This afternoon I am giving a short talk to the new teachers of the Diocese of Lafayette-in-Indiana on the role of Catholic schools in living the New Evangelization:
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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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?
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!
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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Tomorrow begins the great “O Antiphons” during Vespers (Evening Prayer) as the Church prepares to celebrate the Nativity our Lord.
To help mark this final preparation I have created some images for each of the O Antiphons; feel free to download them and post them to your personal or parish social media accounts. (They are formatted for Instagram, but can be used anywhere.) There is no need to attribute them to me; I release them to the public domain.
Connected Toward Communion: The Church and Social Communication in the Digital Age (Liturgical Press, 2014) is a positive contribution to the ongoing dialogue between Catholic thought and the rapidly changing technological frontier. The book offers an overview of the major ecclesial documents pertaining to social communication and the Internet from Vatican II forward. Zsupan-Jerome’s focus, however, is on how the Church can form lay and ordained pastoral ministers to use these technologies and serve the faithful in the digital age.
She refrains from offering concrete suggestions for the formation of pastoral minsters, which is both a strength and a weakness. While a more detailed plan for formation would have quickly become outdated as technologies come and go, readers may finish the book wondering “what next?”
Zsupan-Jerome augments her analysis with plenty of references to more recent works (both religious and secular) on technology’s effects on the human person and the book includes an ample bibliography.
Recommended for theological and academic libraries.
N.B.: I received a free review copy of this book from the Catholic Library Association. This review was originally published in the September 2015 issue of Catholic Library World.
Catechists must have a deep spirituality, i.e. they must live in the Spirit, who will help them to renew themselves continually in their specific identity.
The need for a spirituality proper to catechists springs from their vocation and mission. It includes, therefore, a new and special motivation, a call to sanctity. Pope John Paul II’s saying: “The true missionary is the saint”, can be applied without hesitation to the catechist. Like every member of the faithful, catechists are “called to holiness and to mission”, i.e. to live out their own vocation “with the fervour of the saints”.
Their spirituality is closely bound up with their status as lay Christians, made participants, in their own degree, in Christ’s prophetic, priestly and kingly offices. As members of the laity, they are involved in the secular world and have, “according to the condition of each, the special obligation to permeate and perfect the temporal order of things with the spirit of the gospel. In this way, particularly in conducting secular business and exercising secular functions, they are to give witness to Christ”.
– Guide for Catechists, no. 6
Here’s some of my favorite online articles from this past month:
Dorothy Day on Abortion and Mercy
“The image of the seamless garment like the image of the Body of Christ, with Christ as the head, is a hierarchical image. Abortion, the willful termination of human life, is simply not the same moral act as capital punishment or even economic exploitation. Rather, such a vision requires the careful and precise distinction evident in Evangelii Gaudium, when Pope Francis explained why the protection of the unborn takes primacy of place in the Church’s teaching on human dignity.”
The Secret History of Father Maloney
“Lloyd explained to us that Father Moloney used his privilege as a white man and as a Catholic priest in a heavily Catholic area to break down barriers of injustice. He started a federal credit union to help blacks who couldn’t get loans from local banks. He started a bus service to take poor black workers to and from the Avondale Shipyards, 70 miles away, so they could get good industrial jobs, and not have to settle for low-paying farm jobs. And he worked to undermine the plantation system, which played on the ignorance of poor African Americans to cheat them.”
Why Can’t We Do Catholicism Well?
“I do my best to wrench my thoughts back to what matters most—to the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass—to the beauty in the church’s architecture, the priest’s vestments, the poetry of the liturgy, and these things are all very good. But there’s something to be said about the beautifully vested priest mumbling the prayers or the fact that the liturgical motions—themselves richly endowed with meaning—are performed haltingly, truncated.”
Fourteen Tips for New Catholic School Teachers
“4. Remember, it’s not about you; it’s about the students. So learn how to spell the word ‘concupiscence’. Concupiscence is a tendency to put yourself first. Only divine grace enables us to rise above it.”
A Divine School of Solidarity: The Hours
“The gift of the Liturgy of the Hours as a daily practice is that the Christian is schooled in the fullness of the spiritual life as we meditate morning after morning, night after night upon the Psalms. And these Psalms are given to us. We do not get to choose which ones we pray. We do not simply praise God with timbrel and harp but must also acknowledge our deep woundedness, the injustice of the world, and the sorrow that comes with hearing only silence in the midst of our prayer to God.”
Yesterday our bishop, Thomas John Paprocki, released his second pastoral letter “On Building a Culture of Growth in the Church”:
The art of growing in God’s grace is the key to growth in the Church. Building a culture of growth in the Church starts with inviting people to experience the love of Jesus Christ. The Gospel of St. Matthew concludes with the Risen Lord commissioning his disciples with these words: “Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you” (Matthew 28:19-20). This growth looks not only to build up the number of followers of Jesus Christ, but also – and more importantly – for Christ’s followers to grow in the depth of their relationship with Jesus Christ and in their commitment to observe all that he has commanded us to do.
“Grace is a participation in the life of God.” It introduces us into the love of the Holy Trinity: God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, the grace of Christ is a gift freely given by God that is “infused by the Holy Spirit into our soul to heal it of sin and to sanctify it. It is the sanctifying or deifying grace received in Baptism. It is in us the source of the work of sanctification,” that is, growth in holiness. Growing in God’s grace is not a science but an art, because each of us is a masterpiece of God’s creation. As Pope Francis explains, “Even the weakest and most vulnerable, the sick, the old, the unborn and the poor, are masterpieces of God’s creation, made in his own image, destined to live forever, and deserving of the utmost reverence and respect.” These individual masterpieces of God’s creation do not exist in isolation, but are intended by God to be built up into a flourishing community that thrives and grows.
John and Therese Boucher’s Mending Broken Relationships, Building Strong Ones: Eight Ways to Love as Jesus Loved Us is a slim volume that packs a powerful spiritual punch. The aim of the book is to help readers in “realizing God’s love and connecting others to Jesus” through eight interconnected practices.
The eight spiritual practices advocated by the Bouchers are intercession, respect, forgiveness, gratitude, affirmation, patience and forbearance, honesty, and a healing presence. Each practice is first explained in light of Sacred Scripture; then consideration is given for how readers can accept the gift of this spiritual practice. Finally, the Bouchers walk through concrete steps for putting the practice into action.
The book is written in an easy conversational style — it is not overly theological, but uses the Church’s tradition to illuminate real human experience. The Bouchers sprinkle stories from the saints and their own lives throughout the book to help illustrate the principles they have layed out. Each chapter also includes reflection questions, suggested skills to practice, and prayer resources.
Mending Broken Relationships, Building Strong Ones is a great read for any faithful Christian individually or as part of a small book group.
N.B.: I received a free review copy of this book from the authors.