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Engaging Faith: Practical lesson ideas and activities for Catholic Educators

July 2, 2020

A Mini-Course on Religious Liberty

Ave Maria Press offers a five-day, free mini-unit called Religious Liberty and Catholicism in the United States. Developed in 2012, it timeless topics that fit over a five day period. Through the sharing of materials digitally, the course can also be used for students and teachers who are at home. It would make a perfect remedial or enrichment course for summertime use. The topics are:


Day 1: Religious Liberty and Catholicism in the United States

Day 2: Catholics and the Formation of a Nation

Day 3: The Wave of Catholic Immigration

Day 4: Current Threats to Religious Liberty

Day 5: Religious Liberty and Catholicism in the United States


The mini-unit includes lesson plans, video links, and student handouts.  

June 23, 2020

Twilight Zone Reflection on the Narrow Gate

Image may contain: one or more people

"Jesus said to his disciples: 'Do not give what is holy to dogs, or throw your pearls before swine, lest they trample them underfoot, and turn and tear you to pieces. Do to others whatever you would have them do to you. This is the Law and the Prophets. Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the road broad that leads to destruction, and those who enter through it are many. How narrow the gate and constricted the road that leads to life. And those who find it are few.'" † (Matthew 7:6, 12-14)

Read the Gospel passage to your students.

The artwork above was included in the traditional Baltimore Catechism to illustrate the human choice between everlasting life or everlasting death. Allow your students to examine the image closely and describe and explain what they see. Share that the gate was narrow in the ancient walled city of Jerusalem because traders would be forced to unload their camels of merchandise before entering through.This way they could not escape paying taxes on their goods. Jesus' words also remind us that we must be stripped of our possessions before we can enter God's eternal Kingdom.

To do that the gate is definitely more narrow than the easier road to destruction. An episode of the classic television series The Twilight Zone called "The Hunt" is an excellent illustration. It follows the path of an old country man who doesn't realize he has died and nearly makes the wrong choice between heaven and hell. Play the 22 minute video and compare the message with Jesus' words about the narrow gate. The video is available on YouTube for a one-time feel of $2.99.




June 17, 2020

Reflections on Family, Religious Life, and Death








Sadly, the pastor of Sacred Heart Parish, the crypt church, Fr. David Scheidler, CSC, passed away recently. He was a young man of 55 years old, a dynamic preacher, and a dorm chaplain at Notre Dame, a brother to seven siblings, and an uncle to many. He suffered from a rare form of cancer.

Sharing something of this priest’s story with your students and watching all or parts of Fr. David’s funeral Mass at the Basilica of the Sacred Heart at Notre Dame can help your students have an up close view and be able to reflect on several aspects of the Catholic faith. For example:

  • The love of family (note the family members in the front rows, Fr. David’s sister serving as cantor, and other siblings doing the readings)
  • The family of a religious community (note the priests of the Congregation of Holy Cross in attendance)
  • The connection between ordination classmates (the bishop-celebrant and Fr. David were classmates)
  • The connection between Baptism and death
  • The connection between the vows of Holy Orders and death
  • The message of hope in the readings and the homily


  • Read about the life of Fr. David Scheidler CSC from the links above.
  • Watch his funeral Mass.
  • Write a four-paragraph reflection on what you witnessed.
  • Write a prayer for the soul of Fr. David.

June 10, 2020

National Flags in Catholic Churches

For Flag Day, churches find room for patriotism at the pulpit ...

With Flag Day in the United States celebrated on June 14, it’s a good opportunity to consider the placement of national flags in Catholic churches. Is an American flag displayed in your church? If so, where?

Surprisingly, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops has no formal regulations for the placement of American flags in Catholic churches, other than to recommend that the flags are not placed in the sanctuary.


  • Discuss or debate the placement of national flags in Catholic churches.
  • Assign students to visit 5 to 10 Catholic churches in their area and 1) note whether a United States flag is on display or not and 2) name the location in the church where a flag is displayed. They might also take photos each church they visit and prepare a short summary of the assignment along with their photos.



May 18, 2020

Prayer to Your Guardian Angel

One of the first prayers your students learned in their Catholic education was probably the prayer to their Guardian Angel:

Angel of God

My guardian dear

To Whom His love
Commits me here
Ever this day
Be at my side
To light and guard
To rule and guide. Amen

As the conclusion of the semester nears, pray these words with your class and remind your students to call on their Guardian Angels for assistance in their studying, taking of exams, and with any challenges of their lives. 


  • Review Church teaching on angels from the Catechism of the Catholic Church
  • Review for yourself a simple lesson on Guardian Angels from Jared Dees.
  • Play for the students a short two-minute video "5 Amazing Things about Our Guardian Angels."
  • Have your students compose their own prayers to their Guardian Angels.
  • Display images of Guardian Angels (as in this post). Have your students draw a contemporary  image of their Guardian Angel protecting them in some daily aspect of their life.



May 1, 2020

Graduation Gift from Lou Holtz

If parents, grandparents, or school administrators are looking for a valuable and inspiring gift for graduates in this semester in which celebrations have been curtailed or cancelled, you might share a book written especially for graduates, Three Rules for Living a Good Life: A Game Plan for After Graduation by Hall of Fame football coach Lou Holtz.

Witty and straightforward, Coach Holtz offers new grads these three rules they can use in the coming weeks, months, and years as they move their lives on to the next phase:

  1. Do what is right.
  2. Do everything to the best of your ability.
  3. Show people you care.o what is right.

Three Rules for Living a Good Life is based on a commencement address Coach Holtz shared at Franciscan University in 2017. To date, the YouTube video of the speech has over 1,5 million views.




April 21, 2020

Videos to Accompany the USCCB High School Framework

Gary Sullivan, theology department chairperson at Damien High School in Pomona, California, has prepared a set of videos to accompany topics and protocol points for all six required courses and all five electives of the USCCB curriculum framework. See additional resources prepared by Gary at the Archdiocesan of Los Angeles Remote Learning Resource Center. For less awkward formatting of this material, look for it soon in a pdf version on the Ave Maria Press Teacher Classroom Resources page.

USCCB Doctrinal Framework for High School Religion Classes

This doctrinal framework is the foundation by which our courses, textbooks and materials are organized.

(Click image to view pdf.)




I. The Revelation of Jesus Christ in Scripture 

         Jesus Christ: God's Revelation to the World          


Video/Document Title and Description           

URL Video/Document Link

  1. CCC Article 1: Revelation

This is the section of the CCC that provides the doctrinal foundation for Divine Revelation, Scripture and Tradition. This section sheds light on the videos below.



  1. St. Thomas Aquinas Five Proofs for God

This video is a summary of Aquinas’ five proofs for the existence of God found in the summa: 1. First Mover; 2. First Cause; 3. Necessary Being; 4. Greatest Being; and 5. Intelligent Designer.   


  1. Proof for the Existence of God from the Argument of Desire

Bishop Robert Barron describes the meaning of innate desire, He explains the Catholic argument that since we have a desire for an infinite God built into us then God must exist.


  1. Natural Revelation: Saved by Beauty

Natalie Stefanick discusses how her experience of God’s Revelation through natural beauty in the ocean transformed her thinking and led to a deeper conversion toward God.


  1. Clayton Kershaw: Faith and Trust in God’s Plan

Once we encounter God through either natural revelation or Divine Revelation it requires a response of faith from us. This video discusses the relationship between trust and faith as presented by a major league baseball player.


  1. The First Five Books of the Bible

This video uses humor to introduce the first five books of the Bible and the Catholic understanding of the Pentateuch.


  1. Genre: Various Literary Styles in Scripture

As contextualists, Catholics pay special attention to genre in Sacred Scripture. The Bible is a collection of various books that can be categorized by literary style.


  1. Catholic Bible Interpretation

Bishop Robert Barron discusses the problem of literalism and then goes on to cover the Catholic way of interpreting Scripture by genre and cultural context.



  1. The Canon of Scripture: Formation and Criteria

This video covers how the Bible came to be in its current form and how the Magisterium of the Catholic Church decided which books were in and which books were not.



  1. Magisterium: Authoritative Guardian and Interpreter of the Deposit of Faith

This video explains the role of bishops as successors of the Apostles who provide the service of leadership in proclaiming the message of Christ.


  1. Modern Scribe: How Old Testament Hebrew is Written

This video demonstrates a modern-day scribe writing like the ancients using a feather on parchment made out of sheep skin to print Hebrew Words.




  1. St. Jerome Biography

St. Jerome is the patron saint of Bible scholars. He translated the original Hebrew and Greek into Latin (the Vulgate).


  1. Overview of the Story of the Bible

This video covers the meta narrative within Scripture from Adam and Eve up to and beyond the Gospels.




  1. The Sistine Chapel Ceiling

Connecting the story of the Bible to liturgy, the Catholic masterpiece of the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel is explained in detail. This is an important example of the how art is able to communicate the story of salvation.







II. Who Is Jesus Christ?

 Jesus Christ: His Mission and Ministry


Video/Document Title and Description

URL Video/Document Link

  1. CCC Article 2: ‘And in Jesus Christ, His Only Son, our Lord’

This is the section of the Catechism that provides the doctrinal foundation for Jesus, the Incarnate Word of God. This section sheds light on the videos below.


  1. Intro to the Creed and The Holy Trinity

This video takes us through the parts of the Creed and challenges us to adopt a real and meaningful faith in God the Father, God the Son, and the God the Holy Spirit.


  1. Fra Angelico: The Annunciation

This great Catholic masterpiece captures the scene when the Angel Gabriel announces God’s plan of salvation and the moment when Jesus becomes incarnate in the womb of Mary.



  1. Mary God’s Masterpiece

Theologian Scott Hahn talks about Mary’s role in salvation history from a biblical perspective.



  1. Incarnation: Why Did God Become Human?

This video takes a philosophical approach to the Incarnation. It explains that God became human in the person of Jesus so that humans may become holy like God.



  1. St. Athanasius

The story of the early Church bishop and saint who saved the Catholic Church from the Arian heresy.


  1. Arian Controversy and The Council of Nicea

This video examines the Arian crisis and the Council of Nicea from a historical viewpoint. It helps us to appreciate the Catholic understanding of Jesus as expressed in the Nicene Creed.



  1. Titles of Jesus as Priest, Prophet and King

This video takes us through the titles that point to Jesus’ identity and mission. It connects them our baptismal mandate to participate in and advance this mission.



  1. Gentile da Fabriano, Adoration of the Magi

This altarpiece highlights the manger scene where Jesus as Incarnate Word is adored by a multitude of pilgrims led by the three Magi.



  1. Jesus in Every Book of the Bible

This video shows a different kind of “flash mob,” a ‘Eucharistic Flash-mob’ in an English city. In the background the priest is announcing that this is Jesus by naming, in a litany, each book of the Bible and how Jesus is present.


  1. Liar, Lunatic, or Lord

This video an apologetic argument that Jesus has to be taken seriously based on who he claimed to be. That is, if was good and sane then he must be God.



  1. The Case for Christ

This is the documentary version of Lee Strobel’s quest to uncover the proof for Jesus not only as a historical person but as God.


  1. Afterlife: The Last Things

This video discusses death, judgment, heaven and hell from a Catholic perspective.




III. The Mission of Jesus Christ       

     Jesus Christ: Source of Our Salvation


Video/Document Title and Description

URL Video/Document Link

  1. CCC Articles 4-6: “Jesus Christ Suffered under Pontius Pilate, was Crucified, Died and was Buried, Descended into Hell, on the third day Rose Again, and Ascended into Heaven…”.

These are the sections of the CCC that provides the doctrinal foundation for the Paschal Mystery. These sections shed light on the videos below.


  1. The Paschal Mystery Introduction

This video discusses the four-fold event of Jesus’ Suffering, Death, Resurrection and Ascension and how that event is brought into the present through liturgy.


  1. How to Understand Genesis: Creation and the Fall

This video clarifies the Catholic understanding of Genesis by highlighting the theological truths rooted in the accounts.

  1. The Problem of Sin: Original and Actual

This video gives an overview of the Fall, Original Sin, the fallen world and ongoing actual sin. It points to Jesus as the solution.



  1. Angels and Demons: Unseen Creation

In this video, Catholic philosopher Peter Kreeft presents his fascinating findings about the Catholic teaching on angels.



  1. Meaning of “Messiah”

Overview of sin problem and how Jesus fulfills the definition of Messiah and can reverse the effects of sin through the Paschal Mystery events.


  1. Jesus’ Arrest and Trials

This video presents a comprehensive overview of biblical events surrounding the arrest and trails of Jesus.



  1. Passion and Death of Jesus in Anime, ‘My Last Day’

This creative animated video gives a look into the last hours of Jesus’ life from the good thief’s point of view.


  1. Jesus’ Passion and Death

In this video Mark Hart discusses the events that surrounded the passion and death of Jesus as well as their theological significance.


10. Jesus’ Resurrection

In this video Mark Hart discusses the reason to believe in a bodily resurrection of Jesus and why hope of our own resurrection is reasonable.



11. Caravaggio’s Doubting Thomas in 2 Minutes

An art historian explores the great Catholic masterpiece which depicts Jesus revealing his wound to Thomas.



12. Why the Resurrection is Credible

Bishop Robert Barron takes an apologetic approach to explaining the reasonableness and credibility for belief in the Resurrection of Jesus.


13. Ascension of Jesus

This is a look at why the Ascension is often underrated as the last event in the Paschal Mystery.





IV. Jesus Christ’s Mission Continues in the Church

Jesus and the Church: One, Holy, Catholic, Apostolic


Video/Document Title and Description

URL Video/Document Link

  1. CCC Article 9: “I Believe in the Holy Catholic Church.”

This is the sections of the Catechism that provides the doctrinal foundation for the Church. These sections shed light on the videos below.


  1. Lumen Gentium

This video gives an overview of the Dogmatic Constitution on the Church from the Second Vatican Council. An introduction to Lumen Gentium is an appropriate starting point for any course on the Church.


  1. Pentecost in 2 Minutes

This video gives a brief overview of the meaning of Pentecost and the relationship between the Holy Spirit and the Church.


  1. The Holy Spirit in the Life of the Church

In this video Bishop Robert Barron lays out the relationship between the biblical representations of the Holy Spirit and how the Holy Spirit generates and animates the life of the Church.


  1. St. Peter, The Rock

Jesus founded the. This video discusses Peter as the rock of the Church.



  1. Structure of the Church

This video covers the apostolic structure of the Church’s leadership and how they serve the universal church through apostolic and papal succession.


  1. One, Holy, Catholic, Apostolic

This video gives an overview of the four marks of the Church in Scripture and Tradition. It examines what these marks mean to us as members of the Church.


  1. Introduction to the Models of the Church

This video gives a visual introduction to the beauty and mystery in the models of the Church.


  1. Five Models of the Church

This video gives a more comprehensive overview of the five models of the Church that Cardinal Avery Dulles taught.



10. The Church as Bride of       Christ in “Cinderella”

Bishop Robert Barron examines the original Christian meaning of Cinderella story. He points out the allegorical sense in the story and how Catholics view the Church as Bride of Christ.


11. The Church in Heaven: Saints

This video briefly covers the process for canonization. It discusses the meaning of the sainthood and communion of saints as well.


12. The Church in the World: 10 Facts

This video gives ten interesting facts about the Church of which most people are not aware. It clarifies many modern misconceptions about the Church along the way.


13. The Church Universal: Fourteen Amazing Cathedrals Around the World.

This video highlights some of the architectural heritage of the Catholic Church. This video also reveals the Church as a worldwide body of believers.





V. Sacraments as Privileged Encounters with Jesus

Meeting Jesus in the Sacraments


Video/Document Title and Description

URL Video/Document Link

  1. CCC Part II: The Celebration of the Christian Mystery.

This is the sections of the Catechism that provides the doctrinal foundation for the liturgy and sacraments in the Church. These sections shed light on the videos below.


 2. Intro to the Sacraments

This video is a comprehensive overview of sacramental theology and each of the Seven Sacraments.


 3. Jesus: Icon of the Father- Primordial Sacrament

This video examines the meaning of Jesus as icon of the Father or as primordial sacrament.



   4. Icon Workshop-Sacramental imagery

This video explores the methods of writing icons. The theology of iconography is examined and its link to the sacraments.


   5. Sacred Images

Dr. Denis McNamara, faculty member at the Liturgical Institute in Mundelein, Illinois, speaks on the importance of sacred images in Catholic worship, noting their sacramental character as revealers of the presence of heavenly beings


  6. What are Sacramentals?

Various sacramentals are examined as well as how Catholics use them in worship as well as everyday life.




  7. Introduction to Baptism

Bishop Robert Barron discusses the exchange between Jesus and Nicodemus. Baptism is the way we as Catholics are born from above into divine life as a breakthrough of grace.


  8. Confirmation

This is a comprehensive look at the Sacrament of Confirmation through the eyes of a young man. In it, he recovers the true meaning of the sacrament.


   9. Eucharist

The theology, history and biblical meaning of the Sacrament of the Eucharist is covered in detail.


 10. Vatican II: Liturgical Reform

This video discusses Sacrosanctum Concilium and the changes that happened to the Mass after the Second Vatican Council.

 11. Reconciliation

This video serves as an introduction to the Sacrament of Reconciliation. It looks at the sacrament through the question: Why do Catholics confess to a priest?


  12. Rembrandt: Prodigal Son

A look at the famous painting of the Prodigal Son. It examines how the parable from chapter 15 of Luke’s Gospel is portrayed through Rembrandt who himself was a type of a prodigal son.



  13. Redemptive Suffering: Anointing of the Sick

Fr. Mike Schmitz looks at what the saints and martyrs knew about suffering that enabled them to endure so much of it. Christ didn’t give them some mystical superpower; he simply gave their suffering a purpose.




  14. Holy Matrimony

This video gives an overview of the theology of marriage as well as the biblical foundations for sexual complementarity and family life.



  15. Holy Orders

Each of the three degrees of Holy Orders are explained. The video traces the sacrament back to the early Church while examining apostolic succession.





VI. Life in Jesus Christ

Your Life in Christ: Foundations in Catholic Morality


Video/Document Title and Description

URL Video/Document Link

 1. CCC Part III: Life in Christ

This is the sections of the Catechism that provides the doctrinal foundation for morality. These sections shed light on the videos below.


   2. The Sermon on the Mount and Lord’s Prayer

This is the excerpt from Jesus of Nazareth focuses on chapter 5 of Matthew, the Sermon on the Mount and the teaching of the Our Father. Jesus teaches how to live a moral life of perfection.

   3. The Beatitudes: The Key to Joy

Bishop Robert Barron points to the four “P’s” as the world’s way to be happy: power, pleasure, prestige and possessions. He then compares those words to the happiness shared by Jesus gives us in the Beatitudes. He points out the importance of detachment from worl­­­dly things so that we are free to be virtuous and more happy.


4. Happiness

Everyone wants to be happy. Every goal we have is ultimately for happiness. This video connects our pursuit of happiness and our faith in God. It points to Jesus’s goal for us. "I have told you these things so that my joy may be in you, and your joy may be complete!" (John 15:11)


5. “There has to be More than This!” Tom Brady

In this video football quarterback Tom Brady is interviewed on 60 Minutes and he talks about how everything the world says will make us happy is, in the end, not enough. There has to be more.


 6. Values vs. Virtue

Dr. Ed Sri discusses the importance of developing virtue as a moral skill. He cites the Catechism to define virtue as a habitual disposition to do the good. He makes an important distinction between values and virtue.



  7. Theological Virtues

This video is a thorough overview of the Catechism’s section on the theological virtues. It points to the theological virtues as the foundation of Christian moral activity and how they are infused by God into our souls through grace received in the sacraments.


  8. Navigation: Developing a Moral Compass through Reason and Conscience

An exploration of the many paths we can choose to walk down in life and the importance of free will to choose the most important path. The video shows how reason and conscience act as our built in navigation system. Clever analogies are used.


  9.  Freedom for Excellence

In this video clip, Bishop Robert Barron clarifies the Catholic idea of freedom. He defines freedom as it relates and depends on detachment and virtue.


 10. Morality of Human Acts: Object, Intent, Circumstances

In this video the morality of an act is examined using the Catechism’s three parts: object, Intent and, circumstances. They are discussed as a way to determine the morality of an act as either good or bad.


11. C.S. Lewis Doodle: Right and Wrong

C.S. Lewis gives us a way to discover the objective meaning of right and wrong by appealing to a common standard.

  12. Truth: Objective vs. Subjective

This video takes a philosophical approach to exposing the problem of moral relativism.


   13. The Conversion of an Atheist Based on the Morality Argument

Atheist turned Catholic, Ivy League blogger, Leah Libresco shares her journey from deontological ethics to virtue ethics and finally to entrance into the Catholic faith.



Elective Option A: Sacred Scripture

Sacred Scripture: A Catholic Study of God’s Word


Video Title and Description

URL Video Link

  1. Dei Verbum Documents

During the Second Vatican Council, the Council fathers focused on Sacred Scripture. This video looks at how the "Word of God" (Dei Verbum) came to shape the teachings that emerged from the Council.

  1. Intro to Biblical Languages

Beginners information on biblical Hebrew and Greek. Students will see what the written languages look like and sound like.

  1. Codex Amiatinus, the Oldest Latin Vulgate Bible

Khan Academy explores the oldest full Bible in the Latin vulgate translation..

  1. Interpretation

Deep misunderstandings about how to interpret the Bible are dealt with by Bishop Robert Barron as he seeks to recover a Catholic approach to biblical interpretation.

  1. The Four Senses of Scripture

An introduction to the Catechism’s treatment of the Catholic tradition of interpreting the Bible through looking at the literal, the allegorical, the moral and the anagogical sense.


  1. The Question of Authority

The biblical foundation of apostolic authority is reviewed and the differences between Catholic and Protestant approaches to authority are covered.

  1. Typology

This video looks at the meaning of biblical typology through the lens of the Emmaus story in Luke’s Gospel. in this story, Jesus himself gives us this technique for interpreting Scripture. Examples of typology are introduced.

  1. Lectionary

The video shares a brief explanation of the Sunday readings contained in the lectionary. Dr, Brant Pitre explains what the lectionary is and how it’s organized. This is a starting point for showing the relationship between Scripture and Liturgy.

  1. The Bible and the Mass

The relationship between the Mass and the Bible are discussed. Students will see that ultimately the Scriptures are for the sake of liturgy in both Old and New Covenants.



10. The Liturgy of the Word

The role of Scripture in Catholic worship is examined.


    11.  Lectio Divina

In this video, Fr. Josh Johnson teaches us how to read Scripture prayerfully and come away with something we can do to improve our faith in God. He demonstrates how lectio divina is a helpful guide in our walk toward eternity.

12. Marital Imagery in Scripture

Dr. John Bergsma covers the marital imagery throughout the Bible that begins in the Garden of Eden and ends in the Wedding Feast of Revelation.

   13. Book of Revelation

The Book of Revelation is probably the most misunderstood and confusing books in the Bible. Bishop Robert Barron offers a Catholic approach to understanding the last book of the Bible.

 14. Books Not in the Bible

This video gives an overview of the criteria for choosing the canon of Scripture and the Catholic reasons why some books are not part of the official canon.




Elective Option B: History of the Catholic Church

The History of the Catholic Church


Video Title and Description

URL Video Link

  1. Pentecost

In this video Pentecost is discussed as a historical, biblical event. It also covers the liturgical meaning of Pentecost.


  1. Peter and Paul and the Spread of Christianity

The Khan Academy gives a fair representation of the importance of Peter and Paul to the missionary efforts of the Church. It details the journeys of Paul from the scriptural account given in Acts of the Apostles.

  1. Peter and the Rock of the Church and Key-bearer

The defining moment for Peter as the foundation for the Church is shown in a cinematic context. The dialogue is true to Matthew 16: 13-20.

  1. The Fathers of the Church

The ‘Fathers of the Church’ are introduced in this video. The early centuries (100AD-800AD) of the Church had teachers who wrote down their teachings. These writings help to form the Deposit of Faith.



  1. Doctors of the Church: St. Athanasius

Scholars give a 30-minute overview of the life and teachings of St. Athanasius the defender of Christological orthodoxy against the Arian heresy.

  1. Christianity in the Roman Empire

The Khan Academy gives an accurate and fair presentation on the spread of Christianity before and after the rise and fall of Constantine.

  1. Pope Leo the Great and Fall of Roman Empire

Pope Leo the Great is known for facing Attila the Hun during the Fall of the Roman Empire. He talked him out of sacking Rome. This video covers that story as well as the many other reasons Pope Leo was great.

  1. The Christian Dark Ages?

This video exposes the myths that Christianity caused the Dark Ages. It recovers the truth behind the Church’s contribution to scientific advancement.


  1. Dark Ages: How Dark Were the Dark Ages?

Catholic Professor Anthony Esolen gives a compelling account of the rich cultural, political and scientific contributions during the ‘Dark Ages’. He dispels many misconceptions about the Dark Ages and the Church of that period.

 10. The Franciscans

Everyone knows the big Franciscan names: Francis, Clare, Anthony, and Padre Pio. But the Franciscan family actually has more than 170 saints! Here are seven more you should know.


 11. Reformation and the Council of Trent

The importance and meaning of both the Reformation and the Council of Trent are discussed in this video. Bishop Robert Barron gives a balanced and thoughtful treatment of this critical time in the life of the Church.

 12. Doctors of the Church

One by one the Doctors of the Church are given a biological sketch in this video. The importance of each Doctor in the times that they lived is also examined.

 13. The Second Vatican Council

This video helps to clarify the reasons for Council and its meaning, intention and purpose. The video gives a balanced view of the Council by recalling the important documents that it produced.

 14. Pope John Paul II

In this hour long biography the life and papacy of Pope John Paul II are examined. It makes the case for pope John Paul II’s enduring legacy as the pope who shaped the post-Vatican II Church.

  15. Five Ancient Heresies Alive Today

Heretical movements were all the rage in the early Church, but that doesn't mean they've completely gone away. This video shares five heresies still being lived and professed today.







Elective Option C: Living as Disciples of Jesus in Society

Foundations of Catholic Social Teaching


Video Title and Description

URL Video Link

 1. Seven Principles of Catholic Social Teaching

This short video provides an excellent introduction the seven principles of Catholic social teaching by giving examples of how they relate to our society today.

  2. The Natural Family Foundation for Social Justice

This video covers family strength and family cohesion as a foundation for social justice. Children have a right to have a stable, loving and natural family structure. The poverty of not having a mother or father is discussed.

3. Created in the Image and Likeness of God

What does it mean to say we are created in the Image and likeness of God? This video discusses the meaning and  implications of this foundational teaching.


4. Why Catholic Care about the Poor

By emphasizing the preferential option for the poor, this video introduces the sense of duty that Catholics have to advocate and serve the poor in our own communities. Pope Benedict XVI is featured as an advocate of Catholic social teaching.

   5. Service to the Poor: A Friar Life

In San Francisco, the St. Anthony Foundation thousands of people per day in various ways. Behind the foundation are chaplains like Br. Dick "DT" Tandy, OFM who are profiled in this video, offering spiritual support to all in need.

  6. Food Waste a Story of Excess

In this thought provoking mini-documentary, the facts and statistics of everyday food waste are exposed.

This video serves as a reminder that we have an obligation to feed the hungry.


    7. Pope Francis on the Throwaway Culture

This is an introduction to one of Pope Francis’ themes for the sanctity of life. It features his call to reverse what he calls the “throw away culture.” Not only does materialism produce an indifference to things but it also leads to an indifference to human life.

  8. Freedom of Religion: Human Rights and God-given Rights

One of sacred rights of the United States of America is the freedom to worship and the free exercise of religion. This video points to this freedom and connects it to the Catholic social justice tradition of asserting that our fundamental rights are God-given, not man-made.

9. Rerum Novarum

Much of Catholic social teaching related to worker’s rights and property rights stem from the pivotal teachings of Pope Leo in his groundbreaking encyclical Rerum Novarum. This video gives an academic overview of each part of the document.


10. Subsidiarity

This very important and overlooked principle of Catholic social teaching is examined step by step and it culminates in reasons why subsidiarity matters to us today in everyday life.

11. Mother Teresa’s Nobel Acceptance Speech

The twentieth centuries’ most famous Catholic saint who gave her life to serving the poorest of the poor fearlessly exposes the cultural decadence and appalling abortion industry in the West. Mother Teresa offers a great model of speaking truth to power.


12. The Corporal Works of Mercy

Dr. Brad Pitre examines the biblical meaning of Matthew 25. He covers each of the corporal acts of mercy and places them in a context of everyday Catholic life.

13. Why Doesn’t the Church Give Away Her Riches?

In this brief video, Bishop Robert Barron responds to a common question that many ask. He puts the question in perspective by giving a reasonable answer.

14. Pope Francis and Catholic Social Teachings

In this video Pope Francis’ pontificate is examined in the light of his commitment and preaching related to catholic Social teachings. Bishop Barron gives clarity to the meaning of Pope Francis’ teaching on the Throw Away Culture as it stands in the long tradition of Catholic Social thought.





Elective Option D: Responding to the Call of Jesus Christ

Your Christian Vocation


Video Title and Description

URL Video Link

1. Caravaggio: The Calling of St. Matthew

This is a study of the famous scene painted by Caravaggio and taken from the Gospel of Matthew recounts the calling of Matthew, a tax collector, to become an Apostle and great Evangelist.


 2. Follow Me: Journeys to Priesthood

All Catholics share in the importance of the call to the priesthood. This video shares why this is true.


 3. Discernment, Formation and the Church in the Modern World

Brother Casey Cole OFM shares his vocation story. He discusses the point where a person does a self-reflection of who they are and what they want to be in God's eyes. He also shares what is like when a person is caught between being a sinner and a saint.


4. A Day in the Life of a Capuchin Novitiate

This is a short, homemade documentary of one day at the Capuchin novitiate in Santa Ynez, CA. Each step from morning to evening is detailed.


5. What’s the Difference Between Friars, Monks and Jedi?

Franciscan friars are often confused for monks and sometimes even called Jedi. This video explains the designation and the differences among those who wear brown robes.



6. Matt Fradd: Who Has the Best Religious Habit?

This unusual look at religious life by comparing and evaluating the clothing that each order or community wears is entertaining and informative.

7. Franciscan Friars of Renewal: Rap and Ball Out

The youth and vitality of the Franciscans of the Renewal is on display in this video.


8. Fr. Emil Kapaun

The compelling story of Army chaplain Fr. Emil Kapaun, a military chaplain in the Korean War, is shared.

9. Women in the Church

This video highlights the critical role women have played in spreading the Gospel message through their personal witness as well as how the role of women has changed over time.



10. USCCB: Sexual Complementarity and Vocation of Marriage

This video teaches the biological and theological truth that men and women are called to be together as husband and wife and as father and mother.


11. Reflections on the “Child Free Life”

In this video, Bishop Robert Barron touches on a current trend to downplay the gift of children among married couples. It exposes the faulty thinking of many who start out their married lives with the intention of excluding children.


12. Missionary Families

This Rome Reports video shares how many families receive a papal blessing to be missionaries around the world. They are called to evangelize and witness to the Gospel as a family unit. The video points out how these families are living the universal call to holiness.


 13. Living Catholic Family Life Debt Free

This video overturns the general assumption that having many kids will lead to economic distress and poverty. It also gives an example of good stewardship over one’s resources.


14. My Christmas Eve: Trooper Sue McKay

God has a plan for each of our lives. Sometimes one’s vocation is wrapped up in their work. This video shows how God can use the work we do to accomplish his will for us and others.




Elective Option E: Ecumenical and Interreligious Issues

Exploring the Religions of Our World

Video Title and Description

URL Video Link

1. How to Compare World Religions

Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen gives St. Paul’s example of proclaiming Christ as  ‘the unknown God’ and finding good in other religions as a model for doing comparative religion. He urges the viewer to use reason to discern truth in religion.

 2. Nostra Aetate  Fiftieth Anniversary

In 1965 the Second Vatican Council approved Nostra Aetate, the historic document that reformed the Catholic Church's relationship with other religions. The declaration paved the way for interfaith dialogue and rejection of antisemitism.

3. Do All Good People Go to Heaven?

This video serves as a counter to the problem of religious indifferentism into which many studies or comparative religion devolve. Fr. Mike Schmitz, in his charismatic way, covers this touchy subject with grace and truth.

4. Common Views of God

We are religious beings by nature and by design. Everyone has a view about God or a Supreme Being that he or she brings to their worldview. Bishop Robert Barron examines many common ways people describe God. He ends with a look at the God of the Bible.

 5. Christianity, Judaism and Islam

This is a detailed examination of the three Abrahamic and monotheistic faiths. It covers both similarities and differences from a Catholic point of view.



 6. Non-Catholic Q and A with Bishop Barron

This video with Bishop Robert Barron demonstrates that Catholics are open to dialogue and exploration avenues toward truth. Many misconceptions about the Catholic faith are clarified.

7. How Five World Religions Spread around the World Over Time

A compelling visual of how five religions developed in both time and geography.

8. A Catholic Bishop and a Jewish Rabbi Discuss Religion

A smart and thought provoking dialogue between a Catholic bishop and a Jewish rabbi shows that we can have healthy debates in pursuit of truth while at the same time respecting each other.


9. Pope Francis Visits Islamic Mosque in Rome

This video demonstrates the Catholic approach to non-Christians is one of respect and friendship.

10. Pope Francis Visits Synagogue in Rome

This video shares a respectful visit by Pope Francis to a local synagogue near the Vatican.

11. Hinduism and Buddhism

This video is a fair and accurate representation of two of the main the Eastern faith traditions. It takes an academic approach.



April 15, 2020

Eight Assignments for the Study of the Church

Here are eight links with short assignments designed to accompany a student through a study of the Church and Church history:

  1. Read the first two chapters of Lumen Gentium. Note ten important statements about the Church from your reading.
  2. Report on some aspect of the Christian Catacombs.
  3. Report on two interesting facts about Constantine and the Edict of Milan.
  4. Locate and report on St. Thomas Aquinas’s five proofs for the existence of God from the Summa Theologica.
  5. Take a virtual tour of the Renaissance. Answer these questions: 1) What was new about humanism versus previous ways of thinking in Europe; 2) What impact did the Renaissance have on the Catholic Church?
  6. Read and report on the Syllabus of Errors.
  7. Read and report on one of the popes since 1900.
  8. Read and report on the Catholic Worker Movement or Dorothy Day.

March 30, 2020

Life Issues in the Time of the Coronavirus

The response to the Coronavirus worldwide opens up discussion on several life issues.

For example, while most states have prohibited all but essential work outside of the home and asked hospitals and surgery centers to postpone all elective medical surgeries a debate continues in may places about whether abortions should be prohibited during this time as an example of an elective procedure.

There is also some concern over the possibility that some locations may have to ration medical supplies for those suffering from the virus, perhaps choosing who is more worthy of treatment based on age or existing medical condition. The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops has released several statements on this topic. In Texas, Bishop Joseph Strickland of the Tyler Diocese has spoken out strongly against the rationing of medical equipment and the signing over to medical boards of the possible unrestricted power in choosing who might receive treatment.

Take some time to review Church teaching on euthanasia and assisted suicide with your students. Fr. Rob Galea provides a concise teaching on The Catholic View of Euthanasia in a video that is just under four minutes in length. 

March 27, 2020

Plenary Indulgences During the Time of the Coronavirus

The Catechism of the Catholic Church describes an indulgence as “a remission before God of the temporal punishment due to sins whose guilt has already been forgiven, which the faithful Christian who is duly disposed gains under certain prescribed conditions through the action of the Church which, as the minister of redemption, dispenses and applies with authority the treasury of the satisfactions of Christ and the saints.” (No. 1471)

Through indulgences, the infinite merits of Christ, as well as the merits of the Blessed Virgin Mary and the saints, are applied to our purification in this life or the life to come (in purgatory).

A plenary indulgence removes all of the temporal punishment due to sins (“plenary” means full or complete). Other indulgences are known simply as partial indulgences.

Those obtaining a plenary or partial indulgence can choose to apply it either to themselves or to the souls of deceased persons. Listed here are some opportunities for plenary indulgences during the time of the corona virus.


March 23, 2020

Resources from OBD Films

A message from ODB Films:

Now is a great time to create your free account at to watch dozens of our projects, including:

  • award-winning dramas,

  • entertaining theology and catechesis,

  • moving testimonies,

  • music videos,

  • comedy sketches,

  • animations,

  • and the beloved VCAT (Video Catechism) series.

The VCAT includes the gorgeous four-part Adán in the Desert series, along with hours of interesting and informative content that vividly brings Catholic teaching to life.

This is a great way to stay entertained and do some at-home faith formation while you’re at it—and it’s absolutely free.

March 19, 2020

Spiritual Fasting from Holy Communion

Bishop Thomas John Paprocki of Springfield, Illinois offers a unique perspective for those who are unable to participate in the celebrate the Sacrament of Holy Eucharist. 

Share his video reflection with your students. The quotation Bishop Paprocki references from Pope Benedict XVI is taken from his book Behold the Pierced One. There are several reflections taken from this book online.

St. John Paul II's encyclical Ecclesia De Eucharistia  (The Church from the Eucharist) discusses the centrality and importance of the Eucharist. You may have the students read the entire encyclical and report on references to "spiritual communion" and what is meant by spiritual communion.







  • Have the students research prayers of saints who have made a spiritual communion and record one that is their favorite. Here is a prayer of spiritual communion of St. Alphonsus Ligouri 

Jesus, I believe that You are present in the blessed Sacrament. I love You above all things and I desire You in my soul. Since I cannot now receive Your sacramentally, come at least spiritually into my heart. As.though You were already there, I embrace You and unite myself wholly to You; permit not that I should never be separated from You. Amen.





March 4, 2020

What Doe a Paleographer Do in Biblical Studies?

  1. Ask your students to define the term paleographer.
  2. Ask them to speculate what a paleographer would have to do with translating and studying original copies of the Bible.
  3. Share the following text from Abba Isn’t Daddy and Other Biblical Surprises: What Catholics Really Need to Know about Scripture Study to further explain the importance of paleographers in studying and understanding the Bible.


Image result for biblical paleographer

Missing Vowels, Spacing, and Punctuation

Ancient Hebrew (like modern Israeli Hebrew) had no vowels! That’s right—no written vowels! Of course, Hebrew speakers pronounce vowels when they speak or read from the page, but the vowels are not written. So imagine what confronts the reader of an ancient page from a Hebrew Bible: long lines of uninterrupted consonants across the whole page. How in the world do readers make sense of what they’re looking at?

Let’s try to visualize this experience, as best we can, in English. Look at the following English text written without vowels, without word breaks, and without punctuation:





What in the world does this mean? And how can we derive meaning from—dare I say exegete—this scramble of consonants? The interpreter gets some help by at least inserting word breaks. With this help, the text looks like this:


dr jhn wnt mn wh knws wht lv s ll bt y r gnrs knd thghtfl ppl wh r nt lk y dmt t bng slss nd nfrr y hv rnd m fr thr mn yrn fr y hv n flngs whtsvr whn wr prt cn b frvr hppy wll y lt m b yrs glr


Is this much help? Perhaps, but let’s get some more help by now supplying vowels: 


dear john i want a man who knows what love is all about you are generous kind thoughtful people who are not like you admit to being useless and inferior you have ruined me for other men i yearn for you i have no feelings whatsoever when were apart i can be forever happy will you let me be yours gloria


Aha!  Now we’ve got it. It’s a love letter from Gloria to John! So now let’s just clean it up a bit simply by adding punctuation—some periods, commas, capital letters, and the like. And here’s what we get: 


Dear John,

I want a man who knows what love is all about. You are generous, kind, thoughtful. People who are not like you admit to being useless and inferior. You have ruined me for other men. I yearn for you. I have no feelings whatsoever when we’re apart. I can be forever happy. Will you let me be yours?



Some of you might now recognize this text. It’s made its rounds on the internet for some time. If you’ve already seen it there, then you’ll know that this exact same text can be radically transformed by simply changing the punctuation. Note, nothing else in the previous text has been altered but the punctuation (the commas, periods, capital letters, etc.). Now look at this differently punctuated version:


Dear John:

I want a man who knows what love is. All about you are generous, kind, thoughtful people who are not like you. Admit to being useless and inferior. You have ruined me. For other men I yearn. For you I have no feelings whatsoever. When we’re apart, I can be forever happy.


Will you let me be!




Not only is the meaning of the text different, but the meaning and intent of the letter is really just the opposite of the previous text. The meaning has been completely changed simply by altering the punctuation.

I hope this exercise gives you a little sense of what confronts paleographers (“those who study ancient handwritingt”) and the other readers of ancient Hebrew biblical manuscripts. Now, lest we get upset that the biblical text could be subject to such widely disparate interpretations, depending on who edits the punctuation or adds the vowels, let’s remember that most of the texts of the Old Testament were already very well known and widely memorized by many ancient students of the Old Testament. So most ancient readers of the Bible already knew what the texts of the biblical books said. For many ancient readers, the letters on the parchment or papyrus were simply mnemonic devices, that is, aids to their memory. These readers had little difficulty correctly reading and understanding the ancient page. 

It’s also important to note that the very important word breaks of the biblical texts were not inserted, for the most part, until around the fifteenth century with the advent of the printing press. These first printed Bibles and all of the others up to this day all have their roots in the ancient Hebrew and Greek hand-copied texts.


February 26, 2020

What Is Lent?

We cannot celebrate Easter fully if we have not taken the time to prepare for the celebration. We cannot be restored if we have not taken the time to identify the ways in which we are broken. By the second century Christians were preparing for the Easter celebration with a two-day (forty-hour) fast. No one within the community was to take food or water during the hours that Christ was in the tomb. Also, during the same time, Lent developed as a forty-day period of preparation for those who were to be baptized at Easter. Catechumens were to fast with just one meal per day for forty days in imitation of the forty days that Jesus spent in the wilderness.

This fast was seen as having several purposes. First, people believed that fasting gave fervor to prayers, strengthened them to fight against evil and helped prepare them for the reception of the Holy Spirit. Second, fasting allowed one to give money to the poor that would otherwise be used for food. For many fasting was a response of love. The rest of the Church participated in the fast as a way of supporting the catechumens and as a way doing penance for their sins and recommitting themselves to their own baptism.

In some parts of the early Church Lent—the word means “springtime”—was the appropriate time for those guilty of serious sin to complete their process of reconciliation. At the beginning of Lent those who were called penitents would put on special garments. They would be sprinkled with ashes and then be solemnly expelled from the Church. They would not be able to participate in the prayers of the faithful or the Eucharist until they were solemnly reconciled with the Church on Holy Thursday.

The Lenten season originally began on the sixth Sunday before Easter and ended with the celebration of the Lord’s Supper on Holy Thursday. Because there was no fasting on Sundays, the Church of the fifth century decided that six more days should be added to Lent in order to have forty fast days. To accomplish this, Good Friday and Holy Saturday were separated from the Easter Triduum and added to Lent and the four days preceding the sixth Sunday before Easter were also added. Thus Ash Wednesday was born as the first day of the season of penance. When the practice of expelling serious sinners at the beginning of Lent and restoring them to the Church at the end of Lent faded out of existence at the end of the first millennium, the practice of sprinkling ashes was retained for all the faithful.

Today, Lent is seen as a time of conversion with a threefold emphasis on prayer, fasting, and almsgiving. We seek a greater openness to the word of God, a more complete participation in the liturgy, and a stronger commitment to works of charity (almsgiving). Our practice of fasting (not eating) and abstinence (giving up certain foods or behaviors) is designed to turn our hearts to God and remind us of the plight of those who are hungry. During Lent we abstain from meat on Ash Wednesday, on every Friday including Good Friday. On Ash Wednesday and Good Friday we also fast between meals. Today’s Lenten season extends from Ash Wednesday to the Mass of the Lord’s Supper on Holy Thursday. It is forty-four days long if Sundays are included and thirty-eight days if they are not.



A common modern practice during Lent is for Catholics to substitute a meal of soup and bread or other simple items on Ash Wednesday and the Fridays of Lent. Then, the difference in cost between what is usually spent on meals for these days is donated to the poor. Describe other communal or individual penitential acts you are aware of for Lent.

February 10, 2020

Supporting National Marriage Week

February 1 to 14 is National Marriage Week.

Share with your students three graces of married life and what they think each grace means. (See pages 122-123 of Your Christian Vocation for more information.):

  1. Married couples are given the grace to love each other unselfishly.
  2. Married couples are given the grace to strengthen their unity and the indissoluble bond they have made with one another.
  3. Married couples are given the grace to lead each other to holiness.

Then take the students through the following activity:

Write each of the following questions, focused on the graces of the Sacrament of Matrimony, at the top of a sheet of butcher paper, leaving room for students to write responses under the question (if your class has more than twenty students, you may wish to make a duplicate set of questions on butcher paper, so that you can divide the class into six groups rather than three):

  • How can a married couple perfect their love?
  • How can a married couple strengthen their unity?
  • How can a married couple grow in holiness?

Hang the butcher paper on the walls around your classroom. Organize the class into three groups, giving each group a different colored marker. Send each group to one of the three stations, where they will stay for approximately three minutes, writing responses to the question on the paper. Encourage them to be concrete and specific. After three minutes, have the groups move to the next station. Repeat this process once more. Then allow an additional three to five minutes for the groups to revisit all the stations, writing comments and questions on their classmates’ responses. The different colored markers will enable you to track which responses, comments, and questions came from which group.

Reconvene the class back at their desks. Pose the following questions for discussion:

  • Which of these questions was easiest to answer?
  • Which was most challenging?
  • What is the most interesting response from another group that you saw on any of the papers?

Remind the students that the three stations correspond to the three graces of married life. In and through the sacrament of their marriage, God gives couples the grace to perfect their love, to strengthen their unity, and to grow in holiness. Explain that these three tasks overlap and are interwoven in the daily fabric of married life. Conclude by asking each student to write a prayer for married couples based on the day’s lesson.

February 3, 2020

What Does It Mean to be a Black Catholic?

At the beginning of Black History Month in the United States, spend some time focusing on the experience of black Catholics in the United States. Use information on African American Catholics provided by the United States Catholic Bishops to present an overview of the African American Church in America.

Also share information on Franciscan sister Thea Bowman (1937-1990), whose cause for canonization has been opened.

Play the 35 minute video of Sr. Thea’s address to the US Catholic bishops from 1989. At the conclusion of the video have the students write a short four to five page essay that answers the question “What Does It Mean to be a Black Catholic.”  

January 27, 2020

Kobe Bryant and the Importance of Going to Mass

Basketball legend Kobe Bryant (1978—2019) and eight other people, including his thirteen-year-old daughter Gianna, were killed on Sunday, January 26, in a helicopter crash in Southern California. They were on their way to a youth basketball game. Kobe was the coach, his daughter was a player.

The Bryant family members are practicing Catholics. Kobe attended 7 AM Mass at Our Lady Queen of Angels in Newport Beach prior to boarding the plane. Attending Mass and receiving Holy Communion was one of the last things he did in his life.

Take some time to reiterate the necessity of attending Sunday Mass. Remind the students of some of these reasons and have them suggest others:

  • Going to Mass helps to fulfill the Third Commandment.
  • As a member of the Church, it’s important to obey its laws.
  • It is sinful to deliberately miss Sunday Mass.
  • There is no greater grace than to receive Jesus in Holy Communion.
  • Mass is a foretaste of heaven.
  • The Church misses my presence when I am absent from Mass.
  • Jesus asked us to go to Mass to remember him.
  • Going to Mass is a good example to my peers and younger siblings.
  • Mass participation helps me to fulfill my baptismal promises.

Also discuss some excuses students may give for missing Mass:

  • My family doesn’t go to Mass.
  • Sunday is my only day to sleep in.
  • I have to work on Sunday.
  • I catch up on homework on Sunday.
  • I don’t have a ride to Mass.
  • There are very few my own age at Mass.
  • I have a basketball (or other sport) game on Sunday.

Conclude bymaking copies of an article about Kobe Bryant and his Catholic faith and assign it for reading.

Requiescat in pace

Kobe Bryant

Gianna Bryant

John Altobelli

Keri Altobelli

Alyssa Altobelli

Christina Mauser

Sarah Chester

Payton Chester

Ara Zobayan



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; 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 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.



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