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Engaging Faith: Practical lesson ideas and activities for Catholic Educators

June 1, 2015

Rest, Renewal, and Revitalization for the Catholic School Educator

By Justin McClain

During the upcoming break in the academic year, plan to use part of the time to refresh yourself in the life-giving words and teachings of Christ! Pope Francis addressed the need for renewal in a recent talk to priests. Catholic school teachers can find affirmation in his message as well.

The summer break can, and should, serve as an opportune occasion to seek 1) rest, 2) renewal, and 3) revitalization. This is true in terms of your mind, your body, and foremost, your soul. As such, here are a few scriptural passages to meditate on during the summer, in order to remain focused in a positive way on the promises of the new school year as of late August.

1. Rest

Jesus understands the need for rest. In the Gospels, Christ extended the divine “rest” that only he could offer, drawing us to seek him in order to find soulful relief from the weariness of the world. The school year is replete with busy schedules, numerous logistical demands, teenage drama, and numerous other concerns. Summer is the time to slow down, take a break, and rest!

For Reflection

  •  “Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart; and you will find rest for yourselves. For my yoke is easy, and my burden light." (Matthew 11:28-30)
  • The apostles gathered together with Jesus and reported all they had done and taught. He said to them, “Come away by yourselves to a deserted place and rest a while.” (Mark 6:30-31)

2. Renewal

Jesus has a way of renewing everything without changing anything. In other words, he remains the same as he has been since before time began: He is unchanging, just as God the Father and God the Holy Spirit are, with the Three Persons of the Trinity united as one God. While you will use the weeks during the summer to renew lesson plans, renew classroom policies, renew familiarity with content by attending professional development programs, and so forth, make sure that all renewal that takes place is in the vein of Christian renewal. Ensure that the preparations you are making done in the Lord’s name, are engagingly new, and inspirationally faithful and unchangingly refreshing. Attempt to imagine how new Christ’s teachings must have sounded to his first disciples when they began to follow him. Plan to present the Gospel to the students with this same newness, particularly in terms of charitably and accurately portraying the Church’s age-old moral teachings (e.g., Catholic social teaching), which are sometimes contrived as old-fashioned, but are actually beautifully and wisely designed by God for the ultimate benefit of humanity.

For Reflection

  • All were amazed and asked one another, "What is this? A new teaching with authority." (Mark 1:27)
  • "I give you a new commandment: love one another. As I have loved you, so you also should love one another. This is how all will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another." (John 13:34-35)
  • “May we learn what this new teaching is that you speak of?” (Acts 17:19)
  • So whoever is in Christ is a new creation: the old things have passed away; behold, new things have come. (2 Corinthians 5:17)
  • Be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and put on the new self, created in God’s way in righteousness and holiness of truth. (Ephesians 4:23-24)
  • You have taken off the old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed, for knowledge, in the image of its creator. (Colossians 3: 9-10)
  • For this reason, he is the mediator of a new covenant. (Hebrews 9:15)
  • Blessed be the God and Father of Our Lord Jesus, who in his great mercy gave us a new birth to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. (1 Peter 1:3)
  • The one who sat on the throne said, “Behold, I make all things new.” (Revelation 21:5)

3. Revitalization

God is the author of your very life. He has given you free will because he wants your life to magnify him and to bring greater glory to the kingdom of God. Allow the Lord to breathe new life into any ministerial efforts, perhaps particularly in the midst of the end of a school year, when you may feel that you are suffering from burn-out, or that you are a shell of your formerly enlivened self.

For Reflection

  • “If you wish to enter into life, keep the commandments.” (Matthew 19:17)
  • For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish, but might have eternal life. (John 3:16)
  • Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life. (John 3:36)
  • (Specifically regarding the Eucharist, which the Catechism of the Catholic Church identifies as “the source and summit of the Christian life” [CCC 1324], meditate on Jesus’ remarkable Bread of Life Discourse in John 6:22-59.)
  • Simon Peter answered him, “Master, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.” (John 6:68)
  • Jesus spoke to them again, saying, "I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life." (John 8:12)
  • “I came so that they might have life, and have it more abundantly.” (John 10:10)
  • “I am the resurrection and the life; whoever believes in me, even if dies, will live.” (John 11:25)
  • “I am the way and the truth and the life.” (John 14:6)

There are, of course, numerous relevant Old Testament passages that can be reflected upon as well, but the scope of this article was the New Testament, in order to emphasize Jesus’ fulfillment of the messianic prophecies as outlined in the Old Testament that allowed him to give us a newness of spiritual resolve. Hence, these are just a few of the multiple passages from within the New Testament that the Catholic school teacher can use for reflection in preparation for the next academic year and beyond.

This summer, in between the trips to the beach, other family outings, Independence Day barbecues, and other summer adventures, make sure that you (and your family) spend ample time with the Lord, in order to remember to rest, renew, and revitalize yourself by meditating on God’s goodness. In this manner, you can be an even more effective Catholic school educator in the next academic year, which will be here before you know it. In the meantime, happy summer and God bless you and your families with a restful vacation!

Mr. Justin McClain is a Theology teacher at Bishop McNamara High School in Forestville, Maryland.

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