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The Servant Leader

Oct. 24, 2011

weekly winner

Announcing:
Saint Mary's Press winner for the week of October 24, 2011!

Congratulations to Helen Bednarczyk!

Judith will receive a copy of Great People of the Bible Student Book and Catechist Guide, a $28.90 value.

Bring Salvation History to Life! Parish leaders have been requesting a Catholic Bible study curriculum for middle school students, created specifically to fit their parish schedules. Saint Mary’s Press is pleased to respond to this need with the Great People of the Bible parish curriculum.

The Great People of the Bible curriculum offers:

- A student book that is found in conformity with the Catechism of the Catholic Church as a supplemental curriculum resource, and the only Bible curriculum for middle school students with this approval

- Twenty-five, one hour sessions designed to fit a typical parish calendar

- A catechist guide that offers easy-to-follow session outlines for the volunteer catechist

- Flexible options for the Catechist to complete student activities in class or use as family learning assignments in the home

- One student book that covers both the Old and New Testament and that supports the ABC’s of biblical literacy

- Engaging student activities, now with expanded background content, based on the ever popular Student Activity Workbooks for Breakthrough! The Bible for Young Catholics

Great People of the Bible
ISBN: 978-0-88489-690-6, paper, 56 pages


focus on faith

Service and Justice, Part 2
Last week the Servant Leader provided part 1 of a reflection written by Connie Fourré exploring the five steps on the continuum between charity and justice. What follows is part 2 of that reflection. This week’s reflection focuses on the fourth and fifth stages: reflection on justice and working for structural change. I hope this reflection has been helpful for you as you work to guide youth in hearing the call to a life of service and justice, and as always, I pray that God will continue to bless you and your ministry.

Peace,
Steven McGlaun

Service and Justice: A Conversion of Heart (Part 2)
by Connie Fourré

Stage Four: Bridging the Gap
Service has much more power to change hearts if we move into the fourth stage of providing structured reflection for our students. Reflection also begins to build the bridge toward a justice perspective. Journal writing is a common expectation in service work, and it is the reflection method I used when I first began teaching our Christian service class. This basic level of reflection focuses primarily on students’ emotional responses to their experiences. My lesson plans were geared toward developing social, organizational, and problem-solving skills.

Developing a justice perspective requires another, much more complex kind of reflection. Many of us have heard the story of the picnicking family on a riverbank who hears a drowning man call for help. They rescue the man and return to their meal. Soon two women are heard calling desperately from the river, and again family members plunge in for the rescue. The women are followed by ever more people floating down the river crying for help. Eventually someone asks the obvious question,

“Where are all these people coming from?” and heads upstream to investigate. After a service experience, it’s not difficult to invite students to ask, “Where are all these people coming from?” Leading them through the underbrush to discover the answer is another story altogether.

As religion teachers or campus ministers, few of us have the necessary training in economics and political science to be able to do a sophisticated analysis of issues such as the World Bank or national welfare reform. Some of us have had the humbling experience of being shown up by an exceptionally well-informed student who argues the other side with a wealth of opposing statistics and facts. We are equipped to lay out the basics: There are people who are disenfranchised and economically poor through no fault of their own. It is the responsibility of those of us with the resources and skills necessary to succeed in our society to share what we have with others and to alter the structures that perpetuate inequity.

By providing students with experiences that stretch their capacity for compassion, we help them move emotionally toward this basic awareness. The bishops’ document distills the essence of Catholic social teaching into seven principles to use as a foundation in examining injustice:

1. the sanctity of life and the inherent dignity of the human person
2. the call to family, community, and participation
3. a balance of rights and responsibilities
4. the option for the poor and vulnerable
5. the dignity of work and the rights of workers
6. solidarity
7. care for God’s creation

We can teach these principles much as we have taught the Beatitudes in the past: by requiring students to memorize them and by explaining the meaning of each concept. But applying the principles to the problem of homelessness today is like applying a memorized mathematical formula to a word problem: it’s tough. As the bishops note, we are in need of tools that can help us research and discuss current issues with our students.

We also must remember that providing an analysis is not the same as teaching students to analyze. Students need to learn media literacy and how to navigate the Internet for reliable information—skills that we have very limited time to learn ourselves. Strategies for teaching critical thinking and a disciplined approach to complex questions are essential to effective teaching. In our rapidly changing world, students desperately need to acquire tools for intelligently assessing new situations as they arise.

Working with other departments also helps convey the message that social justice is not just a “religion teacher thing.” A partnership with social studies departments can be invaluable because those teachers are trained in economics, history, government, and geography. This highlights the bishops’ critical call to integrate social-justice education throughout our curriculum. I believe this effort is in its infancy in most schools. The literature on multicultural education offers valuable insights on the process we are likely to follow in bringing about this change and also offers tested strategies for bringing this awareness to other departments in our school.

Stage Five: Action for Structural Change
The fifth and final stage, taking action to bring about structural change, brings us to the brink mentioned at the beginning of this article. Analysis without action will not help the poor, and our students can only learn to act through practice. Sharing Catholic Social Teaching says, “There is a need for Catholic educational and catechetical programs not only to continue offering direct service experiences but also to offer opportunities to work for change in the policies and structures that cause injustice” (p. 12). Because Benilde–Saint Margaret’s, like so many other schools, is just beginning to move into this stage, my comments reflect what we have learned from our early endeavors.

First, it is essential that we research an issue thoroughly before we embark on any action with students. Student research is an important part of the learning process, but it must be overseen and evaluated by an adult. We need to not only research the facts about an issue but also study and pray over the possible repercussions of any action we may take. There are reports, for example, that some of the efforts to end child labor in developing countries have resulted in children being put out of factories and forced into prostitution or begging to support their families. If we lead students in an effort that later turns out to be counterproductive, we may reinforce rather than reverse their sense of powerlessness in the face of injustice.

Thorough research, and student-based research, is also an important component of the objectivity we need to bring when presenting issues to students. Students quickly tell us they will respond only to an approach that does not pre-empt their right to make judgments for themselves. We need to make sure that we invite students to action without communicating judgment about students who choose not to join us.

We need to have our information readily available for any parents who may be concerned, or for students who voice disagreement with our action. Quotations from papal and episcopal documents that support our work can be very helpful.

Action needs to be nonpartisan and remain focused on issues. Although many strategies we take may be supported more by one political party than another, it is both bad policy and bad strategy to identify ourselves too closely with one political group.

God’s Call
The complexity of social-justice education makes sex education look easy. The conversion of heart that underlies service and justice education is a lifelong process for us as well as for our students and their parents. The needs are enormous, the forces against us sophisticated, and we are all too often made aware of our personal limitations.

This is one of the many moments when we are reminded that we must rely on God’s strength and not our own. We are not engaged simply in political activism—we are answering God’s call for our life. God invites each of us according to our gifts and our circumstances, and we can answer this call in many ways. The good news is we aren’t in this alone. God and committed colleagues over the next hill and across the country are on our side.

 

make it happen

The Magnificent Seven: Seven Major Lessons of Catholic Social Teaching
From Justice and Service Ideas for Ministry with Young Teens

Overview
This creative strategy challenges the young adolescents to illustrate seven radical social teachings of the Catholic church. By designing a series of posters, the young people create a colorful display that connects and contrasts the justice tradition of our faith with the realities of injustice in the world.

Suggested Time
About 60 minutes

Group Size
This strategy can be done with a group of seven or more young people.

Special Considerations
The lessons outlined in this strategy have been greatly summarized and represent only some of the key principles of Catholic social teaching. Because some young adolescents and even adults may be unaware of that teaching, you may choose to begin with a broader presentation on its principles. Background on that topic can be found in the Catechism of the Catholic Church, by the Libreria Editrice Vaticana, translated by the United States Catholic Conference (USCC) (Washington, DC: USCC, 1994), part 3, chapters 1 and 2, particularly numbers 1877 to 1948.

Materials Needed
- one copy of resource 7, “Seven Lessons for Our Time,” cut apart as scored
- seven sheets of poster board
- markers
- a variety of used magazines
- glue or tape
- scissors
- two wooden dowels, each about 8 feet long
- tape, wood glue, or nails

Procedure
Preparation. Using tape, wood glue, or nails, fasten two long dowels together to form a cross.

1. Divide the young people into seven task groups. When they are settled, read the following scriptural passage:
“I myself will teach your people and give them prosperity and peace. Justice and right will make you strong. You will be safe from oppression and terror”
(adapted from Isa. 54:13–14).

Note that the Catholic church teaches principles for our time that are rooted in God’s plan for peace and justice for all people. Emphasize that those principles directly challenge the realities of injustice in our world.

2. Announce that each group will be given one of seven justice principles of the Catholic church. The groups are to illustrate their assigned principle with words, pictures, and drawings and show how it contradicts unjust practices of our time. Emphasize that by creating this display, the young people will become teachers of justice.

3. Give each group one part of resource 7. Ask for a volunteer in each group to read from the group’s lesson the church principle and the accompanying world practices. Briefly discuss how each lesson challenges the social realities of our time.

4. Give each group one sheet of poster board, markers, some used magazines, glue or tape, and scissors. Suggest that the group members take a few moments to discuss how they will illustrate their lesson on the poster. Tell them to begin by writing on the poster, in large bold letters, the words of the church principle. Challenge them to be creative in illustrating both what the church teaches and how the world contradicts that teaching. Allow 20 to 30 minutes for the groups to create their posters.

5. When the posters are finished, invite the groups to present and explain them. Afterward attach two posters on each arm of the cross that you made before the session, and the remaining three posters down the vertical rod. 6. Discuss with the young people which of the lessons they believe is most needed in our time. Close with a prayer, asking for God’s help to spread that message of justice. Choose a public location in the school or parish to display the posters on the cross.

Alternative Approaches
- Instead of making a large cross to display the seven posters, use string to bind the posters into an oversized book and cover the book with a title poster that reads, The Social Gospel.
- Invite the groups to make sandwich boards instead of posters. Direct them to illustrate their assigned justice principle on one side and the corresponding realities of injustice on the reverse side.
- Extend the themes of this exercise to cover seven sessions focusing on Catholic social teaching. Consider using some of the other strategies from this manual to expand the sessions. For example, the strategy “Who’s on Top?  A Look at the World from the Other Side” could be used with lesson 2 or 3.

Scriptural Connections
- Gen. 1:31 (God looked at all of Creation and was pleased.)
- Isa. 61:8 (God loves justice and will make a covenant with those who are just.)
- Amos 5:24 (Let justice flow like a river.)
- Matt. 5:9 (Blessed are those who work for peace.)
- Luke 4:18–19 (Jesus was anointed by the Spirit to bring good news.)

Notes
Use the space below to jot notes and reminders for the next time you use this strategy.

break open the word

Thirty-first Sunday in Ordinary Time
October 30, 2011
Matthew 23:1-12

Opening Prayer
Jesus, help us to live the truth of the Gospel in all we say and do. Continue to bless us with your grace so that we become useful servants in the world today. Amen.

Context Connection
In this Sunday's Gospel Jesus confronts the hypocrisy of the scribes and Pharisees. As you may know, the scribes were skilled at interpreting the Hebrew Scriptures in order to make them relevant to everyday life. The Pharisees, whom you have learned much about in recent weeks, belonged to a religious sect that prided itself on fellowship (communal meals), and on strict observance of the Law of Moses. The scribes and the Pharisees were two distinct groups.

Jesus says of his disciples, "The scribes and the Pharisees sit on Moses' seat; therefore, do whatever they teach you and follow it" (23:2-3). Remember that the teachings and precepts found in the Law of Moses can prove helpful in leading a Christian life; in fact, much of the Christian tradition is rooted in the Law. Jesus is not attacking the Law when he speaks these words of warning, "But do not do as they [the scribes and Pharisees] do, for they do not practice what they teach" (23:3). In Christianity one finds a direct corollary between what one believes and how one acts. People of faith value the connection between belief and behavior. They live by the words, "practice what you preach." The scribes and Pharisees failed to make this connection, and Jesus refused to excuse their hypocrisy. He objected to their narrow interpretation of the Law, or Torah, which made observing or living the Law very difficult for the average person. God intended observance of the Law to free people, but the scribes and Pharisees, through their literal interpretation, made it into a burden, which over time imprisoned people spiritually.

Jesus also objected to the way the scribes and Pharisees performed their religious duties; from his perspective they did everything for show. Their tricks were not lost on him. He pointed out that they made their ritual objects large so that everyone would see them. They had no humility; it was all about them. Jesus found their lack of humility appalling, "They love to have the place of honor at banquets and the best seats in the synagogues, and to be greeted with respect in the marketplaces, and to have people call them rabbi" (23:6-7).

Jesus teaches his followers then and now to embrace humility by putting others first--a stark contrast to the behavior of religious elites, "The greatest among you will be your servant. All who exalt themselves will be humbled, and all who humble themselves will be exalted" (23:11-12). Christians should aspire to serve, to be a servant to all. Every baptized member of the Church, including the pope, is called to be a servant. In fact, one of the titles by which the pope is known is "Servant of the Servants of God. "

Tradition Connection
Jesus desires everyone who follows him to be a person of virtue. "The goal of a virtuous life is to become like God"1 (Catechism of the Catholic Church, paragraph 1803). A virtue is a chosen, habitual way of acting that elevates the good, creating within oneself the tendency to do good.
A virtue is an habitual and firm disposition to do the good. It allows the person not only to perform good acts, but to give the best of himself. The virtuous person tends toward the good with all his sensory and spiritual powers; he pursues the good and chooses it in concrete actions. (Catechism, paragraph 1803)
This Sunday's Gospel emphasizes the virtue of humility. The Catechism of the Catholic Church defines humility in this way: "The virtue by which a Christian acknowledges that God is the author of all good. Humility avoids inordinate ambition or pride, and provides the foundation for turning to God in prayer. Voluntary humility can be described as 'poverty of spirit'" (page 882). Christians should always strive to be "poor in spirit," but sometimes we are not successful. Because we are human we fall short of the ideal, just as the scribes and Pharisees did. Jesus encourages us to continuously work toward the goal of living a virtuous life for the sake of others. With the help of God's grace we can do this, thereby creating a moral balance in the world.
It is not easy for man, wounded by sin, to maintain moral balance. Christ's gift of salvation offers us the grace necessary to persevere in the pursuit of the virtues. Everyone should always ask for this grace of light and strength, frequent the sacraments, cooperate with the Holy Spirit, and follow his call to love what is good and shun evil. (Catechism, paragraph 1811)
To be a virtuous person that has a true sense of balance in life requires hard work, learning, and perseverance. In the pursuit of virtue, which is lifelong, we are dependent on and aided by God's abundant grace.
Human virtues acquired by education, by deliberate acts and by a perseverance ever-renewed in repeated efforts are purified and elevated by divine grace. With God's help, they forge character and give facility in the practice of the good. The virtuous man is happy to practice them. (Catechism, paragraph 1810)

Wisdom Connection
Jesus's stinging attack on the scribes and Pharisees serves as a warning for his followers. His words enjoin us to require nothing more from others than we ourselves are prepared to give. If we follow his advice, if we live the Christian life in its fullness by assisting others to live a virtuous life, we won't be branded hypocrites. We are to help not to hinder one's pursuit of God. Jesus makes this very point in Matthew 11:30, "For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light."

In the Christian community the ideal of leadership is being of service to others. It is not about titles or recognition, it is about yeast. Yeast? A Christian leader should be yeast to the community; he or she should endeavor to make the community more Christ-like in its beliefs and behaviors.

The expectations for Christians are clear: practice what you preach, remember the lightness of the Savior's yoke, and avoid the distraction of honors and titles that get in the way of caring for all people.

Acknowledgments
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 from Catholic Household Blessings and Prayers. Copyright © 1988 United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, Inc., Washington, DC. All rights reserved.

Endnotes Cited in Quotations from the Catechism of the Catholic Church
1. St. Gregory of Nyssa, De beatitudinibus, 1: J. P. Migne, ed. Patrologia Graeca (Paris, 1857-1866), 44, 1200D.

 

saint spotlight

Saint Jude of Thaddeus
October 28 is the memorial for Saint Jude of Thaddeus.

Saint Jude was the nephew of Mary and Joseph. Saint Jude is most commonly known as the patron of lost causes because early Christians often confused him with Judas Iscariot, so praying for Saint Jude’s assistance was seen as a lost cause.

For more information on Saint Jude, go to http://saints.sqpn.com/saint-jude-thaddeus/.