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Faith formation speaker: Make Mass something children love

02 11.16.17_fr.brendan.mcguire PAGEFather Brendan McGuire speaks on school liturgy at the Santa Clara Faith Formation Conference on Nov. 3. Every school Mass “should be brilliant every single time,” he said. (Photo by Valerie Schmalz/Catholic San Francisco)

November 16, 2017
Valerie Schmalz

Every school Mass should be a peak experience, said the keynote speaker for education at an annual gathering of religious education and Catholic school teachers Nov. 3 in Santa Clara.

“It should be brilliant every single time,” said Father Brendan McGuire, vicar for special projects for the Diocese of San Jose, speaking at the Santa Clara Faith Formation Conference. The annual convention at the Santa Clara Convention Center was sponsored by the Archdiocese of San Francisco, and the dioceses of San Jose, Stockton, Oakland and Monterey.

“Every single time, there should be music, there should be preaching as if tomorrow is the last day. This is the day the Lord has made! Wouldn’t it be great if you had to settle your kids down after Mass?” Father McGuire asked. “What makes great liturgy? Great hymns, great homilies, great hospitality.”

The central piece of the Catholic faith, the celebration of the Eucharist, where bread and wine are transformed into the body and blood of Christ, is often treated as a ho-hum event, “just the school Mass,” Father McGuire said.

Changing that means teaching children hymns in the classroom, bringing them into church to learn the hymns before Mass, he said “So they are not sitting like a bump on a log waiting for someone to sing to them.”

And teachers must have a living faith themselves to be able to share it, he said.

“It is so important that we learn to say our prayers, to talk to God, to listen to God, to listen to Christ for our own lives,” said Father McGuire, who is also pastor of Holy Spirit Parish in San Jose, a regular speaker on stewardship, prayer, forgiveness and parish leadership as well as author of three books on Sunday homilies. His most recent book is “The Living Gospel: Daily Devotions for Advent.”

“I ask the priests to commit to an hour of prayer a day,” the priest said. “That’s their vocation. Not just saying their prayers, the Office, but to take a least an hour of showing up and listening. Listening to what God has to say. As educators and as employees of the church I am going to say something that is very hard to hear. You should be doing that 30 minutes a day. Again you cannot give what you do not have.

“We have to go to the Lord and pray and talk to God. And then listen to Christ in our hearts,” he said.

Bringing in the parish so that both parish and school are involved, and making actions, such as helping feed the homeless are also important, he said. In today’s world, with so many parents not practicing the Catholic faith, schools need to walk with parents and families, and show the warmth and caring that should be part of every Christian’s approach, Father McGuire said.

“What Jesus is saying is love him first,” Father McGuire said. “To love others, you must do so by loving me first.”

The two-day conference attracted hundreds of participants. The mission of the Santa Clara Faith Formation Conference is to help ministers and leaders connect Christian faith with their daily lives in the culturally diverse dioceses in Northern California. There were English, Spanish, Vietnamese and Spanish tracks with speakers from each ethnic area.

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