Archive for the ‘Catechist's Corner’ category

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.”


February 13, 2013

Fasting can be difficult.  Some words of advice are in order:

  • Do not purposely bake food you intend to give up.
  • Do not purposely smell food you intend to give up.
  • Lastly, if you fail, do not beat yourself up about it.  Try again.

Game Night!

November 1, 2012

Subtitle: More Free Stuff

Our creative catechists have been busy coming up with ways to help your kids memorize the books of the Bible and we’d like to share a few of them with you.  One game’s focus is helping your students categorize all the books according to their major divisions (Old or New Testament?  Wisdom, prophet, law? Etc.).  The other’s objective is to help kids learn the names of all 73 books in order.  These games add manipulative and visual elements to the learning and they add action!  Both games were designed for classroom use, but could easily be adapted for family fun.  The links below open into pdf’s that you can print.

Books of the Bible Race

Classifying the Books of the Bible game


An introduction to our introduction

May 15, 2012

Close to the top of our list of favorite things is talking to others about the blessings of Family Formation! (I know, I know – no surprises there.)   One of the missions of our Core Team is to be “enthusiastic ambassadors” for Family Formation in a one-on-one way, our office staff gladly spends hours each month explaining different aspects to prospective users, we visit distance parishes to talk with their parents, parish councils, etc., we attend conferences, and each spring we offer an introductory workshop.

At almost all of these encounters, we give away folders full of basic information about the program.  It took awhile, but in a recent Aha! moment, we  thought why wait until we see you to give you the folder?

So [drum roll please], we are glad to share our folder of Family Formation basics with you, your questioning pastor, your skeptical mother-in-law, your fellow parishioners, your searching-for-a-better-way DRE, your friends and neighbors who want more family togetherness, and anyone else who would like to grow in the Catholic Faith and deepen their family life.

Simply click on the “Workshop Folder” link on the sidebar of our home page and you’ll open a zip folder of PDF files including sample lessons, topic overviews, Church documents in support of family catechesis, FAQs, practical basics, and tips for easing into the transition.  Thanks for reading and feel free to share!

Don’t forget your Rosary

May 4, 2012

Just a brief reminder to bring your rosary as we will be praying it together as part of May’s Family Formation meetings.  The second graders will be leading the procession with flowers and a May Crowning and then all of the classes will help us pray the Glorious Mysteries.

O Come Let Us Adore Him!

March 27, 2012

At our recent Catechist Training session we suggested classes arrange a little visit to Jesus reserved in the tabernacle as part of their study of Eucharistic adoration.  In that delightful, meandering way discussions often go, someone asked if sanctuary lights are always red like ours, and if so, why.

First of all, a sanctuary light (or lamp) is a candle or oil lamp stationed near the tabernacle in each church as a more visible way for us to the know where the Blessed Sacrament is reserved.  (When I go into an unfamiliar church, the first thing I do is look for it so I know in which direction to genuflect.)  According to Canon Law (940) and the General Instruction of the Roman Missal (316)*, there must be a special lamp, indicating and honoring the presence of Christ, shining continuously before a tabernacle in which the Most Holy Eucharist is reserved.

Quite often it is red for a purely practical reason – to distinguish it from the other votive candles that may be in the church – but it’s not uncommon at all to see a white candle instead.

*Among other places, I assume.

Eucharistic Devotions

March 26, 2012

Here at Church of Saint Paul, we’ve had perpetual Adoration for so long that we tend to take it for granted that everyone knows what it’s all about.  Likewise, we can be less informed about other similar devotions, just because they’re not a regular part of our parish life.  Because this is the topic of April’s Classroom Lesson, it may be in our best interest to develop a common language on the topic.  This short post is going to be a glossary of sorts on different types of Eucharistic Devotions.  (If you know of more, please add them in the comments box.)

The Holy Sacrifice of the Mass – Worshiping Christ, truly Present in the Mass is the highest form of worship for Catholics.  Under normal circumstances, we are required to attend Mass each Sunday and on holy days of obligation, and everyone is warmly invited to attend more often when possible.

Perpetual Adoration - The continual (twenty-four hours a day) exposition of the Blessed Sacrament, typically in a monstrance, for worship by the faithful.  Parishes (or convents and monasteries) which offer perpetual adoration will have a chapel set aside for this purpose.

Holy Hour - Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament for an uninterrupted hour.  Perpetual adoration is typically possible in a parish because many parishioners are willing to commit to a regular holy hour each week.  The inspiration for a holy hour comes from Matthew 26:40 when Jesus asks Peter, “So,  you could not keep watch with me for one hour?”

40-Hours Devotion - The practice of a group arranging 40 continuous hours of adoration of the Blessed Sacrament displayed in a monstrance.  This devotion may be carried out  in a parish church or in a chapel.

Benediction - Benediction (from a Latin word for “blessing”) can be done alone or as part of some other service such as Stations of the Cross.  In common use, “benediction” refers to a priest of deacon blessing a congregation with a monstrance containing the Blessed Sacrament.

Little Visits - Jesus is truly Present almost year-round in the tabernacle of every Catholic Church in the entire world.  You can visit Him there in a simple, informal way any time a church is open.  Simply sit in a pew and visit Him.

Reverent Actions - Reverent actions such as genuflecting in the presence of a tabernacle or making a Sign of the Cross when passing a church are small moments when we pause to remember the Presence of Christ nearby.

Corpus Christi Processions - A Corpus Christi procession is basically a sacred parade, either inside or outside a church, in which clergy and the faithful travel a path giving thanks, praise, and worship to God.  The Blessed Sacrament is typically displayed in a monstrance and carried by a priest or deacon under a canopy.

First Friday Devotions - This is the practice of receiving Holy Communion on the first Fridays of nine consecutive months.  It is derived from the revelations of Christ to Saint Margaret Mary Alacoque.

Eucharistic Congress - Less common, but these still happen occasionally.  A Eucharistic Congress is a large public assembly of Catholics with the intention of promoting a greater devotion to our Lord in the Eucharist.  This type of celebration includes Mass, periods of Eucharistic Adoration, Benediction, and lectures on the Blessed Sacrament.  There have been about 50 international congresses since the first one in France in 1881.

This postcard shows the outdoor altar built for the Ninth National Eucharistic Congress in Minnesota, 1941. More than 100,000 people attended the closing ceremonies at the State Fair Grounds, despite the pouring rain!


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