Faith Formation

“To be understood as to understand,
To be loved as to love, For it is in giving that we receive. . .”
~ from The Prayer of Saint Francis

Feb 7 - Learn to See Things in a New Way

Holy Cross Feb 7 Faith Formation
Today's readings focused on a common theme: darkness and light, blindness and sight.  Father Mark spoke of some friends of his in Eugene, who train seeing eye dogs.  They have told Father Mark that the hardest part of training a regular dog to be a seeing eye dog is teaching the dog to see like a human sees.  Have you noticed that when regular dogs are on a walk, they are often focusing on what's on the ground, at their eye level?  They are looking at this and sniffing that and then suddenly: "Squirrel!!", and they are completely distracted from the task at hand.

It takes a lot of discipline for a regular dog to learn to look up instead of down, to see things at their human's level.  There are plenty of "squirrels!!" in our lives, too.  We're supposed to be doing homework, but we're distracted by the "squirrel!!" of cartoons or social media.  We should eat meat and vegetables and fruit for dinner, but ice cream becomes our "squirrel!!"  One of today's readings told of how Jesus cured the blind Bartimaeus, and he then followed Jesus down the road.  Like Bartimaeus and the seeing eye dogs, we need to learn to see things in a new way.

November 25 - A Knight in Shining Armor Teaches Us To Help Those In Need

november 25 faith formation
Today we celebrated the Feast of the martyr St. Cecilia. With the help of 8th grader Will Louie, Fr. Mark told us a story of a knight in shining armor. "Once upon a time, there was a man who wanted to be a knight in shining armor. His desire was to protect the kingdom in which he lived and especially his king - whom he greatly admired. The man did become a knight and on the day in which he did he vowed to never "bend the knee" or bow down in homage to anyone but his beloved king. He was sent to a distant outpost and there he stood guard, day and night for many years. People would come and go, but he never bowed down in homage to anyone. One day, however, an elderly woman approached him on her way to the market with fruits and vegetables to sell. She tripped and her goods were strewn all over the ground. The knight refused to kneel down or even bend down to help her because of his vow. Later, a man on crutches approached the knight. He, too, tripped and was unable to get up from the ground on his own. He cried out to the knight for help, but the knight again refused to break his vow to "bend the knee" or bow down only to his king. Later, the knight's own young grandson paid him a visit and asked his grandfather for a hug. Sadly. yet again, the knight refused to bow down, even for his grandson.


Finally, the king himself arrived one day at the outpost and, as he approached the knight, he saw that the man was crying. The king asked why he was crying and the knight said, "All these years, I have tried to stay true to my vow to never bend the knee or bow down for anyone but you. But now my armor has grown rusty and un-bending to the point that I cannot 'bend the knee' or bow down even for you." The king said, "Oh, you foolish man! If you had been bending the knee to help people like that old woman, the man with crutches, and even bowing down to pick up your grandson, you would be able to bow down to me today."


Our Gospel today was the parable of the 10 girls, five of whom were wise and five of whom were foolish. We prayed, asking for St. Cecilia's help, that God would bless us with wisdom to bend down or bow down in order to help anyone and everyone who is in need.

November 18 - Are You a Thermometer or a Thermostat?

Nov 18 Holy Cross Faith Formation
Thank you to the 1st grade class for leading us at Mass today, the feast day of St. Albert.
At Mass, Fr. Mark asked the 1st grade students (and all of us!), if we were room thermometers or room thermostats. Fr. Mark explained further how a thermometer tells only one thing - the current temperature in a room; while a thermostat not only tells the temperature in a room but also does something about it . . . makes a room cooler or warmer as needed.
The gospel reading shared at the Mass had Jesus urging us to be "light for the whole world."  Like St. Albert who saw the needs in his community and served others,
Fr. Mark urged us all to not only to see the needs around us but also be ready to serve. We not only need to identify needs of others but we must respond to those needs (like a thermostat).
Fr. Mark shared how Mrs. Lopez not only sees that she is blessed with a class of curious learners, she strives to teach them well.  Mr. Spitulski with the St. Vincent de Paul Food Pantry not only sees that there are many hungry people in our community, he works to make sure that good food is provided to those who are hungry.
Being a light to the world means being an example of Christ to others AND doing something to help others . . . being a friend to classmates, helping a friend with a problem, and forgiving someone who may have hurt our feelings.

November 11 - A Simple Shift Of Language Can Influence Our Love and Concern for Others

november 11 holy cross faith formation
At our School Mass today, the Second Grade read from the end of St. Paul's Letter to the Romans.
St. Paul devotes a lot of his correspondence to the Romans to these two things: encouragement and correction. One example is how he encourages the Romans to set aside their individualistic, selfish, self-centered way of looking at life. He urges the Romans to become more concerned with the body of the Church, with the well-being of all people, and having a more generous and self-giving response to the Gospel.
Fr. Mark told us that, in a sense, St. Paul wanted the Romans to move from their everyday use of "I, me, and my" to "we us, and ours." After all, even our language reflects (and perhaps influences) our approach to life itself and our love and concern for one another.
Jesus knew all of this as well and His influence on St. Paul was enormous. When Jesus taught His first disciples to pray (and He is still teaching us to pray), He said, "Pray this way: Our Father ... give us this day our daily bread ... forgive us our trespasses ... lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil."
We thanked Jesus at Mass today for making us His brothers and sisters, for (still) teaching us to pray, and for sending His Spirit to guide us and lead us each and every day.

November 1 - What Do Carving Pumpkins and Inviting Jesus into Our Hearts Have in Common?

carving pumpkins
Fr. Mark brought a pumpkin (or Jack o' Lantern) to Mass today as we celebrated All Saints Day. He asked how many of us had seen one and, of course, all of us had.
Fr. Mark reminded us that the first thing we do when making a Jack o' Lantern is to clean up the pumpkin by washing off the dirt and mud. Then we cut a hole in the top of the pumpkin and clean out the inside. We scoop out all the seeds and the yucky stuff.
The next thing we do is carve a face: we cut out the eyes, nose, and mouth. Fr. Mark said, "I don't know about you, but I always like to put a smile on my Jack o' Lantern." The next step is to put a candle inside the Jack o' Lantern, then we light the candle so that the light will shine through the eyes, nose, and mouth. Finally, when all is finished, we place the Jack o' Lantern somewhere so that all who pass by the house will see its light.
Fr. Mark then suggested that this whole carving routine is a pretty good picture of what happens when we invite Jesus into our heart. When He calls us to become a Christian, Jesus picks us up and cleanses our life from sin. We call that Baptism. He removes all the yucky thoughts and the seeds of doubt, hate, and selfishness that we have inside. We call this Reconciliation. Then Jesus puts a smile on our face (each day, by His grace) and puts His light inside us (the rest of the Sacraments) to shine for all the world to see.
The Saints whom we celebrated today are all of those people who, without being "officially" counted among the Saints of the Church, have nonetheless embraced the One who came to take away the sins of the world, followed Him with their whole heart, mind, and soul, and allowed Him to put His light in their hearts for the whole word to see.
Part of our prayer today was: "Dear Jesus, help us to let your light shine in us so that others will see our good works and glorify our heavenly Father.".

October 21- Life-A-Thon

holy cross faith life-a-thon
This week we had our annual Jog-a-thon fund raiser at the University of Portland. We were proud of all of our students, teachers, and staff who ran or jogged and grateful to all of our parents and supporters. The students, teachers, and staff solicited pledges of support (per lap) and then did their best to complete as many laps as possible.


At today's School Mass, the Feast of St. Luke, Fr. Mark brought a pledge sheet from the Jog-a-thon, the same kind of sheet that our runners and joggers were sure to get "checked" at the completion of each of their laps. Fr. Mark also brought an "adult-size" pledge sheet and asked us to imagine if he wore it around all day, much like the runners and joggers did on Tuesday.


Things went a little "sideways," however, when Fr. Mark wanted to get a "check" or mark for each of the supposedly kind or loving things he did throughout the day. He wanted to get recognized and praised for simple and not-so-simple kindnesses or loving gestures. It became apparent that he was not doing the kindnesses to give glory to God or to help others, but rather for the attention he would get and the "prize" he might earn from God.


Jesus said in today's Gospel that the first followers of His Way were to take nothing with them as they made their way in the world to share the Good News. The point of Jesus' instruction was that they were to be free of both material possessions and vainglory, both of which get in the way of being true servants of the Gospel. We were asked to make a "pledge" that we would always do what we do for God's glory and as a fitting response to the goodness and blessing that God shares with us each day. Doing what we do for any other reason is not being faithful to God, nor is it a worthy act of thanksgiving to God for all He has done for us.