A couple of weeks ago, I wrote briefly about my faith-based method of homeschooling. To recap: I see methods such as Catholic Heritage Curricula, which bring the faith to individual subjects, as using a sermon format. In contrast, our Contemplative Homeschool starts with a Bible passage. I look for the themes in that passage, and add as many subjects as I can into the discussion of those themes. As my kids get older, I hope to make writings of the Church Fathers and official documents and creeds a starting place for our curriculum as well.
Here are some advantages to using the homily format.
1. Homilies promote meditation on Sacred Scripture.The Contemplative Homeschool is all about teaching our children to put prayer at the top of their priorities. It encourages a prayerful attitude and teaches methods of prayer, especially Christian meditation. As one blog commenter said, meditating on Scripture is like preaching a homily to oneself. My boys are forming the habit of looking for ways to connect Bible passages with their lives. I believe this will make it easier for them to create their own meditations as they grow older.
Prayer takes energy. When you are stressed, you may find you can’t use your imagination to meditate. You may be too worn out to converse with God. This was the case with me last year, when homeschooling three kids with a baby overwhelmed me.
Several times when I went to pray, I had too little strength to picture a scene from the Gospels. I could barely muster the energy to think the words, “Jesus, I love you.”
But I knew I had to pray. And I knew Jesus was there. I knew His love was constant. That meant He was loving me at that moment. So I decided just to soak in God’s love, like I might soak in the sunlight. I sat silent, reminding myself briefly every few minutes that God’s love was surrounding me. I let Him love me, and that was my prayer for half an hour.
I’ll never forget one trip to the confessional at this period of my life. I don’t remember what I said to the priest–certainly no specifics about my prayer method–but his advice astonished me. He said I should just sit and let God love me–the very thing I had felt inspired to do.
If you are too emotionally drained to pray, try this method.
Micaela at California to Korea is hosting a link-up called “3 Reasons I love Catholicism.” You can submit your link all month. There are lots of good submissions, so check them out and join up. My reasons (in this post, anyway) are the triumvirate of truth, goodness, and beauty. I will show you how truth, goodness, and beauty are essential to the Contemplative Homeschool and to seeking God.
Fr. Benedict Groeschel, in Spiritual Passages: The Psychology of Spiritual Development “for those who seek”, uses the categories of truth, beauty, goodness, and oneness in a similar way to learning styles or temperaments. They signify to him four ways of relating to God. We can use these categories to help ourselves and our students/children grow spiritually.
Truth satisfies the intellect The Catholic Church speaks the truth, no matter how few listen. She does not shy away from controversy. Countless Catholics have been martyrs for the truth. Unlike our relativistic culture, and some other religions and philosophies, Catholics believe the truth is objective and knowable. Humans have minds that desire satisfaction. By upholding objective truth, the Church upholds man’s dignity.
I always wear mu crucifix on my outer garment, trolling for those who might want to discuss issues about their faith. Last week at the gym Mike commented on the crucifix and them informed me he was a Baptized Catholic, had received a Catholic education and the Sacraments. He recently began reading Darwin’s theories and other books on evolutioon and was now an atheist.
The gym is not the best setting for evangelizing. We exchanged some viewpoints and beliefs, the only thing we agreed on was that he could not prove there was no God and I could not scientifically prove there was. I left him with this thought. Believing Makes this life better. You believe you are nothing more than a very intelligent animal, there are no eternal rewards for doing good or punishment for evil. After some perhaps ninety years you will slip into an eternity of nothingness. I believe I am created in the image and likeness of my creator, there is an aspect of my being that will never die. My struggle for holiness can merit an eternity of joy in the presence of a loving God. Whether that is true or not it makes this life so much better believing it.
I’ve read at least a dozen books on homeschool philosophy and gleaned something from every one. But none exactly met my vision of what I wanted our homeschool to be. Some were literature-based (Charlotte Mason/Real Learning). Others were history-based (Neo-Classical/The Well-Trained Mind). Others were classics-based (The Latin-Centered Curriculum). The faith-based methods fell into two general categories of Protestant, Bible-based (Ruth Beechick) and either Protestant or Catholic textbooks that incorporated the faith into each subject (Seton Homeschool and Catholic Heritage Curricula). I decided to create a Catholic Bible-based homeschool method.
Teaching with homilies, not sermons
One way in which the Contemplative Homeschool is different from other faith-based methods is that I spread religion across the curriculum in a homily, not sermon, format. A sermon, common in Protestant churches, starts with an idea. The preacher finds Bible passages to support his idea. A homily, on the other hand, begins with the Church’s Scripture readings for the day, and pulls ideas out of them. Both can teach the same subject, but from the opposite direction. A homily, ideally, should give a greater insight into a particular Bible passage, while a sermon might show how a particular idea is taught throughout the Bible.
Catholic Heritage Curricula (and those like it) takes a subject and brings the faith into it. For example, The Catholic Speller includes words such as “Mass” in the appropriate units. This method is common, even used in some Catholic schools. I see this as a sermon approach. The faith is added on to a subject, but the subject is central.
In contrast, I am going through the Bible with my boys from start to finish. I take a Bible story–Jacob and Esau, for example–and create a union to connect as many subjects as I can to the themes found in the story. The central focus is the Bible, not the subject. I see this as a homily approach.
I see many advantages to the homily approach, which I will detail in a future post.
CatholicFamilyGifts.com offered me a free first-Communion gift to review and give away to one of my readers. Since my boys are currently interested in hidden picture books, I chose Can You Find Saints?: Introducing Your Child to Holy Men and Women. After the review, I will tell you how can enter to win this book.
Can You Find Saints? is one in a series of four books by Philip D. Gallery. The series also includes Can You Find Jesus?, Can You Find the Followers of Jesus?, and Can You Find Bible Heroes? Janet L. Harlow illustrated all four books. They combine hide-and-seek fun with learning about the faith.
Given the cover and the genre, I was prepared for cartoon illustrations similar to the Where’s Waldo? series. Harlow provides more than that. The inside front and back covers contain a parchment-like timeline of saints, beginning with Abraham. “Search 1: Mary Lives a Life of Perfect Virtue” delighted me with its depiction of the mysteries of the Rosary and approved Marian apparitions, encircling a Renaissance Madonna and Child. A version of Michelangelo’s Creation of Adam above St. Peter’s Basilica forms the background for “Search 7: Saints Who Were Popes.”
There seems to be a dilemma in the spiritual life. We want to do great things for God, but we are caught up in the little tasks of everyday life. We think holiness must wait until some future time: when the kids are grown up, when the job is less demanding, when we retire, when we can go on retreat. But if, as Vatican II taught, holiness is meant for everyone, shouldn’t it be accessible in every circumstance? How can we become holy now?
Although some saints have been martyrs, missionaries, or miracle workers, others have been parents, kings and queens, businessmen, and even children. How did they become great? Through “abandonment to divine providence” as Fr. Jeanne-Pierre de Caussade called it.
Don’t let the big words confuse you. This is simply the “Little Way” of St. Therese of Lisieux, who said that even when she picked an object off the floor, she did it out of love for God. Likewise, Blessed Teresa of Calcutta said, “We must do little things with great love.” This practice has also been called “the sacrament of the present moment.”
Do you blog primarily on Catholic spirituality? Not a blog on Catholic doctrine or apologetics, politics, book reviews or a “Mommy blog”–but one focused on helping your readers grow closer to Christ? I have not been able to find an exclusive list of spirituality links, so I decided to create one. Send me an email at crossini4774 at comcast dot net to have your blog listed here.
At Our Lady of Lebanon Maronite Catholic Church in Shepherd’s Park (Washington, DC) the Easter Vigil begins at midnight.
The interior of the church reflects the austere monastic sensibilities of St. Maroun, the 5th Century Syriac monk who shaped this Syriac-Antiochian rite Catholic Church that profoundly influenced Lebanon.
Prior to the accent lights being turned on, the design was stark and aesthetically challenging for me. Even with the lights on, the altar is surprisingly barren for the most important feast of the liturgical year for Christians. There were a few lillies at the foot of the main altar and there was a floral display on the East Apse which also served as the Empty Tomb for the Easter Vigil. Note the tree stump at the foot of the altar, that is used as a stand for the veneration of the Cross. Perhaps it harkens back to the Cedars of Lebanon, which is an important symbol amongst Maronite Catholics.
This is the Clergy approaching the altar for the beginning of the Qurbono (Divine Liturgy). Note the Chorbishop in the center who’s vestment has a cross with the Cedar of Lebanon. The Liturgy was conducted in Syriac as well as English. The hymns that were sung were in Aramaic which was impossible for me to read. Aramaic was Jesus’ native tongue so it sounded like what the followers of “The Way” would have sung in the 1st Century A.D.
There were some unusual aspects of this Easter Vigil. There was incense but no use of Holy Water or candles. The Maronite Church tends to baptize their Catachumens on the Feast of the Epiphany in January. Candles are not as import of an symbol at the Easter Vigil, as the Maronite Church breaks fast on noon of Great Saturday during the simple “Awaited Light” ceremony. This may explain why there is not pent up anticipation for the Easter Vigil as observed amongst the Maronites.
It was remarkable how much this Liturgy celebrating the Resurrection emphasized the Glorious Cross. The Chorbishop made prayers on the four corners of the altar with the processional cross, as if to proclaim the hope of the resurrection to all the Earth. The faithful were invited to venerate the Glorified Cross as they received Communion. Another interesting Easter feature of this vigil Qurbono was the emphasis on the Empty Tomb. As the faithful departed from the Divine Liturgy, they were given flowers from the Empty Tomb as well as an Easter Egg.
Despite the alternating languages during the Liturgy, it was not challenging to follow. The order of the Liturgy is different, as the Prayers of the Faithful are offered in the middle of the Liturgy of the Eucharist. In addition, the sign of peace is passed along from the altar to the congregation by youthful altar servers. For me, the Maronite Qurbono was the most exotic of my Holy Week experiences. Unfortunately, I found the Easter Vigil at Our Lady of Lebanon to be anti-climatic and personally unsatisfying. That being said, I was intrigued by proclaiming the glory of the cross to the four corners of the Earth. In addition, I was touched by the post resurrection highlighting of the Empty Tomb as well as receiving the Easter souvenirs.