Tag Archives: faith formation

Catholic grandparents: Pass on the baton of faith

August 12, 2014

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“Preserving Your Family: Parents and grandparents working together,” by Dick Bergeson. Self-published. 89 pp. $9.95.

bookimageFormer Minnesotan Dick Bergeson has published a little paperback of advice that he hopes will motivate parents and grandparents to get to work passing on the faith.

Bergeson, long-active in the Catholic charismatic movement and now a grandfather and great-grandfather, shares Scripture-based ideas intended to help reverse what he terms “the exodus from our faith” by younger generations.

He echoes the urging of St. Pope John Paul II for Christian communities to become “schools of prayer,” noting that extended families need to provide both teaching about the faith and the supportive culture that has virtually disappeared from today’s world.

While much of the advice is aimed both at parents and grandparents, Bergeson writes, “It is important for grandparents to be conscious of the extraordinry position they hold in their families.”

The older generations hold a critical role in the faith formation of the whole family not the least of which is because “they have gone through may crises in life and know how invaluable a deep faith in Jesus is,” he notes. “They have seen God act in their lives and in the problems they have faced.”

Praying for family members is primary, along with practicing and teaching a variety of prayer forms, continuing to learn about the faith one’s self, providing a sense of propriety amid shifting cultural trends and living a life of integrity.

Bergeson sees grandparental involvement as handing off the baton of faith to the next generation.

“Grandparents have always provided the spiritual backbone of the family,” he notes. “Grandparents have live through life and have experienced losses, failures, struggles, deaths and have been able to see how God has acted and been there through each one of these crises of life.

He adds, “If they don’t step in, another generation will be lost.”

Bergeson urges mothers, father and grandparents to be a blessing to children and grandchildren.

“This means we need to give them words of encouragement and loving direction,” he says. “We need to remind them of who they are as persons. . . . The most important thing we can do for our children is to make sure they know they are loved and appreciated in our families.”

The overriding goal for all should be to “lay the groundwork for our offspring to get to heaven,” he says. “This is the only thing that matters in life and should affect all of our actions.”

The book is available at http://www.preservingyourfamily.com.

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Story of Jesus perfect for 4-to-8 year olds

May 12, 2014


Jesus coverLittle children run to Jesus on the cover of this Eerdmans Book for Young Readers, a wonderful image to draw the target age group — 4-to-8 years — into the story of Jesus’ life.
Benedictine Anselm Grün’s retelling of Gospel events is true to Catholic teaching, from the visitation through the nativity and more than a half-dozen highlights of New Testament stories up through Jesus’ death and resurrection.
The translation by Laura Watkinson keeps the language simple and age-appropriate, and Giuliano Ferri’s colorful artwork adds to the storytelling, bringing to life the calling of the disciples, for example, the stories of the multiplication of the loaves and fishes, the Prodigal Son, and the Last Supper.
Parents and teachers will find “Jesus” an excellent choice reading to children in a home schooling setting or early faith formation.

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5 steps to home schooling for Catholics

August 16, 2012


Before you jump into the deep end of home schooling your child or children — and even if you’re already in the water — make sure you pick up Pam Patnode’s new book on the subject.

Patnode’s been in the pool — and her “5 Steps toSuccessful Home Schooling” will help you keep afloat.

She shares what she’s learned in providing a home-based education to her own family, and even better applies to home schooling advice from other walks of life — business world best practices, for example — that seem to fit naturally to home schooling, too.

Best of all, Patnode’s work 150-page paperback is subtitled “How to Add Faith and focus to Your Home Education Program,” and although those of other faiths will find her advice useful, the parishioner at Holy Name of Jesus in Medina, MN, acknowledges that Catholics are the target audience.

Maybe that’s obvious from Patnode’s first step: Pray.

And she’s honest enough to point out that, if you decide to home school, you’ll need to pray. She writes, “Home schooling your children will likely bring you to your knees more often than few other things in life.”

She offers good suggestions and resources for each of the steps. While some of these are relatively recently developed, others are time-tested.

The encouragement to read good literature — classics like “To Kill a Mockingbird,” “The Giving Tree” and “The Secret Garden” — has been good advice for centuries.

The suggestion to use the coming Sunday’s Scripture readings as prayer with children harkens back more than half a century to “Our Children’s Year of Grace,” a widely used pamphlet written in 1943 by St. Paulite Therese Mueller, one of the first women’s voices in the Liturgical Movement.

Here are Patnode’s five steps for faith-based home schooling:

Step 1: Pray!

  • Pray alone, then pray with others. Both are important!
  • Pray first. Start each day in prayer.
  • Pray often. Consider times throughout the day when you can add prayer. Allow God to lead.

Step 2: Establish your mission

  • Ask the right questions!
  • Write a mission statement that defines your goals for home education.
  • Create a home education plan. Determine strategies and tactics to achieve your goals.
  • Review your plan regularly. Adjust according to specific needs of each child.

Step 3: Read quality literature

  • Believe in the value of reading.
  • Choose quality reading material.
  • Establish good reading habits.
    1. Model this behavior by reading yourself every day.
    2. Read aloud to your children and/or schedule independent reading time.
    3. Make reading as enjoyable as possible
    4. Limit screen time.
  • Seek out help and/or resources for the struggling reader.

Step 4: Get organized!

  • Organize your priorities first!
    1. God
    2. Spouse
    3. Children
    4. Work
  • Discern the number of regular activities and commitments in which you and your children are involved.
  • Schedule your daily routine.
  • Keep home school materials (in the area in which they are used) orderly.

Step 5: Find support

  • The support of your spouse is very important.
  • Consider joining a local home school support group or participating in or creating home school clubs, classes, or activities with your children.
  • Know where to find legal support if needed.
  • Attend home school conferences whenever possible.
  • Ensure that your kids connect with other home schooled children.
  • Take advantage of available resources for home schooling children with special needs.
Source: “5 Steps to Successful Home Schooling.” Philomena Press, Minneapolis.
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Catholics, time to brush up on things about your faith that you used to know — or thought you did?

March 21, 2012


We walk into church and the first thing we do is reach our fingers into the Holy Water fount.


Even better questions are, what benefit are we supposed to be getting, and, what are we supposed to be thinking about when we do it?

Johan van Parys, a Minneapolis liturgist, has the answers to those questions and more.

The director of liturgy and the sacred arts at the Basilica of St. Mary, he’s packaged them nicely in 150 reader-friendly pages in “Symbols That Surround Us: Faithful Reflections.” (Liguori Publications, $16.99)

Folks who haven’t had any exposure to things Catholic will find explanations for everything from church architecture to garb, from gestures to sacraments. But if it’s been some good while since Sister Mary Whats-her-name taught us that blessing ourselves with Holy Water upon entering church is a reminder of our baptismal vows, that we are members of Christ’s church, that we’re entering a holy place, a different atmosphere than the rest of the world, then you’ll get something out of reading this, too.

Van Parys reminds us that those ordinary elements of water, fire, bread and wine are symbols that “enable us to communicate on a deeper level . . . to express our faith in ways that would not be possible if we were to rely exclusively on words.”

He’s right on the money when he adds, “Although we may not always be aware of them, symbols surround us, connect us to sacred images found in our churches, remind us of our faith, and support us in our private and public prayer.”

Much to learn — or re-learn

Like a good teacher, van Parys sets the stage for comprehension by helping readers grasp the concept that nonverbal communication and symbols touch us everyday. Body language, for example, flowers on Mother’s Day, a hug to a grieving friend.

He quickly moves from the secular to the sacred, explaining, “When it comes to our faith, we use symbls even more readily to approach that which by definition cannot be explained or captured by words: the mysteries of creation and salvation. . . . The liturgy and the sacraments of the Catholic Church use symbols to share meaning and reveal deeper meaning.”

After that, the author is off and running, effectively quoting from the Catechism of the Catholic Church, the General Instructions of the Roman Missal, the documents of Vatican II and other authoritative works.

There’s much to grab onto here, the what and why of vestments worn at Mass, the meaning behind the use of the various oils during sacramental rites, how sacred art can connect us to God and the saints, and of course, the superb symbolism of bread and wine.

Bread, he simply writes, that becomes the Body of Christ, is for Catholics “weekly nourishment on our journey of faith.” And he’s honest enough to note this about the use of wine at Mass:

“Wine has been ascribed medicinal qualities: It was used to settle an upset stomach and to clean out wounds. Still, the principal quality of wine is to add festivity to a gathering and emphasize unity among those who share the cup.”

Perfect for discussion by groups

He’s unafraid to explain how some Catholic ritual evolved from pre-Christian peoples.

And there’s a marvelous chapter on sacred architecture as symbol that tackles why our churches look the way they do and how they’ve changed through 2,000 years. The book is richer for the personal anecdotes van Parys relates: I loved the one about the choir members who tossed their coats casually on the altar only to have the pastor come by and sweep the coats off in one fell swoop!

Each of the 10 chapters ends with a brief reflection and three questions to ponder and/or discuss.

After reading “Symbols That Surround Us” I could easily see it serving as the text for a small group for a number of sessions and as the focus of an adult faith formation series. Those who facilitate gatherings for the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA) might find it a nice supplementary resource.

But let me go back to my very first thought: I wasn’t halfway through “Symbols That Surround Us” when the lightbulb was turned on: I’d forgotten so many of these symbolic connections that enrich Catholic life. Reading van Parys’ little book will remind those of us in the over-50 crowd of some what we used to know — or at least had studied for the religion class test!

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Art-filled book helps kids know God is real

February 25, 2011


Believing God exists is a trial even for some grown-ups.

Now there’s a book that will help youngsters build a belief system — and it’s a good refresher course for adults, too.

In “Images of God for Young Children,” author Marie-Helene Delval offers dozens of ways to discover God in the world, from simple ideas like breath and light which we can’t see but know are real, to more concrete concepts like justice and covenant.

“God is a path” and “God is a promise” and “God is a mystery” are just some of the mind-pictures Delval’s words make us imagine. Illustrations by Barbara Nascimbeni have the child-like feel that will help young minds better grasp the ideas.

Adults will hear snatches of Holy Scripture in a number of places, and that’s because the Bible is the base for the teaching within the text.

It’s a text that’s not difficult but yet not simple either. The suggested target is ages 4 through 9, but that may be a stretch for the lower end of that group. You’d have to go with the it’s-never-too-young-to-start approach and not expect instant understanding from a preschooler, not so much for the vocabulary but for the concepts of God as, well, beauty, for one, or majesty.

Those of school age, though, are going to easily pick up on just about all the many images of God because Delval takes examples children in elementary school already know of. Take this excerpt:

God is justice.

Before judging others, we should see, know, and understand who they are, and why they did or did not do something. “We should ‘walk a mile in their shoes,’ as the proverb says….

A tip: Don’t try to read the book in one sitting. For younger ones, a page a day is plenty. Older children will be good for three to five pages at a crack. — bz

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Don’t look now, but Christmas books are out

October 12, 2010


So you have plenty of time to buy them as gifts, publishers are circulating Christmas titles, and you may find some of these under-the-tree worthy.

“Who’s Hiding?” — for young children

This colorful little book re-tells the Christmas story in words and pictures that  would be enough to keep children and grandchildren on your lap to the end, but the creativity doesn’t stop there.

The little Liguori Publications book features flaps for youngsters to lift open on every two-page spread to find the answer to a who’s hiding question from the text. The thick pages are perfect for tiny hands to turn. What a nice idea by author Vicki Howie and artist Krisztina Kallai Nagy, and just $10.99.

“The Nativity: From the Gospels of Matthew and Luke” — for young readers

Ruth Sanderson depicts the Christmas narrative in classic, traditional illustrations that appear to come from an artist of the Renaissance era rather than the 21st century. Each is Christmas-card beautiful, and framed in the traditional illuminated manuscript style.

The text, however, seems both stilted and unfamiliar to Catholic ears, and appears to be culled from the King James version of the Gospels of Matthew and Luke. For example, Joseph and Mary travel to Bethlehem because of “a decree from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be taxed.”

Taxed? That may have been the follow-up reason, but my Catholic version of the New American Bible says the whole world would be “enrolled” — and the footnotes call it a census.

There are other examples as well, and knowing the storyline readers may find they’re just skipping the copy altogether and taking in the beauty of the illustrations. “The Nativity” is an Eerdmans Books for Young Readers hardcover.

“A Christmas Carol” — all ages

It’s not what you think. But then again,it is.

Acta Publications has reprinted the Charles Dickens classic in a pretty, easy-to-handle little paperback that’s just 160 pages ($14.95).

As worthwhile reading — and re-reading — as Dickens is, just as valuable is a nine-page introduction by Father John Shea that urges us to rediscover this Christmas-time conversion story.

Father Shea is an accomplished writer and author himself, and he reminds us why “A Christmas Carol” is a classic and why we need to re-read it even though we all know the story of Scrooge and the Ghosts of Christmas Past, Present and Future.

While looking through a window at Scrooge and his life story, the glass can serve as a mirror, too, reflecting back our own image and pulling us into evaluating our own lives. Dickens would approve. — bz

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So your Catholic parish is asking you to be a catechist. Say ‘Yes’ with help from this planning aid

August 18, 2010


creative catechist planning guide cover

If you’ve ever been asked to teach a faith formation class and hesitated because you didn’t know if you could do it well, there’s an inexpensive booklet that will not only give you the confidence to do so but will assist you all throughout the class year.

Creative Catechist’s “Praying and Planning Guide” for 2010-2011 is readable for any adult, and as a teacher’s aid it offers ideas that are simple to put into practice.

It’s just 40 pages, but it includes:

  • Record keeping pages for 25 students with an attendance chart;
  • 2 helpful calendars — one a list of well-known saints’ feast days and the other a walk through the church year;
  • 5  no-fail suggestions for starting the year off right;
  • Tips for planning lessons;
  • More than a handful of good ideas for activities;
  • A very good breakdown of the Nicene Creed that would be a great beginning for any class.

The bulk of the booklet is its most useful part. For each month there is an example of a lesson plan to give catechists ideas about what to teach, what to stress, what to discuss and how to help that lesson be better absorbed. The three keys are 1) focus, 2) activity, and 3) materials.

Each week there is a blank space for catechists to write in the focus, activity and materials they need for that week’s lesson. It’s a great organizational tool that channels the focus on a lectionary-based path, but its greatest benefit may be that it has the potential to draw out the creativity of both catechists and their students. There’s a real emphasis on prayer, too.

Not every idea will be everyone’s cup of tea, of course. But using Creative Catechist’s methodology can’t help but give the most nervous volunteer the confidence to take on the great ministry of sharing the faith with young people. — bz

Creative Catechist’s Praying & Planning Guide is $5.95 per copy, with bulk rates available. See http://www.creativecatechist.org.

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Good tools for passing on the faith

July 18, 2008

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“Learning Centers for Advent and Lent,”
by Doris Murphy

Doris Murphy is doing her best to make it painless for families to grow in their Catholic faith.

From her experience as Director of Faith Formation at St. Bridget Parish in River Falls, Wis., Murphy has gathered easy projects that parents can work on with their children, projects that will help these “first teachers” of their young ones develop the foundation for a life enriched by the knowledge and traditions of Catholicism.

As she has for First Reconciliation, First Eucharist and the Whole Community in earlier books put out by Twenty-Third Publications, Murphy utilizes the learning center approach to enable parents to be those first teachers of the faith that they are called to be for the seasons of Advent and Lent, too. In the learning center methodology, the parish gathers needed material and instructions, then invites parents to use age-appropriate activities that have hands-on tasks, that invite talking with their children about their faith, all the time reinforcing material the children may be learning in their faith formation textbooks and classes.

It’s handing on the faith through example, through family rituals and through conversation. As important as the projects’ purposes are, maybe even more important is the time a parent spends with a child around something of a religious nature: It enables adults — the most influential people in a child’s life — to both tell and show a child that their own faith is important to them and that it’s a faith full of meaning and history, something to be greatly valued, remembered and cherished.

For Advent and Lent, Murphy’s workbook of just over 100 pages offers fun, easy, purposeful ideas that any parish, any director of faith formation, any catechist or any parent will find helpful.

It’s a how-to book from the word go, full of practical projects and turn-key materials, and DREs might find these ideas are worth a try. If they work in River Falls, Wis., maybe they’ll work for you. — bz

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