The Servant Leader

March 19, 2012

Weekly Winner

Saint Mary's Press winner for the week of March 19, 2012

Congratulations to Leonardo Camargo!

Leonardo will receive a copy of The 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

"Saint Mary’s Press Is on the Road"

The time is approaching for two of the bigger conferences that Saint Mary’s Press is lucky enough to attend as an exhibitor. The Los Angeles Religious Education (LARE) Congress is March 23–25 and the National Catholic Education Association (NCEA) Convention and Expo is April 11–13 in Boston. These annual events are remarkable gatherings of parish and school educators from across the country. Every year includes compelling keynote presenters, informative workshops, joyful celebrations, and a true sense of unity among men and women committed to sharing the Good News with young people.

I have been lucky enough to attend both of these gatherings numerous times, and each time I am renewed by the energy and commitment to sharing the Good News of Jesus Christ that the participants bring. Each year I look forward to these events as an opportunity to hear from our partners in ministry, connect with old friends, and establish new relationships. If you have never attended one of these events, I encourage you to look into attending in the coming years.

Each year Saint Mary’s Press is present at the LARE Congress and the NCEA Convention and Expo, and this year is no exception. Saint Mary’s Press employees will be attending both events to share our resources with educators, connect with those involved in ministry, and learn more about what is happening in parishes, schools, and our Church from the workshops, speakers, and attendees. If you will be attending either one of these conventions, we would love to have you stop by our booth and say “Hi.” I personally would like to meet as many Servant Leader readers as possible and have you share with me what you would like to see in future issues. I look forward to seeing some of you in Los Angeles and Boston, and as always, I pray that God will continue to bless you and your ministry.

Steven McGlaun

Make It Happen

“Prayers of Fire and Water”
From Family Ideas for Ministry with Young Teens

This at-home prayer activity gives your family members a chance to pray for many needs and to bless one another.

Suggested Time
3 to 5 minutes for each person

Group Size
Everyone in the family

Materials Needed

  • a Bible
  • a candle and wooden matches
  • a coffee can half filled with water
  • 2-by-3-inch strips of paper, one for each person
  • pens or pencils
  • a small basket
  • a small, clear bowl of water

Preparation. Place the following items on the kitchen or dining room table: a coffee can half full of water, a Bible, a candle, wooden matches, 2-by-3-inch strips of paper (one for each family member), and pens or pencils. Place a small, clear bowl of water and a small basket in the middle of the floor in another room.

1. Gather your family around the dining room or kitchen table. Read Eph. 6:18 from a Bible.
2. Light a candle and explain that each person should, in turn, light a wooden match from the candle and hold it over a coffee can half filled with water. Tell them that as the match burns, the person holding the match is to name as many needs or give thanks for as many blessings as he or she can think of. Explain to everyone that when the flame gets close to their fingers, they are to blow out the match and put it in the can of water. The match serves as a timer for each individual’s prayer.

Give each person a match. Have the youngest person light her or his match by holding it to the candle flame. Invite that person to pray for needs in the family and the world and to give thanks for what is good in her or his life. Encourage the speaker to keep praying until the flame is close to the end of the match. When this person douses the match, pray as follows:

Leader. “For these many needs and for the blessings of __ [name the person], we beg for your help and offer thanks, O God, as we pray . . .”
All. God, hear us.

Continue in this fashion until everyone has had a turn.

3. Read Isa. 43:1–3 from the Bible. Then instruct everyone to take one of the strips of paper that you set out and write on it one fear they have for their family. The fear can be for a particular family member or for the entire family. After they have written their fear, direct them to hold the paper and go to the room where you have set out a bowl of water and a small basket. Bring the Bible with you. When everyone has entered this room, invite the family to stand in a circle around the bowl of water.

Go to the inside of the circle, pick up the bowl and the basket, and stand in front of one of the family members. Tell him or her to place his or her strip of paper in the basket and to take the basket. Dip your hand in the water and trace the sign of the cross on that person’s forehead, saying: “Do not be afraid. God is with you.”

Move to the next person with the bowl and the basket and bless him or her in the same way. Continue blessing everyone in the circle. Then let the last person you bless do the same for you. Place the basket by the Bible and close the experience by reading Isa. 43:4–5.

Alternative Approaches

  • Use the match-prayer part of this strategy as a birthday prayer. Place a long wooden fireplace match on the family member’s birthday cake. Light the match. Invite every member of the family to share a prayer for the birthday person. When the match burns out, the prayer is complete.
  • Use long fireplace matches instead of the small wooden ones. Use only one, and when it is lighted, each person in the family must state a one-sentence prayer request or a few words of praise. The family members keep taking turns adding sentences to the prayer until the match burns out. When the match burns out, the prayer is complete.
  • Place the strips of paper on which the family members wrote their fears in a fireplace or an outdoor grill and burn them. As the strips of paper burn, invite the family to join hands and to pray the Lord’s Prayer together.

Scriptural Connections

  • Isa. 41:8–10 (Be not dismayed, for God will strengthen you and help you. Fear not, God is with you.)
  • Deut. 31:7–8 (God goes before you, so do not be dismayed. God will never fail you, so do not fear.)
  • Phil. 4:4–7 (Present your needs to God in every form of prayer.)

Break Open the Word

Fifth Sunday of Lent
March 25, 2012

John 12:20-33

Opening Prayer
In gathering around your Word, Lord Jesus, you challenge us to see your story in our life experience. Just as you embraced physical death on the cross on Good Friday, you also experienced Resurrection and new life on Easter Sunday. You ask us to face and embrace the challenges in our lives so that we may come to know and understand more clearly your selfless act of dying on the cross for others. Amen.

Context Connection
Do you remember planting a seed in a glass or a clear plastic cup when you were a child? You placed the seed in the soil against the side of the glass or cup so you could watch it grow. At first it seemed that nothing was happening, but then you noticed a crack in the seed's shell. Next the tender sprig pushed its way through the seed shell and continued to grow up and out of the soil. Then it turned green and continued growing.

In this Sunday's Gospel, Jesus uses the analogy of the seed when he speaks of his own death and Resurrection. In verse 24 he says that just as a grain of wheat must be buried in the ground and then break open to sprout forth a new stalk from which more wheat grows, so too must Jesus experience death to bring about a resurrection and abundant new life. The theological term we use for this dynamic of redemption is Paschal mystery.

New life can only come about through sacrifice. The promise hidden here is that in every loss, death, or time of uncertainty, new life and new hope can be found. It is never easy, but the effort to continue to find meaning and understanding becomes worthwhile when new life is discovered.

In verse 26, Jesus puts forth a great challenge for us all: to serve him, we must follow him. Following Jesus is our life's challenge, and all along, as we persevere, we receive abundant new life.

Read also "Dying for New Life," the Pray It article in The Catholic Youth Bible® near the passage John 12:24. It is a good reflection on the Paschal mystery.

Tradition Connection
The Catechism of the Catholic Church defines Paschal mystery as "Christ's work of redemption accomplished principally by his Passion, death, Resurrection, and glorious Ascension" (page 891).

The Paschal mystery, which is our redemption due to Christ's saving sacrifice on the cross, includes Christ's death, certainly, but it is a "paschal" death, which is a "passing over" from one kind of death--physical death--to another kind of life--spiritual life. We, as members of the Body of Christ, participate in Christ's Paschal mystery. The saving and transforming effects of the Paschal mystery are communicated to us every time we participate in the sacraments.

This new life is a resurrected life as compared to a resuscitated life. People who are resuscitated are restored to their former life, whereas resurrected life is a radically new life. Through his Resurrection, Jesus received new life, a renewed life for furthering the Kingdom. He would not experience physical death ever again.

Through his death, Jesus destroyed death; it no longer had any bonds on him, nor does it have any bonds on those who believe in him. Through his Resurrection, Jesus brought new life into the world, a new life that knows no bounds.

By embracing in his human heart the Father's love for men, Jesus "loved them to the end," for "greater love has no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends."1 In suffering and death his humanity became the free and perfect instrument of his divine love which desires the salvation of men.2 Indeed, out of love for his Father and for men, whom the Father wants to save, Jesus freely accepted his Passion and death: "No one takes [my life] from me, but I lay it down of my own accord."3 Hence the sovereign freedom of God's Son as he went out to his death.4 (Catechism, paragraph 609)

The love that Jesus showed for humankind is a selfless love that places the good of the other first. This love, which Jesus witnessed for us through the Paschal mystery, now lives on in us and through us. Our baptism into Jesus the Christ means his love now controls us.

It is love "to the end"5 that confers on Christ's sacrifice its value as redemption and reparation, as atonement and satisfaction. He knew and loved us all when he offered his life.6 Now "the love of Christ controls us, because we are convinced that one has died for all; therefore all have died."7 No man, not even the holiest, was ever able to take on himself the sins of all men and offer himself as a sacrifice for all. The existence in Christ of the divine person of the Son, who at once surpasses and embraces all human persons and constitutes himself as the Head of all mankind, makes possible his redemptive sacrifice for all. (Catechism, paragraph 616)

Wisdom Connection
In dying to self we gain new life in God. When we embrace the crosses in our lives, we experience a resurrection that gives us new understanding of life itself.

Paschal mystery is a process of transformation, a moving through suffering or death into the embracing of new life. This new life is completely embraced only after time spent grieving the old and adjusting to the new. Only after we have truly let go of the old life does a new spirit emerge, so we can live this new way of life. Good Friday is a letting go of our self-centeredness. Easter Sunday is the reception of our willingness to live in a way that embraces more fully the example of Jesus's unconditional love.

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. John 13:1; 15:13.
2. Cf. Hebrews 2:10, 17-18; 4:15; 5:7-9.
3. John 10:18.
4. Cf. John 18:4-6; Matthew 26:53.
5. John 13:1.
6. Cf. Galatians 2:20; Ephesians 5:2, 25.
7. 2 Corinthians 5:14.

Saint Spotlight

Saint Joseph

March 19 is one of the two memorials for Saint Joseph. On March 19 we celebrate for Joseph the husband of Mary, and on May 1 for Joseph the worker. Joseph was a just and compassionate man, and protected Mary from shame when he discovered that she was pregnant, even though he did not understand that her unborn child was the Son of God. We see evidence of Joseph’s deep faith when he changed his plans in response to messages from God. Although God is Jesus’ true father, Joseph fulfilled that role in daily life. He loved Jesus and treated him as his own son. Joseph is known as the patron saint of fathers and workers.

For more information about Saint Joseph, go to