Saint Mary's Press winner for the week of January 16, 2012!
Congratulations to Patricia Anne Driscoll!
Patricia Anne will receive a copy of The Catholic Youth Prayer Book, a a $18.95 value.
Help youth understand the meaning of Christian prayer. Introduce them to traditional and devotional prayers of the Church, as well as to contemporary styles and methods. Assist youth in developing the habit of daily prayer. This all-in-one resource for prayer forms was specially written for teens, in the PRAY IT! STUDY IT! LIVE IT!® model, like The Catholic Youth Bible® and The Catholic Faith Handbook for Youth. It is the most expansive prayer book for teens. But The Catholic Youth Prayer Book does more than teach about prayer. It helps teens become prayerful people.
The Catholic Youth Prayer Book
ISBN: 978-0-88489-559-6, paper, 232 pages
focus on faith
Last week the Servant Leader included part 1 of an article written by Brian Singer-Towns addressing biblical literacy. This week’s issue includes part 2 of the article, in which Brian explores biblical spirituality in relation to biblical literacy. I hope this article provides you with some good ideas for helping your community explore biblical spirituality, and as always, I pray that God will continue to bless you and your ministry.
Catholic Youth and the Bible: Moving from Biblical Literacy to Biblical Spirituality (Part 2)
By Brian Singer-Towns
One of the great achievements of the Second Vatican Council was its emphasis upon the Word of God as central to Catholic faith and practice. Indeed, contemporary Catholic spirituality is at once a liturgical and biblical spirituality.
—Cardinal Roger Mahoney, Archbishop of Los Angeles
Biblical literacy is only the means to an end. And that end is fostering biblical spirituality. People with a biblical spirituality embrace Gospel values and live them out in decisions both large and small. They strive to be faithful to God’s call, both individually and communally. Such people are in many ways countercultural, as they struggle to live out Jesus’ challenges to forgive “seventy-seven times” (Matt. 18:22), to “love [one’s] neighbor as [oneself]” (Mark 12:31), and to “take up their cross daily and follow me” (Luke 9:23).
Catholic schools have done a good job of educating for biblical literacy. But that by itself is not enough. Knowing about the Bible is only one part of a holistic approach needed to foster biblical spirituality. We must also encourage students to pray with the Bible and to live out the Bible’s challenge. As whole people, our minds, hearts, and wills are organically connected. We must find ways to touch our young people’s hearts and wills with God’s Word as well as educate their minds. This holistic approach is the sign of a community that is fostering biblical spirituality.
What can schools do to encourage biblical spirituality? Let me offer a few ideas to spark your own creativity. Many of these are borrowed from other Christians who have more practice at this than we Catholics. The first constellation of ideas has to do with infusing the school with biblical images and references. This could be as simple as putting a biblical quote of the week on your school bulletin board or Web site. If you start the school day with a short prayer, be sure it frequently contains a biblical quote or story. Classrooms should also contain biblical quotes or artwork as part of the decor. What math lab would be complete without “Correct me, O Lord, but in just measure; / not in your anger, or you will bring me to nothing”? (Jer. 10:24, emphasis added). Prayer services and retreats should highlight biblical themes, encourage biblical values, and teach biblical lifestyle choices.
Another constellation of ideas revolves around encouraging students to read and reflect on the Bible. It is especially important that they read whole books; after all, that is how the authors intended them to be read! Some schools give every incoming student his or her own personal Bible to foster Bible reading. If this is done in a special retreat or prayer service, it will underscore the importance of the Scriptures in the life of the school. Some schools even create plans for which books of the Bible will be read in each theology and language arts class, ensuring that the students will have read a significant part of the Bible before graduation. Perhaps even give some thought to making the Bible itself the primary text for your Scripture courses.
I would urge you to consider sponsoring some faculty- or student-led Scripture study or sharing groups in the school. Many young people are eager for this experience—not all, to be sure, but enough to justify the effort. Such groups could use the lectionary or engage in topical study or book study. The crucial goal is that they make the tie between God’s Word and their own lives. (Interestingly, the ancient prayer form of lectio divina—literally, “divine reading”—is making a comeback, with many Protestant churches teaching this form of Scripture meditation to eager groups of youth.)
In making these suggestions, I am not advocating that biblical spirituality is the only part of our spiritual tradition that we need to expose young people to. But a growing consensus in the Church—among both the leaders and the community at large—is that biblical spirituality is a part of our tradition that needs greater attention in our ministry with young people. Fostering biblical spirituality is an integral component of building faith communities in our schools. It is an exciting challenge that Catholic schools have unique opportunities to respond to.
make it happen
Open Your Eyes, Open Your Ears
From Bringing Catholic Youth and the Bible Together
Type of activity. a game, a reflection
Related Scripture passage. Mark 7:31–37
Materials needed. earplugs, a set for each person (or two cotton balls for each person); Bibles, one for each person; blindfolds, one for each person 1. Give each participant a set of earplugs. Direct everyone to put the earplugs in their ears so they are unable to hear anything. (An alternative would be for you to stand on the other side of a large window where the participants can see you but not hear you.)
2. When no one is able to hear you, read aloud the Gospel reading for the coming Sunday. When you are finished, ask the young people to take out their earplugs and tell you what the Gospel was about. Ask:
- What are some things that make us deaf to the Word of God?
- Are there times when you can hear the Gospel proclaimed, but you still aren’t really listening?
3. Give each teen a Bible and a blindfold. Ask the young people to put on their blindfold and make sure they are not able to see at all. Direct them not to remove the blindfold until told to do so. Next ask them to turn to the specific page where this Gospel is found and allow time for them to read it. Ask:
- What are some of the things that make us blind to the Word of God?
- Are there times when you have been instructed to read from the Bible, but you still weren’t really understanding?
4. Allow the young people to take off their blindfold. Talk about how we need to spend time with God, to pay attention in order to see God’s Word around us. Stress the need for quiet—to hear less and speak less— to make room for God. In silence we can see God better, listen to God better, and speak to God more clearly.
5. Give the young people plenty of room to spread out and create their own quiet space. Insist on quiet during this time. Ask the young people to spend 10 minutes reading Mark 7:31–37 and answering the following questions:
- How can we move from spiritual deafness to really listening to the Word of God?
- How can we move from spiritual blindness to seeing the Word of God all around us?
break open the word
The Third Sunday in Ordinary Time
January 22, 2012
Jesus, your invitation to follow you is clear, and you waste no time extending it. You called the first disciples and asked them to leave behind their former lives and follow you. This year what is it that you ask of us, who count ourselves as your disciples? Give us the power of discernment so we can hear and understand your call amid the often loud voices that surround us. Amen.
In this Sunday's Gospel Mark offers his version of Jesus seeking out and inviting ordinary people to follow him, to become his disciples. In John's version, which was last Sunday's Gospel, those desiring to become Jesus's disciples sought him out. Both Gospel passages make the same point: God enters into a relationship with us in a variety of ways, using various means. According to Mark, Jesus began preaching the Good News after John the Baptist had been arrested by Herod. John, it seems, completed his role in the story of our salvation, which caused Jesus's role to become more vocal and active. "Now after John was arrested, Jesus came to Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God" (1:14). From Galilee Jesus proclaimed his radical message, "The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near" (1:15). He was telling people that the way they related to themselves, to others, and to God was about to change. In Greek, the language in which the Gospel of Mark was written, we find two words for time, chronos and kairos. Chronos refers to ordinary time, a moment in the day, and kairos refers to extraordinary time, a moment in the history of humankind. When Jesus said, "The time is fulfilled," the word that he used for time was kairos, or God's time. It was now God's time for the Good News to be preached. God's Reign had begun, and in the Gospel of Mark, Jesus, through his ministry and public life, announces and sets into motion the Reign of God. Those who wish to follow Jesus must fulfill a two-part requirement, "Repent, and believe in the good news" (1:15). This call for repentance involved a change of heart, a metanoia, which is a Greek word meaning to think over or rethink the way one goes about doing things. This change of heart manifests itself as adopting a way of relating to the world that is consistent with the Good News. In the Bible, in general, belief involves not only intellectual conviction but also trust and personal commitment.
The setting is the area around the Sea of Galilee, which was heavily populated because of its extensive fishing industry. Fishing was very profitable. For example, the father of James and John earned enough to hire others to fish alongside himself and his sons (1:20). The first disciples that Jesus calls are Simon and Andrew, who were fishing with their father, "Follow me and I will make you fish for people" (1:17). The Gospel tells us that they immediately followed him. Perhaps they sensed that they were now living in an extraordinary time, in kairos, which helped them to think more clearly. Next, Jesus calls James and John, the sons of Zebedee, and they too leave everything and follow him. "Immediately he called them; and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired men, and followed him" (1:20). Those who were wise knew that this was indeed God's time and acted without hesitation.
Mark emphasizes that the Gospel of Jesus Christ is a call to repentance, or conversion, "Repent, and believe in the good news" (1:15). Jesus's call to follow him, should we answer it, will result in us undertaking a journey of conversion. As Catholics we believe that conversion is not a one-time event but an ongoing process of growing in holiness. For us, Baptism is the point of initiation, the point at which we begin proclaiming our belief in the Good News, which involves continually renouncing evil and embracing holiness.
Jesus calls to conversion. This call is an essential part of the proclamation of the kingdom: "The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent, and believe in the gospel."1 In the Church's preaching this call is addressed first to those who do not yet know Christ and his Gospel. Also, Baptism is the principal place for the first and fundamental conversion. It is by faith in the Gospel and by Baptism2 that one renounces evil and gains salvation, that is, the forgiveness of all sins and the gift of new life. (Catechism of the Catholic Church, paragraph 1427)
The Church provides the sacrament of Reconciliation so that we can further the ongoing conversion in our lives. In the sacrament the individual is asked to have a contrite heart and the resolve to sin no more. The repentant asks for the mercy of God for the forgiveness of past transgressions as well as the grace to be able to live more completely the values and virtues of the Gospel. Through the mercy of God we know that we are loved by God; this realization makes it possible to approach God and seek forgiveness.
Christ's call to conversion continues to resound in the lives of Christians. This second conversion is an uninterrupted task for the whole Church who, "clasping sinners to her bosom, [is] at once holy and always in need of purification, [and] follows constantly the path of penance and renewal."3 This endeavor of conversion is not just a human work. It is the movement of a "contrite heart," drawn and moved by grace to respond to the merciful love of God who loved us first.4 (Catechism, paragraph 1428)
Peter, the first disciple whom Jesus calls in the Gospel of Mark, is a premier example of one who trusts in the mercy of God and places one's trust and confidence in the ongoing process of conversion. After Peter denied Jesus three times, Jesus gave Peter an opportunity to express his love for him after the Resurrection in the form of a threefold affirmation. Scripture and the lives of the saints abound in examples of conversion--conversion of water, Baptism, and conversion of tears, Reconciliation.
St. Peter's conversion after he had denied his master three times bears witness to this. Jesus' look of infinite mercy drew tears of repentance from Peter and, after the Lord's resurrection, a threefold affirmation of love for him.5 The second conversion also has a communitarian dimension, as is clear in the Lord's call to a whole Church: "Repent!"6
St. Ambrose says of the two conversions that, in the Church, "there are water and tears: the water of Baptism and the tears of repentance."7 (Catechism, paragraph 1429)
Mark shows us that Jesus's call to follow him can be powerful and direct. Regardless of the nature of that call, we are still forced to make a choice between Gospel values and our own, which are often the values of the dominant culture, the values of corporate media. "Buy, buy, buy" or "Me, me, me" are not Gospel values espoused by the followers of Jesus Christ. Receiving a call from Jesus to follow him will more than likely mean that attitudes, values, and priorities will change. This transformation makes it possible for us to become fishers of people. Fishers of fish are focused on the material, and fishers of people on the spiritual. To fish for people is to create opportunities to share the Good News with others.
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. Mark 1:15.
2. Cf. Acts of the Apostles 2:38.
3. Lumen gentium 8 § 3.
4. Psalms 51:17; cf. John 6:44; 12:32; 1 John 4:10.
5. Cf. Luke 22:61; John 21:15-17.
6. Revelation 2:5, 16.
7. St. Ambrose, ep. 41, 12: J. P. Migne, ed. Patrologia Latina (Paris, 1841-1855), 16, 1116.
Saint Agnes of Rome
January 21 is the memorial for Saint Agnes of Rome.
Saint Agnes was martyred in Rome in the late 3rd or early 4th century. As a young girl, she was to be sacrificed to the pagan gods. At the time of her sacrifice, she made the Sign of the Cross. Enduring torture, she refused to renounce her devotion to God. The wool of two lambs, blessed on her feast day at the church dedicated to her Rome, is used to make the palliums the Pope confers on archbishops as a sign of their jurisdiction.
For more information on Saint Agnes of Rome, go to http://saints.sqpn.com/saint-agnes-of-rome/.