The Catholic Diocese of Lafayette, Indiana Catechetical Curriculum Guidelines

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Plan A

Junior High Missionary Spirit and Church History

Task 6: Catechesis promotes a missionary spirit that prepares the faithful to be present as Christians in society


COL Reference

Lesson One Junior High Church History

Introduction to Church History

The study of the history of our Faith is very important; it teaches about our past and helps to form our future in a way that is faithful to what God has revealed over the centuries.

9–10, 11a–c, 11–17

In the study of Church history the saints play a highly significant role. They are the people who spread the Good News of Christ to all corners of the earth. It is the saints who are the missionaries of the Church who, through their willing hands, brought the saving love of Christ to all people. Through the story of the Church it will be seen that the saints act as missionaries in many different ways. Some to go foreign lands to preach the Gospel, some stay in their home towns, others lead contemplative lives and spread God’s love through their prayer.

141, 144, 145, 213e, 227e, 232, 232–233sn, 259–260

The Catholic Church is a missionary Church because each member of the Body of Christ is called to share the Good News of Jesus Christ with others. Each person has the responsibility to missionary activity. Most Christians participate in the Church’s missionary call by living a good, holy life and performing good works for the poor and helpless around them.

51e, 95b, 95c, 96–98, 99–100, 139b

When studying history it is important to remember that it is a story of humankind. As we know from our Faith, mankind is sinful, is weak, and makes mistakes. Even when the people in the Church strayed from God’s plan, God remained with the Church He founded. It is the people in the Church who sinned, not the Church Herself.

149c, 150–151, 151, 153, 160,

However, history is not just the story of humankind; it is also the story of God’s redeeming love for people. His love was so strong that He called Abraham, the father of God’s chosen people, out of the desert and made Abraham’s descendants His chosen people. He led His chosen people when they were faithful and did not abandon them when they sinned. Through Abraham’s descendants, the Israelites, God brought salvation to all people. In the fullness of time He sent His only Son into the world to suffer and die for each person’s sins so that all people would be drawn back to Him. The study of Church history then is the study of how God’s love intervenes in the lives of humankind to bring all people to perfection in Christ. It is the story of salvation.

16, 51c, 56, 227b, 227c, 228–230, 231–232, 235

Lesson Two A.D. 33 – 100: Founding of the Church

“You are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it. I will give you the keys to the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 16:18–19). With these words Christ instituted the Church on earth. In the early years of Christianity the Apostles and their followers began to discuss the beliefs taught to them by Christ and began to write them down for future generations.

118, 122–123, 134, 139c, 144, 313–314, 315–316, 317, 355

Record: CD 1-Track 5

Important Events

While on earth Jesus Christ instituted the Church placing St. Peter as the head, the rock, of the Church.

118, 122–123, 134, 139c, 144

Record: CD 1-Track 5 Peter as Rock; Vicar of Christ

Jesus revealed the Holy Spirit to the Church at Pentecost which empowered the apostles to go forth and spread the Good News of Jesus Christ, the kerygma.

9, 13, 120, 123, 186, 187

Very early in Christian history persecution of Christians began. St. Stephen was the first Christian martyr. The Jewish leadership believed that the Christians were committing blasphemy by calling Jesus Christ God. One such leader who violently persecuted Christians was Saul, later known as St. Paul.

121, 127, 225

BLMs: 1–3,

Each of the apostles went to a different corner of the earth so that all people could hear the Good News of Jesus Christ. They believed that Jesus was coming again soon.

120, 298–299, 302–303, 318, 348

Record: CD 2-Track 1

When questions began to arise concerning what it meant to be a Christian all the apostles met in Jerusalem to discuss these important issues. Some of the early apostles believed that the Gentiles needed to become a Jew and follow the laws of the Old Covenant before they could become a Christian. However, others, such as St. Paul, argued that Jesus Christ founded a New Covenant and it was sufficient to repent and be baptized to become a Christian. In the end it was decided that a person did not need to follow the laws of the Jewish ceremonial laws to be a Christian. This gathering of the apostles is known as the Council of Jerusalem (circa A.D. 50).

51a, 53, 117, 318, 351

BLMs: 1–5,

When the apostles and disciples realized that the second coming was not immanent they began to write down all they had witnessed. The four Gospels and the Letters of Paul were all written from A.D. 50 to 100.

313–314, 315–316, 317, 318, 355

BLMs: 2-2, 2-4 The Four Gospels; Saint Mark; The End of Matthew’s Gospel; The Ending of Mark’s Gospel; Jesus’ Genealogy in Matthew and Luke;

All of the twelve apostles, with the exception of St. John were martyred for their great faith.

121, 123, 225 Saint Mark

Before each apostle died, he appointed successors to carry out the mission that Christ had given them. Our bishops today are successors of the early apostles. This is called Apostolic Succession.

130, 134, 139b, 143, 144 Apostolic Succession; Hierarchy in the Catholic Church; The Spirit of Truth


St. Peter – St. Peter, the first pope to be appointed head of the Church, established many local churches. We know that he spent some time in Jerusalem and Antioch. His life ended as a bishop in Rome where he was crucified upside-down. The Catholic Church is centered in Rome because that is where Peter, the first Pope, lived and died. There are two major feast days that celebrate St. Peter. On February 22nd the Church celebrates the Chair of Saint Peter, recognizing the authority over the Church given to Peter from Christ. On June 29th the feast of Saints Peter and Paul is celebrated. St. Peter lived his missionary call by actively and courageously spreading the Gospel through preaching and instruction.

95e, 96, 97, 98, 186 List of Saints for Kids

St. Paul – One day, while on a journey to Damascus to persecute the Christians, Saul was thrown from his horse. Jesus appeared to Saul in a vision and told him to, “stop persecuting me.” From that time on Paul, formerly Saul, became one of the greatest missionaries to the Gentiles. Paul willingly gave his life rather than reject his faith. Paul was beheaded outside the walls of Rome. Paul’s conversion is celebrated on January 25th. He shares a second feast day with St. Peter on June 29th. St. Paul lived his missionary call by sharing the Gospel with the world through preaching and instruction.

31c, 63, 65e, 67, 81, 83, 109–110, 111, 117, 186 List of Saints for Kids; Paul’s Journeys

Lesson Three A.D. 100 – 300: Growth Amid Persecution

One early Christian observed that the “blood of martyrs is the seed of the Church.” In the early years of the Catholic Church, Christians were heavily persecuted by Jews and Romans alike. Throughout this era, Christians were able to have the courage to stay true to the Faith despite the threat of death. Unfortunately, very early in the Church some people began to teach erroneously. The Church Fathers, wanting no one to be led astray, were quick to define what the Church believed.

129c, 130, 225

Important Events

Christians not only faced persecution from the Jewish leadership of the time but were also mistreated by the Roman Empire. Neither modern day Jews nor modern day Romans bear guilt for the sins of their fathers and most certainly should not be punished or mistreated by Christians. At this time, Roman law required that all people under Roman rule worship Roman gods. Christians who refused to worship these Roman gods were martyred for their disobedience.

118, 129c, 130, 225 Early Christian Martyrs; Religion in the Roman Empire

One particularly violent persecution began in 64 when Nero was the emperor of the Roman Empire. A large fire was set in Rome that resulted in the destruction of half the city. Nero needed scapegoat to explain this tragedy. He knew that the Christians were already despised and blamed the fire on the Christians which resulted in even worse persecutions. Early Christian Martyrs

In 250, the first empire wide persecution began under the Emperor Decius. Before this time, persecutions were sporadic and regionally located. During these intense persecutions, there were many brave people who gave their lives rather than deny their faith. They are called martyrs. Those who face martyrdom rather than reject their faith are saints because they are willing to give everything they have for the sake of Christ. Early Christian Martyrs

When Emperor Diocletian came into power, he renewed the persecutions against the Christians. The persecutions under Emperor Diocletian were some of the most violent persecutions in Church history. Early Christian Martyrs

During this time of persecution, the faithful Christians in Rome would secretly gather together in the catacombs to pray and worship God. The Christian catacombs are a series of underground passages where Christians would gather to worship and to bury the martyrs. These catacombs can still be visited today in Rome. Early Christian Martyrs

Along with the harsh persecutions, the Church faced another very serious problem, the misinterpretation of Jesus’ teaching. One very early misinterpretation, which was declared a heresy, was Gnosticism. The Gnostics believed that they had been given a special knowledge (gnosis) not available to everyone. The Gnostics taught many things about Jesus that the Church declared untrue.

41c, 75c Just What Is a Heresy?

During this time there were many wise and intelligent men, called the Apostolic Fathers, who wrote great works on the faith and taught many people about Christianity. The Spirit of Truth


St. Ignatius of Antioch – One of the great Apostolic Fathers is St. Ignatius of Antioch. He was a bishop in Antioch after St. Peter founded the Church there. The Roman authorities discovered that St. Ignatius was a Christian so they imprisoned him and sent him to Rome to be martyred. On his way to Rome, St. Ignatius wrote seven letters each addressed to one of the churches in the cities he passed through. He exhorted them to follow their faith despite the difficulties of doing so. We still have copies of these letters today. His feast day is celebrated on October 17th. St. Ignatius lived his missionary call by writing letters which shared the good news of the Christian faith.

St. Polycarp of Smyrna – Another Apostolic Father is St. Polycarp of Smyrna. It is said that he was a disciple of St. John the Apostle. He was bishop of Smyrna in what is modern day Turkey. When authorities discovered that he was a Christian, they led him to death by fire. Like St. Ignatius, we have several copies of letters St. Polycarp wrote even to this day. St. Polycarp’s feast day is remembered in the Church on February 23rd. St. Polycarp lived his missionary call by writing letter which shared the faith. He preferred to die rather than to deny the truth about Christ.

227e, 232, 232–233sn, 235

Saints Perpetua and Felicitas – Saints Perpetua and Felicitas were holy women who were martyred in northern Africa in the third century. Both women were young mothers who refused to worship the Roman gods. Even though their families begged them to reject their Christian beliefs they refused to renounce their faith. For this, these women along with other faithful Christians were fed to wild beasts. They are wonderful models of courage and faithfulness to God. Their feast day is celebrated on March 7th. St. Perpetua and St. Felicitas lived their missionary call by refusing to deny Christ in their lives. They witnessed the truth of Christ to others by willingly giving their lives rather than deny what they knew was true. List of Saints for Kids

Lesson Four 300 – 450: Fathers of the Church

The age of the Fathers of the Church brought sweeping changes to the Roman world and to Christianity. When Christianity was legalized by Emperor Constantine, new ways of holiness began to be prominent. No longer focusing on remaining hidden, the Church began the process of clarifying what She believed.

75c, 76–78, 118, 129c, 130–132, 137, 142, 318

Important Events

In 313, the Emperor Constantine had a vision of the cross helping him to win a battle. As a response to his dream he made Christianity legal in the Roman Empire. The law he enacted to make Christianity legal is known as the Edict of Milan.

118, 129c, 130–132, 137, 318 Constantine’s Empire; Religion in the Roman Empire

Once Christianity was legal and the mass persecutions ended, the Church began to worship in and create churches for the purpose of the liturgy.

129c, 130–132, 318 The Spirit of Truth

At this same time, there were many holy men who desired to give their entire lives to Christ, just like the martyrs, so they went into the desert to fast and pray. By dying to their own desires they embraced a living martyrdom. One such man is St. Antony of the Desert. After his parents died when he was twenty, he left all that he had and went to the Egyptian desert to live a life of penance. Very soon many heard of his holiness and began to imitate his way of life. He is known as the father of western monasticism.

64, 141, 318, 360

Another influential man who embraced desert monasticism is St. Pachomius. He created a rule for monks living in community in the desert. He is known as the father of communal monasticism.

64, 141, 318, 360

Although the holy men and women of the Church, especially martyrs, were always honored, the fourth and fifth centuries saw the rise of the Cult of the Saints, a special veneration of the saints. Local groups of people began to honor and celebrate Saints who had impacted their lives or the lives of their ancestors Saint Jerome

Once Christianity was legal and it was no longer a fight to simply survive, the great bishops and preachers of the Church were able to spend their time teaching and developing a deeper understanding of the faith.

64, 75c, 76–78 Doctors of the Church; The Spirit of Truth

As people began to speak about the faith, some preached correct theology and others began teaching things that were contrary to the faith. These false teachings were called heresies.

64, 75c, 76–78 Just What Is a Heresy?

In order to combat these heresies, the Church held Ecumenical Councils. At these councils with the Fathers of the Church, holy men gathered from the entire known world, discussed and clarified what Christ taught and thus, what the Church believed. They did not create or change doctrine, but they developed its understanding. One way in which they did this was to write creeds explaining the faith in a concise manner.

64, 75c, 76–78, 318, 353 The Apostle’s Creed; The Nicene Creed; The Spirit of Truth

In 325, the First Ecumenical Council was held in Nicaea and is known as the Council of Nicaea. At this council the Fathers of the Church discussed what the Church really believed about Jesus Christ. A group of men at the council believed that the Son of God, Jesus Christ, was not fully divine. This belief came to be known as Arianism. However, the Church reflected and studied what Jesus had told them and declared that Jesus was both fully human and fully divine. They labeled Arianism as a heresy.

10, 64, 75c, 76, 77, 83, 132, 318 Just What Is a Heresy?; The Nicene Creed

The Council of Constantinople was held in 381 and was the Second Ecumenical Council. Although the Church had officially condemned Arianism, the heresy continued to grow in the Church. At this Council, the Church Fathers reaffirmed their statement against Arianism.

10, 64, 75c, 76, 77, 83, 132, 318 Just What Is a Heresy?

The next Ecumenical Council was the Council of Ephesus, held in 431. This Council condemned Nestorianism which taught that Jesus was two persons, a divine person and a human person. The Church Fathers rejected this position and explained that Jesus was one person with two natures, one divine and one human.

64, 75c, 77, 132, 318 Just What Is a Heresy?

In 451, the Church held the Fifth Ecumenical Council at Chalcedon. After the Council of Ephesus, a monk began to state that Jesus was indeed divine but not human. This council reaffirmed what it stated at the Council of Ephesus; Jesus is one person with two natures: one human and one divine.

64, 75c, 77, 78, 318 Just What Is a Heresy?

Also during this time, the fall of the Roman Empire was in progress. One sign of the failing empire was the attack of Rome in 452 by the northern Germanic tribes led by Attila the Hun. When the Huns were attacking Rome, Pope Leo I stopped their advance and convinced them to spare Rome.

86, 140, 226

As the Roman Empire crumbled, the two halves of the Empire began to feel tension. As the Empire split, language became a problem as the west adopted Latin and the east favored Greek. There were several issues that directly affected the Church. The first issue was the papacy. The west had always seen the Bishop of Rome, the Pope, as the head of the Bishops, while the east saw the Bishop of Rome as merely symbolic. Another issue that divided the Church in the west and east was the version of the Creed used.

123, 139c, 142, 149b, 149c, 150–151, 157, 187, 318


St. Augustine of Hippo – During this era of councils there were many men who fought for the truth even when it caused troubles for them. One such man is St. Augustine of Hippo. St. Augustine was not always such a holy man. As a young adult he led a very wild life. Through the intercession of his mother, St. Monica, God brought St. Augustine to the Catholic faith. St. Augustine eventually became the Bishop of Hippo in modern day Africa. He wrote many documents in defense of the Church and was known for his homilies. He is honored as a Doctor of the Church. Doctors of the Church are Saints who have lived holy lives and made great contributions to the faith through their writing and/or preaching. We celebrate his feast day on August 28th. St. Augustine lived his missionary call through his preaching and writing. He would give wonderful homilies which inspired many to join the Church.

141, 154 List of Saints for Kids; Doctors of the Church; Saint Augustine and the Trinity

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