Engaging Faith: Practical lesson ideas and activities for Catholic Educators

May 9, 2016

Helping Seniors Say Good-bye to their High School Experience

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

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

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

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

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

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

February 12, 2015

Giving Up Indifference for Lent

 

This Lent, Pope Francis invites people to stop being indifferent. A dictionary defines difference as “showing a lack of interest or concern.” Ask your students how that definition resonates in their own experiences, especially among peers. Also consider these other points about indifference and how to combat it:

1. Have your students spend a quiet moment comparing two past experiences in their lives, one positive experience, the other a negative experience.  The positive experience should be of a time when life seemed to be going their way and they were able to simply enjoy their successes. The negative experience should be of  a time when they felt discouraged about how things were going or were perhaps suffering in some way (e.g., from an illness or a death in the family). Call on students to explain their answers to both of these questions:

  • Were you more aware of the needs of others when you were feeling good or when you were feeling discouraged?
  • Were other people more aware of how you were doing when you were feeling good or feeling discouraged?

Share these words of Pope Francis: “As long as I am relatively healthy and comfortable, I don’t think about those less well off.”  Ask the students if his words resonate with their own experience.

2. If students have ever felt ignored by friends when they are struggling, they may have been on that side of indifference (“a lack of interest or concern about something”). Ask students to suggest some antonyms (and close antonyms) for indifference and write them on the board (e.g., concern, interest, awareness, sensitivity, care, love). Ask students to select among these antonyms that they also think are also Gospel values. Point out that, by asking people to give up indifference, the pope is asking people to live Gospel values this Lent.

3. Pope Francis believes that indifference has grown from a problem of a few individuals to being a larger problem for society: “Today, this selfish attitude of indifference has taken on global proportions, to the extent that we can speak of a globalization of indifference. It is a problem which we, as Christians, need to confront.” Ask students to provide several examples of indifference in personal relationships, school culture, local society, nationally, and internationally. List and discuss these examples.

4. The pope makes other points about indifference and the Catholic faith.

  • He writes that God is the very opposite of indifference, that he is very interested in each person, in each one of them. Since God is Love, loving is incompatible with indifference.
  • The Church should not be indifferent because it is the Body of Christ and according to St. Paul, “If one member suffers, all suffer together.” Ask students to mention some times when they witnessed this sort of solidarity or were part of it themselves. The pope suggests that the Eucharist helps shape Catholics into the Body of Christ where there is no room for indifference.
  • God calls Christian communities to go outside of themselves and be engaged with the greater society, especially the poor. The Church is not self-enclosed. He says, “In each of our neighbors, then, we must see a brother or sister for whom Christ died and rose again. What we ourselves have received, we have received for them as well. Similarly, all that our brothers and sisters possess is a gift for the Church and for all humanity.”
  • Pope Francis calls Christians to engage in a formation of the heart – a heart that is strong enough to resist temptation but that can still be touched by the Holy Spirit. “The suffering of others is a call to conversion, since their need reminds me of the uncertainty of my own life and my dependence on God and my brothers and sisters.”  Remind your students that prayer is an important way to form their heart and respond to the needs of others. Lent is also a good time to reach out in charity to others. Ask students to consider how the practices of prayer, fasting, and almsgiving can be a way to address indifference.  In prayer, it is possible to petition God on behalf of those who are suffering. Fasting is a way to suffer with others who suffer, to increase awareness of what others lack. Finally, almsgiving is a way to share resources with those who have less.

 

View the full text of Pope Francis' Lenten message here.

 

February 6, 2015

Christianity in China?

There are quite a few question marks about Catholicism and Christianity in China today. Have your students research the answers to these questions. (Another option is to share some information with them and then use a Socratic method to help them discover some of the current religious dynamics.)

Questions

  • What is the difference between the Catholic Patriotic Association and the Three-Self Patriotic Movement versus the unofficial Catholic and Protestant churches? (The first two names describe the Catholic and Protestant Churches headed by government officials and in the case of Catholicism, rather than the Vatican. The unofficial churches are those that are unwilling to be regulated by the government.)
  • Why does the Vatican not have relations with the People’s Republic of China in Beijing and instead have relations with the Republic of China on Taiwan? (Not only does the Beijing government not approve of the Vatican and considers it a “foreign force” that is likely to “interfere in China’s internal affairs,” Beijing also does not recognize the Vatican’s right to name bishops and otherwise make decisions for the Chinese Catholic church like it does in other parts of the world. The Vatican does not have the same issues with the government in Taiwan.)
  • What opportunities are available to those who are Communist Party members in China that are not open to non-party members? (Prior to the 1980s, membership in the Communist Party was the aspiration of many Chinese. Now, anyone interested in a career in government and in some other job areas must be a Community Party member.)
  • Although China’s atheist Communist government cracked down on religious organizations in the 1960s, they had lessened the attacks somewhat over time. What new religious threats may be the reason that the country is cracking down again on all Christian groups? (Christian groups are growing very quickly and may already exceed the number of Communist Party members. The Communist Party is also taking a more nationalistic tone under its leader, Xi Jinping.)
  • What types of measures is the Chinese government taking to try and stem the growing number of Christians in the country? (The Chinese government has been sending police to congregations, removing crosses from churches, tearing down churches in some places – especially in the Zhejiang province, arresting underground bishops and home church leaders, putting others under house arrest, and ordaining priests they can control as bishops.)
  • What does this statement, “resolutely resist the use of Christianity by foreigners to infiltrate China,” say about the officials’ fears about Christianity? (One of the reasons that Christianity threatens Communist Party leaders is because it is international and not completely under the control of the Community Party.)
  • What do China’s President’s praises of Confucianism, Taoism, and Buddhism suggest about the party’s feelings about religion? (Perhaps the Party’s concern is not so much with religion per se but with Christianity since they seem to hope that reviving these Asian religions will lessen the spread of Christianity.)

 

Sources

January 8, 2015

Meeting the New Cardinals

Pope Francis announced his intention to create twenty new cardinals at the upcoming consistory (an assembly of cardinals called together by the pope) on February 14, 2015. Fifteen of the new cardinals are less than eighty years old and would be eligible to vote for a new pope should the need arise. Five of the cardinals are over eighty and will receive the red biretta (the three-peaked hat worn by cardinals) as an honor for their service to the Church, but would not be eligible to vote for a new pope.

The new cardinals represent many smaller countries and countries with few Catholics. Some observers were surprised by this. Others noted that the international nature of his choices and his decision not to make cardinals out of leaders of traditional cardinalatial sees (cities that are usually headed by cardinals) has precedence in Popes Pius XII and Pope Benedict XVI. In 1946, Pope Pius XII chose fifteen cardinals from around the world as well as seventeen from Europe and the United States.  Pope Benedict’s final consistory in 2012 was also international with one new cardinal from the United States and the other five from Lebanon, India, Nigeria, Colombia, and the Philippines.

Invite students to review geography and consider the countries in which these cardinals live.

You might consider posing questions like the following:

  • Where in these countries will the new cardinals live?
  • How many of them will be cardinals of cities that are also capitals of their countries?

Elector Cardinals

  1. Archbishop John Atcherley Dew of Wellington (New Zealand) Where? Southern tip of North Island, capital city
  2. Archbishop Daniel Fernando Sturla Berhouet, S.D.B., of Montevideo (Uruguay) Where? Southern tip of Uruguay on the coast, capital city
  3. Archbishop Ricardo Blázquez Pérez of Vallodolid (Spain) Where? North central Spain
  4. Archbishop Alberto Suàrez Inda of Morelia (Mexico) Where? Middle of Mexico but closer to the Pacific Ocean
  5. Archbishop Francis Xavier Kriengsak Kovithavanij of Bangkok (Thailand) Where? Southern part of country, capital city
  6. Archbishiop Manuel José Macario do Nascimento Clemente, Patriarch* of Lisbon (Portugal) Where? Southwest Portugal, near coast, capital city
  7. Archbishop Dominique Mamberti, Prefect of the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura** Where? Vatican
  8. Archbishop Charles Maung Bo, S.D.B., of Yangon (Myanmar) Where? South of the main part of the country, capital until 2005
  9. Archbishop Edoardo Menichelli of Ancona-Osimo (Italy) Where? Northern east coast
  10. Archbishop Francesco Montenegro of Agrigento (Italy) West coast of Sicily
  11. Archbishop Berhaneyesus Demerew Souraphiel, C.M., of Addis Ababa (Ethiopia) Where? Center of Ethiopia, capital city
  12. Archbishop Pierre Nguyên Van Nhon of Hà Nôi (Viêt Nam) Where? South central area of country, capital city
  13. Bishop Arlindo Gomes Furtado, of Santiago de Cabo Verde (Archipelago of Cape Verde) Where? Middle of largest island
  14. Bishop José Luis Lacunza Maestrojuán, O.A.R., of David (Panamá) Where? Western side of country
  15. Bishop Soane Patita Paini Mafi of Tonga (Island of Tonga) center of the Island of Tonga

Non-elector Cardinals

  1. Archbishop Luigi De Magistris, Major Pro-Penitentiary*** Emeritus (Italy);
  2. Júlio Duarte Langa, Bishop Emeritus of Xai-Xai (Mozambique).
  3. Archbishop Karl-Joseph Rauber, Apostolic Nuncio**** (Germany);
  4. José de Jesús Pimiento Rodriguez, Archbishop Emeritus of Manizales (Colombia);
  5. Luis Héctor Villaba, Archbishop Emeritus of Tucumán (Argentina)

* Why is the cardinal-elect from Portugal known as the “Patriarch” of Lisbon? A papal Bull (decree) in 1716 gave the cleric who presided at the college chapel cathedral the rank of patriarch. The patriarch was responsible for Western Lisbon and some other areas. The plan was that he would be created a cardinal at the first consistory following his appointment. Later, the patriarch became responsible for Eastern Lisbon and other areas formerly under the leadership of the archbishop of Lisbon because there was no need for an archbishop and a patriarch at the same time.

** What is the Prefect for the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura? The Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura is a court of justice, in this case the supreme court of justice for the Vatican that also ensures that justice in the Church is correctly administered. The prefect is the chief officer of this tribunal.

*** What is the Major Pro-Penitentiary Emeritus? This is the Vatican court of mercy that deals with issues such as excommunication, indulgences, and so on. Emeritus is a Latin term that describes a person who has retired from a post.

**** What is an apostolic nuncio? An apostolic nuncio is a Church diplomat to a state or international organization.

Sources:

  • Elizabeth Dias, “Pope Francis Surprises Again: 20 New Cardinals, None from USA.” January 4, 2015, Time, http://time.com/3652935/pope-francis-cardinals/
  • Robert Mickens, “Francis chooses new cardinals from the margins,” January 5, 2015, National Catholic Reporter Online, http://ncronline.org/blogs/roman-observer/francis-chooses-new-cardinals-margins
  • Andrea Tornielli, “Pius XII and Benedict XVI’s “global” Consistories,” January 5, 2015, Vatican Insider, http://vaticaninsider.lastampa.it/en/the-vatican/detail/articolo/pio-xii-pacelli-papa-pope-concistoro-concistory-concistorio-38389/.

November 13, 2014

Pope Francis and his Top Ten Secrets to Happiness

The search for happiness is a universal human quest. Although our deepest desires for happiness can only be fulfilled by God in Heaven, there are steps that Christians can take to experience more joy here in this lifetime. Pope Francis recently addressed this quest by offering his own “Top Ten Secrets to Happiness.” Use the Pope’s list as a segue for a lesson on the same topic. But don’t share the Pope’s list until the end of the lesson. Here are some suggested steps:

  1. Put your students in pairs and assign each pair to develop their own “Top Ten Secrets to Happiness.”
  2. List the ideas that students came up with on the board, putting checks next to tips that are most frequently suggested. Invite students to explain their thoughts more clearly if you or other students look puzzled by some of their suggestions. If two or more ideas are very similar, group them together.
  3. Then ask students to identify which, if any, of their ideas do they think would also be on Pope Francis’  “top ten secrets to happiness.” Engage in conversation as the students select or reject some of their own ideas, saying things like, “Don’t you think the Pope might appreciate good sportsmanship or dislike hypocrisy?”
  4. Finally, display Pope Francis’ “Top 10 Secrets for Happiness.” Go over the list with the students and ask them to come up with ways that the Pope’s ideas could translate into their own lives and concerns.

October 30, 2014

Ongoing Efforts to End World Hunger

 

Last December, Caritas Internationalis, the international umbrella organization for Catholic Charities, began a worldwide initiative to combat hunger, called “Food for All.” They recently sponsored a world hunger week. The efforts to curtail food shortages and bring sustenance to everyone in the world is an ongoing issue. Catholic Relief Services provides many resources you could use to involve your students in this task. They are all available here. Consider trying one or more of these suggestions with your students.

1. Play a five minute video “ (Italian with subtitles) in which the Pope reads a statement encouraging people to address hunger.

You may want to encourage students to note down key phrases from the Pope’s address rather than asking them to follow the whole presentation. Students may jot down a Gospel story that teaches about hunger, statistics about hunger, and statements about their own responsibility to deal with the issue. Discuss what Pope Francis has to say.

2. Suggestions for a Prayer Service including relevant scripture readings, liturgical music, and sample prayers of the faithful. These suggestions could be used for a Mass as well as for a non-Eucharistic liturgy. There is also a prayer service for Eucharistic Adoration and Benediction.

3. A one-minute video portraying the allegory of hungry people with long spoons who cannot feed themselves but figure out that they can use those long spoons to feed each other. You may want to pause the video half-way to see if students can come to the conclusion themselves that feeding each other would be a way to ensure that all are fed.

4. A prayer for the anti-hunger campaign as well as a mealtime prayer for people who are hungry. There are also special prayers of intercession for the people of South Sudan. You can also have students write their own prayers, whether they be prayers of intercession or longer ones.

5. A “10 Commandments for a Future without Hunger” which will inspire good discussion as the issues it raises refers to structures of injustice and international concerns. You may want to divide your class into small groups to research some of the issues raised in greater depth prior to discussion.

6. The activity “Eating is a Moral Act” that invites students to engage more personally in the issues surrounding hunger.

7. Stories about successful efforts to help people combat poverty and hunger.

8. Links to Catholic Resources about hunger and to US and International organizations that are also combating hunger.

9. Facts about hunger.

10. Catholic Social Teaching Quotes on Poverty and Hunger.

 

The CRS Partnership Newsletter also provides relevant information including prayers for different communities in the world who are suffering right now. The September / October 2014 newsletter provides a link to the online CRS Annual Report which has information about different issues CRS addresses, presented so that it would not overwhelm students. It also mentions a CRS multimedia contest that some of your students may want to enter. See this link for sign up information from CRS. The current newslette can be found here.

 

October 21, 2014

An Additional Lesson on Death and Dying

Here's a followup to the case of Britany Maynard, the 29 year-old woman with brain cancer who moved from California to Oregon to take advantage of Oregon’s physician assisted suicide law, the Oregon Death with Dignity Act. She had learned that she had six months to live, knew a bit about how those months could play out, and decided that she would prefer to end her life rather than suffer as she imagined she would.

Can all deaths be considered dignified? What about soldiers who die because of an explosive device or who are otherwise killed in battle, people in car accidents, or those who are victims of violence? Would this woman’s death be any less dignified if she died in a hospital bed and suffering pain?

Jason Welle, SJ tells a different story about his 45 year-old brother who was given six months to live in his article, “On Love and Dignity and Dying,” on The Jesuit Post website. This may be a good article for discussing euthanasia with your students. With a six month diagnoses, Jason’s brother Tony too wondered if taking his own life would be justified. Tony’s diagnoses was cancer of the bile duct, a cancer that had spread to the lymph nodes.

Here are some issues in the article that you may want to discuss with your students.

1. Because of a biliary drainage catheter and chemotherapy, Tony lived far beyond the six months initially diagnosed. He traveled and enjoyed many of the same activities he had prior to the diagnoses. Did Tony live his life with greater appreciation during that time because of the cancer? How might Tony have grown spiritually during this time?

2. Because he lived longer, Tony was able to join his brother and mother in caring for his father who had lung and bone cancer. How did his extended lifetime enable him to love his father through his final illness? Do you think that his dad’s lung cancer enabled Tony to think of himself not simply as a cancer patient but as someone who was greatly needed by his parents? How might he have grown spiritually during this illness and his father’s death?

3. Shortly after his father’s death, when Tony heard that there were no further treatment options for him, he chose to stay at home with hospice rather than receive further medical care. They managed his pain with his desire to be alert. People came by and said their good-byes. He received the Anointing of the Sick, and died hours later. Jason said that his brother’s journey through his illness showed that Tony was very courageous and heroic. How did Tony’s life after diagnosis cultivate courage and heroism? Were these traits signs of spiritual growth?

4. Jason learned a great deal about what it means to die through the loss of his father and brother months apart. Early on, he had asked Tony to allow those who loved him to love him through his final months. How were his final months a gift from Tony to his mother and brother?

If Tony had made the decision to “die with dignity,” as the California woman plans to do, he would have missed both exciting experiences and the ability to help his mom care for his father. He would have suffered less pain, perhaps, but contrary to what “death with dignity” suggests, pain brings suffering but not a lack of dignity. Each person has God-given dignity that others cannot take away that lasts through death and is not threatened by violence, pain, or messiness. And with God’s help, a person can grow spiritually even as his or her body declines.

 

 

 

 

September 26, 2014

Expecting Shane

Jenna and Dan Haley of Philadelphia learned their unborn son, Shane, had anencephaly, a condition which means that he would be born without parts of his brain and skull and that he would die shortly after birth. Knowing that they would have only a short period of time with their son, they created a “bucket list” for Shane of places and activities that they loved and wanted to share with their son. They went to zoos and aquariums, key spots in New York City, beaches in New Jersey and Delaware, Philadelphia Phillies and Philadelphia Flyers games, the boardwalk in Ocean City, MD, two churches in Philadelphia, a concert, additional baseball games, parks, and the Franklin Institute in their own city.

They took many photos of the two of them during this process, many of them holding Jenna’s pregnant belly.

Ask your students to imagine and create statements that describe Jenna and Dan’s beliefs about the gift of life. Create a list on the board of student observations about the Haley’s values. They may include statements like this:

  • They value unborn Shane as much as a child outside the womb.
  • They value their time with Shane as a gift.
  • They celebrate Jenna’s pregnancy and enjoy hearing their son’s heartbeat and little kicking feet all the more.
  • They know that Shane has a soul and will return to God who created him.
  • They focus on Shane rather than simply on themselves.

Then create a second column next to the first one and ask students to take each statement and rephrase it with an opposing point of view.  The first opposing statement might read, “Shane’s anencephaly is an insurmountable problem.”

Ask students follow-up questions:

  • Which types of views do you witness most in society today?
  • How might society change if more people viewed each person as the Haleys view Shane?
  • What impact does this story have on you? How might Jenna and Dan’s choices challenge how some people think?

You may want to close this discussion by mentioning that almost 220,000 people are following this couple’s story on Facebook. Their page is “Prayers for Shane.” Shane is due to be born on October 12, 2014. The students can continue following the story here.

July 30, 2014

Christians in the Middle East: A Crucial Issue to Keep in the Forefront

Christians in the Middle East and North Africa are facing a crisis. Forced to leave their ancestral homes and abandon their churches or face death, the situation is truly harrowing. Pope Francis prayed for an end to Christian persecution in the Middle East after Christians were forced to flee the village of Mosul in Iraq following threats from the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIS), a jihadist militant group.

Mosul’s Christians (who had been in the Mosul for 1700 years) and had numbered over 30,000 dwindled to just a few thousands. Besides ISIS, other minority groups such as Yazidis, Shabaks, and Shiite Turkmen have killed a significant number of Christians in extrajudicial executions. They also destroyed churches and Christian symbols.

Christians have faced persecutions in the Middle East for centuries. After the seventh century Arab Muslim conquest of the Middle East and North Africa, the Christian population dwindled there until Christians comprised only ten percent of the Islamic Empire. Internally, the Great Schism of 1054 that caused a divide between the Eastern churches and the Western or Roman Church played a factor in limiting the number of Roman Catholics in the Middle East. However, many Roman Catholics did participate in the Crusades and some remained in the Middle East as a minority after the Crusades ended.

Then, in the thirteenth century, the Maronite Church (the largest Christian Church in Lebanon today) came back into communion with the Roman Catholic Church. In the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, some members more Eastern Churches returned to communion with the Roman Church; for example, Greek Catholics, Syrian Catholics, Armenian Catholics, Coptic Catholics, and the Chaldean Catholic Church. In modern times, Chaldean Catholics have made up the largest Christian community in Iraq.

The number of Christians in the Middle East began to decline in the twentieth century. Why? Obviously, there has been a rise of more aggressive forms of Islam rather than forms that coexisted peacefully with Christians. Also, in the Holy Land, ten percent of the population was Christian prior to the foundation of the State of Israel. As Jews immigrated to the area, Christians emigrated away. Emigration and a declining birth rate have caused the number of Christians to fall to two to three percent of the population in Israel.

Unfortunately, whatever freedom allowed Christian communities in the past has come back to haunt them. That Christians were allowed by previous regimes such as those of Saddam Hussein in Iraq, Bashar al-Assad in Syria, and Mohamed Morsi and his predecessors in Egypt to coexist peacefully may have become justifications for Islamic groups to consider Christians their enemies. These regimes were associated with Western imperialism. Christians are also facing attacks from militant Islamic groups in other parts of the world, particularly South Sudan, the Central African Republic, and Nigeria.

Sadly, if nothing is done soon, Christians may disappear from the very lands that Jesus walked, the birthplace of the faith. The United States and European governments have not yet done much to advocate on Christians’ behalf:  Time Magazine correspondent Roland Flamini wrote:  “Christians see themselves as between a rock and a hard place. Arab fundamentalists increasingly see them as pawns of the West, while the West actually ignores their plight.”

Pope Francis preached to the crowd gathered in St. Peter’s Square: “Violence isn't overcome with violence. Violence is conquered with peace. Our brothers and sisters are persecuted, they are chased away."

 

Further Information

Daniel Estrin, “Christian Exodus from Middle East Shadows Papal Visit to the Holy Land,” Huffington Post.

Roland Flamini, “Forced Exodus: Christians in the Middle East,” World Affairs, November/December 2013.

Alissa J. Rubin, “ISIS Forces Last Iraqi Christians to Flee Mosul,” The New York Times, July 18,

2014.

July 21, 2014

Who Are the Children at the United States/Mexico Border?

The media has been buzzing with information about young people crossing the border in Texas primarily and in Arizona. There is much political dialogue about what to do and of course, who is to blame.

Here are some basic points for information and clarification:

1. Children are seeking only to immigrate to the United States.

In addition to the United States, children are seeking asylum in Mexico, Costa Rica, Panama, and Belize according to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. (USA Today)

2. Parents send their children to the United States by themselves.

A good percentage of the children who are coming to the United States for asylum already have family, often parents, in the U.S. who immigrated years ago when the U.S. had more lenient policies for immigrants from their countries. The children have not seen their loved ones in years.

3. Children want to come to this country for better opportunities.

The Department for Homeland Security has analyzed the reasons why children have been making the journey to the US. While Guatemalan children from rural areas may be seeking economic opportunities, most Honduran and Salvadoran children come from such violent regions in their countries (as well as poverty) that they think that they are less likely to die on the dangerous route to the U.S., even by themselves.

Gang violence is out of control in Honduras, El Salvador, and urban Guatemala. Young children encounter gangs at school and the neighborhood and even those kids who are completely uninterested in these groups are exhorted and threatened. Sixty percent of the children who arrive at the border have been beaten, robbed, or threatened by gang members. Thirty percent of the girls have experienced threats of sexual violence or actual experiences of that violence, including rape. The homicide rate in Honduras is the highest in the world for countries who are not at war.

4. Nobody but politicians are saying much less doing anything about this.

The United States government is working with the governments of the Central American countries to counter the message promoted by human smugglers that minors arriving at the U.S. border will be able to stay. The Mexican government discourages people from traveling through Mexico to the border because migrants are often victims of violent crimes such as kidnapping, robbery, and rape, as well as victims to the harsh weather conditions .Bishops from the Central American countries as well as this country have committed themselves to keeping migrants as safe as possible and to support efforts in their countries of origin to discourage young people from leaving. The chairman of the U.S. bishops’ committee on migration has called people to think of solidarity at a global level. The Pope has asked that the children be welcomed and protected and that people deal with their fear and the indifference of a “throwaway culture”

Ave Maira Press Mini-Unit on Immigration

To study the Migration issue in more depth, please see the Ave Maria Press free mini-unit on the subject. It accompanies the video Dying to Live: A Migrant's Journey.

For additional information:

David Agren, “Bishops from five countries ask society to confront migration issues,” July 11, 2014, Catholic News Service, www.catholicnews.com.

Department for Homeland Security, Map of “Unaccompanied Alien Children (UACs) by Location of Origin for CY 2014: Honduras, El Salvador, and Guatemala,” 27 May 2014.

Josephine McKenna, “Pope Francis: End the ‘racist and xenophobic’ approach to migrants along U.S.-Mexico border,” July 15, 2014, National Catholic Reporter, ncronline.org.

Bob Ortega, “Questions surround surge in migrant kids left at the border,” USA Today, June 10, 2014, www.usatoday.com.

June 2, 2014

Listening to the Voices of Women Entering Religious Life

“American Women, American Nuns” is an audio recording with quality reflections about different dimensions of American women in religious life.

WBUR interviewed four young women May 27, 2014 who are discerning religious life or who are in formation. The total interview runs forty-six minutes. You might begin the audio in a class session and assign the rest for homework.These are the participants.

  • Sr. Colleen Gibson is 28 years old and graduated at the top of her class at Fairfield University. She is in formation with the Sisters of St. Joseph.
  • Danielle Gagnon is a graduate of Assumption College and discerning her call to religious life with the Sisters of Mercy.
  • Sr. Josephine Garrett graduated from the University of Dallas and is in formation with the Sisters of the Holy Family of Nazareth.
  • Sr. Patricia Dowling is a vocation director with the Sisters of the Bon Secours

Follow-up Questions

These are some questions that you can ask your students to respond to during the interview or afterwards.

  1. Sr. Colleen Gibson talked about her parents’ response to her interest in religious life. What were some of the issues that concerned her parents? How did Sr. Colleen ultimately interpret her parents’ concerns?
  2. How have Danielle Gagnon’s friends who have a more secular orientation reacted to her discernment process?
  3. What are some interesting parts of Sr. Josephine Garrett’s story? In particular, what role did her choice of college have in shaping her future?
  4. What is Sr. Pat’s role as a vocation director in helping young women discern religious life? How do women often find her congregation? What might be some issues that would prevent a woman from entering religious life?
  5. The father who has two children entering religious life suggested that discernment is really for all people no matter what walk of life they take. What is your opinion of his statement?
  6. How do these women understand their roles as “women in the Church” in the sense that women in the Catholic Church do not have the same authority as men?
  7. What is one way that the sisters as young women have responded to the number of aging sisters in their religious communities?
  8. Sr, Josephine wears a habit but Sr. Colleen does not. What do each of them like about their own way of dressing as a sister?

May 14, 2014

Prayer for Pope Francis’ Trip to the Middle East

From May 24 – 26, Pope Francis will be visiting Jordan, Palestine, and Israel. Father Rifat Bader who is organizing the trip, wrote this prayer in honor of the visit. Pray for the Holy Father's safety, the people of the Holy Land, and the success of his trip.

 

Heavenly Father,
you never tire of being compassionate and loving,
the successor of St. Peter, His Holiness Pope Francis,
plans to visit the Holy Land sanctified by your Son’s birth,
baptism, teaching, death and resurrection,
be with him, sanctify and bless him,
spread the mantle of your kindness over every stage of his pilgrimage among us,
that one may we see in him a believing pilgrim, a wise teacher, and a humble leader

Lord Jesus Christ,
as you prayed for the unity of your Church, saying, “may they all be one”,
make the meeting in Jerusalem between the Holy Father and the Ecumenical Patriarch an incentive to increase our efforts for the unity of your children,
Make the encounter of the Pope with the political authorities fruitful for justice and peace,
protect all the residents of this land and the adherents of the religions of the Middle East,
so that they may be in harmony, dialogue and cooperation for the achievement of full citizenship

Good Shepherd,
whose image Pope Francis carries on his pectoral cross,
walking in the spirit of humility with which you have graced him:
deepen within us the awareness of our Christian identity,
that as true disciples,
we may bear witness to your Good News and your resurrection
in our churches, our society, and all the world,
especially by serving the sick, the poor and the refugees.

Bless, Lord Most Holy, this fourth papal visit to our Holy Land,
through the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary, St. Joseph,
all the saints of the Holy Land,
and the two new saints, John Paul II and John XXIII, Amen.

 

May 2, 2014

Divergent in the Classroom

Veronica Roth’s trilogy, beginning with the book and movie Divergent, has been a recent hit with teens. Sixteen-year-old Tris and eighteen-year-old “Four” live in the remnants of Chicago, an area ravaged by war, surrounded by a guarded fence. Their society is divided into five factions: Abnegation, Erudite, Amity, Candor, and Dauntless. At age sixteen, citizens are tested and decide whether or not they would like to stay in the faction of their family of origin or whether they would like to join a different faction. Some citizens are “homeless” or “factionless,” literally and figuratively if they have failed their faction’s initiation, if the faction expelled them, or if they left it voluntarily. The “divergent” are citizens whose minds are most flexible and could live in more than one faction.

This last group is the target of Jeanine whose declared purpose is to create peace in the city. The divergent are more difficult to control and thus pose a challenge to her desire to be completely in charge. Tris and Four are divergent and fight against this woman’s attempt to wipe them out and their home faction of Abnegation.

 

Theology Connections/Assignments

While this book and movie have many interesting angles, these are some more closely related to theology.

1. Each of the factions was created in order to combat a human characteristic that contributed to the war that almost completely destroyed Chicago.

  • Abnegation or selflessness is a response to selfishness such as vanity, greed and envy. These people served others and led the city.
  • Erudite or knowledgeable is a response to ignorance. People from this faction were teachers and scholars.
  • Amity or peaceful is a response to violence and aggression. These people grew food for the city.
  • Candor or truthfulness is a response to deceit. People from this faction served in the legal field.
  • Dauntless or fearlessness is a response to cowardice. The Dauntless provide protection from the outside world and within the city

Ask students, in small groups, to take the seven deadly or capital sins and create factions to combat them, defining the virtue that counteracts the vice and the role of each group in a small society. Christianity encourages growth in virtue. How does the approach from Divergent resemble and differ from the Christian approach?

Ask small groups to take one of the capital sins and match it to a Divergent faction. If some do not fit, ask students to create additional factions to supplement the Divergent five.

 

2. While there is some mention of religion here and there in the book, it is not a major topic. Tris’s father explains that focusing on those who believe versus those who do not simply causes further division.

  • Where in the book/movie do students see behavior that is typically religious?
  • How might a shared faith have united the different factions?

 

3. Jeanine justifies killing some citizens in order to gain control over the majority of the people so that there will be peace.

  • Do modern nations use this rationale in warfare? Can controlled people really have peace?

 

Summary

You may have noticed that the heroine of the story is named Beatrice (Tris) and that the factions focus on a virtue that counteracts a vice is somewhat like Dante’s Purgatorio. Delving a bit into the way that Dante envisions Purgatory as a place that undoes vices through virtue might interest the students and provoke interesting conversation. If you worked on the seven deadly sins then this would be an interesting follow-up

February 10, 2014

National Marriage Week February 7 – 14, 2014

Teaching about Marriage can be a challenge sometimes because you want to give the students an understanding of the Sacrament while not offending those whose loved ones are divorced, live together, or are remarried outside of the Church. How can you teach the students why it is important to prepare for strong marriages without seeming to condemn students’ families?

There are multiple ways of being sensitive and using “objective” data about marriage is one of them. “Secular” scholars conduct multiple studies on marriage in the USA, and much of what they find supports Church teaching about the importance of marriage and the potential dangers of cohabitation. Some studies also mention the economic impact of various relationships on adults and children.

Secular Studies on Marriage

The National Marriage Project regularly publishes The State of Our Unions, Marriage in America (SOU) studies. The final section of the 2012 document, “Social Indicators of Marital Health & Well-being, Trends of the Past Five Decades,” provides statistics about marriage, divorce, unmarried cohabitation, the role of the child, fragile families and information about teen attitudes about marriage and family.

Although the National Marriage Week Website can point you to some in-depth research, it also has some shorter resources that can help discussions such as the two page summary of Why Marriage Matters, Thirty Conclusions from the Social Sciences, Third Edition, and “The Ten Myths of Divorce.”

Ideas for Using the Resources

• You may want to use the information in the State of Our Unions to compare their own hopes to the 88 percent of American teens who wanted to marry someday. (SOU, p. 107)

• Ask if their experience corresponds with the data that married adults are happier than single, widowed, or divorced adults. (Over 60 percent of married people said that they were “very happy” in their marriages.) (SOU, pp. 62, 68)

• See if they agree with the statistics that say that children and their issues are receiving less attention than they did in the past. (SOU, pp. 84 – 88)

• Look at the handout, “The Top Ten Myths About Divorce” with your students and ask them to compare some of the information against their own life experience.

• Ask students, Why would a couple live together rather than marry? Do you think that living together benefits both men and women equally? Do children benefit equally when their parents’ live together and when they marry? (SOU, pp. 76 – 78)

• Ask them to think about why married people are wealthier than their single counterparts? (SOU, pp. 79-83)

As a summary, you may then want to strategize with them about the best steps to take going forward to increase their chances of having a successful marriage.

January 20, 2014

New Cardinals Reflect the Global Church

On January 12, Pope Francis announced that there would be nineteen new cardinals in the Catholic Church. The interesting thing about the selections is that a majority of the new cardinals come from places other than Europe, North America, or the Vatican itself. Here are the names and places of all the new cardinals. Note the variety of locales.

• Fernando Sebastian Aguilar, C. M. F., Archbishop Emeritus, Pamplona, Spain

• Ricardo Ezzati Andrello, S.D.B., Archbishop of Santiago del Cile, Chile

• Lorenzo Baldisseri, Titular Archbishop of Dioclenziana, Secretary General of the Synod of Bishops (Vatican)

• Gualtiero Bassetti, Archbishop of Perugia-Città della Pieve, Italy

• Loris Francesco Capovilla, Titular Archbihop of Mesembria, former personal secretary of Blessed Pope John XXIII

• Kelvin Edward Felix, Archbishop emeritus of Castries

• Jean-Pierre Kutwa, Archbishop of Abidjan, Ivory Coast

• Gérald Cyprien Lacroix, Archbishop of Québec, Canada

• Chibly Langlois, Bishop of Les Cayes, Haiti

• Gerhard Ludwig Muller, Archbishop-Bishop emeritus of Regensburg, Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (Vatican)

• Vincent Nichols, Archbishop of Westminster, Great Britain

• Philippe Nakellentuba Ouédraogo, Archbishop of Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso

• Pietro Parolin, Titular Archbishop of Acquapendente, Secretary of State

• Mario Auerelio Poli, Archbishop of Buenos Aires, Argentina

• Orlando B. Quevedo, O.M.I., Archbishop of Cotabato, Philippines

• Leopoldo José Brenes Solórzano, Archbishop of Managua, Nicaragua

• Andrew Yeom Soo jung, Archbishop of Seoul, Korea

• Beniamino Stella, Titular Archbishop of Midila, Prefect of the Congregation for the Clergy (Vatican)

• Orani João Tempesta, O.Cist., Archbishop of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

There are several aspects of these appointments that your students can research if time allows.

Assignment 1

Group the cardinals in various categories. Here are some sample ways:

• Cardinals from the Vatican central bureaucracy – those with “titular archbishop” after their names

• Cardinals from countries with the largest number of Catholics: Brazil and the Philippines

• Only non-Vatican bureaucrat from Europe: Arch. Vincent Nichols

• Sole North American appointment: Arch. Gérald Lacroix

• Cardinals with Distinguished Service who are over 80 years old: Archbishops Loris Capovilla, Archbishop Aguilar, C.M.F.; Archbishop Felix

• Cardinals from Central, South America and the Caribbean: Archbishop Solórzano of Managua, Nicaragua; Archbishop Tempesta, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil; Archbishop Poli of Buenos Aires, Argentina; Archbishop Andrello of Santiago, Chile; Archbishop Langlois of Les Cayes, Haiti

• Cardinals from Africa and Asia: Archbishop Kutwa of Abidjan, Ivory Coast; Archbishop of Ouédraogo of Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso; Archbishop Quevado, of Cotabato, Philippines, Archbishop Soo jung of Seoul, Korea

Assignment 2

Research several topics related to the title cardinal. For example:

• The history behind the college of cardinals’ size

• The significance of turning 80 years old for cardinals

• The responsibilities of cardinals versus those who are just archbishops

• The reason why Pope Francis may have not appointed any cardinals in the US

• The reason why it is important for there to be more cardinals from the Southern Hemisphere

• The nature of “titular archbishops”

Assignment 3

Research the places where the cardinals come from. (If you want each student to have his or her own cardinal to research, select cardinals out of the college that represent the global nature of the Church.) Include in a report:

• Size of diocese or archdiocese in terms of square miles and population

• Name of the cathedral

• Information about the cardinal-elect such as age, length of time in position, former positions, interests, etc.

• Names of any other bishops, auxiliary or emeritus, also in the archdiocese

• Literacy rate for people in archdiocese (may have to find the info. for a larger area, in some cases the country as a whole)

• Poverty rate for people in archdiocese

• Other religions practiced by a significant number of people in area

After having researched the cardinals’ archdioceses, students can compare the information they found.

• How much do the archdioceses range in size? Population? Number of priests and religious? Numbers of bishops?

• How many cardinals head archdioceses that are in countries that are primarily Catholic? Primarily Christian? Primarily non-Christian? How might these different situations affect the cardinals?

• How many cardinals head archdioceses that are wealthy versus poor, literate versus illiterate, and so on? What are implications for these cardinals?

Suggestion: Group the students by the cardinals’ region so that your students might be able to research and identify issues facing the Church in Africa, Asia, Central and South America, Europe, North America, and Oceania.

Assignment 4

Note the religious orders of some of the cardinals. Several of the cardinals belong to religious orders. Ask the students to provide more information on these religious orders.

January 14, 2014

Don't Let Go of Christmas Just Yet!

As you settle back into a new semester, don't let Christmas go without sharing and reflecting on the Christmas message of Pope Francis.

While the Pope’s Christmas message may be too long to address with the students in one class period, here are three ways you might use the prayer in the classroom.

  1. Take parts of the prayer and use them as intentions or prayer with your students.

  2. Invite your students to research some of the people for whom the pope prays so that they can inform their peers about the pope’s concerns.

  3. Select passages to discuss such as this one about peace: “True peace is not a balance of opposing forces. It is not a lovely “façade” which conceals conflicts and divisions. Peace calls for daily commitment, starting from God’s gift, from the grace which he has given us in Jesus Christ.”

Text of the Pope’s Christmas Message

Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace among those whom he favors (Lk 2:14)

Dear brothers and sisters in Rome and throughout the world, Happy Christmas!

I take up the song of the angels who appeared to the shepherds in Bethlehem on the night when Jesus was born. It is a song which unites heaven and earth, giving praise and glory to heaven, and the promise of peace to earth and all its people.

I ask everyone to share in this song: it is a song for every man or woman who keeps watch through the night, who hopes for a better world, who cares for others while humbly seeking to do his or her duty.

Glory to God!

Above all else, this is what Christmas bids us to do: give glory to God, for he is good, he is faithful, he is merciful. Today I voice my hope that everyone will come to know the true face of God, the Father who has given us Jesus. My hope is that everyone will feel God’s closeness, live in his presence, love him and adore him.

May each of us give glory to God above all by our lives, by lives spent for love of him and of all our brothers and sisters.

Peace to mankind

True peace is not a balance of opposing forces. It is not a lovely “façade” which conceals conflicts and divisions. Peace calls for daily commitment, starting from God’s gift, from the grace which he has given us in Jesus Christ.

Looking at the Child in the manger, our thoughts turn to those children who are the most vulnerable victims of wars, but we think too of the elderly, to battered women, to the sick… Wars shatter and hurt so many lives!

Too many lives have been shattered in recent times by the conflict in Syria, fueling hatred and vengeance. Let us continue to ask the Lord to spare the beloved Syrian people further suffering, and to enable the parties in conflict to put an end to all violence and guarantee access to humanitarian aid. We have seen how powerful prayer is! And I am happy today too, that the followers of different religious confessions are joining us in our prayer for peace in Syria. Let us never lose the courage of prayer! The courage to say: Lord, grant your peace to Syria and to the whole world.

Grant peace to the Central African Republic, often forgotten and overlooked. Yet you, Lord, forget no one! And you also want to bring peace to that land, torn apart by a spiral of violence and poverty, where so many people are homeless, lacking water, food and the bare necessities of life. Foster social harmony in South Sudan, where current tensions have already caused numerous victims and are threatening peaceful coexistence in that young state.

Prince of Peace, in every place turn hearts aside from violence and inspire them to lay down arms and undertake the path of dialogue. Look upon Nigeria, rent by constant attacks which do not spare the innocent and defenseless. Bless the land where you chose to come into the world, and grant a favourable outcome to the peace talks between Israelis and Palestinians. Heal the wounds of the beloved country of Iraq, once more struck by frequent acts of violence.

Lord of life, protect all who are persecuted for your name. Grant hope and consolation to the displaced and refugees, especially in the Horn of Africa and in the eastern part of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Grant that migrants in search of a dignified life may find acceptance and assistance. May tragedies like those we have witnessed this year, with so many deaths at Lampedusa, never occur again!

Child of Bethlehem, touch the hearts of all those engaged in human trafficking, that they may realize the gravity of this crime against humanity. Look upon the many children who are kidnapped, wounded and killed in armed conflicts, and all those who are robbed of their childhood and forced to become soldiers.

Lord of heaven and earth, look upon our planet, frequently exploited by human greed and rapacity. Help and protect all the victims of natural disasters, especially the beloved people of the Philippines, gravely affected by the recent typhoon.

Dear brothers and sisters, today, in this world, in this humanity, is born the Saviour, who is Christ the Lord. Let us pause before the Child of Bethlehem. Let us allow our hearts to be touched, let us allow ourselves to be warmed by the tenderness of God; we need his caress. God is full of love: to him be praise and glory forever! God is peace: let us ask him to help us to be peacemakers each day, in our life, in our families, in our cities and nations, in the whole world. Let us allow ourselves to be moved by God’s goodness.

December 16, 2013

In Expectation of the Canonization of Blessed Peter Faber

Some time within the next week, Pope Francis is expected to announce the canonization of one of his favorite Jesuits, Blessed Peter Faber. The process will be the unique "equivalent canonization" in which the pope inserts the name of a person into the universal calendar of saints without verifying a miracle and without a formal canonization ceremony. In anticipation of the event, share some information on the life of Peter Faber. Have your students monitor the news stories from the Vatican on what might take place around this issue.

Brief Biography

Peter Faber grew up in a poor family and was a shepherd in the Alps. He wanted so much to go to school that he would cry himself to sleep. So, finally, his parents sent him to school where he easily learned the basics and progressed forward in the educational system. Peter’s roommate at the University of Paris was Francis Xavier and later, Ignatius Loyola. While Peter tutored Ignatius academically, Ignatius helped Peter decide what God was calling him to. He decided to become a priest.

The pope appointed Peter Faber to the faculty of Rome’s Sapienza University. He was also assigned to participate in a Catholic/Protestant meeting in Worms and Ratisbon. In his spare time, he gave the Spiritual Exercises retreat to many people. King John III then asked him to establish the Society of Jesus in Portugal. On the way to the Council of Trent, he stopped in Rome to visit Ignatius. Faber had been suffering from a fever and died at the age of 40 in the company of St. Ignatius.

More information on the life of Bl. Peter Faber is available here.

Discussion Points

  1. The Society of Jesus (Jesuits) sprung from the friendships of three university roommates. How much impact do you think college roommates will have in your life?

  2. On the one hand, Peter Faber was sent by others to accomplish various assignments. On the other hand, everywhere he went he heard confessions, counseled people, and led them in the Spiritual Exercises. How much freedom do you anticipate having as an adult? Would you be available to travel to do good works?

  3. Look at Italy, Spain, and Portugal via Google Maps or some other similar tool. Peter Faber walked all over Italy and all the way to Portugal and back to Rome. What kind of toll do you think this took on his health?

  4. Peter Faber suffered from depression and anxiety and found himself especially susceptible to thoughts that would violate his vows as a Jesuit. He found that the wisdom from the Spiritual Exercises helped him recognize his different states of mind including Satan’s temptations. How do you think that this experience made it harder for him to give retreats to other people or give him insight that would help the retreatants?

December 9, 2013

Matching Quiz: Early Advent Saints

These saints have feast days in early December. You may want to give this matching assignment to individual students or to groups of four so students can pool their common knowledge. Complete the matching by working on any empty spots with the whole class or ask students to research the answers on their own. Students could also look into each of the saints, learn more about them and share their findings with their classmates.

Column 1

  1. An appearance of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Mexico to St. Juan Diego

  2. One of the first Jesuits who preached the Gospel to India, Ceylon, Malacca, and Japan in the sixteenth century

  3. Born into poverty in sixteenth century Spain, this Carmelite monk was a reformer with St. Teresa of Avila. While imprisoned by his own order, he wrote beautiful mystical poetry

  4. A fourth century pope who commissioned St. Jerome to translate the Bible into Latin

  5. The son of wealthy Christian parents in fourth century Asia Minor. He was famous for his generosity, became a bishop and fought against Arianism

  6. A priest who lived in the seventh and eighth centuries AD who wrote religious poetry and defended Christianity against heresies

  7. A fourth century governor of Milan, who was popularly appointed bishop because he encouraged Christians and Arians to work together peacefully

  8. A martyr of the third and fourth century, killed because she rejected a man who then accused her of being a Christian

Column 2

a. St. Francis Xavier (3)

b. St. John Damascene (4)

c. St. Nicholas (6)

d. St. Ambrose (7)

e. St. Damasus I (11)

f. Our Lady of Guadalupe (12)

g. St. Lucy (13)

h. St. John of the Cross (14)

October 8, 2013

Judaism in the United States

The Pew Research Religion & Public Life Project just released “A Portrait of Jewish Americans.” This information comes from a poll and then analysis of the data obtained through the poll. You may find that some of this material would relate to your curriculum.

Scripture

  • What are the major differences between Orthodox, Conservative, and Reform Judaism? (This might lead to research.)
  • Which of these three groups is growing in size? (Orthodox, while the others are shrinking.)
  • Where do most Jews live today? (80 percent live in the U.S. or Israel.)

World Religions

  • Because a person can be Jewish because of their ancestry rather than their religious practice, what does being Jewish mean? (The report investigates this complex question.)
  • The number of people practicing Judaism has declined over the years. Does this decline resemble the change in practice for other religious groups in the U.S.? (The number of Jews, ages 18-29, who say they have no religion parallels the overall disaffiliation with religious groups in the US.)
  • When the Jewish people returned to rebuild Jerusalem after their exile in Babylon, the prophet Nehemiah discouraged the people from marrying non-Jews in order to preserve the faith. How does marrying outside of Judaism affect Jewish practice today? (Jews who marry other Jews are more likely to observe religious practices than those who marry a non-Jew. The former group are more likely to raise their children Jewish than the latter group.)

September 23, 2013

Homeless Man’s Return of Money Can Spark Discussion

Commissioner Edward Davis recently honored Glen James for the character James displayed when returning $42,000 in cash to its rightful owner on Saturday, September 14. Check out the complete story before exploring some questions like those below with your students.

Morality

  1. Would keeping money you found be considered stealing? What if it was a dollar bill or five dollar bill? Five hundred dollars without a person’s name with it? Five hundred dollars with a person’s name with it? More? Explain your reasoning for each case.

  2. Does Glen James’ status as homeless make his gesture more virtuous than the action of a person on the edge of poverty? A middle class person? A rich person? Explain.

  3. A man living in another state wants to raise $50,000 to honor and help Glen James out. Is “virtue its own reward” or does it warrant a monetary reward?

Faith

  • Glen James said that even if he was desperate for money, he would not have kept a penny of that money. He also said he is a religious man and that “God has always looked after him.” Though he did not say that he returned the money because of his faith, do you think that he did?

Social Justice

  • How do you think most employed Americans view homeless people? Do they perceive them to be virtuous? Why or why not? Do you think that Glen James’ actions may cause some people to perceive homeless people differently or will they just think that Glen James is the exception? Explain.

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