Engaging Faith: Practical lesson ideas and activities for Catholic Educators

January 7, 2008

Recalling God's Plan for Our Lives

Even though the Christmas season ends on Sunday, the week is also about new beginnings as you know from your return to school and the impending start of a new semester.

The end of Christmas also celebrates the beginning of Jesus’ public ministry with his baptism by John the Baptist in the Jordan River.

The occasion lets us know that God the Father had special plans for his son. Jesus was anointed by the Father to “bring light and God’s promise of hope” to everyone.

Encourage and remind your students that they, too, have been chosen by God to do something special and unique with their lives.

Sometimes teenagers feel cramped by the expectations that their parents and other well-meaning adults have for them.

Most of your students will be expected to go to college. They will be expected to marry and raise a family (or in some cases choose a religious vocation). Most of all their parents and Catholic high school teachers hope that they will continue to practice their Catholic faith and deepen their relationship with God.

Have your students consider the expectations that have been placed on them for the future? Which do they consider fair expectations? Which coincide with their own dreams?

Share with your students the story of baseball player Mike Piazza, a good antidote these days to reports of other star players training with illegal steroids. When Mike was a teenager most people told him he would never make it in baseball. In fact, he was the 1,390th player picked in the baseball draft. Mike credits his Catholic faith for helping him to progress all the way to a hall of fame career: A Catholic Digest article questioned Mike about the subject:

Did anyone try to tell you that you couldn’t make it as a major-league player?

Mike Piazza: Oh, yeah, I’ll never forget when I was 12 or 13 years old – which is a little young as far as evaluation – [my dad] brought out a scout from, I think, the [St. Louis] Cardinals. He was a very esteemed and recognized major league scout. He saw me play, and he said to my dad, “Vince, tell this kid to go to school.” But you know, I always like people being honest with me. You may not like what they have to say, but it’s better than patronizing you. In a way it wasn’t really an insult. It just gave me more fuel.

As you worked your way from the 62nd-round draft pick to 1993 National League Rookie of the Year, did your Catholic faith play a part in your progress?

Mike Piazza: No question about it. It was probably the most important thing for me. My mom, thank God, she kept us focused on our faith. I just remember everywhere I went, I tried to find a local church where I could go to Mass. Once I started doing research into the history of the Catholic Church I became more and more proud to be Catholic.

When Jesus was anointed at his baptism, the sky opened and his Father’s voice could be heard: “You are my own dear Son, and I am pleased with you.” Take some time to communicate to your students the pleasure God takes in them. Remind them that the same God who loved Jesus also loves them.

Discussion Questions
1. What is one expectation your parents have for you? Is this mostly a fair expectation? Why?
2. What is a goal you have for yourself? How can your Catholic faith help you to succeed at that goal?
3. Imagine it is the end of your life. You look back on all your years and realize that there was one accomplishment that stood about above all the rest. What is this accomplishment?
4. John the Baptist was a humble friend of the Lord, saying he was “not good enough to even untie his sandals.” Jesus’ ministry was based on humble service of others. What does humility mean to you? When was a time you did something humbly?

Additional Lessons
• Share and play the DVD, “Champions of Faith,” that features Mike Piazza and other athletes who share the relationship between the ideals of sports and the practice of faith.
• Have each student prepare an individual time capsule to be opened on the date of high school graduation. The “capsule” can be an empty two-liter soda bottle. Have the students fill out papers writing down what they hope to accomplish through the rest of their time in high school. Have them print on the outside of the bottle: “Not to be opened until June 20__.

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