Archive for October, 2011

As Mrs. Rudolphi and I discussed after class this week, we aren’t making much progress through the text, but we are having some interesting class sessions. The students are full of questions and enjoy the discussions. Since fifth grade is not a sacramental preparation class (as are first, second, seventh and eighth), we don’t feel a real need to stick strictly with the text. If the class wants to question and discuss a subject that is vaguely related to religion, God, morality, etc,  we’ll run with it.

We do have one problem we need to address. There are a handful of students who have really taken the advice to “get engaged.” However, more than half of the questions and comments tend to come from that handful of the students. We (I) need to do a better job of spreading it around and getting the more quiet students involved. That will be a goal next week.

On another down-note, we did not discuss the class’s reading assignment, chapter four of the Gospel of Matthew, because only two students admitted to have actually read it. Please give us some help on this at home. Each chapter is quite short and shouldn’t take the student more than a few minutes to read it. We asked them to double-up this week and read both chapters four (last week’s assignment) and five (this week’s assignment.) Parents – please give your child a little nudge. Thanks.

This week’s class was the first of two sessions on the Sacrament of Baptism.  We discussed the concepts that Baptism is the first sacrament to be received and no other sacrament can be received without Baptism. Baptism brings the recipient into the Church (Body of Christ, community, etc.) We also discussed how Baptism wipes our souls free from sin, but we can receive it only once. After that, we have Penance/Reconciliation for forgiveness.

One student asked why an infant would need to have his sins forgiven when he hasn’t had the chance to commit any. That opened the discussion of original sin. Many of the students didn’t think it was fair that God would penalize someone born today for the sin of Adam and Eve. We pointed out that is why have the Sacrament of Baptism.

A student asked why we are typically baptized as babies. Why not, he asked, wait until you are about to die and then get all your sins forgiven at the same time. This led to a lively discussion that largely focused on the idea that you never know when your life may end.

One student then asked how it is that we know all these teachings (all Christian teachings) are true?  This led to a discussion of the concept of faith, which, to be honest, I don’t think we handled very well. Towards the end of the class, Father John stopped by, so we kicked the question over to him. I’m not sure he answered it much better. I’m betting this question will come up again.

Next week, we plan to finish up the Sacrament of Baptism.  Hopefully.

By the way, parents, you are always welcome to sit in on the class and observe, and/or participate as you wish.

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We are not making very fast progress through the curriculum, but we sure are having some interesting classes. We are having lots of discussions, questions, etc.

We started with a quick overview of Chapter 3 of Matthew. Only a few students had read it before the class. Your help reminding your child about that weekly assignment would be greatly appreciated. This week’s assignment is Chapter 4.

Since it has been a couple of weeks since we covered the first half of the chapter, we continued with a review of the main points.

We covered the Seven Sacraments —  broken down into the Sacraments of Initiation (Baptism, Confirmation and Eucharist), Healing (Reconciliation and Anointing of the Sick) and Communion of Service (Matrimony and Holy Orders.)

We discussed the concept that we receive Sanctifying Grace through the Sacraments.  Again, we described “grace” as simply God’s love. We compared God’s love to parental love. Through the Sacraments, we receive God’s love, in a similar fashion that a child receives and feels his/her parents’ love through actions like a hug and kiss. As Mrs. Rudolphi put it, “The Sacraments are God’s way of giving you a hug.”

We discussed the concept of a vocation as a calling. We talked about how, as Catholics, we share a common vocation to holiness and evangelization. Of course, the term “evangelization” was a new one to nearly all the students. After defining the concept, we brainstormed on different ways they, as fifth graders, could answer the call to evangelization.  We suggested the best way to evangelize is simply to live a good life and serve as an example.  One student correctly described it as being a “role model.” We emphasized that they should not go out of their way to call attention to their actions, ie: showing off. Rather, just do the right thing (What would Jesus do?) and let their actions be their message.

Several weeks ago, we briefly covered the Sacraments of Initiation. So last night, we did an overview of the remaining four. There wasn’t much discussion of Reconciliation, as the students were already familiar with it.

We had many questions about the Sacrament of Anointing of the Sick. We pointed out that modern medicine has accepted that there is a definite connection between a person’s mental/spiritual outlook and their physical health. So Anointing of the Sick serves two purposes. Together with Reconciliation and the Eucharist, it prepares a person for the possibility (or imminence) of death, but it also can serve a healing role in a spiritual sense.

The students had greater difficulty getting their minds around the Sacraments of Matrimony and Holy Orders. They seemed to understand that through Holy Orders, a priest enters a life of service. They had a little tougher time understanding that a man and woman enter a life of service to each other through Matrimony.

We had a lot of discussion about why priests are not allowed to marry (most of the time.) One of the students asked if, instead of getting married, a priest just “had a regular relationship?”  Yikes! That one came out of the blue. We talked a little about the hierarchy of deacons, priests, bishops, cardinals and the pope. And, of course, we mentioned that Savannah has a new bishop.

We finished off with a story about the exceptions to the “no married priests” rule. Yes, there are some married priests. Ask your child about it. See if anyone was listening.

By the way, our text is published by Sadlier Publishing Company. If you are interested, you can find some outlines and other material at their Web site. We are using the  “Project Disciple – We Believe” curriculum.

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Sorry for the late posting. I was out of town all day Thursday.

We aren’t making much progress as far as the textbook is concerned, but we are having some interesting class sessions and discussions.

We started with a review of Matthew Chapter Two. Actually, for most of the class, it was an initial impression as they indicated they had not read it at home during the week. Oh well. This chapter involves the visit of the Magi, Herod’s treachery, the flight to Egypt and Herod’s murder of all the male babies in Bethlehem. Also, in this one chapter, Matthew makes several references to Old Testament prophecies. We talked about all kinds of things, including Herod’s motivation for wanting to kill the infant Jesus. We discussed Matthew’s use of the prophecies as part of his ongoing campaign to establish Jesus’s credentials as the Messiah.

As that discussion was winding down, Father John stopped in for a visit. The class kept him busy with questions on anything and everything they could think of. One big question was why God allows evil in the world. I can’t even begin to remember the rest of them.

Next week, we plan on completing our introduction to the Sacraments.

Also, parents, please ask your child to read Chapter 3 of the Gospel of Matthew.



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Two years ago, we baptized a baby as part of our study of the Sacraments.

We found a family with a newborn infant who agreed to have his Baptism as part of the CCD program on a Wednesday evening. Despite some initial skepticism from the family and Monsignor Costigan, it turned out to be a fantastic experience. We had about half of the CCD in attendance, and the kids were extremely well behaved. Monsignor Costigan did an outstanding job explaining each step of the ceremony. Even the family thought it turned out very well. The child ended up with about a hundred honorary Godmothers and Godfathers.

We’d love to do it again this year. Do you know of any family with a child (or a pending child) that will be up for Baptism in the coming months? If so, let me know. Thanks.

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We had a jam-packed class Wednesday night.  It doesn’t look like that is going to change.

1.) Adding the Gospel of Matthew to the weekly lesson opens up lots of opportunities for discussion.

2.) The lessons in this new text are fairly packed, also with lots of opportunities for discussions, explanations and questions.

Mrs. Rudolphi and I try to make our class sessions as interactive as possible.  We want to the students active and engaged. We want them to ask questions. We also ask questions of them, and try to get them to think about issues. Of course, this is time consuming and frequently chaotic.  However, we are not wedded to the idea of having to cover every single word in the text. We’ll cover all the sacraments before the year is out, but we probably won’t hit every chapter, every paragraph, every exercise, etc.

We started with a quick review of the material we covered last week – the Holy Trinity and Jesus’s baptism.

We then went straight to their “homework assignment,” Chapter 1 of Matthew. In our review, we emphasized two points in this chapter.

1.) It begins with a lengthy genealogy of Jesus, tracing his roots back to Abraham. We pointed out that the author did this to establish Jesus’s credibility as a Jew. We compared it to a politician in Savannah who might claim that his family has been in Savannah since Oglethorpe. We said that this was especially important since Jesus initiated major changes in the Jewish faith (eventually Christianity), and those changes would be more acceptable coming from someone with roots within the community rather than an outsider.

2.) The second half of the chapter tells the story of Joseph’s initial intent to divorce Mary when he found out she was pregnant with Jesus. We talked about why he would want to do this. The Bible also describes him as “righteous” for wanting to “quietly divorce” Mary. We told the students that since the standard punishment for adultery at the time was to be stoned to death, a quiet divorce would actually have been fairly mild treatment. Of course, as the Bible tells, God sent an angel who appeared to Joseph in a dream and told him give Mary a break. Another point we tried to make from this story, was that the people portrayed in the Gospel were very real people, with all the same strengths and weaknesses as people today. They were happy, sad, angry, frustrated, jealous, kind, caring, funny, and so on.

Parents, please encourage your child to read Matthew Chapter 2 this week.

We skipped Chapter 2 and began Chapter 3 in the text, which was a broad overview or the sacraments. We got about half way through the chapter and will finish up next week.

We started talking about the sacraments in general terms. The text described them as “effective signs.” We talked a little about signs. To convey the concept of “effective signs,” we compared the Sign of Peace at Mass to a hug a child receives from a parent. While the Sign of Peace is certainly a sign of friendship, it does not usually create a real feeling in either party. On the other hand, when a child receives a hug of love from a parent, they really experience a feeling of parental love. Thus it is an “effective sign.” It actually has an effect.

We discussed the sacraments as a way of receiving “sanctifying grace,” which we described simply as God’s love. Continuing the comparison to a parental hug, the sacraments are a way God channels his love (grace) to us, just like a hug channels a parent’s love to his or her child.

We did a quick inventory of the sacraments our students have already received. We agreed that all had received Baptism, Holy Eucharist and Reconciliation, and a couple believe they may have received the Anointing of the Sick. We all agreed that none of them were married, confirmed  or priests.

We covered a short overview of the sacraments of Baptism, Confirmation and the Eucharist. We will go into more detail in future chapters. We stopped short of hitting on the remaining four, which we will take up next week.

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