I am the Director of Religious Education and Youth Minister in my parish, and because we recognize that the greatest impact on our youth will occur when parents nurture their faith in conjunction with the support we provide, the mission of our youth programs is: To facilitate transformative family-based programs focusing on dispositions that nurture authentic Christ-centered lives.
I talked to parents about marriage being a sacrament of service in which we lay down our lives for our spouse and children with the ultimate goal of helping them and ourselves get to heaven, something I noted I did not remember hearing until fairly recently as I sought to better understand my Catholic faith. We also talked about how it is our role as parents to be the first and primary educators of our children.
Based on a workshop philosophy, as a teacher educator, I tell my teacher candidates that if they want to be teachers of reading and writing, they need to be readers and writers. Translated into the faith-formation context, I recently told parents whose children are preparing for sacraments this year, “If you want to help others be holy, you must be striving for holiness yourself.” I let them know that one of the ways we would be exploring this concept through our parent sessions this ministry year is that we would be thinking deeply about allowing the grace of God to transform our lives through the gifts of the sacraments and about what that means for ourselves and our families.
Helping nurture others in the faith means first investing in ourselves. In order to value the role the sacraments can have in our lives, it is helpful to have a deep understanding of what they are, such as the example above of understanding the purpose of marriage from a Catholic lens reframing my thinking. Resources on Formed.org focusing on the sacraments have been beneficial in my own journey to deepening my relationship with God and better prepare me to support my husband, girls, and those involved in our family-based youth programs.
Having an understanding of the big picture of the sacraments before understanding individual sacraments can be a helpful starting point. The following are a few examples of programs that address the sacraments comprehensively:
- The Bible and the Sacraments: For a limited time (early October – late November) Formed has a special program from the St. Paul Center for Biblical Theology focusing on the purpose of the sacraments and biblical links, including the foreshadowing in the Old Testament pointing towards the sacraments that Christ instituted in the New Testament.
- Symbolon: The Catholic Faith Explained Part II: Living the Faith: A large focus of this Augustine Institute 10-session study is on the sacraments. This is geared towards adults, but they have also adapted it for a youth audience in their YDisciple: Living the Creed.
The following are studies from the Augustine Institute that specifically focus on a single sacrament, providing a more in-depth exploration:
- Reborn: You, Your Child and the Heart of Baptism: I do not do baptismal preparation, but I use portions of Reborn that prompt thinking about why we want sacraments for our children and our role as parents. It also provides a good foundation for reflecting on who we select to support our children in the faith.
- Forgiven: The Transforming Power of Confession: It was not until my second daughter was preparing for First Reconciliation that I started to re-think the role of Confession in my life and to commit to attending more regularly. I love that Forgiven highlights the beauty and power of the sacrament.
- Beloved: Mystery and Meaning of Marriage & Beloved: Living Marriage: After re-framing my thinking about the sacrament of marriage based on other Catholic resources, Beloved was a perfect resource to deepen my understanding about how to live aligned to Catholic values with an understanding of the purpose of marriage. Though not directly related to the sacraments children are preparing for, showing glimpses into these sessions can help to shape thinking about our roles within our families, which can then strengthen the work we are doing to prepare for the sacraments they will be receiving. This is an example of where understanding the big picture of how sacraments fit together can be helpful to see connections.
- Coming soon: Presence. At a training this summer, representatives from Augustine Institute mentioned that soon they will be releasing Presence on the Eucharist, a program that I am looking forward to.
Something that I appreciate about all of these resources (with the exception of The Bible and The Sacraments) is that they are all available in Spanish as well (the actual audio, not just subtitles). Because we are a smaller parish, most of our parent meetings are bilingual; however, while watching resources from Formed, participants are able to watch the Spanish version in one room and the English in another before we come back together as a whole group to discuss. Our parish-wide subscription also provides for accessibility to the resources so that families can view content they missed if they were unable to attend a meeting or to more comprehensively view the programs when we only view some sessions as a whole group.
Resources on Formed have greatly impacted my own understanding of the sacraments, enriching the way I live my Catholic faith and my awareness of how God is working in my life. I appreciate being able to then share those resources with other families, recognizing that it can be a powerful influence on their own journeys as well.
What are the resources that have nurtured your own faith and helped you to nurture others?
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Copyright 2017 Amanda Villagómez