Have you ever tried to have a discussion with teens about the faith but wish you had a short video that would engage them and help get the discussion started? This week's resource is a free site from the Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston called vcat.org. VCAT stand for video catechism, and that is exactly what this site provides: 12 short video (less than 10 minutes each, some as short as 3 minutes) for each of the four pillars of the Catechism: Creed, Sacraments, Morality and Prayer. You can either stream the video right on the site, go to the YouTube channel or download the videos to your computer (good if you don't have high speed internet). In addition, each video comes with a free .pdf discussion guide. The guides offer both synopsis, a suggested use for the video and questions for discussion. Each guide also cross references scripture passages, catechism sections and related YouCat sections.
I could see using these videos as discussion starters, ice-breakers for topics, but also, as adults, for your own reflection and meditation and prayer. One thing about all these videos is that they are focused on God's love - the message is all about God love for us and our relationship with him and our encounter with Jesus in scripture, Church teaching, prayer and the communion of faith.
Check our this video on Truth and the corresponding discussion guide
MAY 26: SIXTH SUNDAY OF EASTER
Our readings toward the end of the Easter season point out the actions of the Holy Spirit. Jesus tells us that the Advocate, the Holy Spirit … will teach us everything and remind us of all that the Lord told us. We see an example of the Holy Spirit at work in the first reading. The Holy Spirit is still at work in the Church today, teaching and guiding us with authority through the Magisterium of the Church. There is great freedom in this and it allows us to be at peace, knowing that we are not left to our own devices. It also calls us to the responsibility of continuing to listen and learn and then to share the Good News.
Reminder: Thursday May 30 is the Solemnity of the Ascension of the Lord and a Holy Day of Obligation.
MAY 30 Thursday THE ASCENSION OF THE LORD
The Ascension of the Lord. Luke tells us that Jesus ordered his disciples to stay in the city until they are clothed with the power from on high. Even though they are eyewitnesses of the resurrection and the ascension, they need the Holy Spirit before they can testify. As intentional and missionary disciples, we too need to remain in Christ and pray for the Holy Spirit. By ourselves we can do nothing, but with the power of the Holy Spirit we, too, can share the good news and draw others to Christ.
The other day I gave a presentation to the Eastern Region Commissioned Lay Ministry Association on the topic of Apologetics and Evangelization. Apologetics is all about giving the reason for our hope, making a case for our faith, for the reasons behind our faith. But there are times when sharing our faith and the story of our encounters with Jesus Christ may lead to unexpected questions which are difficult to answer. Sometimes it is just a question of finding the right words. Sometimes it is a question that you simply have never thought about and so you are not quite sure of the answer.
Sometimes, you might be tempted to make up an answer, either out of pride or out of fear that if you don't answer the question, the questioner will walk away or assume that the Church has no answer. But the best thing you can do is to honestly say "I don't know", and then follow it up with "but I can find out." If at all possible, be sure to follow up. As Catholics, we have many resources available to find answers to any question about the faith: we can consult the Catechism of the Catholic Church, we can ask our priest, or someone who is more knowledgeable in the faith, but today's resource is a the website for Catholic Answers: https://www.catholic.com/
There are very few, if any, original questions. At some point or another, the question you were asked was most likely asked before and answered. On the Catholic Answers mission page it states that "Catholic Answers is a media ministry that answers questions about what the Church really teaches" and "Our goal is to be the most trusted and accessible source for sharing, explaining, and defending the Catholic faith through as many media as possible: from personal contact to the most innovative means of mass communication." In forty years, there are very few topics that have not been covered by this ministry. If you are stumped by a question, or simply have a question yourself, enter the topic or question in the search box and this website will offer several articles, audio files, videos and other media in plain English that are to the point and reflect Catholic teaching. It is also a great website to look at their latest content which is available on the homepage, whether to learn something new yourself, or to discover new ways to put difficult topics into words. If you prefer to listen, there are also links to radio shows, such as Catholic Answers LIVE or podcast that you can download so you can listen on your commute or when out for a walk.
MAY 19: FIFTH SUNDAY OF EASTER
Love one another. This is the Lord's commandment, to love one another as he has loved us. And he loved us by laying down his life for us while we were yet sinners. We are called to do the same. By ourselves, this would be impossible, but with God's grace, all things are possible. God makes all things new. In Christ, we are a new creation, and God dwells among us. True love is a sacrifice. It is a giving of ourselves. But it is in loving each other that we receive and bear fruit. Let us be his disciples, and follow him, draw others to him so that they too, may know his love.
There are many websites, apps and booklets that offer daily reflections on the Mass readings for the day, but my go-to resource for daily reflections to help me pray the readings of the day is a webpage https://catholic-daily-reflections.com/ . It offers simple reflections on the daily gospel written by John Paul Thomas.
For each day, the author focusses in on one aspect of the Gospel, suggest an exercise of faith we may want to try - something to pray for or something to reflect on sometime during the day, and then offers a simple prayer to help us articulate our trust in Jesus.
For example, as I write this post on Wednesday, May 8, the Gospel reading in John 6:35-40, a continuation of the bread of life discourse. The reflection focuses in on the line "I will not reject anyone who comes to me" (Jn 6:37). And the reflection is all about how, if we have experienced the pain of rejection in our life, we may fear entering into relationships out of fear of being hurt again. We may even fear entering into relationship with Jesus. But Jesus assures us that he is trustworthy, that we can come to him without fear and that he will not reject us if we open our hearts to him.
We are invited to reflect on the love of Jesus in our life and how he wants us to be in relationship with him. And the reflection ends with a simple prayer.
"Lord, I want to come to You in my sufferings and rejection. I know You are the Divine Healer and will bring comfort to my soul. Help me to trust You and to let You love me. Jesus, I trust in You. "
Prayer need not be long-winded or complicated, and this website is a wonderful way to enter into the daily gospel and apply it to your life. (For the full reflection of this day see: https://catholic-daily-reflections.com/2019/05/07/never-rejected-always-loved-2/)
In addition to reflections' on the gospel, the site offers daily reflections on the Divine Mercy , as well as seasonal resources and links to information about saints of the liturgical calendar
Most of the information is also available in book form for those who prefer paper or e-books, and there is an app for android or apple. Personally, I simply have the webpage bookmarked on my phone for easy access, which I personally find easier than the app.
If you are looking for a resource to help you pray with the Gospel of the day, this is a solid resource.
MAY 12: FOURTH SUNDAY OF EASTER
We are the people of the Lord, the flock he shepherds. Jesus tells us that the Father and he are one and, as part of his flock, he invites us into relationship with himself and the Father! How utterly amazing. We can know and follow Jesus, and in him, we can know God. Yet so often, we ignore his call, ignore the promptings of the Holy Spirit. Like stubborn sheep, we want to wander off and go our own way. Today, let us listen to the voice of the Good Shepherd as he calls us to follow. And, on this Good Shepherd Sunday, let us pray in a special way for those men he calls to priesthood, that they will have the courage and grace to follow the call and be our shepherds.
MAY 5: THIRD SUNDAY OF EASTER
Our Gospel today is a beautiful example of beginning again. Just like, at the beginning of Jesus' ministry, Peter is asked to throw out the net after a night of fruitless fishing. But this time, Peter doesn't hesitate or argue. He simply does as he is instructed and brings in a huge catch. The first time this happened, Peter asked the Lord to depart from him because he was a sinful man and not worthy being in Jesus' presence. This time, Peter jumps in the water and hurries to shore, rejoicing at the presence of the risen Lord. In the longer version of today’s Gospel, Peter, who once denied Jesus three time, is given the opportunity to profess his love for the Divine Master three times. No matter how many times we fall, Jesus encourages us to get up and begin again. Pope Francis has reminded us again and again that God never tires of forgiving us, so don't ever tire of asking for forgiveness. Today, rejoice in God's mercy and resolve to renew your love and to deepen your relationship with Jesus and follow wherever he leads.
So often, we attend workshops on evangelization or catechesis or apologetics, and forget that these are not stand-alone silos of our faith but rather are all integral parts of sharing our faith with others. How often have I, as head of evangelization, said things like: we sacramentalize people but don’t evangelize them as if the grace of the sacraments has nothing to do with the openness of our young people to hear and follow Christ? Yes, catechesis is not effective in an abstract way unconnected from knowing and following Christ, but sometimes, catechesis is the introduction to Jesus opening the way for evangelization, which leads to questions and doubts and the need for apologetics and more catechesis.
This book by Julianne Stanz is a call to the need to evangelize by Catholics, aimed primarily at catechists and catechetical leaders, but a valuable practical guide to evangelization and creating disciples. Chapter by chapter, we are guided why we need to evangelize, that there is a need for a new evangelization and what evangelization is and how to start. It then looks at evangelization through the lens of catechesis and how catechesis is an integral part of evangelization.
Each chapter has reflection questions and a worksheet for catechetical leaders to reflect on how to integrate the material into you parish catechetical program that can be downloaded from the publisher (Loyola Press) Each chapter also has suggestions for practical actions to the reader can take to transfer the information from the theoretical to the real world and, for deeper study, a bibliography for further reading.
This is truly a wonderful book to help catechists make disciples of Christ.
Our diocese has the good fortune that the author of this book, Julianne Stanz, will be speaking at the June LEAD event on June 25 and 26 in Alexandria Bay. For more information click on the flyer below:
APRIL 28: SECOND SUNDAY OF EASTER (OR SUNDAY OF DIVINE MERCY)
Today is Divine Mercy Sunday and our Gospel gives us the beautiful account of the Apostle Thomas needing to touch Jesus' wounds to believe that Jesus is truly risen. Jesus, in his great mercy, showed himself to Thomas. He allowed Thomas to touch to dispel his doubt that he might believe. One of the greatest expressions of faith we have in scripture is from the Apostle Thomas who exclaimed "My Lord and my God!" Similarly, in our own day and age, the faith of converts is often a great witness to cradle Catholics. Often, they point out elements of our faith that we may have taken for granted. Is there something that is keeping you from trusting the Lord? Is there something that is keeping you from God's great mercy? As Catholics, we have the great gift to hear the words of absolution spoken by Jesus in the person of our priest confessor. We may not touch Jesus' hands and sides, but in the Sacraments, he touches us, so that we too may exclaim with Thomas: My Lord and my God.