Engaging Faith: Practical lesson ideas and activities for Catholic Educators

January 22, 2018

Catholic Schools Week Assignment for High School Students

The annual Catholic Schools Week is scheduled for January 28 to February 3. How will you mark the occasion with your students?

One idea would be for the students to write a short essay entitled “6 Benefits of a Catholic High School Education.” The six benefits can be written in a list form with a one paragraph explanation of each.

After you have collected the essays, compile a list of the top three benefits mentioned by all the students. Collate some of their reasoning into a larger promotion on a poster and an online platform with quotations included from as many students as possible and mentions by name of all the students in your class.

You might note a similar essay composed by a recent graduate of a Catholic high school.

 

 

January 8, 2018

Jim Caviezel's Powerful Message for Young Catholics

Jim Caviezel, the actor who played Jesus in The Passion of Christ, told the audience of young Catholics to "shake off their indifference" and "express their faith in public." This presentation--just under sixteen minutes in length--is well worth the time to show in its entirety to your students. Caviezel spoke at the recent SLS18 (Student Leadership Summit 2018) conference sponsored by The Fellowship of Catholic University Students (FOCUS) in Chicago. He was there to promote his new film Paul: Apostle of Christ which is scheduled for release on March 28, 2018.

After the students watch the presentation, ask for their reactions. You may wish that they share their favorite quotations by Caviezel. For example:

  • "Shake off indifference."
  • "Pray. Fast. Meditate on the Holy Scriptures. Take the sacraments seriously."
  • "Embrace your cross."
  • "Race to your goal."
  • "You are not given freedom to do what you like. You are given freedom to do what you ought."

 

January 2, 2018

Pope Francis and New Year's Resolutions

A few years ago, a list was compiled from Pope Francis’ most popular teachings and quotations to form his most popular New Years’ resolutions.  Here they are:

  1. Don't gossip.
  2. Finish your meals.
  3. Make time for others.
  4. Choose the “more humble” purchase.
  5. Meet the poor 'in the flesh.'
  6. Stop judging others.
  7. Befriend those who disagree.
  8. Make commitments, such as marriage.
  9. Make it a habit to “ask the Lord.”
  10. Be happy.

As you return to school, have your students write one or two sentences either explaining what each of Pope Francis’ resolutions mean or how they might apply these resolutions to their own lives.

Next, have them write their own New Years’ resolutions using Pope Francis’ list as an inspiration.

Finally, have the students read highlights of Pope Francis’ January 1, 2018 homily on the Solemnity of Mary the Mother of God.

December 22, 2017

Merry Christmas from All of Us at Ave Maria Press

"Glory to God in the highest

     and on earth peace to those on whom is

             favor rests." (Luke 2:14)

 

 

December 13, 2017

Comparing Two Portrayals of the Infant Jesus

Madonna and Child Enthroned with Saints by Raphael Sanzio (1483-1520)

In this painting, the infant Jesus and the Madonna are seen enthroned in heaven as Jesus is worshipped by several saints, including the infant John the Baptist, Peter, Paul, Catherine, and Cecilia. The fact that these saints lived in different centuries stresses the fact that, for God, there is no past or future. His time is not chronological (measurable and sequential time) but kairological (time that is not bound by sequence or measurement but rather by emotional significance). He lives in an eternal “now” where all are alive for him.

 

The Burning Babe by Robert Southwell (1561-1595)

The Burning Babe reflects on the love of Christ for fallen humanity. Through poetic imagery he combines the story of Christ's birth with accounts of his Passion and Death. His poem gives an unforgettable portrait of Jesus Christ, true God and true man. As I in hoary winter’s night
 

Stood shivering in the snow,
Surprised I was with sudden heat
Which made my heart to glow;
And lifting up a fearful eye
To view what fire was near,
A pretty babe all burning bright
Did in the air appear;
Who, scorched with excessive heat,
Such floods of tears did shed,
As though His floods should quench His flames,
Which with His tears were bred:
‘Alas!’ quoth He, ‘but newly born
In fiery heats I fry,
Yet none approach to warm their hearts
Or feel my fire but I!
‘My faultless breast the furnace is;
The fuel, wounding thorns;
Love is the fire, and sighs the smoke;
The ashes, shames and scorns;
The fuel Justice layeth on,
And Mercy blows the coals,
The metal in this furnace wrought
Are men’s defiled souls:
For which, as now on fire I am
To work them to their good,
So will I melt into a bath,
To wash them in my blood’
With this He vanish’d out of sight
And swiftly shrunk away,
And straight I called unto mind
That it was Christmas Day.

 

Assignment

  • Write a one page essay detailing the similarities and differences in the depiction of the infant Jesus in Raphael’s painting and Southwell’s poem?

 

This activity comes from the book The Catholic Spirit: An Anthology for Discovering Faith through Literature, Art, Film, and Music.

 

December 6, 2017

Faith, Friendship, and Football

“I knew Grant was a practicing Catholic, and I also saw that he was joyful,” Butker said. “I didn’t understand how someone could live the way the Church wants us to and still be joyful.”

Share this article about the friendship and faith connection between an NFL player, Harrison Butker, and his college teammate, Grant Aasen, who is now studying for the priesthood.

Things to Do

  • Write a story about your own friend who inspired your faith.
  • Research and write a report on the Knights of Columbus.
  • Research Mass opportunities at a college you are considering attending. Write about other faith programs at that college.
  • Write a profile about another Catholic athlete.

 

 

November 30, 2017

Waiting: The Beginning of Advent

In Advent we wait in hope for the coming of our Savior, Jesus Christ.

Introduction: As the students arrive, ask them to write a two to three paragraph journal entry titled “Waiting is Hard.” Ask them to share a particular occasion they found waiting for Christmas hard when they were a young child. How does this type of waiting compare to the first century Jews and Gentiles of Palestine who longed for a Messiah? How does this type of waiting compare to people today who long for Christ’s return?

Choose a student to read the Gospel from the first Sunday of Advent.

Gospel (Mark 13:33-37)

Jesus said to his disciples:
"Be watchful! Be alert!
You do not know when the time will come.
It is like a man traveling abroad.
He leaves home and places his servants in charge,
each with his own work,
and orders the gatekeeper to be on the watch.
Watch, therefore;
you do not know when the Lord of the house is coming,
whether in the evening, or at midnight,
or at cockcrow, or in the morning.
May he not come suddenly and find you sleeping.
What I say to you, I say to all: 'Watch!'"

The Gospel of the Lord.

Response: Praise to you, Lord Jesus Christ.

 

Play this short music reflection: Advent: Waiting in Silence

Call on students to share their stories of Christmas waiting with a partner. After a short time for discussion, ask a few volunteers to share their stories with the entire class.

November 16, 2017

Report on Evangelization and Catechesis

At the full assembly of United States Catholic bishops this week in Baltimore, a report was presented on behalf of the Committee on Evangelization and Catechesis detailing issues of relevance for Catholic high schools and theology departments in those schools. The full presentation begins immediately at the start of the video linked here.

November 2, 2017

Questions and Answers on Jesus' Disciples

Here’s a short exercise your students might complete upon entering your classroom or at the end of a lesson. Have the students look up each passage and complete the following items related to Jesus’ disciples.

  1. Matthew 10:1–15. List the Apostles. Name three things Jesus instructed the Apostles to do.
  2. Luke 8:1–3. Name three women followers of Jesus.
  3. Luke 10:38–42. What was Martha complaining about? What did Jesus tell her?
  4. John 3:1–21. What did Nicodemus not understand about Jesus’ teaching?
  5. John 20:11–18. Why did Jesus tell Mary Magdalene not to hold onto him?
  6. Luke 19:1–10. Why was Zacchaeus despised by so many? What was the sign that he became a true disciple of Jesus?

Answers

  1. The Apostles are Simon called Peter, Andrew, James, John, Philip, Bartholomew, Thomas, Matthew, James, Thaddeus, Simon the Cananean, and Judas Iscariot. Jesus instructs them to go to the “lost sheep of the house of Israel,” proclaim the kingdom of Heaven, cure the sick, raise the dead, cleanse lepers, drive out demons, and take very little.
  2. Mary Magdalene, Joanna, and Susanna
  3. She complained that her sister did not help her serve the guests. Jesus told her not to worry, but to sit and listen to him like her sister Mary.
  4. Nicodemus did not understand the meaning of being born again.
  5. Jesus had not yet ascended to his Father
  6. Zacchaeus was despised because he was a wealthy tax collector, but he proved his loyalty as a disciple by giving half of his possessions to the poor and promising not to steal from anyone.

 

 

October 24, 2017

A World Series Ballplayer Who Makes Time for Mass

With the 2017 World Series upon us, take time to share the story of Andre Ethier, an outfielder for the Los Angeles Dodgers, who always makes time for Sunday Mass within a hectic season. The story is taken from Meeting Jesus in the Sacraments (2nd Edition) from Ave Maria Press. Also share other players in this year’s World Series who attended Catholic high schools or colleges.

Do you feel that it’s hard for you to get to Mass? Think about Catholic professional athletes in any of the major sports who play games on Sundays. Have you ever wondered if, and how, these Catholic athletes are able to set aside time on Sunday for going to Mass in the midst of preparing for and playing an important, high-pressure game?

One person who does this successfully is Andre Ethier, an outfielder who plays for the Los Angeles Dodgers. A native of Phoenix, Arizona, Andre has revealed in interviews that his Catholic faith has played an important part in his life. Andre says, “It’s developed me into the person I am. And to shun away from that just because you’re supposed to be more vanilla in certain areas, it wouldn’t be me. I’m always trying to portray myself as who I really am, so that’s definitely part of me—the faith part.”

Because Sunday is a game day, Sunday Mass takes a little planning ahead for a major league baseball player. Andre explains, “People ask me, ‘On Sundays, why do you always come dressed up?’ It’s because either I’ve come from church or I am going to go to church following the game.” Occasionally, for home games, the Dodgers provide a team chaplain to say Mass in a room adjacent to the team’s clubhouse.

Andre finds that Sunday Mass is “a great time to be able to clear your mind and think about where you’re at in general. Sometimes things get out of perspective pretty quickly. So no matter what happens, good or bad, you gotta keep steady in that faith.”

Asked, “How hard is it, being in professional sports, to practice your faith?” Andre answers: “For me it starts probably with the most basic and simple—going to Mass every Sunday, and making a point to do that.” Andre continues: “The faith won’t lead you wrong. It’s led me right the whole way, and I still go to church every Sunday. I love it, and I’m glad to be involved and I’m glad to be a part of that Catholic community.”

 

World Series Players Who Attended Catholic High Schools or Colleges

 

Houston Astros

Evan Gattis, Designated Hitter

Bishop Lynch High School

Dallas, TX

 

Luke Gregerson, Right-handed Pitcher

St. Xavier University

Chicago, IL

 

Dallas Keuchel Left-handed Pitcher

Bishop Kelley High School

Tulsa, OK

 

Lance McCullers Jr. Right-handed Pitcher

Jesuit High School

Tampa, FL

 

Los Angeles Dodgers

Andre Ethier, Outfielder

St. Mary’s High School

Phoenix, AZ

 

Kyle Farmer, Catcher

Marist High School

Atlanta, GA

 

Logan Forsythe, Infielder

Christian Brothers High School

Memphis, TN

 

 

 

October 13, 2017

Helping Students Discover the Roots of Faith

Here are two activities you can do with your students to help them to critique their own faith history and better answer the question “Why do I believe in Jesus”?

In Class

Help students reflect on their most strongly held beliefs about Jesus.  Begin by inviting students to make a quick list of every person or source from which they have learned something about Jesus.  Then, setting this first list aside, challenge them to list the twenty most important things they believe about Jesus. At this point, you might even offer them time to compare lists with a classmate and revise as they feel necessary, based on new ideas from their discussions. Once they feel confident about their lists of twenty, have them evaluate which ten of the twenty are the most important. Finally, have them evaluate which three of those ten are the very most important. Direct them to look back at their lists of sources of information that they first brainstormed, and pose the question:  Which of these teachers or sources have contributed to your top three beliefs? Students may find that their most closely held beliefs were those influenced by the largest number of teachers, or conversely, by those teachers whose relationship or example they value most. Discuss student reactions to the exercise as a class.

 

At Home

Have students interview a faith mentor. Invite students to spend time talking with someone who has helped shape their faith—perhaps a parent or other relative, a friend, a teacher, or a Church leader.  Students should ask their mentors who they believe Jesus is and for what reasons they believe in his divine nature.  They should report back about their interviews, using a format of their choosing.  If time allows, students might, for instance, create a poster, a video, a written reflection, a prayer service, or any other creative “product” that shares the wisdom of their faith mentor with others.

 

October 6, 2017

Share the Journey

In coordination with Respect Life month, the United States Catholic bishops are asking Catholics to participate in a week of prayer and action for migrants and refugees from October 7 to 13 sponsored by Catholic Relief Services. Several resources to facilitate participation by students both in Catholic schools and parish programs are available here. Note, especially, the sections titled "In Schools and Religious Education" and "On Campus."

Examine, also, the full Share the Journey website.

 

September 28, 2017

A Mini-Unit on Adoption for High School Students

Adoption: A Choice worth Making is a five-day mini-unit to support any course in a Catholic high school theology curriculum. It is also appropriate for parish youth ministry. The purpose of the mini-course is to acknowledge the value of human life and provide teenagers information on a much underreported option for single women who are pregnant: adoption.

 

This mini-unit provides a synopsis of the adoption process as well as various perspectives from actual birth mothers, adoptive parents, and from teens who were adopted as infants. Written in conjunction with the Holy Family Adoption Agency, an agency dedicated to placing children with Catholic adoptive parents, teenagers will learn about a very positive effort taking place in the United States and in the Church to place children with adoptive parents.

Adoption: A Choice worth Making provides complete lesson outlines, including video links and student handouts. The lessons are designed for five consecutive 50 minute periods or over the course of one day for five consecutive weeks.

To view Adoption: A Choice worth Making click here.

September 18, 2017

Icebreaker Discussion: My Personal Opinion

You can use this discussion format in a number of ways. Here’s one:

  • Pass out a small, blank card to each student.
  • Write on a board several typical values, vices, events that teens are likely to have a strong opinion on either way. See below.

Tell the students that if they really believe strongly in something they should be willing to talk about the value openly and defend their position in the face of some questions and opposition. Tell them to take a close look at the items listed on the board and think about three or four in which they have a strong position on and would be willing to talk about in front of the group.

Tell the students to write their names on the cards. Collect the cards. Then tell them: “I will draw someone’s name from this pack. If your name is picked, you will be “on the spot” and will be asked to explain your position on one of the items you chose. Decide now which item you will talk about if your name is picked.

Pull a name and ask several questions like:

  • What item do you want to talk about?
  • What is your position on ______________?
  • Do your peers agree with your position? Do your parents?
  • Have you felt that way for a long time or is it something you’ve only come to only recently?

Encourage dialogue among the group. Include yourself in the discussion as necessary, but not to an overwhelming degree.

Continue with as many persons as time allows.

Discussion Topics

obeying rules     joining a club      reading the Bible   helping teachers   sex before marriage

telling crude jokes   shoplifting   gossiping about peers   talking about God   bad-mouthing religion

bragging about sexual conquests   getting good grades   cheating on schoolwork   smoking pot

chastity and abstinence   lying to parents   going to church   abortion   putting down unpopular kids

being lazy and uncaring   singing in church   being polite to adults   eating healthy foods

caring for the environment   assisting a neighbor in need   visiting a grandparent

going willingly on a family vacation helping the poor   texting and driving   being patriotic

 

September 1, 2017

Practical Principles and Other Resources for Catechetical Sunday 2017

 

Juliane Stanz and Tom East offer thirteen practical principles to guide accompaniment of youth and young adults as part of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops resources for Catechetical Sunday 2017. The full article introduces and expounds on the thirteen principles.

Practical Principles to Guide Accompaniment of Youth and Young Adults

  1. Look broadly at the youth and young adult populations and develop targeted ministries for different segments. Some youth, and young adults are looking to go deeper and become more engaged in formation and service. Other young people need deeper prayer experiences. Some young people are anxious to come to weekly gatherings and join communities; others resist this kind of participation but are longing to have someone to talk to about their faith. We need a differentiated approach that begins with the variety of young people in mind.

  2. Engage families and see parents as part of our ministry. Parents need to be inspired and equipped to take the lead in the spiritual formation of their children. This looks different when children are youth and young adults.  We can help families make this transition.  What can we do to strengthen and support families as they share faith across the generations?  For families that are struggling with faith and active practice in the community, our work with youth can be a spark that evangelizes the whole community.  Families with young adults often face different challenges.  We can support parents as they continue to foster the faith life of emerging adults. 

  3. Look broadly at our community and engage lots of disciples who are willing to spend time with youth and young adults. Notice we didn't say "recruit more ministry leaders." Discipleship is about developing the practices of being a disciple of Jesus which is something we learn in community and in relationship with other disciples. Who are the youth and adults in your community from whom you want young people to "catch" faith?

  4. Focus on spiritual growth and attend to youth and young adults in a comprehensive way. Youth and young adults are more than just a family member or learner. Our ministry responses and faith formation need to address and engage each young person and assist them in taking the next step in their journey. It is especially important to invest time in helping youth and young adults who are evangelized to take the deeper steps toward accountability, witness, and engagement in mission.

  5. Help young people do what disciples do and get good at it! Our ministries could focus less on participation and learning information and more on the skills and practices of being a disciple. When youth and young adults are good at praying on their own, reading the Bible, participating in Mass and the Sacrament of Reconciliation, engaging in service, and witnessing to their faith, they will continue to do these things and seek communities and relationships that support them in being disciples.

  6. Touch their hearts and make it personal. Young people yearn to belong and to relate to people who care about them and value them as individuals. To build this relationship, we need to learn names, know youth and young adults, and provide ministries that move, inspire, and engage. 

  7. Provide multiple contact points. Youth and young adults grow in commitment through a variety of relationships. They benefit from hearing different voices that provide an echo of faith.

  8. Listen and include the youth, young adults, families, and leaders from among the diverse cultures within the community. Dioceses and parishes are learning new ways to come to know and include the needs and gifts of people from various cultures in developing authentic and inclusive ministry responses. The Bishops of the United States are calling ministry leaders to develop intercultural competencies so that we have the capacity to listen, welcome, include, and be formed by people of many cultures.  These resources are an important part of our accompaniment of young people. See http://www.usccb.org/issues-and-action/cultural-diversity/intercultural-competencies/

  9. Go where the youth and young adults are, including online. The roots of youth ministry are to go to the corners where youth hang out. Young adult ministry has a similar history. To do this today, we should be proficient in social media, and use technology as a means to draw them towards gathered participation with the faith community.

  10. Engage youth and young adults in ministries that help them belong, believe, and share their gifts. These elements address fundamental human needs that profoundly shape the youth and young adult years. Ministry that addresses these elements develops the commitment and identity that are foundational to formation as growing young disciples.

  11. Don't treat young adults like youth. A starting place for any young adult ministry is to treat them as adults, not post-high school youth. For example, don't list them under parents' names in the church directory. Give them their own listing. Another important point to remember is that most ministry with young adults will be conducted by young adults themselves, in a peer-to-peer manner.[vi]

  12. Empower them to make a difference. Young people welcome and value opportunities that empower them to make a difference in the world. To put individuals in situations where their involvement truly affects another person is at the heart of faith.  Ensure that ample opportunities are given to perform service and ministry that directly impacts the life of another.

  13. Be action oriented. Young people value instant communication, respond quickly to action, and are adept at multitasking. They would rather participate in service than talk about it. If you decide to invite a young person to a parish committee, make sure that your committee is action oriented. Youth and young adults do not respond well to sitting around talking about ministry; they prefer to make a difference now. Long, drawn out meetings without a clear focus are certain to make your committee a youth-and-young-adult-free zone!

August 24, 2017

Updated Religious Education Resources for September

Theology teacher Charles Beach from Christian Brothers College High School in St. Louis keeps complies and excellent thorough newsletter of religious education resources that are appropriate and helpful to enhance a high-school theology curriculum. You can view this the September 2017 newsletter here. Go to the bottom of the page for a link to information to subscribing to the newsletter on a monthly basis.

 

 

August 14, 2017

First Week of School Introductions

Here’s a brief introductory activity you might use on the first day or in the first week of school to help you and your students get to know each other better.

Prepare pre-printed name tags that are big enough for the students to add several other words and symbols. Display the name tags on a table when the students come into the room and have them take their name tag but not put them on. Also make sure they have a pencil or pen.

Share the following instructions. Say:

Write or draw the following items on your name tag. There will be five items. (List one at a time. Pause briefly between each item to allow for making.)

  1. Your favorite childhood toy.
  2. The logo of your favorite sport’s team.
  3. Three words to finish this sentence: “My friends think I am….”
  4. The name of an adult you admire and/or love.
  5. The name of a child who loves and/or admires you.

After everyone has finished writing tell the students to pair up with someone they do not know well. When everyone has settled, say:

Now give your name tag to your partner and take turns explaining the symbols and words to each other. Talk about one symbol at a time. Listen carefully because you will be using what you learn about your partner to introduce him or her to the entire group.

Allow about five to ten minutes for this sharing. Then call on the partner pairs to come, one at a time, to the front of the class. Say:

Introduce your partner to the class. Tell one interesting thing you learned about him or her using one of the items on the name tag. For example, say something like: “This is Mary Jones. I just learned that….”

Continue in this format until everyone has been introduced.

 

 

August 4, 2017

Save the Date: Global Campaign in Support of Refugees

 

Pope Francis is being joined by bishops across the U.S. and around the world in launching a global campaign to support our brothers and sisters who have fled their homes seeking a decent and safe life for their families. This historic campaign, “Share the Journey,” will respond to some of the most desperate of God’s children and your leadership and inspiration is needed.

You can help your diocese, parish, school or other organization participate in the “Share the Journey” campaign along with Pope Francis, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), Catholic Relief Services (CRS), Catholic Charities USA, and the Church’s global charitable network, Caritas Internationalis. Through prayers and acts of compassion and support, you can help shape conversations and actions to answer the Gospel call to love our neighbors.

September 27: The official launch in Rome by Pope Francis

October 7-13Week of Prayer and Action across the U.S.

A website with resources for parishes, schools, universities, national organizations and other groups will go live the week of September 5.

 

July 31, 2017

Disney's Version of the Ave Maria

An interesting piece of information you may wish to share with your students is Walt Disney's inclusion of Schubert's classic Ave Maria in the full-length animated motion picture Fantasia.

The idea of a popular, secular film containing explicitly religious music may seem foreign to their sensibilities today. However, as this article explains, Disney's decision to use the Ave Maria was not without some controversy when it was released in 1940.

 

July 21, 2017

People Who Met and Recognized Jesus

During Jesus’ ministry many would-be friends and enemies did not recognize him or his mission as the Son of God. But several people did. Give the following list to the students and ask them to name some of the people who met and recognized Jesus. Have them write their answers before looking up the Scripture reference to check if they were right

  1. This person said, “Come see a man who told me everything I have done. Could he possibly be the Messiah?” (Jn 4:29)
  2. This man said, “Who are you, sir?” After Jesus revealed himself to the man, he found out that he was blinded. (Acts 9:5–9)
  3. They traveled with Jesus for seven miles without knowing who he was, but came to realize who he was when they had dinner with him. (Lk 24:13–31)
  4. He said, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.” (Mt 16:16)
  5. This man thought Jesus was the Son of God because Jesus told him, “I saw you under the fig tree.” (Jn 1:48–50)
  6. They recognized Jesus as a king when they gave him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. (Mt 2:1–11)
  7. Some thought this man was the Messiah but he said, “One mightier than I is coming. I am not worthy to loosen the thongs of his sandals.” (Lk 3:16)
  8. This person said, “My Lord and my God!” Jesus answered him, “Blessed are those who have not seen and have believed.” (Jn 20:28–29)
  9. When he saw Jesus, he cried out and fell down before him; in a loud voice he shouted, “What have you to do with me, Jesus, son of the Most High God? I beg you, do not torment me!” (Lk 8:28–30)
  10. Jesus refused to perform miracles for this person. In talking with him, Jesus quoted some passages from the Old Testament including, “You shall not put the Lord, your God, to the test.” (Mt 4:1–11)

Journal Assignment

  • If you met Jesus face-to-face, what would you say to him?

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