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Links for Learners

by Lynn and Bob Gillen

June 2000

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

Click here for a complete listing of Links for Learners

Please see our links disclaimer located at the end of this document.

Links for Learning

Finding Curriculum Connections for High School Teachers and Students

This month’s Links for Learners will support high school curriculum in:

    • Religion—ecumenism; the Incarnation
    • English—literature; children's writers
    • Creative Arts—poetry, dance, sculpture
Finding Links for Discussion Group Leaders and Participants

Look for connections for use in programs outside the classroom, such as:

  • Parish sacramental preparation programs and CCD classes; young adult discussion programs; seasonal discussion groups; RCIA programs.
  • Parents will also find this material useful in initiating discussion around the dinner table, in home study, at family activities or as preparation for parent/teacher meetings.

Understanding Basic Terms in This Month’s 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 Links for Learners.

Newbery Award


Religious differences


Creative Arts




Incarnational activity

Creative Arts as Incarnational Activity

In his book, The Sacraments: How Catholics Pray, Father Thomas Richstatter presents the sacraments as the liturgy of the Church, the way we as a Church pray. Liturgy is the public prayer of the Church, with Jesus as the foundation of all the sacraments. The Church is his Body, the visible sign of his invisible presence in our world. The life of the Church, says Richstatter, is the incarnational activity that reveals Jesus to the world. Sacraments, then, exist in the context of this public prayer.

We are also familiar with the life of a Christian believer as incarnational activity. The Christian lives in such a way that her life reveals something of God and his love for us. Incarnational activity makes the invisible visible to us. It reveals something of the invisible God to us.

Sacramentals are other revelatory signs. Holy water, candles and incense enhance the symbolism of liturgy and prayer. We know how a picture, a statue, an icon can remind us of Jesus and his saints.

Madeleine L'Engle encourages us to think more broadly about incarnational activity. Writing, dance, painting, sculpture, music are creative expressions that offer us a glimpse of our invisible God. L'Engle sees her writing as incarnational, revelatory of God. For her it is a form of contemplative prayer. "To paint a picture or to write a story or to compose a song is an incarnational activity," she says.

How can creative expressions such as music, dance and art reveal God to us? How can they contribute to our prayer life, to our public prayer as a Church?

Discuss creative activity as incarnational activity. Select a favorite book, a treasured poem, a musical composition or a popular song, a beautiful painting or work of art. Share with your class or group what qualities of the divine may show through in the work you chose. If you yourself are a writer, an artist, a performer, talk about what your creative expression may reveal of God's love. Parents can engage their children by talking to them about one of their favorite bedtime stories.

In the classroom students may have access on the Internet to, which offers downloadable photos of nature, places of interest and diverse peoples. Choose a photo that offers you a glimpse of God and share your feeling about it with your classmates.

For L'Engle, the artist, the performer who professes faith in Jesus reveals Jesus to the world when she is most open to serving her talent. "You have to serve your gift," says L'Engle. "When I'm really writing, I'm listening, and I'm not in control." L'Engle says further, "Often, when we listen to the work, it takes us places we have no idea where we're going. Surprises always follow." Have you had a similar experience when working on or responding to a creative activity? Have you opened your heart and "listened" so deeply that you were surprised where you ended up? Did you share this with anyone? L'Engle told her interviewer, "I wanted my children to … learn about life and love from me." Who learns about life and love from each of us? What incarnational activities in our lives reveal something of Jesus to those around us?

For additional activity, research the life of an artist, a creative person. Learn more about the life of Madeleine L'Engle, or choose another person from your own interests or from A&E's Biography. Check out other winners of The Newbery Award for children's writing, or other children's authors recommended by the American Library Association. For information on the spirituality of creative work, see Channeling the Muse, offered by Grace Cathedral of San Francisco.

We All Need Heroes

"What would you do without heroes?" L'Engle asks. "We wouldn't have anything to aim for." Talk about your heroes. They may be real-life individuals, or perhaps fictional characters you keep coming back to. What makes them heroic to you? What qualities stand out above the ordinary, flawed characteristics we all share?

Here are several possibilities to help guide your thinking:

  • The Archdiocese of New York recently lost Cardinal John O'Connor to cancer. In The New York Times of May 4, 2000, Mayor Rudolph Giuliani called O'Connor "a moral compass." O'Connor was often maligned for his opposition to abortion and to gay rights, while not remembered for his stance against the death penalty and for labor, the poor and the disabled. "I think if we speak the truth and are not afraid to be disagreed with, we can make big changes," said Madeleine L'Engle. Does Cardinal O'Connor fit L'Engle's description? How did he speak truth? Did he bring about change?
  • What of Jesus? Look for the incidents in the Gospels when Jesus spoke the truth without fear of disagreement. What changes did he bring about?
  • Edith Piaf, the singer loved and acclaimed by the French, was anything but flawless. Born on a Paris sidewalk, raised by her grandmother, who worked in a brothel, and her father, who toured with a circus, Piaf had a child at age 16. She abused drugs and alcohol, and had a long-standing affair with a married man. Her signature song proclaimed "no regrets." Piaf may not be of heroic status for many. But interestingly, after being blinded by meningitis at age three, Piaf was cured four years later during a visit to the shrine of St. Therese of Lisieux. Did God effect a miraculous intervention in her young life only to have her continue a tragic, apparently ruinous life? What was God's plan for her? Could it have been to let her music give voice to those with no voice, those who like her were mired in tragic circumstances?
  • The Catholic fiction writer Tony Hillerman, renowned for his books set in the American Southwest, has created numerous memorable characters. In Hunting Badger, the Navajo elder Nakai teaches ancestral traditions to a younger Navajo learning to be a healer to his people. Referring to those who have left the Navajo ways behind, Nakai says that to cure them you must make them believe, you must believe so strongly that they feel it. Is this a quality of heroism?

Include in your discussion of heroes several individuals or fictional characters like Piaf who may not appear heroic to most. Talk about how God may work through them so that they reveal something of his love in spite of apparently contradictory circumstances.

Further Resources

Cathedral of St. John the Divine, where L'Engle is writer-in-residence

Writing Down the Bones, Natalie Goldberg—a resource for writers

Bird by Bird, Anne Lamott—a resource for writers

The Sacraments: How Catholics Pray, Father Thomas Richstatter, O.F.M., St. Anthony Messenger Press

Research Resources

Try accessing some of these Internet sources for further reference. Be aware, however, that some of these sites may charge for downloading articles contained within the site’s archives.

Pathfinder - Access site to a number of online news publications
People magazine
The Close Up FoundationWashington, D.C.-based organization

Links Disclaimer:

The links contained within this resource guide are functional at the time the page is posted. Over time, however, some of the links may become ineffective.

These links are provided solely as a convenience to you and not as an endorsement by St. Anthony Messenger Press/Franciscan Communications of the contents on such third-party Web sites. St. Anthony Messenger Press/Franciscan Communications is not responsible for the content of linked third-party sites and does not make any representations regarding the content or accuracy of materials on such third-party Web sites. If you decide to access linked third-party Web sites, you do so at your own risk.

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