Are you attending the 77th Annual NCCL Conference and Exposition? Don't miss out on any of Sadlier's exciting events or conference sessions!
-Want to learn about the latest catechetical resources? Stop by Sadlier booth #5!
-Want to get a FREE t-shirt and be entered for a chance to Win $50? Attend one of our Round Robin sessions Monday, May 20! Get the details.
-Are you on Twitter? Be sure to follow the hashtag #SadlierNCCL and tweet during the 3rd NCCL's annual Tweet-Up, Tuesday, May 21 at 9pm! @DeborahLouiseM and @JaredDees will be hosting.
-Looking for inspiring conference sessions? Check out the Sadlier Speakers!
Finally, I would love to meet any We Believe and Share readers attending NCCL. Join me on Tuesday, May 20 from 4:30-5:45 pm for NCCL Session (206), Let the Children Come: The What, Why, and How of children's Catechesis.
During Lent, I wrote about directing a day of retreat centered on the people of the Passion – those figures from Scripture who were present during the arrest, trial, and crucifixion of Jesus. Now I am preparing to revisit each of their stories as “part 2” of that retreat takes place. How might each of those characters changed between the time of Jesus’ death and the coming of the Holy Spirit?
The Scriptures provide some ready answers for a few of them. Peter emerges from the experience with an eloquence and conviction that was a far cry from his early verbal gaffes and shameful denials. John is one of the eleven who convenes in the upper room. He probably escorted Mary as part of his promise to Jesus that he would provide for her. It is pretty safe to assume that Mary Magdalene was among “the other women” (Acts 1:13-14) who were also there. The mood among this group must have been electric. They had just witnessed the Ascension of Jesus and were told by him to stay in Jerusalem for the baptism of the Holy Spirit (Acts 1:4-5). Imagine the buzz of conversation, the telling and retelling of stories about Jesus’ apparitions, and the anticipation of what was to come.
It might also have been possible that Simon of Cyrene and the centurion who proclaimed Jesus as the Son of God were also present on that long-ago Pentecost. They might have stood among the crowd, drawn to the scene by the fierce sound of wind and of the disciples proclaiming the Good News in different tongues. Imagine their excitement at witnessing such an awe-inspiring event.
We celebrate the feast of Pentecost as the “capper” to the Easter season. It affirms who we are as the Church – the People of God called to spread the news far and wide of the mighty words and works of Jesus Christ. We may not have the gift of tongues bestowed upon the disciples, but we are endowed with the same grace and guidance of the Holy Spirit. Like those early disciples, we are called to put our own gifts to use each and every day for the realization of the Reign of God. It may not be as dramatic as the original Pentecost, but it is no less effective. Then, like Peter, we, too, can echo the words of the ancient prophet: “You have made known to me the paths of life; you will lift me with joy in your presence” (Acts 2:28).
photo © iStockphoto
Our daughter, Anna, is getting married next month and, since there will be live music at the reception, Ron and I decided we need to learn to dance. I know how to dance – kind of – but doing so with a partner is a whole other matter. Our instructor is teaching us the proper “frame”, a way of holding ourselves so that we keep in step with one another. Ron as leader of the dance does less than I do as the follower. It sheds new light on what Ginger Rogers said about her partnership with Fred Astaire: “I do everything he does, but backwards and in high heels.”
I always loved the metaphors for spirituality contained within the dance, but this experience is opening up new ones. If God is leader of the dance, than we learn to follow by pivoting around him, ever open to the places we will be taken and the rhythms to which we will become attuned. Keeping the proper frame for a dance of prayer requires attentiveness and discipline. “Don’t bounce,” my instructor frequently tells me. How often are we tempted to bobble around in our prayer lives, unable to settle into the flow because of hyper-active minds and restless attitudes? Once we stop all the mental high-jinks, we find ourselves carried away by the beauty and grace of time with God.
Our dance lessons have coincided with the conclusion of a powerful year spent with students in a Benedictine spiritual formation program. As part of our closing process, we discussed ways in which they felt transformed by the year’s experience. One repeated comment had to do with finding ways to pray in which they were swept into movement with God’s great Spirit. In each case there was a need for cooperation with the process. Just as dancers must learn to be in step with one another, so we must learn to keep pace with God who awaits our time, attention, and willingness to follow the music.
photo © iStockphoto
With the Gather In My Name Celebrating Pentecost event, participants will be able to explain the importance of Pentecost in the history and life of the Church and identify ways the Holy Spirit helps them to take part in its evangelizing mission. Download the Celebrating Pentecost handouts and access event details!
It’s been quite a week. No sooner had we recovered our breath after the bombings at the Boston Marathon than we learned about the devastating explosion and fire in West, Texas. This was followed with the lockdown and fierce manhunt for one of the suspects in the marathon bombing in Boston. It’s been exhausting.
After such enormous tragedies, we tend to bond with one another. Seeing images of bloodied bodies, anguished loved ones, and devastated survivors picking through the rubble of lost homes brings a sense of our shared humanity. We feel for each other and, in doing so, drop the partisan divisions that so often serve as barriers to compassion. If only such feelings could linger a bit longer before we start to drift once again into our own little worlds. Maybe this is all part of coming to terms with our limits, however. There is only so much grief and heartache that we can take in.
“Compassion fatigue” is a chronic problem for those who care for the sick, the suffering, or those in need of physical and mental assistance. I have seen this kind of fatigue arise among pastoral and catechetical ministers whose roles entail a constant awareness and call to service on behalf of others. Perhaps such fatigue is something that overtakes us on a communal level as well when we feel we can’t handle one more tragedy.
The best antidote for it is self-care, something that takes a bit of discipline to enact. Studies of those called into care-giving roles show that they were often taught at an early age to put the needs of others above their own. Thus, they have to learn how to retreat on a regular basis to do something loving and kind for themselves - to practice, in essence, some self-compassion.
If this sounds narcissistic, we have only to look to the example of Jesus who took time away on a regular basis for prayer and renewal of mind, body, heart, and spirit. In an era of instant news and constant contact via technology, such withdrawal might require “unplugging” for short or extended periods of time. Over the past several days I have found solace in being outside and savoring the sounds of birds returning from their southern sojourn. Being with both of my children brought light and levity, as well as a bit of perspective. Restoring some peace to my own heart has naturally given rise to compassion for others, especially those suffering the aftermath of violence and devastation. As I recover a semblance of balance, I am better able to re-establish the bonds of kinship that is at the heart of Jesus’ dream for us all.
photo © iStockphoto
When my husband called and asked if I’d heard about what happened at the Boston Marathon, I thought he was going to tell me about an upset among the finishers. Ron is a distance runner and follows races closely so I am used to hearing about unanticipated contenders or broken records. Bombs at the finish line were never part of the equation.
Having taken my place as a bystander at countless races over the years, I know the excitement and anticipation that grows as runners cross the line. We cheer for them all, often giving a special shout-out to those who struggle the last few yards. In all the years I have been getting up before dawn to accompany Ron, I never once worried about our safety. Boston changed all that.
This is not the blog I was planning to write this week. On Friday morning, I flew out of New England at dawn and into a scene of breathtaking beauty. As the plane hovered between the cloud bank lying over the city and the one just above us, I felt like I was in a movie version of heaven. Blue light enveloped us and I almost expected to see an angel perched on one of the cloud pillows that rested just below us.
Last year I wrote about the Ascension of Jesus as being more of a horizontal movement than a vertical one. As lovely as it was to fly amid the clouds, life is back here on earth. The bombing in Boston reminds us that life is not predictable nor does it promise that things will turn out the way we want them to. One of the most striking images of the aftermath of the explosions was that of people running towards the victims instead of away from them. We are likely to dub these first-responders “heroes”, but I think they are much more than that. They are bearers of grace and compassion in a time of horror and devastation. They defy those who would say the only response to violence is more violence. If there is any hope for us in this horrible tragedy, it is that Christ has not ascended to a place far above us but into the hearts and hands of those who have not let horror override the redemptive power of love.
photo © iStockphoto
Bring your parish together for an Earth Day/Go Green event! With this event participants will:
Learn how the call to care for God's creation is part of Catholic Social Teaching
Expand their understanding of stewardship that includes respect for and protection of the natural environment
Identify ways to “go green” through the practice of stewardship at home and in collaboration with others
For the past several weeks I feel like I have been in the middle of the American version of the film “If It’s Tuesday, It Must Be Belgium.” My travel schedule has been more intense and extended than usual and so I keep losing track of where I am. Michigan, Maryland, or Massachusetts? East coast or west? Dates and times get jumbled when I am moving from one regional zone to another. I have to think twice before calling home, lest I wake Ron at an unearthly hour.
Despite all of this, I still enjoy the experience. While the traveling itself can be exhausting, I always find myself engaged with the people I meet along the way. This week I am moving through New England and giving a series of talks to catechetical leaders and Catholic school teachers. Their dedication and commitment to their work in sharing the Gospel with children and families renews my energy and revives my jet-lagged spirit.
It makes me wonder if Jesus had the same sense as he journeyed from one place to the next. Did he, too, get confused about where he was when landing in Genessaret or the “land of the Gerasenes” (Mark 5:1)? Was it disorienting to move from sea to grainfield and then up a mountain, all the while pursued by the crowds who sought his teaching, blessing, and healing touch? The key to keeping his focus was engaging with people as he traveled as well as the rest stops he took along the way.
We needn’t be on a world tour to experience this kind of travel. Life itself is a journey and an adventure. Each day can bring us to unexpected places and leave us disoriented and confused if we don’t remain engaged with the process. It can also exhaust us if we don’t, like Jesus, stop to rest and rejuvenate ourselves along the way. My own travels have provided opportunities to do that and I am grateful each time I remember to take them. A nap, a stroll, or simply listening to music on my iPod all provide a respite from the rigors of the road and help me to stay connected with the people I am meeting each day. Then, once again, I remember that I am right where I am supposed to be.
photo © iStockphoto
Re-discover why Easter is a feast! The Easter weekend was just the beginning, so let the feasting continue with these calendar cards. I invite you to download Keeping the Easter Feast calendar cards and use them in your home or catechetical sessions.
After a nice workout, I went to my favorite coffee shop to do some writing. The television was on but, instead of the usual sportscast, the channel was tuned to a PBS oil-painting class. The artist’s gentle voice provided a nice backdrop to my work and I occasionally picked up a word or two of advice. The best was a reminder to paint your own picture. “It’s your canvas,” he noted.
In a couple of weeks I am co-directing a day of retreat for students in a Benedictine spiritual formation program. The topic is discernment. Rather than focusing on what they want to do, however, the question of the day is, “how do you want to live?” It’s a worthy reflection for each of us as we enter the Easter season. If the Resurrection of Jesus Christ has any bearing for us, it must lead to an essential question about who we decide to be. In essence discernemnt leads deep within in order to find and follow an “inner compass.” This, in turn, guides us in directions that not only affect what we do, but how we choose to go about it.
My friend, Lily, taught me how this works. A few months ago her entire office went through restructuring. A new management team was put in place and, with it, new rules and procedures. As with most change, it set off a series of reactions among Lily’s coworkers. Some quit. Others balked. Most complained. Lily chose instead to go with the flow. “I decided to engage,” she told me. As a result she found peace with the situation. Lily’s choice to follow her best instincts will serve her – and those around her - well.
Parents and catechists have a vital role to play in helping children and young people choose how to respond to life. The emergence of Christ from a tomb of death and into a life of love provides a guideline for the kind of response we, as his disciples, are invited to make. We can paint our canvas with dark hues and monotonous lines, or we can create a masterpiece of color and texture. The choice is up to us.
photo © iStockphoto