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Last night was the last class of the 2015-16 CCD year. (Last September seems like last century.) We had pizza and fruit punch, and Monsignor Costigan visited. He talked about his career as a priest and answered a large number of questions from the class. It was a good session and a great way to cap off the year. Have a great summer. We’ll see you around the island and on Wednesday evening’s next fall.

We only had five students in attendance last night, which is a shame because we had a fairly good class.  This was our second-to-last class of the year and the last one in which we would teach a normal lesson.

The focus of last night’s lesson was prayer. After an opening prayer, we asked the class to break into partner groups and read the first few paragraphs of the text. We provided a sheet of paper with three columns. They were to seek the answers to three questions found in the text.

–What is prayer? (A conversation with God.)

–How can we pray? (alone or with others; aloud or silently; scripted, like a Hail Mary, or just whatever we want to say)

–How did Jesus pray (many different ways)

We introduced the five different types of prayer. We discussed each one and tried relate them to our fifth graders daily lives.

Blessing – like a prayer before a meal

Petition – asking God for some help

Intercession – asking God for help on behalf of another

Thanksgiving – thanking God for all his gifts

Praise – praising God for his greatness

We asked the class to make themselves comfortable and to close their eyes. We asked them to remain quiet and to think about having a conversation with God. We told them God would hear anything they wanted to silently tell him. They should talk with God and then to listen. We let this go for about sixty seconds.

We asked if anyone heard God talking back to them, but to no surprise, no one did.

We pointed out that God hears all prayers, but does not necessarily respond in the way we want.  We used an example of a student praying for an “A” on a test for which had or she had not studied. God may respond by not helping with the grade. A poor grade may be a better lesson in the long run to teach the student he or she needs to work for their grades. We also read a short fictional account of a conversation between a person and God. The person complained that he had a bad day and God had not helped by answering his prayers. God responded with reasons for all the supposedly bad things that had happened.

We talked a little about looking for opportunities to regularly pray daily.

We discussed scripted prayer. Most of the students agreed that when they prayed a scripted prayer like the Hail Mary or the Our Father, they were just reciting words without really understanding the purpose or meaning for the prayer. We introduced a match-column exercise from the text that broke down The Lord’s Prayer into its individual components. The students were to match the right hand column with the appropriate line from the prayer. For example. “We ask God’s forgiveness” matches up with “and forgive us our trespasses.” And so on. We then discussed the answers. We allowed only a few minutes for this, but most of the class completed the exercise and, for the most part had very good matches.

We left them with a homework assignment. We asked them to identify some time or action that is a part of their daily life, like brushing their teeth, taking a shower, waiting for a school bus, or whatever. They should note that daily event as a “trigger” for a daily prayer. Next week, we’ll ask them what they decided would be their trigger.

Next week will be our last class of the year. Monsignor Costigan will visit. He will talk about his life as a priest and answer a number of questions that arose this year that were beyond my or Mrs. Rudolphi’s ability to answer. We will also have a pizza snack. It would be very nice if you would send me an email or call if your child is not going to be able to attend. I don’t want to buy a bunch of pizza and have no one there to eat most of it.

Last night we tackled the Sacrament of Matrimony. We started with a disclaimer. Since this subject can sometimes run close to situations in the students’ own family life, we pointed out that we know very little about their families and nothing we discuss (especially the Church’s teachings about the permanence of marriage and divorce) should be taken personally.

We had volunteers read some sections aloud and for other sections we had students pair up and read to each other. Some of the key points we covered and discussed include:

Men and women are different but equal.

Marriage and having children have been part of God’s plan since the beginning.

God puts such importance on marriage that two of the Ten Commandments pertain to it (adultery, and coveting neighbor’s wife/husband). Also, Jesus’s first miracle was performed at the wedding at Cana. We read the biblical account, John 2:1-11.

We discussed the concept of a promise, a vow (promise to God) and a covenant. Matrimony uses vows to establish a covenant between the bride and groom.

The Catholic Church teaches that a marriage is a sacred commitment to the spouse and to God, and is intended to last so long as both parties are alive.

While a Catholic marriage is extremely difficult to get out of, it is also difficult to get into. The Church actively works to weed out couples who are not truly committed to one another or are too immature to make such a commitment.

When a couple is married in the Church, they are actually being married twice. The first is the civil contract, recognized by the state with all the legal issues related to that like shared possessions, custody of children, inheritance, tax benefits, etc. The second is the religious matrimony of two people standing before a priest and their families and making a promise to God to remain faithful to each other. The first can be accomplished by going to the courthouse. Only in the Church do you get the entire package.

The bride and groom are the celebrants of the Sacrament. The priest only oversees the process and blesses the union.

Three of our girls asked if they could present a skit. They acted out a marriage ceremony, although with a lot of giggles.

And for another year, no one asked about gay marriage. Although I thought with the three girls acting out the ceremony, we were coming very close. I was prepared with an answer, but it  never came up.

We didn’t accomplish as much as we would have liked. (This class is slightly more time consuming than some others.) We may take a few minutes next week to talk about the obligations of adults and children within a family. For the rest of next week’s class, we will talk about prayer, types of prayer, times for prayer, ease of prayer and a dissection of the Lord’s Prayer. The following week, April 27, will be our final class. Monsignor Costigan will visit, talk about his life as a priest and answer questions. We plan to provide a pizza snack for the students.

Three classes left to go. We’re in the home stretch, with two of our more interesting classes still ahead of us. Unfortunately, our lesson last week was not one of them. We covered the Sacrament of Anointing of the Sick (Ch 18).

We hit several key points.

The Sacrament has evolved over the years when it was called “Last Rites” and was administered only to those on death’s door.

Anyone can receive the Sacrament, if they are seriously ill, facing surgery or other health issue

It can be received more than once.

The purpose of the Sacrament is to heal the recipient spiritually, not necessarily physically. Although, we did discuss the frequent link between mental and emotional health, and physical health. For example, we hear about people who just “worry themselves sick.”

The Sacrament is frequently combined with Reconciliation and the Eucharist. When a person is near death, he/she may be given a tiny piece of the Eucharist called “viaticum” (provisions for the road or journey).

We were sidetracked with an interesting set of questions, starting with one student asking what would happen if a person took excessive use of the Sacrament. When I asked her why someone would do that, she said, “I don’t know. Maybe as a way to get attention?” These kids are more astute than sometimes we give them credit.

Our next class will focus on the Sacrament of Matrimony, which is usually a fairly interesting class. The following week, we will do a lesson on prayer, which also is pretty good. We’ll finish up on April 27 with as visit from Monsignor Costigan, and maybe some pizza to celebrate the completion of another year.

Last night we finished up our lesson on forgiveness and the Sacrament of Reconciliation (aka Penance or Confession.)

We began with a review of our last class, which seems like it was a year ago. We covered the four steps of forgiveness.

  1. Admission or confession
  2. Expression of sorrow or contrition
  3. Forgiveness by the injured party
  4. Some form of penance or reparation

And, of course, we connected these steps to the elements of the Sacrament. We discussed a number of other concepts.

–You can do wrong or sin by doing nothing when there is some act you should be performing. Inaction can be as wrong as action.

–The seal of the confessional. The priest must not disclose anything you confess.

–The priest is an intermediary between you and God.

— No sin is too great that it cannot be forgiven. One of the students asked about suicide. That prompted a short, but interesting discussion.

–There are usually regular times for Confession, but you can call a priest any time and ask him to hear your confession.

–And we reviewed the mechanics of the Sacrament. We provided the students with a two-sided “cheat sheet.” On one side was a series of questions to help them examine their conscience. The other side had a step-by-step instructions on how to go through the process, including a version of the Act of Contrition.

We broke the class into groups of two or three and asked them to read the final page of the lesson in the text. It included a list of four actions to help us turn our hearts and minds to God.

–Follow Jesus’s example and spreading the good news

–Trust in God

–Care for the needs of others

–Pray daily

We asked them to brainstorm examples of how they might do that.  During the discussion that followed, we emphasized several points.

One of the best ways to spread the good news is simply to live a good life and be an example for others to see. Related to that, under “caring for the needs of others” several students cited grand gestures, like feeding the hungry and so on. We suggested that those kinds of acts are great, but equally important are the little things that they can do every day. We brainstormed some daily life examples.

We talked about the importance of trusting God, but pointed out that prayers aren’t always answered in the way we expect. We told the fictional story of the rural minister whose church was being threatened by rising flood water. Saying he trusted in God, he rejected the help to be rescued by the four wheel drive patrol, a boat and even a helicopter, and he drowned. When he arrived at the gates of Heaven, he was wet and angry. St. Peter told him, “Reverend, we heard your prayers. We sent the four wheel drive vehicle, a boat and eventually a helicopter to rescue you. What exactly were you waiting for?

We also talked about finding a time during their daily routine to spend a few moments praying. One girl indicated she tried to pray when her father was driving her to school. I didn’t ask if that was a reflection on her Dad’s driving skill.

We have four weeks left in the “season.” We will cover Anointing of the Sick, Holy Orders and Matrimony, and then have a wrap up session in the final week.

We had a change-of-plans last night. Mrs. Hubert organized a child-friendly Stations of the Cross service. So after meeting for a few minutes in the classroom and providing a little background and the Stations of the Cross, we headed over to the church. Father Paul and I shared the readings and all the CCD classes participated in the prayer section of each station.

I think it was a good experience for the class. In our discussion beforehand, it was apparent that no one in the class had ever been to a Stations service, or at least didn’t remember. Neither could anyone identify the significance of Good Friday.

After the service, we had only a few minutes until dismissal time. We spent it talking about the importance of the next few days (Easter Triduum) to Catholics, and how it is the most important few days in the Church year.

We will be meeting every Wednesday through our last class on April 27. Since we have lost two class periods to a power failure (Feb 24) and last night’s “special event.” That leaves us just four class sessions to cram in the last half of our coverage of Penance, along with Anointing of the Sick, Matrimony and Holy Orders. So we will be sprinting to the finish line.

This week we started our two-part lesson on the Sacrament of Reconciliation. Right off, we pointed out to the students that the Sacrament of Reconciliation is also called Penance or Confession. It’s the same sacrament, just different names.

Our initial goal was to discuss the concept of forgiveness in general, whether it be a part of a Confession or just among friends or family. We introduced the four steps necessary for any process of forgiveness. Later, we connected these general concepts to the actual steps in Reconciliation.

  1. Admission of wrongdoing / Confess sins
  2. Express regret or sorrow / Act of Contrition
  3. Forgiveness / Absolution
  4. Reparation or payback / Penance

We divided the class into pairs and threes and asked them to prepare a role-playing exercise. One student in each group was to be angry because or something done by the other student(s). They team was to come up with a story to explain why the first student was angry with the other(s). They then role-played the forgiveness process. We threw a couple of curves at them, for example, by asking one of the groups with two offenders each to blame the other for the offense. We then let them play it out, sometimes completing the process and sometimes not. The scenarios that bogged down were just as instructional, maybe more so, than those that ran to completion. The students got into the exercise, and, hopefully, they learned something from it.

We then went to the textbook and began the chapter on Reconciliation. We had volunteers read aloud page 140 which describes the four steps of Reconciliation – contrition, confession, penance and absolution. We connected each of these steps to the list we discussed earlier, although pointing out that the text put the steps in a different order.

The students then read P 141 silent. It described individual and group celebrations of the Sacrament as well as the seal of confession. We discussed this until time ran out.

We will have no class next week since it is the night before St. Patrick’s Day. We will be back in two weeks and finish our discussion of Reconciliation.

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