Lit Level 4- Heat

Question 1- Hell

Shane was 17 years old. When he became conscious he found himself in complete darkness, pitch-black. He had no idea where he was. He pulled himself up on his knees and started groping with his hands, but they didn’t make contact with anything. The only sound he could hear was his own breathing. “Where am I? Hello … HELLO …”

Nothing. He felt absolute terror as the realization seized him that he was alone – completely ALONE. He didn’t know how or why my mind jumped to it, but his next thought was, “I am dead; I’m in hell!” Alone, isolated – forever. Without any forethought, he found himself screaming, “Help! HELP me! HEEEEELLLP me!”

The darkness and isolation was suddenly interrupted by a thud and burst of light to his left — his younger brother stood silhouetted in the doorway of his bedroom, “Shane, what’s wrong?!”

Overwhelmed by embarrassment and adrenaline, Shane shouted “Get out!” and threw himself back down on the bed. Snapping back to reality, he lay in the darkness of his basement-level bedroom, embarrassed but grateful. “I’m not in hell; I’m not in Hell. Thank you God.”

“So there it is,” he admits to friends, “not the most embarrassing moment of my life, but hands-down the most frightening. For the span of almost a minute I thought I would spend eternity alone; and there couldn’t possibly be anything worse. Most people are familiar with Jesus comparing hell to the valley (Gehenna) where they burned trash outside of Jerusalem (see Mt. 5:22, 29; 10:28); but my understanding of hell had clearly been shaped by another image Jesus used – that of being ‘thrown into the outer darkness where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth (Mt. 8:12).”

Heaven and hell – it’s all about relationship, about presence. If we are united to God at the moment that our connection to this world is severed, then we will enjoy Him forever. But if we are spiritually at a distance from God, then once this world melts away … we will be forever cut off. Shane psychologically tasted that for a minute, and it was the most horrific experience of his life.

Reflection Questions

  1. Why would being absolutely alone be so terrifying?
  2. What would you consider the most frightening, or “hellish,” experience of your life?
  3. Do you think of heaven and hell in terms of relationship with God or in a more mechanical way?(“If I do this, then I’ll go to heaven; but if I do this, then I’ll go to hell.”)

Watch

YOUCAT

Read points 53, 151, 161-62, and 315-317 from your YOUCAT including all of the citations, quotes, and definitions on the side columns. When you are finished, reflect on the following questions:

  1. What does having a free will have to do with the reality of hell?
  2. What kinds of actions (sins) are an outright rejection of God and a refusal to live in relationship with him?
  3. Who condemns a person to hell?

Journal

Respond to the following prompt with as much detail as you feel necessary. Make sure you quote at least one sentence from the YOUCAT in your response.

Your best friend tells you that she cannot believe a good and loving God would ever condemn anyone to hell. Explain to her why condemnation really has nothing to do with it.

Question 2- Purgatory

Jen was a stress eater. She knew she had a problem but, since she was such an active athlete in several sports throughout high school, she never had an issue as her body remained thin and her metabolism quite active.

It wasn’t until about 5 weeks into college that realized her bad habit of eating junk food was affecting her negatively. She no longer played sports as much because she didn’t make the division 1 team. She was also very busy with her pre-nursing studies that she never stopped to think about how her diet was making her grow. She had heard of the freshmen 15, but she packed on 40 extra pounds before coming home for Christmas break.

When she saw all of the delicious looking Christmas sweets, her mom looked at her and said, “Jen, honey, you might want to think twice about eating those cookies. I’m worried about you.”

Reflection Questions

  1. Why was Jen’s mom worried about her?
  2. Have you tried to give up a bad habit? 
  3. Were you able to just drop it, or did it take several tries and a lot of work?
  4. Did you need to ask anyone for help?
  5. What behaviors or habits are part of your life today that you want to change?

Watch

YOUCAT

Read points 159-60 from your YOUCAT including all of the citations, quotes, and definitions on the side columns. When you are finished, reflect on the following questions:

  1. If sinful choices flow not from our bodies but from our hearts/souls, and it is the soul that is meant to experience heaven, then doesn’t some kind of purification have to occur?
  2. What passages of Scripture lend support to the Catholic belief in purgatory?
  3. How do we assist those experiencing purgatory?

Journal

Answer the following question with as much detail as you feel necessary.  Make sure you quote at least one sentence from points 159-60 in your response.

Your friend, a fellow Christian from another denomination, insists that there is no such thing as purgatory, that it has no basis in Scripture. Given what you have read in YOUCAT…

Explain why purgatory must exist and how it is simply an unrecognized element in your friend’s belief that we can “go to heaven.”

Question 3- Heaven

You lived in complete darkness. Your entire world was that wet, increasingly cramped space inside your mother’s womb. And you couldn’t even begin to imagine that there was an entire world, an entire planet, awaiting you outside. You lived beneath your mother’s heart, exposed to its constant rhythm, and yet you had never seen her face! You grew to recognize her voice, but your mind hadn’t developed to the point of being able to understand any of her words.

And your birth – talk about TRAUMA! All of that amniotic fluid you had been swimming in was gone in an instant. Your head was compacted and squeezed through the birth canal. The light; the cold; that humiliating slap on the butt! But you finally entered the real world, finally got that chance to see mom face-to-face, to eat through your mouth instead of your belly button, and a million other experiences that were impossible to conceive of from the darkness of the womb.

Turns out that was just the warm-up; you and I are still in utero, and the REAL world awaiting us “outside” remains inconceivable. We’re going to get the chance to enter it though; and just like before, we don’t have a clue when. This time around though, we get to participate in our own growth process. Each “yes” to God allows our spiritual “organs” to develop a bit more. The Prayer of St. Francis is right on the money: “It is in dying that we are born to eternal life.”

Reflection Questions

  1. Have you tried to imagine your own time in the womb?
  2. What makes it so difficult?
  3. Do you agree or disagree that there is a similarity between the processes of birth and death? Please explain.

Watch

YOUCAT

Read points 52, 157-58, and 285 from your YOUCAT including all of the citations, quotes, and definitions on the side columns. When you are finished, reflect on the following questions:

  1. Is heaven a place?
  2. What makes it possible for us to enjoy heaven?
  3. How does our Faith define “happiness”?

 Journal

Answer the following question with as much detail as you feel necessary.  Make sure you quote at least one sentence from the YOUCAT in your response.

Give your best explanation of heaven.

Question 4- How Does One Become a Canonized Saint?

When Sean graduated school and took a job, it was very intimidating.  He had difficult clients and difficult co-workers.  Every day was a struggle and, to be blunt, he came to hate his work.  You know that feeling of dread you get on a Sunday night, knowing you have to return to school the next day?  That was him, every night.  After four years of that, you can imagine how low he felt.  Throughout those years he prayed and maintained his relationship with God, but it didn’t seem to “fix” the way he felt about work.

Then came that vacation when he picked up a book about St. Therese of Lisieux and the many miracles experienced by people who asked her to pray for them. He reached out to Therese and the Blessed Mother and asked them to pray about his work situation. And you know what? When vacation ended and he went back to work – his anxiety was gone! The job was still challenging, but he was putting his trust in God in a completely new way and he no longer went to bed dreading the next day. A year later a transfer opened up – same job, but a new location. That was eleven years ago, and now there is nowhere else he would want to be.

When Sean underwent that almost instantaneous change in his anxiety level, he knew that it was because the Blessed Mother and Therese of Lisieux had been praying for him. He had been close to the Blessed Mother for many years, but now he felt a special connection to Therese as well. God had turned Sean’s struggle into an opportunity to introduce him to another of his sisters in heaven. Unless he had been in need of her prayers, he would not have reached out to Therese. He went on to read her autobiography, Story of a Soul.  He was amazed to read about Therese’s “little way” to sainthood; she was convinced that just by living our everyday lives, God could turn anyone into a saint.  Therese also inspired him to begin reading Teresa of Avila and John of the Cross, two of the saints who inspired her so greatly.

Reflection Questions

  1. Have you ever made a new friend in the course of trying to solve a problem?
  2. Do you or any of your family have a saint to whom you are especially devoted? Why?
  3. If so, do you have a story about answered prayer?

Watch

YOUCAT

Read points 146, 339, 342, and 497 from your YOUCAT including all of the citations, quotes, and definitions on the side columns. When you are finished, reflect on the following questions:

  1. How does a person become a saint?  What makes it possible?
  2. Who is called to become a saint?
  3. How do the saints in heaven help us?

Journal

Answer the following question with as much detail as you feel necessary.  Make sure you quote at least one sentence from the YOUCAT  in your response.

Who comes to mind when you hear the word “saint”?  For what do you need this saint to intercede for you?

Question 5- How Do I Pray Correctly?

John’s daughter has no problem talking to him. She talks to him at the dinner table, in the car, while they’re watching t.v., and when he tucks her in at night. If John is in the shower then she is talking to him through the bathroom door; she’ll even talk to him when he is laying on the couch, trying to take a well-deserved nap. But that is fine by John, because he absolutely adores her.

He does not mind if she talks to him in a silly voice, or in a halting voice through tears. He always wants to hear what she has to say. Some of his favorite “talks” are the one when she climbs onto his lap and neither of them says a word.

The only time John doesn’t enjoy their talks are those rare times when his daughter is mad because he said “no” to a request, and she then speaks to him as if she was denied something that she was owed. He still of course loves her unconditionally; but he doesn’t enjoy those moments.

Reflection Questions

  1. Think of five different settings or ways you have communicated with family and friends.
  2. Who are you most at ease talking with, and why?
  3. How does your posture and body language change from when you are joking to when you need to ask someone for help?

Watch

YOUCAT

  1. Read points 469-70, 490-501, and 514 from your YOUCAT including all of the citations, quotes, and definitions on the side columns. When you are finished, reflect on the following questions:
  2. In what way is prayer the evidence of a relationship with God?
  3. Where can you turn in the Bible to locate prayers that you can use?
  4. What role does the Holy Spirit play in our prayer lives?
  5. Although we can and should pray anywhere and everywhere, why do we Catholics seek the Lord especially within our churches?
  6. Why do we pray the Our Father so frequently?

Journal

Answer the following question with as much detail as you feel necessary.  Make sure you quote at least one sentence from the YOUCAT in your response.

What times of the day do you pray? Explain what your prayer consists of at each of those times.

Question 6- How Do I Meditate?

When Juan first heard his Catholic teachers talk about meditation, he thought he knew what they were talking about: sitting cross-legged, chanting a sound over and over, as he tried to empty his mind.  As he listened however, he discovered that what he had been picturing was Buddhist meditation.  Christian meditation, far from emptying the mind, was about training it, focusing it, on Christ and his life and teaching.  “Alright, how do I do that?” thought Juan. “I get distracted pretty easily.”

Juan’s answer came when he picked up a book about Mother Angelica, the feisty, elderly nun who founded the EWTN television and radio network. “Don’t tell me you don’t know how to meditate,” Angelica told her listeners. “When you get angry with someone you can meditate on that for at least half a day, can’t you? … You remember what the other one said and then you add more to it … In every meditation you must do two things: you must use your memory (to express what you already know) and you must use your imagination” (Raymond Arroyo’s  Mother Angelica’s Private and Pithy Lessons From The Scriptures, p.3). 

“If that’s meditation,” Juan told himself, “then I know I can do that.” He started reading little portions from the New Testament, praying for the Spirit to let him understand what God wanted to say to him through the passage. He read a passage (including the study notes about it in the margins of his Bible) and then he tried to imagine it like a movie in his mind, thinking about what was said and asking God questions about it. 

He had a very exciting realization when he was meditating on the first chapter of Acts of the Apostles:  Juan read how for the nine days between Jesus’ ascension and Pentecost, the apostles prayed with the Blessed Mother and many of Jesus’ other disciples.  He read how Peter proposed that they find a man to succeed Judas (who had committed suicide) as an apostle, and how Peter was moved to make his proposal through meditating upon the Psalms.  Peter meditated on Scripture (the Psalms), while spending time in prayer with the Blessed Mother – that was how Peter was made ready for the Holy Spirit’s activity on the day of Pentecost. Juan suddenly realized that we today follow Peter’s example of meditating on Scripture while praying with Mary when we pray the Rosary. “No wonder the popes and the saints are always telling us to pray the Rosary; that’s how the apostles got ready for Pentecost! Come Holy Spirit.”

Reflection Questions

  1. Did you realize that the definition of “meditation” changed from one religion to another?
  2. Have you engaged in Christian meditation without even realizing it?
  3. Can you point to a moment of insight that you had while meditating?
  4. What kind of environment do you think aids a person in meditation?

Watch

YOUCAT

Read points 502-506 from your YOUCAT including all of the citations, quotes, and definitions on the side columns. When you are finished, reflect on the following questions:

  1. Where do we look to find material to meditate upon?
  2. Should we expect certain emotions when meditating?
  3. How might God speak to us during meditation?
  4. Why is perseverance in prayer so important?

 Journal

Answer the following question with as much detail as you feel necessary.  Make sure you quote at least one sentence from the YOUCAT  in your response. Using the information you have read on Christian meditation, open your Bible to either Luke 22:39-46 (Jesus’ agony in Garden of Gethsemane) or John 19:23-28 (Jesus’ crucifixion); and engage in meditation for at least 7 minutes. 

Share the sequence of thoughts you had and any realizations you reached while meditating on one of the scripture passages above.

Question 7- What Is Contemplative Prayer?

Some days stay with you, even years later. Barb was one of Jack’s high school girlfriends, and shortly before they went off to college they spent a long, relaxing day together. They had an early lunch out and then spent hours at the pool. Their next stop was Jack’s parent’s house for dinner. By the time they got there however, all those hours in the sun had taken a toll on Jack; his skin was red and he felt completely exhausted.

Once inside he found the couch so that he could sit and rest while his mom finished making dinner. Barb sat down next to him and wrapped her arms around him. There he was – in the arms of this beautiful, insightful young woman that he had come to believe cared about him deeply. Neither Jack nor Barb said a word; there was no need to. He spent those few minutes before dinner resting in her arms and feeling completely content – sunburn and all.

Reflection Questions

  1. Have you ever been so at ease with someone else that there was no need to speak?
  2. What does it take to arrive at the level of intimacy with someone?

Watch

YOUCAT

  1. What other names are used for contemplative prayer?
  2. Why is contemplative prayer a gift that it may take a lifetime to be ready to receive?
  3. Why do you think that the majority of people never receive it?

Journal

Answer the following question with as much detail as you feel necessary. Make sure you quote at least one sentence from the YOUCAT in your response. The prayer of contemplation is pure gift on God’s part; but it is a gift we can dispose ourselves to receive.

Explain what steps you can take to make yourself more ready to receive contemplative prayer. (You may want to review what we have already studied about prayer.)

Question 8- How Do I Pray the Rosary?

Preston had had a horrible day, but he didn’t want to trouble anyone with his problems.  A large group of relatives were coming over for a celebration, and Preston didn’t want to bring anyone down. He plastered a smile on his face and did his best to join in the fun. Halfway through the evening he found himself alone in the kitchen with his mother. In a low voice she asked him, “What’s wrong?”

“I’m fine mom; everything is okay.”

“No, I can tell something is wrong. What’s going on?”

“Oh, it was rough day at work,” Preston admitted, “but I didn’t want anyone to know. Have I been a ‘downer’?” he asked.

“Not at all sweetie; I’m sure that no one else picked up on it … but I could tell. I can always tell.”

Reflection Questions

  1. Do you share a deep, even unspoken, connection with your mother?
  2. Do you have a similar connection with someone else?
  3. How do you think that kind of bond is formed?

Watch

YOUCAT

Read points 85, 147-49, and 479-81 from your YOUCAT including all of the citations, quotes, and definitions on the side columns. When you are finished, reflect on the following questions:

  1. What is the basis for the honor we show Mary?
  2. Does the Bible show Mary interceding for our (the Church’s) needs?
  3. Where did the Hail Mary prayer come from?
  4. How does the Rosary bring the gospel story to us in miniature?
  5. What value can you see in praying the Hail Mary (Ave Maria in Latin) out loud as you think about the events recorded in the four gospels?

Journey

Answer the following question with as much detail as you feel necessary. Make sure you quote at least one sentence from the YOUCATin your response.

Explain how invoking the intercession of the saints, vocal prayer, and meditation come together in the praying of the Rosary.

Question 9- What is a Dogma?

Pierre is an 18 year-old student from Africa who is applying to colleges in the United States. He is having difficulty completing the application because he is unfamiliar with the American grading system. The school is requesting that he send his high school transcripts and his scores from the SAT and ACT, but the grades he earned were different than the ones the university is expecting and he has not taken either the SAT or ACT because he has no way of completing it while in his country.

He decided to make a long distance phone call to the university to clarify what their expectations were. As he speaks, the administrator informs him that without translated transcripts and a high score on the ACT or SAT, he is unable to show the university that he is smart enough to maintain a good grade point average if he were to attend. Therefore, if he couldn’t provide the required information, he would not be accepted.

Reflect

  1. Put yourself in Pierre’s shoes. Why is he so confused?
  2. Put yourself in the university administrator’s shoes. Why would they be hesitant to accept Pierre as a student?
  3. Why is it important to prove that you are able to do something before you do it?
  4. Why is it necessary to prove something as true in order to believe it?

Watch

YOUCAT

Read points 83 and 143 from your YOUCAT including all of the citations, quotes, and definitions on the side columns. When you are finished, reflect on the following questions:

  1. What is the difference between a Dogma and a religious practice?
  2. How does the YOUCAT define the word Dogma?
  3. What are some Dogmas that the Catholic Church has declared?
  4. What is “Papal Infallibility”?

Journal

Answer the following question with as much detail as you feel necessary.  Make sure you quote at least one sentence from points 83 and/or 143 in your response.

What is a Dogma?

Level 4: Final Reflection

You’ve read and thought about the intimacy that God wants to have with us, both in this life and eternity, and now it’s time to start deepening that intimacy in prayer.

To complete level 4, create your own daily prayer regimen. As a young Jewish man, Jesus prayed formally at least three times a day – morning, noon, evening. We want to challenge you to do the same; but instead of noon, how about in the afternoon after you’ve finished school or work?  Each of the times doesn’t need to be any longer than 5 minutes to begin (as you stay with it, don’t be surprised if the times begin to lengthen on their own). Somewhere in your three times of prayer, include the following elements:

  • vocal prayer
  • the Our Father
  • Scripture
  • meditation
  • a decade of the Rosary
  • speaking to God conversationally
  • thanksgiving
  • petition – asking help for yourself and others

When you keep regular times of prayer throughout the day, you will very likely find yourself talking to God spontaneously at other times of the day as well.  It’s a relationship that evolves over time; the saints didn’t become experts at prayer overnight.  Two important principles to keep in mind:

“The holy Spirit of Jesus is in us, and he is speaking through us when we pray.” ~ YOUCAT 496

“Someone who does not pray regularly will soon not pray at all” ~ YOUCAT 499

After you have been at your prayer regimen for a week, write a couple of bullet points in your journal as well as a short description telling us your thoughts so far.