Engaging Faith: Practical lesson ideas and activities for Catholic Educators

October 31, 2018

History of the Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick

During Jesus' life and after his Ascension to heaven, his disciples anointed and laid hands on those were sick in order to heal them. Share this brief timeline of the Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick from the third century forward.

ca. 215: The Apostolic Tradition of Hippolytus described how at Mass, a bishop blessed the oil of the sick (olive or another plant oil), praying that the oil would bring strength to all anointed with it. Christians regarded their blessed oil as an especially effective remedy and a sign of God’s presence.

ca. 416: Pope Innocent I described in a letter how blessed oil was used for the Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick.

428: St. Cyril of Alexandria warned Christians not to turn to pagan magicians and sorcerers when they were sick. Instead, they were to turn to God’s healing through the bishop and presbyters of the Church.

1551: The Council of Trent affirmed that “only priests (bishops and presbyters) are ministers of the Anointing of the Sick” (CCC, 1516).

1965: The Second Vatican Council wrote that “‘Extreme Unction,’ which may also and more fittingly be called ‘Anointing of the Sick,’ is not a sacrament intended only for those who are at the point of death. . . . [A]s soon as any of the faithful begins to be in danger of death from sickness or old age, this is already a suitable time for them to receive this sacrament.” (Sacrosanctum Concilium, 73)

Assignments

  • Define oil of the sick and Extreme Unction.
  • Research and write a two-page report on one or more religious communities whose primary apostolate is to care for the sick and suffering.
  • Interview a doctor, nurse, or someone in the medical field. Ask his or her opinion on the role of the the Spirit and prayer in the healing process. Write a one-page report detailing the results of the interview.

 

October 15, 2018

Seven New Saints

Pope Francis canonized seven new saints on Sunday, October 14, at St. Peter's Square in Rome. Here are short videos and other information on each new saint.

St. Paul VI

St. Oscar Romero

See also the award-winning full length feature Monsenor:The Last Journey of Oscar Romero with accompanying free study guide.

St. Francesco Spinelli

St. Nunzio Sulprizio

St. Nazaria Ignacia March Mesa

St. Katharina Kasper

 

October 5, 2018

Help for Children Refugees

The following important message comes from the desk of Catholic Relief Services. It asks for immediate help for children refugees, especially help in securing for them the right to go to school. Read the message and explo0re the links which include several ways your students can actively learn about and support this mission. See also the separate Share the Journey.

Seventeen years.

Not only are more people than ever displaced today, but they are displaced, on average, for 17 years. That’s close to a generation. In a strange place. With few connections. Often with little knowledge of local language and customs, and often with rights denied that most of us take for granted. A period that is supposed to be devoted to play, growth and education is too often spent worrying about their daily existence.

During war and crisis, education may seem like something minor, but it is critical to keeping children safe and building hope for the future.

That’s why agencies that serve refugees work to provide access to education for refugee children.

Have You Shared the Journey?

Eyeing the enormity of the refugee crisis, Pope Francis declared, "To give a child a seat at school is the finest gift you can give.”  Right now, a great number of refugee children, especially girls, are not able to attend. We invite you and your communities to call on your Senators to pass an important bill moving in the Senate that would help provide access to education for vulnerable children, like refugees.

So much in the present is a struggle for refugee families, but we work and pray for a chance at a meaningful future.

A Seat at School

Policies and answers are something we debate.  But solidarity is something we do.  It is how we live. That is why we continue to encourage you to Share the Journey by taking a Pilgrimage Walk.  As persons, as families, and as communities, we are putting one foot in front of the other, walking in public in solidarity with those whose lives have become a difficult journey; moving in a deeper, more meaningful way, spiritually and physically.  And then, as we go forward, we will be going forward together.

The response so far has been exciting.  Together, we have entered into the journey, and have walked more than twice around the world.  Can we do five times around?  That is our new goal.

And if we can do that, then surely we can help provide a seat in a school and the opportunity to be educated.  To all of our children.

September 19, 2018

A Catholic Hero

Share this article on hall of fame baseball player and exemplary Catholic Roberto Clemente. You may wish to have the students write their answers to the comprehension questions that follow. An additional reflection  assignment is also provided.

Comprehension

  1. What was early evidence of Roberto's practice of his faith?
  2. How were the people of Puerto Rico divided when Roberto grew up?
  3. What major league team originally signed Roberto?
  4. What issues did Roberto originally have with the sportswriters? his teammates?
  5. When did Roberto meet his wife?
  6. How did Roberto practice his Catholic faith while living in Pittsburgh?
  7. How did Roberto die?

Reflection

  • Could Roberto Clemente become a saint? Read this article and then write your opinion in a three paragraph response.

 

September 12, 2018

NEW! Meeting Jesus in the Sacraments (Second Edition)

We welcome publication of Meeting Jesus in the Sacraments (Second Edition), a high school textbook written in an easy-to-follow spiral approach with each chapter providing detailed information around the Scriptural roots, history, matter, rites, graces, and effects of the sacraments..

Meeting Jesus in the Sacraments helps students to recognize the living presence of God’s Incarnate Son in the Seven Sacraments, especially in the Eucharist. Organized around three dimensions of the sacraments—Understanding, Celebrating, and Grace—the text unpacks the origins, rites, and effects of the Seven Sacraments in a spiral design that follows a common structure from chapter to chapter.

Accompanying the Student Text are a Teacher's Wraparound Edition and a full complement of online teacher and student resources.

If you are a high school theology teacher contact Bob Wieneke for more information on receiving review copy of Meeting Jesus in the Sacraments (Second Edition).

August 27, 2018

The Importance of Self-Concept at the Start of a School Year

Many teens start a new school year with apprehension. Some of this feeling stems the attitude—or self-concept—they have for themselves.

Self-concept refers to what you think about yourself. It is concerned with what you believe to be the truth about who you are and the gifts and talents you have. Your self-concept determines whether or not you like what you see when you look in the mirror. When you like who you are, you have self-esteem.

Self-esteem is vital for success in any endeavor, including an academic school semester. . If a student feels good about himself or herself, life is big adventure. New experiences are challenging and stimulating. Meeting new people is enjoyable. Oppositely, if a person has a poor self-image, every day can seem filled with dangers and never-ending plagued with many pitfalls and chances to fail.

Activity

Ask the students to imagine themselves at a shopping mall at three different times: 1) by themselves; 2) with a best friend; and 3) with a parent.

Ask volunteers to describe how they would feel in each of those situations. You may want to have students role play each of these situations to show how their behavior is shaped by whom they are with.

Follow-up

Have the students answer these questions in writing:

  1. Why do their peers act as they do in different situations?
  2. In what situations to you exhibit the real you?

August 15, 2018

Introducing Christ in the Classroom: Lesson Planning for Heart and Mind

Just in time for the start of school, Christ in the Classroom: Lesson Planning for Heart and Mind is now available!

This book by Jared Dees, creator of The Religion Teacher website, applies the four steps of lectio divina—reading, meditation, prayer, and contemplation—to the ministry of catechesis. He offers a practical framework for preparing lessons that shift the primary focus of teaching from intellectual learning to encountering Christ in prayer and action. Using this method, both you and your students together come to know intimately the person of Christ at the same time that they are learning the tenets and traditions of the Church.  

Stories of success and failure from the author’s own teaching experience ground the practical wisdom of this book. Dees offers dozens of field-tested strategies, tactics, and teaching methods to effectively integrate the four steps of lectio divina into the classroom or other catechetical setting. Outfitted with these tools, both experienced and brand new religious educators will feel confident in their ability to teach effectively and also lead their students to life-changing encounters with Christ Jesus.

 

 

 

July 30, 2018

Helping Teens with Career Planning

Your students may not be fully in aware of the resources available at your school for career planning. Help them develop a plan and some sample questions to use in an interview with their guidance counselor. Share the format below.

State your aims.

Explain your dreams. In the best way that you can, tell your counselor the outcome that you want from your career. Reach for the sky. Share your vision.

Explore alternatives.

Ask your counselor to suggest more than one way to go about achieving your aims. What have other people done who have the same career goals? Where can you find additional information? What is the most practical alternative for you to pursue?

Identify your resources.

What do you have to do to work with as far as time, finances, and talent? Are there ways around any limitations you might have? (For example: scholarships, grants, or loans may be available to help you meet some or all of your financial obligations.)

Review the alternatives and make a decision.

Which alternative will most likely assist you in reaching your goal? Which alternative is most compatible with your resources? Combining the answers to these two questions will help you in reaching a decision.

Take the first step of your plan.

Ask your counselor to direct you to the first step of the plan. This may mean helping you to arrange an interview with a college recruiter or employer, or simply helping you with a college or job application.

Here are some other questions you may wish to ask your counselor:

  • How often am I able to see you?
  • Must I make an appointment or will one be scheduled for me?
  • Does the school have any special programs that might fit my aptitudes?
  • Can you refer me to any community organization that could help me with my post-high school plans?

 

July 16, 2018

Preparing to Teach a Course in Faith and Science

Religion is not opposed to science!

This message is being strongly addressed in several sources designed to help Catholic high school teachers of theology and science—as well as any and all connected subjects—strongly emphasize this points.

Word on Fire, with Bishop Robert Barron, has prepared several resources, including free display posters of Catholic scientists.

The subject of the Catholic Answers National Conference, September 27-30, 2018, is Faith and Science. Registration is now open.

Finally, Ave Maria Press, with author Stacy Trasancos, is preparing a Student Edition of her popular Particles of Faith: A Catholic Guide to Navigating Science. This edition will have a curriculum guide for use for a full and partial semester in Catholic high schools. Look for is release in 2019.

July 6, 2018

An Extra Catholic Quiz

Here's a Catholic quiz courtesy of the National Catholic Register. With 32 total questions, you might wish to divide the questions into groups of four or eight and use them to as seat work, extra credit, or as a class icebreaker. The answers to the questions and the complete quiz and credit can be found at this link.

  1. What Pope declared himself a prisoner of the Vatican?
  2. What two symbolic pieces of heraldic regalia are found in all basilicas?
  3. Who was the first non-martyr to be named a saint (pace Mary, St. John the Evangelist and of course, St. Joseph)?
  4. In Italy, which saint is so famous she is simply known as “THE Saint”?
  5. What were (are) the four “minor orders”?
  6. What was the name of the cave David took shelter in?
  7. During the singing of the Exultet at the Easter Vigil, what insect is extolled?
  8. During his papal installation, Pope Benedict wore what garment in an Eastern Catholic tradition?
  9. What two 20th-century British authors, both of whom were converts to Catholicism, soured on the liturgical changes of the Second Vatican Council?
  10. A crosier with two horizontal bars on it is called what kind of cross?
  11. Leon Bloy wrote a famous work on which Marian apparition?
  12. What cardinal died suddenly and immediately before the conclave of 1958?
  13. An atheist does not believe in God. An agnostic is unsure. But what is the technical term for someone who actively hates God?
  14. Which 20th-century saint wrote an autobiography entitled Journal of a Soul?
  15. What Doctor of the Church is literally named “Golden-Word”?
  16. What Renaissance artist practiced the Spiritual Exercises of Saint Ignatius of Loyola?
  17. What epic English poet not only served in World War I, but went on to decorate many churches with his engravings and paintings?
  18. In a church what are bobaches used for?
  19. Who is the patron saint of editors?
  20. In the West, what are the tradition names given to the Magi (the “three kings”)?
  21. A priest with “O.A.R.” for a suffix belongs to which religious order?
  22. The “Miraculous Medal” was manifested to which saint?
  23. During the Sacrament of Baptism, the priest asks the godparent or the catechumen “What do you ask of The Church of God?” What is the answer?
  24. Who is “The Second Apostle to Germany” (the first being St. Boniface)?
  25. There are two arch-abbeys in the United States: what are their names and where are they located?
  26. Although he is always depicted in art as being shot through with many arrows, St. Sebastian did not die from arrow wounds: how was he finally martyred?
  27. What famous Lebanese-American actor had a public and strong devotion to St. Jude?
  28. Most tourists think that the Cathedral of Venice has always been the famed St. Mark’s Basilica—but from 1450 to 1805 the Cathedral of Venice was which other church?
  29. What are four different names for the Sunday following Easter?
  30. What Catholic writer and painter also invented—according to his own history—color and underwater photography (though he died broken and penniless in Venice)?
  31. What famous philosopher wrote books taking titles from the New Testament such as The Sickness Unto Death and Fear and Trembling?
  32. On the Feast of Saint Agnes, lambs are blest then shorn to fashion what ecclesiastical garment?

June 25, 2018

Mini-Units on Contemporary Issues

Ave Maria Press offers free  5-day mini-units that fit within several different theology courses schedules. They are also perfect for a short catechetical lesson in a parish youth ministry setting.

Four of the mini-units are particularly applicable and related to contemporary issue occurring how.

1. Migration and the Church shows ways for Catholics to help with immigration reform. It also points out to the many ways immigrants help in their new communities. It accompanies a video on the migration issue, Dying to Live, which is also available from Ave Maria Press.

2. Adoption: A Choice Worth Making provides a synopsis of the adoption process, including perspectives from adoptive children and parents.

3. Religious Liberty and Catholicism in the United States  shares the proper relationship Catholics should have with civil authorities. It also traces the historical development of the Church's relationship with the government in the United States.

 4. Monseñor: The Last Journey of Óscar Romero Study Guide (English and Spanish) reviews the last days and martyrdom of Blessed Óscar Romero whose canonization is anticipated for October 2018. This mini-unit is accompanied by the award-winning documentary of the same name.

Check out the Ave Maria Press mini-unit section for these and other free 5-day mini units!

 

 

 

June 12, 2018

Avoid Gossip

"Gossip is not a work of the Holy Spirit, it is not a work of the unity of the church. Gossip destroys the work of God. Please stop gossiping," Pope Francis said recently in a talk on the Sacrament of Confirmation.The pope emphasized that the gift of peace a person receives at Confirmation can be lost if the person starts saying mean things to others once he or she leaves Church.

Remind teens that the commandment "You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor" means more than lying. It also means that we are not to talk about people behind their backs or to spread untrue rumors about them. To gossip means to reveal private or sensational facts about others. What you say may be entirely true, but it's really none of your business and it's not the business of those who you are telling. In many, many times it's better to not say anything.This dramatic short film titled Word of Mouth about two high-school girls on different ends of the social spectrum illustrates the point well. More practical advice about how to stop gossip can be gleaned from It's Time to Silence Gossip, an article by a teenage boy.

Writing Prompt

  • Tell about a time you have been hurt or hurt another by gossip. Explain the lesson you learned from this occasion.

 

May 22, 2018

Post-Pentecost Discussion

Ask your students: What factors help them to feel at home in a parish community? Put the students into small groups in order to help them identify more specifically what helps them feel at home or would help them feel at home in a parish. Write these prompts on the board for them to think about. (Not every group needs to address every question.)

  • How would you prefer to be invited into the parish?
  • How would like to be greeted when you arrive at church?
  • Whom would you like to see at church each week?
  • How would you like to participate?
  • Describe the ideal atmosphere of the building you worship in?
  • What type of music do you prefer at Mass?
  • What type of homily would you like?
  • What kind of activity or gathering after Mass would you like to attend?
  • What else do you suggest for making your parish more welcoming?

After students have spent time in small groups, ask them to identify welcoming attributes for a parish, and see how much the groups have in common. Challenge the students to bring some of these ideas to a staff member at their parish and to report back in writing on what happened in response.

 

May 11, 2018

A Lesson on Purgatory

Share a lesson the Church’s teaching on Purgatory. The following information is from Jesus Christ: Source of Our Salvation (2nd Edition). A short lesson follows the background information.

Background Information

Purgatory is name the Church gives to the final purification of those who die in God’s grace and friendship, but who need purification or cleansing to achieve the holiness necessary to enter heaven. From her beginnings, the Church has honored the memory of the dead and offered prayers in solidarity with those who have died, especially during the celebration of the Eucharist. Other acts, such as helping the poor and works of penance, can be offered up for someone who is in Purgatory as well.

Catholic belief in the existence of Purgatory is based on biblical passages such as 2 Maccabees 12:39–46, which encourages those who are living to pray for the dead so that they may be released from their sins. In addition, Church Tradition has interpreted certain passages (see 1 Cor 3:15; 1 Pt 1:7) as referring to a place of a “cleansing fire” after death.

The doctrine of Purgatory and the process of purification make sense. To embrace an all-loving God, you must be free of any imperfection in your own capacity to love. Only a person who, before death, has been cleansed of sin or any punishment due for sins is pure enough to embrace an all-loving God completely and is thus ready for heaven. Sometimes, this cleansing can only be completed after death. It is both a joyful and a painful process. Those in Purgatory are happy that heaven awaits them, but the process of purgation might entail burning with sorrow and shame over sin and of great difficulty in giving up selfish attachments. However, when their purgation is complete, their suffering will end as they enter the bliss of heaven.

 

Lesson

Provide some art material (paper and drawing supplies). Have the students draw an image from your description that follows:

Imagine a ship or boat sailing in choppy waters. Jesus is at the helm, setting its course. Above the boat, cloudlike figures representing the faithful who have died and are present with God in heaven fill the boat’s sails with zephyrs of their prayers. The deck of the boat is crowded with sturdy folk working the oars. These are the living members of the Church whose shared efforts and prayer power the craft. Below deck are sleeping figures, representing the souls of those who have died (and who are in Purgatory) and are being supported and transported by the efforts and prayers of those on deck and those above the clouds. This image reminds us that all of us in the Church—living and dead—are in the same boat.

Go on to emphasize that Purgatory is a transitional state of purification in which the imperfect person encounters the perfection of God. Emphasize that all people in Purgatory will eventually be in heaven. Invite the students to share in a class discussion some earthly experiences that might be considered purgatorial. Ask:

  • What are some experiences that, though painful, bring us closer to God or open our eyes to see God’s action in the world?
  • How might the popular slogan “No pain, no gain” be applied to Purgatory?

Suggest that the imperfect person would find a face-to-face encounter with the perfect God necessarily purging and therefore painful. In this purgatorial encounter, we quickly come to the realization that we have not chosen consistently for God and neighbor, a realization that is not only agonizing but purifying as well.

April 27, 2018

Called to Pray in the Month of May

Coming soon from Ave Maria Press is Called to Pray: Daily Prayers for Catholic Schools, a collection of prayers complied by Bishop McNamara High School teacher Justin McClain for teachers or their designated student leaders to read during a class period or over a school intercom system. The prayers are organized by school events, feast days, and solemnities over an academic year calendar.

Here are three sample prayers for Called to Pray for you to share with your students during the month of May.

Prayer for the Solemnity of Pentecost

Father God, today we ask the Holy Spirit to descend upon this Catholic school community, just as he did in the Upper Room at Pentecost, and to remain with us, not only now and throughout the conclusion of this school year, but throughout our lives. Please fill the hearts of the students in this school, so that they can spread Christ’s Good News no matter where they find themselves, whether within this school or beyond. We ask this in the name of the same Christ the Lord. Amen.

Prayer before Prom

Dear Lord, as we approach the end of this academic year, we prepare for the festivities that come with it. May the time spent together at prom be an occasion not just for fun, but also for reflection on all for which we are grateful within our school community. Help our students to make good decisions and to act only according to Christian principles, thus representing our community well. We ask this, as we do all things, in your holy name. Amen.

Prayer for Memorial Day

Heavenly Father, we take the time today to remember those men and women in uniform who have gone before us. We express our deepest gratitude for their bravery and sacrifice. Encourage us to remain thankful, and please inspire the students of this Catholic school community to work for peace around the world, especially in the midst of armed conflicts and other types of discord. We ask this in the name of Christ the Lord. Amen.

 

Make sure to preorder a copy of Called to Pray: Daily Prayers for Catholic Schools so your copy arrives just in time for the fall term.

April 18, 2018

A Prayer of Gratefulness

This prayer which popped up on social media recently is a wonderful way to associate things many people in the Western world connect with drudgery with a moment of gratefulness through prayer. Share this list and format with your students.

Ask them to write five to ten more examples in the same format.

Gather a list together and pray a prayer of gratefulness from it with the entire class.

April 9, 2018

Pope Francis and the Call to Holiness in Today’s World

Pope Francis released a new apostolic exhortation, Gaudete et Esultate (Rejoice and Be Glad) with details on how to follow the Beatitudes by being of service to the marginalized, poor, and migrants. The pope equates defense of people on the fringes of society with defense of the unborn who are threatened with abortion.

The exhortation has many insights for everyone to live a holy life though Pope Francis begins by writing that this is a “modest goal is to repropose the call to holiness in a practical way for our own time, with all its risks, challenges and opportunities. “

In Chapter 1, he writes of following the practical examples of holiness left by the saints. He sites, in particular, Bl. Maria Gabriella Sagjeddp who spent fifteen months of her life devoted to praying for Christian unity. He also cited the “genius of women” and the “feminine style of holiness” by mentioning the examples of St. Hildegard of Bingen, St. Bridget, St. Catherine of Siena, St. Teresa of Avila and St. Thérèse of Lisieux.

Holiness must be lived “in the present moment,” stated Pope Francis and in community with others, not in isolation. Pope Francis points out that “when Cardinal François-Xavier Nguyên van Thuân was imprisoned, he refused to waste time waiting for the day he would be set free. Instead, he chose ‘to live the present moment, filling it to the brim with love’. He decided: ‘I will seize the occasions that present themselves every day; I will accomplish ordinary actions in an extraordinary way.’”

Chapter 3 of Gaudete et Esultate is perhaps of most relevance to your students, all Catholics, and all people.  Holiness comes only in being rooted in the Lord. Jesus explained with great simplicity what it means to be holy when he gave us the Beatitudes (cf. Mt 5:3-12; Lk 6:20-23). The Beatitudes are like a Christian’s identity card.”  The pope offers practical reflections and applications for how to practice the Beatitudes. The subheading of this part of the chapter is “Going Against the Flow.”

Consider having your students read paragraphs 65-94 and write a summary of Pope Francis’ teachings on each of the Beatitudes.

 

 

 

 

 

 

March 21, 2018

Looking for the Nones

Bishop Robert Barron delivered the keynote lecture at the Cultures of Formation conference hosted by the McGrath Institute for Church Life at Notre Dame. The lecture is just over one hour in length. It is worth your time to hear Bishop Barron address this important topic.

Bishop Barron, the founder of Word on Fire Catholic Ministries and auxiliary bishop of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, referenced a report by sociologist Christian Smith on the reasons youth and young adults are leaving the Catholic Church. Find the report here.

 

 

March 9, 2018

March Madness 2018: A Salute to the Loyola Chicago Ramblers

We depart from our usual salute to all the Catholic colleges qualifying for the NCAA basketball tournament, also known as March Madness, to focus on one particular school and team: the Loyola University Chicago Ramblers who will be making their first appearance in the tournament since 1985. The Ramblers finished the regular season 28-5 and recently got an automatic bid to the NCAA tournament by winning their own conference championship.

Loyola's qualification recalls a significant other Loyola Rambler team in both college basketball and US History. It was the 1963 National Championship team that defeated the Cincinnati Bearcats 50-48 in overtime. Share a brief look at the highlights of the finish of the game.

The game was significant basketball wise as it is Loyola's only national championship and the only national championship for a team from Illinois. Share a pictorial and written history of the team with your students.

It was significant from a US historical perspective because at the height of the Civil Rights movement Loyola started four black players. (Cincinnati started three black players.) The game was known as a game of change, yet the team faced significant prejudice along the way. In 2015 President Barack Obama honored the 1963 Ramblers at the White House.

To conclude, share some information about the current 2017-2018 Loyola Ramblers, their record, and their road to March Madness.

Assignments

  • Research the basketball history of another Catholic school in this year's tournament.
  • By seeding, rank the Catholic schools participating in this year's tournament.
  • Research the founding religious order of one or more of the Catholic colleges in this year's tournament.
  • Research and write a report on what happened to the players on the 1963 Loyola Ramblers.

 

 

 

 

 

 

February 28, 2018

Lenten Resources from Catholic Relief Services

Catholic Relief Services offers a bevy or Lenten resources that are appropriate for sharing with your students. A series of Lenten reflections videos are designed with the message of further guiding Catholics more deeply into their faith.

A Lenten digital retreat includes a series of questions that can help your students more clearly answer the question "Who is my neighbor?" and "How can I serve him or her?".

A section on Catholic saints shares detailed and moving profiles of several saints students might research more about and pray with during Lent.

Bishop Robert Barron leads a video journey of the Stations of the Cross with special focus on remembering those in need of our physical and spiritual help,

A special Holy Week section includes classroom prayer services for the conclusion of Lent.

 

 

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