Saint Mary's Press winner for the week of October 10, 2011!
Congratulations to Kathleen Cafferata!
Kathleen will receive a copy of Catholic Connections Handbook for Middle Schoolers, a $18.95 value.
The Catholic Connections Handbook for Middle Schoolers
by Janet Claussen, Pat Finan, Diana Macalintal, Jerry Shepherd, Susan Stark, Chris Wardwell
Whether middle schoolers encounter this book as part of the Catholic Connections program in faith formation or pick it up out of curiosity, The Catholic Connections Handbook for Middle Schoolers offers great guidance and aims to help young teens learn about all the central aspects of the Catholic faith, including God, revelation, faith, Jesus the Christ, the Holy Spirit, the Church, liturgy and sacraments, Christian morality and justice, and prayer.
Catholic Connections Handbook for Middle Schoolers
ISBN: 978-0-88489-994-5, paper, 552 pages
Focus on Faith
For this week’s Servant Leader, I asked Bev DeGeorge to write a reflection on lessons we can learn from the life and teachings of Saint John Baptist de La Salle. Bev is the vice president for mission at Saint Mary’s Press. As a part of her role at Saint Mary’s Press, she manages mission-based projects that serve our customers, our employees, and the poor. Bev has been with Saint Mary’s Press for twelve years. She has experience in both the classroom and the business world. In today’s reflection, Bev shares insights she has gained from Br. Robert Bimonte, FSC, in terms of the Lasallian charism. I pray that you have a wonderful week, and as always, I pray that God will continue to bless you and your ministry.
by Bev DeGeorge
Saint John Baptist de La Salle believed that many of the experiences that happen during the school day can provide the foundation for a teachable moment. He, along with the men who were called by God to Lasallian ministry, the Brothers of the Christian Schools, used every opportunity during the day to provide Christian education and salvation of souls for the poor young boys in the streets of Reims, France, as well as to serve their basic human needs—needs that were many times not met by their parents in their homes. These boys were often left unattended to wander the streets during the day while their parents worked. Saint John Baptist de La Salle asked teachers to contribute “as far as they were able and as God required of them” to attend to the salvation of those with whom they were entrusted.
As teachers serving the needs of students in schools today, how can we attend to these basic human needs that are before us every day in our schools? Br. Robert Bimonte, FSC, executive director of the NCEA Department of Elementary Schools, speaks of four basic human needs when he instructs the teachers and administrators who attend the Lasallian Leadership Institute.
1. Affection. Affection for the poor boys in De La Salle’s time provided them with a sense of security. They often came from homes in which there was no one to look after them during the day. They often had not been taught the social manners that would help them relate to others and find meaningful work in their future. Learning manners enabled these boys to look outside themselves to a future that was much different from their present reality. Is it not true today that if students receive authentic care from teachers, they are also able to, in turn, look outside themselves and serve the needs of others with affection and kindness?
2. Accomplishment. Accomplishment provided for De La Salle’s students a sense of self, a “self-hood.” Sometimes the children in De La Salle’s schools had never experienced what it felt like to accomplish something to be proud of, to increase their self-esteem, to provide skills that enabled a student to take the next step in becoming independent and self-assured. Today’s students have so much information coming their way in our fast-paced society, and yet aren’t they also confused and in need of guidance to learn how to accomplish something practical and meaningful in their lives?
3. Influence. When De La Salle’s students were influenced by someone they respected, they were able to see more in themselves than they ever could before, and their lives were changed. When we are positively influenced, we are able to venture outside ourselves and become more productive, and more giving and generous as well.
4. Inclusion. Saint John Baptist de La Salle invited and included all, especially the poor and the marginalized. Inclusion is a very basic Lasallian quality and human need. By reaching out to those who are in desperate need of help, we are seeing the face of Jesus in a way that Saint John Baptist de La Salle did so many years ago. We need to ask ourselves, am I truly reaching out to those students right in front of me whose needs are the greatest?
Br. Robert Bimonte shares that we should always be kind, for everyone we meet is fighting a great battle. We do not always know what students experience in their homes before they come to our classrooms or what they go home to at the end of the day. Teachers have a responsibility to create what may be the students’ one and only positive environment. Make your classroom a safe haven and create teachable moments that will provide students with their greatest needs. Make your classroom representative of the Lasallian qualities that promote the human dignity every child deserves.
Make It Happen
The Light of the World: The Church as the Sacrament of Salvation
From Leader’s Guide for Primary Source Readings in Catholic Church History
Summary of the Source:
Lumen Gentium calls all members of the Church to become a priestly people, the light of Christ to a world in need. The tone of Lumen Gentium is that of urgency. The tremendous needs of the modern world cry out for a visible response from the Church. This response should affirm the freedom and dignity of all people and bear witness to Christ. This document is also a prophetic statement about the role of the laity to transform the structures of society by using their own unique gifts, cultures, and technologies to bring Christ to the ends of the earth in ways not yet imagined.
In this activity the students explore the fact that the Church is the Body of Christ, of which we are all members. We all have gifts that are vital to a healthy Church. (Have a candle available for this activity.)
1. Tell the students they will be focusing on the gifts of each person in the class. Consider playing soft instrumental music through step 3.
2. Ask the students to write down the first name of each person in the class. If necessary, you could supply a class list to each student.
3. Ask the students to think of a quality they admire or a gift they see in each person and write each person’s quality or gift next to his or her name.
4. When all have finished, light a candle and dim the lights. Pass the candle to the first student in the front row and ask the students to name a quality they see in someone in the class they want to imitate. Tell them to name only the quality and not the person. Have the student holding the candle pass it to the student on his or her left. Repeat the process and continue until all have participated.
5. Next, read 1 Corinthians 12:4–11 to the class. After your reading, turn the lights up and invite volunteers to share what they felt or learned from this experience.
6. Conclude by emphasizing the importance of these gifts to the Church. You might also compile the qualities and gifts from the students’ lists to give to each student the next day.
7. For student review, distribute copies of handout 30, one to each student, at a time of your choosing.
Assign the following homework activity in these or similar words:
- Prayerfully read 1 Corinthians 12:27–31. In a journal or on a piece of paper that you will keep, write about the gifts you can bring to the Church and how you think you will use those gifts in the future.
Break Open the Word
Twenty-Ninth Sunday in Ordinary Time
October 16, 2011
Jesus, remind us to put God first in our lives. Keep our focus on loving God above all else. Other things will follow and have true value if we just put our attention on what matters most. Amen.
For the last three Sundays we have observed Jesus using parables to challenge the religious elite. In this Sunday's Gospel those same leaders try to set a trap for him by asking a question. Jesus finds himself in a difficult situation; the answer he gives can't please everybody. Jesus sees through their thinly veiled plan and turns it into a powerful reminder for believers of any age: pleasing God is the most important thing in life.
The Pharisees enlist the assistance of the Herodians in developing and executing their plot against Jesus. The Herodians were a group of notables who supported the puppet king Herod Antipas, whom Rome kept in power as long as he collected taxes for the emperor; their survival depended on his. The group that approaches Jesus consists of disciples of the Pharisees as well as Herodians, who surely made no secret of their sympathy toward Roman laws and taxes. They flatter Jesus with idle words, "Teacher, we know that you are sincere, and teach the way of God in accordance with truth, and show deference to no one; for you do not regard people with partiality" (22:16). They praise Jesus for his fair and nonjudgmental treatment of all people. They further compliment Jesus by asking him to take a position on an issue relating to Jewish Law, which is rooted in the Torah. (In the narrowest sense Torah refers to the first five books of the Hebrew Bible, or Old Testament, and in the broadest sense it refers to the whole body of Jewish teachings.)
Remember in chapter 21 of Matthew that the religious leaders were questioning Jesus's authority to teach and heal. Now they are asking him whether, in the eyes of God, it is lawful to pay taxes to the Romans. The insincerity of this group is quite evident by the following statement: "Tell us, then, what you think. Is it lawful to pay taxes to the emperor, or not?" (22:17). Jesus cleverly avoids their trap by refusing to say whether paying taxes is lawful or unlawful. If Jesus had said it was lawful, he would have made enemies of those opposed to Rome, whom they saw as a foreign occupier. And if he said it was unlawful, he would have made enemies of the Romans. Keep in mind that the Romans, who alone had the power to put people to death, crucified Jesus. Jesus lets them know that he's on to them, "Why are you putting me to the test, you hypocrites?" (22:18). Jesus was able to turn the tables by asking for a Roman coin. He didn't ask for common currency, which people had been using before the Roman invasion, but for Roman currency. Taxes could only be paid with Roman coins. "'Show me the coin used for the tax.' And they brought him a denarius" (22:19). The fact that the Pharisees' disciples and the Herodians present a Roman coin is somewhat shocking. No devout Jew would have carried a Roman coin because it depicted the deified Roman emperor, which made it idolatrous. Jesus asks, "'Whose head is this, and whose title?' They answered, 'The emperor's'" (22:20-21). That Roman denarius would have had on it an image of Emperor Tiberius, who ruled from AD 14 through AD 37. Its inscription would have read, "Tiberius Caesar, Augustus, son of the divine Augustus, high priest."
Jesus's final statement, though short, accomplishes much, "Give therefore to the emperor the things that are the emperor's, and to God the things that are God's" (22:21). It's simple: a coin bearing the emperor's portrait as well as his name must be his. Suddenly the confrontation ceases to be political and instead becomes spiritual. Jesus puts the focus on one's obligation to God and enjoins us to keep it there.
Government authority can be considered both necessary and good, providing it protects people's rights--all people's rights. Government is legitimate when it respects the fundamental rights of all human beings. "Every human community needs an authority to govern it.1 The foundation of such authority lies in human nature. It is necessary for the unity of the state. Its role is to ensure as far as possible the common good of the society" (Catechism of the Catholic Church, paragraph 1898).
The common good that safeguards everyone's basic human dignity has to be the primary intention of law and order. The reason for obeying authority is because it has proved itself to be the vanguard of the most vulnerable in society.
Authority is exercised legitimately only when it seeks the common good of the group concerned and if it employs morally licit means to attain it. If rulers were to enact unjust laws or take measures contrary to the moral order, such arrangements would not be binding in conscience. In such a case, "authority breaks down completely and results in shameful abuse."2 (Catechism, paragraph 1903)
When a government acts justly and guarantees basic human rights to all of its citizens, only then can it be considered a legitimate authority that is in harmony with God's divine plan for a society in which everyone respects and cares for one another. Those who exercise authority should do so as a means of service to the common good of all. A hallmark of legitimate authority is that those who hold positions of influence practice distributive justice for the sake of harmony and peace.
Political authorities are obliged to respect the fundamental rights of the human person. They will dispense justice humanely by respecting the rights of everyone, especially of families and the disadvantaged.
The political rights attached to citizenship can and should be granted according to the requirements of the common good. They cannot be suspended by public authorities without legitimate and proportionate reasons. Political rights are meant to be exercised for the common good of the nation and the human community. (Catechism, paragraph 2237)
Matthew's community must have had questions about taxes. Members no doubt wondered whether it was lawful in the eyes of God to pay taxes to the government, the government of Rome in their case. It is a legitimate question to ask even today. Some people in the United States refuse to pay taxes because they disagree with the spending priorities of the federal government. Some of these individuals do so out of religious conviction. Most of us, even if we vehemently oppose the policies of our government, take the easy way out and pay our taxes. The majority in Jesus's day did the same. They held the opinion that paying the poll tax, which was one denarius for every man, woman, and slave between the ages of twelve and sixty-five, was less trouble than not paying the tax. Refusing to pay one's tax usually meant imprisonment or death. Life was preferable to imprisonment or death for most of Jesus's coreligionists; so they paid their taxes and attempted to coexist with the Roman occupiers.
Jesus doesn't fault their commitment to the state, which was motivated simply by the desire to stay alive, but reminds them of a deeper commitment. Loving and serving God has to be the primary commitment in the life of any Christian. The value of other commitments, including the commitment to defend one's country, flows from this one. Throughout history, nationalism has challenged Christians, indeed, all people of faith. When love of country becomes the primary and most important commitment in the life of a society, that society is in deep trouble. Such a commitment is in direct conflict with loving and serving God. Christianity asks us to constantly refocus, to love and serve God above all else. Loving and serving the state or the leader of the state first and foremost is simply unacceptable; an unthinking or noncritical patriotism is a form of idolatry. As Christians living in today's highly political and polarized world, we are advised to take these words to heart.
The scriptural quotations contained herein are from the New Revised Standard Version of the Bible, Catholic Edition. Copyright © 1993 and 1989 by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. All rights reserved.
The quotations labeled Catechism are from the English translation of the Catechism of the Catholic Church for use in the United States of America. Copyright © 1994 by the United States Catholic Conference, Inc.--Libreria Editrice Vaticana. Used with permission.
The Lord's Prayer is taken from Catholic Household Blessings and Prayers. Copyright © 1988 by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, Inc., Washington, DC. All rights reserved.
Endnotes Cited in Quotations from the Catechism of the Catholic Church
1. Cf. Leo XIII, Immortale Dei; Diuturnum illud.
2. John XXIII, Pacem in terris 51.
Pope Blessed John XXIII
October 11 is the memorial for Pope Blessed John XXIII.
Angelo Giuseppe Roncalli was born in 1881 in Sotto il Monte, Italy. Before being elected the 261st Pope, he served as a chaplain in World War I, a priest, an archbishop, Vatican diplomatic representative, and papal nuncio. On October 28, 1958, he was elected Pope and chose the name John XXIII. During his papacy he worked for the advancement of ecumenical and interreligious cooperation and reforms to benefit the poor, workers, and orphans. In January 1959, he announced his plans to call an ecumenical council to address, among other things, the renewal of the Church in the modern world. The Second Vatican Council was convened on October 11, 1962. Pope Blessed John XXIII died on June 3, 1963.
For more information about Pope Blessed John XXIII, go to http://saints.sqpn.com/11-october/.