Links for Learners
by Lynn and Bob Gillen
The following Links
for Learners resource is offered to those who would like to use St.
Anthony Messenger in an educational setting or for further study
at home. This resource is prepared with high school students in mind,
but can be adapted for other age groups. We will feature one article
for further study each month. Back issues, beginning in May 1997, contain
this resource. Up until December 1998 it was called a teacher's guide
or classroom resource. Teachers with access to computer labs should
encourage students to access the article directly online. Students have
our permission to print out a copy of the article for classroom use.
We encourage you to subscribe to the print edition of St. Anthony
Messenger, where you will see all of the graphics, and more articles
that you might find useful on a variety of topics. Please let us know
how we can improve this service by sending feedback to StAnthony@franciscanmedia.org.
Please see our links disclaimer located
at the end of this document.
Links for Learning
1. Finding Curriculum Connections for High School Teachers
This months Links for Learners will support high
school curriculum in:
- Religion Christian life-styles; evangelization; the dignity
of life; social justice.
- History The role of the United States as a moral leader
in world politics; American history and the Civil-rights movement.
- Finding Links for Discussion Group Leaders and Participants
Look for connections for use in programs such as:
Parish sacramental preparation programs and CCD
classes; seasonal discussion groups; RCIA programs.
Parents will also find some of this material useful
in initiating discussion around the dinner table or at family activities.
Understanding Basic Terms in This Months Article
Look for these key words and terms as you read the article.
Definitions or explanations can be researched from the article itself,
or from the resource materials cited throughout the Link for Learners.
Catholic social teaching
| Gospel message
National Conference of Catholic Bishops
Dignity of life
Rome of the West
The Evangelizing Missions of Pope John Paul II
For the duration of his term as pope and leader to the
worlds Catholics, Pope John Paul II has made numerous journeys
to various countries to preach the gospel message. The United States
has been privileged to receive John Paul II on seven different occasions,
the most recent being his visit to St. Louis in January of this year.
The 30-hour visit was a plea to the people of America to cherish life.
"Protecting the dignity of life is Americas deepest calling,"
the pope said.
For biographical data and background on Pope John Paul
IIs other journeys, see the Vatican
Web site as well as the Catholic
Online site detailing the popes travels and his writings.
You can also see A&Es video biography of John Paul II at the
A&E Web site. The
National Conference of Catholic Bishops has produced a video called
"A Light to the Nations." It offers a further insight into
the man who leads our Church.
The Pope Reminds America of its Foundations
Pope John Paul II reminded us Americans that the foundation
of our country is rooted in the protection of the individual in a free
society. In your class or discussion group, you may wish to research
this foundation in our Declaration of Independence, our Constitution
and our Bill of Rights. The Library
of Congress has the text of these documents and related primary
documents and historical materials, such as text of pamphlets and printed
matter from that time period.
Next, see the Web site of the Archdiocese
of St. Louis for the text of the popes speeches while he was
in St. Louis. Youll also find descriptions of the events surrounding
The United States should affirm a culture of life, says
the pope. With your group, brainstorm briefly for a list of occurrences
and practices that contradict a culture of life. Your brainstorming
results should include topics such as abortion, euthanasia, racism,
the death penalty, assisted suicide, social injustice, poverty and the
degradation of women and children.
If Christians are to be unconditionally pro-life, as John
Paul II exhorts, how can we fight against the practices that deny life?
Or, do we believe such practices to really be against life? Discuss
how we may believe strongly in abolishing the death penalty, for example,
but also believe in the value of assisted suicide or mercy killing.
Are we consistently affirming a culture of life? How is it possible
we do not see how some practices are not in keeping with a pro-life
Helen Prejean, author of Dead Man Walking, has worked to
abolish the death penalty and has served as spiritual adviser to a number
of inmates on death row. Her book was made into a movie starring Susan
Sarandon and Sean Penn.
The Popes Message to Youth
In St. Louis, as in other visits to Denver and Paris,
France, the pope gathered thousands of youth to celebrate and pray together.
He spoke to the assembled youth about preparing to be strong Christians,
likening it to sports conditioning. You are in spiritual training, he
said, learning to live as mature Christians. He challenged youth directly
by calling them to "
live in the light and truth of Jesus
Discuss in your group, or even around the dinner table
at home, how young people actually train to be better Christians. Who
are the coaches for our youth? Who are the models for Christian behavior?
What specific practices condition us to be stronger in our faith?
The article quotes a St. Louis priest as saying the Church
is about belonging. When youth, or anyone for that matter, experience
a key moment of belonging, they bond; they become more a part of the
Discuss: What are examples of key experiences for youth?
Where can youth become more a part of the Christian community? The weekly
celebration of the liturgy, for example, can be a key experience for
teens and their families. Some parishes have a special youth liturgy,
where Confirmation candidates and other youth participate as lectors,
ushers, servers and choir singers. The youth are often coached by adults
in the parish. The overall result can be a shared experience where adults
introduce teens to a more active role in parish prayer. If your parish
does not offer this kind of opportunity, can you bring together a small
group willing to initiate such activities to further promote a sense
You can access diocesan
Web sites throughout the United States to gather information on
how various parishes sponsor programs to foster a sense of belonging.
Where else can we encourage belonging? Can we make new
students feel more welcome in school? Can we reach out to assist a fellow
student who struggles with studies? Can we do some informal coaching
with the fellow team member who isnt as good as we are at soccer
or softball or basketball or cheerleading?
In our family life, we can affirm life by creating an
atmosphere of love and support for one another. The sacrament of marriage
strengthens parents in their mission to be models of Christian behavior
for their children. Discuss how parents nurture their children. And
discuss how many parents also bear the responsibility to care for their
own parents as they age. Here is another opportunity for parents to
model a pro-life attitude toward the elderly and infirm.
It was clear from the television reports at St. Louis
that John Paul II is now a physically frail man. It should also have
been obvious that he is no less alert and humane than he has been throughout
his papacy. Discuss with your group how the pope, a man with a disability
(a degenerative nervous system disorder), does not hesitate to continue
his worldwide travels or vigorous speaking engagements. In a world that
often pushes aside the weak and disabled, John Paul II stands as a model
of a man who continually contributes to society.
How Can Young People Affirm Life?Ideas for discussion
in groups or families
To start a discussion, suggest to your students or group
participants that they find several of the following:
- Historic or contemporary photos depicting situations which make
affirming life difficult or impossible. Photos can highlight poverty,
racism or social injustice. Look for Edward Steichens Family
of Man as an example of dramatic photos that each tell a story
about subjects such as poverty and aging. Alfred Stieglitzs
photography will also offer you some good discussion starters. Or
search the newspaper archives online for any local or national paper.
See the American Journalism Review
for access to thousands of newspapers, magazines and broadcasts.
- Articles and documents describing anti-life situations. The recent
dragging death in Texas is one current example. A historical example
would be John Steinbecks The Grapes of Wrath, describing
the poverty of the 1930s in Americas Dust Bowl. Look
for a few descriptive paragraphs to read and discuss in your group.
Try, also, Black Like Me, by John Howard Griffin.
- Video clips from news footage or a dramatic film. Your local video
rental store will have a section on "Special Interest"
or "Documentary." Look for footage of the American civil-rights
movement during the 1960s. Or view a scene from the movie
version of Harper Lees To Kill a Mockingbird.
With each of these discussion starters, encourage your
group to talk about what they see and feel after viewing an image or
listening to a narrative. What do they sense from the details of the
picture? How would they feel if they were part of the narrative? Where
is the life-denying element?
With some open discussion, your group should be able to
experience something of what some people go through in life-denying
situations. Pope John Paul II urges us Americans to affirm life. Move
your group to a discussion of how a change in attitude can turn a situation
from life-denying to life-affirming. Refer to the popes direct
and bold request to Missouris governor to spare the life of a
convicted criminal who was about to be executed. The pope decries capital
punishment, a custom approved by many American states and, according
to polls, supported by a majority of Catholics. Discuss how teens may
influence the practice of capital punishment in light of Pope John Paul
IIs message. Begin by identifying the number of, or which states
in the United States carry out the death penalty.
Are there other situations in our immediate lives that
cry out for life? Can we identify some of these situations? What can
we do to bring Christs life and light to others?
Crossing the Threshold of Hope, Pope John Paul
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