1973 - when I started asking questions, like, "Why are we all dressed so funny?"

Thursday, December 13, 2012

A blog. A resting place for what's unfit to publish.

Denver Post? Not interested. Denver Catholic Register? Not interested. My blog? Well, of course I'll publish my own material.  This is a response to an article entitled "Discrimination is not Religious Liberty" and found in the Denver Post.


 Any time a privileged white male starts speaking for all women, I get suspicious.  Nathan Woodliff-Stanley knows what all women want and need: contraceptives, abortifacients and sterilization. He also knows who should pay for it: all Americans. He sees no problem with the State mandating the coverage of these newfangled drugs, devices and procedures in the name of “health.” 
My understanding of health is that it refers to the correct functioning of an organism. The Pill and sterilization -- chemically or surgically -- ensure that a woman’s body malfunctions. How is that healthy?  Heavens, Orwell would love this: Sterility Is Health.  Fertility is a sign that a woman is healthy. Any dumb white male ought to be able to figure that out.
We Catholics are not opposed to legitimate healthcare for all. What we are opposed to is the imposition of a degenerate sexual ethic on all Americans by the State in the name of health. The HHS mandate is no law, but a kind of bureaucratic violence. Years ago, Richard John Neuhaus wrote about a “Catholic moment” in American history; it appears we Catholics now have something even more interesting: our “Gandhi moment.” I pray we’re up to it.

Questions I ask myself as I prepare for a catechetical lesson

 Fourteen Questions to prepare a lesson

Preface: I wrote this for the incoming catechist taking over a Confirmation class. I haven't sat down and thought about how I do what I do when I catechize until now. The elements below that connect to Francis Kelly's “Ecclesial Method” are numbered in bold.

These elements are 1. Preparation, 2. Proclamation, 3. Explanation, 4. Application, 5. Celebration. (Here's a link to Chapter 3 of his book, The Mystery We Proclaim).

1. 2, 3. What is the most important thing to say about the doctrine or theme?

2. 2. How can it be said in a way that is short and memorable?
• The “in brief” sections of the CCC are a great source for short doctrinal statements. Here's an online resource that I use weekly: http://www.scborromeo.org/ccc.htm It has the Table of Contents linked to paragraph numbers, so you can do all kinds of quick searches.)
• Sample proclamation: While looking like simple bread and wine, the Eucharist is the Body and Blood, soul and divinity of Jesus Christ.

3. 2. What is a Bible passage or sentence that connects with the doctrine? Here are three easy to use
sources for cutting and pasting text once you have a Bible passage: http://bible.oremus.org/
http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/   I like to use both a “higher” translation and a “lower” when possible, especially if I give the kids a handout.
• Higher (better at the literal level): RSV, NRSV, NAB
• Lower (easier to understand but sometimes the meaning gets lost): CEV, GNT, NIV
A great place to find Bible passages is the Catechism of the Catholic Church

4. 2. When I read a short Bible passage and then state the doctrine concisely, do I have the Scripture and Catechism in harmony? Are they clearly related. One good example and a bad example:
Good example of proclamation:
◦ [Scripture: John 1:1-14] In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being.... And the Word became flesh and lived among us.
◦ [Doctrine: The Incarnation] Jesus is really God and really man (see CCC 480).

Bad example of proclamation:
◦ [Scripture: Matthew 26:24] “The Son of Man goes as it is written of him, but woe to that one by whom the Son of Man is betrayed! It would have been better for that one not to have been born.”
◦ [Doctrine: Dignity of the Human Person] From the moment of conception, each of us is destined to live with God forever (based on CCC 1711).
Discussion: The passage from St. John teaches exactly what the doctrine proclaims; the passage from St. Matthew actually seems to undermine a discussion of human dignity. Jesus words are directed specifically at Judas, not all of humanity!

5. 3, 4. What are some of the implications of this/these truth/s of the faith? (If 'X' is true, how does 'Y'

6. 3, 4. What are some related doctrines? (They are all related! Some are just more obvious – with
junior/senior high school, I go for the obvious ones)

7. 3, 4. Why is this doctrine important? (If it doesn't matter, why tell them?) The doctrine must connect with their lives in some way or it is simply an abstraction.
• So, for example, not just: “Don't sin, it's bad,” but “You were made to be happy and God is the source of all happiness; if you sin, you push yourself away from God and you won't be happy.” More complicated? In a sense, yes, but also more realistic: everything in our culture says “Do what you want,” but our faith says, “Do what will make you deeply and eternally happy – don't be satisfied with easy answers to the questions of your heart!”
Find the deeper meaning.

8. 3, 4. Is there something “out there” in the culture that connects to this doctrine that will help them to see our Faith is not something distant from “the world” but immersed in worldly, fleshy realities and explain worldly things in their true context? Remember, the Word was made flesh, not Idea or
• So, for example, I recently used a clip from the film Signs to show how reality can be interpreted as “for us” or “against us”; it doesn't mean truth is relative, but that our freedom is engaged in the interpretation of reality: If I'm closed from the possibility of God being good, I simply won't see God's goodness; if I'm open, then I can see it.

• Music too is a great resource – and I don't just mean “Christian” music. Also literature or passages from the Bible that kids “act out” or simply read aloud with assigned roles (Just like we do at Mass for the Passion of Our Lord).

9. 4. How can I get them to engage the doctrine with their own lives? (The answer, of course, is “I can't!” This is where there freedom gets engaged. Don't try to force the issue – it'll just piss you off and the student!)
• This can happen in small groups and through questions, but the catechists have to allow “an open space” where students can step into it without feeling like they have to give the right answer.

• Small groups can be a place where students really VERIFY the propositions of Catholic doctrine.

• Or it might happen by asking them to reflect throughout the week on how and if they pray (for example). So, what “provokes” them to pray? Is it part of their lives or something they're told to do or do they not pray at all?

10. 4, 5. Can I put the student in the position of explaining the doctrine? We've used “Demonstrations of Learning” for this purpose. The basic idea is to give them some raw material (Bible, Catechism and doctrine that has already been taught and have them throw together a teaching using everything a hand. This can be through a poem, art, a skit -- whatever.  We did this a month ago and the kids were fantastic when we did this. They know more than we (or they) realize.
• This can also be an opportunity to answer questions and/or clarify misunderstandings
• Be gentle with them; adolescents have fragile egos, so even if they spout off a heresy, treat it gently
and affirm the truth of something they've said

11. 1, 5. Is there a particular prayer that relates to the doctrine? For example, if I talked about the reality of evil and the Devil, how about praying the prayer to St. Michael? This helps us all to experience prayer as something related to reality, not simply a pious exercise.
• Prayer and doctrine go together – we should some this is true by letting them see it explicitly.

12. 3. Am I trying to say too much? In my early days of catechizing, I used to try to say everything in one lesson. That's silly. Get at the core of things: what's really essential? Only 90 minutes are available, so make what you say count and better to explore one doctrine in ways that are interesting than to recite ten doctrines in an abstract way.

13. 2, 3, 4. Am I simply talking too much? Am I afraid of silence and trying to fill it with myself instead let of letting the Holy Spirit speak to me, to the students, to the other catechists? Learning to shut my mouth is a great ascetical practice, but very useful for everyone!

14. 1, 5. The first thing last: Have I prayed that the Lord would guide my steps and purify my heart? Have I “seen” the face of one student as I prepared and prayed for this one kid? Have I begged that this would be an encounter for all of us with the Risen Lord? Yeah, stuff like this is really important. This isn't a technical or professional work only – it is the fruit of prayer.

There you have it: all the "wisdom" I accumulated in earning a Masters in Theology but without the student loan debt! What a bargain.

Email me if you have questions! mjmcguiness@gmail.com