El amor es nuestra misión – Por Dr. Francisco Castillo

Este año que pasó mi familia se reunió para celebrar las bodas de oro de mis padres. En esta celebración me di cuenta del gran regalo y ejemplo que tengo en ellos. Su fidelidad en el amor y su compromiso matrimonial sirvió para que perseveraran en este caminar por 50 años. Al reflexionar más profundamente en este evento, me he dado cuenta que, gracias a ese amor que viven ellos y del cual nace nuestra familia, he podido encontrar y llegar a conocer y entender el amor de Dios.

Cuando mis padres renovaban sus votos en la iglesia ante su hijo sacerdote y rodeado de mis otros hermanos, nietos, nueras, amigos y familiares, para mí fue un momento muy íntimo y emotivo. La celebración litúrgica me proyectó a la realidad divina a la cual nosotros, los seres humanos, solo llegamos a conocer de una manera que aunque sacramental es incompleta. Empero, al tratar de entender nuestra fe en el Dios Uno y Trino, nos basamos en imágenes, analogías y conceptos que surgen de nuestras experiencias de la familia humana. El amor, la paternidad y maternidad, la filiación, la fraternidad, la adopción, y todo otro tipo de relaciones comunitarias nos sirven como lente por el cual filtramos la experiencia inefable de la relación de amor de Dios con nosotros.

Este año, como Iglesia tendremos la oportunidad de reflexionar sobre la familia. La semana del 22 de septiembre, delegados de diócesis del mundo entero se reunirán en Filadelfia con el Papa Francisco para el Encuentro Mundial de la Familia. El lema del encuentro es “El amor es nuestra misión: La familia plenamente viva.” Con miras a este acontecimiento se ha desarrollado un libro preparatorio para la catequesis con el mismo título del lema. La catequesis que el libro brinda se centra en diez temas enfocados en la familia. Los obispos de Estados Unidos nos invitan a reflexionar y considerar cómo las familias se pueden fortalecer en estas áreas.

Como parte de nuestro objetivo de apoyar la misión catequética de la Iglesia para fortalecer a las familias, RCL Benziger ha solicitado a escritores que se destacan por su experiencia en el ministerio de familias que escriban artículos que profundicen en estos temas. Los artículos proporcionan al lector un punto de partida para la reflexión y muestran perspectivas sobre los desafíos que enfrentan las familias de hoy y ofrecen ideas útiles para apoyar y nutrir la vida en familia.

Este mes de marzo, al celebrar la festividad de San José, esposo de María y padre de la Sagrada Familia, dedicamos esta serie de artículos a San José y a la Sagrada Familia y pedimos su guía y apoyo en esta labor.

El Dr. Francisco Castillo es redactor principal para RCL Benziger, es además profesor adjunto de estudios religiosos y escritor y poeta.

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Educators Inspire Faith and Action – By Anne P. Battes

educators-inspire-faith-and-actionAs we reflect on the journey of this year, we rejoice in the seeds that were planted to grow disciples. We rejoice in the educators who have helped to plant those seeds.

Teachers, catechists, and administrators in Catholic education are a gift from God and are some of the most inspiring people in our lives. Inspiration comes in many forms, from simple everyday life to extraordinary exceptions. In my own experience over the years, I have met educators in Catholic education that inspire by:

  • helping children to see the virtue of caring for others who are in need by sharing belongings, food, and talents to help others;
  • modeling prayer in times of joy when a new baby arrives in a family, in times of sadness when a family member dies, or when there is tragedy in the community;
  • working to help families with ways to develop discipleship at home, through sharing ideas, offering prayer, modeling forgiveness, and giving hope to parents as their children grow through the stages of life;
  • choosing the extraordinary of giving physical life to a young person by donating a kidney, standing up for a child in a family crisis by testifying in court, or accepting a child into their home and family in times of grief and hardship;
  • openly saying yes to Jesus Christ by being present every day for the children, young people, and families they serve, answering the call of baptism.

I am humbled and continually inspired by these people living the joy of the Gospel. These ministers in Catholic education choose faith, and witness that faith thereby inspiring both faith and action. As committed disciples of Jesus, God has chosen these ministers, and in the words of St. Paul,

I give thanks to my God at every remembrance of you, praying always with joy in my every prayer for all of you, because of your partnership for the gospel from the first day until now. I am confident of this, that the one who began a good work in you will continue to complete it until the day of Christ Jesus. Philippians 1:3-6

RCL Benziger is grateful to all ministers in Catholic education for their dedication and commitment to the teaching mission of Jesus Christ. May the upcoming summer months bring time for relaxation and reflection to once again be renewed for another year in forming disciples.

Anne P. Battes is the Publisher for RCL Benziger.

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Created for Joy – By David M. Thomas

I never grow tired of hearing the Christmas carol “Joy to the World.” Sung by the choir of angels to the surprised shepherds to announce Jesus’ birth, it triumphantly proclaims what happens when God enters our lives.

The joy affirmed in this first Christmas song is joy to the whole world, but it also expresses the joy experienced by Mary and Joseph. Jesus is God’s great gift given to them and to us. God’s incarnation of the person of Jesus makes all creation sacred and sacramental. And nowhere is this shown more clearly than in family love.

As a father of both biological and adopted children, I know some of that kind of love and joy. The joy associated with being present when new life comes into being is deep and powerful, and lasts a lifetime. While there are difficult moments ahead (ask the Holy Family), this joyfulness remains.

Pope Francis begins The Joy of the Gospel” with these words: “The Joy of the Gospel fills the hearts and lives of all who encounter Jesus.” He goes on to note that this joy, the joy of being a disciple of Christ, “is constantly born anew.” God creates the possibility of human joy and joy is a sign of God’s constant presence.

The Catholic Church teaches that parents are the first to evangelize their children, and that the Christian family is “the first school of love.” In this school of love children learn that they are loved by their parents and family, and that they are also loved by God.

This message of love is offered primarily though the thousands of parental acts that support the life of the child. The “message” is embodied in all their gestures of care and love, however small they may seem. These “acts of love” communicate the messages that the child is loved by parents, and loved by God. Love of neighbor and love of God are seamlessly connected.

We know that caring for a newborn is quite demanding. It is truly a twenty-four hour task. While different, teens are similarly demanding. Whatever their ages, children need to know that they are loved and that this love has no end. As the years pass, acts of parental care, kindness, forgiveness, and love multiply and change. Eventually the child becomes capable of returning the love that has been given.

Pope Paul VI wrote that not only do parents evangelize their children but that children do the same for parents. All acts of family love bring joy to the hearts of both parents and children. Thus, to return to the thought of Pope Francis, the message of the Gospel will reach not only to the ends of the earth but also to the depths of family life.

David M. Thomas has been a leader in Catholic Family Ministry for many years. He holds a Ph. D. in Systematic and Historical Theology from the University of Notre Dame. He has served as a consultant to the US Bishops’ Committee on Marriage and Family Life and as a Peritus to the U. S. Bishops, World Synod on Family in 1980. He currently serves as Theological consultant to the Bishops of England and Wales, Committee on Marriage and Family. He served as General Editor for the revision of the RCL/Benziger Family Life Program.

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The Family Fully Alive – By Daniel S. Mulhall

When I think of family, the image of my parents and siblings comes to mind. One of ten children with seven brothers and two sisters, I come from a prototypical Catholic family of the 1950s. My parents have been married to one another for 65 years and have lived in the same home since 1954. When we gather in the house for family celebrations, more than 75 people attend: children, spouses, grandchildren, and great grandchildren. Some have college degrees, but most do not. Some are active Catholics or Protestants while others are not. And from my immediate family, nine are married to their first spouse. While for me this is a “normal” family, I know my understanding varies greatly from most people. But then “normal” is a different experience for every family.

During the week of September 22, 2015, family delegates representing dioceses from around the world will gather in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia for the Vatican’s World Meeting of Families. Several thousands typically participate in the event, but this year, in response to Pope Francis’ papal visit for the occasion, a million are expected to attend.

The theme for this gathering is: “Love Is Our Mission: The Family Fully Alive.” In preparation for the meeting, a corresponding preparatory catechesis book also titled Love Is Our Mission: The Family Fully Alive was developed. The catechesis focuses on the ten themes that will strengthen the family unit. Dioceses across the United States are similarly reinforcing the event’s focus by encouraging families to reflect on the same ten themes.

As part of our goal to support the Church’s catechetical mission, RCL Benziger commissioned writers, noted for their expertise in family ministry, to compose brief articles reflecting on the ten themes. The articles’ intent is to provide you, our reader, with a starting place for personal reflection on these themes. The articles offer insights on challenges facing families today as well as valuable ideas to support and nurture those with whom you minister.

During the month of March, we celebrate the feast day of St. Joseph, husband to Mary and earthly father of Jesus. We dedicate this series of articles to St. Joseph and the Holy Family asking for continued guidance in and support for this endeavor.

Daniel S. Mulhall is a catechist. He also serves as the Director of Special Markets for RCL Benziger.

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