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Engaging Faith: Practical lesson ideas and activities for Catholic Educators

January 20, 2020

Personal Pro-Life Actions

In support of this year’s March for Life, have the students explore the website and look for ways they can participate in this effort throughout the year from wherever they are.

Also, have the students consider some of these pro-life actions they can incorporate into their own lives. Write examples like these on the board. Have the students suggest more to add to the list:

  • Respect your own life. Eat the right foods. Get proper rest. Exercise. Avoid harmful substances.
  • Respect the dignity of others. Treat all people fairly.
  • Remove prejudicial feelings from your life.
  • Share your resources with the book.
  • Drive carefully. Do not text while driving.
  • Learn pro-life responses to pro-abortion arguments.
  • Support the unborn by writing letters to legislators, government officials, and the media, or by participating in pro-life rallies.
  • Support health care initiatives for poor women and children.
  • Show extra care for the disabled and those with special needs.
  • Speak out against euthanasia. Help those who are sick and elderly to offer their suffering to Jesus.
  • Visit the sick and elderly. Help to care even more for their spiritual and physical needs.
  • Pray.

 

January 9, 2020

New Vocations Text from Ave Maria Press

Just released this week, Your Christian Vocation is a new textbook from Ave Maria Press that supports a high-school course on all Christian vocations and states of life, including marriage, holy orders, consecrated life, and committed single life.

Please contact Bob Wieneke to receive a complimentary sample copy of Your Christian Vocations for your Catholic high school.

One of the hallmark's of Ave Maria Press textbooks in the Encountering Jesus series is a variety of teacher support materials. Included here are three approaches for coverage of the issue of homosexuality as it appears in Chapter 5 on marriage. Care is taken in presenting authentic Church teaching in a pastoral way geared especially for teenagers.

Teaching Approach 1

Explore material from Life Teen that presents Church teaching on homosexuality in a youth-friendly manner. Organize your class into three groups, and assign each group one of the following articles from the Life Teen website:

Note: All Life Teen materials support the teachings of the Catholic Church.

First, give students about ten minutes to read their assigned articles quietly and individually. Taking notes is advisable. Then have the students meet with those who read the same article (if the three groups are too large to be productive, they may subdivide into two smaller groups). They are to compare notes, discuss, and compose questions to bring to the large group.

Reconvening the class together, have student volunteers summarize the contents of each article. Then invite students to pose questions about the articles. You may wish to begin with basic, factual questions that give you the opportunity to clarify Church teaching as needed. Then move to deeper, more philosophical, and/or discussion-oriented questions. If time does not permit you to address every question, keep a list (perhaps on your board) of questions to address in a subsequent class session. For homework, direct students to write a one-paragraph reflection sharing their thoughts, feelings, and reactions regarding the content of today’s lesson.

Teaching Approach 2

View and discuss the film Desire of the Everlasting Hills. Produced by Courage International, this 2014 documentary examines the lives of two men and one woman who acted on their homosexual attractions in the past and are now living the Church’s message of chastity. The film is available to stream online at https://everlastinghills.org/movie; a DVD is also available for purchase.

Taking into account the film’s length (1:03:05), determine how best to show it to your students while also allowing adequate time for discussion. With a long-block schedule, you could view and discuss the film in one class session. With a traditional schedule, you will need two class periods to watch the whole film and discuss it. If your class time is very limited, you could preview the film and select excerpts that you wish to show your students.

An extensive study guide for the film is available at https://everlastinghills.org/study-guide. You may wish to select questions from this guide that seem compelling for discussion with your students; perhaps select an additional question to which students respond in writing for homework.

Teaching Approach 3

Engage your students in an honest, open, respectful conversation about homosexuality. Homosexuality, including the Church’s teaching regarding it, is a controversial and sensitive topic. Your students would likely greatly appreciate the opportunity to discuss this topic in an open manner. Hopefully, in your course for several months, they have developed a degree of trust in one another, so that such a conversation can occur in an atmosphere that respects both Church teaching and the dignity of every student. In order for this discussion not to devolve into a debate or, worse, an argument, careful preparation is essential.

First, direct students to review this section of the Student Text and to write two lists:

  • points that they understand and that make sense to them
  • points that they are struggling to understand, find confusing, or find troubling

Then have the students exchange their lists with a partner and engage in a brief discussion, noting similarities and differences in their lists.

Drawing the class back together, facilitate a large-group discussion, beginning with the points that the students understand (be sure to acknowledge and affirm these) and moving on to the points with which they struggle. Allow students to share their honest perspectives and questions, but be sure to moderate the discussion well, lest it become a free-for-all.

One discussion in one class session is unlikely to answer every student’s questions or to bring every student complete clarity. However, all students—especially those whose views regarding homosexuality are evolving and/or who struggle to understand the Church’s perspective—can benefit from the opportunity to voice their concerns and pose their questions freely and without fear. They may ultimately be more open to the Church’s teaching if they can approach it critically and thoughtfully, rather than feeling that it is being “forced” upon them.

 

December 31, 2019

Prayer for the Second Semester

Welcome back to school! Consider using this prayer (from the Diocese of Orange) as a prayer to recite each day or once a week in class.

 

We pray that we will come to know and love Jesus Christ in a personal way.

 

We pray that we will grow in maturity as missionary disciples of Christ.

 

We pray that we will become actively engaged in the mission of the Church, joyfully using our gifts to share the Good News, building up the Kingdom of God.

 

Amen.

December 17, 2019

New Text: Your Christian Vocation! New Chapter Assignments!

Chapter Assignments in the Encountering Jesus series are a popular feature! Students are given the choice of three assignments at the beginning of the study of a chapter with the expectation they will be able to complete the assignment within eight to ten days, prior to the time of the chapter assessment. Projects vary by type and learning styles. Each comes with a grading rubric.Listed below are three assignments from Chapter 5, "Challenges to Marriage and Family Life" in a new textbook Your Christian Vocation available now at the Ave Maria Press website.Also, don't forget to signup and use all of the classroom resources for this new text.

1. Research and Report

  • Choose one of the following topics, and research relevant information to supporting its position:
  • Married couples who follow the teachings of Humanae Vitae have happier and more satisfying marriages.
  • The benefits and blessings of a large family strongly outweigh its challenges.
  • Because of Christ and the founding of the Church, women are given more esteem and value in married life than ever before.
  • Divorced Catholics have served the Church well in ministry.

Write a five-hundred-word position paper supporting one of these positions. Cite specific evidence and examples to support your claims.

2. Novena for Married Couples

  • Create a novena for of married couples. Novena comes from the Latin word for “nine”; it is a prayer that takes place over nine days. Use the following sample day as your template for designing the remaining eight days of your “Novena for Married Couples”:

Day 1

  • Copy a Scripture reflection on marriage.

Home and possessions are an inheritance from parents, but a prudent wife is from the Lord (Prv 19:14).

  • Write a two-sentence reflection on the passage.

Common sense, wisdom, and prudence are marks of family life. Domestic happiness depends on these gifts that spouses share with one another much more than on any material possessions that they might acquire.

  • Choose and name a married saint. Write a prayer to this saint on behalf of healthy marriages.

St. Monica (332–387)

St. Monica, you suffered through the debilitating effects of emotional abuse in your marriage, only to witness the conversions of your husband and your son, St. Augustine. Pray for married couples to persevere in faith that they too might be unified in seeking the Lord. We ask this in Christ’s name. Amen.

3. Finding Solutions to the Challenges of Married Life

  • Interview seven to ten married people (individually, not as couples). Ask each person to name four of the greatest challenges married couples face in today’s culture. Create a chart or graphic organizer to list each of the challenges they name. In an accompanying column or space, offer your own comments (at least two paragraphs per comment) on the challenges mentioned and on possible solutions in light of the Church’s teaching on marriage you learned in Chapters 3, 4, and 5.

December 6, 2019

Marian Assignments

In celebration of two December Marian feasts (the Immaculate Conception and Our Lady of Guadalupe), listed below are seven assignment ideas.

 1.  Create a visual presentation on how the Blessed Mother has been portrayed in art through the ages. Include at least twenty pictures in your presentation.

2.  Research and report on one of the famous apparitions of Mary. Examples include Guadalupe, Lourdes, or Fatima..

3.  Write your own Litany to the Blessed Mother. For inspiration, refer to several popular litanies.

  • Litany of Loreto:
  • Litany of Mary of Nazareth
  • Litany of Our Lady of Lourdes:

4.  Research and report on Mary as the first disciple. See, for example, "Mary, the First Disciple."

5.  Create a booklet with pictures to illustrate any ten mysteries of the Rosary.

6.   Research and report on five feast days of the Blessed Mother.

7.  Read paragraphs 40–42, the Conclusion of Pope Benedict XVI’s Encyclical Letter Deus Caritas Est (God Is Love). Report on five interesting things he says about the Blessed Mother. Locate articles about the encyclical by conducting an Internet search of the English or Latin title.

 

November 22, 2019

Traditional Prayer Forms in Scripture

Directions: There are six traditional forms of prayer that can be prayed spontaneously or formally. Each type of prayer has examples in Scripture. Review the definition of each prayer form. Then use the information to see you can identify the prayer form in each Scripture passage. Some of the passages may include more than one form. In honor of Thanksgiving, one passage is listed in full below:

 

We give thanks to God always for all of you, remembering you in our prayers, unceasingly calling to mind your work of faith and labor of love and endurance in hope of our Lord Jesus Christ, before our God and Father, knowing, brothers and sisters loved by God, how you were chosen.

                                                                                     —1 Thessalonians 1:2-4

 

  1. Blessing is the basic movement of Christian prayer. You bless God for having blessed you.

 

  1. Psalm 107:1
  1. Prayer of adoration is a basic response to God, your acknowledgment that God is Creator.

 

  1. Psalm 144:1–5
  1. Prayers of petition are prayers of asking: for forgiveness and for all the things you need.

 

  1. 1 Timothy 2:1–4
  1. Intercessions are prayers of petition in which you ask for things on behalf of others.

 

  1. 1 John 5:14–15
  1. Prayers of thanksgiving are expressions of gratitude to God for every good thing.
  1. 1 Peter 1:3–5
  1. Praise is the form of prayer that gives glory to God for his own sake.

 

  1. Luke 18:1–5

 

  1. Ephesians 1:3–14

 

  1. 1 Corinthians 8:6

 

  1. 1 Thessalonians 1:2–4

 

  1. Colossians 1:9–12

 

November 12, 2019

40 Day Fast for Catholic Education

Please consider this important initiative from Justin McClain, Catholic author and Theology teacher at Bishop McNamara High School in Forestville, Maryland.

November 4, 2019

Can Your Students Solve This Puzzle?

One of our authors recently submitted a puzzle to go in the appendix of a new edition of The Old Testament: Our Call to Faith and Justice, due for release in the summer of 2020. However, we are having trouble solving the puzzle.

Maybe you and your students can give it a crack. The first winner to email me all of the correct steps  (mamodei@nd.edu) will win a $25 gift certificate from Ave Maria Press.

Puzzle

See home many steps it takes you to change from M-O-S-E-S to J-E-S-U-S by changing only one letter at a time. The catch is that you must create a new word each time you change a letter (e.g., MOSES to ROSES).

Remember, you must send ALL the correct steps!

Hope you have better luck than we have had here!

 

The puzzle was solve by several students and teachers! The winner is Here’s a solution from Andy C, a 10th grader at Cretin-Derham Hall High School in St. Paul, MN via his teacher Melissa Bauer. Thanks to all!

 

October 31, 2019

Tour of Sacred Places

Lead your students on a guided tour of several places in and around a church, chapel, and/or school that have sacred importance to the prayer life of your community.

Examples

The altar (and altar relic). Explain that the altar of a church should be located in a central space where it attracts the focus of prayer. Explain the traditional association between martyrs and saints and Catholic altars. For many years it was required that the relics of a saint or martyr be placed in the altar stone. If the altar at your church or chapel has a relic tell something about it and show where it is placed.

A grotto or statue of the Blessed Mother. Tell its history and note its dedication plaque. Also, explain that older churches have side altars since more than one Mass were often celebrated at the same time.

The statue of the church or school’s patron. Prepare a short biography of the person to share when the group has gathered near the statue.

The bell tower. Recall the traditional ringing of the bells three times a day to announce the Angelus. Explain and share the Angelus prayer. If your school or church does have a bell tower, consider having the students climb into the loft.

A news rack in the foyer of the church or school. Point out the various types of spiritual readings included and any other prayer cards. Also, show announcements for forming prayer groups like Scripture students and the like.

The Blessed Sacrament. Pause and kneel with the group before the Blessed Sacrament. Point out the sanctuary lights, indicating Christ’s presence. Explain something of the history and practice of Benediction, a short ceremony from the fifteenth century in which the Eucharist, in the form of a large consecrated host, is venerated.

October 17, 2019

Pray the Rosary with Baseball Legend Vin Scully

With the World Series being played this month, take a bit of class time to share something of the life of Vin Scully, the Brooklyn and Los Angeles Dodger announcer for 67 years, from 1950 to 2016. Vin is noted for several great calls in World Series history, including:

Vin is also a devout Catholic. After sharing something of Vin’s life, pray a decade of the Rosary led by Vin Scully who has recorded his recitation of the Rosary in connection with Immaculate Heart Radio.October is the month of the Rosary.

October 1, 2019

Emoji Good News

 

 

 

 

Provide copies of the following material for each student.

Directions: Pretend you are transmitting the Good News of Jesus’ Resurrection to a friend via electronic or social media. Use emojis to express emotions described by the people in the following passage. Then write two more sentences adding your personal message to your friend about Jesus’ resurrection. Use emojis in these new sentences too.

 

But at daybreak on the first day of the week they took the spices they had prepared and went to the tomb.        They found the stone rolled away from the tomb, but when they entered, they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus.        While they were puzzling over this, behold two men in dazzling garments appeared to them.        They were terrified and bowed their faces to the ground.        They said to them, “Why do you seek the living among the dead?        He is not here, but he has been raised.        Remember what he said to you while he was still in Galilee, that the Son of Man must be handed over to sinners and be crucified, and rise on the third day.        And they remembered his words.        Then they returned from the tomb and announced all these things to the eleven and to all the others.

                                                                                             −Luke 24:1-0

September 19, 2019

The Rules of Engagement Webinar

Church leaders bemoan the number of teens and young adults leaving their faith behind. Contrary to popular belief, these folks don't want to be entertained by the Church; they want to be engaged in their faith. In this webinar for teachers, catechists, youth ministers, parents, and anyone who works with teens, longtime youth minister and national speaker Mike Patin explores the values and principles needed in this digital generation to bring people into catechesis and ministry.

If you would like the slides that accompany this webinar in PowerPoint format, please contact Erin Pierce, Parish and Curriculum Marketing Specialist at Ave Maria Press.

September 6, 2019

Using Icons to Approach Theological Concepts

Although icons are often associated with the Eastern Church, the rich history and spirituality of these sacred images can help students better understand abstract theological concepts.  It should not be forgotten that art helps develop cognitive and analytical skills in student development (Eisner, The Arts and the Creation of Mind, 2002). The following lesson topic will help students explore the beauty and theological significance of Icons, as well as offering resources for educators.

Directions

  • Break the students into groups of 3 or 4.  Search for an icon that would best match the concept, vocabulary, or Scripture story that is the focus of a topic you are covering in class.
  • Supply students with an icon (relating to your chosen topic), such as Rublev’s The Trinity when discussing the story of Abraham in Genesis 18:1-8 and the Holy Trinity
  • Have the students explore and describe the visual representation of the icon (explain the use of color, body posture, eye contact, size of characters or objects, the nature of time or progression in the icon, etc.).
  • With their groups, have the students compare and contrast the icon with the chosen topic searching how the icon depicts and provides additional meaning to the icon.
  • Call on representatives from each group to share a summary of the discussion. Note common and different points of discussion on the board.

Resources

Helpful resources on approaching Icons for classroom use and exploration:

  • Jim Forest. (2017). Praying with Icons. Orbis Books.
  • Alfredo Tradigo & Stephen Sartarelli. (2006). Icons and Saints of the Eastern Orthodox Church. Getty Publications.
  • Jeana Visel, OSB. (2016). Icons in the Western Church: Toward a More Sacramental Encounter. The Liturgical Press.

There is also a fascinating seven-part documentary about the purpose and spirituality that can offer more background of Icons entitled: The Icon by The Ostrog Monastery and the Academy of the Serbian Orthodox Church for Fine Arts and Conversation, 2011

Submitted by

Thomas Malewitz, M.T.S., Ph.D.

St. Xavier High School (Louisville, KY)

 

August 21, 2019

A Lesson on the Flesh and the Spirit

 

There is a great religious lesson in the short film (6:36) Giuseppe's Opus, starring Joe Marinelli. Conduct an activity around the film in this order:

Activity

1. Say: "I'm going to play a short film for you called Giuseppe's Opus; Giuseppe is the character in the film. The word opus means 'a large scale artistic work.'  When it is over I want you to tell me what you think its main lesson is."

2. Play the film.

3. Allow time for the students to write down some notes.

4. Divide the students in groups of three and tell them to each share what they think is the film's main lesson.

5. After time for discussion, call on representatives from each group to summarize some of the lessons the members shared. You can further summarize what the moderators report by writing a few words on the board, perhaps things like:

  • You have to quench the pangs of the flesh, before you can do the work of the spirit.
  • The work of the spirit is lifelong.
  • The work of the flesh is fleeting; the work of the spirit is everlasting.

6. After the discussion, remind the students of the sign on the wall in the shop: "The Flesh Is Dead. The Spirit Is Alive." Tell them this is a reference to Romans 8:11-13. Call on a student to read the passage aloud. Call on other students to suggest how the theme of the film is connected to the words in this passage.

7. Finally, share some details on the life of St. Francis of Assisi. (Recall that Giuseppe trims a vine back from the statue of St. Francis.) St. Francis gave up his inheritance and stripped away his physical possessions in order to spiritually build up the Church and follow Christ. Conclude by praying the Prayer of St. Francis:

Lord, make me an instrument of Your peace; 
Where there is hatred, let me sow love; 
Where there is injury, pardon; 
Where there is doubt, faith; 
Where there is despair, hope; 
Where there is darkness, light; 
And where there is sadness, joy. 

O Divine Master,
Grant that I may not so much seek
To be consoled as to console; 
To be understood, as to understand; 
To be loved, as to love; 
For it is in giving that we receive, 
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned, 
And it is in dying that we are born to Eternal Life. 
Amen.

 

August 7, 2019

Bishop Barron on Catholic's Misunderstanding the Eucharist

 

A disturbing study by the Pew Research Center finds that most Catholics do not believe in Transubstantiation,a core teaching of the faith that the bread and wine at Eucharist become the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ. Also, most Catholics surveyed do not know what the Church actually teaches on this subject.

The complete Pew Research Center study can be found here.

Bishop Robert Barron responds with on this video to the survey's findings.

 

July 17, 2019

Modeling Thomas Merton as a Response to Racism

Racism is a deeply embedded and terrible part of the American consciousness. Since its inception the Americas have been plagued by the commodity of objectifying other human beings, buying and selling them for a price. It is essential to reclaim and acknowledge the dignity of the human person in the midst of aggression and violence that continue today. Although racism is still present today, in obvious and physical actions, it is more often present in opinions that we hold in our hearts, directly or indirectly affecting our thoughts and actions. The following lesson can help adolescents recognize traumatic experiences of racism in the past, through a tangible example and the lens of Thomas Merton.

The Birmingham Bombing

On September 15, 1963, a bomb exploded at the 16th street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama.  The timed explosive device injured more than twenty and killing four young girls between eleven and fourteen years old.  It is chronicled that the Cistercian monk  and popular twentieth century author Thomas Merton was so haunted by a photo of one of the girls who was killed that he kept a magazine clipping of her picture in his journal – as a constant reminder of someone who never learned how to hate (Merton, The Road to Joy: Letters to Old and New Friends, 1989). Merton was also so moved by the horrific attack that he wrote a letter directly to the McNair family (who lost their daughter Denise in the bombing), as well as two poems inspired by the event (Merton, The Collected Poems of Thomas Merton, 1980). 

Preparation

Have the students develop a contextual understanding of the Birmingham Bombing by researching several credible resources about the event (such as, but not limited to):

Have the students develop a contextual understanding of the Birmingham Bombing by researching several credible resources about the event (such as, but not limited to):

Activity

Have students choose a contemporary example of racism or stereotyping in culture (offer examples of groups/communities affected by racism, if necessary).  Then commission the students to create an artistic response to explain and address that situation or event of racism such as through: a poem, song, short film, eulogy, digital painting or online blog/article.

 

Submitted by

Thomas Malewitz, M.T.S., Ph.D.

St. Xavier High School (Louisville, KY)

 

July 9, 2019

Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen to be Beatified

The Vatican has announced that Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen (1895-1979), a prominent evangelist of the mid-twentieth century who hosted a highly rated program, Life is Worth Living, on the new medium of television in the 1950s, will be beatified.

The diocese of Peoria, Illinois, reported that Sheen interceded after a baby born in 2010 and showed no signs of life. For 61 minutes the family and friends of the infant prayed to Sheen to intercede. After the baby was transferred to a Peoria hospital near the Cathedral of St. Mary of the Immaculate Conception where Sheen was ordained in 1919 the baby showed signs of life.The baby's heart began beating and the child breathed. Today, the young child remains healthy. Msgr. Jasno Gray of Peoria who investigated the miracle explains it in an interview on EWTN.

No date for the beatification was immediately announced. One additional miracle must be credited to Archbishop Sheen before he can be canonize a saint.

Assign the following questions:

  1. What was the controversy concerning Archbishop Sheen's relics?
  2. What is the connection between Jack Benny and Lucille Ball with Archbishop Sheen?
  3. What did Sheen use as a prop on Life Is Worth Living?

 

June 28, 2019

Religious Liberty in America and around the World

The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops offer several articles, videos, alerts and other resources on the topic of religious liberty.

Also, Ave Maria Press offers a free digital five-day mini unit, "Religious Liberty and Catholicism in the United States," that is suitable for both Catholic high school religion courses and very adaptable to parish youth ministry programs as well.

June 17, 2019

Fielding Questions about Why I Am Catholic

Brandon Vogt’s bestselling and aware winning Why I Am Catholic (And You Should Be Too) is a remarkable and persuasive argument for truth and beauty in the Catholic Church and for reasons why young people should throw off the common urge to leave the Church for the more radical decision to “join the rebellion” and go against the tide and remain or become Catholic.

Coming soon are teacher resources (lesson plans, assignments, quizzes, and more) to support this 180 pages engaging and clear read. There is also a companion study guide already available for the trade edition.

Brandon Vogt is an award-winning author, blogger, and speaker who serves as content director for Bishop Barron’s Word on Fire Catholic website.

In this recent podcast, Non –Catholic Q&A w/Bishop Barron (June 2019), Brandon and Bishop Barron field questions on the faith from non-Catholic listeners, including atheists and agnostics.  

 

June 10, 2019

New Edition of Your Life in Christ: Foundations in Catholic Morality!

Have you received a review copy of the third edition of the all-time best-selling Your Life in Christ: Foundations in Catholic Morality? If you are a high school theology teacher connect with Bob Wieneke to have a complimentary copy sent to your high school.

 

 

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