In September I’ll be teaching Religion 11 for the first time and its focus is Church History. After going over the curriculum, I found that it’s an overwhelming amount of content that needs to be covered by the end of the year. Plus its asking me to pray the Liturgy of the Hours with the students…that is my next summer project, to understand that large book of prayers well enough to teach a whole class!
Besides the curriculum that needs to be covered, I want to start every class with some sort of prayer/spiritual reading activity. I don’t want it to be just a set of formal prayers, I want to try and offer something a little more challenging, to demonstrate that their faith needs to grow, as they grow.
So far I have narrowed down my search to 3 devotional books:
Living the Mysteries: A Guide For Unfinished Christians, by Scott Hahn and Mike Aquilina,
The book has several chapters that focus on one of the Church Father’s and several of their sermons, some of the topics include: “Eucharist”, “On the Church”, “On Baptism and Confirmation” etc. I thought that this would be relevant because it is a part of Christianity’s earliest history and would be a good way, to show students, how our practises today as Catholics, are the same as the early Christians 2000 years ago. Each chapter starts with a bio of the Church father and then each sermon is followed by a “Take it to Prayer” which involves suggestions for praying about the topic, followed by “Learn it by heart” a line from the sermon you should memorize and think about over the course of the day, and finally “Apply it to your life” where there are suggestions about how you can use the reading to enhance your own life. It takes about 15 minutes to do, which is the right time frame I’m looking for.
A Year with the Church Fathers: Patristic Wisdom for Daily Living, by Mike Aquilina
This book is similar to the above and is meant to be read every day for a year. Each day has a different topic such as, “Attack your Strongest Sin First”, “Remember God’s Greatest Gift First”, “Learn to Distinguish What Really Matters” and so on. Then there is a short sermon by a Church father, followed by “In God’s Presence Consider” which asks questions that you can meditate on. Lastly, there is a closing prayer. Although very similar to the first book, this one is shorter and its topics are more personal, whereas as the former’s topics relate more to the Church specifically.
My Daily Bread, by Anthony J Paone, S.J. (Confraternity of the Precious Blood)
This is an old book that I accidentally came across while staying with a relative. This is more of a step by step guide about being a Christian, and honestly I have learned so much from reading this. The book starts with a chapter on “Conversion”, then “After Conversion” followed by chapters on “Temptation”, “Conquering Bad Habits”, “Virtues Leading Directly to God” and “Spiritual Combat” to name a few. I like it because each meditation starts with advice written as if it was coming directly from Christ. “My child,” is how each one starts, and even though there are warnings and advice, it is done in a loving tone and explained so beautifully. Then there is a “Think” section which takes what Christ said and summarizes it in a more direct way. Lastly, there is a short prayer that goes with the meditation. I thought that this book would have been hard to find, because it looked so old when I first came across it, but I easily found it at my Catholic bookstore, and there were lots of copies, so it must still be very popular.
I am leaning towards My Daily Bread, just because you learn so much about what it really means to be a Christian. It has helped me to understand suffering more, our purpose in life, how feelings can’t always be trusted and so much more. The other two are relevant though, as well, but I think I can use them more when I cover those specific topics in class, as primary sources that the students can read and discuss.