Saint Mary's Press winner for the week of November 28, 2011!
Congratulations to Bridget Cupp!
Bridget 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
Revised Roman Missal
When you attended Mass this past weekend, you probably noticed some changes to the words used during the liturgy. As I am sure you are aware, the Roman Missal has been revised. In May of this year, I shared with you some resources developed by Saint Mary’s Press to both explain the changes in the Roman Missal and help you guide your community through the changes. The implementation of these changes will bring new opportunities to invite young people to explore the meaning and significance of the Eucharist for the Church and for their lives.
Saint Mary’s Press has developed two free online resources intended to assist you in preparing young people for the implementation of the new missal. The first is an article that provides the following information:
- an overview of key dates and events in the development of the Roman Missal
- a chart with publication dates
- a brief introduction to what’s new in the English-language version
- definitions of key terms
- information about helpful resources
The second resource provides the following activities to help you prepare young people for the implementation of the Roman Missal, third edition:
- Activity 1: Practicing Prayers (all ages)
- Activity 2: Mass Prayers: Fill-in-the-Blank Activity (lower elementary)
- Activity 3: Mass Prayers: Matching Activity (upper elementary and middle school)
- Activity 4: Roman Missal WebQuest (high school)
- Activity 5: Scripture–Roman Missal Matching Game (middle school and high school)
- Activity 6: Exploring Changes to the Text (high school and adults)
- Activity 7: Mystagogical Reflection (high school and adults)
Additionally, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops has developed a Web page with extensive information about, and resources for understanding the changes in, the Roman Missal. The implementation of the revised Roman Missal provides a wonderful opportunity for catechesis and prayerful reflection on the language of the Mass.
As always, I pray that God will continue to bless you and your ministry.
Make It Happen
Stocking Stuffer Relay: A Prayer-Writing Activity for Christmas
From Holiday and Seasonal Ideas for Ministry with Young Teens
This game can be used anytime during the Christmas season as an icebreaker, an introduction to a session on the Christmas story, or a prayer.
20 to 30 minutes
This strategy can be done with any size group, in teams of no more than five people.
1. Christmas stockings, one for every five people
2. the following items, one of each for each stocking:
- a small cross
- a star
- a rosary
- a small box wrapped for Christmas
- a bell
3. the following figures from a nativity set, one of each for each stocking:
- baby Jesus
- a shepherd
- an angel
- a king
- newsprint and markers
- masking tape
Preparation. For this activity you will need one Christmas stocking for every five participants. Before the young people arrive, put in each stocking one of each of the stocking stuffer items and nativity figures listed in the Materials Needed section. Place the stockings in a line across one end of the meeting room.
1. Gather the participants into small groups of no more than five people.
Line the teams up at one end of the room, opposite the Christmas stockings.
Explain that the young people are going to work with their team to write a Christmas prayer using items that are in the stocking. Give one person on each team a sheet of newsprint and a marker. Then present the following instructions in your own words:
One member of each team runs up to the team’s stocking, removes an item, and takes it back to the team. Together the team members write on the newsprint a one-sentence prayer about that item. The prayer should relate to the Christmas story. For example, if the team gets a bell, its prayer might be one of thanks, such as, “O God, as bells ring out the news that Jesus is born, we thank you for the gift of your Son.” Then another person on each team follows the same process, and so forth, until all the items in the stocking have been used. When a team finishes all its prayers, one of its members posts the newsprint.
When you are sure the young people understand the directions, give a signal to begin.
After all the teams have finished, declare the winner, that is, the group that finished its prayers first.
2. Gather the participants and read Luke 2:1–16 and Matt. 2:1–12 aloud to them. Ask the young people to compare those two versions of the Christmas story. Point out that the story as we have generally received it is actually a compilation of what is in the Scriptures and what has simply become oral tradition.
3. Close the session by inviting each group to read aloud the prayers it created in the relay.
- This prayer activity can be done without the relay. Give each team a filled stocking, a sheet of newsprint, and some markers. Tell the teams each to take one item from their stocking at a time and write a one-line prayer about it.
- Instead of giving separate teams each a stocking and asking them to work on their own prayer, use just one stocking and divide the participants into as many small groups as you have stocking items. Give the small groups each one item and ask them to write a one-line prayer about it. Combine all the one-line prayers into one complete prayer.
- After completing the procedure as it is presented, lead all the teams to combine their prayers into one Christmas prayer. They can group all the prayers about stars into one verse, about shepherds into another, and so forth. Publish the prayer in the parish bulletin or newsletter.
The following scriptural citations identify the only accounts of the birth of Jesus found in the Gospels:
- Matt. 2:1–12
- Luke 2:1–16
Break Open the Word
Second Sunday of Advent
December 4, 2011
Jesus, through the grace of Baptism we were made a new creation. As we continue our journey of faith, renew our hearts and deepen our commitment to the Gospel so we can be your witnesses in our troubled world. Amen.
Last Sunday, the first Sunday of Advent, initiated a new liturgical year. The readings that will be proclaimed at Mass throughout this liturgical year are taken from cycle B; the Gospel readings, with few exceptions, come from the Gospel of Mark. It is important for us to understand some of the background of Mark's Gospel. It is the earliest gospel, written sometime between AD 65 and 70. It was written for a non-Jewish audience, which explains why so many Jewish terms are defined. The Christian church at this time was experiencing persecution under Emperor Nero. Its losses were mounting; both Peter and Paul had suffered martyrdom. The Gospel of Mark surely instilled hope in this weary church. Mark portrays Jesus as a messiah on the move, traveling widely while proclaiming that God's Kingdom is near. Because of Mark's phenomenal storytelling ability, we come to know a very human Jesus, who has strong emotions and a heart filled with compassion. From the beginning, we know that Jesus is the Son of God, but he keeps his divine identity hidden. Jesus's insistence on secrecy is known as the messianic secret. We shouldn't be surprised that Mark keeps the secret so well. He reveals himself to be far more interested in Jesus's humanity than in his divinity. Moreover, he tends to focus more on the death of Jesus than on his Resurrection. Mark's agenda was to help a suffering, persecuted church identify with a suffering Jesus, who opened his arms on the cross. The Gospel of Mark can be described as a gospel in a hurry, a gospel that helps the Christian community to keep in focus the whole of the Paschal mystery, the death and Resurrection of Jesus the Christ. What would have been for Mark an overemphasis on the Resurrection simply does not occur in his Gospel. This Sundays' Gospel comprises the first eight verses of the Gospel of Mark. The opening statement proclaims that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, the Messiah, which Mark refers to as good news (gospel). In the second verse Mark connects the Gospel of Jesus Christ to the Hebrew Scriptures by quoting from the prophet Isaiah. For Mark, Jesus was the fulfillment of the Hebrew messianic prophecies:
See I am sending my messenger ahead of you,
who will prepare your way;
the voice of one crying out in the wilderness:
"Prepare the way of the Lord,
make his paths straight."
Three texts from the Hebrew Bible, or Old Testament, Exodus 23:20, Malachi 3:1, and Isaiah 40:3 are referenced here. The voice in the wilderness is that of John the Baptist. The wilderness was a barren area east of Jerusalem that lead to the Jordan River. On the banks of this river, John proclaimed "a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins" (1:4). People from the surrounding areas who came and confessed their sins were baptized in these waters. In verse 6 Mark provides us a vivid description of John the Baptist, "Now John was clothed with camel's hair, with a leather belt around his waist, and he ate locusts and wild honey" (1:6). Why do you think Mark bothered to describe John's appearance in such detail? He did so to make a direct connection between Elijah and John. In 2 Kings 1:8 Elijah is described as a hairy man that wore a leather belt around his waist. In Zechariah 13:4 we learn that a "hairy mantle" is the sign of a prophet. We often encounter images from the Hebrew Bible in the New Testament, which helps to underscore the continuity between the two testaments, or collections.
What was John the Baptist's message? "The one who is more powerful than I is coming after me" (1:7). John is pointing to Jesus as the Messiah; John, as the voice in the wilderness, is making the way ready for the Lord. Jesus, the one more powerful than John, will not baptize with water, "He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit" (1:8).
In both the Apostles' Creed and the Nicene Creed we profess belief in the forgiveness of sins. In the Apostles' Creed we say, "I believe in the forgiveness of sins" (Catechism of the Catholic Church, page 50), whereas in the Nicene Creed we say, "We acknowledge one baptism for the forgiveness of sins" (page 50). As Catholics we connect the forgiveness of sins with the sacrament of Baptism.
Our Lord tied the forgiveness of sins to faith and Baptism: "Go into all the world and preach the gospel to the whole creation. He who believes and is baptized will be saved."1 Baptism is the first and chief sacrament of forgiveness of sins because it unites us with Christ, who died for our sins and rose for our justification, so that "we too might walk in newness of life."2 (Catechism, paragraph 977)
Through Baptism all sin is forgiven, both original sin and personal sin. Unfortunately we do not remain in this state of holiness because of our human inclination toward sin. The state of grace can be restored through the repeatable sacrament of Reconciliation.
When we made our first profession of faith while receiving the holy Baptism that cleansed us, the forgiveness we received then was so full and complete that there remained in us absolutely nothing left to efface, neither original sin nor offenses committed by our own will, nor was there left any penalty to suffer in order to expiate them. . . . Yet the grace of Baptism delivers no one from all the weakness of nature. On the contrary, we must still combat the movements of concupiscence that never cease leading us into evil.3 (Catechism, paragraph 978)
Through the grace of Baptism sins are forgiven and we are made pure, and we go on to receive new birth in Christ through the Holy Spirit. We are made a new creation in Jesus. The renewal is ongoing and lifelong.
The different effects of Baptism are signified by the perceptible elements of the sacramental rite. Immersion in water symbolizes not only death and purification, but also regeneration and renewal. Thus the two principal effects are purification from sins and new birth in the Holy Spirit.4 (Catechism, paragraph 1262)
As this new creation in Christ, the baptized person becomes an adopted son or daughter of God and a co-heir with Christ in the Kingdom of God. It is through the sacrament of Baptism that we become a temple of the Holy Spirit.
Baptism not only purifies from all sins, but also makes the neophyte "a new creature," an adopted son of God, who has become a "partaker of the divine nature,"5 member of Christ and co-heir with him,6 and a temple of the Holy Spirit.7 (Catechism, paragraph 1265)
According to Mark's account, John the Baptist has the dual responsibility of preparing individuals to accept Jesus as the Messiah and continually pointing individuals toward him. John helps people to open their hearts to Jesus through preaching a Baptism of repentance, which leads to the forgiveness of sins. We call this process conversion, and as Christians we understand the turning of one's heart to God as ongoing. Repentance occurs when a person is touched by God's Reign, yet God cannot reign in an unrepentant heart.
Each disciple is expected to open himself or herself to conversion and to grow stronger and deeper in faith. By participating in this conversion process, the disciple will be pointing others to Jesus the Christ. He or she will be imitating John the Baptist, the model of total witness who pointed others to Jesus the Christ. The author of Mark's Gospel offers John the Baptist as an example for all time.
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. Mark 16:15-16.
2. Romans 6:4; cf. 4:25.
3. Roman Catechism I, 11, 3.
4. Cf. Acts 2:38; John 3:5.
5. 2 Corinthians 5:17; 2 Peter 1:4; cf. Galatians 4:5-7.
6. Cf. 1 Corinthians 6:15; 12:27; Romans 8:17.
7. Cf. 1 Corinthians 6:19.
Saint Francis Xavier
December 3 is the memorial for Saint Francis Xavier.
Saint Francis Xavier was a friend of Saint Ignatius of Loyola and one of the founding Jesuits. He worked as a missionary in Asia, Africa, the East Indies, Portugal, and Italy before dying in China from an illness contracted during his missionary journeys. Saint Francis Xavier lived a life dedicated to the care of the poor and the sharing of the Gospel message.
For more information on Saint Francis Xavier, go to http://saints.sqpn.com/saint-francis-xavier/.