Faith Portfolio

Kali Brasseur's Faith Portfolio

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My friend Walter committed suicide earlier this week.  My sister was very close to him.

I pray that I can help my friends see that I’m here for them.
I pray that I have the strength to support my friends.
I pray that I have the patience to be there for people who may need more than I can give.
I pray that I will never downplay or ignore someone’s feelings.
I pray that I will be thoughtful and compassionate.
I pray for those who feel so lost and lonely, those who feel depressed or anxious or confused, those who don’t know what to do anymore, those who feel they have no other choice, those who feel like there’s nothing left for them, those who feel like it won’t get better.
I pray that they find what they need.  


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Regarding the Third Extraordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops

The Vatican recently put out a list of questions that they wanted to hear answers about from Catholics, that can be seen here.  Our Bishop sent a letter home from mass in the New Year asking us to respond to him.  Here is my response that I sent to him:

I am a young Catholic woman who is twenty-five years old and is working at St. Patrick High School.  I attend mass regularly and am devout in my faith.  I would like to share my thoughts about how I believe that young people feel about the Church’s teachings.

1. The Diffusion of the Teachings on the Family in Sacred Scripture and the Church’s Magisterium

I would say that both within and outside of the church, teachings about homosexuality, divorce, and pre-marital intimacy are ignored or criticized.  Generally speaking, young people, whether they’re Catholic or not, tend to have a “live and let live” approach to life.  By this, I mean that most of us believe that if someone is not harming anyone by their actions then it is not for us to judge.  I believe (and I think that many agree with me) that LGBTQ people have a right to look for love, that people who are unhappily married should separate if it’s what it takes to be happy, and that people should get to know each other very well before taking a step like getting married.  All three of these things are widely accepted in our modern society, and people see the Church as being overly conservative and traditional, and unable to move forward with the times.

4. Pastoral Care in Certain Difficult Marital Situations

There are many people living in healthy and happy relationships that are not recognized by the church, including homosexual couples, heterosexual couples who don’t want to be married, re-married couples, and other non-traditional relationships like polyamorous groups.  I don’t think that most people in these relationships feel marginalized or suffer, although they might if they were among particularly traditional people.  I think most people are accepting of others.  I think the Church should be welcoming and kind to everyone, and should allow people to divorce.  Gay couples who have children are just like any other couples, and their children should be treated like any other children.  We should avoid using heteronormative language (instead of “How are your mom and dad?” say “How are your parents?”, etc), and we should avoid saying outdated things about gender roles (something I still hear at mass fairly often—things like “Women take care of the house” or “Men protect their families,” etc).

7. The Openness of the Married Couple to Life

I think that most people think that the Church’s stance on contraception is outdated.  It seems rational to most people that those who aren’t ready to have a child, shouldn’t have one, and so contraception should be used to make sure that when they have a child they’ll be able to take care of it.

If we want people to be more open to having children, we need to show young people that if they have children there will be support available to them.  Right now too much pressure is put on women who have children, and if they think they’re going to have to do it alone they won’t want to.  These young women need to know that they will have support: emotionally, physically, and monetarily.

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My bulletin board, displaying a crucifix and two Bible passages.

My bulletin board, displaying a crucifix and two Bible passages.

I think it’s important for students to be able to see symbols on a daily basis that our school is a Catholic school, and that because of this we are committed to creating a community in our school of people who care about one another and are compassionate toward all people.  I think that the crucifix is a reminder to students that in our classroom they are in a sacramental space, where faith is celebrated and we can share closeness with one another.


Our theme from last year and the year before, “Just Believe!”

I also have two Bible passages that share with the students the theme from this year and last year.  I really like this year’s theme, “Rooted in Faith,” and am looking forward to the transition during the three-year progression of this concept (GIFT: Growing in Faith Together).  I think it’s really important for students to see the connection there, and the metaphor of using nature (rooted, nurtured, growing) is an excellent way to depict our closeness to God, and the GIFT he’s given us by providing us with life.


Our theme this year, “Rooted in Faith”

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The Shack, by William P. Young


Over the Christmas Break, I read the novel The Shack, by William P. Young. This is a Christian novel about a man whose daughter had been kidnapped and murdered, and due to this horrific experience he had lost much of his faith in God.  One day, he receives a note from “Papa” asking him to meet.

When he arrives at the shack he meets three people, who turn out to be a manifestation of the Trinity: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.  The son, as expected, is Jesus Christ.  The Father is embodied by an elderly black woman, who calls herself Papa.  The Holy Spirit, the most elusive piece of the Holy Trinity, is represented by an Asian woman named Sarayu.

All three pieces of the Trinity help Mack come to terms with his daughter’s death, and for me it was a really interesting investigation into the different roles of God in our lives.  In particular, it’s interesting to see how the parts of the Holy Trinity interact, how they are one, and how they are different.  The Trinity is such an interesting concept, the idea that it three parts of a whole, that they are the same but different.  This exploration prompted me to consider what each part of the Trinity represented for me personally.

The Father is perhaps the easiest, because I think that it is the part many people imagine first when thinking of God.  It is the part that I often imagine while I’m praying.  The parental figure, but the way we saw our parents when we were younger: infallible, caring, full of love.  The woman that Mack meets in the book really does embody these qualities to me.  Someone who loves you, but also doesn’t take any nonsense.  A mix of strength and compassion.

Jesus is the human face of God, to me.  It is the part of God that we can relate to.  I can imagine Jesus making mistakes, and having friends, and emotions and desires.  I liked that in the book Jesus was represented by a middle-eastern carpenter, and is described as being average looking.  Firstly, because the white-washed Jesus figure is problematic in many ways and I was glad to see him accurately portrayed here in terms of race.  Secondly, because I do think that we sometimes idealize Jesus and think of him as perfect.  I don’t think that Jesus was perfect, I believe that by making his only son human God also made him fallible.  I like to imagine Jesus as a friend who I could relate to, whereas the Father and the Holy Spirit are more difficult to personify.

The Holy Spirit is an ethereal women named Sarayu, with whom Mack has the least connection.  This is indicative of the way that most Catholics probably feel about the Holy Spirit, as it is the part of the Trinity that we talk about the least at Church and amongst ourselves.  I remember from some of my classes that the Holy Spirit is often associated with breath or wind, and this motif was followed throughout the book.  She is a gardener, and we see her bringing life to plants the same way that the Holy Spirit breathes life into us.  I admit that my relationship to the Holy Spirit is something that I will have to continue contemplating.


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Celebrating Advent and Lent


My prayer table during Advent, 2013


I really enjoy the opportunity to share seasons like Advent and Lent with my students.  I am grateful to Lori for sharing daily reflections with us, and videos that we can share with our classes.  This past Advent, I tried to find something interesting about the history of the Church, Christmas or Advent to share with my students every day, on top of whatever Lori shared with us.  Lighting the candles and spending five minutes every morning discussing the importance of Advent, the waiting and the hope, was a highlight of my year.  

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The Flood is over and the ark has landed.  Noah lets all the animals out and says, “Go forth and multiply.”

A few months later, Noah decides to take a stroll and see how the animals are doing.  Everywhere he looks he finds baby animals. Everyone is doing fine except for one pair of little snakes.  “What’s the problem?” says Noah.
“Cut down some trees and let us live there,” say the snakes.

Noah follows their advice.  Several more weeks pass.  Noah checks on the snakes again.  Lots of little snakes, everybody is happy.  Noah asks, “Want to tell me how the trees helped?”

“Certainly,” say the snakes.  “We’re adders, so we need logs to multiply.”

Heather shared this joke with me the other day, and I promptly shared it with my class too.  Sometimes sharing lighter things like jokes can show students that faith is appropriate for every aspect of their life, and it doesn’t always have to be profound and serious.  It gives students a chance to see religion in a more relatable way.