Engaging Faith: Practical lesson ideas and activities for Catholic Educators

July 22, 2016

Direct Service for Teens

The USCCB’s Renewing the Vision : A Framework for Catholic Youth Ministry document addresses the essential nature of justice and a service component that should accompany any programming for teens, including teens enrolled in a Catholic high school. It offers distinctive feature that give direction to this component. Justice and service is meant to:

  • engage the teens in the scope of Catholic social teaching, beginning with the teachings of Jesus;
  • involve the teens in direct service to those in need;
  • promote Gospel-based lifestyles and choices among teens;
  • help them reflect on direct service experiences and pay special attention to why service is important;
  • teach them to work in cooperation with others—peers, the parish, and the community—in promoting justice and service;
  • nurture in teens a lifelong commitment to justice and service.

As you consider ways to incorporate service into your curriculum and lesson planning, begin with these reflections:

  • Think about the successful opportunities for direct service you have provided for your teens. What are some common elements of these success stories?
  • Describe the attitude of your teens toward direct service.
  • What do you find difficult in teaching your teens about a Christian’s call to service? Name some ways you can incorporate the Church’s social teaching within your lessons.
  • Brainstorm a list of other school, parish, and community agencies with whom your youth group could partner to serve others.


Jesus, wash our souls of all pride and greed as we continue in our desire to serve our brothers and sisters. As the teens begin to formulate a plan for their lives, help them keep in mind the model of service you shared with your disciples. We ask this in your name. Amen.


July 15, 2016

Stand Against Violence: A Prayer

Prayer against Crime and Violence

Lord God, crime is on the increase within our city and our country.

From the depths of our hearts we pray that you will comfort, heal, and bless all victims of crime.

We ask that you protect all people from the evil of crime and violence.

We pray especially for life-changing conversion for all criminals and the violent—

                remove all evil form their hearts,

                fill them with your goodness and love

        that they may cease their evil works

        and that our city and land be free from the

        scourge of crime and violence.

We pray also for the grace to purge ourselves of all violence—

                in our own thoughts and actions,

                in our family life,

                in our friendships,

                in relationships with others

Lord, I personal commit to refrain from violent acts or words

                To settle conflicts.

I further swear to teach others, especially our youth,

                that violence is too quick an answer

                that produces irreparable, life-long

                                and threatening results.



This prayer was composed by the people of St. Dorothy Catholic Church in Chicago, Illinois. St. Dorothy’s mission statement is as follows: “St. Dorothy Catholic Church is committed to ending violence against everyone—by raising awareness and understanding, education and personal development, promotion of diversity and spiritual partnership.”


July 8, 2016

Understanding Facets of “White Privilege”

Conduct a discussion as a way to allow white students in your class to be aware of some preferential treatments they experience because they are white. Likewise, allow students of color to discuss their perspectives of some of these experiences.

Make a worksheet of with the twelve items listed below and pass it out to the students.  These items were adapted from “Celebrating Racial Diversity” by Kathleen McGinnis and published in Activities for Catholic Social Teaching.


  1. I can walk down a residential street in a white neighborhood and no one will automatically think I am a babysitter or a delivery person.
  2. If I can make any grammatical or spelling errors, no one will attribute my mistakes to my race.
  3. I can walk into a store late at night and probably no one will think I am there to rob it.
  4. In the classroom, it is not automatically assumed that I will have to work harder than others to get good grades.
  5. Most everyone who looks at me will assume that I am an American citizen and can speak English.
  6. If I have a responsible job or scholarship, no one thinks I got it because of “quotas.”
  7. Other white people in an elevator won’t tense up and wonder what I might do.
  8. I can pay with a credit card or check and won’t be questioned.
  9. People hear I am going to college and no one is surprised.
  10. If I want to teach my younger brothers and sisters about my culture, there are many museums and cultural events to which I can take them.
  11. I can have or wear nice things or ride in a nice car and no one will automatically think I am being wasteful or say, “Isn’t that typical?”
  12. No one assumes when I give my opinion that I am speaking on behalf of my entire race.


Ask the white students to mark each of the twelve items with a plus sign for items they agree with, a minus sign for those they disagree with, and a question mark for those they are not sure about or don’t understand. Students of color should mark the items they have experienced.

Take each item, one at a time, and ask the students how they marked them. Spend additional time discussing the items that generate the most intense response.

Present this final question: “What other privileges do white Americans enjoy?” Have the students write their responses. Then spend time discussing their responses. Write some of the things they listed on the board.

Conclude with a final reflection. Ask the students how they felt about this activity. Then have them brainstorm some solutions to these issues and suggest ways to rectify white privilege.

July 1, 2016

Resource Links for Catholic Theology Teachers

Please note and bookmark this excellent source of lessons plans and teacher enrichment articles in the July 2016 issue of Christian Brothers College High School theology teacher Charles Beach's RelEDWeb Newsletter.

For example, note the RelEdWeb Newsletter link to an article "10 Facts about Atheists." This information is a good primer for dissecting recent statistics from a CARA study on atheism summarized in an article by Brandon Vogt.


June 24, 2016

St. Mary Magdalene

Pope Francis has raised the liturgical memorial of St. Mary Magdalene, the woman from the Gospels who, according to the pope, "so loved Christ and was so greatly loved by Christ, to a feast day. The text of Pope Francis' announcement, "Apostle of the Apostles," is available here.

As you find an occasion to share this news with your students, find time to also:

June 17, 2016

A Nice Story about Courtship and Marriage (featuring one of our authors)

Barbara Jane Sloan, currently a doctoral student in theology at Marquette University, and formerly a Catholic high school theology teacher AND former poster in the Engaging Faith blog was featured this week in the New York Times with her new husband Nathaniel Peters. Enjoy reading of their unique and happy courtship. This is also an article suitable for sharing with your students as part of a marriage and vocations course. Congratulations to Jane and Nathaniel!

June 10, 2016

Prayers for the Future

As the school year comes to a close, here are some prayers to share with your students as they embark on the immediate future of summer while considering what life will bring them in the semesters ahead. Each of the prayers is taken from Day by Day The Notre Dame Prayerbook for Students.


For Responsible Decisions

O God,

who has called me to place such complete trust in you

that nothing can tyrannize my life,

deliver me, I pray . . . .

     from becoming a slave to my books

     from daydreaming away my time

     from an over concern about sex

     from an over anxiety about my future

     from an uncritical view of myself

     from an overcritical view of myself

and from all the half-known deities

which try to dictate what I shall be.

Save me, that I may be free

to make responsible decisions

and serve you with wholeness


        --John W. Vannorsdall


For A Light in the Darkness

Father, grant that I may be

a bearer of Christ Jesus, your Son.

Allow me to warm the often cold, impersonal

scene of modern life with your burning love.

Strengthen me, by your Holy Spirit

to carry out my mission of changing the world

or some definite part of it, for the better.

Despite my lamentable failures, bring home to me

that my advantages are your blessings

to be shared with others.

Make me more energetic in setting to rights

what I find wrong with the world

instead of complaining about it or myself.

Nourish in me a practical desire

to build up rather than tear down

to reconcile more than polarize

to go out on a limb rather than crave security.

Never let me forget that it is far better

to light one candle than to curse the darkness.

And to join my light, one day, with yours.


      --Christopher Prayer Book


To Christ Our Only Teacher

Thank you, Jesus, for bringing me this far.

In your light I see the light of my life.

Your teaching is brief and to the point.

You persuade us to trust in our heavenly Father;

you command us to love one another.

What is easier than to believe in God?

What is sweeter than to love him?

Your yoke is pleasant, your burden light,

you, the only and only Teacher!

Your promise everything to those who obey your teaching,

you ask nothing too hard for a believer,

nothing a lover can refuse.

Your promises to your disciples are true,

entirely true, nothing but the truth.

Even more, you promise use yourself,

the perfection of all that can be made perfect.

Than you, Jesus, now and always.


     --Nicholas of Cusa (1401-1464)






June 2, 2016

End-of-the-Year Review

The end of the school year is time for review.

While the following “50 Questions” are part of the Send Out Your Spirit high-school Confirmation program, they serve well as a general review for students enrolled in just about any Catholic high school theology course. You may wish to assign some or all of these questions as part of a graded final, extra credit, or as part of a number of quiz games you might wish to play with your students in these last days and weeks of school.



50 Questions

 1.  Define “catechumenate.”

 2.  What are some differences between the Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults (RCIA) and the Rite of Baptism of Children (RBC)?

 3.  Name the elements of the basic Rite of Baptism.

 4.  How many adults were baptized at your parish at the last Easter vigil?

 5.  How many children were baptized in the last calendar year at your parish?

 6.  What are the central beliefs about God espoused in our Catholic creeds?

 7.  Name at least four attributes of God.

 8.  Name and explain three dogmas about the Holy Trinity.

 9.  Where is the tabernacle placed in your parish? Why is it placed where it is?

10. When is the Feast of the Holy Trinity?

11. How did the early Church answer Arius’s claim that Jesus only took the “appearance” of a man?

12. Define “Incarnation.”

13. What did Jesus tell his disciples would happen to him in Jerusalem?

14. How can you come to know Jesus?

15. How do you think you would respond if someone held a gun to your head and asked, “Do you believe in Jesus Christ?”

16. Name and explain three kinds of writing in the Bible.

17. What are the three stages of the composition of the Gospel?

18. How did the Second Vatican Council encourage a renewed interest in the Scriptures for Catholics?

19. What is meant by the term “Septuagint”? “Vulgate”?

20. Which of the following translations of the Bible are accepted by Catholics? Protestants? Both?

      King James                                    New Jerusalem                       Revised Standard

      New American                              The Way                                  Good News

21. What were the causes of the schism between the churches of East and West and of the Protestant Reformation?

22. How does the Church answer the criticism that “Catholics pray to saints”?

23. Define “infallibility” related to Church teaching.

24. Who is the bishop of your diocese? What do you know about him?

25. Define and tell the function of each of these Church structures:

      archdiocese                       college of cardinals                parish

      diocese                              deanery                                   parish council

26. How does the morality of human acts depend on the object chosen, the intention, and the circumstances of the action?

27. Write the Beatitudes.

28. Write the Ten Commandments.

29. Write the precepts of the Church.

30. How can the Sacrament of Penance help you to live a moral life?

31. How is the Paschal Mystery like other historical events? How is it different from other historical events?

32. Define “transubstantiation.”

33. According to the Council of Florence, what three things are necessary for a sacrament to be valid?

34. Name the two main parts of the Mass. What takes place in each part?

35. Put these parts of the Mass in sequential order:

      Penitential Rite                             Gospel             Consecration

      First Reading                                 Our Father                  Communion

      Homily                                           Sign of Peace            Holy, Holy, Holy

      Eucharistic Prayer             Offertory                     Concluding Rite

36. Name and explain three basic human rights.

37. What is meant by the phrase “preferential option for the poor”?

38. List the corporal works of mercy.

39. List the spiritual works of mercy.

40. Outline the Church’s basic positions on the justice issues of consumerism, the environment, and war and violence.

41. Write at least four ways Catholics are able to know the Holy Spirit.

42. What is the essential rite of Confirmation?

43. Name four effects of the Sacrament of Confirmation.

44. List the seven Gifts of the Holy Spirit.

45. How many candidates will be confirmed at the next Confirmation at your parish?

46. How is self-concept related to self-esteem?

47. Who administers the Sacrament of Matrimony?

48. What does the Church teach about sex outside of marriage?

49. What is meant by the term “consecrated life”?

50.How is the ministerial priesthood different from the common priesthood?


If you are interested in an answer sheet for these questions, leave your name and email address in the comment section below this post and we will send them to you.




May 23, 2016

How Do Your Students Learn?

This interesting cartoon provides some food-for-thought on assessing the way students learn. You might ask yourself:

  • What is your first reaction on viewing this cartoon?
  • In what ways do you regularly encounter students who learn in different ways?
  • How can you more fairly assess students based on their different learning styles?
  • What type of resources (e.g., different styles of tests, assignment rubrics, etc.) do you need to more fairly address this issue?

You may also wish to share this cartoon with your colleagues and students themselves in order to gain their insights.


Multiple Intelligences

Additionally, you may wish to review the classical multiple intelligences that describe the ways that people learn. Developed by Howard Gardner, a professor at the Harvard School of Education, the multiple intelligences explain eight particular ways that students learn.

Though people learn using all different styles, each person usually has preferred ways of acquiring and processing information. The best learning takes places when teaching methods offer processes, assignments, and projects for all eight intelligences. This provides opportunities for students to access their preferred intelligence and to proceed from their chosen strengths.

What follows is a brief description of Gardner’s eight multiple intelligences and information about which methods students prefer.

Bodily/Kinesthetic Intelligence

Bodily/Kinesthetic intelligence involves the capacity to use one’s whole body to express ideas and feelings. It specifically involves using one’s hands to create things or to skillfully manipulate objects. A concrete way to think of people learning in this style is that they are active and engaged in a “learning-by-doing” assignment or project. Methods include:

  • developing and performing role plays
  • participating in a theater arts performance
  • creating and/or demonstrating the use of a relevant tool, instrument, or utensil
  • exercising or competing in athletics

Interpersonal/Relational Intelligence

      This intelligence requires the ability to perceive and appreciate the feelings, moods, intentions, and motivations of other people. Those who prefer this type of learning flourish working in groups, teams, or with a partner. Learning methods include:

  • brainstorming ideas
  • playing cooperative games
  • dialoguing with others
  • working on a group project

Intrapersonal/Introspective Intelligence

      The Intrapersonal/Introspective intelligence requires the ability to base one’s actions on self-understanding. Being in touch with one’s dreams, feelings, moods, intentions, motivations, and spirituality is a key aspect of this intelligence. People who learn best in this style usually prefer to work alone on self-directed assignments. Examples of the intrapersonal/introspective intelligence are:

  • writing reports or research papers
  • keeping a journal
  • explaining the personal connection of some given information
  • identifying with characters in a story

Logical/Mathematical Intelligence

The Logical/Mathematical intelligence requires the skill to work well with numbers and to use reason to solve problems. Persons who learn well in this style are adept, for example, at categorizing and exploring relationships within a set of data. They tend to find it difficult to function in an environment that is chaotic or one in which the goals are not clearly defined. Methods that complement this intelligence are:

  • categorizing names, places, and events
  • outlining bodies of material
  • exploring patterns and relationships
  • problem solving

Musical/Rhythmic Intelligence

Distinguishing rhythm, pitch, and melody is a characteristic of this intelligence. People who prefer to learn in this style often express themselves in musical forms. They enjoy being surrounded by sound and rhythm and understand these as learning tools. Some methods that are successful for this style are:

  • making and playing instruments
  • setting stories to music
  • creating or performing in a musical
  • writing new lyrics for familiar tunes

Naturalist Intelligence

A person who prefers a Naturalist intelligence is at home in the natural environment. He or she appreciates the joys of nature and is comfortable raising and caring for plants and animals. This person also often enjoys camping, hiking, and many other outdoor activities. Methods that are consistent with the Naturalist Intelligence intelligence are:

  • experimenting in a lab setting
  • classifying elements in the natural world
  • "digging” or any simulation of an archaeological experience
  • demonstrating proper procedure and care for gardens or animals

Verbal/Linguistic Intelligence

The Verbal/Linguistic intelligence involves use of the spoken and written word. A person who learns best with this intelligence appreciates being able to see things in print, hear spoken words, and say things aloud. Memorization is also a key learning method. Other methods consistent with this intelligence are:

  • debating
  • reading and summarizing the material
  • memorizing and repeating multiple facts
  • writing essays

Visual/Spatial Intelligence

      This intelligence appeals to people who like to learn by visualizing and dreaming about concepts and ideas. Learners in this style incorporate both sight and mental images. Whereas the written word may frustrate these learners, visuals in the form of charts, pictures, graphs, and maps help them to grasp a topic. Other methods that fit into this intelligence include:

  • drawing, painting, and sculpting
  • creating collages, posters, and murals
  • designing maps and graphs
  • producing videos


May 18, 2016

Kentucky Derby Winner Featured in Ave Maria Press Textbook

It’s not often that a Kentucky Derby champion trainer and his wife make it into an Ave Maria Press high school theology textbook. But that’s the case with Doug O’Neill, trainer of 2016 champion Nyquist (and 2012 Kentucky Derby winner, I’ll Have Another) and his wife Linette Galvan O’Neill.

Doug and Linette both are graduates of St. Monica Catholic High School in Santa Monica, California. Due to a special friendship with their former teacher and coach who is also the author of Marriage and Holy Orders: Your Call to Love and Serve, the interesting story of Doug’s marriage proposal to Linette made it into a chapter on the Sacrament of Matrimony.



More backstory: Shanda Farmer, the daughter of Chicago White Sox announcer Ed Farmer, who communicated Doug’s proposal, was also a friend and classmate of Linette at St. Monica’s.

Doug and Linette have been married for over twenty years. They have two children, Daniel and Kaylin.

Encourage your students to reach the top of their vocations and professions and to strive for a successful family life like Doug and Linette. And root Doug and Nyquist on in this Saturday’s Preakness Stakes!



May 9, 2016

Helping Seniors Say Good-bye to their High School Experience

Does your school have any rituals or practices that help seniors make their first major transition in life? There are always those students who cannot wait to leave high school, but for many seniors, they are about to leave a place they feel like is a home with peers and adult faculty, staff, and coaches who have become familiar and dear to them. This may be just their first separation, though, as some will leave their families for schools or the military and go far away.

There seems to be more literature about how teachers and parents can say good-bye and let go with their graduating seniors than guidance for helping teens themselves leave their friends and families. Teens can use some help with transitioning too. Suggest some of the following opportunities:

  • Invite students see that their lives will no longer be the same although that does not mean that their lives will change for the worse!
  • Give students time for reflection, whether that be through meditation, journaling, or taking walks. Reflection can help students identify areas of challenge and worry. Class discussion then can help seniors surface these concerns in a safe place.
  • Suggest that students take one day at a time rather than taking on the totality of the change in front of them and try to live in the moments in a mindful way.
  • Recommend that seniors find adult mentors with whom they can process the upcoming changes, that is, with people who have “been there.” If you feel comfortable, offer your own time for this kind of conversation.
  • Encourage students to think optimistically about the future. Remind them of the Christian faith in the Resurrection: that life comes out of deaths like leaving one community for a new one. Hope is the appropriate Christian response to the unknown future.

Also, you may want to remind the students about Jesus’ first disciples. They had spent several years with Jesus and had given up their previous lives to follow him. All of a sudden, without much warning, Jesus died at the hand of the state. Their presence in the “upper room” reflects the type of paralysis and anxiety they felt even after encountering the Risen Jesus. They were in this interim state until they received the Holy Spirit on Pentecost, at which point they were able to share the Good News and baptize just as Jesus had commissioned them to do.

Like those first disciples, tends need time to transition from one way of being in the world to a new one. Seniors should not expect that they can just sail through graduation and on to their new lives without some processing and “in between” time. They should be patient with themselves and expect the help of the Holy Spirit as they move on to the next stages of their lives. Remind your students that God, who loves them beyond their understanding, wants them to succeed. They should count on his help.

(Several of these suggestions are based on the short article, “Life Changes: 5 Tips for Getting through Any Period of Transition,” by Carolyn Gregoire, December 11, 2012, Huff Post Teen.)

April 29, 2016

Annual Fortnight for Religious Freedom Announced

The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops has announced the dates for the annual Fornight for Freedom, an occasion to pray, promote, and work for religious liberty. The year, the Fornight for Freedom will be held from June 21--the Feasts of St. John Fisher and St. Thomas More--to July 4, Independence Day. The USCCB has articles, documents, videos, prayers, and suggestions for Catholics to involve themselves in this effort at a special Fortnight for Freedom link on its homepage.


Prayer for the Protection of Religious Liberty

O God our Creator,
from your provident hand we have received
our right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
You have called us as your people and given us
the right and the duty to worship you, the only true God,
and your Son, Jesus Christ.
Through the power and working of your Holy Spirit,
you call us to live out our faith in the midst of the world,
bringing the light and the saving truth of the Gospel
to every corner of society.

We ask you to bless us
in our vigilance for the gift of religious liberty.
Give us the strength of mind and heart
to readily defend our freedoms when they are threatened;
give us courage in making our voices heard
on behalf of the rights of your Church
and the freedom of conscience of all people of faith.

Grant, we pray, O heavenly Father,
a clear and united voice to all your sons and daughters
gathered in your Church
in this decisive hour in the history of our nation,
so that, with every trial withstood
and every danger overcome—
for the sake of our children, our grandchildren,
and all who come after us—
this great land will always be "one nation, under God,
indivisible, with liberty and justice for all."

We ask this through Christ our Lord.


April 22, 2016

New Testament Connection: Passover and Eucharist

The Jewish Pasch (Passover) is celebrated this year from April 22-30. You may wish to share this information on the Passover as it compares with the Sacrament of Holy Eucharist. The material is taken from The Old Testament: Our Call to Faith and Justice (Ave Maria Press, 2013).

At the center of the Gospel is Christ’s Paschal Mystery. The word paschal is taken from the Jewish word for Passover, pasch. The Exodus, the occasion in which God spared the firstborn children of Israel and allowed Moses to lead his people from slavery in Egypt to the Promised Land, is remembered at Passover. Jesus in the New Testament redefined this experience.

The Gospels suggest that Jesus was celebrating a Passover meal in the upper room with his disciples at the Last Supper (Mt 26:18, Mk 14:22–23, Lk 22:7–13, 1 Cor 11:24–25). At the time that Jesus celebrated this feast, the Passover meal probably included unleavened bread, wine, some herbs, and an unblemished lamb. Their ceremony would have consisted of a blessing (berakah) of both the cup and the bread. These elements are described in the New Testament. Yet, there is no sign of the lamb. In its place, Jesus is the Lamb of God, the unblemished paschal lamb (Ex 12:4–5) who is led to slaughter (Is 53:7). Jesus gave the Passover a new meaning. The Eucharist “fulfills the Jewish Passover” through the Paschal Mystery (CCC, 1340). Christ’s Suffering, Death, Resurrection, and Ascension are a passing over from slavery to sin to ultimate freedom in the Resurrection of humanity.

Passover Meal


Bread and wine (Ex 12:15, Nm 9:11–12)

Jesus shared bread and wine with his disciples (Mt Lk 22:19–20)

Unblemished Lamb (Ex 12:4–5)

Jesus is the Paschal Lamb, the Lamb of God (Jn 19:36, 1 Cor 5:7, 1 Pt 1:19)

None of the lamb’s bones should be broken (Nm 9:12)

The soldiers did not break Jesus’ bones on the Cross (Jn 19:33, 36)

Berekah (“blessing”)

Jesus took the bread and said a blessing (Mt 26:26, Mk 14:22, Lk 22:19–20)

Celebrates the Hebrews passing from slavery in Egypt to freedom in the Promised Land (Ex 12)

Celebrates the passing from slavery to sin to freedom in the Resurrection, from death to new life (1 Cor 5:7–8)

Moses poured blood on the people at the establishment of the Covenant (Ex 24:8, Zec 9:11)

Jesus poured out his blood at the establishment of the New Covenant (Jer 31:31, Lk 22:20)

Guest Speaker

  • If possible, arrange for a Jewish person in your neighboring community to speak with the students about the traditions, practice, and meanings of Passover.


  • Catechism of the Catholic Church, 608, 1334, 1340, 1362–1367, 1382

April 18, 2016

Considering Serious Sin

Review with your students the definition and conditions of mortal sin, perhaps in anticipation for celebrating the Sacrament of Penance.


A mortal sin is a serious violation of God’s law of love that results in the loss of God’s life (sanctifying grace) in the soul of the sinner.

Conditions of Mortal Sin

  1. The moral object must be of grave or serious matter. Grave matter is specified in the Ten Commandments (e.g., do not kill, do not commit adultery, do not steal, etc.)
  2. The person must have full knowledge of the gravity of the sinful action.
  3. The person must completely consent to the action. It must be a personal choice.

An additional and maybe obvious condition for mortal sins is that the action must be completed.


Print out a sheet with the following twenty items. Have the students mark an “S” by each action they believe involves serious or grave matter and may lead to the occasion of mortal sin.

  • Dating someone behind the back of a boyfriend or girlfriend
  • Killing an enemy soldier in war
  • Teasing a classmate
  • Lying to a parent about your whereabouts
  • Having an abortion
  • Assisting the suicide of a terminally ill patient
  • Using illegal drugs
  • Getting drunk
  • Smoking cigarettes
  • Having premarital sex with a person you love
  • Having sex as a one-time hook-up
  • Masturbating
  • Telling a friend’s secret
  • Spreading rumors about a classmate
  • Cheating on a test
  • Cheating on the SAT
  • Shoplifting a candy bar
  • Shoplifting a jacket
  • Sneaking into a movie theatre without paying
  • Tagging or graffiti-ing private property


Conduct a follow-up classroom discussion using the following prompts.

  • Which action do you feel is most grave or serious? Why?
  • For any action you marked as serious, explain how each of the three conditions for a mortal sin must be involved to make it a mortal sin.
  • Choose one action you did not mark. Tell why you do not consider it to be serious.
  • Share a definition of sin in your own words.


April 11, 2016

Kraków in the Capital: A US Experience of World Youth Day 2016

Several Washington DC groups, including the Archdioceses of Washington and Baltimore and neighboring dioceses, are sponsoring a way for young adults (ages 18-39) to experience the 31st World Youth Day from Kraków, Poland, while remaining right here in the United States.

On July 30th the sponsoring communities will host Kraków in the Capital, an experience of World Youth Day. The one-day event will feature Polish food and music, bilingual catechesis and talks with bishops and national speakers, a visit to the National Holy Door of Mercy to receive a plenary indulgence, adoration and confession, stations of the cross, a vocation and long term service fair, a vigil Mass with Cardinal Donald Wuerl, veneration of the relics of St. John Paul II and Bl. Giorgio Frassati, a late night concert, and much more.

Overnight camping for this event will also be available.

Registration has begun. Please pass on event details and registration information to some of your students, former students, and any other young adults who might be interested in this event.


April 4, 2016

Our Desire for God

God has created humans to constantly be the lookout for what is lasting and real. The search ultimately leads to God. Have your students read and study the following quotations. Then have them write brief and reflective responses to the questions that follow.


As the deer longs for streams of water, so my soul longs for you, O God. My being thirsts for God, the living God. When can I go and see the face of God?

Psalm 42:1–3


The desire for God is written in the human heart, because man is created by God and for God; and God never ceases to draw man to himself. Only in God will he find the truth and happiness he never stops searching for.

Catechism of the Catholic Church #27


If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world. If none of my earthly pleasures satisfy it, that does not prove that the universe is a fraud. Probably earthly pleasures were never meant to satisfy it, but only to arouse it, to suggest the real thing.

C. S. Lewis


For everything that is not God is unable to fulfill my desires. It is you alone I seek, that I may have you. O Lord, open my heart. Jesus Christ, my Savior, the express image and character of your essence is that image and likeness I desire.

Blaise Pascal


The simple desire for God is already the beginning of faith. All of us have doubts. They are nothing to worry about. Our deepest desire is to listen to Christ, who whispers in our hearts.

Brother Roger of Taizé



  • Do any of your desires (e.g., relationships, reputation, security, comfort, material things, other) compete with your desire for God? Which ones?
  • Have any of the desires you illustrated—or any others (e.g., sexual desire, selfishness, over-indulgence, status, money, etc.)—been overwhelming for you?
  • What are you afraid of? What, if anything, does your fear tell you about your relationship with God?
  • Right now—at this moment in your life—what is the state of your desire for God? Do you desire God? Do you desire to desire God?


March 21, 2016

Easter Story Retelling

The Resurrection is the central mystery of the Christian faith. As St. Paul wrote, if we do not believe in the Resurrection wholeheartedly, then “empty is our preaching; empty, too our faith” (1 Corinthians 15:14).

Your students have heard the details of some of the key incidents that are included in the Easter Gospel stories. Have them work in small groups and try to recreate the details of the key incidents of these accounts.

Hand out a printed resource with the eight headings and Gospel references listed below. Have the students form groups of eight in order to tell the entire story in as much detail as possible. Each person should be responsible for one of the headings. He or she should tell begin telling the story (again, in as much detail as possible). The other students in the group can add details as necessary. Continue in the same format for the eight headings.

Allow about fifteen or twenty minutes of sharing for the eight headings. Then have the group choose two of the headings for further study. Have them look up and read the Gospel passage referenced for those stories. Have them note any of the details they missed in their own sharing.

Easter Headlines

  1. An Amazing Discovery on Sunrise (Mark 16:1-14)
  2. An Earthquake, An Angel, and a Guard’s Tale (Matthew 18:1-15)
  3. Peter, John, and the Holy Shroud (John 20:1-10
  4. The Mysterious Gardener (John 20:11-16)
  5. The Third Traveler on the Road to Emmaus (Luke 24:113-35)
  6. Can a Ghost Eat (Luke 24:36-49)
  7. Thomas the Doubter (John 20:19-29)
  8. Fish Fry on the Shore (John 21:1-14)

This activity is adapted from Time Out: Resources for Teen Retreats (Ave Maria Press, 1998) by Sr. Kieran Sawyer, SSND.



March 15, 2016

Tenth Annual Catholic Colleges in March Madness

Here we are again with our tenth annual look at Catholic colleges who have qualified for the NCAA Men’s and Women’s basketball tournaments, also known as “March Madness.”

The exercise is an interesting one because many of your students are familiar with filling out brackets for an NCAA pool and you can use the current nature and popularity of the event to teach something about the traditions of the Catholic colleges participating, their founding religious community, a namesake saint, and much more.

To begin, pass out a printable bracket sheet (one for the men’s tournament and one for the women’s tournament) and ask the students to circle each of the Catholic college. Then have them “rank” the Catholic colleges according to the number they were seeded in the tournament (there will be some ties).

You might also pass out a blank map of the United States and have the students locate the Catholic colleges by location. Finally, have the student’s research and name the sponsoring Catholic religious congregation for each college.

Here are the keys to the exercises listed above.

Catholic Colleges in the Men’s Tournament




Holy Cross

Saint Joseph’s



Notre Dame




Seton Hall




Rankings of Catholic Colleges in the Men’s Tournament (seeding in parenthesis)

  1. Seton Hall (8 Bridgeport)

Xavier (2 East)

  1. Notre Dame (6 East)

Seton Hall (6 Midwest)

  1. Dayton 7 (Midwest)
  2. Saint Joseph’s (8 West)
  3. Providence (9 East)
  4. Gonzaga (11 Midwest)
  5. Iona (13 Midwest)
  6. Holy Cross  (16 West)



Locations of Catholic Colleges in the Men’s Tournament



Saint Joseph’s



Holy Cross

Rhode Island




Notre Dame






New York



New Jersey

Seton Hall





Sponsoring Religious Congregations of Catholic Colleges in the Men’s Tournament


Order of Saint Augustine (Augustinians)



Society of Jesus (Jesuits)

Saint Joseph’s

Holy Cross







Congregation of Holy Cross

Notre Dame





Congregation of Christian Brothers



Diocesan Sponsored

Seton Hall


Catholic Colleges in the Women’s Tournament


 Seton Hall




St. John’s


St. Bonaventure


Sioux Falls




Notre Dame

San Francisco



Rankings of Catholic Colleges in the Women’s Tournament (seeding in parenthesis)

  1. Notre Dame (1 Lexington)
  2. Seton Hall (8 Bridgeport)
  3. Duquesne (9 Bridgeport)

St. John’s (8 Dallas)

  1. St. Bonaventure (10 Dallas)
  2. San Francisco (13 Lexington)
  3. Iona (15 Lexington)


Locations of Catholic Colleges in the Women’s Tournament

New Jersey

Seton Hall








New York

St. Bonaventure




Notre Dame



San Francisco


Sponsoring Religious Congregations of Catholic Colleges in the Women’s Tournament


Diocesan Sponsored

Seton Hall


Congregation of the Holy Spirit







St. Bonaventure


Congregation of Holy Cross

Notre Dame


Society of Jesus (Jesuits)

San Francisco


Congregation of Christian Brothers


March 7, 2016

The Poor Box: Prayer for the Poor

Here are directions for a class prayer service for the poor. You will need a shoebox and slips of paper with the following Scripture reference, one per slip. Make enough slips so that each student has his or her own. It’s okay to repeat the Scripture references. Students should also have copies of their own bibles and a pencil. If possible, meet in a chapel for prayer. If not possible, dim the lights in your classroom to create a more suitable atmosphere for prayer.

Scripture Passages

  • Proverbs 13:7
  • Proverbs 14:21
  • Proverbs 19:1
  • Proverbs 22:2
  • Proverbs 28:27
  • Sirach 7:32
  • Sirach 13:21
  • Sirach 29:8
  • Sirach 31:8
  • Amos 2:7
  • 1 Samuel 2:7
  • Matthew 5:3
  • Matthew 19:21
  • Luke 12:15



Label the shoe box with the words “For the Poor” and place it in the center of the prayer space.

When all are assembled, say:

Secular society focuses on the “beautiful people” and selling an idyllic lifestyle where women are elegant and sensual and men are ruggedly handsome. Billions of dollars are spent each year to promote this persona which includes the sale or products.

Meanwhile, a poor box in a neighborhood parish takes in only a couple of hundred dollars or less on average. (Continue telling about a parish poor box: how the money is used and at least one personal story of a poor person or family who was aided by the parish.)

We all know people who are poor in one way or another: financially, emotionally, spiritually. Some of these people may be your peers.

I am going to pass out to you a prayer slip with a Scripture passage on it. Look up the passage in your bible and see how the words speak about people who are poor. When you get your slip, read the passage quietly and reflect on its meaning. Write the name of a person you would like to pray for on the back of the slip. Pray for someone who, unlike those targeted by the advertising industry and popular media, might never attract any attention.

Pass out a prayer slip to each student. Allow about five minutes for reflection. Then call for everyone’s attention in a common area. Call on a good reader to read aloud Luke 21:1-4 (The Poor Widow’s Contribution).

Next say:

I’m going to pass the poor box (shoe box) around the room. When it reaches you share a short prayer for the person whom you named on your slip. You can pray for the person by name (“For James and his troubles at home, we pray…”) or without naming him or her (“For my friend who is not getting along with her parents, we pray…”). Your response will be “Lord, hear us.” Or, when it is your turn, you can share an insight you gained from your Scripture passage.

Choose one person to begin the prayer by passing him or her the poor box.

After everyone has shared, collect the poor box and offer a final, closing prayer for all the poor of the world or play a song with lyrics that speak of paying special attention to the needs of the poor.

March 1, 2016

New Book for Catholic High School Theology Teachers

Room 24: Adventures of a New Evangelist chronicles the story of a freshman theology teacher at a Catholic high school in Lake Charles, Louisiana. Brimming with good humor and constant hope, the book demonstrates the practical side of evangelization, with all its ups and downs, joys and frustrations.

Katie Prejean candidly shares stories of failure alongside stories of triumph and examines the lessons these have taught her about her place in the world as disciple of Jesus.  Her unexpected, yet welcome transition from teacher of doctrine to proclaimer of love, reassures Catholics from every walk of life that they too can spread the Gospel of Jesus. She gracefully invites us to examine the unremarkable details of each ordinary day and find doors to open so that God's amazing grace can rush in.


On the call to teach theology:

“Those of us who have accepted the invitation and have chosen the Truth have an obligation to share what we know to be beautiful, fulfilling, and good. But herein lies a lofty challenge: extending an invitation to the Truth rather than forcing a point.  We may have sold our possessions and walked away from the world to follow Christ, at least in some way, but the majority of people to whom we are called to share the Truth have not even come close to doing that. We may believe in the Eucharist as the source and summit of our faith, but those to whom we are called to speak may think we’re crazy for consuming what still looks like bread and wine and calling it Christ. We may have five very detailed proofs for God’s existence and believe he is real, but the fourteen-year-old student who tells you he thinks God isn’t real doesn’t care about Aquinas’ arguments in the least. The goal is not to prove our point. The goal is to extend an invitation to believe. This is a critical first step in evangelization: to open our arms and invite others to approach the Truth we so dearly love, welcoming them and giving them a real chance to choose” (page 15)


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