I read the following joke recently:
"One Sunday a minister preached about shepherds. He explained that sheep need lots of guidance, and that a shepherd's job is to stay close to the sheep, protect them from wild animals, and keep them from wandering off. He said that the people of the church were God's sheep. Then he asked, "If you are the sheep, who is the shepherd?" (He was pretty obviously indicating himself.)
After a few seconds, a young boy piped up: "Jesus! Jesus is the shepherd."
The minister, caught by surprise, asked, "Well, then, who am I?"
The boy frowned thoughtfully. "I guess you must be a sheep dog." "
Cute story, right?
But it was also a strong reminder to me to remember that I am NOT "the" shepherd....
I am a sheep dog...
and when I start to think that I am the leader,
then trouble follows....
Sure, I need to put in the effort and might be called to help with any of those roles
but my ego cannot take the lead.
I cannot think that I do these things for my own glory (accolades, awards, titles, etc.)
But it must be my willingness to show Christ to others,
the share Church with others,
to be one-with-Christ as I serve others.
As the Gospel of John reports that John the Baptist said:
He must increase; I must decrease.” (John 3:30)
In Galatians, chapter 2 verse 20, we read:
"I live, no longer I, but Christ lives in me; insofar as I now live in the flesh,
I live by faith in the Son of God who has loved me and given himself up for me."
Dear Lord, please help me lessen my own ego,
to allow more and more room for your love to fill my heart so that
it spills out to all those around me...
and I can help others see the love you have for them as well.
Help me to help you "round up your sheep"
and keep them safe in your loving protection and guidance.
Help me to be one of you sheepdogs!
The Most Reverend George V. Murry, S.J.,
bishop of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Youngstown
has been diagnosed with a form of acute leukemia.
He was admitted to the Cleveland Clinic on Sunday, April 29, 2018.
He will undergo intensive chemo therapy for the next four weeks.
The Doctors at the Cleveland Clinic have stated
that there are to be no visitors.
Please keep Bishop Murry in your prayers.
There is also a Facebook group set up of those praying for him on that social media site:
I attended Catholic school from mid-first grade through my freshmen year of high school
(St. Joseph in Cuyahoga Falls and St. Vincent-St. Mary in Akron).
I cannot recall in which year
we had to memorize the Memorare, but I know that it was in grade school and
to this day, when someone begins the prayer,
my mind automatically continues on as the words are etched in my mind (perhaps even my heart, as that makes for a better prayer.)
While memorization is difficult for many (at least for me),
I do have to admit that it is nice to have some things ready to recite
at a moments notice! I have been able to pray the Memorare
(and MANY other prayers) in times of stress, anxiety, uncertainty
and even boredom.
Of course, as with many things in life, I will admit that I did not understand the prayer when I memorized it. Besides not knowing what implored or incarnate meant, as a child, I was fortunate to now have much need to "Fly" to her. However, as I lived a few more years,
I experienced more need for a feeling of protection,
I now wish that I'd had an opportunity to re-learn the prayer as a teen, with focus on a deeper understanding of what we were praying.,
Of remembering the need for God in my life,
and the gift of having Mary to pray with and for me to her Son.
Truly understanding that she will not give up on her children,
and will help us really can boost our "confidence" of faith!
With October being a month dedicated to Mary,
what is YOUR favorite Marian prayer?
(You can list it in the Comments section below.)
Seek ways to break this prayer open with the
teens and/or young adults with whom you serve.
Dig for that deeper understanding of memorized prayers
(and maybe even learn a new one!)
While you consider this,
why not pray the Memorare with me?
Remember, O most gracious Virgin Mary,
that never was it known
that anyone who fled to your protection,
implored your help,
and sought your intercession,
was left unaided.
Inspired with this confidence,
I fly to you,
O Virgin of virgins, my Mother,
to you I come,
before you I stand sinful and sorrowful.
O Mother of the Word Incarnate!
Despise not my petitions,
but, in your mercy, hear and answer me.
On Saturday, July 1
in the Hyatt Regency Orlando,
a couple thousand Catholics gathered for
an Evening Marian Devotion
focused around Mary, Mother of Evangelization
as part of the Convocation of Catholic Leaders
organized by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.
Allow me to pause to say that despite my birthday falling on a Marian feast
(Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary on August 15),
and my name including a Marian-variation (Marie),
I have not found myself to have a strong Marian devotion.
Not that I have anything against this amazing woman who said YES to God,
gave birth to our Savior and raised Jesus;
I was just raised to believe that I can go directly to Christ with my prayers.
So I didn't "need" Mary as much.
Please do not judge me harshly as I share this only to admit that I may have considered
skipping this Saturday night event....
but I did go,
and I was so glad that I did.
It was a highlight of the Convocation for me.
I left inspired and faith-filled.
Archbishop Gustavo Garcia-Siller, MSpS of San Antonio and
Bishop Martin D. Holley, DD of Memphis
each shared their appreciation for and strong devotions to Mary that began during their childhoods,
nurtured them as they grew up and how she assist them now as they serve the Church.
They also discussed that Mary is called upon by Pope Francis in Evangelii Gaudium:
"Mary let herself be guided by the Holy Spirit on a journey of faith toward a destiny of service and fruitfulness. Today we look to her and ask her to help us proclaim the message of salvation to all and to enable new disciples to become evangelizers in turn." ~ EG, no. 287.
We then prayed the Joyful Mysteries of the Rosary,
with an amazing couple of twists:
1. a myriad of languages were used to pray the Hail Mary, including English, French, Vietnamese, Igbo, Tagalog, Italian, Creole, Polish, Gaelic/Irish, and Spanish;
2. different styles of songs that connected to each Mystery were sung at the completion of each decade ("The Angel Gabriel From Heaven Came," "Mary's Canticle," "What Child is This," "Mary's Song," and "El Perpetuo Socorro," along with "Immaculate Mary" at the end.)
The changing up of languages during the Hail Mary really made one pause and listen to the words,
rather than speeding through it as can happen in some recitations that I have been part of (and even led that way, as though there is a prize for finishing fastest!) and the songs assisted me in reflecting upon that Mystery.
All the while, different images of Mary were displayed on large screens in the room.
This helped to show the various ways in which people relate to the Holy Mother around the world,
and in the U.S.
Together, we prayed through the songs, prayers and images.
It was an inspiring and up-lifting evening that I wished you could have all been part of with us.
However, you can participate in spirit in the following ways:
1. Watch recordings of some parts of the evening devotion:
Part 1 (bishop's talks, Ave Maria)
Part 2 (praying the Rosary)
2. Pray the Special Prayer of Dedication to Mary taken from Evangelii Gaudium:
Mary, Virgin and Mother,
you who, moved by the Holy Spirit,
welcomed the word of life
in the depths of your humble faith:
as you gave yourself completely to the Eternal One,
help us to say our own “yes”
to the urgent call, as pressing as ever,
to proclaim the good news of Jesus.
Filled with Christ’s presence,
you brought joy to John the Baptist,
making him exult in the womb of his mother.
Brimming over with joy,
you sang of the great things done by God.
Standing at the foot of the cross
with unyielding faith,
you received the joyful comfort of the resurrection,
and joined the disciples in awaiting the Spirit
so that the evangelizing Church might be born.
Obtain for us now a new ardor born of the resurrection,
that we may bring to all the Gospel of life
which triumphs over death.
Give us a holy courage to seek new paths,
that the gift of unfading beauty
may reach every man and woman.
Virgin of listening and contemplation,
Mother of love, Bride of the eternal wedding feast,
pray for the Church, whose pure icon you are,
that she may never be closed in on herself
or lose her passion for establishing God’s kingdom.
Star of the new evangelization,
help us to bear radiant witness to communion,
service, ardent and generous faith,
justice and love of the poor,
that the joy of the Gospel
may reach to the ends of the earth,
illuminating even the fringes of our world.
Mother of the living Gospel,
wellspring of happiness for God’s little ones,
pray for us.
May Mary, Star of the New Evangelization and Patroness of the Americas continue to pray for us!
During the Ash Wednesday 12:10 p.m. Mass homily at St. Columba Cathedral,
Bishop George V. Murry, S.J. began by sharing that the word Lent
Often springtime conjures images of cleaning out things after winter.
He then continued to talk about spiritually cleaning one's heart for a better relationship with God.
However, my mind veered off a bit to the meme seen above.
Many people on social media have been sharing this idea of physically cleaning things out
this Lent... to simplify your home but also to potentially assist those who may need things.
As a bit of a clutterbug (not quite up to the TV show "Hoarders" level, yet,
but I have the potential), this is an exhilarating and scary idea.
But, I am going to give it a try....
if not 40 large trash bags, then at least several bags and boxes.
I am also reminded of the Zelda Fitzgerald quote:
What most people need to learn in life is how to love people and use things
instead of using people and loving things.
While I do my best not to use people, I may have a tendency to love things,
as I was taught to treasure gifts from loved ones, and I place perhaps too much
emotion into items I own. Therefore, this might just make for a good Lenten practice for me,
as I will need to pray my way through it.
One prayer I will be praying is the Suscipe by St. Ignatius of Loyola
(proud of my Jesuit education):
Take Lord, and receive all my liberty,
and my entire will,
all that I have and possess.
Thou hast given all to me.
To Thee, O lord, I return it.
All is Thine,
dispose of it wholly according to Thy will.
Give me Thy love and thy grace,
for this is sufficient for me.
(As one who grew up in the "Glory and Praise" era of Church music,
I often 'hear' this prayer in the musical form,
which if you are not familiar, I would encourage you to listen:
Please pray with me,
and perhaps join in me in this process of letting go.
Maybe in the giving of material things,
my heart will also let go of hurts, disappointments, or other feelings that
impede a joy-filled relationship with God?
May I be able to clean out all things that block God's love for me,
so that I can be open to a deeper Easter joy.
May your Lenten practices do the same for you!
Whoever confers benefits will be amply enriched,
and whoever refreshes others will be refreshed.
Whoever hoards grain, the people curse,
but blessings are on the head of one who distributes it!
Prior to the National Conference on Catholic Youth Ministry, or NCCYM, in San Jose last month, I participated in a two-day "Youth Mental Health First Aid" training. (I am sure you will hear and see me reference this training a few times in the future!) One of the numerous ideas I noted was tis idea of a "Been There, Done That" box of index cards....
What you would do is to contact parents who have gone through some specific situation, issues or crisis,
and see if they would be open to talking with other parents from the parish or school who approach you to discuss that topic. (I'd also suggest you ask these kind, brave parents willing to discuss their situations to pray for any parent that does contact them... and perhaps pray WITH them!)
-- teens breaking curfew and how to deal with that in a healthy way
-- incarcerated youth
-- dealing with underage drinking
-- child diagnosed with a special need
-- kids who struggled through their divorce
-- custody issues
-- teens cutting school
(Start brain-storming as you reflect on questions parents ask you!
What a wonderful resource this box can be as you help connect people that support each other
and build community.)
Please be sure to keep this information confidential, but have them on hard for support.
Of course, you could keep this information on a spread sheet on your computer or tablet.
And, obviously, for anyone who needs professional help,
make that appropriate referral.
However, often, parents just need support --
someone to listen
someone who understands
and sometimes some ideas and advice.
This seemed like a great idea to share with you all as you approach Pastoral Care with youth and their families.
Let me know if you do this and how it works for you. Add any helpful tips in the comments below.
Here is a prayer from Loyola Press for Parents:
A Parent's Prayer Loving God,
You are the giver of all we possess,
the source of all of our blessings.
We thank and praise you.
Thank you for the gift of our children.
Help us to set boundaries for them,
and yet encourage them to explore.
Give us the strength and courage to treat
each day as a fresh start.
May our children come to know you, the one true God,
and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.
May your Holy Spirit help them to grow
in faith, hope, and love,
so they may know peace, truth, and goodness.
May their ears hear your voice.
May their eyes see your presence in all things.
May their lips proclaim your word.
May their hearts be your dwelling place.
May their hands do works of charity.
May their feet walk in the way of Jesus Christ,
your Son and our Lord.
Hopefully, you are all aware of the two sessions being offered by the diocese* regarding "Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship" on September 21, 2016, and hopefully you will all do your best to participate in one of the sessions....
However, it seems unlikely that many teens will attend, especially since many cannot yet vote. However, during middle school and high school there should be discussions had and prayers prayed. Teens see and hear the mainstream media and the social media and are concerned for their futures. Why not help them learn ways to infuse their faith with their patriotism and civic duties?
The U.S. Bishop's website features session plans prepared especially for middle school and high school audiences (parish and school settings). There are 4 session plans, and they can be adapted to fit your needs. Each session covers a section of the document, so they can easily be used for inter-generational/family faith/Generations of Faith sessions as well (you can find elementary session plans posted as well!)
Be sure to check them out and bookmark the site.
Perhaps your group is interested in devotionals?
Then be sure to check out the Novena for Faithful Citizenship as well:
(Read or listen to podcasts!)
The Bulletin Inserts are also created for discussion...
if your parish distributes these, then by all means, make use of them with your teens! If your parish does not use them, you can download them. There are two that summarize the Forming Consciences document, one that instructs on communicating with elected officials, that these two that might be of even more interest:
> Conscience Formation:
> Civil Dialogue:
Have fun exploring the many resources,
and be sure to continue praying for our country
and pray for all elected officials and for all voters!
Here is part of a middle school/high school session prayer,
which seems perfect to pray together now:
Let us pray.
Father of all creation,
You made humanity in your image and likeness.
May we see Jesus' face in those who are hungry, thirsty, imprisoned, and stranger.
Spirit of justice, help us and all your people to seek respect for the dignity of all people
and work to protect the common good.
We ask this through Christ our Lord.
* Sponsored by The Catholic Diocese of Youngstown Offices of:
Continuing Education for Priests,
Lay Ministry Formation,
Pro-Life, Marriage and Family,
& Youth and Young Adult Ministry
Recently, a colleague shared the following Youth Night Outline with me and asked if it could be used at his parish. I told him, yes.... just line up objectives from the The Diocese of Youngstown Curriculum for Catechesis.
Using Scripture with Lectio Divina processing and praying the Apostle's Creed area always good things to do with youth!
With just a quick glance, I thought that the following objectives that could be covered within the session with a few tweaks:
After watching the video, you could also include
Look it over and tell me which other objectives you might include?
What would you do differently to make this session work better for the teens in your ministry setting? (Please use the COMMENT button to add your thoughts and ideas.)
Youth Night Acts of the Apostles
Purpose of the Night
This youth night is designed to give the teens a better knowledge and understanding of the Acts of the Apostles. Our Church is built upon the witness of these very first apostles and we can learn a lot from them. We can obviously learn about the development of church teaching, but more importantly, we can learn how to apply their witness into the witness of our lives.
Bible for each small group
Paper and pencils for each small group
Random items (see below in Preparation)
The environment for this night should depict the importance of witnessing, both by the apostles and saints, but also modern day witnesses. Display pictures around the room of apostles and saints. Also, include some signs with Scripture verses and quotes pertaining to witnessing. Also put up some pictures of witnesses today. These can be well known people, or simply just individuals in our everyday lives. At the front of the room, place an open Bible on a table and large cross with red cloth draped over it symbolizing the blood of the martyrs.
Snacks/fellowship time (20 minutes)
Before diving into the topic, have snacks or even a meal available for the youth as they arrive. Play fun music while youth are coming in. Allow them time to socialize with their friends as well as to meet any new people. Be sure to have yourself as well as any core team mingle among the kids and reach out especially to anyone who may be new. This time would also be a good time for any announcements as well as announcing any birthdays.
Small Group Skits (20 minutes)
Divide the youth into small groups. Gather a bunch of really random items and place the items at the front of the room. Examples of items can include stuffed animals, a role of tape, a golf club, or a coffee filter. Have a representative from each group select three items. Each group will act out the story of Pentecost found in Acts 2:1-4. They will have to incorporate their three items in some way in the skit. Also, each group will act out their skit in a different genre. Genres can include documentary, western, sci-fi, silent film, sitcom, talk show, news broadcast, musical, etc. Write the genres down on separate pieces of paper and have the groups each select one at random. Give the groups about 10 minutes to create their skits and then gather them back to present them.
Introduction of the Topic (5 minutes)
Transition the youth into the main space to begin the night. The youth minister will begin by introducing the topic of the Acts of the Apostles. Explain briefly the importance of the early apostles and their witness in the early church.
Proclamation verse: “But you will receive power when the holy Spirit comes upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, throughout Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” – Acts 1:8
Opening Prayer (5 minutes)
Reading (Acts 1:6-9)
A Reading from the Acts of the Apostles When they had gathered together they asked him, “Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?” He answered them, “It is not for you to know the times or seasons that the Father has established by his own authority. But you will receive power when the holy Spirit comes upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, throughout Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” When he had said this, as they were looking on, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him from their sight.
Heavenly Father, We come before you this day in thanksgiving for the witness of the early Apostles. Lord, come into our hearts during this time that we might be inspired by their witness to live for you in our everyday lives. We ask this in your name. Amen.
(Optional) If you have a musician who can begin the night with a praise and worship song, that could be used as the opening prayer
Explanation Video: “Evidence” (5 minutes)
(This video can be found on YouTube at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oPHe51B7Z00)
Teaching (10-15 minutes)
Choose a speaker to talk to your group about this topic and its importance in our lives. The speaker can be the youth minister, a core member, a parish priest or deacon, a guest speaker, or anyone who you feel may be qualified to speak on the topic. You can use the outline below to provide some thoughts for this talk.
Processing the video:
The importance of being a witness
- When watching this video, how did it make you feel? What was going through your head as this girl was on trial and what were your thoughts on the verdict? Can you relate to the video at all?
- Now obviously, it is not illegal to be Catholic in our country today. However, there are a number of obstacles that we face in our everyday lives that make it difficult to witness to our faith.
The witness of the Apostles
- In Acts 1:8, just before Jesus ascends to heaven, He stood before His apostles and said “But you will receive power when the holy Spirit comes upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, throughout Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” Jesus makes a promise to His Apostles that they will receive the Holy Spirit and will become witnesses to the faith.
- In Acts 2:1-4, we read of the event of Pentecost where the Holy Spirit comes upon the Apostles and inspires them to fearlessly go out and proclaim Christ to the world. The Acts of the Apostles gives us a glimpse into the mission of the apostles following in the footsteps of Christ.
- We hear a number of miraculous occurrences such as the conversion of 3000 people by the apostles right after Pentecost (Acts 2), Peter healing to crippled man (Acts 3), Philip converting the Ethiopian eunuch (Acts 8), Paul restoring a dead man to life (Acts 20), as well as so many more things. On top of this, we also hear of so many stories of heroic virtue as the apostles stopped at no cost to follow the will of Christ which eventually lead to martyrdom for most.
Our own witness in our lives
- In our own lives, we can learn a lot from the apostles and can apply much of what they said and did in our very own life. It’s hard to be a witness. It’s hard to publicly stand up and follow Christ fully in the midst of everything that goes on. Often times, we can feel like we are on trial, just like in the video.
- However, Christ has commissioned us just as He commissioned His disciples. He speaks those same words to us that we find in Acts 1:8 – “But you will receive power when the holy Spirit comes upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, throughout Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” The Lord is with us and He freely gives us His Holy Spirit to inspire us to carry out His will. Let us not be afraid to listen to Him and witness to Him in our lives.
Small Groups (15-20 minutes)
Lectio Divina Each person in the group will receive a slip of paper with the Scripture passage below on it and a pencil. The group leader or one of the youths should read the passage aloud. Take about 30 seconds to silently think about it. Have it read again. Take about a minute to silently meditate upon it and encourage the group take notes or underline key words that might stick out. Have it read one final time and then begin to discuss.
Acts 1:6-8 – “When they had gathered together they asked him, “Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?” He answered them, “It is not for you to know the times or seasons that the Father has established by his own authority. But you will receive power when the holy Spirit comes upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, throughout Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”
Small Group Questions
o Was there a word or phrase from this passage that really stood out or jumped out to anyone?
o What is the meaning of this passage?
o What does Jesus mean when He says “you will be my witnesses”?
o How do His followers ultimately respond to that call of being a witness?
o In our lives, we all have the same call to go out and be witnesses in our everyday lives. What does it mean to witness to the faith?
o Jesus calls us to witness to our faith by leaving behind everything we have and spreading the gospel around the world. Some have taken this call quite literally and have become missionaries to foreign countries or other extreme callings. For those of us (the majority of Christians) who do not have this calling, how can we witness to the faith in everyday life?
o How can we be a witness in our school, on our sports teams, within our groups of friends, or within our families?
o Why is witnessing to the faith so important? What benefit is there for us?
o What are some practical ways in which we can witness to our faith today?
Teen Witness (5 minutes)
Gather the whole group back together and invite one of your youth, preferable an older one who is maybe a junior or a senior to share a brief personal witness on how their life has been impacted by the Lord and how they have been called to live out their faith. Meet with them ahead of time to go over their witness. While writing their witness, have them pray with Acts 1:8 to see how their own life can relate to that of the apostles.
Closing prayer (5 minutes)
If possible, transition the group into a separate space to close out the night. The ideal location would be in the church if available. Invite the youth to quietly make their way in and have a seat. The youth minister should take a minute to prayerfully recap the whole night. After the recap, take some time to enter into some silence and allow the youth to voice any intentions they have. Close with reciting the Apostles Creed:.
I believe in God, the Father Almighty,
Creator of Heaven and earth;
and in Jesus Christ, His only Son Our Lord,
Who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary,
suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried.
He descended into Hell; the third day He rose again from the dead;
He ascended into Heaven, and is seated at the right hand of God,
the Father almighty; from there He shall come to judge the living and the dead.
I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy Catholic Church, the communion of saints,
the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body and life everlasting.
By the way, did you know that the Curriculum can be found online
(you do not only have to view it in the office of your pastor of Director/Coordinator of Religious Education! You can download a copy or just view it online whenever you wish.)
Looking for a way to support your teens at a time when they will be likely be open to Divine Inspiration?
Here is one: Pencils with Prayers - prepare a prayer before taking a test (like the one pictured) and add a new, sharpened and ready-to-go #2 pencil.
This would be great for your high school teens to do for the 8th graders in the Catholic school before high school placement tests, or have Confirmation students prepare for the high school students before any of their tests. Or have an adult club or ministry work on this for the teens. There are so many possibilities for getting people involved in preparing them! Then, for distribution, consider the options: going into the 8th grade classrooms, or distributing at youth ministry event, or have them in baskets after Mass for pick up as families leave.
If you have done this or something similar, please tell us about it in the comments.
I had to really pause to ponder this from Gratefulness.org:
If I had my life to live over again, I would ask that not a thing be changed, but that my eyes be opened wider.
~ Jules Renard
I will admit, there are many times when I replay memories and yearn to have a "do - over" -- too often I speak too flippantly,
or I missed moments I could have savored,
or I have been in too much of a hurry to truly experience a moment...
Sound at all familiar? I am sure I cannot be on the only one, but I envy you if you have already mastered this (perhaps you can help teach me?)
This must help to explain the wisdom of the Church in giving us the season of Lent each year.... time for us to examine our lives,
and see what can be done differently in the future
(not a do-over, but at least a do-better opportunity!)
Today's quote now shapes my Lenten reflection:
How can I live with my eyes open wider more often in the future...
... to see needs of others that I may be able to assist?
... to see the good in stressful or negative situations?
... to see pain behind forced smiles?
... to see love rather than malice, hostility, anger, or hatred?
... to see more of God's amazing creations?
....to see the face of Christ in more of the people I encounter!
The lyrics to Jesse Manibusan's "Open My Eyes, Lord" continues to have deeper meaning for me:
Ahhh, to see with the eyes of Christ! God help me,
and St. Joseph, on your feast day, may you also strengthen me!
Cindee Case, MAPS
Director of the Diocese of Youngstown Office of Youth and Young Adult Ministry.