed with all the huge and minute ways we see the Holy Spirit working through Family Formation and we feel so privileged to be part of it!  Thank you for sharing your blessings and challenges and questions and answers with us and we look forward to working with you in the 2014-15 school year!


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