Faith and Moral Development: Ages 12-18 – Study Questions

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Introduction to Montessori’s Sensitive Periods

Video Length: 10:35

Think of something you have done or learned as an adult that required you to progress through these four stages of development (albeit much more quickly than a developing child!). Perhaps it was in learning a new skill, or in training for a new job, and so on.

Discuss with the group how the concrete, cosmic, cultural, and constructive stages each managed to play out in your learning process.

Segment One: A Social Age

Video Length: 8:56

This age is defined by its sociability and the adolescent’s need to belong to a group, to be in a society. Dr. O’Shea made the striking point that if adolescents lack community with their peers, they begin to feel useless, for they are meant to share their strengths, weaknesses, and interests with one another, and strive toward a common goal together.

We invite you to reflect on the opportunities provided for those in your care. What do these opportunities for community among adolescents look like? How do the adolescents receive them? Is there something that each individual takes an interest in? Do you see any need for improvement in what is offered? Please share with the group.

Segment Two: Applying the Principle of Subsidiarity

Video Length: 10:38

A key focus of this segment was the principle of subsidiarity — namely, that we should not do for someone what he or she is perfectly capable of doing. In other words, Dr. O’Shea is stressing the point that a growing independence is a facet of adolescence, and as the parents, teachers, catechists, and so on in their lives, we can help them gain independence and take ownership of their actions in a healthy way.

Think back to an interaction you recently had with a young person in which, in light of this video, you now realize you were a little over-bearing or met the adolescent’s need for independence with resistance. Of course, as Dr. O’Shea mentioned, there are indeed certain activities and choices that we can never condone among the teens in our care, such as drugs, drinking, promiscuous behavior, or anything illegal. Think, rather, about a choice the adolescent desired to make on his/her own, or an activity he or she wanted to participate in, that you resisted or acted strongly against. How might you handle that interaction differently, in light of this video? Share a few thoughts with your group.

Segment Three: Confronting the Dilemmas of Life

Video Length: 10:20

Dr. O’Shea analyzes the adolescent’s need and readiness to confront the dilemmas of life and to begin forming his or her own opinion of the world. As with children even before they hit adolescence, it is imperative that we do not always give them the answers. It is by providing them with the tools to develop their answers, and perhaps offering some guidance and direction, that we help children and adolescents grow and take ownership of their beliefs.

Write about your experience of observing the adolescent odyssey. Given the particular age(s) with which you work, what questions do you see — or sense — them asking? What aspect of the world are they wrestling with and trying to understand for themselves?

Next, consider what passages from Scripture or the Catechism of the Catholic Church, or what book or film you could invite the adolescents to explore that might help lead them to the truth they’re seeking in this area. Share one or two ideas with the group, as well as why you think these particular passages or resources would help guide the adolescents toward truth in the area they are questioning.

Segment Four: The Odyssey of the Adolescent

Video Length: 3:56

Both the nurturing role characteristic of mothers, and the role of demanding that a person face the world on his/her own two feet (thereby exercising freedom and independence) characteristic of fathers, are necessary for the upbringing of an adolescent. We see often in Scripture evidence of God playing both of these roles in our lives. He loves and nurtures us, showing us mercy when we least deserve it. Yet, He also calls us to go out into the world, exercising the freedom and independence He has given us, with the desire that we will, ultimately, choose to love Him in return.

Spend 10–15 minutes reflecting on the story of Bartimaeus receiving his sight in Mark 10:46–52. As you read, notice the way Jesus nurtures Bartimaeus, loving him enough to heal him, despite others rebuking the man. Then, see how Jesus tells him to “Go your way” (Mark 10:52), thereby sending him out to live in freedom, no longer bound by his blindness. What does Bartimaeus then do? He “follows [Jesus] on the way” (Mark 10:52).

Bartimaeus experiences the nurturing love of our Lord, as well as the sending forth to face the world, both of which the adolescents in our care need. He then does what we hope for each adolescent: He uses his freedom to choose to follow Jesus. Discuss how you can give the adolescents in your care both the nurturing and the sending forth they need?

Segment Five: The Need to Share Stories

Video Length: 7:39

Dr. O’Shea emphasizes the need for young people to share their stories with each other, because it is through this that they are able to voice aloud their thoughts and views and compare them to another’s. By sharing their stories, which often happens in the context of sharing experiences (whether during a big event like World Youth Day, or simply over a cup of coffee), adolescents begin to figure out who they are and what they are called to be.

Whatever our role with adolescents is, we can create experiences in which young people make memories, build relationships, and face challenges that encourage growth, giving them the opportunity to share stories with one another and grow together.

Come up with at least one idea for an experience you could create for the young people in your care. It need not be anything as extravagant as World Youth Day. It could be something simpler, such as a particular project that would benefit their school, or going on a retreat, or doing a community service project together, for example. Whatever the activity is, it should create an opportunity for them to grow, to lean on one another, to share in some challenge.

Then, discuss one moral principle that you would hope to convey to the young people through this experience. Perhaps you would like for them to learn what it means to make a gift of themselves to another, or see the value of selflessness, or of recognizing the dignity of individuals society often rejects.

Segment Six: An Age of Mystifying Energy

Video Length: 6:03

Dr. O’Shea observes in this final segment that adolescence is a period of boundless energy, which sustains the spirit of adventure that marks the journey of self-discovery. He reminds us that the goal of adolescents is two-fold: to discover themselves and to discover God’s plan for their lives. As we all know, a journey requires a guide — and what could be more inspiring to an adolescent than the stories of young saints, just like them, who chose to love Jesus with all their hearts?

As a group, come up with a list of adolescent saints or saints that committed their lives to the Lord at a young age. For further research, Pope Francis, in his Apostolic Exhortation “Christ is Alive,” Christus Vivit , offers a list of young saints and blessed in paragraphs 51–62.

Discuss how you might be able to share these saints’ inspiring stories of self-discovery with the adolescents in your care.