Saint Mary's Press winner for the week of May 7, 2012
Congratulations to Mary Seyer
Tim will receive a copy of Catholic Connections Handbook for Middle Schoolers, an $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
The time for graduation is fast approaching. Graduation is a wonderful opportunity to celebrate the successes of the youth with which we are in ministry. It is also a time to remind youth that even though one “phase” of their life is at a close, they are on a lifelong journey with God. The National Federation for Catholic Youth Ministry (NFCYM) provides on their Web site some ideas for celebrating Baccalaureate Sunday in your community as well as a “Blessing of Graduates.” Below are a few additional ideas you might want to use to make graduation not only about completing a phase of school but also about embracing the journey with God.
- Include a blessing for the students. With all of the gifts they receive, it is important to remind them of the power and meaning of the gift of prayer. There are numerous blessings for transitions in life. Below is a blessing you can use and adapt for your community.
- If you do wish to give a material gift, consider giving the students a gift that carries religious significance. A crucifix for the dorm room, a cross key chain, a Bible, or a rosary are just a few possibilities. Remind them with the gift that they are entering a new stage of being more responsible for their own faith life and for the decisions they will make. To the student it might not be as exciting as the $20.00 from a long-lost aunt, but it will carry more significance as time goes on.
- Help the students to make connections with the faith community where they are going. It is easy to connect with the Newman Center at various colleges that seniors will be attending, or to “touch base” with the campus minister at the high school where your middle school student will be going. You could remove an obstacle in your students’ faith life by simply letting them know the name and phone number of the person heading up the ministry at the school they will be attending. There is an extensive list of Newman Centers and Catholic Student Associations for those who are moving on to college life, at http://www.cco.caltech.edu/~nmcenter/OtherNC.html.
- Spend time recognizing the unique gifts in each student. During this time it is easy to focus on the valedictorian, the solo vocalist at graduation, or the student body president, but every student deserves to have “a moment in the sun.” Invite students who have been a challenge or have gone largely unnoticed to have a part in the graduation ceremony or the Baccalaureate Mass. Let them know that you value them. Even if it is not fully appreciated by the student immediately, the long-term effect can be amazing. As part of this, take time to share with students what you have valued about them in the time you have shared. It doesn’t have to be much, just enough for them to know that you did notice and appreciate them.
These are just a few possibilities of things that can be done to make graduation a meaningful and spiritual event for students, families, and teachers. The important thing is to make an effort to have this transition be more than just a final hoop to jump through on the way out the door. I pray that you continue to have a blessed Easter season, and as always, I pray that God will continue to bless you and your ministry.
God of Beginnings,
We ask your blessing on all those who are graduating this year as they prepare to move on to a new beginning in their lives.
Help them to rejoice in the hard work that has brought them to this point, and keep them safe as they celebrate their accomplishments.
Loving God, guide these graduates on the journey that lies ahead of them as they prepare to encounter new and exciting opportunities.
Bless these graduates with humility in times of success and strength in times of challenge.
Help them to remember all those in their lives that have supported and cared for them. May these graduates always know that they are truly loved and cherished.
Empower them to go forth and continue the work of your Son, Jesus Christ. We pray that they will truly be a light of justice and compassion to the world.
We give thanks for the gift that each one of these graduates is to our community, and we rejoice in knowing that they will be a blessing to all those they encounter on their life’s journey.
It is in the name of your Son, Jesus Christ, that we pray.
make it happen
“The End of High School: Tough Stuff for Parents"
Reflection and Forced-Choice Exercise: A Trip Down Memory Lane
From Horizons: A Senior High Parish Religion Program
Senior Year: Last Things and Lasting Things
Before the session. List on newsprint the following questions:
• Who was your best friend?
• What did you enjoy doing with friends?
• What were you involved in at school?
• How did you feel when you left high school?
• What were the family issues you dealt with?
• What were the fads of the time—the hairstyles,dress styles, favorite songs, and so forth?
• What was the biggest decision you made at that time of your life?
1. Divide the parents into teams of three or four people. If possible, assign spouses to different groups. Ask the parents to recall being seventeen or eighteen years old and a senior in high school. Suggest that they close their eyes for a minute or so and imagine what they looked like at that time, where they lived, where they worked if they had a job, and so forth. The point of the reflection is simply to get parents in touch with their life when they were the age of their child.
After a brief reflection time, display the newsprint list of questions that you created before the session. Invite the parents to share their answers to the questions with other people in their team. Encourage them not to limit themselves to the questions on the newsprint, but to share other significant experiences of that time of life if they have extra time. Allow about 10 minutes for team discussion. Call the group back together after that time.
2. Thank the parents for reaching back into their memory to share with others their experience of being in transition. Emphasize the importance of remembering what it was like to be young and at the threshold of something new. Their task now is to think about some common presumptions concerning this period of transition and to decide where they stand on them. Read each of the following statements and ask the parents whether they agree or disagree. Invite them to share the reasons for their answers.
• All teenagers are basically the same.
• I was their age once, so I know how they feel.
• The senior year is a fun year for families.
• They will never again have life be so good.
• Most eighteen-year-olds want to leave home and be on their own.
• The last year of high school is mostly a fun year for young people.
• Young people must stretch the limits to learn boundaries.
3. Close the exercise by making the following points in your own words:
• Mention that the young people are experiencing some of the same feelings their parents did when they were seniors in high school. These feelings are a normal part of human development. However, society has changed since the parents were in high school. Because of that the parents may not fully understand what their children are experiencing.
• Affirm that the senior year is a time of mixed emotions for everyone. Both young people and their parents experience joy, excitement, anticipation, apprehension, fear, and a sense of accomplishment as the young people stand at the edge of the nest, ready to move on to something new. Young people want freedom, but also want the security of the family nest. Parents want to see their children find their way in the world, but are reluctant to let go.
• Assure the parents that they are not alone in their concerns about the issues facing their children or the challenges facing their family. The thought of a child’s leaving home, being independent, making mistakes, and finding her or his way in the world is scary. The comfort in being with other parents is knowing that others share the same concerns. They can learn from one another as they share experiences, insights, and resources.
• Finally, note that when young people leave the various nests that have nurtured them for their whole life, the job of their parents—as keepers of the family nest—is to support them. The parents must do this while confidently assuring the young people that God always watches over them. God’s presence is the only nest a person never leaves.
break open the word
Sixth Sunday of Easter
May 13, 2012
God, your love for us is higher than the highest mountain, wider than the widest river, and deeper than the deepest sea. Continue to teach us how to share your love with everyone we meet. As you have loved us may we love one another. May our time together today bring us clearer understanding of your love, the source of our joy in life. We ask this in Jesus's name. Amen.
Jesus commanded his disciples to love one another as he loved them. How did Jesus love the disciples? His love was the greatest kind of love, a self-giving love that included the ultimate sacrifice of his life for a friend. In Greek, the word used to express this kind of love is agape (ä gä pA). This is the kind of love that the Father had for his Son, Jesus, and the love Jesus had for his disciples. It is a love that puts another's welfare ahead of one's own.
Today Jesus asks us, his modern-day disciples, to love one another in the same way. We are able and know how to do this because God first loved us and showed us how to love. John says it was God who chose us and not that we chose God (verse 16). God has shown us through Jesus that we are lovable and deserving of God's love. Because we are loved and we know we are lovable, then it is possible to love others in the same way. Jesus's love has established a new relationship between God and humankind. Jesus, in giving his life for his friends (you and me), changed the relationship dynamic from that of master to servant to that of friend to friend. This is a very significant development in understanding our relationship with God.
Saint Paul gives us further insight into the understanding of this kind of love in 1 Corinthians, chapter 13. You may be very familiar with the passage that begins, "Love is patient; love is kind" (verse 4). It is often used as a reading at weddings. In it Paul describes in detail the characteristics of Christian love. The overarching idea, however, is that the way of love is other-centered and not me-centered.
An expression made popular by Jesse Manibusan, a national speaker and musician at youth rallies across the United States, is that God is good all the time; all the time God is good. Jesse will say to all the gathered youth, "God is good," and they respond, "All the time," and then Jesse will say, "All the time," and the youth will shout back, "God is good!" If you have ever attended a youth rally where Jesse spoke, you will always remember this interaction between him and the audience.
In the Gospel this Sunday, John shares with us a profound insight into the essence of God: love. I would like to believe that if Saint John were speaking at a gathering of youth today, his quotable line would be, "God is love, all the time. All the time, God is love." John wants us to remember, if we remember anything from his Gospel, this teaching that God is love.
But St. John goes even further when he affirms that "God is love":1 God's very being is love. By sending his only Son and the Spirit of Love in the fullness of time, God has revealed his innermost secret:2 God himself is an eternal exchange of love, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and he has destined us to share in that exchange. (Catechism of the Catholic Church, paragraph 221)
In the Catechism of the Catholic Church, paragraphs 218-221, you will find a discussion about this characteristic of God. These paragraphs discuss God's single motive throughout all of history; his motive was and is and will be to love unconditionally and without ceasing. For God's love is everlasting; it is a steadfast love.
God's love is "everlasting":3 "For the mountains may depart and the hills be removed, but my steadfast love shall not depart from you."4 Through Jeremiah, God declares to his people, "I have loved you with an everlasting love; therefore I have continued my faithfulness to you."5 (Catechism, paragraph 220)
John tells us that God's essence, God's very being, is love. We believe that our God as a Triune God lives in a community of love--the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. The economy (work) of the Trinity is love. This model of perfect love among the Father, Son, and Spirit is the fundamental foundation of the Church that Jesus established on earth. The early Christians were recognized most distinctively by the way they loved one another.
Jesus calls us friends because he was the Word of God made flesh that lived among us, and he has shared with us everything he heard from the Father. To be a friend of Jesus's means to keep his greatest commandment. In verse 12, Jesus gives us his greatest commandment: to love one another. This love originates with God; as the Father loved the Son, the Son loved his disciples, whom he has commanded to love one another. When love is shared, the joy that Jesus came to share with us will be experienced and it will be complete.
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, second edition. Copyright © 1994 by the United States Catholic Conference, Inc.--Libreria Editrice Vaticana. English translation of the Catechism of the Catholic Church: Modifications from the Editio Typica copyright © 1997 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. 1 John 4:8, 16.
2. Cf. 1 Corinthians 2:7-16; Ephesians 3:9-12.
3. Isaiah 54:8.
4. Isaiah 54:10; cf. 54:8.
5. Jeremiah 31:3.
Copyright © 2009 by Saint Mary's Press, 702 Terrace Heights, Winona, MN 55987-1318, www.smp.org. All rights reserved. No part of this newsletter may be reproduced by any means without the written permission of the publisher. Thank you.
Saint Damien de Veuster
May 10 is the memorial for Saint Damien de Veuster, better known as Damien of Molokai, the “apostle to the lepers.”
Born in 1840 in Belgium, Damien became a missionary priest who ministered in the Hawaiian Islands. He later volunteered to minister to the leper colony on the island of Molokai, an assignment no one wanted for fear of contracting the disease. After twelve years on the island, Damien was diagnosed with leprosy. Damien died in 1889 and was canonized in October of 2009 by Pope Benedict XVI.
For more information on Saint Damien de Veuster, go to http://saints.sqpn.com/saint-joseph-de-veuster/.