This week, one hundred years ago, the Great Powers of Europe were hurtling towards a war which would eventually draw in the entire Western sphere.
We know it as the First World War, which may be a bit parochial, because the theatres of war were largely confined to three continents, though there’s no denying its impact was global. Pope Benedict XV called it “the suicide of civilised Europe,” which is a better appraisal.
The war changed Europe and the West forever, and not for the good. It gave rise not only to totalitarian communism, the Nazi Holocaust and the Second World War, but also to the hedonism of the 1920s and 1960s, and to the moral and spiritual decline which has afflicted western civilisation since 1914.
Catholic News Service has produced an excellent 20 minute documentary which examines the origins and the aftermath of the Great War, and what lessons we can draw from it 100 years later. As Mark Twain famously observed, “History doesn’t repeat itself but it often rhymes.”
This is pretty good. From the people at Outside da Box — an online video production company which specialises in youth ministry resources.
Lent is the season of penance and conversion, so this a great time for children to celebrate their first confession.
In our parish, children do this in grade three. It’s a challenge to prepare them in a way that resonates right now, and also equips them to recognise in the future the value in examining one’s conscience, naming one’s sin, requesting God’s mercy and healing, and all the other ideas and practices which inform the complex concept of Christian conversion.
The best starting point, I think, is always sacred scripture. “For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and spirit, of joints and marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.” (Heb 4:12) In my experience, children especially like, and respond to, the story of Zacchaeus, and the parable of the prodigal son.
It’s also good, I think, to situate sin and conscience in the context of good choices and bad choices. Am I right in thinking that “good choices” is something children either intuitively learn, or their parents and peers teach them, even before the school years?
In any event, here are two YouTube clips which lend themselves to this idea of good choices and bad choices. I don’t know how pedagogically valuable the first clip is, but it’s certainly entertaining, and illustrates a point the kids are already familiar with.
The second clip is a real godsend. I vaguely recall a friend (then a teacher, now a seminarian!) sending me a similar clip a few years ago, which he used in class to illustrate supererogatory charity — that is, love that goes “above and beyond the call of duty.” The big difference is that the former clip was American, and this one — filmed just last week — is Australian:
Turns out, Brendan’s generosity is even more impressive than the newsreader makes out. You can read the details here: Is 8-year-old baseball fan Brendan the nicest kid in Australia?
Anecdotes aplenty, and all very funny.
Mother Teresa’s doctor:
Christmas isn’t over! We’re only half-way through the Christmas Octave; by another measure, we’re only part-way through the twelve days of Christmas.
Snopes may have busted the old myth that the popular carol was a secret catechism among recusant Catholics, but The Twelve Days of Christmas still serves the worthy purpose of reminding us to keep our Christmas trees up, and keep wishing others a Merry Christmas, right up until the Feast of the Epiphany.
And thanks to this video, the carol is also good for a laugh. Here’s to Christmas cheer!
Children are an embodiment of hope. In the first place, having children at all is an act of hope in a better future — or at least a bearable future. A pessimist who is sure of impending doom won’t want to bring kids into such a gloomy picture.
In the second place, children can make the world a better place — both in the unconditional love they give in childhood, and in the achievements and contributions they make as adults.
Maybe that’s why Christmas is so resonant of hope. Every child embodies hope. How much more, the Christ child in Bethlehem, the King of Kings and Prince of Peace?
So although this video is secular, and makes no mention of the present festive season, still I think it’s a good Christmas video.
(A pessimist alternative is Greenpeace’s ridiculous message from Santa.)