Posted tagged ‘The Basics’

Are you new to Family Formation?

October 2, 2012

It struck me last night at our first classroom meeting of the year as we were going through a long to-do list of basics and extras and opportunities and stuff to pick up and stuff you could buy and stuff you needed to make sure your kids were bringing home and stuff to memorize and stuff to bring back next month and ways to sign up to help our program that it was probably ridiculously confusing for first-timers.

If that’s you, I’m guessing you weren’t alone. Every year we need to find the balance between giving enough information to new people, covering all the information we need to convey, and staying within our time limits, and we probably fail way more often than we realize. If you happen to be one of those whose head was spinning a little when you left, read on. This primer of the Church of Saint Paul’s October classroom meeting is for you!

First of all, this time and every time, the most important part of Family Formation is attending the monthly classroom session and doing the Home Lessons (preferably on the weeks indicated).

If you don’t do anything else, do these lessons. They are the core and the most valuable part of Family Formation!

Other stuff we talked about:

  • Memory verse (optional): Each month we encourage students to learn a memory verse to be recited for the classroom catechist the following month. You can find this verse on the front cover sidebar of each Home Lesson and on a separate sheet that was in your packet. There are almost always separate verses for younger and older students.  Those who can successfully recite will receive a small prize – typically a Holy Trader Card.
  • WOG logs (optional): WOG Logs are a way to encourage kids to read Scripture on a regular basis. Simply check the box for each day you read the Bible and bring that month’s log to the next classroom meeting. Each month all the WOG Logs that are turned is are placed into a drawing and two students will win Dairy Queen gift cards. Your numbers are tallied throughout the year, and in May the students with the highest number of days reading Scripture will be honored with a special prize. You can see the total number of days our Family Formation students have logged throughout the year on Family Formation’s bulletin board in the hallway near our office.
  • All Saints’ Day Party (optional, but super fun!): Annual event for families celebrating the Feast of All Saints. The evening begins with Mass and then dinner, games and lots of fun. Kids (and adults) should come in costume, dressed as a Bible character, animal, or Saint. (No cartoon characters or scary costumes, please.) There will also be a separate teen room with games and snacks for kids in 7th grade and older. Please pre-register after Masses beginning this weekend.
  • Saints’ YES! (optional): This is a social group for 4-6th graders. They meet monthly for a wide variety of fun events. Register at the beginning of the year to participate.  Their first meeting is Friday, October 12.
  • Handmaidens (optional):  Handmaidens of the Lord is a group for girls, grades 4 through 6, with the aim of encouraging and teaching the young ladies to grow in holiness and providing opportunities to develop friendships.  A typical meeting features study in virtue, a feminine art, tea time, and topic handouts for further study at home. Registrations are being taken now and the first meeting is on Thursday, October 11.
  • Soldiers of Christ (optional): This group, for 4-6th grade boys and their fathers, features lessons on virtue, scout skills, active games, and social time with other boys from the parish. Registrations are being taken now and the first meeting is on October 11.
  • Books of the Bible Challenge (optional): Each year Family Formation sponsors an additional challenge and this year we’ve given you resources to memorize the names of all 73 books of the Bible in order. Beginning soon, there will be opportunities to recite before and after classroom meeting times and the prize is a special t-shirt. Family Formation and Little Lamb/Sunday Celebration students can earn their shirt for free and parents who have also complete the challenge can get a shirt for a small fee to cover the costs. NOTE: We do this challenge every 3 years, so if you aren’t ready to do it before May, it’ll be around again in 2015.
  • Cate-Quizm Challenge (optional): This challenge is for adults and is designed to encourage them to read the Catechism and grow in knowledge of the Catholic Faith. Each card has 10 multiple choice questions. Use the Catechism references (the numbers in the parentheses) to find the answers. Bring completed cards back each month for a chance to win a Caribou Coffee gift card.
  • CCCs for sale (optional): We have a limited number of copies of the Catechism of the Catholic Church available that we’re selling for only $8!  We’re offering it at this fantastic price because we hope every Family Formation home will have and use a copy.

So to recap – this is an active and creative parish with lots of opportunities to grow in your faith, socialize, and serve others. Focus on the essentials for now and eventually add other stuff that will fit in with your family life. All of these things (and lots more that you’ll hear about throughout the year) are available each year and on an ongoing basis. We’ll see you when you’re ready!

Also, please, please, please, if you have a questions, ASK!  That’s what we’re here for!

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!

The Basics: Prayer in your domestic church

October 24, 2011

In an earlier postwe saw that the Church recommends having a physical place in your home set aside for prayer. I’ve seen many interpretations of this ranging from an entire room furnished with a comfortable chair, bookshelves of spiritual reading, and beautiful inspirational art, to a small, crowded space on a shelf, carefully set aside in a dorm room.  I know families with a kneeler in their prayer space, a family whose small children crawled behind a large chair in their living room to set up a prayer corner (literally), families who have a small worship space set aside in each child’s bedroom, etc.  Many prayer corners are centered around some kind of family altar; a visual focus and a public witness.  No matter what your prayer space looks like, there are some common elements you may want to include:

Your prayer corner should be a place where it’s possible to find quiet. Elijah heard God’s voice in a small whisper (1 Kings 19:11) and it’s likely you’ll hear Him better in a quiet time also.  Encourage your kids to find a quiet, consistent prayer time for themselves.  Even the smallest children (and their parents) should have time in each day that is free of noise.

Your prayer corner should have some element of beauty. Saint John Damescene said:

“The beauty of the images moves me to contemplation, as a meadow delights the eyes and subtly infuses the soul with the glory of God.” 

All beauty has it’s origin in God and holds the potential to point us closer to Him Who is true beauty.  Whether this little piece of beauty is some kitschy thing you found at a dollar store, a replica of a Rembrandt, or a picture your child drew of Jesus, if you see God’s beauty there, it likely has a place in your place of prayer.  Inversely, if you don’t like that statue Aunt Martha gave you, or if a piece of framed art leads to more distraction than contemplation, put it somewhere else (like the give-away box).

Your prayer corner should point to liturgical prayer. This is easily done by simply paying attention to the liturgical colors and changing your prayer table cloths to match those at church.   Right now you’d want green for ordinary time and at the end of November we’ll change to purple for Advent.  You’ll also need red, and white, and gold is an optional extra for the greatest celebrations of Easter and Christmas.   Use your Liturgical Calendar or Our Sabbath Scripture Book to know which days get which colors.  You’ll have lots of flexibility if you can sew a little, but if you don’t you can easily find placemats or cloth napkins in these colors.  An added bonus is that the periodic changes built into the Liturgical Year offer opportunities to keep things new and interesting.

Your prayer corner should be a witness to all who visit your home. Let it be a constant reminder to all who live there, and a witness to friends, relatives, neighbors, the mailman, your plumber, and everyone you come in contact with that you are joyfully and enthusiastically Catholic, and you are a family of prayer.

The Basics: How is Family Formation different from other religious education programs?

September 21, 2011

On a fundamental level, the subject matter of Family Formation is very similar to other programs which strive to pass on the Catholic faith.  We’re joyously and fully in communion with the Roman Catholic Church, and it’s our highest goal to help people develop a deeper intimacy with Jesus Christ.

The methods for reaching those goals, however, are completely unique.  Family Formation is a family catechesis program which promotes parents as the primary educators of their children in the Catholic faith.  Since its beginning, Family Formation has served thousands of families all over the United States and Canada.  Through games, quizzes, stories, and music, solid Catholic teaching is transmitted, and the Faith is brought to life within the family.

We realize our ineffectiveness to catechize children if their parents are not involved in the process.  By evangelizing parents, helping them realize what the Church is asking of them, and giving them support  and encouragement in their mission, we are answering the Church’s call.  In a nutshell, this is what Family Formation accomplishes.  Adult catechesis is a major focus which teaches and encourages parents and equips them with the Catholic “know-how” to share the Good News and the beauty of the Catholic faith with their children.

You can find more information on our web site or by contacting us.

How can I teach my kids when I barely know the Faith myself?

September 18, 2011

This is a great question and one we hear often from parents who were not well catechized for whatever reason in their own childhood.

The most important thing to know is that God has given you all the graces necessary to lead your children to heaven.  He trusts you to do this job, and He always pays for what He orders!  He’s just waiting for your simple “yes” so He can begin doing a great work in your family!

The fact of the matter is that you are already teaching religion to your kids and you’ve been doing so since they were born!  Do you go to Sunday Mass?  You’re teaching them about the priority of worship.  Do you say simple prayers with them?  You’re teaching them about your trust in God.  Do you care for your family?  You’re teaching them about love and sacrifice — two major attributes of God, Himself.

The next thing we want you to know is that Family Formation does everything possible to help you succeed.  You do not have to be an expert in the Faith to use Family Formation.

  •  Each lesson is written at an elementary school level, and is easy to understand.  By simply spending a small amount of time in preparation each week (literally just reading the lesson ahead of time is usually enough), you can become familiar with the topic in the upcoming lesson.  Even parents who were very poorly catechized can begin learning the facts of the Faith in simple ways along with their children.
  • No additional research is necessary but if you want to dig a little deeper additional references from Scripture and the Catechism of the Catholic Church are given for each topic.
  • Each lesson is organized with easy-to-access parent information on the front cover and review quizzes on the back cover.
  • Only minor preparation is necessary and we always give you advance notice of it.
  • The monthly meetings offer chances to help everyone learn about a topic in more depth.  You’ll also have a chance to ask questions and network with other parents who are also undertaking this wonderful task.

One of the richest blessings of Family Formation comes as families learn about the beauty and truth of the Catholic faith together!  Many parents have testified to the fact that through Family Formation they have come to learn and understand the Catholic Faith for the first time.

Guarding your time

September 19, 2010
There are many advantages to teaching the Faith at home, but one of the challenges is all the potential distraction.  The phone,  the television, the neighbor kids, that load of laundry you wanted to finish, the dog that needs to go out, the homework that really needs to be done tonight, the toddler who just chewed up your green crayon (now how are you supposed to color the Ordinary Time page?) … you get the idea!

Family life is messy and despite our best efforts, it rarely runs as smoothly as we’d like.  And while that may seem like a negative, it actually teaches a great truth.  Our Christian faith is not to be saved for perfect conditions.  It’s not reserved for an hour a week when we’re dressed up for Mass and (hopefully) well-behaved, and it’s really not reserved for those who have it all together.  Saint Paul tells us that the prize goes to those who persevere and with that in mind, I’d like to share a few ideas to help you guard your time:
  • Set a regular time for Home Lessons and don’t let anything short of an emergency get in the way.  If you were doing the traditional Wednesday night parish program, you would be there when scheduled.  Just treat your Home Lesson time with the same commitment.
  • Work with your family to decide on this time together and make sure everyone has input.  It will help everyone take ownership of this time if you make the commitment together.
  • Actually write the dates on your calendar.  It makes it seem more official.
  • Resolve to not answer the phone or the doorbell, and even family members who are not of Family Formation age should be able to do without the television for this one hour each week.

And once you’ve minimized the physical distractions, it’s also helpful to work on the mental distractions.  Establish some traditions that will help your family transition out of “home time” and into “lesson time.”

  • For example, you may want to start each Home Lesson time with a few praise songs and end with dessert.
  • You may want to start with a prayer asking for God’s blessing as you learn together and end with another one thanking Him for the time together.
  • I know of several families who mark their lesson time by lighting a candle on their prayer table and blowing it out when they’re done.  These bookend traditions are good ways to set boundaries and minimize anyone asking “are we done yet?”

No matter what your pattern, establishing traditions and being consistent are guaranteed ways to make your Home Lesson time more effective and peaceful.

I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race,
I have kept the faith.
2 Timothy 4:7

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