Why The Apostles Creed?

I believe in God, the Father Almighty, Creator of Heaven and earth;
and in Jesus Christ, His only Son Our Lord,
Who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried.
He descended into Hell; the third day He rose again from the dead;
He ascended into Heaven, and sitteth at the right hand of God, the Father almighty; from thence He shall come to judge the living and the dead.
I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy Catholic Church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body and life everlasting.
Amen.

This year I am teaching the children entrusted to me in Third Grade Faith Formation The Apostles Creed. When I told my mother this, she had a common reaction, “The Apostles Creed? Why not the Nicene Creed? That’s what’s said in the Profession of Faith during mass?”

I see her point, but there are reasons we should be teaching our children The Apostles Creed in addition to the Nicene.

According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church:

None of the creeds from the different stages in the Church’s life can be considered superseded or irrelevant. They help us today to attain and deepen the faith of all times by means of the different summaries made of it.

Among all the creeds, two occupy a special place in the Church’s life:

The Apostles’ Creed is so called because it is rightly considered to be a faithful summary of the apostles’ faith. It is the ancient baptismal symbol of the Church of Rome. Its great authority arises from this fact: it is “the Creed of the Roman Church, the See of Peter the first of the apostles, to which he brought the common faith.” CCC 193-194

The Apostle’s Creed bears knowing because it articulates what the Apostles, those brave men who did Jesus’ work after His death, resurrection and ascension, believed when they founded the Church. It clearly states the precepts for belief if one is to be called a Christian. The basic tenets of belief in the Trinity and the actions of God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit are contained in it. It takes the beliefs of the Jews that God created the heavens and earth and all parts therein, and expands to what beliefs make Christians stand apart from their Jewish brothers…the birth of Jesus by a Virgin mother, His death, descent into hell, Resurrection and Ascension and finally the promise that He will come again and judge both the living and the dead. In addition, we see the Holy Spirit in this prayer.

That line from the Catechism, “It’s great authority arises from this fact: it is ‘the Creed of the Roman Church, the See of Peter the first of the apostles, to which he brought the common faith,’ ” tells us so much of why our children should learn the Apostles Creed. We believe that Jesus appointed Peter the head of the Church on Earth and as such, we should appreciate the expression of a unified faith that Peter actively promoted. And Peter first professed an essential part of the Creed when Jesus asked him, “Who do you say that I am?” in his answer “You are the Christ, the son of the Living God.” (Matthew 16: 15-16) which is what led him to be named the head of The Church on Earth. The Church did not begin as various splinters and factions that exist today. No, the twelve men that Jesus designated as His apostles spoke to all humanity in one voice and this is what they professed.

When I was a Creative Writing major in college, I still had a boat-load of literature classes to take to fulfill my credits to get my degree and I took courses in Shakespeare. The professor gave us almost an entire day of background before beginning any new play or poem, and particular the History plays. He gave us this background, this context, to better inform our understanding of what we were reading and analyzing. So it is also with teaching children about their faith. Yes, they need to know and understand the precepts of the Nicene Creed but the background, the bones of it, are important to understand first. If children can learn these basic tenets it will make the Nicene Creed richer and easier to understand as they later learn that. Again from the Catechism:

Our presentation of the faith will follow the Apostles’ Creed, which constitutes, as it were, “the oldest Roman catechism”. The presentation will be completed however by constant references to the Nicene Creed, which is often more explicit and more detailed. CCC 196

Once we have that which the most basic, oldest Roman catechism constitutes, we can easily flesh it out and more fruitfully so. We do not pour a foundation for a one story house and build a two-story on it…no, in fact, we lay a foundation for what we know we are building, which in our case in the Body of Christ.

The Apostle’s Creed is the anchor to the Nicene Creed, the roots which hold it up and in place, why shouldn’t our children learn and know it well? It also happens to be the opening prayer of the Rosary which my students happen to be learning next year so it prepares them two-fold.

Oh and back to that point of what we recite (or read as since the wording has changed many of us still need a visual aid during mass), keep in mind that it is valid to recite either creed as the Profession of Faith, the hymnals and missals make a point of telling you so, never hurts to be prepared in the case that you end up at a mass somewhere someday where they recite one and not the other.

I am excited to be contributing to the Body of Christ by teaching these children in my care for a short time this week a prayer that many react to the way my dear-old Mom did (sorry Mom, I’m not trying to throw you under the bus, really I’m not!) but that will hopefully teach them basis for what they believe and prepare a foundation they can build upon fruitfully. Please pray with me that the soil of their hearts be the fertile kind that takes roots and grows to bear the fruit the Apostles Creed aims to grow throughout our world.

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And whoever receives one child such as this in my name receives me. Matthew 18:5

Catechist Certificate

So it totally happened. I’ve taught two classes already. Third grade. It is as wonderful and sometimes frustrating as you can imagine, but it’s happening.

Basically the guidelines I was given were this…here’s a book to help you and by the end of the year the kids should know the Apostles Creed (upcoming post about this) and the Confiteor (which most of them know because thankfully most of them attend mass weekly!).

We have learned so far, in addition to what the book teachers about “We Are The Church” about the Nativity of Mary and Our Lady of Sorrows and the Rosary of the Seven Sorrows. Tomorrow, it’s all about Evangelists.

Teaching Faith Formation is an interesting thing. I don’t hold it against these kids that they are largely public school educated (I have a few private schooled…no home schoolers) and therefore don’t have the benefit of additional formation. Those kids who go to the parish school or the other Catholic school in our area obviously don’t have to be a part of Faith Formation. I find that most parents are doing their best and, like me, we can all do better. I wanted to be encouraging but not condescending when I gave suggestions of allowing children access to the Bible and a chance to go to Confession. I think it worked because after our first week, three kids who said they hadn’t been to Confession since their first one last year went that week.

I was heartened to see that many of the children practiced the Act of Contrition and Glory Be between class one and class two. And I have them do an Examination of Conscience before we pray those two prayers at the end of class. It’s simplistic as far as Examination of Consciences go (reflecting over the day and week past and possible times they were mean to someone or unhelpful etc), but they are third graders, it might be the only one they do all week and it’s at their level.

I very literally answered a call when our DFF spoke at a parent meeting in August pleading for any interest. I knew I could do this. I knew it would do good things for kids and parents and myself. I just had no idea how good it would be for me. How breaking down and articulating the faith I love so much to a third graders level would help me remember just why it is I love being Catholic.

Our first lesson we talked about the Church being universal and I was able to tell the kids about my friend Jen who lives in Beijing with her husband and kids and how if I went to mass there it would be the same (albeit in a different language with a different homily) there as the mass they would go to that week at our parish.

We also got to talk about, in the second week, ways we could build God’s Kingdom through service to one another and I had a little girl suggest she help her parents by brushing her little sister’s hair and another child who suggested he could respect God’s creation by not littering.

These simple, basic things that we forget in our heady theological debates about the color of the Pope’s shoes or when we listen to the secular media argue that the Pope is a communist or a bigot depending on which issue they’re peeved about or when we engage in verbal fisticuffs about whether the TLM or NO is more reverent or acceptable. When I teach these children about the tenets of their faith, they teach me how to approach Jesus as a child. When I teach them, they present me to Jesus. It’s probably the one thing I never could have realized because Jesus had that surprise in store for me.

I answered a call, and He answered my heart’s greatest need.

Updated to add: if you would like to see my philosophy as to why it is so important to teach children the Apostles Creed, click here.

Lessons I Learned From My Brothers…Or what a girl with few or no sisters and lots of brothers learns by default

I have three younger brothers. No sisters. My daughter has two younger brothers. No sisters.

L-R Matt, Kristen, Ben and Mike summer of 2011...please excuse me, the monster is better than seeing me in that particular bathing suit! photo credit: Lee Ellen Oeser

L-R Matt, Kristen, Ben and Mike summer of 2011…please excuse me, the monster is better than seeing me in that particular bathing suit! And this is one of only two pics I can find of us together as adults photo credit: Lee Ellen Oeser

This past June, my brother Ben, the baby, got married. That makes three out of four kids married (my brother Matt is the lone hold-out). Growing up with all brothers was not easy. Not.at.all. I was not athletic, artsy and introverted. They were uber-athletic, rational and extroverted. It was the perfect storm of sibling discontent a lot of the time. They were forced to come to all my dance recitals, I was forced to go to a lot of practices and games. I was the default babysitter and because I was their sister and there were three of them and only one of me, I rarely had the authority other babysitters could command.

However, because I was older, I did earn the privilege first of sitting out of activities I didn’t want to attend (mostly the aforementioned practices and games) and staying home. Oh yeah, and it was the late 80s-early 90s when I was growing up, so you let kids stay home alone back then.

But no matter what, there are lessons, good lessons, valuable lessons, I learned from living with all those boys (for the record, I cried when my father told me my youngest brother was born, I was seven and REALLY wanted a sister).

  1. Speak loudly and fast and keep your message succinct if you want to be heard. No, seriously. While some men are deep thinkers, a lot of them have ADD when it comes to certain things. Like sports, for example. So if it’s important speak loud and fast and make it short. Better chance of being heard AND understood that way.
  2. Keep your emotions in check. We kids are 1/4 Sicilian and so our fire bubbles close under the surface. We had numerous fist fights with each other as kids and then there were the verbal altercations. However, my brothers learned quickly that allowing your emotions to get the better of you, it never ended well. Not only was there the fist fight, there was the punishment afterward.
  3. Stick together, even in the face of overwhelming defeat. We cheered for the Buffalo Bills as kids even when we were made fun of. And we joined forces to beg our mom to stop putting Peeps in our Easter baskets (we still get them). But all that sticking together, it makes for great memories and creating loyal spouses and parents later in life.

    Mike and Ben, Mike was an usher in Ben's wedding photo credit: Garrett Price of Carolina Portrait Designs

    Mike and Ben, Mike was an usher in Ben’s wedding photo credit: Garrett Price of Carolina Portrait Designs

  4. The statutes of limitations must always be observed. My parents are still now just hearing about things we probably would have gotten our butts beat for if they knew at the time. My brothers did a lot more of the “secret stuff that gets you into big trouble” than I did, but yeah, we all understood that if we made it out alive, mom and dad could know about it…someday.
  5. Like Fleetwood Mac said, “you can go your own way”…just make sure you know the way back home. When we were kids exploring the woods, that was very literal. As adults, well, you get it. My brothers were mostly the big explorers including an incident where my brother found what turned out to be a cow femur in the woods but he thought at the time might be human. Our lives have taken us to the beach, Florida, Charlotte and just down the road, but we all know how to find each other.

    L-R Matt, Ben and Mike photo credit Garrett Price  of Carolina Portrait Designs

    L-R Matt, Ben and Mike photo credit Garrett Price of Carolina Portrait Designs

  6. Bros before…everyone else. The biggest infraction one could ever have committed was to side with friends over your brothers. My brothers did occasionally side with friends but always regretted it. I see this in my boys as well. And as Jeff (one of four boys) always says, “Your brother will be your brother for the rest of your life.” (As opposed to friends who come and go on whims)

    Matt (left) and Ben at Ben's wedding. Matt was Ben's best man

    Matt (left) and Ben at Ben’s wedding. Matt was Ben’s best man photo credit: Garrett Price of Carolina Portrait Designs

  7. If your bones ache, you have dirt under your nails, and your skin is burned redder than Crayola makes…you had a good day.  Work hard, play hard, and don’t be afraid to get your hands dirty. A little pain leads to a lot of happiness. I am still trying to learn this one from them.Ben and Matt on the beach
  8. You might only ever be known as someone’s brother or sister, but own it. In high school, my brother Matt told my mom, “Kristen and I are just fillers, everyone knows Mike and Ben.” But daggum if Matt didn’t totally own up to being their brother at all times. For example: when he was in driver’s ed, the instructor called out names and when Matt answered, “here,” someone immediately asked if he was Mike Oeser’s brother. Matt told him yes and then the other kid proceeded to tell Matt that he saw Mike climb on top of one of the trailers and said, “He’s crazy!” (the climbing on top of the trailer really did happen, I think Mike got detention for it). Actually, Matt offered that he was my brother in the eighth grade when I was a senior and members of my class came to talk to the middle school kids coming into high school. As luck would have it, they both knew me and stopped me in the hall the next day to tell me they met him.
  9. Grudges aren’t worth it. Either get over it or move on. As badly as they could fight, they always made up. Again, something I still struggle with but their example is pretty inspiring.
  10. Nothing Feels as Good as Laughing Together. I was a girl and not always privy to the inside jokes or the brotherhood. But you know what, I could see how good that laughter felt. I knew the curative powers it had and the few times I was let in, that I could bottle up that feeling and sell it. I’d be a millionaire several times over.

Although I will always literally look up to all of them, I can honestly say, although I was the oldest, they led the way. Their example was probably a million times better than mine ever was.

With our parents, Ben's wife Lee Ellen, and my grandmother. This is the other pic of us together as adults. We do clean up pretty well. Photo credit: Garrett Price of Carolina Portrait Designs

With our parents, Ben’s wife Lee Ellen, and my grandmother. This is the other pic of us together as adults. We do clean up pretty well. Photo credit: Garrett Price of Carolina Portrait Designs

How could we possibly know?

We moved into a town home that is 100 square feet larger than our old home but one bedroom less which forced the conversion of the walk-in closet to become Shelby’s room.

To most people, this sounds down-right stupid. I was told so to my face. We have three kids and two are of the same sex (as would have to be so) so we need three bedrooms. Minimum.

To a few others this sounds like a logical use of space and a way to reduce the crap we have.

And to a very small, but very vocal, minority this is sounding the death knell: there will be no more children.

Well, we’ve left the “more children” part up to God. Completely up to Him. No NFP, no charting, nothing. It’s His will. If it happens it happens and if it doesn’t…

And that attitude, well, that downright scares almost all the people in all those groups. But, you can’t turn around and buy another house?! And, and, you have no room for a crib or a swing or a bouncy seat or changing table or all the other crap that comes with babies!!!!

Well, no, we can’t turn around and buy another house. That is true. But you know what, I’d be over the moon if I found out I was pregnant. And I wouldn’t really worry about or care about the logistics of the house or that we’d have two cars that we couldn’t fit all our kids in at one time.

In Catholic circles, it’s a big no-no to talk about being “done” having kids. I’m not sure why but if parents prayerfully discern to us NFP to avoid pregnancy and God doesn’t seem to mind or go the extreme route of Josephite marriage, well, it’s none of my business and that’s fine.

But I certainly don’t want anyone to think that our decision to move into this house is any indication that we have officially closed up shop on future babies. Nope, we’re as open as ever. And God’s continued in His infinite wisdom to say, “no” or at least, “not yet.”

That sounds so simple and perhaps even ignorant. Trust me, I often struggle with it. We ended up getting rid of EVERYTHING baby related in the move. I was even able to part with ALL of the baby clothes. It wasn’t easy. But I did it. But it doesn’t mean we don’t want more.

I’m old hand at people second guessing and judging our parenting decisions. Not only because of autism but because we had a third child after we had one of each sex. And William was born during a time when both Jeff and I were out of work and Shelby was diagnosed less than a year. Lots of people had lots of opinions about all of that.

I’ve learned a few things over the last nine years of parenting. Babies don’t need a bunch of crap to be happy. They really did sleep in drawers once upon a time. Babies are happiest when they are fed, clothed, dry and surrounded by love. And guess what, the same is true of older kids. We can provide all of that. No extra bedrooms or designer clothes necessary.

I’ve also learned that God is a much better judge of our capabilities and limitations than we are. That’s why we got the three kids we did when we did. How could we possibly “know” we are “done” in any event?

People have told me my faith is radical in this way. I choose to believe it’s just how I trust in this one area of my life. I do understand how a super fertile couple or an infertile couple could feel like what I am doing is radical. The unease of another mouth to feed when you have seven, eight or nine or more is daunting. Especially if jobs are hard to come by or don’t pay anything at all. And the just trusting God thing sounds an awful lot like giving up if you’ve been doing everything you can actively to get pregnant or adopt.

And let me be clear, we do want another baby and it does hurt as the days go by that God is continuing to say “No” or “not yet.” Trusting Him doesn’t mean there is no suffering.

Living in joy means living in such a way that we embrace what God gives us even when it hurts. Especially when it’s not what we want. How could we know the love our Father in heaven has for us or how His plan is better than ours when we cannot see all of time and eternity as He can? We can’t. And that’s exactly the point.

Gospel Punches

Yesterday Sherri Antonetti had an excellent post about the Syrian Refugee crisis in which she describes the Gospel reading for the day as a “punch.”

Well, today came as my own “punch.” And a one-two it definitely was. You see, today is the birthday of two different people I used to consider friends. Unfortunately these people turned out to be quite toxic and I got burned badly by the toxicity they gave off. I’d like to think that these individuals, through the pain they put me through have made me a better person, that God placed them in my life to show me who I do not want to be and allowed me to endure what they dragged me through when I realized too late what was going on so that I would be stronger and begin to see that no human being is worth the allegiance we owe to God. But sometimes I forget that and I become angry and wounded and hateful again toward them.

Today’s Gospel reading is Luke 6: 27-38 summed up as “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,”  and, “Turn the other cheek.” Of course that would be the Gospel reading on the birthday of two people I have to constantly keep forgiving because I cannot always forget what either has done.

So, that was punch number one.

And in punch number two…what am I upset about? Lies and gossip? How was I really persecuted? Did I react the way Jesus commanded?

In this rich land of ours we are outraged by the treatment of a woman who was jailed for standing up for her beliefs. And rightfully so, but our sense of justice and mercy seem stunted when it comes to those who are fleeing for their lives from foreign lands. For people who are escaping physical brutality that we cannot truly comprehend we have no compassion, no mercy, no sense of justice. Instead we are full of judgment for people based upon where they were born or the religion that they practice. We have placed Kim Davis on a pedestal for religious freedom high above the place for a young refugee boy washed up on the beach in Turkey. Because he might grow up to be radicalized.

Kim Davis was willing to sit in a reasonably comfortable jail cell for a few days and she is a hero. Ayalen washed up on the beach and we criticize his parents for wanting what so many of our ancestors (mine for sure) wanted. To not grow up being persecuted with violence and forced into a military regime.

I’m sure we can all agree there are degrees of persecution. So why is it our response is directly inverse to the degree of persecution and suffering?

For me, personally, it is a very small thing I have to forgive someone for. For these families fleeing ISIS? They faced persecution at home and now they will face it abroad by hoards of people screaming that they are being persecuted because some in their own countries are willing to extend mercy and compassion to people who have nowhere to lay their heads.

Even with people now lumping Catholics and Muslims together in making fun of Kim Davis, we are not persecuted as they are and as Christians, we are bound to that other command Jesus makes in this Gospel,

Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful. –Luke 6:36

If Jesus can’t knock the wind out of us…if He who is “I am” cannot shake us from our complacency…may God have that wonderful mercy on us all.

When Things are Tough

Updated 9/4/2015 to add:

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Updated to add this:

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No, I’m not in a funk, but I did see something so terrifyingly sad yesterday that it’s gotten me thinking.

How do I talk to my kids about things that are real and really hard but not rob them of their childhood?

Yesterday on twitter, I saw pics of a young Syrian boy washed up dead on a Turkish beach. He looks to be about two. He is fully dressed. He even has shoes on. He looks like he is sleeping.

Just the day before, the “on this day” app on facebook showed me this picture:

William Asleep sucking his thumb 2 William asleep sucking his thumb

and earlier in August these pictures showed up in my feed

William One YEAR old beach

Ben and William in the ocean

That’s William in the summer of 2010. Pictures of him asleep and at the beach. The precious baby boy I saw in those pictures on twitter, by the grace of God and only by His grace, was not mine, but how I saw my baby in those pictures.

A mother’s heart hurts when she sees so many things wrong in this world: dead refugee children washed up on beaches, aborted infants, children who are malnourished and hungry. And it’s a mother’s duty to teach her children about these difficult things and our moral and ethical responsibilities to others who cannot advocate for themselves: the poor, the displaced, the unborn. Pope Francis’ teachings on those responsibilities has convicted many a person to re-examine how they donate time and money and their love of their fellow man. Even before Pope Francis, Saint John Paul II said this:

No one can consider himself extraneous or indifferent to the lot of another
member of the human family.  No one can say that he is not responsible for the
well-being of his brother or sister (cf. Genesis 4:9, Luke 10:29-37, Matthew
25:31-46).”
–Pope John Paul II

And I know I need to teach my children that there are children in this world who were born into horrible circumstances and will not survive to see the birthdays my kids are celebrating now. We have talked about it. But how to sink that gravity in. I truly do not want to show them the pictures of the little boy I saw, both out of respect for the dignity of that soul’s life here on earth and in heaven, but because somehow, that’s too real. It’s too much for a six and eight year old. I also do not show them the pictures of dismembered fetuses some pro-lifers enjoy showing everyone.

With October and “Respect Life” month coming up, I’m preparing for some very serious discussions with my boys. I’m looking for books and other materials geared toward younger kids that not only illustrate our duties toward one another but also the gravity of what others’ face. We donate toys and clothes, but I don’t know that they really “get” why other kids need those things. And why they are so blessed to be able to give them away.

This isn’t a post about answers, but questions. How do we fulfill St John Paul II’s mission of not being indifferent when it comes to our kids? How do we live up to Pope Francis’ expectations of more than lukewarm Christianity? And how to we keep our kids somewhat still childlike in the process? How much should we expect of them in their responses are their individual ages? How much is too much when it comes to exposure?

We are charged with raising saints. These are tough questions we all need to ponder no matter the age of our children.