Catholic Culture Update for the week beginning December 6th, 2015

Quote to carry in your heart for the week.
“We are filled with joy.” Ps.126

December 6th is the Second Sunday of Advent
Prepare for the Word – How do you usually prepare for something important? As you come to Mass this Sunday, be mindful of the route you take to church. Are there hills or curves in the road? Are there intersections you know to watch carefully? Think about this as you listen to today’s readings.
Reflect on the Word – What hills, valleys, or rocky roads do you face in your life at this time? John preached repentance as a way of preparing for the coming of the Messiah. How do you need to prepare your heart as we wait for the celebration of Christmas?
Act on the Word – This time of year can be very hectic for almost everyone. While at church, it’s Advent, in the rest of the world it is “the Christmas season.” People spend extra time shopping, and planning parties, programs, and family gatherings. This week, take time to think about how you will prepare your heart for Christmas, and how you might help your family in a special way. Perhaps younger children need care while a parent shops; perhaps the house needs to be prepared for Christmas decorations; maybe you could prepare a quiet evening at home for everyone. Make a plan to help your family enter into Advent more fully this week, and carry it out.
Wrapping it Up – What “hill” (an obstacle that lies between yourself and God) in your life needs to be made low? What straight path are you called to embrace in order to more fully live as a Christian?” 2015-2016 The Living Word – Sunday Gospel Reflections and Activities for Teens, LTP, page 75, 77

December 6th is the feast of St. Nicholas. “Little is known about this saint, the “wonder-worker,” other than the fact that he lived sometime during the fourth century and was bishop of the city of Myra in Asia Minor. There is some evidence that he was imprisoned during the Diocletian persecutions and later condemned Arianism, a heresy that denied the Son was co-eternal with the Father. Many stories exist about St. Nicholas, but one most frequently passed down speaks of a poor man who could not feed or clothe his three daughters. Upon hearing of this man’s dire situation, St. Nicholas tossed three bags of gold through his window one evening so the man could tend to his daughters’ needs. Modern folklore about Santa Claus, Kris Kringle, and Father Christmas are based in the stories of St. Nicholas and his great love for and generosity toward children. Whatever is known or not known about this great saint, it can be said, to quote an anonymous Greek from the tenth century, “All Christians, young and old, men and women, boys and girls, reverence his memory and call upon his protection” (as quoted in Butler’s Lives of the Saints: December, New Full Edition, p. 60).” Companion to the Calendar: A guide to the saints, seasons, and holidays of the year, page 147-148 St. Nicholas, give us generous hearts that share what we have with the poor. Put a small gold coin in the classroom shoes of your students.

December 7th is the memorial of St. Ambrose, Bishop and Doctor of the Church. “St. Ambrose (c. 340-397) was governor when he went to stop rioting that erupted during the selection of a new bishop of Milan. The crowd cried, “Ambrose for bishop,” and he was chosen, although he was just a catechumen. The Arian heresy – which denied the full divinity of Christ – divided the Church at the time. When Empress Justina demanded that Ambrose give his basilica to the Arians, he and his congregation locked themselves in and sang antiphonally, the first recorded instance. He baptized St. Augustine and was a great friend of Augustine’s mother, St. Monica. Ambrose is nicknamed the “honey-tongued doctor” for his eloquent preaching.” Companion to the Calendar: A guide to the saints, seasons, and holidays of the year, page 148 St. Ambrose, remind us to use words to give praise and encouragement. Put a wee bit of honey in a hot beverage today in honour of St. Ambrose.

December 8th is the solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary. “The dogma that Mary was kept free from original sin from the first moment of her conception was solemnly declared by Pope Pius IX in 1854, but it was by no means a new invention. The Eastern Church had celebrated this day from as early as the eighth century, and it soon spread to the West. It has been on the Church’s universal calendar since 1708. The Immaculate Conception is a singular grace, given to Mary to enable her to say “yes” to God. No stain of original sin touches her who is to become the Ark of the Covenant, the Temple in which God comes to dwell. This is a unique grace. And yet, Mary is our model for holiness. By our Baptism, we have been washed clean of the stain of original sin to become temples for the Holy Spirit. And we look to Mary for an example of the life of discipleship, open to God’s word, obedient to God’s will. This Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception is celebrated with great festivity in many places around the world, particularly in Spain. In the Cathedral of Seville, there is a unique tradition called Los Seises or the “Dance of the Six.” Six boys perform a solemn dance before the Blessed Sacrament as hymns are sung in honour of the Immaculate Conception. It is a tradition that survives to this day, a vivid image of the joy of the Church in this celebration of the grace of God at work in the Blessed Virgin Mary.” Companion to the Calendar: A guide to the saints, seasons, and holidays of the year, page 148-149 Hail Mary, full of grace. Share a meal of white foods with your friends.

December 8th is also the day announced by Pope Francis to begin an Extraordinary Jubilee. “He said, “It shall be a Holy Year of Mercy,” a time for animating “a new stage in the journey of the Church on its mission to bring to every person the Gospel of mercy.” He decreed this Holy Year should begin on …the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception and the fiftieth anniversary of the closing of the Second Vatican Council. It is Pope Francis’ hope that “the whole Church will find in this Jubilee the joy needed to rediscover and make fruitful the mercy of God.” The Holy Year will conclude on November 20th, 2016, the Sunday dedicated to Jesus Christ as King of the Universe.” Catholic Update, December 2015 This will become a new section of the Catholic Culture Update – Holy Year of Mercy: A Time of Grace and Conversion. May God wrap Pope Francis with warmth like a shawl to hug him tight. Pray for Pope Francis’ safety.

December 9th is the memorial of St. Juan Diego Cuauhtlatoatzin. “St. Juan Diego Cuauhtlatoatzin (1474-1548) was a native Mexican, a farmer, and a labourer. On December 9, 1531, on his way to attend Mass, he heard a woman call out from Tepeyac Hill. She was the Virgin Mary, and she asked Juan Diego to tell the bishop to build a chapel on the site. Juan Diego went to the bishop with the request, but the bishop scoffed at him. He returned with his cloak, or tilma, filled with roses, and when he unfurled it before the bishop, the woman’s image was imprinted on the inside. The bishop believed, and the church was built. The image on Juan Diego’s tilma is venerated as that of Our Lady of Guadalupe.” Companion to the Calendar: A guide to the saints, seasons, and holidays of the year, page 149 St. Juan Diego, teach us to listen to Mary as you did. Each time you put your coat on today, remember Juan Diego’s tilma.

December 10th is the International Human Rights Day. “In 1945, when the Second World War ended, world leaders realized that new and better ways of solving disputes among nations must be found. They created the United Nations to provide a forum where countries can debate peacefully, rather than taking up arms to settle grievances. The United Nations works for peace. It works against hunger, disease, and poverty. In 1948, after much hard work, the United Nations produced a document called the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Delegates from member nations all over the world hammered out their definition of 30 rights that all human beings need to live a decent life. The Declaration says that everyone on the planet, regardless of race, sex, language, or religion, has a right to certain basic freedoms. Among these freedoms are the right to life, health care, education, and privacy. People also are entitled to freedom from imprisonment without trial. They have a right to leave and reenter their country. They have a right to seek protection in another country if they are persecuted in their own. Each of those freedoms is being denied to some of the world’s citizens even as we celebrate the Declaration today. The United Nations will continue working for these basic human rights. They will also work to get the Declaration into the hands of people everywhere. People need to know that they deserve these rights and that the United Nations has pledged to uphold them.” Companion to the Calendar: A guide to the saints, seasons, and holidays of the year, page 149-150

Holy Year of Mercy ~ A Time of Grace and Conversion
“Dedicated to Mercy – Pope Francis’ dedication to promoting the concept of God’s mercy is reflected in his personal motto: Miserando atque Eligendo. Although it doesn’t translate easily into English, the gist is clear: lowly but chosen through God’s mercy. The Latin expression comes from a sermon by Venerable Bede (673-735) commenting on Jesus’ decision to call Matthew the tax collector to be an apostle. Pope Francis’ many acts of mercy shown to strangers – at risk of his own life as Father Jorge Bergoglio, SJ, superior of Jesuits in Argentina – underscores his sense of mercy and compassion. Only recently have stories emerged about his efforts to save dozens of people who were on the enemies list of the Argentine military junta during the “Dirty War” of the late 1970s and early 1980s. One rescued man said, “I’ve always wondered if Bergoglio was fully aware of the risks he took. I don’t know if anyone else would have saved me without knowing me at all.” Catholic Update, December 2015, http://www.liguori.org

Opening Doors of Mercy ~ Mercy that Loves – a quote for the week
Love isn’t something that you find. Love is something that finds you. Loretta Young

Truth and Reconciliation Commission Report
This year we will look at the Truth and Reconciliation Commission Report. This truth has been long in seeing the light of day. We need to work to build reconciliation with our First Nations, Métis and Inuit people because of the wrong directed toward them. It will take a deliberate effort. We are all treaty people. Let us live up to our side of the agreements. Without some context, a context that many Canadians do not know or understand, the Calls to Action may not make sense. So the first excerpts will be taken from the introduction of the report.

Over the course of its work, the Commission created space for exploring the meanings and concepts of reconciliation. In public Sharing Circles at National Events and Community Hearings, we bore witness to powerful moments of truth sharing and humbling acts of reconciliation. Many Survivors had never been able to tell their own families the whole truth of what happened to them in the schools. At hearings in Regina, Saskatchewan, Elder Kirby Littletent said, “I never told, I just told my children, my grandchildren I went to boarding school, that’s all. I never shared my experiences.”

Many spoke to honour the memory of relatives who have passed on. Simone, an Inuk Survivor from Chesterfield Inlet, Nunavut, said, I’m here for my parents—‘Did you miss me when I went away?’ ‘Did you cry for me?’—and I’m here for my brother, who was a victim, and my niece at the age of five who suffered a head injury and never came home, and her parents never had closure. To this day, they have not found the grave in Winnipeg. And I’m here for them first, and that’s why I’m making a public statement.

Others talked about the importance of reconciling with family members, and cautioned that this process is just beginning. Patrick Etherington, a Survivor from St. Anne’s residential school in Fort Albany, Ontario, walked with his son and others from Cochrane, Ontario, to the National Event in Winnipeg. He said that the walk helped him to reconnect with his son, and that he “just wanted to be here because I feel this process that we are starting, we got a long ways to go.”
http://www.trc.ca/websites/trcinstitution/File/2015/Honouring_the_Truth_Reconciling_for_the_Future_July_23_2015.pdf

Remember we are all treaty people!

New Catholic Elementary Curriculum Policy Document for Religious Education
Living in Solidarity ~ Hope Expectations for Junior Classes
By the end of grade 6, it is our hope that students will be individuals who:

  • Actively seek to identify the purposes of their lives and the vocation to which God is calling them;
  • Develop attitudes and values founded on Catholic social teaching and act to promote social responsibility, human solidarity and the common good;
  • Strive to integrate faith with all arenas of their life: personal, social, academic, etc.;
  • Respect the faith traditions, world religions and the life journeys of all people of good will.

Grade Four LS 2.2: Articulate the three essential elements which promote the common good (i.e., respect for the fundamental rights of the person; prosperity and the development of the spiritual and temporal goods of society; peace and security of societies and nations) and make connections through examples of how these improve the conditions of human life. [CCC nos. 1905-1927] The three essential elements which promote the common good are listed above. “The common good presupposes respect for the person…that public authorities are bound to respect the fundamental and inalienable rights of the human person. …the common good resides in the conditions for the exercise of the natural freedoms indispensable for the development of the human vocation.” [CCC 1907] To bring this idea home to your students, I would use some practical ways. Ask your students how they would feel if you were strict and loud. If you told them what to do and never listened to them. Ask them how they would feel if you were bossy and cross. If you would not let them speak, or move, or eat their snacks or their lunch. If you took away all the goodness in the classroom. How would your class feel? Respect for the person is a key fundamental human right. It is important that we treat each other with kindness and respect.

The common good requires the social well-being and development of the group itself. Development is the highest of all social duties. So it is important that everyone has enough food, clothing, health, education, information at an understandable level, a family, a shelter. So each day we have helpers of the day to ensure that all of the common good is taken care of. To understand this right to social well-being and development, ask your class if they would feel comfortable if the teacher came in and started to teach in a language that they did not understand…like Polish. What if the teacher took their lunches and gave them to someone else? What if the classmates were not allowed to develop friendships? Each day we take turns being helpers. Everyone has a right to develop the skills of being a helper.

The third element of the common good is that it requires peace, stability and security of a just order. To understand this right to peace and order, ask the class how it would be like if there was chaos in class every day…just boredom, no peace, just noise, no order, just a mess. Because our world is usually ordered, we take it for granted that everyone has order in their lives.

Having explained the three concepts/elements of the common good, ask your students for examples of how the common good helps us to grow and develop as happy people.

Grade Five LS 2.2: Define the meaning of the virtue of solidarity with respect to material and spiritual goods and link solidarity to the Church’s social justice teaching on the preferential love of the poor and vulnerable (i.e., the human need and capacity of love and care for the poor and vulnerable which is an expression of our faith). [CCC nos. 1939-1948] First explain what solidarity is to your class. Solidarity is a virtue that reminds us that we stand together as human beings and in deep relationship with the earth. It invites us to share all the material and spiritual goods of the earth with one another. Solidarity is the Christian virtue of social charity. This virtue helps us to see that we are all members of one human family, sharing equal human dignity because we are all born in the image of God. We are all responsible for each other and we depend on each other. To give a human face to the experience of solidarity invite your class to watch a news clip about the Syrian refugee crisis…you don’t even have to watch with the sound on… https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QPnxc4vvKZk

So when we see the refugees from Syria travelling across the sea and into Europe, our hearts are moved. Generally people want to do something to help. That is the virtue of solidarity inviting us to respond to the difficulty that is being experienced by our brothers and sisters in Syria. Some of these people are carrying everything they own on their bodies. Our Church teaches us that we are invited to have a special care and concern for those who are poor and vulnerable. We are to put ourselves in the shoes of those who have little and do what we can to share what we have so they have what they need.

Grade Six LS 2.2: Explain the distinction between human differences that belong to God’s plan and “sinful inequalities” which are a contradiction to the Gospel, and then link this to the work of organizations that help to alleviate injustice in the local and global community. [CCC nos. 356-384; 1928-1933; 1391-1401] Of course we can share with our students that the human differences that belong to God’s plan are that there are men and women, people of many colours, people who speak many languages. Ask your students if they can identify any human differences that are part of God’s plan. However, some of the differences are sinful inequalities that are not part of God’s plan. It is not part of God’s plan people do not have enough food, clothing, shelter, work, education, health. God expects that all humans share in the common good. That everyone has what they need. If someone steals a country’s goods than that is sinful. Development and Peace is an organization that helps to educate Canadians about some of the sinful inequalities that are in the world. Once Canadians know about the inequalities, it is expected that they will do something to help change the situation so these injustices are dealt with fairly. Red Cross is another such organization. Do you know any other organizations that help to alleviate the injustices locally or globally? {St. Vincent Place, etc.]

Twenty-first Century Education
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kzzb3jHhgeU > Simple Breathing Exercise – The Honest Guys – It is a guided meditation

http://www.biblegateway.com > online bible with many translations and languages to choose from

http://wccm.org/ > World Community for Christian Meditation > This is a site for Christian Meditation for teachers and students alike.

http://bustedhalo.com/features/advent-calendar-2015 > an online Advent calendar for Intermediate and Senior students and adults too.

www.TheReligionTeacher.com > Jared Dees has put together a set of resources and training helps that are nothing short of awesome. He has a free eBook, lesson plans, strategies, activities, and many resources.

http://grievingstudents.scholastic.com > Great website resources to use if you have a student who has lost a loved one.

http://www.vatican.va/archive/ENG0015/_INDEX.HTM > in the Religious Education curriculum document there are references to the CCC – Catechism of the Catholic Church. This is a link to that document.

www.4catholiceducators.com > a Canadian based website for Catholic teachers of Religious Education (my new fav)

www.CARFLEO.org > best kept secret for religious education teachers of every grade

115 Saintly FUN Facts ~ Smiles and Surprises for Kids of All Ages By Bernadette McCarver Snyder

Bartholomea Capitanio Would you believe that this lady became famous because she wrote so many letters? Well, that was ONE of the reasons! When Bartholomea was a little girl, her father drank too much and made life very difficult for her and her mother. They both loved HIM but HATED his drinking. They tried to be patient and prayed for him. When Bartholomea was a teenager, she noticed that many of the children in her town just “hung out” in the streets because there were no schools for them. So Bartholomea studied and got a teacher’s certificate and opened a school in her home. In the evenings she began writing letters to friends and former students. Her letters offered spiritual counsel, advice, and friendship. People SAVED her letters and “treasured” them. They often shared them with others, and priests even made copies of the letters to give to people who came to them for advice. Although she died when she was only twenty-six years old, St. Bartholomea had already written A LOT. THREE HUNDRED of her letters were collected and published and are still read today. Many people have relatives or friends who drink too much like Bartholomea’s father did, but TODAY there are treatment centres to help them. If you know anyone like that, pray for him or her to get help. Maybe you could even write that person a letter! Do you LIKE to write letters? Not many people WRITE letters today, but it’s always great to GET a letter! Why don’t you write a letter to SOMEONE today? Who will that someone be?” p. 26-27

Who says teaching religion can’t be fun? What’s Your Catholic IQ? CATECHIST, November/December 2015, page 25
Advent Adventures by Pat Carter csj

1. How long is the season of Advent? B. from the Sunday after Christ the King to December 24

2. What is the liturgical colour for Advent in Canada? B. blue-shaded violet

3. What are the symbols of Advent that can be seen in many sanctuaries of Churches? A. Advent wreath

4. What is the music of the Advent season? C. joyful songs about Jesus’ coming

5. The Advent is a season of joyful expectation for
A. Christmas, when we recall Christ’s first coming among us
B. Jesus’ second coming at the end of the ages
C. the celebration of Confirmation of young people
D. only A and B not C

Advent Adventures – Take 2 by Pat Carter csj
1. This symbol of Jesus’ family tree that is a traditional decoration of Advent; it is known as
A. Advent tree B. Jesse tree C. Joseph tree D. Christmas tree

2. These verses are sung or said from December 17 through 23, on the seven days before the Vigil of the Nativity and are called the
A. “O” Antiphons B. “Advent” Antiphons C. Advent hymns D. Carols

3. This saint is a special patron of children whose feast day is December 6th,
A. St. Francis Xavier B. St. Juan Diego C. St. Nicholas D. St. Ambrose

4. The feast of the Immaculate Conception is a solemnity that honours
A. Joseph B. Jesus C. Juan Diego D. Mary

5. There is a tradition of eating what colour of food for the feast of Immaculate Conception
A. Green B. White C. Blue D. Black

Taking Jesus to the Movies – a movie blog for believers by Pat Carter, csj
Max > This movie was released this year. It is a movie about a dog who served overseas with a soldier who sniffed out IUDs and other dangerous situations in war zones. After U.S. Marine Kyle Wincott is killed in Afghanistan, Max, his highly trained service dog, is too traumatized to remain in service. Back in the U.S., Kyle’s family adopts the dog, but teenage brother Justin (Josh Wiggins) has problems of his own and doesn’t want the animal. Max converts Justin and they become friends. It is a very good family movie. There are a few twists and turns. I would give this movie ♥♥♥.5/5 hearts.

Trivia for Those Who Read to the end…Just like the credits at the movies.
“A car that shifts manually gets 2 miles more per gallon of gas than a car with automatic shift.” http://www.cs.cmu.edu/~bingbin/

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