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What Can Comedians Teach Us About Ministry?

What Comedians Can Teach Us About Ministry There’s a principle in improvisational comedy called “Yes… and.” The gist is that when someone offers an idea or direction during the game or skit, the other actors should respond with “yes… and” instead of “no” or “but.” By immediately accepting the idea and not shooting it down the energy and action of the game is maintained instead of screeching to a stop:

(NB: The idea isn’t to actually say “yes… and”; it speaks more to a mindset than a scripted line.)

Beyond comedy, this is also a good principle for ministry.

When people come to register at a parish or to ask for a sacrament, they come to us in the midst of their lives: dealing with wounds, asking questions, and searching for the meaning and community that will bring them fulfillment. This process is ongoing. More often than not they have not reached the end of their spiritual journey, ready to “cast down their nets” and embrace the life of Christian discipleship. As a result, they may balk when encouraged to take the next few steps to become engaged in religious education, preparation for marriage, or turn away from some abiding sin.

For example, many couples today come to parishes already cohabitating. This is obviously far from the ideal. Church teaching and sociological studies show that marriages are more likely to succeed if couple live apart until their vows are completed. However, many couples in this situation encounter the blunt message that “until you separate we cannot proceed with marriage preparation.” Many no doubt turn away and simply procure a civil marriage in place of the sacrament.

Adapting the “yes… and” mindset, a pastor or marriage preparation coordinator might instead say:

“Welcome! We are so glad you have come to the Church to celebrate this sacred occasion! However, we note that you are both currently living together. In order to best prepare for your wedding and marriage, we would ask you to consider living apart for the next six months until the wedding. Think of this time as a retreat as you prepare to make your vows. And we would like to help you do this. In fact, we have a couple in our parish who have a spare bedroom that they have offered to anyone preparing for marriage, rent free, so that you can make the most of this time of preparation.”

Adopting the “yes… and” mindset helps to open doors to evangelization by acknowledging the reality of people’s lives while also pointing towards further healing, deeper relationships, and growing faith.

How could you adopt the “yes… and” mindset in your ministry?

Living and Longing in Exile

I’ve been walking through the Old Testament prophets with the diaconate candidates in our diocese the last few weeks. The message of the prophets is centered on God’s call to conversion and the promise of his mercy in the context of the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem and the taking of Judah’s population into captivity by the Babylonians.

Two threads of the prophetic message have stood out to me in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. First, the longing of the Jewish people to return to Jerusalem is echoed in the faithful’s desire for the resumption of public celebrations of the liturgy. The psalmist gives voice to this lament: “By the rivers of Babylon/there we sat weeping/when we remembered Zion… How could we sing a song of the LORD in a foreign land?” (Ps 137)

Many of the faithful are keenly feeling this loss of the source and summit of our faith, even as they recognize the important public health reasons that have prompted this loss. We can find in the scriptures both words to help us express this loss and the promise that what has been lost will be restored.

The second thread is that the proper celebration of the Temple sacrifices does not exhaust the Lord’s expectations for his people. Micah exhorts the people: “Shall I come before him with burnt offerings, with calves a year old? Will the LORD be pleased with thousands of rams, with myriad streams of oil? … You have been told, O mortal, what is good, and what the LORD requires of you: Only to do justice and to love goodness, and to walk humbly with your God.” (6:6-8)

A good question for us to consider might be: as I long for the Eucharist and the liturgical celebrations, am I also longing for God’s justice and goodness? How will my rejoicing when the faithful return to Mass be echoed in how I treat my neighbor, especially the poor and the marginalized?

Keeping the Faith Incarnational (even under quarantine)

I have a blog post on Catechist magazine today on how we can continue to root our faith in Christ’s incarnation during the COVID-19 crisis:

Even as we use new technologies for catechesis, communication, and to live-stream liturgies for the benefit of those who cannot be present with the assembly (or, when public liturgies are canceled, with the priests who continue to celebrate the Mass on our behalf), these technologies should always lead us to a greater fellowship and faith in the real world.

With that in mind, here are some ways in which we can root our Domestic Church (our family home) in an incarnational practice of the faith while practicing social distancing and living under stay-at-home orders.

Read the whole post on Catechist magazine!

Lenten Recipe: Quick Quiche

This quiche recipe is an easy last minute meal. On non-abstaining days I’ll add whatever leftover meat is in the refrigerator; during Lent there are lots of choices of vegetables and seafood to add in!

Ingredients

  • 4 eggs
  • 1 cup half-n-half
  • 1/2 cup mayo
  • 2 tbls flour
  • 1/3 cup onion, minced
  • Salt, pepper, & garlic powder
  • 8 oz cheese, shredded
  • Choice of add-ins (broccoli, asparagus, shrimp, tomatoes, etc.)
  • 1 unbaked pie shell

Methodology

  1. Preheat oven to 350° F.
  2. Whip eggs, half-n-half, mayo and flour together in a bowl.
  3. Add remaining ingredients.
  4. Pour into pie shell. Bake for 45 minutes or until top is golden brown.
  5. Allow to sit 10 minutes before cutting and serving.

Catechesis When We Cannot Gather

What a difference two weeks make.

Two Sundays ago we were celebrating the Rite of Election and Call to Continuing Conversion with the Elect and candidates of the diocese. Today public Masses and catechetical programs are canceled, many of us are working from home, and we are all adjusting to a “new normal.”

With so much on people’s plates it may be tempting to wait to engage in catechesis. Where do we even begin?! But there are some simple things you can do to keep the catechetical process going.

  1. Focus on the faith, not programs. The plans and goals that we set for ourselves this year no longer apply. We are literally in extraordinary circumstances. So don’t worry about making sure kids “get through the textbook” this year. Instead, focus on helping them pray, grow in their relationship with Jesus, and find ways to practice the faith off parish grounds. See this time as an opportunity to help the faithful discover new ways of praying and being Church, even as we mourn not being able to gather for liturgy and fellowship.
  2. Keep in contact. Right now people want to know that the Church remembers and cares for them. Next week, call — don’t email — every family enrolled in your program. If you have a large program, enlist some lead catechists to assist you. Let families know you are concerned for them and praying for them. Find out if they have any particular needs or prayer requests, and try to connect them with services that can help. As we continue to practice social distancing, check-in regularly with families.
  3. Share home-based catechetical materials parents can use with their children. This is an excellent time to help families develop their Domestic Church and assist parents as the primary formators of their children. Our diocese’s Office of Catechesis is maintaining a list of materials, videos, and other resources families can use together. Email 2-3 suggestions to your families each week to keep them engaged and to offer new ways to keep their children practicing the faith.
  4. See what resources your textbook publisher is offering. Many of the major catechetical publishers are offering free resources and materials to help parents during this time. Check your textbook’s website or email your sales representative to see what you have access to.

Above all else, pray for our civic and Church leaders, that they may have the grace, perseverance, and wisdom they need in these times. And be assured that you and all catechetical leaders are in my prayers.

Lenten Recipe: Split Pea Soup

This split pea soup recipe is perfect for a busy day — just set it up in the crock pot in the morning and then forget all about it until dinner time.

Ingredients

  • 1lb split peas
  • 3 carrots, sliced thin
  • 2 stalks celery, chopped
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 4 cups vegetable stock
  • 3 bay leaves
  • Salt and pepper

Methodology

  1. Wash the split and discard any discolored beans.
  2. Layer the peas in the bottom of a crock pot.
  3. Place carrots, celery, and onion, and garlic on top of peas.
  4. Cover peas and vegetables with stock. (It should come about 1/2 inch above the ingredients. If there isn’t enough stock to cover the vegetables, add water.)
  5. Add bay leaves to the crock pot.
  6. Cover and cook on low all day.
  7. When ready to serve, remove bay leaves. Add water if needed.
  8. Optionally, use an immersion blender to blend soup; otherwise, just stir until ingredients are mixed well.
  9. Serve warm with a salad and bread.

Lenten Recipe: Zucchini Latkes with Tzatziki Sauce

Latkes are a Lenten staple in our house. While we often make the traditional potato variety, this zucchini-based variation is also a hit with the kids.

Ingredients: Tzatziki Sauce

  • 1/2 cup Greek yogurt
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 1/2 cup grated cucumber, patted dry
  • 1 tsp garlic, minced
  • 1 tbls extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 tbls dill, chipped
  • 1 tsp lemon zest
  • 1/2 tsp lemon juice
  • Salt and ground black pepper, as needed

Methodology: Tzatziki Sauce

  1. Combine all ingredients in a glass or metal bowl and refrigerate 2-3 hours.

Ingredients: Latkes

  • 3 zucchini, grated
  • Salt
  • 1 cup green onions, chopped
  • 4 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 2/3 cup flour
  • 1/2 cup dill, chopped
  • 1/2 cup parsley, chopped
  • 1 tsp ground tarragon
  • Ground black pepper
  • 1/2 cup feta cheese, crumbles
  • Olive oil

Methodology: Zucchini Latkes

  1. Combine ingredients in a bowl.
  2. Heat oil in a large skillet. When shimmering, drop spoonfuls of zucchini mixtures into oil. Fry to 2-3 minutes on each side, or until golden brown.
  3. Keep latkes warm in a 175° F degree oven. Serve with tzatziki sauce.

Lenten Recipe: Spanakopita (Spinach Pie)

This version of a Greek classic cheats by using prepackaged puffed pastry instead of filo dough. The end result may not have the same delicate, flaky texture of traditional spinach pie, but it’s a lot easier to make.

Ingredients

  • 2lb spinach, roughly chopped
  • 1 package puffed pastry
  • 1lb cottage cheese
  • 2 cup feta cheese
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 4-6 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1-2 tbls flour
  • 1 tsp oregano
  • 1 tsp basil
  • olive oil
  • salt & pepper

Methodology

  1. Preheat oven to 375° F.
  2. Lightly steam chopped spinach (there’s a lot, so do it in batches).
  3. Saute onion in oil, then add garlic, oregano, and basil; salt and pepper to taste. When onion is cooked remove and reserve onion and garlic. Use the remaining oil to grease a 9x13x2 baking dish.
  4. Drain the cottage cheese and mix with the feta cheese, eggs, garlic and onion. Add flour as needed to keep the mixture dry.
  5. Roll out the puffed pastry sheets and place one in the bottom of the baking dish. Mix spinach and cheeses and spoon into the dish.
  6. Lay the second pastry sheet on top and tuck in, brushing with the remaining oil.
  7. Bake for 45 minutes or until golden brown.
  8. Allow to cool 10 minutes before serving.

Lenten Recipe: Pesto Minestrone Soup

I love Lenten soups. They tend to be easy to make and a crowd pleasure for at least 75% of our kids. This soup is no exception. Using the crockpot means a little invest of time in the morning pays dividends when dinner is ready in the evening. And the use of a rich, flavorful pesto elevates this soup to something the kids love.

Ingredients

  • Two carrots, sliced
  • 2 potatoes, diced into 1/2 inch cubes
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 2 tbls olive oil
  • 1 can diced tomatoes
  • 3 tbls basil pesto
  • 1 can kidney beans
  • 1 cup small pasta (macaroni, orzo, etc.)
  • Shredded Parmesan cheese

Methodology

  1. Toss the carrots, potatoes, and onions in olive oil and put in slow cooker.
  2. Add 5 cups water, tomatoes, 2 tbls pesto, and salt and pepper to taste. Cover and cook 6-8 hours on high.
  3. Add beans, pasta and remaining pesto. Continue cooking until pasta is cooked (about 10 minutes).
  4. Serve immediately, topped with Parmesan cheese.

Three Kings, Three Wise Men, or What?

QUESTION: The feast of the Epiphany often describes the magi as three wise men — and even three kings, as in the old carol: “We Three Kings.” Yet we don’t find the word “kings” in the Gospel’s infancy narratives. Can you explain a proper understanding of who the magi were — and their significance — so I can teach my middle schoolers? — PAT W.

JONATHAN F. SULLIVAN Responds:

The wise men appear only in the Gospel of Matthew where they are described with the Greek word magoi, which in addition to “wise men” implies astrologers or even magicians. Little is known about them (the Gospel doesn’t even say how many there were!) except that they came from the East, where they may have been priests of Zoroastrianism or another religion in Persia.

Read the rest from Catechist Magazine…