St. Mary of Pine Bluff Family Faith Formation

St. Mary of Pine Bluff Family Faith Formation

“Christ held Himself in His hands when He gave His Body to His disciples saying: ‘This is My Body.’ No one partakes of this Flesh before he has adored it.” St. Augustine

Have we been lowering the bar in Youth Ministry? Are we scrambling to discover the newest and the most fun way to entice youth to “show up?” What about their hearts? Are we assisting them in deepening their relationship with God? Do they *want* to learn about their faith? Have we helped them to reach a place where they truly hunger to know God more?

Saint Francis of Assisi said, “Man should tremble, the world should quake, all Heaven should be deeply moved when the Son of God appears on the altar in the hands of the priest.”

That’s it!! That’s the “missing link.” We have poured all of our energy into making religion cool and fun and trivial. What about the “glory of God?” What about a true sense of transcendence before God? Are youth, anymore, somehow awestruck by the wonder of God? If not, is it any wonder why youth would not take their faith seriously? Is it any wonder why they would not hunger to know God more? And, what about the parents? Are they modeling “awe and wonder before God” for their children?

With this in mind, this is the direction I want our Youth Ministry to go. I would like Youth Ministry to be integral within “Family Faith Formation.”

This is the Jr & Sr High, and parent program I envision for SMPB starting this Fall. The thrust is to lead youth and parents to an openness to the first and necessary Gift of the Holy Spirit – Awe & Wonder (I wrote about this “necessary gift” HERE).


Family Formation Night

First Wednesday of the Month:

5:30pm – Confessions (This hour is optional)

(Choir practice during this optional hour. Encourages youth and their parents to join choir)

6:30pm – Exposition & Prayer for Vocations (Families must arrive by 6:30pm)
6:35pm – Chanted Vespers (Choir sings 2-3 Latin hymns between Vespers & Benediction)
7:15pm – Benediction
7:30pm – Dead Theologians Society (High School), 6th-8th Faith Formation, Parent Faith Formation (Let’s consider offering child care during this time).
8:15pm – Family Social (assigned families provide food)


Additional In-Parish Faith Formation Throughout the Month:

  • Dead Theologians Society also meets on the Third Wednesday
  • Knights of Divine Mercy meets on First Fridays
  • Ladies of Divine Mercy meets on Third Fridays


Faith Formation Delivered

Remaining Weeks of the Month:

“Thanks be to God, the internet exists.” Bishop Athanasius Schneider

I would like us to engage the newest technologies to provide access to the highest quality faith formation for youth and, primarily, for parents, who are the “primary teachers” of their children. We now have, at our fingertips, the very best resources available to accomplish this. We simply must see this as a gift from God for reaching people in our ever-changing and fast paced world.

Our parish already offers FORMED.ORG, which is excellent. Beyond this, I would like us to research existing curriculum based catechetical online formats that we can utilize for delivery to families of 6-12 students. Could we set up a system where our teachers offer weekly lessons online? Maybe some format like This would allow the use of power point and beautiful images of saints, popes, etc..  Teachers would have the advantage of developing their weekly lesson ahead of time with their choice of amazing graphics, while they can edit, at their leisure, to arrive at the best weekly lesson they wish to provide.

We will also have a teacher for parents. Again, the parents are the primary educators of their children (Could these possibly be online gatherings, even be set up for parent discussions online?). We will want to encourage parents to sign up to receive weekly email newsletters that contain my and Fr. Z’s teachings from the past week (we will need to work out the technology on that. Also, we need a campaign to collect remaining parishioner email addresses).

By offering these remaining weeks of the month online, we have conquered the battle of families with full schedules, families with many small children, and families who live longer distances from the parish. Families will now be able to choose the most convenient time to be set aside for faith formation each week.

Finally, now that we have not wrestled with families’ schedules all month, or asked them to come to the parish many times a month for faith formation, we stand on much better ground to invite families (especially youth) to volunteer in the parish and join in parish devotions, socials, field trips, retreats, outreach to the needy, etc..


Forming Practicing Catholics

St. Mary of Pine Bluff will have as its basic expectation that all participating families in “Family Faith Formation” must be “Practicing Catholics.” We will instruct families as to the meaning of “Practicing Catholics.”

A Practicing Catholic is one who …

  • Observes the Ten Commandments
  • Assents to Church teaching
  • Follows the Precepts of the Church

Precepts of the Church

The Precepts of the Catholic Church are a description of the absolute minimum actions required of Catholics regarding the Church.

The Church uses these precepts to remind us that Christian life requires a commitment to prayer and active participation in the liturgy and sacraments. If we fall below this bare-minimum level, we can’t rightly consider ourselves to be in full communion with the Catholic Church (Practicing Catholic).

Each of these precepts of the Catholic Church is a requirement. Together with the Ten Commandments and assent to Church teaching, they represent the minimum level of moral living. Intentional violation of the Precepts, Ten Commandments or Church teaching is a grave matter, meaning a mortal sin.

  1. You shall attend Mass on Sundays and on holy days of obligation and rest from servile labor.
    We must “sanctify the day commemorating the Resurrection of the Lord” (Sunday), as well as the principal feast days, known as Catholic holy days of obligation. This requires attending Mass, “and by resting from those works and activities which could impede such a sanctification of these days.” It is the teaching of the Church that missing these Sundays and days of obligation constitutes a grave (mortal) sin.
  2. You shall confess your sins at least once a year.
    We must prepare for the Eucharist by means of the Sacrament of Reconciliation (Confession). This sacrament “continues Baptism’s work of conversion and forgiveness.”
  3. You shall receive the sacrament of the Eucharist at least during the Easter season.
    This “guarantees as a minimum the reception of the Lord’s Body and Blood in connection with the Paschal feasts, the origin and center of the Christian liturgy” (One remains obliged to Precept #1, even if they are not able to receive Holy Communion).
  4. You shall observe the days of fasting and abstinence established by the Church.
    “The fourth precept ensures the times of ascesis and penance which prepare us for the liturgical feasts and help us acquire mastery over our instincts and freedom of heart.” See below for more about fasting & abstinence.
  5. You shall help to provide for the needs of the Church.
    “The fifth precept means that the faithful are obliged to assist with the material needs of the Church, each according to his own ability.”

(These quotations are from the Catechism of the Catholic Church, in its section about the Precepts of the Catholic Church (#2041-3).)

Go beyond the minimum!

Always remember: the Precepts of the Catholic Church are minimum levels of participation in the life of the Church. Out of love for Christ and a desire to advance in the spiritual life, you will normally try to do far more than they require.

Many people recommend that Catholics:

  • Attend Mass at least one more time a week. (Most Church parishes celebrate Mass every day of the year!)
  • Go to confession at least once a month, and find a regular confessor so he can give you better guidance.
  • Find a good spiritual director to give you sound guidance for growing in the spiritual life.
  • Receive the sacrament of the Eucharist at every Mass, if you meet the guidelines for reception (are free from mortal sin, etc.).
  • Make a habit of practicing penitential and charitable acts beyond those required by the precepts of the Catholic Church.
  • Contribute as much as possible to the material needs of the Church and the needy.



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