Welcome to All Saints CGS: a blog detailing the happenings and fruits of our Catechesis of the Good Shepherd program and some musings (some theological, some humorous, some both) of the catechists in our program. If you've ever wondered about the impact of Good Shepherd on the life of the adult, the atrium (the CGS classroom), or the "work" your child is doing, you've come to the right place!

Monday, June 26, 2017

The Lord is My Shepherd, There is Nothing I Lack

A guest reflection by Jeremiah Evans. Jeremiah recently completed our Level I training course in Catechesis of the Good Shepherd. I asked him to share from a man's perspective how this course impacted his life. This was his response.

Isn’t it weird how you can say a word again and again until it loses its meaning? Isn’t it sad how we can hear a passage of scripture again and again until it loses its meaning?

You don’t see that same tendency in children. As G.K. Chesterton says, the child never tires of the swing, or the story, or the game. “Again, again!” they cry with glee, and again and again it is as new to them as the first time. But then we grow up, and we say, “This again?”

I wonder if this is part of what Jesus meant when he said in Matthew 18:3, “Amen, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven.” We cannot tire of listening to the Word of God, or ever assume that we understand it completely.

Training in Catechesis of the Good Shepherd is often called “Remedial Childhood,” and for me I don’t think that there’s a better example than Psalm 23. It’s probably one of the best known verses, certainly the best known Psalm. How many of us have written it, recited it, cross-stitched it, or reproduced it in some other craft as children, but how many of us think about it on a daily basis? How many of us are moved when we hear it proclaimed at Mass?

I wasn’t.

How sad it is that I can become immune to the wonder that every child seems to experience so naturally? People tell me I know things, I clearly love Jesus, shouldn’t I be dumbfounded by this?

Well, I am know. Not through knowledge, but through humility.

Psalm 23 is a very hard teaching. Not hard to grasp intellectually like how Jesus is both Human and Divine, or how the Eucharist appears as bread and wine but is actually the very Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity of Jesus. It is hard because it demands humility, which as an adult with adult responsibilities, in a culture that tells me to focus on myself and what I want, seems almost impossible to have.

There is nothing I lack? What about the new car/clothes/computer I want? What about the will power to control my temper or my appetites?

What about the four children whose names are inscribed on a block of marble?

Don’t tell me there is nothing I lack.

But maybe I just haven’t been listening. Maybe I need to say as the child does, “Again!”

What does it mean to lack nothing in the face of loss? How can I become a child again with all the responsibilities that come with being an adult, a parent, a member of my faith community?

Going through CGS training helped me to rediscover this verse, to see it in a light I hadn’t before. To sit with it, ponder it, taste it. To ask for the Father who gives so many good gifts to show me those gifts.

I’m still learning to be as a child. I’m learning to not be defined by what I have, what I know, or even what I’ve lost. I am not those things, I am a child of the Father, a sheep in the fold of the Good Shepherd.

The Father, the giver of gifts, who has given me every one of my talents, has blessed me in countless ways. He has given me so many friends, my family, my wife. The children I hold in my arms, and the children who intercede for me without ceasing.

He is my shepherd, and He has given Himself to me.

And if I have Him? There is nothing I lack.

We are happy to announce that another 90-hour Level I formation course will be offered beginning this September. All Saints is able to offer this course at a significant discount for parishioners. For more information, check out our parish website at www.dmallsaints.org/cgs-formation-courses.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Led to Christ

This is the second year that we have had toddlers involved in our Youth Summer Mission. We might have thought that we were doing this to lead the little ones to Jesus, but I think it's the other way around.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Youth Summer Mission Week

As I write this, we are a little less than half way through our Youth Summer Mission week for 2017. This year has been beyond fantastic as our relationships with Benedictine College Youth Outreach and the Nashville Dominican Sisters of St. Cecilia have continued, along with the addition of Fr. Simon and Brother Levin from St. Benedict's Abbey in Atchison, Kansas. All in all, our program served about 150 youth ages 0-18.
Preparing for Mass on Day Two

Sister Veronica Marie showing 3-6 year olds her 15 decade rosary. Both sisters are trained in the second level of Catechesis of the Good Shepherd.

Fr. Simon (Dave and Linda Landwehr's nephew) is talking to the children at the end of Mass about this special chalice which was donated by the first priest who came from our parish (Fr. Reece: Christine Routson's uncle)

We had 6 men on the team. They gathered with the 1st-7th grade boys each day for some time to chat about guy stuff. They called it the "Man Cave"

We had over 20 adult helpers and 10+ teens volunteering each day to make things run smoothly. We couldn't have done it without them! 
Over and over, we keep pinching ourselves, watching the white flowing habits of the sisters walking in our halls, the energetic and faith-filled college kids leading song (varying from worship to silly songs about papayas), and the smallest among us (from our toddler environments) spending time with Jesus in the Church. Our teens even got a small taste of what worship was like for the early Christians who had to keep their faith practice hidden for fear of the Romans.

The team also felt overwhelmed with gratitude for the hospitality that they were shown. From the host families to the incredible food, snacks, treats, and smiles, they commented over and over how amazed they were at how much our parish came together for this incredible work. So many of you, even without children in the program, donated your time and yummy food to help out. It means so much to me, and to the sisters and team. Thank you from the bottom of our hearts!

But adults! Even though this was our Youth Summer Mission, we do have some great things in store for you! Don't forget to sign up for the Summer Bible Institute (which begins TUESDAY at 7pm!) You can go to www.actsclass.com to register, or just come on Tuesday a little before 7pm to get signed in! Married Couples: We also have our last Teams of Our Lady Informational meeting that night at 6pm! There's something for everyone this Summer!

Monday, June 5, 2017

Wonder Woman

One of my favorite programs on Catholic Radio when my children were younger was Dr. Ray Guarendi's call-in show at noon. His confident responses to parental woes gave me so much confidence when navigating the sometimes troubled waters of parenthood.

There was the time he counseled a mom to get a Wonder Woman costume, for example. She was struggling with getting her children to respect her, so (in jest, I think) he suggested buying and donning the costume, coming home and kicking the door down, putting her hands on her hips and announcing: "Mom's Home!" 

Whenever I felt powerless in front of my small children, I would remember Dr. Ray and the Wonder Woman costume. Sometimes I really needed it. In fact, I remember a particularly difficult time when one of my children had grown so stubborn that it was actually hurting her. She had become an extremely picky eater, and I felt that this required every ounce of my own "Wonder Woman" powers to overcome.

Picky eaters seem to be a part of every family's life. I remember encountering a young boy at a family event who would only eat french fries and chicken nuggets for a stretch of his childhood. Now, my darling daughter wasn't that extreme, but it seemed like every single meal was a battle. She would come to the stove and get up on her tippy toes to see what was in the pot. Unless it was macaroni and cheese and hot dogs, she was inevitably demoralized. My mother-in-law had told me of my husband's childhood penchant to "fall asleep" at meals he didn't care to eat, and this little girl used that trick plus dozens more to escape assaulting her taste buds with the likes of green beans or chicken pot pie. Her favorite method was to whine and complain and make everyone else miserable if the meal wasn't to her liking, and there was nothing I could do to make her stop her ranting or to eat her dinner.

Dr. Ray fielded a phone call about children who think they are in control of the family every time I listened in to his show, so I had a decent idea of what he'd say. "You have the power, Mama," he'd encourage. "You can give them only green beans for a week if you need to. They need to know you're the boss. They'll give in." Well, I tried this tactic and I discovered a stubbornness in my child that can only be the product of BOTH of her parents put together. She was faced with the same rejected meal for 5 meals in a row (lunch, supper, and even breakfast), yet she still refused.

My imagined "Wonder Woman" costume was not working. My poor girl wasn't learning to be less picky, she was making herself sick! I realized that this approach of appealing to her stomach and natural hungers to help me teach her was not enough. My poor 7 year old daughter was weak, her stomach hurt, and she was laying on her bed unable to do anything. I needed to go to her heart.

Out of desperation, I prayed to God for insight and tried to talk to her.

"Why do you think we eat?" I asked her.

"Because it tastes good," she responded.

"Nope. Not even close. It is really nice when food tastes good to us, but we don't eat because it gives us pleasure. We eat because we need food to live." This seemed like an acceptable reason to her, so I continued. "But I think there's a bigger question, why are we alive?"

This question surprised her, but she's always had a spiritual sensitivity that responds well to questions like these, so I wasn't surprised when she perked up. "Because God made us."

"But why did God make us?"

"Because He loves us, and wanted us to be with Him."

"Yes. He made us to know Him and to love Him. But sweetheart, He also made us to serve Him. He has so many good things for you to do today."

I suddenly thought of a verse I looked up later from Ephesians 2: "For we are his handiwork, created in Christ Jesus for the good works that God has prepared in advance, that we should live in them."

"God planned those good works for you, but if you don't eat, you won't be able to do those things. Do you love God?"


"Do you want to serve Him?"


"Then you need to eat, honey. You've made yourself weak and sick because you said no to food that was good for you. You've already missed out on some of the things God gave you to do today." (Her face fell in such disappointment in that moment). "But there are still more good works for you to do! Are you ready to try again?"

To my amazement, she sat up and ate the offending green beans and casserole with only minimal grimacing. 

I never pushed her so hard again, but she also has never dug her heels in that far, either. It's funny though, because I realized that this victory didn't belong to me. It belonged to my child who made a conscious and incredibly difficult choice to overcome her stubborn nature and choose to serve her God. In truth, it was my little girl who was Wonder Woman that day. I just helped her discover her own power to choose the best things for her life.

Monday, May 22, 2017

Where We Need to Go

"We are in such urgent need of an education toward inwardness. We need to be taught to enter into the heart of things." Joseph Ratzinger

Last Sunday was First Communion Sunday at All Saints. That day is always a beautiful one. The girls had their hair all done in curls and veils, while the boys sported handsome ties and shirts, and some boys even wore full white suits! But even these glorious outside garments displayed only a dim reflection of the disposition of these joyful children.

I just wanted to share a few memories (so I don't forget). Several years ago, a fifth grader named Emma who was receiving her First Communion gave me a gift of a wrist corsage and a card that said, "Don't ever stop doing what you are doing." Memories like these make me want to continue in this work forever.

  • Two different parents told me that their child woke on Sunday morning and said, "I have been waiting for this since I was born!" 
  • On our retreat the day before First Communion, the children received their First Reconciliation. One of the parents told me that her daughter was so excited about the gift of absolution and being made clean again that she wanted to go again the next day!
  • Another child drew this picture during the time of Thanksgiving after Mass on Sunday. I asked her about it and she said that the figures are of her and Jesus. There is a road to hell (that goes up the page), but Jesus is taking her on the road to heaven.
  • A boy was a little restless when he began a work called "prayer writing" in the balcony on the retreat. He didn't know what to write. Before long, he had written four prayers. One of them recalled his study of the True Vine during the weeks leading up to this day. He wrote "my fruit is love."
  • A catechist observing the sweet responses and the depth of the children's insights wiped her eyes and leaned over to me, asking, "How do you not cry with joy all of the time?" While another catechist poured out her joy at the gift of being able to serve these children who are such a witness of joy.
  • One of the presenters at the May parent meetings told me that he had to completely change his presentation because the parents in the class were nothing like he expected. He thought he'd have to talk them into attending Mass regularly and to entering into this experience with their children. The parents completely knocked him over with their faithfulness and joy.
There are many who look at the world and worry about the future, but from the perspective of one who works with young children and their families, I do not worry about the future. I see such a great hope in those little faces. I am confident they will lead us where we need to go.

"Then the wolf shall be a guest of the lamb,
and the leopard shall lie down with the young goat;
The calf and the young lion shall browse together,
with a little child to guide them." Isaiah 11:6

Monday, May 8, 2017

Congrats to the New Catechists!

Last weekend was a bit bittersweet, as we completed a 90-hour formation course and certified 11 new catechists in our region (8 of whom are either parishioners or have already committed to serving All Saints parish!) It was an interesting journey, watching a room that is filled with a diverse crowd including a restaurateur, an information technologist, a few stay-at-home moms, a dad who just wanted to do this to be a better dad, folks who do theology for their hobby, folks who do catechesis for their jobs, and even a Computer Science professor as they worked together and came away with a renewed sense of wonder at the mystery of God and the children they will care for. I hope you will join me on congratulating them on finishing this first part of their journey, but more importantly, praying for them as they step softly into the world of serving the 3-6 year old child's spirituality. 

It was also a special moment for me as I bid adieu to Ms. Elizabeth Stone, whom some of you know from her time working here when she was just 17 years old, and again for a year after graduating from college. She assisted me in this Level I CGS course, and I was so grateful to have that time with her before she moves on to her new life. This weekend, on May 13th, she will celebrate the Sacrament of Marriage and become Mrs. Elizabeth. Godspeed, dear friend! We were so blessed to have you here, even if only for a little while. 

Monday, May 1, 2017

Fly Higher

I have to admit it. I've never done a pull-up in my life. I know that doing one pull-up was a requirement in school for getting the Presidential Fitness Award, but I never got one. I even played Division I sports. I did power cleans and I used the bench press regularly for years. I could hit a volleyball pretty darned hard. But never, not once, did I manage to do a pull-up. I wasn't even trying because it didn't seem possible. Most girls I know can't do them, and presidential fitness awards aside, I got it in my head that pull-ups are pretty much impossible and only ridiculously fit women (who make doing pull-ups their day job) can do them. Cue my baby sister...

About 2 months ago, my little sister did her first pull up. She's been working out a lot, and she was quite proud of this feat. Wow, I thought, she could get a presidential fitness award now. Good job. Then about a month later, she did 15 pull-ups in a row. What?! That's not even possible, is it? While I still haven't seen a video, she did send some photographic proof of the award she won. I'm printing it off and keeping it close to remind me that hard work really does pay off!

Our Friday morning book club (which meets at Main Street Cafe in Ankeny at 6:20 am if you're interested!) we are reading the book Interior Castle by St. Teresa of Avila. I love St. Teresa. Her spunk and wisdom make her someone I both love to read and love to keep close in prayer. But sometimes the descriptions of the advanced spiritual life that she gives are about as realistic to me as the idea of doing a pull up. Impossible. Over and over in this book, however, she says how important it is to write about the spiritual experiences that those who are advanced in the spiritual life have obtained through God's grace. She reasons that if you put limits on what God can do in your soul, you need not worry that He will ever accomplish anything in you.

I got to thinking about my little sister. I was so inspired by her hard work and the incredible payoff that she had in seeing such concrete progress in her physical fitness. I need role models like that to help me realize that I can do something to make myself better. It's just the same in the spiritual life. If you think you're already "close" to God and that there really isn't much more that can happen in your interior life, you are about as likely to ascend to the heights of contemplation as I was to do 15 pull ups in high school or college.

So I've decided. I'm tucking my little sister's photo into my worn out old copy of Interior Castle. We all need our role models to call us to expect more of our lives. I'm lucky to have these two incredible ladies to look up to. They both remind me that I can always fly higher.