Videos: Building a Better Disciple Series

This past Monday evening I completed my five-part webinar series “Building a Better Disciple.”

All five videos are available to view. In addition, slides and catechist formation participation forms for catechists and teachers in the Diocese of Springfield in Illinois are available at BuildingABetterDisciple.tumblr.com.

Thanks again to everyone who participated in the live webinars. This was a fun and enlightening experiment in webinar-based catechist formation and I already have some ideas for a video-based formation series in the spring. Stay tuned!

Free Webinar Series: Building a Better Disciple

Christ_Taking_Leave_of_the_ApostlesI’m pleased to announce that this fall I will be offering a free webinar series entitled “Building a Better Disciple.” Over the course of five webinars we will explore what it means to be a Christian through the lens of Acts 2:42: “They devoted themselves to the teaching of the apostles and to the communal life, to the breaking of the bread and to the prayers.”

Full information on the series is being posted at BuildingABetterDisciple.tumblr.com; here’s a quick overview of the sessions (clicking on the links will take you to the registration pages for each webinar):

October 13: Jesus: The Face of Discipleship
https://www2.gotomeeting.com/register/961033874
Before understanding how to become a disciple we must first know what a disciple is. Through the person of Jesus Christ we will come to know what it means to claim the name “Christian.”

October 20: Scripture and Tradition: The Boundaries of Discipleship
https://www2.gotomeeting.com/register/932598546
Sacred Scripture and Sacred Tradition – passed on through the biblical authors, the apostles, and their successors – form the deposit of our faith. As the basis for all of the Church’s teaching they also provide the boundary lines for discipleship by illuminating the path that followers of Christ must follow.

October 27: Christian Community: The Foundation of Discipleship
https://www2.gotomeeting.com/register/222598314
Faith is nurtured and sustained in the context of a community of believers. This session will explore how the Church in various contexts (family, parish, school, etc.) sets the stage for a life of discipleship.

November 3: Liturgy and Prayer: The Engine of Discipleship
https://www2.gotomeeting.com/register/359999938
In this webinar we will examine how the graces received in the sacraments, liturgical celebrations, and personal prayer fuel our capacity for embracing the call to discipleship.

November 10: Vocation and Mission: The Aim of Discipleship
https://www2.gotomeeting.com/register/432332978
Faith that is not put into practice is sterile. Connecting the themes of the previous webinars we will explore how the faithful participate in the Church’s mission in the world through their particular gifts and calling.

All webinars begin at 7:30p (Central Time) and will last 90 minutes. I hope you’ll be able to join me for this exciting series!

New Resource: Sacred Scripture and the Christian Life (A Short Study)

A few weeks ago, while our local Lumen Veritas youth group was gathering, I offered a faith study opportunity for any parents willing to hang around and listen to me drone on for a hour or so.

With the end of the Year of Faith close at hand we thought it would be good to take a look at the role of Sacred Scripture in the life of the Church through the lens of Vatican Council II. To that end I created a “short study” guide with excerpts from Sacrosanctum concilium and Dei Verbum, as well as the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults and Verbum Domini, and some reflection questions to facilitate the conversation:

I’ve released the study guide under a Creative Commons license, so feel free to print it out, make copies, and adapt it for your own use. Just make sure to credit the Diocese of Springfield in Illinois for its original creation.

Our plan is for me to do similar events for the parents once a month or so; if I create more resources like the one above I’ll be sure to share them here.

What My Little Ponies Can Teach Us About the New Evangelization

The third season of My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic just made it on to Netflix. My 5-year old daughter loves the show and roped me into watching the opening two-part episode with her. (Admittedly she didn’t have to press hard; the show is actually pretty good and includes plenty of funny Easter eggs for adults.)

The first part of the episode features the return of a long-lost kingdom of crystal ponies. Twilight Sparkle (the main character, pictured above) and her friends are sent to investigate and find that all the ponies in the kingdom are suffering from a form of selective amnesia. Research in the library reveals that their spirits can be lifted (and the kingdom protected from the evil King Sombra) by holding the annual Crystal Fair. Twilight and friends then sing a song about saving the ponies by re-introducing them to their history:

It occurred to me that this is a useful metaphor for understanding the work of the New Evangelization.

Our post-modern culture has forgotten it’s roots and cut itself off from any interest in or embrace of the past, especially anything smacking of the supernatural or spiritual. The radical relativism that pervades the culture has replaced truth and beauty with a tepid “truthiness” and utilitarianism; Christianity has been replaced with a therapeutic moral deism that is more concerned with its own feelings and desires than a spirituality rooted in an objective reality. (Science fiction author John C. Wright, in a recent blog post, identifies the First World War as the major precipitating factor of this cultural amnesia, which seems about right to me.)

The work of the New Evangelization, then, is to re-introduce (or, to use Pope Benedict’s language, re-propose) Jesus Christ and Christianity to a culture that has largely forgotten him and his message.

It is important to note that this re-introduction has a strong historical character. The Judeo-Christian tradition (including Islam), unlike Hiduism, Buddhism, or tribal religions, is deeply rooted in historical events, places, and figures. This is why St. Luke situates the beginning of Jesus’ ministry in this way:

In the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar, when Pontius Pilate was governor of Judea, and Herod was tetrarch of Galilee, and his brother Philip tetrarch of the region of Ituraea and Trachonitis, and Lysanias was tetrarch of Abilene, during the high priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas, the word of God came to John the son of Zechariah in the desert. (Luke 3:1-2)

This is a far cry from “once upon a time!” Luke locates the call of John the Baptist in a very specific time and place. He is not discussing some abstraction outside of time such as the Greek gods or Native American creation stories, but real people who have left a historical record outside of Sacred Scripture. History, then, is a vital component of our understanding of the faith. Knowing how the story of the Church has unfolded over time — how faith in Jesus Christ was expressed in a variety of places and historical epochs — can be a source of great strength and consolation.

Of course, simply talking about it won’t do much good. Twilight Sparkle and her friends didn’t just lecture the crystal ponies about what they discovered in books; they actually held the Crystal Fair! Likewise, we must help people to make connections with history by inviting them to participate in the life of the Church. This may mean helping people to participate in devotions that were meaningful to them when they were young; it may mean introducing them to new practices. Regardless we must help them reignite the spark of faith in their lives. It is participating in the life of faith — especially in the Eucharist — that connects us to the great cloud of witnesses and raises our spirits to God.

If part of the problem of modern culture is a fundamental ignorance of and disdain for our history — grounded, as it is, in a Christian cultural context — then talking about and immersing ourselves in that history must be a part of the New Evangelization. We can, in fact, save the world with our history.

Scripture texts in this work are taken from the New American Bible, revised edition © 2010, 1991, 1986, 1970 Confraternity of Christian Doctrine, Washington, D.C. and are used by permission of the copyright owner. All Rights Reserved. No part of the New American Bible may be reproduced in any form without permission in writing from the copyright owner.
Photo Credit: Nuwandalice via Compfight cc

Experimenting with Prayer – Media Divina

I spent the last two days conducting a retreat/workshop on social media for the principals of the Diocese of Belleville. For the opening prayer on Wednesday I decided to experiment with a variation of lectio divina  that used the parable of the sower and the seed (Matthew 13:3-23) across various  media.

I began with reading the parable from Sacred Scripture, asking the participants to listen for a word or phrase that spoke to them. We meditated for a few minutes, then went around the room and shared our word or phrase.

Next I showed this video version of the parable:

I asked the participants to focus on a visual image from the video that spoke to them in a special way, or on how their understanding of the parable was deepened by the video. We again spent a few minutes in meditation and then shared.

Finally I played the song “Thistle & Weeds” by Mumford & Sons. (I also projected the lyrics so the group could follow along) and asked them to listen for God’s call or invitation to action. We again meditated on what we had heard and shared. We then closed with a short prayer.

I think this prayer experience was a success; the group seemed to appeciate the multi-sensory nature of the prayer and they did an excellent job of drawing out meaning from the text. (And most of them weren’t previosly familiar with lectio divina.) I will definitely be using this form of prayer for future events.

(I also put together a PowerPoint for praying the Angelus with the group; I’ve posted it on my Handouts page for anyone to use.)

VLCFF Course – Introduction to Scripture

Registration is open for the next course I will be facilitating for the Virtual Learning Community for Faith Formation (VLCFF):

Introduction to Scripture (March 13 through April 16, 2011) – “This presupposes that an individual has not had a general overview of the bible. This is a great place to begin. The course cannot cover everything one needs to know for navigating into the world of the scriptures but one is given a few basic concepts to begin the journey. If you have ever wondered how the Bible came about, what were some of the cultural factors which influenced the events around the writing of the Old and New Testaments, or what Church document today tell us about the Bible, you are about to begin an interesting discovery.”

Registration information is available at the VLCFF web site. Courses are $90, or $40 if you live in a partnering diocese.

Scripture Resources for School Teachers

Today I concluded my five-week class on Sacred Scripture for Catholic school teachers in Springfield. I really enjoyed breaking open the Bible with this great group of catechists!

The following are a few of the resources I recommended to them:

Books:

Links:

Class Handouts (PDFs)

Tomie DePaola’s Book of Bible Stories