Friday, September 28, 2012

Catholic Religious Education (CRE) Week #4

Hello my fellow Catechists. I hope this post finds you well, and that your little ones have not led to premature graying of hair...or worse...caused you to go bald! I learned a valuable lesson blogging last week. Always preview. Thanks to my aunt for catching my post abnormality last week!

As you recall, last week we talked about the Trinity. The Trinity is definitely one of the mysteries of the Church that we will never understand, but I believe my Trinity Shield puzzle helped shed a little bit of light on the subject for my students.

In other news, I have a blessing to share this week! One of my kids is an eager participator. It's probably why he is my favorite, because he actually wants to be there in 7th Grade. That is rare, and he is the first one in my 2 years at 7th Grade that wants to be there. Well, he was raising his hand and trying to answer every question, and I was like "I think we have a future priest in the making." I said this halfway joking, but I wanted to see how he would respond to it, and he was beaming and told me that was one of things he wanted to be when he grew up. So now I have the extra pressure of teaching a future priest to add to the stress of 7th Grade, but this one is a good stress for sure.

Anyhow, this Sunday marks the last day of September, which means Monday is the start of October - The Month of the Holy Rosary. I figured this was a good week to teach them about the Rosary. I do hope it is something they already know, but with the way the Liturgical Year went, my expectations are low. So we will cover prayer in general and some details about the Rosary.

Then, I will let my Aide lead them in it for the rest of the class. I didn't think I was going to like having an Aide, but she's come in handy so far, and will do well at leading them in the Rosary. I am trying to help make her more involved, in case I ever need a substitute, she can fill in seamlessly. Also, I don't want her to get discouraged and feel like she is just in the way. It's still a work in progress for sure. Anyways, here is my lesson plan.

  • Preparation for the Lesson
    • Bring enough rosaries for the class and instructions on how to pray the Rosary.
    • Write the following on the board:
      • Who do you talk to when things are going bad?
      • Who do you talk to when things are going good?
  • When everyone gets there, have them turn to page 255 in their books.
    • I am going to need 3 readers for this prayer.
  • Talk about what they wrote in their binders.
    • Explain that prayer is simply talking to God, just like you would talk to a friend.
  • Have them read page 258.
  • Have them read page 260.
    • Write the five types of prayer on the board.
    • Explain that the Mass is one big prayer.
    • Ask them to think of another big prayer that Catholics have.
      • If they can’t come up with Rosary, hold one up and ask them to identify it.
  • Pass out Rosaries
    • Have the students get familiar with it.
      • Notice the different parts of the Rosary
      • Count the beads
      • See the natural separations of each part of the Rosary
  • Since tomorrow is the beginning of October, and October is the Month of the Rosary, we are going to spend the rest of today talking about the Rosary and hopefully praying it as well.
    • Who here prays the Rosary at home either by themselves or with their family?
      • How does it make you feel?
      • Do you get distracted praying for that long?
        • What do you do to fight that distraction?
  • In the 1200s, St. Mary appeared to St. Dominic and gave him the Rosary to fight heresies that were spreading in France.
  • The Rosary consists of four groups of five mysteries each.
    • Can y’all name the four groups of mysteries and the 20 mysteries?
      • Joyful (Said on Monday and Saturday)
        • The Annunciation
        • The Visitation
        • The Nativity
        • The Presentation in the Temple
        • The Finding in the Temple
      • Luminous (Said on Thursday)
        • The Baptism of Jesus
        • The Wedding at Cana
        • The Proclamation of the Kingdom
        • The Transfiguration
        • The Institution of the Eucharist
      • Sorrowful (Said on Tuesday and Friday)
        • The Agony in the Garden
        • The Scourging at the Pillar
        • The Crowning with Thorns
        • The Carrying of the Cross
        • The Crucifixion
      • Glorious (Said on Wednesday and Sunday)
        • The Resurrection
        • The Ascension
        • Pentecost
        • The Assumption
        • The Coronation of Mary
    • John Paul II was responsible for giving us the Luminous Mysteries as he felt that more of Christ’s life should be included in this devotion.
    • Father Spotswood, a former priest at St. Dominic, is responsible for building a Rosary Garden here.
      • It is laid out in the shape of a Rosary.
  • Now let’s go over how one prays the Rosary
    • The first thing we do is kiss the Crucifix and make the Sign of the Cross
      • Why do we kiss the Crucifix?
        • Reverence
      • Why do we make the Sign of the Cross?
        • Because all prayers start with the Sign of the Cross
      • Next, we say the Apostles’ Creed
        • This is a statement of all our beliefs as a Catholic
      • Then, we say the Our Father
      • Followed by three Hail Mary’s
      • Glory Be
      • Fatima Prayer
      • We then announce the First Mystery
      • Say ten Hail Mary’s
      • Glory Be
      • Fatima Prayer
      • Repeat this for the 2nd through 5th Mysteries
      • Hail Holy Queen
      • Rosary Prayer
      • Sign of the Cross
      • Kiss the Crucifix
  • Now, we are going to say the Rosary with Miss Hannah leading you in it, and since today is Sunday, what mysteries will we be reflecting on?
    • The Glorious Mysteries
  • Now that we have prayed the Rosary, what are ways you can build a devotion to Mary and the Rosary?
    • Pray it every day
    • Get your family to pray it
    • Pray it on the way to school
    • Pray it before you go to bed

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Catholic Religious Education (CRE) Week #2

Happy Friday everyone. It's that time again where I talk about my next class I am teaching as a Catechist, and recap last week. As you recall, last week my 7th grade class learned about the Liturgical Year. Some were worried that my class was too basic for 7th grade and if they went to Mass weekly, they'd know it all. Hearing that I was a little worried.

Luckily for me (unluckily for those kids) only 1 (yes 1) of my kids knew a great deal about. That kid is definitely my favorite. I know you're not supposed to have favorites, but he just seems excited to be there and has a thirst for God. His parents were also the only ones who came in the class to introduce themselves. Future priest? I sure hope so.

I almost had another mini-catastrophe. I had five people register for class. It's a bit of a small number, but manageable and not too rowdy. However, nine kids showed up!! NINE!! Luckily, I had enough stuff prepared for ten, but I definitely wasn't expecting to get close to that number. My aide also was somewhat helpful. Still not 100% sure on how I feel about her, but she can at least write neatly on the board and I might have her be the enforcer/one who tells the kids to be quiet.

On to this week though. I have to cover two chapters this week, but luckily they are the early chapters and should tie together nicely. In Chapter One, we learn about God and how we know Him, and in Chapter Two, we learn about Scripture and Tradition. While looking over my outline for this week to post, I noticed that I had a lot of reading. Sorry, kids need to read! But the outline won't be entirely helpful if it just tells you to read page 15, and you're wondering what page 15 says, so I included some of the keywords on the pages in the outline. What I am most pleased with for this week is the craft I have planned.

It's inspired by St. Iranaeus of Lyons (Patristics..WOO!) He compared a heretic to a thief who took a mosaic (picture made up of little tiles) of a king and rearranged it to look like a fox or a dog. So I am going to make my own mosaic out of construction paper, probably of a cross. Then, I am going to hand out a blank sheet of paper and exactly the same number and color of construction paper squares I used, and tell them I want them to make a picture from the squares.

But the catch is that they have to make the same picture I did without seeing mine. Then, I am going to have them show me their pictures when done. It would be nice if someone has the same picture as me, but doubtful. So I will explain to them that our Catholic faith and beliefs is the Cross. And all those pictures of other things are people who came along and misinterpreted it or changed it either on accident or purpose. And that we are blessed to have three things that help us know what we believe is right - Scripture, Tradition, and the Magisterium.

  • Preparation for the Lesson
    • Bring Bible, YouCat, Catechism and Icon of the Crucifixion, prayer shoe box.
      • Set these up on a desk and make a prayer space.
        • Write the following on the board:
          • How do you know that God exists?
  • Introduction
    • Good morning, I would like you to turn to page 11. I need 4 readers.
  • State that God created us to know Him.
    • How do you know that God exists?
    • Review their answers
  • Chapter 1
    • Have someone read page 15
      • Divine Revelation
        • God told us He exists.
        • He did it in the Old and New Testament.
      • Ask them what Salvation means?
        • Being saved from our sins with the potential to go to Heaven.
    • Page 16
      • Faith – What is it?
        • The gift to believe in God. All our given this gift, but not all accept it.
    • Page 17
      • The Church
        • The Catholic Church has been around 2,000 years.
  • Chapter 2
    • Hand out construction paper mosaic pieces, white sheet of paper, and glue.
      • Allow kids 10-15 minutes to work on this.
    • How do you know that what you believe is true?
    • Our truths about the Catholic faith also came from somewhere. Let’s turn in our books to page 24 and begin reading to discover where they came from.
      • Write the keywords on the board as they come to them and review with them after each passage.
        • Scripture
          • What is it?
          • What does it mean to be divinely inspired?
        • Tradition
          • What is it?
          • Where did it come from?
        • Magisterium
          • What is it?
          • Who makes up the Magisterium?
    • I’d like you to take your Bibles and turn to the Table of Contents
      • As you can see there are 73 books in the entire Bible, 46 in the Old Testament and 27 in the New Testament
        • Y’all should have learned about the Old Testament last year, so let’s talk briefly about the New Testament.
          • The first four books are called the Gospels, which means Good News. These four books are most of what we are studying.
          • Next, is the Acts of the Apostles. This book contains a history of the Apostles and Early Church.
          • After that are 21 Epistles or Letters written to specific people or churches. 14 of these were written by St. Paul and the other 7 by other Apostles or Disciples.
          • Lastly, is the Book of Revelation, which contains information on how to celebrate the Mass as well as encouragement for early Christians.
        • So this collection of books right here, the Bible, is one of the legs on which our Faith and Truth is built.
        • Allow for questions if any.
    • Next, I would like to show you this picture. Look at it and pass it around. This is called an icon, and an icon is one form of Tradition passed down to us through the ages.
      • Icons are prayers in pictures that serve to convey a truth about a specific saint or story of our Faith. We will be using various icons throughout the year.
    • Another form of tradition is oral tradition or word of mouth. Stories told from ancient times were passed down from generation to generation until they were written down. That is how much of the Old Testament came to be written.
      • However, it wasn’t only Biblical stories that were passed down but the way which we do things. The Sacraments are another example of Tradition. We Baptize people today and receive the Eucharist today the same way they did 2,000 years ago.
        • Allow for questions if any.
    • Lastly, I would like for you to pass around this book. It is called the YouCat. The YouCat is short for Youth Catechism. And a Catechism is a summary of beliefs in question and answer form.
      • The Magisterium wrote the YouCat for people your age, because the other Catechism wasn’t easily readable to y’all. If you don’t have one, I’d encourage you to ask your parents to get you one.
      • It is a valuable book that answers some hard questions, a lot of which we won’t get to cover this year.
      • Allow for questions if any.
  • Conclusion
    • I would encourage each of you to read through the Gospel of Luke and the Acts of the Apostles.
      • You could read one chapter a week and do it with your family.
      • By doing this, you’ll get a better idea about the life of Jesus and the life of the early Church.
    • Next week we will be talking about the Trinity.
    • Have a good rest of the week, and I look forward to seeing y’all next week.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Bible Study - 1st Peter 2:11-25

Welcome to the next installment of our Bible Study. Like last week, this will be a recap post instead of a preview post. We've had mixed results with the Bible Study so far. I think myself and another guy in the group expected a whole lot more out of it and expected it to be mind-blowing. So to us, it hasn't lived up to expectations. But I think others enjoy it for what it is - a small group of faith, food, and fellowship with two kids crawling and one 3 year old.

However, to try and make the Bible Study a little better, we decided to use questions Ignatius Press provided on their website. The results were better, but with all things spiritual, it could always stand to use some improvement. Now for my commentary/thoughts/ramblings.

In verses 11, we see elements of spiritual warfare, something the Catholic Epistles are known for in their writings. We are also reminded that we are aliens or sojourners in this world, meaning that we are required to live in the world but not be of it. This is not always easy to accomplish as we get pulled in many directions, but we must be aware at all times that our ultimate goal is Heaven.

Verse 12 is where we discussed the first question, "What is the day of visitation?" In layman's terms, this is the final day of judgment at the end of the age (not the end of the world as the world doesn't end). We see Jesus make reference to this day in Luke 19:44 when Jesus was rebuking the Pharisees (Shocker I know!) because they were criticizing him for riding a donkey like a king aka Palm Sunday. We also see the day of visitation reference in Sirach 18:19-27.

Verses 13-17 are a little tough to swallow living in our current culture. We are told to be subject to governmental authorities. In those days and in other places throughout the world, there is very little chance to have influence on rulers and the government. My U.S. and others readers that live in a democracy can make a difference though. We are supposed to show respect to rulers, because they are in charge and in a way by showing respect to them we show respect to God.

However, this does not mean we are supposed to be pushovers in unjust governments. We need to get Obama or any pro-death/pro-abortion candidate out of office. We have to do it by legal means though and that means doing our Christian and civic duty and showing up to vote. Many people take that right for granted, which is a shame because it is not afforded to everyone throughout the world.

Verses 18-25 deal with slavery. In Roman rule, slavery was a reality as there were hundreds of thousands of slaves with no chance of bettering their lot in life. Peter didn't tell them to overthrow their masters and kill them. No,  he said to be subordinate to their masters, good or bad ones and to their face and behind their backs. It's easy to be subordinate when your master is in front of you, because you might think you can win points or curry favor. But they were called to be subordinate at all times. Why? Because although they couldn't escape slavery, they could better themselves and their life/heart and by doing so walk the path to Heaven. Verses 22-25 are interesting in that it mirrors passages in Isaiah 53, also known as the Suffering Servant section.

That's all I have for today. Tune in next Wednesday for the start of Chapter 3 when we discuss the passage on Husbands and Wives (Verses 1-7) and Peter's Exhortation to Unity, Love, and Humility (Verses 8:12). Have a blessed rest of the week, and I'll see y'all on Friday when I post my next CRE lesson.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Book Review: A Beginner's Guide to Prayer

Welcome once again to my Study. For those of you who were here last week, you will recall that I reviewed Prayer for Beginners by Peter Kreeft. I thought it was only fair that I give a beginners prayer book from the Orthodox Tradition, the same amount of time so this week I tackled A Beginner's Guide to Prayer: The Orthodox Way to Draw Closer to God by: Michael Keiser. I have to admit that this book was easier to read and more helpful to me.

This 100 page book gets to the heart of the matter quickly. It starts with a very essential question of why we should pray and answers it beautifully with the words, "We pray as a response to love, and we pray in order to love." He then goes on to give practical advice of using the KISS method (Keep it short and simple) and setting up an icon corner in your house as a central point for prayer.

In the two longest chapters, Mr. Keiser deals with something we all struggle with when praying: distractions and demons. Distractions so far are the problem I have the most when praying. I might be encountering demons. I am unsure on that one, and don't want to speculate one way or the other. But these are two things that we all struggle with and must be aware of and fighting against in order to pray more effectively. He also reminds us not to get too cocky in our prayer life, as that is a sure fire way to slip up and fall.

Overall, I would give this book 5 out of 5 stars as it was a highly beneficial book to me, even though I am not Orthodox Christian. The language is clear. The message is solid. And it is just the right length for beginners, though you can still get something out of it if you are an intermediate or advance prayer. Stop by again next week as I review Night of the Confessor: Christian Faith in an Age of Uncertainty by Tomas Halik. See you next time!

Friday, September 21, 2012

Catholic Religious Education (CRE) Week #3

Welcome once again to my weekly installment as a catechist. As you recall, last week my 7th Graders learned about Truth and Knowing God. I was all excited about my mosaic project, but it seemed to flop and the kids either didn't get it or didn't care. I did have a few that were excited to read aloud, so I guess we will be doing more reading in the class.

My aide also seemed a little discouraged so I tried to find more for her do than "just write on the board" as she worded it. So I have put her in charge of leading opening prayer, and am going to try my hardest to make her more involved. I asked for her input on craft ideas, but have received no input yet, so there won't be anything crafty this week but a puzzle instead.

This week we are learning about the Trinity. I am going to bring in three ropes braided into one rope and a shamrock, and at some point in the lesson ask them, "What do you see?" and "Is it one rope (or leaf) or three?" I also have a trinity shield. See image below. I am going to remove the words from it and pass it out and write the words on the board and have them solve the "puzzle." For those of you who don't speak Latin, Deus = God, Pater = Father, Filius = Son, Spiritus Sanctus = Holy Spirit, Est = Is, and Non Est = Is Not.

On to the lesson plan!

  • Preparation for the Lesson
    • Bring Icon of the Baptism, rope, shamrock, Trinity Shield.
    • Write RELATIONSHIP on the board
    • Write instructions on board to turn to page 32, read instructions and fill it out. Basically the instructions are they have to come up with a word that represents a good relationship starting with each letter of the word relationship. So R could be Realistic.
  • Introduction
    • Good morning. Today we are going to talk about relationships and the Trinity, but before we get to the word on the board, I would like us to turn to page 31 and begin with the opening prayer.
    • Like last week, Ms. Hannah will be the Leader and you will respond to the words after All.
    • Okay! While waiting for class to start, I had each of you fill out the activity on page 32.
    • We’re going to go around the class and I’m going to let you write a word on the board to describe the elements of a good relationship.
      • Review what was written
  • Chapter 3
    • Now I would like you to turn into your books and I want someone to read the poem on page 33.
    • Think about that poem for a minute.
    • The author was only 12 years old (your age or younger) and already had a profound understanding of one of the things that matters most in life.
      • It’s not school or work or parties or TV or computer games.
      • One of the main points of life is to make someone else’s life a little better.
      • And how do we do that?
      • By spreading God’s love.
  • Now I need a reader on page 34.
    • Write the keywords on the board as they come to them and review with them after each passage.
    • Blessed Trinity
      • What is it?
    • What does it mean to be a mystery of the Church?
      • Explain that a mystery is something we cannot explain, but have to accept on faith.
    • Reference the rope and especially shamrock and St. Patrick as an example.
      • Even back in the 300s and 400s, people couldn’t wrap their head around the idea of the Trinity. St. Patrick therefore held up a shamrock to people he was teaching and ask:
      • Is it one leaf or three?
      • I am asking you the same question. Is it one leaf or three?
      • Answer: It is both one leaf and three leaves. The same is true of God. He is one God, but three Persons.
    • Another example of the Trinity is the Trinity Shield.
      • Draw the shield on the board.
      • Have them fill it out for 5 to 10 minutes.
    • Explain how God is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
      • Explain that the Father is not the Son, etc.
  • Continue reading page 35.
    • The word Trinity appears nowhere in the Bible. However, in one Gospel story we see all three members of the Trinity present at one time.
      • Does anyone know where?
      • We see them all present in the Baptism of Jesus. Have someone read the passage in Matthew 3:13-17.
    • Present icon. Pass it around. And explain:
      • Jesus is present being baptized.
      • God speaks saying, “This is my beloved Son.”
      • And the Holy Spirit descended on Jesus like a dove.
  • Continue reading pages 36-37
    • Evangelization
      • What does it mean?
    • Have them complete activity on Page 37. How would you witness to different age groups? Kids? Teens? Adults?
      • Go over their answers
    • Challenge them to take the answer next to teens and do it this week.

Well that's all for this week. Good luck my fellow Catechists. May God bless you in your ministry!

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Bible Study - 1st Peter 2:1-10

Greetings, fellow lovers of God's Word. Today we will be discussing 1st Peter 2:1-10. Last week, my Bible Study did not meet. And for this week we met on Tuesday this week, so we had a lot of catching up to do. So instead of getting a preview of what we're studying, you get a recap. The remainder of Chapter 1 is covered in my previous post. We kind of drudged through that, and I think the long sentence in Chapter 1 still gave us nightmares. On to Chapter 2!

The first part of Chapter 2 deals with growth as Christians. Peter hops around with his comparisons and compares his readers (and us) to newborns (vv. 1-3), stones (vv. 4-8) and a chosen race of people (vv. 9-10). And he makes it pretty clear that our first step in growth is to rid ourselves of five things: Malice and deceit are the first two.These two are opposed to truth in 1st Peter 1:22. The other three are insincerity, envy, and slander. These three are opposed to love also found in 1st Peter 1:22.

Then, we dive into the baby metaphor. His audience and most all of us are newborn babies, and what do babies need and long for? Milk! So as spiritual newborns, we long for "pure, spiritual milk." Notice that he didn't just say spiritual milk, but added the word pure. This means we long for the faith that is not watered down, but 100% true. And we rely on milk, because we are infants and not ready for spiritual meat. Verse 3 references Proverbs 34:8 and is a common Responsorial Psalm about tasting and seeing the goodness of the Lord.

Now, we change metaphors and are stones, verses 4-8. Jesus is of course THE living stone and the cornerstone that the builders rejected (Psalms 118:22). But we too are called to be living stones so that Jesus can build His Church with us. He doesn't want us to be dead and just showing up to Church, getting our card punched, and leaving, but he wants us to be ALIVE so that others might see that life in us and come to Him to be born anew.

I have always loved the cornerstone that the builders rejected metaphor. Jesus is the cornerstone, or the stone served as a starting place for builders. Those who recognize Jesus as such will not stumble. Those who lack the faith in Jesus, will never understand Him or His teachings.

We can also see that man definitely is not a good judge of people, and God picks and chooses who he wants. St. Peter knows this better than anyone as he had a habit of always putting his foot in his mouth. But Jesus built the Catholic Church on Peter, which proves that God is a better judge of character than man (and has a sense of humor).

Lastly in verses 9 and 10, we as Christians are compared to four things and each one is greater than the last. We are a chosen race, a royal priesthood (Isaiah 61:6), a holy nation (Exodus 19:6), and a people of His own. These four descriptions were reserved for the Israelites, God's chosen people, but their final rejection of Him when He became man caused God to form a New Covenant. Now, the Church is the New Israel.

Gentiles, who converted to Christianity, are no longer orphans but sons and daughters. And everyone celebrates in the priesthood. Yes, we still need sacramental, Holy Order priests to perform the sacraments, but we all share in the priesthood. And we are called to witness for Him. This is reflected more than ever now in the New Evangelization, which Pope Benedict XVI has encouraged us to do.

Until next time, thank you once again for reading my blog. Have a blessed day!

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Book Review: Prayer for Beginners

Welcome once to my weekly review. I am currently working on reading and reviewing books from my current library, but have recently joined two review programs. Both of whom have sent me books to review. So I am eagerly awaiting the arrival of those books to read and review. In the study this week, I will be reviewing Prayer for Beginners by Peter Kreeft.

Peter Kreeft is a well-respected Philosophy professor and has written dozens of spiritual/Catholic books. I picked this book to review, because even at my age, I feel I am not as advanced in my prayer life as I would like to be or should be. So I figured, I should start at the most logical place, the beginning. Also, I picked this book up at a retreat I went on for catechists, for under $2! It was definitely a steal for the price.

In these 125 pages, you will find lots of good advice on why to pray, where to pray, how to pray, what to say, etc. Kreeft wisely encourages you to read this book slowly to get a lot of it. But I tried and just couldn't the book down for more than 5 minutes at a time. There are 18 chapters with almost all of them under 10 pages long, hence my problem reading it slowly.

I think my favorite part of this book is Chapter 9 "Jesus: The Shortest, Simplest, and Most Powerful Prayer in the World." In this chapter Kreeft, addresses a prayer that all Orthodox Christians know and every other Christian should know, and that is the Jesus Prayer. Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner. This short, formulaic prayer has had many thick, and deep books written about it, but it is a beautiful and simple prayer we could all afford to take to heart and use whenever we have trouble expressing any needs that aren't expressible.

Overall, I would give this book 4 out of 5 stars. At times, Kreeft's sentence structure leaves a bit to be desired and can be distracting to me. But maybe that's just a flaw in my reading. I would definitely recommend this book to people no matter what point of the path they are on in their prayer life. Tune in next week as I review another beginners prayer book of the Orthodox persuasion, A Beginner's Guide to Prayer: The Orthodox Way to Draw Closer to God. Thank you for stopping by and reading.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Bible Study - 1st Peter 1

Tomorrow my group is discussing 1st Peter 1:13:25. I know you are thinking, "Wait a minute! What happened to 1st Peter 1:1-12?" Well, we discussed that last week. Never fear, I will give you some cliff notes from our Bible study to catch you up.

In verse 1, Peter identifies himself because that is how people wrote letters back then. They identified themselves, and then they said who they were writing to. He refers to himself as an Apostle. This gives his epistle some authority, because he saw Jesus and heard His teachings.

Next, Peter tells who he is writing to. The chosen, sojourners, in dispersion. You definitely can read this and think he is writing to Jewish Christians, but he is actually writing to Gentile Christians or the New Israel. They are chosen, like the Jewish people were. They are sojourners in dispersion or aliens living in a foreign land. That foreign land is Earth as it is not their or our real home. Heaven is. Lastly, the five cities are just the order that the deliverer of this letter would deliver it. Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia.

In verse two, we see the Trinity at work. Chosen by the foreknowledge of God means that God knew who would accept Him and chose them. This is NOT predestination. Sanctified by the Spirit refers to receiving the Holy Spirit at Baptism. Obedience and sprinkling with the blood of Jesus Christ refers to Jesus' death on the Cross.

In verses 3-12, Peter cannot contain his joy and it just spills onto the text in one loooong sentence/prayer/blessing. We see Peter give praise to God for our new life and our eternal reward, Heaven, waiting for us. But notice that he cannot describe the awesomeness of it, so he just has to say what Heaven is not and not what it is. It is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading. So if someone asked you if Catholics are saved/born again? You can give a resounding YES, and tell them see 1st Peter 1:3-5.

Verses 6-9, he reminds us to rejoice while undergoing trials. Hello, Epistle of James showing up again in the First Epistle of Peter. It sounds like a contradiction to rejoice with bad things going on, but we're called to do it. Why? Because, we're not made for this earth. Yes, we have to live on it and have our faith tested and purified like gold, which is beautiful analogy, as gold actually gets better with fire, so do we. But earth isn't our final home. We're just passing through trying to get to Heaven.

Verses 10-12 are a good argument for people who try and discredit Jesus. The prophets wrote about Him for a long time, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit. And all of their writings were for our benefit so that we would/should recognize Jesus when He came, and accept Him. Sadly, not many people did. The end of verse 12 is just mind-blowing. Even the angels wanted to see what Jesus was going to do and how God's master plan was going to shake out. How cool is that?

Alright, we're all caught up from last week. Onward! Verse 13, we're told to gird up the loins of our minds and be sober. In a nutshell, be clear thinking and be ready for whatever the world throws at you. There's all sorts of bad things in the world that can make you anxious, but if you're clear thinking and relying on God, they won't phase you and you'll keep your eyes on the prize - Heaven.

Verse 14, we're called His children. Not slaves. Not peons. Children! We gained that privilege through Baptism, but we can't be bratty kids. No, we have to be obedient and not go back to our old life. Hard task indeed, because as most people know, the old life is more fun and easier.

Verses 15-16 stress the call for holiness, and to be holy like God. That's easy enough, right? Wrong! We have to rely on Him constantly, if we want to be like Him. And we should want to be like Him. We are His children. And children should reflect their parents, so if God is holy, we need to be holy.

Verse 17 serves as a bit of a warning, at least in my opinion. Yes, God is our Father now, but He is still fully just. You can't just call Him Father, and then go live however you want to live. If you don't live right, God will justly punish you.

Verses 18-21 reminds us how we were saved - not by silver or gold. Now, some might think this means money, and I guess it could to a degree. No one ever bought their way to Heaven, and those selling and buying indulgences back in one of our darker periods would have done well to read this passage and remember it. But the silver and gold is also referring to idols or false gods. Those never saved anybody, and they never will. The only way to Heaven is through Jesus.

Chapter 1 wraps up with verses 22-25 calling us to love each other intensely with a pure heart. This isn't just some kind of casual love that means "I guess I love you, when you're nice to me or when you can do something for me," nor some kind of sexual love. This is an agape love. It is a love where we would die for them. How do we get that kind of love? Not on our own that's for sure. Why? Because we are mortal, like the grass or the flower. This kind of love comes straight from God, and we are called to live it.

Thanks for taking the time to read this long recap/breakdown. I promise next week's post on this topic will not be this long. Have a good Wednesday, and I'll see you Friday when I post my next lesson for 7th Grade Catholic Religious Education.

Bible Studies

I got to thinking about my blog the other night. And I realized that only posting on Monday and Fridays is kind of limiting and self-defeating. People come to a person's blog to have something to read. If my posts have a 3-4 day gap, people lose interest and I could lose readership. So I tried to think of what I could write on and I realized that I am active in two different Bible studies. Over-committed? Probably. Why not write about those?

So before I dive in and start talking on the Bible, I am going to give you a brief introduction to both Bible studies that includes who we meet with, what book we're studying, and the resources I personally use to get the most out of my Bible study.

One Bible Study involves my wife and I meeting with two other young married couples in the 20-30 range. I am the leader of this Bible study, masochist that I am. :) This particular Bible study group meets every Thursday and we are working our way through the Catholic Epistles (James through Jude for those of you unaware with this section of the Bible). We are currently on 1st Peter as we finished James in August. We use the Ignatius Catholic Study Bible: New Testament, for our main reference. I personally also use the following three commentaries to get some more insight:

First and Second Peter, Jude
Navarre Bible: Revelation and Hebrews and Catholic Letters
Universal Truth: The Catholic Epistles of James, Peter, Jude, and John

In the other Bible study, my wife and I are the youngest by far. This is a Bible study group that her parents belong to and recruited us. It is composed of an interesting mix of people, who aren't all Catholic, so we get some definite ideas come out of left field every now and then. We used to meet every Sunday, but have since moved to two Sundays a month to accommodate the hosting couple. We are going to be studying the book of Revelation, using the Agape Bible Study as our main source. I will also use the following three commentaries to get some more insight:

Navarre Bible: Revelation and Hebrews and Catholic Letters
The Apocalypse of Saint John: A Revelation of Love and Power
Commentary on the Apocalypse

As it stands now, my plan is to post the day before each Bible study is to occur. So the first post on 1 Peter will be tomorrow, September 12th, and the first post on Revelation will be October 6th. So tune in tomorrow as I post on 1st Peter chapter 1, and if you would like to follow along and study with us, please leave some comments on the posts. I would love to hear from my readers out there. As always, thank you for reading!

Monday, September 10, 2012

Book Review: The Orthodox Study Bible: Ancient Christianity Speaks to Today's World

Welcome back to Stuart's Study. I hope everyone had a blessed week. Mine was busy, but productive. As you recall, last week I reviewed the Ignatius Catholic Study Bible: New Testament. So I figured, it was only fair that I review The Orthodox Study Bible: Ancient Christianity Speaks to Today's World, which was published by Thomas Nelson, one of the leading Protestant publishers in the world. (Weird, I know.)

I have mixed feelings about this Bible, which deeply saddens me. I really wanted to like this Bible. But like others I have spoken to, they too are a bit disappointed with this Bible. The Orthodox Study Bible started out as the New Testament and Psalms, and with massive funding they started a project to publish the Old Testament with the New Testament. So it is nice to have the full Bible in one volume, especially when so many people publish just the New Testament for the price of a full Bible.

However, in this case, it might have been better to just keep the New Testament. The Old Testament translation was supposed to be a more accurate translation of the original Septuagint. What it ended up being was a different story. The translators basically took the New King James Version (NKJV) and tried to make it match up to the Septuagint. I have been told, since I don't read Greek (sadly) that they didn't even do this well.

There are some positives to take away from the Bible though. For starters, the English-speaking Orthodox people have a Bible they can call their own, instead of the NKJV or American Standard Version (ASV). I am a convert to Catholicism, but seeing that Orthodox and Catholics were/are the original and true Church (not getting into that in this review), I can't imagine either one of them not having an English Bible, but apparently that time did exist.

There are also copious footnotes in the Scriptures. Sadly, most of them are very basic footnotes that don't add a lot to the discussion. I do like the footnotes that tell when specific passages are read during the Church Year. That is definitely a valuable resource, as it helps you put what you're reading in the context of the Church seasons. Also throughout the Bible are various word studies explaining different Biblical terms, which explain Biblical terms and give you references to where you can find out the Biblical basis for those terms.

Overall, I would give this Bible 3.5 stars. It is a good Bible translation, but not a great one. It can be better, and it should be better. Hopefully, there will be a revision to this edition or other translators will undertake the task of making a better translation. Tune in next Monday when I review Peter Kreeft's Prayer for Beginners. Have a good rest of your Monday, and I'll see you again on Friday. Thanks for reading!

Friday, September 7, 2012

Catholic Religious Education (CRE) Week #1

Well, here I am again. This Sunday is my 3rd year as a catechist, and 2nd year teaching the 7th Grade. We had our meeting yesterday with our Director of Religious Education (DRE) and the other catechists. Good food and good company. Just the thing to get you energized and psyched up for another year.

Good News
I think I am in better shape than I was last year. Last year, I was a big arrogant thinking that I could do a better job teaching than the book (Sadlier Religion's We Live Our Faith) and used it sparingly, trying to teach strictly from the Bible, since 7th Grade is about the New Testament. Well, it definitely humbled me. But I regrouped, dove into the book, and prepared half of my lessons for the year. I have plans to do the other lesson plans throughout the year. I have to admit I am still not a big fan of the book, but it is definitely more qualified than me.

Bad News
I have a student aide!!! And she's only a junior in high school! That's only three years older than the kids in my class. I'm not sure how I feel about this yet. Time will tell, but maybe she can add some creativity to my lesson plans that I lack.

Anyhow, this coming week I am going to be the teacher I hated in school. Most students expect the first day of class to just be an introduction, but time is precious. I only have 1 hour per Sunday and roughly 30 Sundays. So I am going to do an Icebreaker and review the Liturgical Year. This is something they should all be familiar with, but is good to start out the year with because it emphasizes the need to go to Mass weekly, something many of them do not do.

After this paragraph, I will post my lesson plan. If you would like to read it and comment on it or critique it, that would be most welcome. If not, thank you for taking the time to read the rest of this post. Good luck all my Catechist brothers and sisters.

  • Preparation for the Lesson
    • Bring Icon of the Crucifixion, candles, and prayer shoe box.
    • Set these up on a desk and make a prayer space.
    • Distribute notecards on desk
    • Write on board for them to fill out the following information on the notecards:
      • Name
      • Siblings
      • School
      • Hobby
      • Thing You Like Most About Being Catholic
      • Prayer request you have for this week (if any)
  • Introduction
    • Good morning, I am your teacher Mr. Dunn. This is 7th Grade CCD. This year we will be learning about the New Testament.
      • I would like you to set your cards aside. We will get to those in a second, and turn to page 306 in your books. 
        • We are going to read this prayer aloud together.
      • That prayer was called the Nicene Creed. It is a prayer which summarizes everything we believe as Catholics.
        • Can any of you think of where you have heard that prayer before?
          • At Mass.
        • At what point in the Mass?
          • After the Homily and before the Prayers of the Faithful.
  • Ice Breaker
    • As I said, in our opening prayer, we learned what it takes to make us Catholic. Now you are going to tell me and everybody else what makes you, you.
      • So let’s go around the room and tell me these 5 facts that make up you. You do not have to read the prayer request aloud. When you are done, you may place your card in the prayer box on our prayer table, so that no one will know your request but God.
        • Ask follow-up questions if something interests you.
  • Liturgical Year
    • We’re not going to dive into the textbooks this first week. Instead, we are going to talk about the Liturgical Year, because we are going to try and focus our weekly lessons to match up with the year.
      • Who can tell me what season we are celebrating in the Liturgical Year?
        • Ordinary Time
      • Here’s a tougher question (only if someone knows it’s Ordinary Time)
        • What week of Ordinary Time is it?
          • 23rd Week
        • How would you know that?
          • They say it at the beginning of Mass
          • It’s on the Bulletin
          • And I will put it on the board every week for you.
    • What is the Liturgical Year? Who can define it for me?
      • It is a sequence of specific seasons and feasts we celebrate during the year.
      • Put simply, it is the Church’s calendar
    • We are going to draw a representation of the calendar on the blank sheet of paper in the front of your notebook.
      • So what shape should we draw for the calendar?
        • A Line? A Triangle?
          • No, a circle. Why?
            • Because the Liturgical Year doesn’t really end.
            • It is an unending celebration of the life and mystery of Jesus.
      • Next, we are going to draw a starting line to mark the beginning of the first season.
        • What is the first season of the Liturgical Year?
          • Advent
        • What color is associated with Advent?
          • Purple
        • Why purple?
          • Because it is a season of expectation and waiting.
        • What are we waiting for?
          • The coming of Jesus, both at Christmas and the end of time.
        • How long does Advent last?
          • 4 weeks
      • So let’s draw an ending line, and color the area purple.
        • What season comes next?
          • Christmas
        • What color is associated with Christmas?
          • White
        • Why white?
          • White is a color of joy.
        • What are we joyful about?
          • The birth of Jesus and that He is with us always.
        • How long does Christmas last?
          • 2 weeks
      • So let’s draw an ending line here, and leave the area white.
        • What season comes next?
          • Ordinary Time
        • What color is associated with Ordinary Time?
          • Green
        • Why green?
          • Green is the color of life and hope.
        • During this time we as Catholics grow in our life and walk with Christ as we hope for the reward of Salvation at the end of our lives.
        • How long does Ordinary Time last?
          • 34 weeks, but the first part only lasts 4-9 weeks depending on when Easter falls.
      • So let’s draw an ending line here and color it green.
        • What season comes next?
          • Lent
        • What color is associated with Lent?
          • Purple
        • Why purple?
          • Purple is a color of penance.
        • Why do we do penance during Lent?
          • To draw closer to God through prayer, fasting, and almsgiving.
        • How long does Lent last?
          • 40 days.
      • So let’s draw a closing line here and color this area purple.
        • What season comes next?
          • Easter Triduum
        • What color is associated with Easter Triduum?
          • Red
        • Why red?
          • Red is the color of Jesus’ blood when he suffered and died.
        • How long does the Triduum last?
          • 3 days
        • What are each of these days called?
          • Holy Thursday, Good Friday, and Holy Saturday
      • So let’s draw a thick red line here.
        • What season comes next?
          • Easter
        • What color is associated with Easter?
          • White
        • Why white?
          • White is the symbol of purity.
        • How long does Easter last?
          • 50 days
      • Let’s draw a line here and leave this white.
        • The rest of the space will be colored green for the second half of Ordinary Time.
          • And then, we are back at the beginning of the circle and a new year.
  • Not only does the Church have specific seasons, we also have specific days we are required to go to Church.
    • Does anyone know what these days are called?
      • Holy Days of Obligation
    • Can you define it?
      • A day during the year when you are required to go to Church or it is considered a mortal sin, unless you have a very serious reason to miss.
    • Apart from Every Sunday (write “Every Sunday” on the board), there are six of these days. Name them.
      • Mary Mother of God – January 1
        • This is celebrating that Mary is Jesus’ mother.
      • Ascension of Jesus – 40th  Day of Easter (Always a Thursday)
        • This is when Jesus went to Heaven.
      • Assumption of Mary – August 15
        • This is when God took Mary to Heaven. Unlike Jesus, she didn’t rise on her own power.
      • All Saints’ Day – November 1
        • This is when we celebrate all the saints of our Church.
      • Immaculate Conception – December 8
        • This is when Mary’s mom conceived Mary without original sin.
      • Christmas – December 25
        • This is when Jesus was born.
    • All of these are important feast days, which we are supposed to be at Church, especially Sundays. Underline every Sunday here.
      • So go to Mass every Sunday!
      • Also, you have to go to Mass. If you’re spending the night with a friend, going to their Baptist or Methodist Church doesn’t fulfill your Every Sunday obligation. Why?
        • Because they don’t have the Eucharist!
      • So I encourage you this year to go to Mass every Sunday and these other 6 days, and even more so go with your family.
  • Next week, we will start our lessons out of the book. See you then.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Book Review: Ignatius Catholic Study Bible: New Testament

The book I am reviewing today is the Ignatius Catholic Study Bible: New Testament, published by Ignatius Press and edited by Scott Hahn and Curtis Mitch. I'm aware that many people have already weighed in on this masterpiece, but I wanted to add my two cents to the discussion. And, let me just start by saying that this is not the Gideons' "Little Red Bible," not that I have anything against the Gideons. They do great work, and I applaud them for it.

This New Testament was ten years in the making and was first published as thirteen volumes. It is the Revised Standard Version (RSV), which is a more literal translation than the New American Bible (NAB), the one you hear in the readings at Mass. Don't get me wrong, I like the wording in the NAB, and it is great for liturgical use, but if you are going to study the Bible, you need a more literal translation, and that's where the RSV delivers.

The Ignatius Catholic Study Bible is chock full of information. Within these 700+ pages, you will find that the pages are divided in a way that one-half of the page is Scripture, and the other half is footnotes explaining the above Scripture. There are also study aids including maps, word studies (like expiation), doctrine explanation (like Faith and Works), important indices, and a concise concordance.

This truly is the perfect starter study Bible and one that you will grow with as well as one that you will use for years to come. The only complaint I have about this Bible is that they cut the study questions that you could find in the individual volumes originally published. Luckily for, Ignatius Press was kind enough to provide these on their website.

On a scale of one to five, this Bible is five stars all the way. I can't wait for them to finish this Old Testament. Unfortunately, I fear we might be waiting at least another ten years for that, as they have only completed Genesis and Exodus so far. When it is complete though, I have no doubt it will be worth the wait and worth every penny.

Thank you for stopping by today and taking the time to read my first review. Tune in this Friday for my first lesson as a 7th Grade catechist this year. And tune in next Monday, as I review The Orthodox Study Bible: Ancient Christianity Speaks to Today's World. See you next time, and don't forget to tell your friends if you enjoyed this post.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Welcome and Happy New Year!

Happy New Year? Has this guy lost it? No, I haven’t. For those of you who identify with Western Christianity, mainly Roman Catholicism, you probably will not be familiar with this date. We celebrate the Catholic Church’s New Year on the First Sunday of Advent and the “Get your party on” New Year on January 1st.

For those of you who identify with Eastern Christianity, mainly Eastern Orthodox or Eastern Catholicism, their New Church Year starts on September 1.  To be honest, their calendar makes more sense to me. Their first great feast is the Nativity of Mary, and their last great feast is her Dormition. But I digress.
I like doing important things on days that are easy to remember. My wife and I were friends long before we ever dated, but my first date with her was on 1/1/10. I proposed on 10/10/10. And we got married on 12/31/11. So I figured the Eastern Church’s New Year was a good day to start a new blog, especially since, Advent is way too far away.

I won't bore you with details about me again. If you would like to read them, you can refer to the About Me section of this blog. I will just tell you the schedule I intend to post on this blog. Mondays will be for book reviews, so look for the first review coming in just two days. I will try to be fair and address both Western and Eastern books, so I will alternate my selection each week.

Posts related to Catholic Religious Education will be on Friday, just in case people need last minute ideas or just want to read about my struggles. I teach 7th Grade, so bear in mind most of my lessons and thoughts will be drawing from the New Testament. However, there might be some good ideas, for catechists of all ages. If not, I might at least have some entertaining stories.

Well, that's all I have for today. Thank you for taking the time to read this. And I hope to see you again on September 3rd for my review of the Ignatius Catholic Study Bible: New Testament. Don’t forget to tell your friends to stop by too, if you like what you read.