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Monsignor Costigan visited our class at my request last night.  Originally, the class was to be focused on the Sacrament of Holy Orders. However, I thought it would be more interesting to have Monsignor to come and talk about his life as a priest and the priesthood in general, and to answer questions.

He did a great job and the class seemed genuinely interested. There were a TON of questions. After a series of questions focused on the “seal of the confessional,” I did need to ask the class to broaden out their questions. Fifth graders love to come up with convoluted “what if…” scenarios that sometimes need to be reined in.

Next week will be our last traditional class period, and we will cover the Sacrament of Matrimony. This is usually an interesting class with lots of questions and discussion. I’m looking forward to it.

We will cap off the CCD year with a final class on April 29. We will have a “teaching Baptism.” This will involve all or nearly all grades. We will have a full-scale baptism of the infant daughter of one of our parish families, and Monsignor will explain each of the prayers and actions as he proceeds. We did this several years ago and it was a big success. We will finish up with some kind of reception/refreshments. Should be fun.

We’re almost home, parents. The barn is in sight. Don’t give up on us now. A few of our “regulars” were absent last night, and we missed them. It’s been three weeks since our last regular class. We had our CCD Penance service last week. It went very well and I think the students who were there thought it was a rewarding and meaningful experience.  In our year-long coverage of the Sacraments, we are five down and two to go. We covered #5 yesterday, Anointing of the Sick.

We began by comparing the Sacrament of today with the old, “Last Rites” or Extreme Unction of yesteryear. It is no longer administered to just those on their death bed, but the grace of the Sacrament can benefit anyone who is sick, undergoing surgery or any other health issue. We talked a little about the mind-body-spirit connection. Anointing of the Sick is not faith-healing and is not intended to cure a person’s ailment. It can give a person a sense of peace that may allow their body to heal better.

We discussed who can and should receive the Sacrament, and when and where it is administered.

We had one student read a blow-by-blow description of the way the Sacrament is administered while two other students role-played a priest and a sick person. (We actually used some olive oil as chrism and they did NOT make a mess of it!)

We finished with the end of the chapter quiz and discussed the answers.  And as always, we asked each student to cite one thing they learned during the class and rewarded them with a chocolate chip cookie.

We’re hitting the home stretch of the CCD year. We will have no class next week (March 18) due to St Patrick’s Day week. We’ll be back March 25 with the CCD Penance Service. Please note – students’ families are most welcome to join this service. We will meet, as usual, in the classroom and walk over to the church as a group. If parents do not stay for the service, the students can be picked up in the gym at the school.

Last night’s class was a good one, but Mrs. Rudolphi and I can tell spring is in the air. The class was not ill-behaved. They were mostly engaged, but it took a little more work to keep them focused. They love the group or role-playing exercises but we didn’t have one in last night’s class None the less, we struggled onward.

Our focus was to finish the Sacrament of Reconciliation (Penance, Confession.) We picked up on last week’s lesson of forgiveness and the four elements of any forgiveness process, and connected them to the four key elements of Reconciliation.

  • Admit the wrongdoing. / Confess sins.
  • Feel and express regret or sorrow. / Act of Contrition
  • Forgiveness / Absolution
  • Some make-up or reparation / penance

Other key points of discussion were:

–We discussed our conscience and how we should know right from wrong. We included instruction from parents and teachers, the Commandments and experience.

–There is no sin so great that God will not forgive you, if you are sincerely sorry and ask for his forgiveness.

— You should receive the Sacrament at least once a year, but can do so at any time, and should do so frequently.

–We discussed private confessions vs a Penance Service and also the time and place of private confessions at St. Peter’s.

–Should you feel an urgent need for forgiveness, you can call a priest any time, 24/7.

–The priest is bound to secrecy about what is confessed.

–We discussed avoiding people, places and things that lead (tempt) you to commit a sin. They seemed to get this concept. Several students freely admitted they had friends who were “trouble.”

We sent them home with a “cheat sheet” to help them prepare for the Penance Service. It includes some Commandments-based questions to assist with their examination of their conscience and the Act of Contrition. We encouraged them to think about it over the next two weeks and bring the sheet with them to the Penance Service.,

I talked with Monsignor Costigan last night about coming to talk with the class about Holy Orders and the priesthood in general. He is available on April 15, so we will flip-flop our last two classes. We will have Monsignor on April 15, and then cover the Sacrament of Matrimony on April 29.

Regarding the class on Matrimony, this occasionally can run afoul of things that may have happened or are happening in a student’s home life. (divorce, separation, etc.) Mrs. R and I try to deal with this with sensitivity, especially since we don’t know what we may stir up. If you have any concern, please give me a call and let’s chat. In nine previous years of teaching 5th grade CCD, I have not had any complaints from parents. Of course, you are always most welcome to come and sit in on the class.

We will finish up the year with an instructional Baptism in the church on April 29. We did this several years ago and it worked out very well. We will cap that evening with some sort of little reception/refreshments to send the students out the door with good wishes.

We had a very active and energetic class last night. It was fun. I hope our students also learned something.

This was the first of two classes on the Sacrament of Reconciliation (aka Penance, Confession) that will prepare the students for the CCD Penance Service on March 25. We focused last night on the concept of forgiveness and the four steps necessary for any forgiveness process, whether it be in a confessional or just between two friends.

1.) Admission/Confession – The doer must admit to the offense.
2.) Contrition/Sorrow – The doer must feel and express sorrow for the offense.
3.) Forgiveness – The injured party accepts the apology and forgives the doer.
4.) Reparation/Pay-Back – The doer usually does something to make up for the offense. Of course in the Sacrament, this is the penance.

We had the students pair up with a partner and come up with some kind of story that involved one student committing some act that angered the second student. We then walked them through the forgiveness process.

The students were very creative and really got into the exercise. One pair of girls (Marlee and Hannah) had scripted out an elaborate skit and needed no encouragement or prompting at all. They were great! In several cases, the process bogged down because one of the students would not admit to the offense, express sincere regret or provide the forgiveness. This actually worked out very well. We used these cases to show how the forgiveness process breaks down if one party or the other does not follow through.

Next week, we will continue on this general subject, but we will get more into the specifics of the Sacrament of Reconciliation, including preparation for the Sacrament.

Remember, there will be no class on March 18. We will be back full-speed with the Penance Service on March 25.

We had a fun class last night. At least Mrs. Rudolphi and I enjoyed it.

We finished up our coverage of the Ten Commandments with a group exercise that the students really seemed to get into. You may recall that last week, we sent them off with a homework assignment. Their task was to imagine that Moses went back up Mt. Sinai and asked God for a second set of commandments, this time focused on issues relevant to 5th graders. They were to imagine they were God and to come up with those 5th grader Commandments.

We broke the class into four groups of 3-5 students and gave each group a poster board and marker. We have them 15 minutes to come up with as many Commandments as they could. They went to work diligently. They were a little rowdy and noisy, but each group produced very nice, well thought-out Commandments. We had each group present their work product to the rest of the class, and I quizzed them a little on what they had developed.

It is our goal each week to try to get the students to actually think and not just listen or read. Hopefully, something they have to think or do themselves, will be more likely to stick with them after they leave the room. That is the idea behind an exercise like that. Mrs. R and I cannot emphasize enough how happy we are that the students in this class are generally behaved, engaged and manageable. We don’t expect them to be perfect little angels, and they are not. They can be a little chatty and sometimes boisterous. But we do not have any students who are actively trying to sabotage what we are trying to do, and that is not always the case. The up-side for the students is, that because of their behavior, we are able to present activities like the one last night, which they seem to find interesting and enjoy. You can’t do that if you are worried about who is setting the trash can on fire. (Just kidding.)

We had only about 20 minutes left in the class period when we finished the Commandments exercise, not enough time to even start another lesson. Our opening prayer was the Lord’s Prayer and that gave me an idea. After a quick consult with Mrs. R, we decided to walk the class through the Lord’s Prayer and help them understand what they are actually saying to God when they recite the prayer. As we suspected, the entire class admitted that they didn’t understand the prayer, and they simply recited the prayer because they had memorized it. We took each line, analyzed it and discussed it. Again, they were very engaged and seemed to develop some understanding through the process.

We have no class for the next two weeks, but there are Wednesday evening activities to which we encouraged the students to ask their parents to bring them. Next week is Ash Wednesday. Mass and ashes at 7:00 pm. The following week is the Book of Kells program. Information is available here.

When we come back on March 4th we will begin a two-week lesson on the Sacrament of Reconciliation and prepare the students for the CCD Penance Service on March 25.

Sorry for the late posting. This past week has just been busy.

We had a pretty good class last week. We covered the last seven Commandments. We had a lively and interesting discussion. How can you not have fun when the subjects include lying, cheating, stealing and killing?

We spent a fair amount of time discussing the fourth “Honor your father and mother” Commandment. We discussed the importance of that Commandment when parents become older and may become dependent upon their children.

As always, the concept of coveting was a new one for the students. They seemed to catch on to it however.

“Bearing false witness” was a little obscure until we talked about it for a while. We asked and discussed whether gossip would be covered by that Commandment.

The concept of adultery is always one we try to handle with some delicacy. We used it to confirm the sanctity of marriage. We also pointed out that there are two Commandments that address the sin. The sixth prohibits it on the part of one of the partners in the marriage. The ninth prohibits a third party outside the marriage from getting between the couple.

I left them with a homework assignment. I asked them to imagine that Moses came back down Mt. Sinai with a second set of commandments specifically targeted towards fifth graders. I asked them to think of what some of those commandments might be. This week, we will break the class into small groups and ask them to create their own stone tablets (poster boards and markers) with the fifth grade Commandments. We will also discuss the upcoming season of Lent.

As expected we have a schedule change, and I think it will be for the better. We will have a Penance Service specifically for the 3-8 grade CCD students and their families on Wednesday, March 25.

Also, for our last class on April 29, we will have a real, live Baptism. One of our parish families has agreed to have their child baptized on a Wednesday night with the entire CCD group in attendance. (The baby is the same child who played the Baby Jesus at the Christmas Pageant. She will be back for an encore performance.) We did this several years ago, and it turned out great. Monsignor Costigan talked his way through the ceremony and explained each step and its meaning. This is a “must see” event.

So here is the schedule for the remainder of the year.

Feb 11 – Finish Commandments and Ch 20 Lent
Feb 18 – No Class –Ash Wednesday
Feb 25 – No Class — Book of Kells Program
March 4 – Ch 15 Healing
March 11 –Ch 16 Reconciliation
March 18 – No class
March 25 – Penance Service in the church
April 1 — Ch 18 Anointing of the Sick
April 8 – No Class
April 15 — Ch 24 Matrimony
April 22 – Holy orders
April 29 – Baptism Ceremony in the church

I thought we had a good class on Wednesday, but maybe not the “home run” we are always striving for.

The topic of discussion was the Ten Commandments. We began by distributing a sheet with the Commandments listed, and a photocopy of one of the chapters in Exodus where they are presented. We gave the class some of the background surrounding the story of the Israelites escape from Egypt, Moses, Mount Sinai and the stone tablets. Then we had six students read the biblical passage.

During this exercise and a subsequent discussion about taking the Lord’s name in vain, some of the children were very cute. The student assigned to read the passage with the tenth commandment stopped short. The passage contained the word “ass,” referring to an animal. He looked at me and said, “I’m not allowed to say that word.” I told him in that a context, the word referred to a donkey and it was OK to say it. As expected, it produced a round of giggles from the rest of the students. Likewise, during our discussion of using the Lord’s name, I had to grant them a “special exemption” so we could use examples and have a discussion.

We then discussed the first three commandments. We discussed what “false Gods” meant in the context of the Exodus story. However, we also brought the concept forward to the 21st century. We broke the class into three groups and asked them to brainstorm a list of false Gods in modern times — for both adults and children. We defined modern false gods as anything in life that can become more important than God, or can get between a person and God. As an example and to start the process, I suggested that for many people, money is a false god. The students caught on to the concept very quickly and all three groups produce very interesting and thought provoking lists. If they got nothing else out of the class, I hope that is one concept that will stick with them.

We then progressed into a discussion of misusing God’s name and of keeping the Sabbath. We spent some time discussing why most Christians celebrate the Sabbath on the first day of the week rather than the seventh.

All and all, it was a pretty successful class. Next week, we will tackle the remaining seven Commandments, and have the class develop a set of Commandments for modern-day 5th graders.

What follows below is simply a repetition of the email I sent out earlier this morning. If you have already read it, then this will be redundant.

Mrs. Hubert, Mrs. Rudolphi and I share a concern we think we should bring to your attention.

After class, some of our children have been heading out to meet their rides in the parking lot. This is difficult for us to control. In addition to sorting through the mild chaos of dismissal, frequently the children are being “picked up” by an older sibling. We don’t know if they are going to meet a parent in another classroom or in the parking lot.

We would like to strongly discourage this practice. The school parking lot is not a safe place for unaccompanied children. This is especially true during this time of year, when it is dark, and even more so when there is another activity happening at the school like there was this week.

So we would like to ask you, please, to come into the school building to pick up your child. Please do not ask them to meet you in the parking lot. If you have a situation where that is difficult (sleeping baby, older grandparent driver or whatever), just let us know, or instruct your child to tell us. Mrs. Rudolphi or I will be happy to walk your child (children) to your car. Seriously. We don’t mind.

Thank you very much for your cooperation on this.

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