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We had an interesting class last Wednesday. Our faith assessment exercise dealt with some basic Catholic teachings and practices.

The source of divine revelation? Scripture and tradition.

The Precepts of the Church. (ie: obligations as Catholics)

— Attendance at Mass on Sundays and Holy Days.

–Confession at least once a year

–Receive the Eucharist during Easter Season.

–Observe days of fast and abstinence

–Help provide for the needs of the Church (time, treasure and talent)

The follow up discussion was interesting. Many of these concepts were foreign to the students, so we had some “I didn’t know that!” responses.

The faith assessment also included a section on the Theological and Cardinal Virtues. We explained the differences and asked the students to place each virtue in the correct category.

Theological – Faith, Hope and Charity (or Love)

Cardinal – Prudence, Justice, Temperance and Fortitude

We had to define most of them and explained that the Theological Virtues are gifts from God and concern our relationship to God. The Cardinal Virtues were actually first conceived by Plato and concern our relationships to fellow humans.

After a fair amount of discussion, we walked across the hall to view a video by a Father Barron on the Theological Virtues. The video is targeted for adults, but, as I told the students, they should be able to follow most of it.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PuyKsaj6GbM&t=117s

When we returned to our classroom, we were just about out of time. We left them with a homework assignment. We would appreciate it if our parents would follow up on this. Our next class will deal with the Cardinal Virtues in more depth. Their assignment is to do a little internet research on the Cardinal Virtues, so they will have some background before they come to class. Here is a site with some information I have used.

http://catholicism.about.com/od/beliefsteachings/tp/Cardinal_Virtues.htm

Important scheduling information — We will have no class this week, since it would be the night before Thanksgiving. Also, we will not have class next week, November 30, as that is the evening of our parish’s Confirmation Mass. We will be back December 7.

Class #6 November 9, 2016

We had a small group last night, only four students. Our goal was to teach the Stations of the Cross. We started out with our faith assessment quiz (fill in the blanks) and quickly discovered there wasn’t much for us to teach. Of the 42 possible answers among the three students who completed the exercise (One student was late.) there were 41 correct answers. No shabby.

Nonetheless, we persevered on. We walked across the hall to the library to watch a short video on the stations. We then walked over to the church. We distributed booklets to all the students and we conducted a Stations ceremony. We had the students read the narrator’s part and all read the prayer at the end of each station.

We finished a little early. We returned to the classroom and chatted about several other Stations-related issues.

Next week, our faith assessment and our class will focus on some key Catholic teachings including the “Precepts (rules) of the Church” and the Theological and Cardinal Virtues. These are most likely not top of mind topics for our students. It would be great if they could do just a little research on these topics before we hit next week’s class.

Our focus for CCD this week was the Beatitudes. Taught by Jesus during his Sermon on the Mount, they appear in Matthew 5.

Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Blessed are they who mourn,for they shall be comforted.

Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.

Blessed are they who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.

Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy.

Blessed are the pure of heart, for they shall see God.

Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called children of God.

Blessed are they who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

We began with the Faith Assessment quiz (fill in the blank) to see if anyone could recall any of the Beatitudes without prompting. That was a big zero. So we issued Bibles, went over them and had the students complete their quizzes that way.

From there we discussed the role of the Beatitudes as complements to the Ten Commandments. The Commandments mostly tell us what not to do, while the Beatitudes provide us with positive ways to live our lives. We demonstrated the importance of positive direction by asking for a volunteer and playing the “warmer-colder” game. We picked an object in the room and without telling the volunteer what it was, we asked them to identify it while we provided only negative feedback (colder.) Although, she came very close, she could not identify it. When we did it again, but this time with both positive (warmer) and negative feedback, she selected the object in about 15 seconds.

We transitioned across the hall to the library. The students pulled up beanbag chairs and sat back to watch a video targeted at middle-high schoolers on the Beatitudes.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UjY8x7LHIPQ

Then, for the first time in my 11-plus years of teaching CCD at St. Peter’s, we sang a song to reinforce what the class was (hopefully) learning. We pulled a video of “Blest are They”. We played a few verses to allow the students to get a handle on the melody, and then started it again and we all (mostly) sang along.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qwSkmzw8dY8

Back in the main classroom, we spent the rest of the class discussing the Beatitudes and the meaning of each of them. Each one has a positive action (Blessed are the pure of heart…) and a positive consequence (…for they shall see God.) We talked a little about some of the terms like, what it means to be meek, poor in spirit and so on.

Next week, our lesson will be on the Stations of the Cross. We will spend some time in the church, but both drop off and pick up will be in the regular classroom.

We had another good class Wednesday evening. Continuing our three-part format, we started with the weekly Faith Assessment, which was the Apostles’ Creed. We had the students fill out a fill-in-the-blank quiz and just about everyone did very well. We then discussed the creed, its meaning and history, comparing it to the Nicene Creed we recite at Mass.

We walked across the hall to the library where we watched a Chris Stephanik video about more saints.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lwp_1TYBiAI

Returning the class, we talked a little more about picking a saint’s name for Confirmation. Some students have already picked a name, at least for now, and we talked about some of their choices.

We phased into short lesson on Confirmation and the Holy Spirit. We broke the class into groups of two or three students and asked them to think of things that represent the Holy Spirit. We sent them to the white board to draw their ideas. Some interesting ideas, and interesting representations. (dove, flame, wind, cross)

Next week our Faith Assessment is on the Beatitudes. At this point, we are thinking about making that the focus of the entire class. As I mentioned in my email earlier this week, it would be great if the students were familiar with the Beatitudes before coming to class. They can be found Matthew 5:3-10.

After a three week layoff, we got back to CCD business last Wednesday. We planned to continue our three-part lesson, with a faith assessment quiz, a video on saints and discussion of the Holy Spirit and Confirmation from the text Confirmed in the Spirit. Unfortunately, we could not get the audio to function with the classroom computer. Paula’s husband, John, labored over it for 15 minutes and couldn’t get it to budge. So we didn’t have a video.

Our faith assessment quiz was a fill-in-the-blanks quiz on the Commandments. Since we spent several class periods on this last year, we had the students complete this individually. Everyone pretty much had it down cold.  We also discussed the two greatest commandments as presented by Jesus.

You shall love your God with all your heart, mind and soul. (paraphrased)

You shall love your neighbor as yourself.

We discussed that a lot of people today seem to have trouble with the second one. We pointed out that Jesus did not say that you should love your neighbor, unless he or she …

…looks different from you.

…comes from a different country.

…does things you don’t agree with.

–and so on.

Jesus just said “Love your neighbor.”

As we got into the Confirmed in the Spirit text, we started by just allowing the students to flip through the pages to get an idea of what we would be covering. We then discussed the scripture verse at the top of page 2 in which Jesus told his apostles that he would be leaving them soon, but he would send the Spirit to be with them. We discussed the context of the passage. Jesus referred to an “advocate.” We discussed the various roles described by “advocate.” We also discussed that God, in the form of the Holy Spirit remains with us to be our advocate today.

We gave them a homework assignment. Before they were to go to bed Wednesday night, they were to say a sincere prayer to God, thanking him for protecting them through Hurricane Matthew.

This coming week’s faith assessment will focus on the Apostles’ Creed. I told them that before we broke on Wednesday. The Creed is in the back of their text, which they should have at home.

By the way, we have extra books, but it sure would be great if you would remind your child to bring their text back to class on Wednesday. That way they can mark it up, etc. and not worry about messing up more than one book.

As I mentioned in last week’s post, we are taking a three-prong approach to the material, at least for the first few weeks.

We opened by asking the students to break into groups of two or three and to complete this week’s Faith Assessment quiz. This week’s FA focused on our parish and diocese. If interested, you can see the quiz on the parish Web site.

http://saintpetertheapostle.com/church/knowledge-of-faith-assessment-knowing-your-parish-diocese/

We had an interesting discussion of the material.

We showed a short (7 minute) video on the life of Mother Theresa.

Then we moved into the Confirmation prep phase of the class by distributing the text and asking the students to spend a minute or two flipping through it. Since much of our Confirmation prep will involve discussions of the Holy Spirit, I thought it would be a good idea to make sure the students had a decent handle on just who the Holy Spirit is. As we went around the class asking for answers to “Just who or what is the Holy Spirit?” we received a variety of answers. Finally, I asked “OK, in just one word, who is the Holy Spirit?” and several students responded “God!” which, of course is correct.

We spent a little time discussing the Holy Trinity and the relationship between the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. How can there be one God, but three persons? I explained the Church calls this a mystery. As human beings, we are simply not smart enough to fully understand that mystery. However, I pointed out I had a couple of models to share, that are not exact explanations, but night circle the target enough to give them an idea.

The first was to point to themselves and the various parts that make up them. For example, they have a physical body that is them. They also have an intellect and personality — their likes, dislikes, sense of humor, and so on. That is also them, but it is different from their physical body. There is also their spirit or soul, which is distinct from their body and intellect/personality, but just as much a version of the same person.

My second example was to point to the roles each of us play in life. We are a son or daughter, a brother or sister, a friend, an athlete, a student, a musician, and so on. Each is a version of us. When we think of God as the creator of the universe, we are thinking of God the Father. When we think about God as our redeemer, we are thinking about God the Son. When we think about God as the deity who is present with us every day, who we pray to and who helps us, we are thinking of God the Holy Spirit. One God, but three different roles.

Again, emphasized these are not accurate explanations to the mystery of the Holy Trinity, just imperfect examples that might allow them to see a Trinity, but only one God.

We allowed the students to take their textbooks home with them. Please help them to remember to bring them back next week.

As I mentioned in the email I sent this morning, I am not sending next week’s Faith Assessment quiz. I jumped the gun on that. Next week’s exercise is on the Commandments, both the original ten from Exodus (Exodus 20 or 34) , and the two greatest commandments as described by Jesus. (Matthew 22:35-40) We spent two or three class periods in 5th grade discussing the Commandments, so I HOPE our students remember at least a little bit of it. In any case, if you would like to ask your child to take a few momements to review the Commandments in advance of next week’s class, that would be great.

Next week, we will send the Faith Assessment quiz home with our students for research in advance of the next class.

Again, sorry for taking so long to get this written and posted. It’s just been a busy week.

We kicked off the 6th grade CCD year with a good class last week. We have a small group right now, only six students, but I believe we will pick up an additional handful in the coming weeks.

Getting things started has been an interesting experience. Unlike our past 11 years of teaching 5th grade, our curriculum is not dictated or guided by the Sadlier (publishing company) text. Because 8th grade Confirmation takes place so early in the year at St. Peters, we will be starting initial Confirmation training. That also means we are feeling our way a little. For at least the first part of the year, we will be focusing our teaching in three main areas.

1.) Faith Assessment – This is a review of the basic tenets of the Catholic faith and the kinds of information each student should know before Confirmation. We will be taking it one bite at a time.  So each week, we will send home with each student a “quiz” or questionnaire. They should research the answers to the questions and return it the following week when we will discuss the material. For your information, the questions and answers can be found here.

http://saintpetertheapostle.com/church/faith-formation/know-faith/

However, we would greatly appreciate it if you would NOT simply direct your child to this site where the answers are right there to copy. If they have to do just a little work, like maybe a Google search or looking it up in the Confirmed in the Spirit text, it is more likely they may remember the material.

2.) Saints – We have been introducing our students to the concepts of saints, patron saints and picking a saint’s name for a Confirmation name. During most class sessions, we will show a short (usually around three minutes) video of some saints’ story.

3.) Confirmed in the Spirit – This is our working text for Confirmation prep. Since this might be helpful to the students in preparing their weekly Faith Assessment “homework,” we will send this home with them. Please, help your child to remember to bring it back to class with them on Wednesday.

And as we have done in the past several years, we will end each class by asking each student to tell us one thing they learned that night. A reasonable response will result in some reward, sometimes a cookie, sometimes a doo-dad (glow stick, pencil, prayer card) or whatever.