Linking Faith to Daily Living

Pope Benedict XVI recently told bishops from Slovakia (June 15) that “only by helping young people make a connection between their Christian faith and everyday life can the Church help youths resist the temptations and illusions of consumerism.”

I believe this is our sacred duty as catechists. Unless faith connects with daily living, it will remain a “subject” or “topic” for our young people instead of a way of life. What does this mean practically speaking for us as catechists? It means that we have to pay attention to what’s going on in the lives of young people. As part of our lesson planning, we need to:

  • pay attention to current news stories – like it or not, Paris Hilton is a news story and her travails provide opportunities for us to teach. At the more sublime level are stories in the news about immigration, the war in Iraq, and other current events that surface each day.
  • surf the Internet – visit sites that kids visit, especially places like Myspace, YouTube and Facebook, to see what kids are talking about
  • stay in tune with popular music – it’s good to know what kids are listening to. Anna Scally does a great job of offering help to adults who want to stay in touch with the music that young people are listening to…visit cornerstone media inc.
  • pay attention to sports – I get kidded about this a lot but I believe that sports can be a huge influence in a kid’s life. Most kids are involved in some kind of sports today. There are many opportunities for linking faith with daily living by using sports as a portal.
  • talk/listen to kids! – what a radical idea! One of the best ways to know what’s going on in the lives of kids is to talk with them informally. Just ask them what’s going on and then LISTEN!

I like to compare a good lesson to a good homily. The best homilies make some kind of connection to daily living. Good homilies tap into what’s on the minds and in the hearts of people, calling them to revisit these issues with a new mind and heart. When planning a lesson, imagine that you are preparing a homily on the topic of your lesson. What current event or issue would you use to “hook” your crowd? That same “hook” can provide you with a doorway into the lives of your students. And, as St. Ignatius taught, “enter through their door but exit through yours” – meaning that you start with that life experience, connect it to the Gospel, and then move forward with a new way of looking at that life experience (conversion).

This is how Jesus taught and, as catechists, we are called to teach as Jesus did.

About Joe Paprocki 2631 Articles
Joe Paprocki, DMin, is National Consultant for Faith Formation at Loyola Press, where, in addition to his traveling/speaking responsibilities, he works on the development team for faith formation curriculum resources including Finding God: Our Response to God’s Gifts and God’s Gift: Reconciliation and Eucharist. Joe has more than 35 years of experience in ministry and has presented keynotes, presentations, and workshops in more than 100 dioceses in North America. Joe is a frequent presenter at national conferences including the Los Angeles Religious Education Congress, the Mid-Atlantic Congress, and the National Conference for Catechetical Leadership. He is the author of numerous books, including the best seller The Catechist’s Toolbox, A Church on the Move, Under the Influence of Jesus, and Called to Be Catholic—a bilingual, foundational supplemental program that helps young people know their faith and grow in their relationship with God. Joe is also the series editor for the Effective Catechetical Leader and blogs about his experiences in faith formation at www.catechistsjourney.com.

6 Comments on Linking Faith to Daily Living

  1. I am desperate to teach something relevant to our 8th graders but restricted by the constraints of a very removed and dry Church history curriculum. A couple of intense meetings with the DRE and lead catechist have brought little hope of teaching Catholic morality. It is our responsibility to bring hope to kids now surrounded by divorce, alcohol, drug abuse, suicide, high-risk sex leading to crisis pregnancies and abortion. Being out of touch or too entrenched to be able to react and change is no longer acceptable.
    God bless Pope Benedict.

    Any ideas?

  2. Brad,I think that the challenge you face is a creative challenge and one that every history teacher (whether church history, world history, or U.S. history) faces: making the study of history relevant. History was my second major and so I have trouble understanding how history can be seen as anything BUT relevant, but I know what you are driving at.

    It seems to me that the reason we study Church history is to learn how people have struggled to find ways to be faithful to Jesus in every era. I firmly believe that each struggle we explore in previous eras of Church history can and should be linked to contemporary struggles such as you mention. Most of the problems the Church has dealt with in centuries past are the result of the same vices that plague us today.

    I’d be interested in exploring this further with you. Perhaps you can mention a few topics in your church history curriculum that you are to cover and we (and other visitors to this blog) can explore ways to link them to contemporary relevant issues and challenges.

    Thanks, Brad, and I look forward to hearing from you!

  3. We teach the ‘Blest Are We’ series http://www.blestarewe.com and
    with elements like early councils, heresies, church architecture, etc. We have tried tie ins to current events but they seemed contrived and forced. Hard to transition from the council of Nicea to what to do when you find yourself at a party w/ alcohol.

    I personally love Church history but not to teach to 13 and 14 year olds living in this culture of death. Any morality taught within this environment will be an add-on or adjunct rather than a direct attack on the problem. Are we meeting the mandate to understand this culture and provide our youth with the means to make informed choices based on Catholic teachings?

    Joe, I too eagerly await hearing from you and others. What is taught to your jr. high kids and do you you feel your program is connecting our Faith with the everyday lives of our kids?

  4. Brad, thanks for furthering the conversation. I certainly do not want to minimize the challenge you (we) face. This is indeed a difficult challenege. What I really am hoping to do is to encourage you to continue pursuing your quest to connect faith and daily living without abandoning the “curriculum” which I believe can serve us well.

    First, I like to remind people (and you are already on to this) that you don’t teach church history, you teach children! Church history is a vehicle to assist us in teaching children how to be disciples of Jesus. In other words, we don’t teach a subject, we teach children how to live a way of life and, it just so happens that in grade 8 we are to do this through a lens of church history (that’s my curriculum too…using Finding God from Loyola Press).

    Second, I don’t believe that making connections and tie-ins is contrived or forced…I believe that is our job first and foremost. If we can’t make a connection or tie-in, the kids will never be able to. We have to show them that the issues of the past shed light on current events and that our faith tradition connects to daily living.

    Third, let’s take something like the Council of Nicea. At the risk of over-simplifying such a complex council, we can say that the early Church was grappling with the question of whether Jesus was human, divine, or some “combination.” Of course, the Church embraced the belief that Jesus is fully human and fully divine.

    What’s the big deal? What’s the “connection?” We need to know that Jesus fully experienced the whole range of human experience without loss of his divinity. Bottom line is: can Jesus relate to what an 8th grader is dealing with and can an 8th grader relate to Jesus? It is from that angle that NO tie-in is contrived! So 8th graders are facing the issue of what to do when you find yourself at a party w/ alcohol. They need to know that on a very real level, Jesus can speak to them about this because he experienced the full range of the human experience. That means that he experienced temptation…really and truly. Recall that the first temptation in the desert was for Jesus to take care of his physical needs…to put his own comfort before anything else. The Council of Nicea teaches us that God, in the person of Jesus, experienced true human temptation. So, does Jesus have any concept of what it’s like to deal with the issue of the temptation to drink at a party? Without the Council of Nicea, we would not be able to answer this in the affirmative.

    Is the above contrived or forced? Not if you believe (as you already do) that you are teaching 8th graders, not church history. 8th graders need to deal with the issue of temptation and they need to know that Jesus, fully human and fully divine, should be a part of how they deal with that.

    I encourage you to continue “thinking like an 8th grader”: i.e. the Council of Nicea…SO WHAT?

    It’s your (our job) to answer the “SO WHAT?” question!!!

    Brad, this is just one example. Let’s hear your reaction and let’s explore other issues. Folks who are looking in on this converation, let’s hear from you!

  5. Joe, while your ability to make the transition from a historical event to something more current and perhaps of interest is truly outstanding, it still lacks the impact of tackling those issues straight on (and maybe bringing in Church history and other support as needed). Also, catechists could get weary trying to make a pertinent connection to today’s culture every week over 8 months.

    Our program had the wisdom and strength to teach from Harcourt’s Living Our Faith Series “Morality, Challenges and Choices”. The reasons for the change seem highly guarded and to question it incites some emotion. In class we spent 90 minutes discussing moral issues head on rather than using historical events as possible jump off points.

    Also, we are not allowed to stray from the formal, approved text and the ability of catechists to make valid connections would vary greatly with few approaching your abilities.

    My problem may be that I do think like an 8th grader; why don’t we just engage this culture and these kids where they’re at and bring Jesus there?

  6. Brad, I understand fully your frustration. Given the restraints you have, I can only urge you to be faithful to the required text (if that’s what your parish requires) while making sure that the text itself is not the focus of your lessons…the young people are. Judging from what I’ve learned from you in your e-mails, that won’t be a problem because you are passionate about tackling real life issues. The kids will appreciate that and you will be doing them a favor by showing them how life connects with our tradition…no small task but you are capable of doing this in many creative ways. It’s not a problem for you to think like an 8th grader as long as you know how to lead them to higher thinking.

    Brad, I’m not sure what else to say at this point except to thank you for sharing and to encourage you to keep doing so. Perhaps some other folks out there will pick up our converation and contribute (I think many are on vacation right now!) I am confident that your sense of frustration will serve you as a source of inspiration to truly connect faith and daily living for the young people you teach!

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