Creating Simple Mounted Icons for the Classroom

It would be great if every catechetical classroom could have multiple icons for use in prayer built to withstand regular use by small hands. Unfortunately, mounted icons can be quite pricey and outside the budget of many parishes. However there is an easy DIY solution that produces surprisingly beautiful results.

For this project you’ll need

  • a computer and printer
  • Mod Podge craft glue (I find the glossy variety works best)
  • a sponge brush
  • scissors
  • a backing board (I cut down some scrap plywood, but you could use pre-sized canvas panels or even some study cardboard)

First, find the image you want to mount and print it out. I find a lot of public domain religious images on Wikipedia Commons; just search for a saint or Bible story. Cut the printed image out, leaving a slight border.

Next, cut your backing to size — you’ll want it a little smaller than the printed image.

Next, apply the Mod Podge to your backing. Don’t worry about using too much — it’s fine if it soaks through the paper.

Glue the image to the backing, then cut out some notches at the corners (see above). This will create four “flaps.”

Apply glue to the “flaps” and fold them over onto the backing.

Let the glue dry for 15-20 minutes, then apply some Mod Podge to the front of the image. This will give it a glossy protective coating.

Let the finished project dry for 1-2 hours and you’re done! I was able to produce three of these in about 30 minutes; cutting the plywood was the hardest part!

This is a simple project that can help catechists evangelize with beauty. It could also be adapted as an activity for families as part of an inter-generational catechetical event!

Notes: Forming Disciples in the Digital Age

Last Thursday I had the joy of gathering with over 100 faith formation leaders and diocesan staff in the Diocese of Joliet. My presentation focused on the characteristics of the emerging digital culture and the promise and challenges it holds for the work of the Church in the 21st century.

The participants asked great questions and shared their own stories and ideas for how the Church can be both hyperlinked and human!

Slides

Notes

Free Webcast: 5 Things Parents Should Know About Keeping Their Kids Catholic

I’m really excited about a free webcast I’m hosting next week!

5 Things Parents Should Know About Keeping Their Kids Catholic is a free, 30 minute webcast for Catholic parents about the things they need to know if they want their kids to practice the faith for a lifetime!

Parents will learn

  • The most important factor in a child’s faith development
  • How faith in the home affects faith lived in the world
  • What they can do with their kids to pass on the faith

Watch the webcast live at 9p ET on Thursday, October 27, at bit.ly/5ThingsCatholicParentsShouldKnow or on this page:

Help Spread the Word!

If you’d like to share this webcast with a friend via Facebook, email, carrier pigeon, or Twitter, just use this link: http://eepurl.com/cc8ukz. Also, free free to put an announcement in your parish bulletin or other communication to parents!

On “Average” Catechesis

The latest episode of 99% Invisible (an incredible podcast about design and architecture) focuses on the notion of designing for the “average” person, focusing on how the U.S. military’s philosophy of crafting uniforms and equipment has evolved over the decades:

In his research measuring thousands of airmen on a set of ten critical physical dimensions, [Gilbert S.] Daniels realized that none of the pilots he measured was average on all ten dimensions. Not a single one. When he looked at just three dimensions, less than five percent were average. Daniels realized that by designing something for an average pilot, it was literally designed to fit nobody.

The result was an increased risk of injuries and fatal accidents, especially for Air Force pilots who literally didn’t fit in cockpits designed for the “average” pilot.

Today, we take for granted that equipment should fit a wide range of body sizes rather than being standardized around the “average person.” From this understanding has come the science of ergonomics: the study of how to match people’s physical capacity to the needs of the job.

Unfortunately our evangelization and catechesis is, in a lot of ways, still stuck in “average” thinking. Many parish programs are designed to attract as wide an audience as possible — that is, to be “one size fits all.” A good example is taking the RCIA and inviting any interested Catholic adult to participate. What should be a highly specialized process for those still seeking faith in Christ must now be adapted to fit the needs of a wide range of the baptized, resulting in a program designed for no one in particular.

What would a parish catechetical program designed outside the average look like? I believe it would

  • Center on more focused topical and needs-based formation, rather than “big box” overviews of the faith
  • Include input from persons with disabilities, ethnic and racial groups, and the poor
  • Seek to match people’s spiritual capacity with a range of formational option

There is no “average” spirituality or faith. The saints testify to the glorious diversity of individual responses to Christ invitation to “take up your Cross and follow me.” (Matthew 16:24) The faithful in our parishes should be formed for that same diversity of holiness, even as we are united in the one Body of Christ.

Resources for the Day of Prayer for Peace

On Friday, September 9, 2016, the Church in the United States will observe a special day of prayer dedicated to peace and justice in our communities and in our nation.

In announcing the Day of Prayer, USCCB president Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz said that the event was intended to help the faithful “look toward additional ways of nurturing an open, honest and civil dialogue on issues of race relations, restorative justice, mental health, economic opportunity, and addressing the question of pervasive gun violence.”

I compiled the following list to help the faithful participate in this Day of Prayer by coming together as families, parishes, and disciples to unite our hearts and minds with those of Jesus Christ.

Suggested Activities

Liturgy and Prayer

  • Celebrate the Memorial of St. Peter Claver
    • Recommended use of Common of Holy Men and Women: For Those Who Practiced Works of Mercy
  • Celebrate the Mass for the Preservation of Peace and Justice
    • Readings in the Lectionary for Mass nos. 887-891
  • Use USCCB’s “Prayer of the Faithful for the Day of Prayer For Peace in Our Communities”: bit.ly/PrayerOfTheFaithful-PeaceInOurCommunities
  • Use a “Prayer Service to be Disciples on Mission”: bit.ly/DisciplesOnMissionPrayer
    • Especially appropriate for parish councils, school boards, and other parish meetings on or near the Day of Prayer
  • Host a Holy Hour or Rosary for the intentions of the Day of Prayer
  • Pray St. John Paul II’s Prayer to Our Lady of Guadalupe: bit.ly/JP2GuadalupePrayer

Adult Faith Formation

  • Insert the two page “Disciples on Mission in the World” in the parish bulletin: bit.ly/DisciplesOnMissionInTheWorld
  • Host an adult faith formation series utilizing Bishop Edward  K. Braxton’s pastoral letter “The Racial Divide in the United States”
  • Host an adult faith formation series utilizing “Sacraments and Social Mission: Living the Gospel, Being Disciples”
  • Distribute prayer cards promoting peace and reconciliation
  • Start a book discussion connected to themes of justice and mercy (see bibliography below)

Catholic Schools and Youth Catechesis

  • Design a prayer collage containing images related to peace and social justice
    • Hang the collage in the classroom and remember these issues in prayer
  • Create a prayer chain or prayer tree with a different petition written on each link or leaf; pray for these intentions
  • Promote the Works of Mercy by distributing the Missionary Childhood Association’s handout “The Works of Mercy for Kids”: bit.ly/WorksOfMercy4Kids
  • Discuss the life and ministry of notable saints who worked for peace and justice, such as St. Peter Claver, St. Katherine Drexel, Bl. Teresa of Calcutta (to be canonized on September 4), or St. Damien of Molokai
  • Learn about St. Francis of Assisi, St. Thérèse of Lisieux, St. Thomas Aquinas, or another saint who loved to pray
  • Learn and pray Pope Francis’ “Five Finger Prayer”: youtu.be/DKppAKOZPgg
  • Invite a deacon to come and talk about the charitable ministries of the Church
  • Incorporate special activities into youth and teen formation events
  • Collect food, clothes, toiletries, and other items to benefit a local charitable organization
    • Discuss with students how our acts of charity are a response to our faith in Jesus
    • Pray over the items before they are sent to the organization

Ecumenical Activities

  • Hold an ecumenical prayer service for justice and peace
    • Suggested scripture: readings from Mass for the Preservation of Peace and Justice (Lectionary for Mass nos. 887-891)
  • Organize and publicize ringing of church bells on September 9 at 3:00pm EST as a sign of solidarity
  • Organize a panel discussion on ways to promote economic welfare, racial justice, and peace
    • Consider inviting local civic officials, leaders from other Christian traditions, and administrators in Catholic education and healthcare

Bibliography

Church Documents and Statements

Books

Web Resources

Free Webcast: Digital Culture with Daniella Zsupan-Jerome

Join me next Tuesday, August 23, at 3p Eastern Time, for a conversation with Daniella Zsupan Jerome, professor of pastoral theology at Notre Dame Seminary (New Orleans) and author of Connected Toward Communion: The Church and Social Communication in the Digital Age.

We’ll be discussing what the advent of a connected world means for the work of the Church.

You can watch live at https://plus.google.com/events/cc3t022jm04c8gumsn2pjml62rg or on this page:

Apprenticeship Activities Outside the Parish

Last week I wrote about viewing Christian apprenticeship as something that happens outside the immediate orbit of the parish. So what would non-parish based Christian apprenticeship look like? Broadly speaking there are few set characteristics. It could center on a stable, long-term group or activity. It could involve strangers coming together for a short time. It may be sponsored by a religious community, or it may be a work of the lay apostolate.

What distinguishes apprenticeship from other pious activity is a desire to come together as followers of Jesus Christ with the aim to grow in holiness through specific, intentional acts of faith. By way of example, taking teens to serve at a soup kitchen could be an act of Christian apprenticeship if it is more than just a “service trip” — that is, if it integrates various facets of Christian living, including prayer, fellowship, and theological reflection.

The following list is by no means exhaustive, but does reflect some of the activities I have seen build Christian fellowship and discipleship. in such a way as to be true apprenticeship:

  1. Rosary Potlucks: I first encountered these gatherings in a homeschooling community our family participated in some years back. The idea was simple: once a month families would gather at a home on a Sunday evening for a shared meal, fellowship, and the praying of the Rosary. The participants varied from month to month, with people coming and going as their schedules permitted, but the practice of hospitality and common prayer was impressive.
  2. Pilgrimages: It’s a shame that so many Catholics assume a pilgrimage has to involve a trip to Europe or the Holy Land (making them prohibitively expensive or difficult for many). There are a variety of opportunities for local pilgrimages to shrines, historical religious landmarks, and beautiful basilicas that are just a day trip away. Especially during the Year of Mercy, a special trip to the diocesan Holy Door with a group of friends or fellow parishioners would be a great way to grow together in faith.
  3. Small Faith Communities: Admittedly, as an introvert, I tend to have a hard time in small faith sharing groups (as I’m sure the Why Catholic? group I led a while back can attest!). But having a committed group of people coming together as part of a book club, parish-based program, or sharing based on the Sunday readings is an excellent example of Christian apprenticeship in action. By sharing their own joys and struggles as a disciples, the members support each other and build up the Body of Christ.
  4. Service Groups and Activities: The Works of Mercy and other apostolic activities are a vital part of Christian apprenticeship (cf Rite of Christian Initiation no. 75). Catholic Worker houses, crisis pregnancy centers, volunteer organizations such as the Jesuit Volunteer Corps, and local food pantries can serve as places both where the faithful come together to practice solidarity with and service to the poor and neglected, but also where they can be inspired by the faith and example of those they serve. My own encounters with Shalom House in Kansas City when I was young impressed on me just how vibrant these types of communities can be.

What types of apprenticeship activities outside the parish have you experienced?

Christian Apprenticeship Beyond the Parish

At the recent Notre Dame Center for Liturgy symposium on “Liturgy and the New Evangelization”, Dr. James Pauley of Franciscan University of Steubenville gave a talk on the importance of apprenticeship in the Christian life for evangelization in the 21st century. Dr. Pauley took as his starting point this passage from Vatican II’s Decree on Missionary Activity (Ad Gentes):

The catechumenate is not a mere expounding of doctrines and precepts, but a training period in the whole Christian life, and an apprenticeship duty drawn out, during which disciples are joined to Christ their Teacher. (no. 14)

Using that image of apprenticeship — and his own experience learning from a friend how to write an icon — he went on to expound on how apprenticeship and accompaniment (to use a favored phrase of Pope Francis) can be applied to a variety of catechetical settings.

While Dr. Pauley’s talked centered on apprenticeship in a parish context, I was left with a nagging question:

Are we putting too much emphasis on the parish as the locus of Christian living?

As I see it there are two good reasons for thinking of Christian apprenticeship as more than something that happens in the parish.

First, if accompaniment is an intrinsic element of evangelization and catechesis, we have to recognize that the burden cannot be born solely — or even primarily — by pastors and lay pastoral ministers. There are only so many hours in a day, and unless a parish consists of only a few hundred individuals (admittedly a reality in many rural communities) then pastors and their staffs cannot accompany every parishioner while at the same time preparing liturgies, directing formation programs, practicing with choirs, and engaging in other duties of their particular ministries.

Secondly, the Christian community is larger than the parish. At the most subsidiary level, the family is the smallest unit of Christian community. Indeed, in recent years we have come to recognize more and more how the family is a “domestic church,” mirroring and containing elements of the Church universal. Beyond the family, the Christian community includes the many apostolates, parachurch organizations, Catholic universities and college ministries, and informal fellowship gatherings of the faithful.

How might our conception of apprenticeship change if we took all these myriad forms of the Church into account? What tools and mindsets would parish leaders need to cultivate see see apprenticeship flourish in our communities? And what steps could ordinary believers take to make Christian apprenticeship a part of our daily lives?

In the next couple weeks I’ll expand on these questions in additional blog posts; please share your thoughts in the comments below!

Inculturation, Evangelization, and the Digital Continent

Last month I attended the 2016 Liturgy Symposium hosted by the Center for Liturgy at the University of Notre Dame. The theme of the conference was “Liturgy and the New Evangelization” and featured a great presentation by Daniella Zsupan-Jerome on digital culture and the liturgical capacity of persons.

Daniella’s keynote has me reflecting on the work of inculturation in evangelization and catechesis — and the implications for how the church should approach the emerging digital culture. Echoing Catechesi Tradendae, the National Directory for Catechesis states that

Inculturation is a requirement for evangelization, a path toward full evangelization. It is the process by which “catechesis ‘takes flesh’ in the various cultures.

This is just as true for the digital culture as it is for Hispanic, youth, and other types of culture. While still young, the “digital continent” is already exhibiting a variety of arts, behaviors, and values that could rightly be called a unique culture. Understanding and responding to this culture will mean more than just understanding the mechanics of specific technologies.

For instance, one of the pitfalls I see many parishes falling into is trying to use digital tools without understanding their context in the digital culture. For instance, Facebook is a highly interactive medium which allows for comments and dialog between people. And yet many parishes simple use it as a broadcast medium — in effect making it an electronic bulletin — and never solicit or respond to comments from parishioners or seekers. They are using the tool but in a way out of step with the cultural value of interactivity in digital spaces. As a result their efforts fail to reach people immersed in that culture because they are speaking to a different set of cultural beliefs and practices.

As pastoral ministers continue to adopt new media technologies we must keep in mind that they are not culturally neutral. They embody and speak to specific values and beliefs that have arisen as the internet continues to grow. Discerning what technologies to adopt — and how — will be ongoing work on the digital continent and in the Church.


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