Online Retreat for Catechists – Week 2: An Openness to God

opennes-to-godWelcome to Week 2 of our Online Catechist’s Retreat (The Spirituality of the Catechist) as we take a look at the first characteristic of our spirituality: An Openness to God.

Thanks so much for the wonderful introductions posted last week as we began our retreat! Your stories were very inspiring and they helped to form a sense of community as we venture forth in this retreat. If you’re just joining us, you can go back and experience Week One here and then come back to jump in to week two.

As we did last week, I invite you to begin this week by viewing the following brief video introduction on the theme of An Openness to God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

 

 

An Openness to God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit

In my book, A Well-Built Faith, I tell the following story:

A stunt man was thrilling crowds gathered at the Niagara Falls, making his way across a tightrope that stretched from one end of the Falls to the other while riding a unicycle and carrying another person on his shoulders! As he and his passenger successfully dismounted on solid ground, the crowd broke into wild applause. The stunt man thanked the crowd and asked, “How many of you truly believe that I can do that again?” Having just witnessed the amazing stunt, everyone in the crowd raised their hand. The stunt man then mounted his unicycle and pointed to his shoulders asking, “Alright, then, who’s next?”

To believe is to enter into relationship with another and to place our trust in that person. It is to stand on their shoulders and allow them to carry us. Such trust is not easy!

In my 8th grade class this past year, I began a class on the topic of “placing our trust in God” by having the kids listen to a song by Linkin Park called From the Inside. Take a look at the lyrics here. The song captures the angst that young people feel when it comes to the issue of trust.

And along we come as catechists, telling them to place their faith (trust) in God! No easy task!

On the other hand, we’re not asking them to do anything that we ourselves have not already done: place their trust in God. As catechists, we have come to the conclusion that our lives need to be centered in God. We have tried to find fulfillment in other places and, like Saint Augustine, have come to the conclusion that, “our hearts are restless, Lord, until they find their rest in You.” Like any other human being, however, we struggle with this and need to continually remind ourselves of where we need to place our trust. To do this, we practice an opennes to God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

To be open to God is to be open to a relationship with the Trinity – a relationship of self-giving love. All relationships involve trust and to trust is risky. Perhaps the greatest risk of our lives was the risk we took in baptism – the day we gave our hearts to God…the day we climbed on God’s shoulders and said, “I trust you.” Time and again, throughout salvation history, God has proven that he is worthy of that trust. This is what we teach to our students: that God is worthy of their trust!

During these summer months, let’s take the time to renew our openness to God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Let’s reflect on how God has shown, in our own lives, that he is worthy of our trust. Renewed by this, we will be inspired to confidently teach others that their placing trust in God will not be in vain!

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Week Two Reflection Questions (click here week-2-reflection-questions1 for downloadable pdf) – over the next few days, feel free to ponder these reflection questions pertaining to this week’s theme. Then, return here to Catechist’s Journey and share some of your reflections with your fellow retreatants.

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For Further Reflection: Pope Benedict XVI spoke about how our openness to God’s love can heal humanity.

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SPIRITUAL EXERCISES – During the course of this week, practice one or more of the following spiritual exercises designed to deepen your opennes to God. Feel free to share the fruits of your exercises with your fellow retreatants by posting your comments any time this week.

  • Pray fervently at the beginning of each day to give your heart to God. If it has not already been a practice for you, begin each day this week by praying the Suscipe of Saint Ignatius of Loyola.

Take, Lord, and receive all my liberty,

my memory, my understanding

and my entire will.

All I have and call my own.

 

You have given all to me.

To You, Lord, I return it.

Everything is yours; do with it what you will.

 

Give me only your love and your grace.

That is enough for me.  

 

  • Openness to God leads us to open ourselves up to possibilities. This, in turn, leads us to live in hope. As you progress through this week, jot down in a journal or just on an index card, at last TEN things that you are hoping for. Do so by completing this sentence: “I am hoping for/that…” Keep this list nearby during the week so that you can glance at it frequently. When you do so, pray Psalm 62:

My soul rests in God alone, from whom comes my salvation.

God alone is my rock and salvation, my secure height; I shall never fall.

How long will you set upon people, all of you beating them down,

As though they were a sagging fence or a battered wall?

Even from my place on high they plot to dislodge me.

They delight in lies; they bless with their mouths, but inwardly they curse.

My soul, be at rest in God alone, from whom comes my hope.

God alone is my rock and my salvation, my secure height, I shall not fall.

My safety and glory are with God, my strong rock and refuge.

Trust in God at all times, my people! Pour out your hearts to God our refuge! (New American Bible)

 

  • Openness to God is manifested in openness to others. Each day this week, make a specific plan to perform an out-of-the-ordinary act of hospitality that opens you up to another person or group of people. This act can be done at home, at work, or in your community. Before or after performing the act of hospitality, pray an Act of Love (Charity)

O Lord God, I love you above all things

and I love my neighbor for your sake

because you are the highest, infinite and perfect good,

worthy of all my love.

In this love I intend to live and die. Amen.

 

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Recommended Reading on the topic of openness to God:

 

 

About Joe Paprocki 2173 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.

95 Comments on Online Retreat for Catechists – Week 2: An Openness to God

  1. As I pondered how my trust in God was validated, I kept remembering times that I knew God heard me and the youngest time was in Grade School. Maybe it was 5th or 6th grade.
    I had been praying the rosary each night asking for God to clear me of psoriasis. One morning when I awoke, all the planters warts on my feet and the warts on my fingers were gone. All skin was perfect and smooth. Just as if I had never had them there. I knew it was Gods way of telling me he was listening. And I figured he was not going to take the psoriasis away and I never asked for that again.
    In high school when a close friend and I were talking about religion we both commented on how we got chills just talking over things. In my head I remember thinking when ever 2 or more are gathered in my name, “I am there.” When talking with my Mother-in Law about religion I remember getting those chills again. Then after listening to Billy Graham and doing what he asked about inviting Jesus in, I then realized that it was God, or Jesus or the Holy Spirit that was touching me each time. From that time on, my talks with God meant more, I knew he was listening. And through the years I have learned to listen to Him.
    How does God effect me in my role as a CCD teacher. I couldn’t do it with out Him. And I pray for him to give me the words to reach his children before the classes.

    • Barb, I think realizing and being aware of what you started is a beautiful gift. I once started to a Bible study class, Is God not really around or is it us who do not take notice. I have had many experiences like you have described in your blog and as I have grown older, the understanding and acknowledgment of those experiences being God has only proven it to be a more fruitful experience. Thanks for sharing.

      Rebecca

    • Hi Barb…..aren’t our conversations with God just wonderful….I am like you…I value them and the silence that surrounds them so that you are completely listening to Him…He does speak to us and I can see that He speaks to you because you have found that peace with Him. God bless.

  2. I just starte a Catechist seminar here in Sacramento, CA, I’ve been unemployed and really wanted to do this, I live with my daughter and son in law and grandsons. With no income of my own I didn’t know how this was going to happen, I made a trip home to Fresno to visit my mom, while there I decided to go back to my old parish, although there was but a few people going to service during the week on weekends it’s filled. This was just an opportunity to talk with what turns out to be a friend that I didn’t really pay attention to from 30+ years past. It was the best counsel and renewed friendship that convinced me to go ahead with this without any finances. Prayers from my sister my CFF coordinator all were answered there was no way I could back out now. a scholarship from the diocese as well as the necessary texts, bus passes, all I had to do is pack myself a bag lunch. Someone is pushing and pulling me in this direction and I’m exstatic about my journey and then of course this retreat to share all my blessing. You are all Blessed with your directions that GOD is sending you to.

    • Hi Bobby….I pray that Our Lord continues to talk to you and that you listen to Him…..you definitely have gifts that He values….God bless you on your journey!

  3. How does your openness to God affect you in your role as a catechist?

    Put as simply as possible, I believe I’m a conduit for God to work through to bring the kids closer to him. For years I’ve envisioned myself as the body of a tree that draws from earth and brings the water & nutrients to the foliage and fruit that will create new trees.

    How can you help those you teach to be more open to God?

    1. By using examples of people in the Bible and real life (e.g., M. Teresa, Isaac Jogues, St. Francis, St. Kolbe) to who opened their lives to God.

    2. By using examples from my own life showing when I was and wasn’t open to, let’s say, becoming more of what God intended me to be. I use specific stories of openness or hard-heartedness/selfishness, so the kids can emotionally and intellectually understand why it can be liberating to let go of yourself.

      • I use ‘conduit’ in class to explain things such as relics and Sacraments, as well as to refer to God’s grace acting through individuals. Since most kids don’t know the word, I explain it’s a French version of the word ‘conduct’ which they do know in the sense of ‘conduct electricity.’

  4. I was stumped on how to answer “why do you personally believe that God can be trusted?” All I could think of is: “How can He not?” As I further pondered the
    other questions, I discovered that when I go to God for others, I trust Him
    completely…no matter the circumstances/outcome. When it comes to me…
    well, there is the lack of trust and patience. Through daily prayer and Scripture study, daily Mass ( new practice ), nearly daily Rosary, weekly Hour Hour ( need to be more consistent on this one ) and the recent desire for monthly Confession
    ( I’m prayerfully seeking a Spiritual Director ) I know that I will die to self more and so that He will live in me more. I want to trust Him in every moment ~
    like Mary, St. Teresa, St. Faustina and St. Padre Pio…life long process, I believe.
    As a catechist? Well, He chose me ~ us ~ to do this, so…pray before lesson planning and pray before each lesson presentation… to God, esp. the Holy Spirit. Mary, Guardian Angel and the “Verizon” network of saints in heaven…and be open
    to His guidance, especially if the lesson doesn’t go “as planned”… I LOVE when
    this happens!

    • Dorothy,
      Your comments hit home. I too find it much easier to trust God with others cares an concerns but struggle with trusting Him completely regarding my own life. As you say, it is a life long process and I continue the journey. Thanks for sharing.

  5. Working with littles is all about trust. 4 to 6 year olds, generally, are not jaded or cynical with this life yet. They are so ~full~ of everything. Wonderment, life, imagination, and most definitely trust. They take for granted that their parents will be there to pick them up after class. That our class will flow with the routine they are used to. That lunch will be served to them.

    Each disappointment chips away at that trust. It’s sad, really. Because as adults we seem to disappoint so many people a lot of the time. And as adults we tend to turn our backs to those people who do disappoint us and break our trust. But that isn’t so with little ones. They throw themselves right back at us and look for reasons to continue trusting us.

    We have so much to learn from them, don’t we?

  6. I think through out my life journey so far(I will be 40 soon) the greatest thing I have heard concerning faith and GOd has been from the “theology of the body” curriculum, that “Love is willing the good of another. ” I believe that is God’s truest essence. He wills good for us and when you believe that and that alone, How can I not trust that. Others have proven to be untrustworthy in my life but God has been there unceaseling and unconditional even though at times, I have been conditional myself. My life story and life changes over the past 10 years is truly a testament to the unending happiness you can experience when you just give it to God and trust. I have shared my story with many others in hopes that the message of by trusting in God you can not go wrong. What we need to be careful of is planning the results for our own benefit, instead of trusting that the results that happen are what God has planned for us to continue to grow in him. Encouraging our youth and children to think about these choices is so important to us growing in our faith. We have a choice to accept God or not and with either choice comes consequences. I have not been disappointed yet with my choice to let God lead my life! I believe if we teach our children and youth to always ponder the question ” Is this person or situation willing the good of me?” it will help them discern the proper choices. God doesn’t need us, he wants us to be in communion with him. What a blessing to us that he only has our best interest in mind, no hidden agenda.

  7. You are right, Joe, trust is very difficult. I was in the convent before…entered right after 8th grade…I loved religious life so much…and then something happened and I went back home. My Dad had been ill and my mom had 3 children at home that she took care of …never a complaint out of her…a truly holy, self-giving person who I love dearly and miss…she has been gone 12 years… she died suddenly. I came home from the convent believing that is why I came home….but as the years went on…I wasn’t so sure. I wanted to go back to the Sisters, but every obstacle hit me….I know inwardly I kept saying this is what I want, dear Lord….help me…over and over. Everytime something happened in our family that wasn’t so good…I blamed myself because I left. I finally opened my heart to Our Lord and being in the convent I feel wasn’t where He wanted me to be…it was here…only I was so stubborn and I kept fighting Him. My family and friends tell me, no matter what, I am always peaceful….and they are right. When I finally placed my trust in Him, my spouse, my beloved, He filled my heart with such peace…I’ve let Him direct me as He wants….not what I want. I have to trust Him….after all He loves me and He will take care of me. Besides working in a Catholic Church, being a catechist at two parishes….I am happiest doing what He wants of me…I am caregiver for my Father and since my Mom is gone….somehow I’ve become support for my siblings and nephews and nieces…doing things that my Mom would have done…and that Our Lord has asked of me. I’ve never married and am truly in love with Our Lord…that is why I call him my beloved. This is the Jesus I try to impart to my nephews and nieces (teenagers) and students….but I see that look in their eyes…not my student with cerebral palsy but some of my second graders who come from broken homes and are confused about what is going on…young people go through so much these days….things I never imagined when I grew up. Well…enough for now….this retreat is wonderful and I can’t wait for next week.

  8. The questions made me stop and think, when did I not trust God and to be honest, I don’t remember. When any of my friends start to worry, I usually give my usual quote”Let go and Let God”. I have found this may not be easy but it works. I remember once when I was going to take a cruise and I had left my birth certificate at home almost two thousand miles away. My friend suggested we pray and to make a long story short, I went on the cruise, I trusted God and He provided the idea and people to help me. It’s not God I don’t trust, it’s more myself. He gave me free will, I am not so sure I do what He wants. Your question about listing 10 things we hope for was more challanging then trusting God. To make this a “hope” list and not a wish list, to me was challanging. Did anyone else feel that way? I still don’t have 10 yet
    I enjoy reading all the comments, all you folks are really good.

  9. I’m not sure who I trust the most since trust has been broken even by those I love. Many trust me to do my job and take care of them especially my sons and grandchildren. My students trust that what I say is true and that I will treat them fairly.
    There are several times that trust was broken, and it has stopped me from getting too close to people and loved ones. I build a fence around me to keep from getting hurt again.
    God has shown me that he does not fail me. I may not get what I want when I want but it comes in His way. The job I have now is through God’s and St. Therese of the Little Flower’s intervention. There is no other way to explain it.
    It is difficult to trust God when things are going really badly which is happening right now. It is easy when things are fine.
    I deepen my openness to God through prayer and saying “Let Go, Let God”.
    Fr. Tim and good friends of mine. They talk openly about God and share their experiences.
    I have to be open to God when teaching or it is false teaching. He guides me in my teaching to reach my students and bring my students to God
    I share personal experiences with my students and ways I pray.
    Today has not been a good day for me. It had a very good high and then it came crashing down as fast. This situation has been going on for over 2yrs. and I thought it was coming to an end but it hasn’t. I have to keep reminding myself that God knows what is best and keep my faith…Let Go, Let God.

    • Anna Marie, thank you for such honest sharing. It sounds like you are dealing with some very challenging issues right now. Thank you for trusting us enough on this retreat to share your thoughts with us. Our prayers are with you and God is with you. Peace. -joe

    • Hi…..just wanted you to know that you are in my prayers….I have a great relationship with the Little Flower also….keep praying to her….she will help you….God bless….Karen

    • Anne Marie,
      I had some hard times too. It was in my hard times that I started reflecting on how God was hurt by our actions. I was and still am not confident to pray for certain things to happen. When I prayed for my daughter that became a diabetic, I prayed for God to watch over her till she would know how to take care the herself. He did, she is now 33 and has 2 children. When my youngest daughter gave us troubles in her senior year, I called upon our gifts from confirmation. Ya know, that is when I really knew God was listening. When I asked for wisdon, and knowledge on how to handle the problems. I couldn’t believe the answers that came in to my head. I am not a good person to pray prayers, I just think about God a lot, and talk to him off and on durning the day. But it is the peace he gives me that I love the most. I pray that he will give you that peace. And that he will bring someone to you that can help you with the really bad times.
      This on line retreat is nice, but sometimes we really need to be with each other. Just know that we care..
      Barb

  10. First: thanks for the video introductions to the lessons, they are really well done and set the tone for the reflection in a most excellent way!

    Second: thanks for the pointer to the article about Pope Benedict’s words. I’ve read many books by the Pope and I have no question that he implicitly trusts God in everything. He has an astounding faith that is a wonderful example for this topic!

    I hope the first question on the list is not a trick question; that is, I hope that you literally mean who do you trust most in this world, meaning “in this world” as opposed to simply who do you trust most, because the latter answer is God, and the former answer in my husband. My husband is the most supportive, loving person and my best friend. It is because of my husband that I can teach two religious education courses each year, and if I want to go out and buy new things for the class he doesn’t say a word, even though I’ve got plenty of totes worth of things to use in class already!

    My husband also places trust in me, and that faith helps sustain me in my work and my catechesis and all other matters.

    It is because I truly believe that God sent my husband to me, after fervent prayer as a little girl to find someone special who would always love me and be a wonderful husband, that I personally believe that God can be trusted and that my trust in God been validated and affirmed in my life. It is also the easiest way to trust God.

    I’m really enjoying the retreat so far and reading everyone’s answers!

    • I could say I trust in God but He sent me my husband who I most trust in this world. My husband is my best friend. My daughter and grandaughter put thier trust in me. My daughter so she can go to work and my grandaughter so she has somene during the day while mom is at work.
      This trust has never been broken. I may have broken the trust of my daughter.
      I personally beleive that God can be trusted because of all He sends in my life. I;m blessed with a wonderful family. God sends the right people at the right time.
      When I am feeling ill then I find it hard to trust God. when I am feeling fine then it is easer to trust God.
      I pray more to keep me open to God. Also watch a lot of EWTN.
      I have a friend who no matter what get thrown at her she always has a smile. her motto God saw me through that one He will see me through this one.
      As a catechist if I am not open to God then I am like St, Paul says a noisy gong just saying the right words.
      I can show those I teach to be open to God by trying to make Him real to them.

    • Now for my real responsse. Like you I am blesssed with a very patient husband. And I too have totes of CCD stuff. Teaching the sacramental preparation class. Eash year the studensts are different.

  11. I think we need to share our stories, with all the ups and downs, so that our young people can see real examples of how we trusted God through everything in our life. Most of the time teenagers believe that they are invincible or that if they do everything right in life that bad things won’t happen. I think it’s important for young people to see that unfortunate things do happen, but if we are people of faith, that trust in God, he will see us through the “bumps in the road”.

    • I agree Nancy. I find that young people are especially impacted by stories of how we “screwed up” when we were young and how we learned from our mistakes.

      • I agree wholeheartedly. I find those kinds of stories to be, by far, the most effective of any other methods of getting through to my 7th (soon to be 8th) grade students.

    • Friday morning, we buried an almost 17 year old who committed suicide. As the long line of cars came into the parking lot, the activity center was abuzz with the last day of vacation bible school. As I talked with the kids about putting their faith and trusting Jesus, so many questions were popping up in my mind … how can we make it “stick”? when they are facing tremendous pain and can only see one answer later in their life, what experiences will be there for them? what do we need to do to help open them up to a deep relationship with the Father, Son, Holy Spirit? What comes to mind is the words … step by step … day by day … ongoing opps for faith formation. Right now, there is a feeling of urgency … no time to experiment … our teens need the Lord standing with them today.

      • Linda, so sorry to hear of the tragic loss of life. You are so right that our young people need to be aware of the Lord’s presence in their lives. We catechists can do so much to make that happen.

      • Linda, sorry to hear about your l0ss and it reminded of one of my students who lost an Uncle this year and her response was, “my cousins don’t have a father any more.” I have a strong feeling she will appreciate her Dad more this Father’s Day then ever before. We just never know when God will take us home and I try to remind my students of this, one should always be prepared. God Bless

  12. Nancy,
    I agree with you completely about sharing with the students. They want to know that we aren’t perfect, have our flaws but have learned to work with them and overcome them to be successful. I have shared with them how God intervened in my life and how my novena to St. Therese brought me to them. We laugh together at my mistakes and yet they help me in my week areas, Math and technology, and they love to do it. They see they are needed. I’ve shared my unhappy moments of JH and how I got through it with God’s help. We are not perfect people so we can’t expect them to be perfect. They need to know constantly that we love them, but most of all, God loves them unconditionally.

  13. Wow, what a powerful set of questions. I feel that I have evolved into a rather trusting person, and believe me, that is not always popular in the business world. I generally trust the word of the employees that work for me or the customers that I

    • Greg, I can relate to your feelings about whether you are making the best use of your God-given talents in the business world. I work in a sometimes high-pressure office environment and I do my best to give the same level of service to the elderly widow as I give to the upper-end client. I think that God puts us in a certain place at a certain time for a definite reason. It’s up to us our God-given talents and abilities to do whatever our current task is “for the greater glory of God”.

    • Hi Greg,

      I don’t work for the Church or a diocese–I work full time for a large University and as a volunteer teaching religious education on the weekend.

      For me, relaying trust in God to my students varies greatly because I teach 7-8 year olds in 2nd grade, and 16 year olds in Confirmation. The younger children are at an age where the miracles of Jesus, his birth, his death, Mary, and the Trinity are an amazing thing. Many times, my students ask me to re-tell the stories. Using the miracles of nature, and God the Creator, is a wonderful way to convey trust in God to this age group.

      The 16 year-olds are a completely different story. Like many of the questions on the worksheet, these children have experienced let downs and lost trust. They often feel very alone. It is very difficult to get some of them to even trust that there is God in the first place, never mind putting your faith and trust in Him. As with many adults, you have to take baby steps, building on exercises that build on their values. They always have values, and its by beginning with those values that you can enlighten them on what the Church teaches and how it all goes back to God and the faith and trust we put to Him. It usually takes the whole year, and sometimes you can’t get them to come out their shell no matter how hard you try, but I see enough of them at least willing to listen by the end of the school year that it gives me hope that I’ve imparted something to them that the Holy Spirit can enrich with His seven gifts at Confirmation.

      I hope this is somewhat helpful.

      • Patty, that is helpful. As a first year catechist, I need to remind myself that it does take a year to see the difference in the students I teach (as well as the difference in me). Baby steps! Thanks for the perspective.
        Greg

    • For the past 3 years I have taught 1st graders ~ I found saying the same thing to them over and over again has taught them that what I continue to say is truth and the truth will reveal itself to them….I would repeat the following each time we had class. My voice is uplifting and very cheerful, playful…When can you talk to God? answer: whenever you want to. Where can you talk to God? wherever you want to. Does He hear you? Yes! He always hears you! Can you pray to God while at school? Yes! Can you pray to God while riding your bike? Yes! Can you pray to God while swimming in a pool? Yes! Anywhere, Anytime YOU can talk, pray, ask God for ANYTHING and He will listen and He will answer you in His time!

      • Rita, it’s funny that you talk about repetition. I learned this past year with my 7th graders that repetition is still important at any age. I know we did some devotions during Advent and Lent and initially the kids were reluctant but after a few times, they were looking forward to it. I love your comment about your voice being joyful….it’s definitely contagious. Thanks for your comments.
        Greg

    • Hi Greg I am volunteer in several different ministries including 6th grade ccd teacher. I have worked with the public and trust is very hard to regain when you failed to hold up your end. I try to convey my sincere regret that I failed them and I will try harder next time. MY kids I disappointed but I always started every sentence that I will try my best but I may not be able to deliver. And reminded them that they may not always deliver but I trust them to try their best. Bless you and may God continue to walk with you. Peace

  14. The trust I have in God has never been broken by Him…only by me. I continue to try and rectify my one mistake in my life almost every day but will never be able to forgive myself for making such a horrible decision 25 years ago. Maybe I had to make a bad choice to be a better person – I don’t know. I only know it brought me closer to the Holy Spirit.

    Without the depth of my openness to God and the many years of my love for God, I don’t think I would have been able to be a catechist. Our children need to understand that a relationship with God doesn’t happen overnight but may take a lifetime with many bumps in the road. Definitely being there to share our own experiences – good and bad – gives them insight into having a loving and lasting relationship with God.

    • Hi Mary Ann….I’ve read and re-read your comment over and over….left it and keep coming back to it…..but I just had to say that when you asked Our Lord to forgive you for whatever it is you did….He forgave….please don’t let this keep taking over your life…..He loves you so much and His arms were open to you the day you said you were sorry…..Our Lord is so full of love and mercy….your eyes may fill up with tears each day…..His filled up with tears the day you said you were sorry because He was so overjoyed that you came back to Him. He loves you so much!

  15. I want to share a story that was posted earlier this week on our parish e-mail prayer chain that I think exemplifies the ultimate in trusting that God will always provide.

    “You may remember that late last month we were asked to pray for the Extreme Mission group from Marian, represented by a group of teenaged women and three to four adult women, who went to an Atlanta suburb to turn an abandoned house into a greatly needed pregnancy crisis center for teens.

    A story was shared with me of that trip that I feel compelled to share with you. It seems that one evening of the group’s stay in Atlanta, a mother of the neighborhood bought pizza and pop to share with the Extreme Mission group. On the other evenings that the group was in town, she prepared dinner each night of authentic Mexican food for the Mission group and other volunteers that numbered about fifty people. What was even more incredible is that this woman had been recently widowed and was suffering some fairly severe financial difficulties. Our parish teenager who shared this story was amazed that this woman gave so generously of the little that she had.

    It would appear that this woman not only fed the group’s stomachs but more importantly fed their souls and our whole community is enriched in the process.”

    I continue to strive to live with such trust that God will always give me each day my daily bread.

    • Bernie,

      That is an absolutely beautiful story! Thank you so much for sharing it–a simply inspiring example of trust in God!

  16. Hello everyone. My name is Evelyn Formentera. This is my 4th year teaching Building Faith ( for those that do not have any religious formation at all)
    The number of students runs from 25 to 30. The biggest challenge for me sometimes are the parents. The demand you get from them is at times overwhelming. The age group varies from 7 to 11years of age. So this coming year might be more but I will always invoke the Holy Spirit to guide me with my class. The Lord has allowed me to see that we are all called to serve . Numerous times I get so discourage but for some reason someone is always lifting me up. I know it is Him reminding me to continue to moved on and spread the gospel. I considered my spirituality that of the Carmelites. I love Sta. Teresa de Avila and St. John of the Cross. Although I am a late comer, I always try to find ways to join in. This is a very helpful retreat knowing that we all share the same charism and teahing is a very noble thing to do. I am looking forward to the next weeks surprise. GOD BLESS TO YOU ALL, EVELYN

  17. “The biggest challenge for me sometimes are the parents. The demand you get from them is at times overwhelming.”
    Can you elaborate on this? I have almost no intersection with the parents of my students, so this is interesting to me.

    • I have had a lot of positive responses from the parents by emailing ideas for family faith formation. If I read a prayer or see a family activity that I think is good , I send it their way. I have had a lot of thank yous.

    • Dearest Christian, thanks for the question? To elaborate further regarding the parents, I have so many students of different ethnic backgrounds who happen to enrol thier children to this parish with no faith formation at all. They drop the children then thats about it. We have to take turns as techers , aides and DREs to release them but at times they show up so late where you are stuck with them which I donnot really mind. But the biggest challenge are when they enrol thier child, they have no clue that they have to take at least two years of catechism to to receive the first sacrament which is the first communion, some only attend once a month, some late, some complaints being hungry, ( class starts at 10am)
      no breakfast, no mass attendance when being ask about their Sunday services ( these kids dont drive) miss class because of baseball practice, which they think is more priority, I can go on and on but I always encourage parents to sit in the class so they know what is being taught, love to hear their input but at times some do but most not inerested. WE NEED TO CATECHIZE THE PARENTS, WOULD YOU THINK SO! My very understanding DRE, tried to set up parents meeting before the beginning of the year to have them commit at least some times so the children have something to fall back to but due to their personal circumstances its hard to say. One hour with these children is not enough, I can give them as much project, homework, activities but some with few results. Don’t get me wrong, I still love these children and I will continue to work with them until my gray hair will cover most of my head. Ha! Ha!. Anyway, as long as I can touch one child and lead them to Jesus, That’s good for me. I also teach 6th graders from another parish and they are completely diffrent ballgame. As I told all my students from the very beginning of the year that I am here to help them, guide them to have special relationship with God and not end up in the near future in the place where I work which is a state prison. The inmates that I work work on a daily basis is getting younger and younger of age and I am heart broken at times to hear that their family has abandon them.. The prison system is getting full and scary but I will always have God as my personal guard. I do evangelize some of them and lead them to Jesus that he is loving and merciful. When God revealed himself to me, he told me, now thatyouhave found me in your heart, then find me in the hearts of others.

      • Evelyn,
        God Bless You!
        You are really in the trenches with the kids and the imprisoned.
        I understand the frustration that can come when it seems that the most active formation is coming only from one side (your catechizing). Wouldn’t this go better and further with less ordeal if the parents were REALLY involved at their end?
        However, when I look at it from another side, those parents are putting their trust in God (through their trust in you, the teacher) when they drop them in your care. Who knows what effort went on in just getting the children into the car to get them to the classes, or what kind of load the parents are dealing with in life. Add to that the parents are, no doubt, afraid of not knowing the “right” information, or how to pass it on. You, the teacher, have chosen the responsibility of passing on the faith. What a wonderful way to serve our Lord!
        And no matter how much, or little, the parents are able to involve themselves, your words and lessons of faith will fall on the faith soil of the students, and will grow according to God’s plan.
        I don’t as yet teach formal catechism (so probably should recuse myself) however, I coach our parish swim team – different kind of ministry! I try to nab the parent every once in awhile to give them a small personal observation about their child(ren). Staying on the positive side.
        This opens the trust vault wider – both for me and the parents.

        • God Bless you for giving me another way to look at the parent and why they are not always very involved. We went to a Bilingual Mass just so the kids would be in Mass. Before that, Faith Formation was before the English Mass and the kids are mainly hispanic and their Mass was after the English Mass, parents brought the kids, came and picked them up but didn’t always bring them back to Mass. We are still working out the kinks as some of the English refuse to come to a bilingual Mass. So we are still a work in progress but thank you for looking at things with a differnt parental view. God Bles you.

        • Evelyn here again. I am now hooked on this catechist retreat now. It is your fault Joe!!! Just kidding. Although I have so much to share from my experience, I am still learning how to work with the computer, which I can’t barely catch-up. It was nice to hear from you all my fellow brothers and sisters in Christ. We can only do so much but the most important thing we can offer to our children and to the parents is to just plant that one seed and to let them know that God is in them. On the day of baptism when we receive the most precious gift of the the most Blessed Trinity, God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit , we are now part of the Trinitarian community. It really needs a lot or practice of deeper prayer and contemplation to let them know the presence of God within. I am totally putting this practice in action because of the challenges I deal with everyday working with the prisoners and it really works. For the younger ones I deal at catechism, this simple practice really put them at ease and also a little part of discipline in a way to keep them in touch with themselves. As the priest said a every mass (5x) The Lord be with you, and we respsonse and also be with you. Gods substantial presence has been in us all along. GOD HAS ALWAYS BEEN WITH US!
          Don’t you think thats the most reassuring gift He gave us. Just like the prayers of Divine Mercy, JESUS I TRUST IN YOU, SAVE MY SOUL. Let’s not give up, lets continue sharing this beautiful gift that we all have. God Bless

      • “WE NEED TO CATECHIZE THE PARENTS, WOULD YOU THINK SO!”
        Oh, no kidding! I consciously teach my kids in the hope that they’ll be able to catechize their parents.

        I also make a point to invite the parents to class, but as you say, in 5 years I’ve had one parent come; but she remarked that she learned a lot.

        Homework? The most I ask is that they read the chapter, maybe 20% do on a good night. More typically homework is asking the parents a question, e.g.: Mom & Dad, do you think I’m a gift from God? and giving the answer the next class.

        But in the end, to have reached just one child in that year can make it worthwhile.

        • When I start looking at the results of my teaching, I can get down on myself. This year was no different. I have to remind myself that I am planting seeds, seeds in the children and their parents. I have to trust in God, the master grower.

          • Stephanie, that’s why it’s so important to have a catechetical community like this one that we’re forging on this retreat. We face many challenges as catechists and we can easily get down on ourselves about “results.” The support of our peers helps us to keep perspective. Keep sowing seeds and leave the “results” to God!

        • You absolutelty hit the spot there Christian. We can also do so much but God will bless us even with the little effort we do. It is that little simple yes that we do eventhough we are bombarded with all the demands of the world. I myself have to struggle and pulled at every different directions but knowing now now that no matter what we do, just take a few short breath, short inhalation thru the nose, then slowly exhale thru your lips without rushing it (3x) and say Lord, I know that you are in me. Help me whatever you want me to do today. This is what I called a simple practice of DI (DIVINE INDWELLING). Relaxing slowly, just try it and it really works. I have shared this to so many people including inmates in helping them find themselves and God will take care of the rest. Just give it a try. I am sharing them to all of you.
          DIVINE INDWELLING PRAYER
          My Lord and my God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. I believe that you are dwelling in spirit in the deepest center of my soul, I adore you, I love you and I trust in you, for you are the source of my being and my life in all that I think, say and do. Help me to see you in the hearts of others and to see the reflection of you in everything that you have made, and to understands the things I cannot change. May your name be praised, blessed and glorified forevermore Amen.
          Please share and pass it around. This has help so many people and liberated them especially of this present crisis we are now dealing. God only want us to acknowledge Him, and now I know that despite the issue we deal everyday, the only fulfillment is finding Him within us. With the intercession of our Blessed Mother, she will lead us to her Son. (Mama Mary is my greatest strength and confidant) PEACE BE WITH YOU!

        • Many times we say, “if I have reached just one child”, because we know that not all of our students learned everything, some we wonder if they heard anything. But since we are focusing on trusting in God – I urge you to not become discouraged. We will never know how a single word, activity, prayer, or even the witness of our own presence, has moved someone. We are there to help plant the seed – only God can make it take root in the heart. You may not teach everyone everything – but you do teach everyone something! God can take our “little something” and turn it into a “great something”.

    • I have found when teaching 2nd grade first holy sacraments prep, it is crucial in order to have a successful year (where the children really understand the sacraments at their individual capacity) to involve the parents as much as you can. Most of the children do not have a prayer life at home, have never been to a class, occassional mass, don’t know the sign of the cross or how much God loves them – all of the issues that have already been stated on this site. Though I get the feeling that most parents, not only have their children enrolled because of their Catholic guilt, but that they really do want their children to receive what they cannot give them. And they too are interested in learning. I send home a bi-monthly newsletter reviewing what we have covered and what”s coming up – listing any important dates coming up. And family lesson sheets if provided with the curriculum – some years. I always send out a welcome letter with a calendar at the beginning of the year so they can plan ahead. In this letter I have parents stop by and sign up for which classes they will attend and help out. Not everyone did this, but some did. I had a dad show up with his lap top one class – wow! taking notes! I was amazed! – at the end of class I said thanks so much for coming – he said you’re welcome, I really got a lot of work done.
      This past year I taught 3rd grade and did not make the same effort involving the parents, I just felt there was a disconnect. I’m not really sure how to approach this next year with middle school students, but I think I will try involving the parents again and see how it goes.

  18. Morning Joe,

    I just finished my 20th year teaching Religious Education in Exton, PA. While I have taught most grades, I love First Grade and have been teaching it for several years now. In spring, I became disheartened by several home and work experiences and made a rash decision to leave the Religious Education program. Then, God sent his messages

  19. Hi,
    Trusting God is an on going journey for me. I try to practice what I call God Sightings everyday. Times when God is present in the everyday. Recently I needed a truck to transport some tables for a party. I prayed, Lord I need a truck. Within an hour after the prayer my daughter-in-law borrowed her dad’s truck. God is Good. All day I was able to share that answered prayer with my children and guests. This practice has helped me to trust God and share with others about his love and faithfulness to us. To be near God is good!

    • Yep, I love those quick turn-arounds too . . . really keeps me on my toes.
      God-Sighting: a beautifully simple way of describing it!

  20. Dear Joe,
    I trust that no matter how many times I fail, He loves me, and never stopped loving me no matter how deep the pit that I climbed into. I trust that I will never be able to love so perfectly as that, nor will any human here in the world. But, I trust that we will keep trying in our clumsy, imperfect ways to create heaven on earth. And if these ways are so beautiful to Him, the creator of beauty, then why should I ever find them lacking?
    There is so much hurt that happens everyday, but one only need “let go” of the pain and anxiety. Then realize that every single experience here creates another facet on the jewel of our soul that is being forged for eternity.
    Keep your inner candle glowing: look for good in every single person you meet; if it is hidden, pray for better glasses 🙂

  21. A short explanation of: GUIDANCE…. G(od), U(you) and I Dance … If you
    stumble…make it part of your dance! He will bring good out of our mistakes…
    Now, that’s trust! Can you hear Him singing us the song:”I Hope You Dance”!

  22. My open relationship with God is very strong. My truth is I trust God…absolutely. My choices, I am not sure I trust. I struggle with an inportant issue in my life, divorce. I am strong in faith, strong with leading my children to God, strong in prayer. Yet, so fearful that God is not pleased with my decision to divorce. At this moment I feel so exposed by submitting this blog.

    Aside my personal struggles, when I walk into the classroom and begin the Sunday lesson, it amazes me how well I am able to reach the children. How extremely happy I am to be there and teach them all the fascinating stories and truths about God, Jesus and the holy Spirit.

    More recently than ever, my prayers are centered around humankind, instead of personal prayer. My thoughts tend to be very deep. Most likely due to a friend telling me to read up on the appearances of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Yugoslyvia. She has been appearing for over 20 years. Her message is so strong: Peace, Conversion, Prayer, Fasting.

    In conclusion for this writing: thus far this online retreat is awesome!

    God bless in Jesus’ name
    ~ Rita ~

    • Rita, thanks for having the courage to share your personal experience here with your fellow retreatants. May we all keep in you in our prayers and may your sharing lead to healing. -joe

      • My dearest Rita, I just want to drop a few words to you. God will never abandon us. Whatever you’re experiencing now just call it a blessing. Anything that we go thru that is very painful offer it as a merit. God is calling you for a higher purpose. We always makes plan, but God will always change it. Continue to pray and He will really take you higher and higher eventhough you feel at your lowest low.. Total surrender, total abandonment and total reliance to the one that can only give us the greatest joy, peace and happiness that only God himself can offer…(not even our EX- kidding only). Just walk-thru it and never look back, move on and let go. Let Jesus take the wheel. My advise also as a mother myself, ask the most experience of all the trials, Blessed Mother herself. She will lead you the way, like she helped me everyday, my greatest devotion to the greatest Mother of All, MARY. God Bless,Evelyn

    • Rita,

      I pray for you as you get through your divorce. I can’t imagine what you are going through. I can relate very much to your comments with regard to your amazement as to how well you relate to your class. I honestly feel like that is the ultimate trust in God right now in my life….almost like those little moments (like getting through our class on a day we may not feel terribly prepared) are little miracles.

      Also, you mentioned prayer. I started praying about a year ago for others (you mentioned humankind). I have discovered it to be terribly rewarding. Taking the focus off of “me” when I talk to God seems so terribly rewarding and the fruits (for me at least) seem to be God helping me to find a way to deal with any struggle on the given day.

      All good stuff…..this is a great retreat experience….if Joe could just find a way to serve my meals I’d be all set 😉

    • Rit I pray for your continued strength and faith>Listen for God’s whispers of love in the quiet moments of your deep reflections. Much love and prayers to you. It is hard to expose yourself but then you deny yourself the love of others who are waiting to share their love and support. we are wih you in the love of our Lord. Peace to you.

  23. Rita,
    Please do not feel guilt over your divorce. It seems that God has shown you His response by the feelings you have in reaching your students. You are happy in what you are doing and reaching God’s children. It seems He closed one window but opened another for you to do His work fully. You have found peace in that work and are now focusing on others in your prayer life. I’d say that is a powerful message from God.

    I will keep you in my prayers.
    Anna Marie

    • Rita
      Being a divorced Catholic is hard and it takes time, prayers and letting Go and Letting God to get over the hump. God has a plan for you and He will lead you where He wants you, I know. I have been divorced now longer then I was married but I carried the guilt for years until one day a friend of mine said “if God can forgive you, why can’t you forgive yourself”. This made me think, it took awhile but I stopped carrying all the guilt and I look at my life now and know God has forgiven me and has filled my life with wonderful people and He has guided me to make several moves. I am waiting to see if this is my last move or if He has someplace else He wants me to be. I enjoy teaching faith formation and have learned to be very honest when I have older kids about my marriage breakup. Keep going in the direction God is showing you. God Bless

  24. Why do you personally belive that God can be trusted?
    Because He is always faithful, even when I fail Him, He remains faithful always.
    How has your trust in God been validated or affirmed in your lifetime?
    In countless ways, two that I can think of: He gave me the grace to overcome my fears and give my daughter antibiotic treatments via injection when she was released from the hospital due to a dog bite (God carried me through that difficult time). Also, when I lost the love of my life (my husband) due to infidelity. God ever so mercyfully was there with me to help me overcome my pain and sorrow. God is Love. Praises to His name forever!

  25. Thank you all for being so open to each other – sharing your ideas and inspirational support of each other! I already feel like I am on my way to a much needed spiritual renewal this summer – I’ve already gained so much from your comments and Joe’s spiritual excercises and prayers.

    I do have an openness to the Father, Son and Holy Spirit and this is deepened every day by prayer and the work the Holy Spirit does for others through me. Christian, you said conduit – I like that – I’ve always said “instrument” but I think conduit describes it better. When I prepare before class, I open myself completely to let the Holy Spirit work through me – there have been a couple of times when I did not do this – either forgetting (too busy) or thinking I was completely in control of how the class was going to go (had a great class planned) – I could see the difference afterward. I knew the children did not “get it” and I had failed them.

    And most days I completely put my trust in Him. But, then I hit a spiritual road block. Suffering. I have prayed and prayed that God will help me to understand or just give me the faith to accept this. I know all the textbook answers – and I don’t mean to belittle or devalue the importance of Jesus’ suffering – but I just keep struggling with this – I guess I’m just having trouble connecting what God has revealed to us with my own life in this matter. I think watching my mom’s non-stop suffering for the last 30 years has put this road block there. I just started reading The Promise and have plans to read Peter Kreeft’s book on suffering after that. This was my own spiritual renewal plan for the summer, before I discovered Joe’s site looking for new ideas for middle school age catechesis. Once again, God never lets me down – He led me to all of you. Thank you again and God bless you all!

  26. Dearest Ellen, love your “glasses comment” I too have to wear different ones everyday, ha!ha!ha!…my day also starts with making sure that I can see thru them clearly. I have to work everyday and deal with my task as a supervisor with so much demand from my (inmate workers) they are just like an older version of my catechism class. At times I asked myself, how on earth did I end at this present place? Then I know God put me there for a reason. I know it is also hard to ( love the unlovable) but at the end of my shift I thank God that whatever I do, He is the driver and I am merely His passenger when at times that my glasses are blurry and needs cleaning. This also the main reason that I still continue to teach CCD because the children keeps me grounded despite of the older children whom I deal with everyday. Don’t get me wrong, I do love my job especially when God allows me to work thru some of these troubled inmates. Modesty aside, they also needed a lot of spiritual guidance. Bottom line, I can see the works of the Holy Spirit working thru them also despite their circumstances. GOD DOESN’T DISCRIMANATE. I AM ALSO THINKING SO DOING SOME TYPE OF PRISON MINISTRY. I need all your prayers and guidance and for my safety inside. GOD SPEED / Evelyn

  27. Through the years, I have developed such a strong trust in God and his perfect love because I have personally seen evidence of it in my own life (the circumstances of bringing my wife into my life, the blessings he bestows on us on a daily basis, the way he has always found ways to get us through difficult times, etc). The toughest thing I had to learn to do was to “Let go and let God”, as in, “Let God show you the way.” And that is a continual lifelong process of learning.
    One thing I would like to be more aware of is God’s continual presence, right by my side, during every moment of every day. I have to admit that, during the course of the day, I often forget. And I truly believe that if I could become more conscious of his presence it would make me handle the stressful things that can go on during the day in a much better way.

  28. Trust is very important we all need something to trust. Is there a greater trust then the one gives us each day to do His work and to make the correct choices? In class the students make the class room rules and I add the last one which is trust; we will all learn to trust each other and most important God trust that His love is pure and unfailing

  29. What I have learned from the refection questions is that my personal openess to God has been a rocky road. I have learned from some of the other comments is that I am not alone and that’s okay. I am here and that shows me that I am being to put my trust in the lord.

    • Cindy, well-said. When we say that these are characteristics of the catechist’s spirituality, it doesn’t mean that we are necessarily proficient in them but that we have a heightened awareness of them. Whereas you are paying attention to this area and struggling with it, others may not even be aware of the issue. This retreat really does help us to realize we are not alone and that we can find support in others who are going through similar struggles.

  30. I trust my wife more than any other person in the world-we have been married almost 30 years and been through a lot together. Marriage and parenthood is not for the squeamish. Right now, I am finding I have to place my trust in God and eventually I will find out his plan for me. I was laid off, but found a new teaching job in the same city relatively quickly but it meant I had to teach Religion as the main instructor to middle school kids. My other courses were very similar so that will probably be less of a change. I also lost my father a week ago so I’ve been back home (250 miles away) for most of June and will not get back home for a few more days. I feel a little bit like Job and not sure what is in store for me and my family. I am really happy I found Joe’s Catechist book which led me to this web site. Wonder how that happened?

    • Steve, wow, you are experiencing quite a lot right now! Glad you could find us and find support in this retreat and in this online community of catechists!

  31. I’m a little behind here on this retreat. I agree that “trust” is the key word in growing closer to our Lord and in understanding God’s ways over man’s. Every time, I’ve basically said, “I don’t know how, Lord, but I know You can…”, He has revealed answers to my prayers in ways I would never expect. I’ve learned that trusting is the hardest for all people (adults and children alike), because God is not visible to us. Science teaches tangible proof. Our society seems to have become the “Doubting Thomas”. We as Catholic Christians know that the Holy Spirit is present in each of us and through each of us, when we cooperate with His will. When the world bombards us with fears of “How can you have more children?”, “How can you afford college?”, How will you pay your bills?”, “How can you afford to retire?”, we too quickly forget to place our trust in God that He will take care of us. Although, there are times, my husband seems to be more trusting than me, I have seen God answer so many prayers, proving, that when we place our worries, concerns and needs in His hands, we are not forsaken.

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