What You Ought to Know About Handing on Faith [Video]

What You Ought to Know About Handing on Faith

How was the early Church so successful in handing on faith, even in the face of such incredible obstacles?

That’s a question John Henry Cardinal Newman once posed in a sermon that defined his career.

It’s a fair question. After all, the first century Roman culture wasn’t exactly virtuous.

The early Christians lived among hedonism, promiscuity, infanticide, and cutthroat commerce…not unlike today.

So here’s another fair question. Why are so many young people leaving the Church when we have better resources for teaching the Faith than ever before? We really do. Textbooks, videos, guides, and sophisticated educational methods…the resources we have for handing on faith are better than any time in history.

Don’t get me wrong, I know faith formation is hard today. There are so many obstacles in the culture that work to undermine faith. But it’s not like the early Christians didn’t face many of those same problems…or worse.

At least today we’re not being thrown to the lions or burned at the stake for going to Mass…although, at times that seems to have been a catalyst for belief.

The answer to Cardinal Newman’s question made him one of the most effective catechists in the history of the Church. I think his discovery has great implications for us today. It’s what we’ve lost sight of in our religious education programs–teaching that moves student’s hearts and leads them to faith.

A few weeks ago, I did a webinar for Ave Maria Press all about Cardinal Newman’s methodology and what he called “real assent.” In it, I did a deeper dive into Chapter 3 of my book, Keep Your Kids Catholic: Sharing Your Faith and Making it StickI included greater detail on Newman’s ideas that I couldn’t fit in the book, as well as examples and practical how-to’s.

The webinar was titled, “What Every Parish Leader Ought to Know About Religious Education.”


As the title suggests, it was for parish catechetical leaders, but it’s not high level stuff. I kept it practical, and I think it would be good for anyone, teachers and parents alike.

In this webinar, I explain in depth about:

  • Why youth are leaving the Church despite our amazing resources.
  • The psychology of engagement and handing on faith.
  • Why religious education programs are failing.
  • The kind of teaching that engages students and increases faith.
  • Concrete steps to implement this in your classroom.

The first 35-40 minutes are my presentation and then I answer questions.

Take a look. I think you’ll like it. I’m told it was the most popular webinar Ave Maria hosted this year.

Do you know a parish leader looking to improve classroom engagement? Or, a catechist who wants to engage more with their students? Please share this webinar recording with them.

Image: Handing over the faith, robyelo357, Abobe Stock, Standard Licensing

The Problem With Conscience

The Problem With Conscience

I have this little voice in my head.

It’s not really a voice, actually. It’s more like an intuition.

Sometimes it tells me I should do something a certain way, or that I should have done something a different way.

A lot to times it comes a little too late, like as I’m doing something I’ve already decided to do.

Sometimes it’s a terrible feeling in my chest, like a brick, after I’ve done something that I thought would be good realized wasn’t, or that I’m on the fence about doing and do anyway.

Do you ever get that feeling? It’s your conscience talking.

What is conscience?

According to the Catechism, conscience is a “judgment of reason” that helps you recognize whether an action is good or bad. It could be something you’re going to do, something you’re in the process of doing, or something you’ve already done.

Conscience is present in your heart…the spiritual not physical heart. Your heart is the core of your being, where you make decisions, where you determine yourself.

The Vatican II document, Gaudium et Spes, calls conscience a “law inscribed by God,” a “secret core and…sanctuary” where a person is “alone with God whose voice echoes in his depths.”

Conscience is God’s voice speaking to you in the inner recesses of your heart, helping you judge the quality of your acts. It’s independent of Baptism. It’s just there. The vestige of a time, in the beginning, when we walked with God and knew his mind as our own. John Henry Cardinal Newman called it the “aboriginal Vicar of Christ.”

Can you trust your conscience?

So that’s cool, right? God is sort of hanging out inside, keeping tabs on what I’m doing, and through little intuitions and feelings, he’s helping me walk the straight and narrow in order to stay close to him.

Except for one thing.

The Catechism also says, “When he listens to his conscience, the prudent man can hear God speaking.” The prudent man. How many of us are prudent? (I’m only half raising my hand.)

Now we’re getting to the problem. Some might hear they’re obliged to follow their conscience (and they are) but they are not the “prudent man” the Catechism is talking about. That’s because prudence would dictate forming conscience in the Faith…and they’re not!

Conscience can lead you astray. Because it’s a judgment of reason, it goes off what you know and understand. To really be sure conscience is guiding you in the right direction, you have to know Church teaching. You have to follow conscience, but can you completely trust it if you don’t know what the Church teaches?

In some cases, a bad decision that’s the result of following your conscience can reduce your responsibility. If there’s no way you could know better, there’s no guilt. There is such a thing as “invincible ignorance.” That’s when there is absolutely NO WAY you could have known any better. It remains a sin, though, and it can damage your soul.

EVEN THEN, you may still not be off the hook. If you haven’t taken the appropriate steps to form your conscience, that bad decision is all on you. If you happen to live in the one place on earth a Catholic missionary can’t reach, the remote mountains of China perhaps, you might be alright. But really, most Catholics have complete access to Church teaching these days (think Internet). It’s just a matter of making learning it a priority.

The point: Conscience needs enlightening

My point is, all this should make studying the Faith, and teaching it, even more urgent for you.

People need to know what Christ reveals…especially baptized Catholics. Their holiness hangs in the balance.

It’s not enough to just know a little. Most people are content with a limited understanding of the Catholic Faith. Perhaps they think it doesn’t matter because they’re following their conscience. But that may not be the case. Their conscience might be leading them to error.

The great thing about conscience is, if you enlighten it with education, it will lead you to God. There aren’t always concrete answers. You may find yourself having to make decisions in a morally gray area. In those situations, a right conscience can lead you toward God. Conscience makes you most happy when it knows the right direction to go.

Image credit: Unsplash/Chris Sardegna

How to Get the Catechetical Recharge You Need This Summer


Okay so…it’s the end of the year. Your classes are over, or they will be soon.

You’re tired, burned out, and ready for summer.

But you’re DRE is already asking if you want to teach again next year! Really? How can you get ready for that?

You need that fire back before Fall. You need energizing. You need a conference!

And I’ve got just the thing for you.
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Are We Teaching Families What They’re Supposed to Be?


Did you get the questionnaire from the Vatican?

Even saying that is sort of strange.

Has there ever been a questionnaire from the Vatican? I love Pope Francis!

If you have no clue what I’m talking about, I’ll fill you in.
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Cardinal Newman, Personal Influence, and How Truth is Spread


How did the ancient Church spread the Truth of Catholicism so successfully?

We’re all about the new evangelization these days, but it’s a good idea to understand how evangelization worked in the past.

After all, authentic renewal is never a complete break from what came before. It’s about understanding and updating it to work for today.

Before we get into that, here’s a little background. This post is the major content of a keynote I did for a dinner at the Nashville Diocesan Catechetical Conference.

I hit on Blessed John Henry Cardinal Newman and his ideas about the power of personal influence a while back. I was expanding on the “Enrichment of Faith” concept Fr. Michael Gaitley outlines in his book The ‘One Thing’ Is Three.

Since then, I looked up Gaitley’s source on Newman, Dr. John Crosby, who was my professor at Franciscan. Dr. Crosby’s book Personalist Papers has an amazing treatment on the personalist approach of Cardinal Newman that I’m fascinated with.

I think you’ll find this discussion of Cardinal Newman’s thought indispensable in implementing an evangelizing catechesis.
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Jesus Is Lord Series on Catholic Sistas

jesus-is-lordWhat makes a great parish adult education program?

For about a year, I’ve been hearing bits and pieces about an awesome one in the Austin, TX area. It’s at St. William Catholic Church in Round Rock. 

I first heard mention of it from blogging friend Devin Rose of St. Joseph’s Vanguard. He credited it with a large part of his deepened conversion. From what I gather it’s been wildly successful and the source of many deepening conversions.

Then I found out the founder of the Catholic Sistas blog, Martina Kreitzer, is on the planning committee and core team for the program. I had to talk to her and find out more about it. What I found out from our limited Facebook message conversation was fascinating.
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Initiatory Catechesis: Introducing the Life of Faith


So far in your quest for evangelizing catechesis you have:

Those are the first two stages of the Church’s 5-stage evangelization process.

So when do you actually start teaching them something?

The third stage of the Church’s process is Initiatory Catechesis. Finally, we get to the actual catechesis.

But you didn’t think that just meant teaching lessons from the textbook…did you? The job now is to introduce them to the life of faith.

But as you’ll see, that’s more than merely teaching doctrine.
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My St. John Bosco Conference Takeaways


Sorry I’ve been a little AWOL for the last few weeks.

I always get a little engrossed while getting ready for big conference talks.

I just got back from speaking at the St. John Bosco Conference at Franciscan University.

I had two talks. One was called “Catechesis and Conversion.” I’ve actually been working through the content of that talk here on the blog in a series of posts on evangelizing catechesis. I’ll be pulling those all together in a tutorial soon.

The other was called “The Online Marketer’s Guide to Compelling Catechesis.” It was basically all the stuff I’ve learned about online writing applied to catechesis. It went over really well, and I’m anxious to share it with you.

As always, the conference was amazing! As I’ve said before, it’s the best catechetical conference you’ve never heard of.

People came from across the country to get certifications in youth ministry, campus ministry, RCIA, and as DREs and catechists. Most of them come for five consecutive years to get these certifications, although they’ve shortened it. Starting next year the certification will only take three years.
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The Foundation of Evangelizing Catechesis


What’s the first and most essential step for catechesis that’s evangelizing?

On the Tuesday after Easter, I get together with all the RCIA folks who just came into the Church and have a big party.

We celebrate, discuss what happened at the Vigil, and talk about their experiences of going through the RCIA.

I was really struck this year by a comment from one young lady who had no Christian background whatsoever before joining the RCIA.
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Interview with Jared Dees – On Becoming a Better Religious Educator

31-days-religious-educator-titleJared Dees is passionate about the practical.

For years he’s provided easy to implement resources, activities, lesson plans and guides for religious educators on his blog, The Religion Teacher.

Now he’s distilled those years of practical training into a new book, 31 Days to Becoming a Better Religious Educator

The book contains thirty-one exercises that will help you create a more engaging, spiritual, and educational environment for your students.

Each exercise contains a quote from Scripture, a story from a saint or research in educational psychology, step-by-step instructions for completing an exercise, and a “Going Deeper” section that invites you into a meditation or prayer practice.

Below is my interview with Jared about his new book and about what it takes to become a better religious educator.
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