To It and At It

There has been a two-year hiatus in posting. Nothing unusual in that: many blogs go unattended after a month when their creators get bored with them. But in my case a lot has happened in the interim with two children graduating high school, job changes, stray kittens showing up on the stoop and whatnot. In a few days we start Religious Education and my aide and I will be working with a fresh crop of fourth- and fifth-graders. I’ve decided it’s time to get at it and to it. I hope to keep you posted on how it goes.

In the meantime, an explanation the banner image. From left to right: St. Peter’s Square in the Vatican; Mount Vernon and the Washington Monument in Baltimore; Cathedral of Mary Our Queen in Baltimore; and dessert.

As for getting to it, here’s how it’s done up North:

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Sundæ Sermon Notes: 25th Sunday (OT)

Today most of the sermon was on Amos. Father picked up on something that previously escaped me: the dishonest merchants were in a hurry for a religious feast time (“when will the new moon be over?”) and the Sabbath to end so they could get back to work. He pointed out that we might be honest in our business dealings but if even so we cannot put our business before God. He reminded us not to count anything, business, sports, whatever, as more important than our Sunday obligation and our service to those in need.

He also reminded us not be fooled or discouraged by media reports of what the Holy Father says, and urged us to read the America interview for ourselves, and let the Pope speak for himself.

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Catechetics

The always excellent Monsignor Charles Pope is calling for a back to basics catechesis. This is a topic naturally dear to my heart and as usual, he nails it. “It became clear to me in that moment that we could no longer do business as usual when it came to catechesis,” he writes.

[W]e have to go back to basics and tell the “old, old stories” again of mankind lost in sin, living in the dark shadows of death and ensnared in the mystery [of] iniquity. Yes, It was time to re-read the Genesis account of Original Sin and all the old stories.

He goes on to describe the program in his parish, in which all grades are taught from the same Bible text each week, with parents in their own group going over the same material. He describes his own approach, based on the three pillars: Sin, Redemption and Grace, but what strikes me is the weight he assigns to Bible stories:

Bible Stories are both memorable, and teach fundamental truths in ways that reach deeper than merely the intellect. They touch the heart and draw the children into the world and mind of God.

When I first started working in the classroom, my job was to take the Gospel for that particular Sunday. After reading it to the class I opened the floor for discussion, guiding the students to relate Christ’s teaching to their lives.

This year in my parish we are starting a lectionary-based curriculum. Each week takes the Gospel (or occasionally an Epistle or Old Testament reading), which we will explore in detail, tying it into specific Church teachings. Children in the same family will be on the same page, so to speak, so families can pick up the theme together if they wish.

Such an approach carries a risk. This is not a systematic ticking off of the CCC point by point, and some critics have described it as hit-or-miss. I have criticized “content-free” catechesis myself, but that’s not what we’re talking about here. Before the upheavals of the 1970s, a teacher could count on the children growing up in an environment where the Gospel was part of the fabric of daily life, and going through the questions in the catechism book simply added some intellectual rigor to what the child lived in his family and in the parish. Today, we cannot count on any of this, and catechists have to be evangelists as well. The times may well call for some good old fashioned kerygma.

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Sundæ Sermon Notes: 22nd Sunday (OT)

The humble man uses his strengths to serve God while understanding and accepting his limitations. The humble man depends on God and trusts him rather than his own powers.

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Sundæ Sermon Notes: 20th Sunday (OT)

The transitional deacon spoke today at his last Mass before leaving for Rome to finish his priestly formation. He linked all three readings to the theme of martyrdom. He said the virtue of charity is a sharing in the love of God. Love means to empty oneself for the good of another and Jesus did this perfectly. Human love is limited, but divine love is not limited. God transforms our finite charity to conform to his infinite charity. He also mentioned the example of St Lawrence, the deacon martyr.

He asked whether we loved early things so much that we are willing to forgo heavenly things, and he asked this of himself.

Personal note: Some people don’t like to hear a priest or deacon admit his own struggles. These are the folks who were scandalized when Pope Francis, in his first appearance as Pope, asked for the people’s prayers. I don’t think it diminishes the special nature of the ordained priesthood for a priest to view himself as a brother to parishioners. A priest is not a plaster saint to be put on a pedestal, after all.

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Sundæ Sermon Notes: 19th Sunday (OT) / Clare of Assisi

The permanent deacon made reference to the recent Powerball excitement and contrasted the remote chance of hitting the lottery with the much more certain chance of gaining the Kingdom of Heaven by faith in action. He stressed the need for daily prayer, worship in the Sacred Liturgy and the works of mercy. He then addressed St Paul’s definition of faith and admitted that it is easier to believe in what is tangible as opposed to the intangible things of God. He suggested we pray for the gift of faith.

Suitably enough, I recognized two people in the congregation today who are named Clare.

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Litany of Humility

humilitasSomething I found in a prayer book at Adoration this morning.

O Jesus! meek and humble of heart, Hear me.
From the desire of being esteemed,
Deliver me, Jesus.

From the desire of being loved…
From the desire of being extolled …
From the desire of being honored …
From the desire of being praised …
From the desire of being preferred to others…
From the desire of being consulted …
From the desire of being approved …
From the fear of being humiliated …
From the fear of being despised…
From the fear of suffering rebukes …
From the fear of being calumniated …
From the fear of being forgotten …
From the fear of being ridiculed …
From the fear of being wronged …
From the fear of being suspected …

That others may be loved more than I,
Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.

That others may be esteemed more than I …
That, in the opinion of the world,
others may increase and I may decrease …
That others may be chosen and I set aside …
That others may be praised and I unnoticed …
That others may be preferred to me in everything…
That others may become holier than I, provided that I may become as holy as I should…
Rafael Cardinal Merry del Val

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