Catholic Culture Update for the week beginning December 1, 2013


From Sr. Pat Carter, CSJ….

Quote to carry in your heart for the week.

“Keep awake!”Matthew 24

December 1st is the first Sunday of Advent. “During Advent, we prepare for Christmas.  Christmas is our encounter with God — or, more precisely the coming of the Lord into the world so that we might encounter him – and Advent is the time during which we get ready for this encounter.  But what is the “coming of the Lord”?  In today’s first reading and the Psalm, the way to encounter God is to go to a particular place – specifically the Temple in Jerusalem.  Here, we may be instructed in living according to the ways of God.  In the Gospel, Jesus speaks of the Day of Judgment: a future, though not-too-distant, coming of the Lord.  Jesus warns us to be ready for that day, but does not tell us how to prepare.  In the second reading, Saint Paul gives us some idea of how we might get ready:  by living honourably; by putting on the Lord Jesus Christ.  This can only mean that we live not only according to what Jesus teaches, but also to how Jesus lives: without sin; prayerfully; prophetically; and in giving of ourselves lovingly to others, even our enemies, without limit.  In doing so, we will find that the “coming of the Lord” is a reality not only outside us, but also within each of us.  Indeed, the Lord comes to each of us, into the very fabric of our being, again today in our celebration on the Eucharist.” Rev. Armand Mercier, OFM, December Living with Christ, page 31.  Help us to live as you live Jesus, without sin, prayerfully and prophetically.

Tell someone who helps you a lot that you appreciate them and give them a hug!

December 3rd is the memorial of St. Francis Xavier.  “The great missionary was born at Xavier Castle in Spain in 1506.  He went to the University of Paris when he was eighteen.  Here he met St. Ignatius Loyola, who was about to start the Society of Jesus.  St. Ignatius tried to get Francis to join him.  At first the happy-go-lucky young man would not think of it.  St. Ignatius repeated to him the words of Jesus in the Gospel: “What does it profit a person to gain the whole world and lose his own soul?”  At last, Francis saw clearly that his place in life was among the Jesuits.  When Francis was thirty-four, St. Ignatius sent him as a missionary to the East Indies.  The king of Portugal wanted to give him presents and a servant to accompany him.  Francis refused his kind offer and explained: “The best way to acquire true dignity is to wash one’s own clothes and boil one’s own pot.”  During the course of his amazing career in Goa, India, Japan, and other lands of the East, St. Francis received thousands of converts.  In fact, he baptized so many people that he became too weak to raise his arms.  He gathered little children around him and taught them the Catholic faith.  Then he invited them to spread the faith they had learned.  There was nothing St. Francis wouldn’t do to help people.  Once he faced a fierce band of raiders, alone, with no weapon but his crucifix.  They backed away and did not attack his Christian tribes.  The saint also brought many bad-living Christians to repentance.  His only “tools” were his gentle, polite ways and his prayers.” Saints for Young Readers for Every Day vol. 2 pages 279-280  St. Francis Xavier, teach us our true dignity and encourage us in your ways.  Use gentleness in your activities today in honour of St. Francis Xavier.

December 6th is the memorial of St. Nicholas. “Nicholas is the great patron of children and of Christmas giving.  He lived in the fourth century.  Santa Claus is a Dutch form of the name St. Nicholas.  This famous saint was born in Asia Minor, which is modern-day Turkey.  After his parents died, he gave all his money to charity.  Once, a certain poor man was about to abandon his daughters to a life of sin because they did not have the money needed to get married.  Nicholas heard about his problem.  He went to the man’s house at night and tossed a little pouch of gold through a window.  This was for the oldest daughter.  He did the same thing for the second daughter.  The grateful father kept watch to find out who was being so good to them.  When St. Nicholas came a third time, the man recognized him.  He thanked Nicholas over and over again.  Later St. Nicholas became bishop.  He loved justice.  It is said that once he saved three innocent men who had been falsely condemned to death.  He then turned to their accuser.  He made the man admit that he had been offered money to get rid of the three men.”  Saints for Young Readers for Every Day vol. 2 page 285  Dear St. Nicholas, teach us how to be generous and loving to those in need.  Put some candy in your students shoes before they get to school.  Children in different parts of the world put their shoes out to receive a treat from St. Nick today.

December 7th is the memorial of St. Ambrose.  “Ambrose was born in Germany around 340.  He was the son of the Roman prefect of Gaul.  When his father died, his mother took her family back to Rome.  She and her daughter, St. Marcellina, brought Ambrose up well.  He became an outstanding lawyer.  Then he was made governor of Milan and the territory around it.  But, by a strange event, Ambrose the governor became Ambrose the bishop.  In those days, the people used to suggest to the pope the name of the one they would like as bishop.  To Ambrose’s great surprise, the people of Milan chose him.  He tried to refuse, but it seemed to be God’s will.  Thus, Ambrose became a priest and then bishop of Milan.  Ambrose became a great model and father to his people.  Wanting to be as worthy as he could be of this high office, Ambrose gave away everything he owned and started to live more simply.”  Saints for Young Readers for Every Day vol 2. pages 286-287.  St. Ambrose, teach us what God’s will is for us.  Ask God to help you to know what you should be when you grow up so that you can do God’s will like St. Ambrose did.

Serving in the Light of Christ – a quote for the week

“serve [God] in sincerity and in faithfulness” Joshua 24:14

New Catholic Elementary Curriculum Policy Document for Religious Education

Believing ~ Hope Expectations for Primary Classes

By the end of grade 3, it is our hope that students will be individuals who:

–  Are curious and open to hearing the saving story of our Christian Faith;

–  Actively reflect on God’s Word as communicated through the passages of the Hebrew and Christian scriptures;

–  Stand in wonder and awe before God’s self-revelation in creation and in the mysteries of the Catholic Faith proclaimed in the Apostles’ Creed

Grade One:  Demonstrate how in the Scriptures, the people gradually came to know God as “Father Almighty, Creator of Heaven and Earth.”  [CCC nos. 50-73, 101-104; 142-184; 198-354; 422-682]  One of our most used prayers is called the Our Father.  Jesus used it to teach his followers and to teach us that God is our Father who lives in heaven.  God cares for us just like a loving Father would. A prophet is a person that God asks to speak a special message.  The prophet Isaiah called God an “Everlasting Father.” [Isaiah 9:6] This helps us to know that God will always be with us, forever.  Isaiah also tells us that our Father “God is like a potter and we are like clay.”[Isaiah 64:8]  God is working in our lives all the time.  God makes each of our lives different just like a potter makes each clay pot and vase special [unique].  Each one is different, so it is with our lives.  In Matthew’s gospel Jesus asks us to “let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.” [Matthew 5:16] What does it mean to give glory to our Father in heaven?  When you do something special, your parents are very happy and they are proud of what you have done.  This is how God our Father feels too, when you do good works (like when you share, or you help someone) God is so happy and this is how we give God glory. There are many times in the Bible that people are referred to as Children of God.  God created us just like our parents helped to create us.  So we are children of our Father in heaven. [Matthew 5:45] God our Father is able to know everything we do all the time; that is why God is God.  When we pray in our rooms by ourselves, [Matthew 6:6] God listens and hears us and only God hears us.  God will answer our prayers in the best way possible.  It may not be in the exact way we ask, but it will always be the best way.  God is a loving Father who only wants us to happy. So God only gives us good things. (this is a possible script for explaining God as Father)

Grade Two:  Examine a selection of biblical passages from the Christian Scriptures in which God reveals Jesus as the Son of God and the second person of the Blessed Trinity and the Holy Spirit as the Third person of the Blessed Trinity.

At Jesus’ baptism, it is said that “a voice from heaven said, “This is my Son, the Beloved, with whom I am well pleased.”[Mt. 3:16-17]  So God tells us through the Scriptures that Jesus is God’s son. Not everyone at Jesus’ baptism heard God’s voice, only Jesus and those of us reading the Scriptures in the past and present. When Jesus invites the disciples to baptize all nations he instructs them to baptize in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.  So Jesus reveals the Blessed Trinity as the fullness of God into which to bring new Christians.  [Mt. 28:19]  When God sent the angel Gabriel to invite Joseph to marry Mary, Gabriel says “do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife, for the child conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit.”  [Mt. 1:20]  Jesus is the Second person of the Blessed Trinity placed in Mary by the Third person – the Holy Spirit, not by the sin of adultery as could have been speculated.  In Luke’s gospel during the annunciation and visitation, Jesus’ identity as “Son of the Most High” is deeply connected to God’s desire to be present to us, humans.  Gabriel also repeats the message that “The Holy Spirit will come upon you and the power of the Most High will overshadow you, therefore the child to be born will be holy; he will be called Son of God.”  So Jesus’ identity as the Second person of God is repeated and that the Holy Spirit (the Third person) will impregnate Mary with Jesus.  When Mary visits her cousin, Elizabeth’s baby leaps within her to acknowledge Jesus’ presence within Mary, and Elizabeth says, “And why has this happened to me, that the mother of my Lord comes to me?”  Elizabeth’s baby is a miracle of God.  Her baby John, who will become the Baptist, seems to recognize Jesus from his place in the womb or at least there is a deep connection of the two women in their love-filled state. [Luke 1:26-56]  Later in Jesus’ life he promises to send the Holy Spirit to his followers after he ascends into heaven.  In John’s gospel we hear Jesus say “I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, to be with you forever.  This is the Spirit of truth.”  [John 14: 16-17, 23]  Jesus is deeply connected to the Father and the Spirit.  The Holy Trinity is three faces of God’s completeness.  God is a mystery but the tradition of the Church has tried to help us understand the fullness of God by using the metaphor of Trinity.  St. Patrick used the shamrock to show the Trinity as three interconnected leaves.   [CCC nos. 232-278; 456-534]

Grade Three:  Articulate an understanding of the eternal origin of the Holy Spirit as revealed in Sacred Scripture.  Jesus reveals that God the Father is the source of all Godness when he says, “If God were your Father, you would love me, for I came from God and now I am here.  I did not come on my own, but [God] sent me.” [Jn. 8:42]  Later in John’s Gospel Jesus says, “When the Advocate comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who comes from the Father, he will testify on my behalf.”  So God the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit are all on the same page.  They understand all things in common.  [Jn. 15:26]  In Paul’s letter to the Romans [5:5] Paul says “God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us.”  God the Father is the Source of all being, the source of God’s being, and the source of all Creation.  This is the message of the first half of this expectation.

Equity and Inclusive Education – The Power of Targeted Interventions

Gender   Here are a few more strategies for motivating and engaging boys in active learning:

  • Use games to strengthen literacy and numeracy skills.
  • Provide opportunities for debate, impromptu speeches, and lively discussions on topics of interest and relevance.
  • Use role play and drama to strengthen oral language skills.
  • Many boys enjoy working in groups.  Provide opportunities for co-operative education experiences, working with partners and in social settings.

For resources about boys and literacy, see the Breaking Barriers website:

Breaking Barriers:  Excellence and Equity for All page 135

A Teaching from the Catholic Book of Days


It is an interesting paradox.  December is the month when consumerism is king, and when religious leaders seem so distraught by rampant commercialism that they are impelled to be constantly reminding believers that ‘tis the season to be other than just merry.  And, truly, December is a pretty crass and tinsel-ly time. Strangely enough, it is also the month when the corporal and spiritual works of mercy are more real in people’s lives than at any other time of the year – certainly, the corporal works.  The often-maligned media can claim as much credit for this as the churches, thanks to Christmastime campaigns on behalf of the homeless and poor – some run in conjunction with churches, to be sure, but others, like [Christmas Cheer] for the needy, wholly independent of ecclesiastical auspices.  Those who participate often do not realize the deep religious context of their gesture.  By the same token, those running the appeals do not stress, probably don’t even sense, the Holy thing they are about, believing likely as not that theirs is a non-theological activity arising out of some human instinct of guiding rule of humanism, like the Golden Rule.  Fine, except the Golden Rule is thoroughly grounded in the Scriptures, appearing in Luke immediately after the Beatitudes, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you” (Luke 6:31).  So what are these corporal and spiritual works of mercy that take on flesh, as it were, at Christmastime?  Catholic old time graduates remember them thus:  The corporal works of mercy:  To feed the hungry; to give drink to the thirsty; to clothe the naked; to visit the imprisoned; to shelter the homeless; to visit the sick; to bury the dead.  The spiritual works of mercy:  To admonition the sinner; to instruct the ignorant; to counsel the doubtful; to comfort the sorrowful; to bear wrongs patiently; to forgive all injuries; to pray for the living and the dead.” +John Deedy

28 Different Ways to Pray

“As Jesus taught us by His word and example, daily prayer is essential for all Christians.  Our individual prayer life follows the rhythm of our daily life. ……Way #26 Using Icons and Art for Prayer

Praying before an image of Christ, the Blessed Virgin Mary, or one of the saints is a time-honoured tradition for Western Catholics and Eastern Christians alike.  Most of our religious art in the West is representational and lifelike, not abstract, and so we are often stirred by the expression on the face of the figure.  We are also moved by the emotional depiction of a tragic scene, such as Christ’s last agony, Mary’s tenderness holding her child, or a saint’s dramatic martyrdom.  Churches in both Europe, the United States and in Canada are filled with art by both well-known and little-known artists to help us pray by its lifelike imagery.  It is customary for Catholics to offer a prayer before the images that are found on side altars or walls of a church, perhaps to even light a candle before the painting or statue so that the prayer will be “continued” even when we have left the church to go home.  This practice is recognized by the Church as a help to prayer:  praying before an image in Church unites us to the communion of the Blessed Virgin and the saints who surround the throne of God in heaven.” Paulist Press page 134.


Twenty-first Century Education > RESTORE Gratitude > 2.09 min

How quickly those things offered as gift become taken for granted.  A good reflection to begin Advent. > True and Better > .30 sec

Every religious educator ought to view this video.  It shows how all the heroes of the bible are connected to Jesus.

Especially Intermediate and Senior classes could use this resource to connect the biblical dots. > Digital Advent resources for every grade and every division > a great activity for everyday of advent…a digital Advent calendar for Intermediate and Senior students – Adults may really enjoy the challenges offered.  Maybe the whole staff want to live advent together by viewing this resource before heading to Lunch together. search How to Lead Small Group Prayer – a skill that can help in the classroom  > best kept secret for religious education teachers of every grade

130 Fun Facts from God’s Wonder-Filled WORLD by Bernadette McCarver Snyder

“Who Turned Off the Light?

Sometimes when there’s a stormy night, the electricity suddenly goes off – and what do you do then?  If you’re eating dinner, you can’t see where the food is on your plate.  If you’re reading a bedtime story, you can’t see the book!  You need light!  Soon the electricity company fixes the problem and the light bulbs go on again.  But how do they do that?  Well, inside the glass light bulb, there’s a glass tube, a glass rod, some straight wires, and a little coil of wire called a filament.  When you turn on a lamp that is plugged into an electric outlet, electricity comes into the bottom of the bulb and travels to the filament.  The filament gets so hot, it glows – and gives off a light bright enough for you to see everything in the room!  A lot of people worked to invent electricity but a man named Thomas Edison made the first practical light bulb and later developed the first central electric-light power plant.  Aren’t you glad God made Mr. Edison so talented and so inventive?  But did you know God gave each person a special “talent”?  Some people can sing or play music or paint pictures or write books or play ball or be kind to others or be a good housecleaner or automobile mechanic or truck driver or smile and tell funny stories and make other people happy.  There are so many “talents,” you couldn’t even list them all.  Which talent do you think God gave you?  Ask God to help you find out which is your special talent – and teach you how to use it.”  Page 57

WHAT’S YOUR CATHOLIC IQ?  by Page McKean Zyromski

CATHOLIC Who Wants to be A Millionaire? – Who says teaching religion can’t be fun?

The Bible

1.  When Jesus was twelve years old

A.  he got separated from his parents in Jerusalem

B.  Mary and Joseph had to search anxiously for him for three days

C.  he sat among the rabbis in the Temple

D.  all of these

2.  A Gentile is

A.  anyone who is not a Jew

3.  In the Book of Exodus we learn that the ark of the covenant

A.  was a portable golden box carried on poles

B.  contained the tablets of the law, the rod of Aaron, and a sample of manna

C.  was honoured as a symbol of God’s presence

D.  all of these

4.  The religious order that preserved the Bible during the Dark Ages by writing out copies by hand is

A.  the Benedictines

5.  The prophet Elijah

A.  challenged the wicked Queen Jezebel

B.  challenged the 400 prophets of Baal on Mount Carmel

C.  ascended into heaven in a fiery chariot

D.  all of these

BONUS question:

The one Gospel that is very different from the other three is the Gospel of  B.  John


1.  Starting on the first Sunday of Advent many families and parishes light candles

A.  to pray for world peace                                           C.  in front of statues of St. Patrick

B.  on an Advent wreath                                                          D.  to save on electricity

2.  Jesus’ cousin was born six months before Jesus.  This cousin’s name was

A.  Simon Peter                       B.  John the Baptist                 C.  James, the son of Zebedee                        D.  Thomas

3.  The name of the angel who came to announce Jesus’ birth to Mary was

A.  Michael                  B.  Gabriel                               C.  Raphael                                         D.  Moroni

4.  The word for Christmas in French is

A.  Noël                                   B.  Baba Vaga                         C.  Sinterklaas                                      D.  Gesundheit

5.  A Jesse Tree

A.  shows the family tree of Jesus who was descended from David, Jesse’s son

B.  is a tree David planted for his father

C.  is the name for a Christmas tree in Hebrew

D.  none of these

BONUS question:

The number of Sundays of Advent is

A.  four                         B.  Five                                                C.  Six                                                  D. Seven

Weird Facts – how many people will read this far down the email…?  Are you one who will?

The biggest speeding fine ever given is $1M to a guy who was doing 180 m/h in Switzerland.  The penalties are based on the speed and the salary of the driver there.   Huh!

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