Posts Tagged ‘catechesis’

“What is faith?”

Tuesday, November 27th, 2012

Now, there’s a question to ponder…deeply. And what better time is there to do it than during Advent, the season of prayerful watching, waiting, and pondering the mystery of the Incarnation, God becoming human for us. This Year of Faith is an especially appropriate time to think about faith — not faith in the abstract, but faith as it affects our daily lives and the lives of those with whom we interact. Our faith should inform everything we say and do.

Advent begins this Sunday, Dec. 2, and with it comes a special seasonal blog, created by my colleague and friend here at the Archdiocesan Catechetical Office, webmaster Jim Connell. You are invited to visit our website, www.nyfaithformation.org to read and post to “What is Faith?” Each day this blog will feature a short Scripture passage from the daily Mass readings and an answer to the question, “What is faith?” based on that Scripture. We hope you will post your reflections and comments. You have much wisdom to share.

Your friends in the Archdiocesan Catechetical Office look forward to your participation.

 

 

Art at the service of evangelization

Friday, October 19th, 2012

Often when we look at religious stained glass windows or mosaics, we have to crane our necks because they are above eye level.  We don’t always get to appreciate the fine work, the detail, and the precision that go into creating these pieces, many of which could be considered visual evangelization and catechesis.

This is a particular loss when it comes to the devotional art of Louis Comfort Tiffany (1948-1933) and his studio, which created devotional and other works for a fifty-year period that spanned what is often referred to as “the gilded age.”

While Tiffany worked in many media, his name is most associated with a unique style of stained glass. He and his team didn’t just use glass creatively. They created special glass that was streaky, opalescent and delicately tinted. These glass styles enabled the subjects of the windows to appear animated and filled with emotion. Backgrounds acquired dimension. Clothing looked so real that one wanted to reach out and touch the fabric. It’s not always easy to appreciate all this from ten feet below the window or across the nave of a church.

Now, the Museum of Biblical Art (MOBIA), which is located at the headquarters of the American Bible Society on 61 Street and Broadway in Manhattan, has provided a unique opportunity for us to see at eye level or close to it the genius of Tiffany devotional art. It’s an extraordinary collection.

There are stained glass windows from the Driehaus and Neudstadt collections, the Corning Museum of Glass, several churches, and many other sources. From St. Andrew’s Dune Church of Southampton, N.Y., there is a touching window from the legend of Arthur: young Galahad in pursuit of the Holy Grail. It is a memorial for an eighteen year-old boy.  A larger window is titled “Lydia Entertaining Christ and His Apostles.” However, MOBIA’s curators think Lydia is more likely entertaining Paul, Timothy and Silas. According to the Acts of the Apostles, she met the three of them at Philippi in Asia Minor (Acts 16:13-15.)

MOBIA’s exhibit also contains magnificent mosaics, including one named “Fathers of the Church,” featuring St. John Chrysostom, St. Augustine of Hippo and St. Ambrose. And there’s more, too much more to itemize here.

Tiffany’s devotional art was commissioned mostly by Protestant and Jewish congregations. However, some Catholic Churches in our own archdiocese have Tiffany windows and the altar of St. Michael and St. Louis in St. Patrick’s Cathedral is associated with Tiffany. Maybe your church has a Tiffany touch.

The exhibit is on through Jan. 20, 2013, and admission is free.  You can preview the exhibition, “Louis C. Tiffany and the Art of Devotion, here.  If you really want a treat, find out when MOBIA’s own experts are giving tours.

Fine religious art can evangelize and catechize. The medieval cathedral builders knew that and filled their churches with stained glass and sculpture. The Renaissance painters and sculptures knew it, too. Certainly Tiffany understood the power of great devotional art. It’s true today.  Modern church art may be different from that of earlier periods but if it is good, it can be a powerful tool of evangelization. How appropriate for a Year of Faith.

Don’t settle for less than the best

Tuesday, December 6th, 2011

A few weeks ago, at the beautiful chapel of the Maryknoll Fathers and Brothers in Ossining, the Archdiocesan Catechetical Office honored its most faithful catechists and catechetical leaders, and recognized those who have completed the various formation programs designed to give every parish excellence in religious education for children, youth and adults.

Additionally, two pastors, Rev. Raymond Nobiletti, MM, of Transfiguration in Manhattan and Msgr. Hugh McManus of Our Lady of Fatima in Scarsdale, received the Terence Cardinal Cooke Award for their support of the catechetical ministry. Bishop Gerald Walsh, rector of the St. Joseph Seminary, presided and joined Sr. Joan Curtin, CND, director of the Catechetical Office in presenting the awards and certificates.

Where do coordinators and directors of parish religious education programs and their catechists come from? They come from very neighborhood, every ethnic and national group, every walk of life. Most are moms and dads and grandparents. Most have other jobs. And that’s tough because as any qualified catechetical leader or catechist will tell you, parish catechesis is not a part-time effort. It takes much more time than the 90 minutes a week that are mandated by the Archdiocese for each parish. Anyone who has not served this ministry doesn’t know all the hidden extra hours these worthy people devote to the ministry. It takes a qualified leader.

Ideally the leader of parish catechesis (which is a more appropriate name than religious ed) should be a full-time director, that is, a professional who has a master’s degree in theology, religious studies or religious education. But that’s not always possible. What is possible is that anyone engaged as coordinator (this person would not have the above graduate degree) completes our training process, which will qualify him or her to be a catechetical leader. And this person should be paid a just wage for his or her professional commitment.

There is more to leading or teaching in a parish catechetical program than opening the doors, spending an hour and a half a week with the students, and then organizing the reception of First Penance, First Eucharist and Confirmation. In fact, to call the catechetical formation of your children a mere program is to grossly understate its importance. Catechesis is an ongoing process of Christian development, one that begins in early childhood and goes on for the rest of one’s life.

Parents of Catholic School students wouldn’t tolerate an unqualified principal or teacher, or one who works only a one or two days a week, to deliver the education excellence they expect for their children. Why should religious education parents have to settle for this?

Well, you shouldn’t have to. And you don’t have to. Support your parish so that it will be able to engage and justly compensate a qualified catechetical leader…or someone who is willing and able to attend the training that will qualify him or her. It may be the biggest favor you have ever done for your parish because when people are able to discover more about their faith, they become more engaged in their parish and will help it to thrive.

Halloween: fantasy, reality and a family tale

Monday, October 31st, 2011

Today, Oct. 31, is the day most children love and many parents hate…because the latter have to deal with youngsters flying high on all the sugar they ingest with those Halloween treats.

It’s also a night for scary movies and nightmares. But have we lost the real meaning of death and the dead? We tend to avoid the topic except around this time of year, when All Hallows Eve is followed by All Saints Day, All Souls Day, and a whole month dedicated to the  holy souls. British Jesuit John McDade, writing for “Thinking Faith,” has some reflections on the reality of All Hallows Eve, death and Purgatory. You might find them very interesting and enlightening.

If you read Fr. McDade, you’ll also see his reference to cracks in the cosmos. We of Celtic background have  another phrase to describe this phenomenon: thin places. It’s said that if you chance on one of these thin places, you can hear the voices of those who have gone to the next life. You don’t hear them only on All Hallows Eve and they are not out to get you. But they know you are there.

Let me tell you a story from my Irish cousin Michael, who was a very staid businessman with a lovely family when he told it to me. On our old family farm in the west of Ireland, there was a spa well (it had a mineral vein), which was said to be a thin place. When Michael was a teenager, he didn’t believe a word of this. However, he reasoned, fear of voices at the spa well might be a way to get close to a pretty girl. So he’d bring the girl to the well, tell her tales, scare her to death, and then put a protective arm around her. You can figure out the rest.

Well, our Michael had great success with this gambit until late one night, when he was coming home alone on his bicycle. There was no moon and the rain was pelting down in sheets. Just as he passed the deserted spa well, the chain on his bicycle broke and he went sprawling into the mud. As he untangled himself from the bike, wiped the mud from his face and tried to get to his feet, he heard gales of laughter.

For the rest of his life, Michael never again stopped at the spa well and whenever he drove past it, even in broad daylight, he floored the gas pedal.

Boo!

 

Thank you, Archbishop Dolan

Thursday, October 14th, 2010

Did you see Archbishop Dolan’s column in the most recent Catholic New York? It’s a strong reminder for all Catholics that our formal faith formation doesn’t end the day we receive the Sacrament of Confirmation.

Actually, ongoing discovery of the Catholic faith and how to live as true disciples is our baptismal right and our duty. The Church is bound to make faith formation available to all of us. Canon Law codifies this in articles 773 through 780. The Catechism of the Catholic Church also affirms this in articles number 4 through 7, right at the very beginning of the catechism.

Every parish is the place where catechesis (faith formation’s formal name) should be offered locally.  Just last Saturday, more than 1,000 parish catechetical leaders and catechists came together at Cardinal Spellman High School in the Bronx for the “CatSkills Forum.” This gathering offered courses  in theology, liturgy, and methodology for teaching Catholics of all ages.

Just as importantly, the Forum enabled catechists to consult with one another on the best ways of providing religious education to adults, youth, children and people of all ages with special needs in their parishes. Happily, the Archbishop was with us for the Eucharistic Liturgy, thanking everyone and reflecting on the passage from Matthew 28: 16-20, which concludes with those wonderful words “I am with you always, until the end of the age.”

On Saturday, Oct. 23, there will be another chance to brush up on one’s catechetical skills (that’s where the word CatSkills came from) at the next CatSkills Forum at Sacred Heart Parish in Monroe, N.Y.  Here are all the details. Msgr. Edward Weber, vicar of Rockland County and pastor of St. Francis of Assisi in West Nyack, will preside at the Liturgy and we hope that many pastors from our upper counties will be there, too.

Are you interested in learning more about the faith and sharing it with other adults? Would you like to be part of your parish’s ministry to youth? Would you like to become a catechist for children? If you are thinking about this, talk to your pastor and your parish director or coordinator of religious education. Chances are they will be happy to know of your interest in helping them.

After all, more than 100,000 children and youth, plus countless adults, are being formed in the faith through our parish catechetical programs. There’s always a need for more catechists.

And be sure to visit our Archdiocesan Catechetical Office website for all the formation opportunities and events taking place for those who are called to hand on the Faith.  That’s you!