At the Easter Vigil, many people throughout the world were brought into the Catholic faith through the baptismal waters. This is in fact the appropriate time for people over the age of 7, considered to be the age of reason, to become Catholics. Once baptized, these people enter the period of post-baptismal catechesis or Mystagogy. Our ritual texts tell us this is the time "during which the newly initiated experience being fully a part of the Christian community by means of both pertinent catechesis and particularly by participation with all the faithful in the Sunday Eucharistic celebration" (Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults, Canadian Edition, copyright Concacan Inc., 1987, p.14). The exciting news is that all those who are baptized, no matter how long ago, are called to a deepening awareness of what it means to be Catholic. We are called to ongoing conversion through a deepening awareness of the meaning of Christ in our lives.
In this season of Easter (which continues right through to Pentecost) we are called to live as an Easter people. That is to live as followers of the Risen Christ!
How do we do that well? I would suggest we do that by deepening our understanding of the world, our faith and how we bring those two things into dialogue with one another. While I don't deny the many challenges that the media presents, it does permit us to have almost immediate resources at our disposal that can support our ongoing conversion including direct and indirect sources for understanding our faith.
The much awaited post-synodal Apostolic Exhortation Amoris Laetitia, The Joy of Love, was released in English on April 8, 2016. The focus of this document is love in the family. Different chapters will be of particular interest to different groups of people. It calls the church to embody mercy as it affirms the nature of love. To read the document in its entirety it is available on the Vatican website. Summaries of the document are also available, as is a question and answer document. This is a very relevant document as it will have pastoral implications for the way in which we engage our young people and their families in our school systems.
With Spring upon us it is a terrific opportunity to engage students, young and old alike, in the wonder of nature. Pope Francis recognizes and draws attention to this idea as it is articulated by the Canadian Catholic bishops in the Laudato Si encyclical: "As the Canadian Catholic Bishops rightly pointed out that no creature is excluded from this manifestation of God:... 'nature is a constant source of wonder and awe. It is also a continuing revelation of the divine.'" (LS 85) The Vatican has also put out a video entitled "Pope Francis on The Care of our Common Home".
The images in this video provide a starting point for a conversation about nature and seeing God through nature.
A follow up to this video could be a reflective nature walk, ideally done in silence. Students could be given strips of cloth and asked to place their strip on something they see in nature that means something to them. On the way back from the walk students could stop, pick up their cloth and tell the group what was meaningful about that particular spot to them.
Ongoing formation is always important for people in the church. Our understanding as a Church is continually deepening. There are a number of terrific resources to keep educators and other interested people in the "know" and exploring their faith.
Notre Dame University provides a number of opportunities such as the online publication Church Life.
Educators involved in Music Ministry at their various schools would thoroughly enjoy the summer conference for liturgical music minister from July 18 -22, 2016.
|Into the Name: Baptism and the Trintarian Life (Kimberly Belcher, Ph.D.)
For a deeper reflection on baptism, watch this hour long talk entitled Into the Name: Baptism and Trinitarian Life by Kimberly Belcher, PhD, from Notre Dame.
Another resource is found in King's University College Campus Ministry: Veritas Series. This year it focussed on Death to Life: The Paschal Mystery. While all the lectures were excellent, Moira McQueen's presentation was particularly timely. She is the Executive Director of the Canadian Catholic Bioethics Institute. Her presentation was titled Death, Resurrection and Bioethical Dilemmas and pertained to the issue of euthanasia.
If you or your students wish to learn more or speak out against this issue more information can be found at the Canadian Catholic Bishops website.
There are many many opportunities to engage in a deepening understanding of our call as Catholic Christians in the world but we must always remember the call to sit and be still with our God. Nothing can ever replace even just 15 minutes of solitude and peace with God and scripture at the beginning and/or close of our day. From these moments of grace we can receive sustenance for the rest of our busy days.
Wishing you a wonderful mystagogical experience this Easter season!
Annette Donovan Panchaud
King's University College