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Archive for January, 2012

I was traveling Thursday and Friday, so I’m a little late getting this update posted. Sorry.

The focus of Wednesday’s class was prayer. We started off by asking the class when was the last time they prayed, and what are some times that they usually pray. We had answers ranging from “before bed,” “before dinner,” and “in church,” all the way to “last Wednesday.”

Our main goal of this class was to familiarize the students with the concept of individual, private prayer. They are acquainted with the standard written prayers, such as The Lord’s Prayer, Hail Mary, Glory Be, etc. However, most of them were less familiar with the idea of personal private prayer.

Had the students sit quietly with their eyes closed. We asked them to purge all extraneous thoughts out of their minds. Then imagine they have a direct line to communicate with God. God will hear anything they say in their thoughts. We suggested they talk with God and suggested some topics. (Thanks for a wonderful day, help on a test tomorrow, etc.) After a minute or two, we asked them to stop and simply listen.

Somewhat to my surprise, it actually seemed to work. Our subsequent discussion revealed some interesting messages.

We encouraged them to find a time every day to have a quite prayer. We talked about finding a time every day when they could get into the habit of saying a prayer. We used concepts like when taking a shower, brushing their teeth, walking home from school, and so on. Mrs. Suss (who was helping out) asked how many of them had “moments of silence” at school. Nearly everyone raised their hands. We strongly suggested that would be a perfect time of quiet to have a short conversation with God.

We discussed several other related concepts.

God listens to all prayers, but he rarely responds in a way we might expect. Don’t expect him to tap you on the shoulder and tell you what to do. The voice from the burning bush went out in Biblical times.

Sometimes God may respond to a prayer in a way that is not what we asked, but actually better for us. Mrs. Suss pointed out that a smart student who does not prepare for a test may pray for an “A”, but by getting a “C” he or she may learn to prepare better and benefit in the long run.

We discussed the five types of prayers.

  • Blessing
  • Petition
  • Intercession
  • Thanksgiving
  • Praise

We finished up by discussing a current issue about Tim Tebow, who has been accused of being a hypocrite for praying in public when Jesus taught us to pray quietly in private. We discussed the idea of an honest prayer as opposed to just showing off.

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Our mission last night was to finish up our lesson on the Eucharist. Our focus was on the Mass, or more specifically, the elements and order of the Mass. I suspected that many in the class really had little idea of what was happening in the Mass, the flow, the purpose of various parts, and so on. So I put together and distributed a two-page “Order of the Mass” and issued each student a missalette.

We started by talking about the recent changes in the priest’s prayers and our responses, and the reasons behind the changes. We talked about the old Latin mass and the changes of the Second Vatican Council.

We compared the Order of the Mass to the students going with their family to visit another family or relatives for dinner. In the Mass, we are visiting God’s house, but the general concept can be similar. For example:

When we go to someone’s house, we are welcomed, just as we are at Mass.

When we go to someone’s house, we start out by talking and visiting. In the Mass (Liturgy of the Word), we also exchange communication with God. Our prayers (Kyrie, Gloria, etc.) we address God, and in the readings, God addresses us.

When we visit someone’s house for dinner, we always bring something like dessert or wine. In the offertory, we present gifts to God.

The comparison becomes even closer in the Preparation of the Gifts and the Eucharist itself.

I don’t know how well that idea sunk into the class, but we tried.

We walked through the order of the Mass, referring to both the simple outline I had drawn up and also the missalette. We pointed out several spots in the missalette where it can be difficult to follow.  For example, there are four Eucharistic prayers, and you never know which one the priest will use (although it seems as if #2 seems to be the most common.)

We are continuing our effort to try to get all the students engaged in each class. On some evenings, we are more successful than others. As in most groups, there are a number of students who have their hands up constantly, and, frankly, are fairly demanding of attention. On the other hand, there are also some students who are semi-comatose. They occupy a seat and breathe the air, but that is about it. I wish I could pull some of these kids into the flow of the class.  However, with the class size (25 at full strength) and the relatively short time we have together, there really isn’t much time for the individual attention that would require. I am not suggesting these kids are behavior problems.  I just know that these students are learning nothing in the hour they are spending at CCD each week. That’s a shame.

I am certainly not going to “name names” in this forum. However, as a parent you are always free to call me to see how your child is doing. My contact information is under the “About” tab at the top of this page. Also, you are always more than welcome to sit in on any of our classes.  I promise; I won’t ask you any hard questions.  🙂

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Sometimes you beat the bear and sometimes the bear beats you. I’m afraid it was my turn to be beaten Wednesday night. The class was reasonably well behaved; that was not the problem. Whether it was the subject material, my teaching efforts or some external force, we just couldn’t get the class engaged. When I mentioned this to Mrs. Rudolphi after class she agreed, but said “Don’t worry about it Mike. I think maybe three of them were listening to you.” In any case, we plow on.

The class was the first of two on the Eucharist. We discussed the origin of the sacrament at the Last Supper, and explained the Last Supper as a celebration of the Jewish Passover. We emphasized that through the Eucharist we are:

Nourished in the Word of God

Joined more closely to Christ and one another

The grace of Baptism grows I us

We are strengthened to love and serve others.

We explained the concept of a covenant, and described the original covenant between God and the Jewish people. We also described how, at the Last Supper, Jesus disposed of the old covenant and created a new covenant for his followers. We celebrate this covenant in the Eucharist.

We discussed the Eucharist’s role as a memorial, a meal and a sacrifice. We had the class break up into pairs to work together. They read a passage from the text and listed ways the Eucharist fits into each of these roles.

We read the story of Jesus appearing to two of his disciples on the road to Emmaus. The disciples did not recognize Jesus until they stopped for a meal. When Jesus broke the loaf of bread, suddenly the disciples recognized him. We compared this story to connecting with Jesus through the breaking of bread in the Eucharist.

We particularly emphasized the key Catholic belief that Jesus is truly present in the bread and wine of the Eucharist. (Real Presence) We pointed out that while many Protestant churches have communion services, they believe the bread and wine (or grape juice) only represent Jesus. We believe that while the bread and wine do not change chemically, Jesus is truly present there.

We briefly discussed he concept of Jesus as the “bread of life.”

We gave out two “homework” assignments.

  1. To ask their parents to take them to Mass this weekend, and, when they receive the Eucharist, to think about the concepts we discussed.
  2. If they have not already done so, read all of the Gospel of Matthew through Chapter 8. We’ll have a short quiz at the start of class next week.

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Happy New Year, and welcome back!

We started off 2012 with a good class last night. As we got going, we did ask the class to make a stronger effort to listen to our discussions and to actually follow along when another student is reading aloud from the text. Sometimes I think some of the students just “zone out” when we are reading from the text., I (half-jokingly), pointed out, it can be frustrating to tell someone “The sky is blue.” But when you ask them a minute later, “What color is the sky?” you get a blank stare. While we do try to generate a lot of information through discussion, we also have to pull information out of the textbook.

Before the break, we had started on the Sacrament of Confirmation.  We had discussed the Pentecost and the relationship of that event to Confirmation. Last night, we began by reviewing that to refresh everyone’s memory.

We compared Confirmation to Baptism in two ways.

— We described Baptism as the first step to entering into the Church community, and Confirmation is the second half of the process.

— We also discussed Confirmation as an opportunity for them to make a commitment to God and the Church.  Since most children are baptized as infants, they really don’t have a say in the process. Their baptismal promises are made by their godparents; their parents select their godparents; and they don’t choose their own name. In Confirmation, they make their own commitment; select their sponsor; and choose a Confirmation name. We pointed out that most other religions have some kind of commitment ceremony around the time a child turns 12-14.

As expected, the idea of taking another name was fascinating to the class, and we spent probably too much time discussing that.

We talked about the need for preparation to receive Confirmation and emphasized that it is a two-year process, beginning in seventh grade. We walked through the actual process of the sacrament.

We finished up with the Gifts of the Holy Spirit, but to be honest, I don’t think that concept stuck with the class very well. It is a subject that could easily occupy an entire class session to get across.  At least they have been exposed to the concept, if they don’t fully understand it.

We’re done with Confirmation. We’ll start the next class with a short review and then move on.

Our readings of the Gospel of Matthew have fallen off, just because we have been busy with other material and haven’t remembered to make assignments. We’ll talk about that next week and resume the assignments. I think we’re up to around Chapter 7. If you would like to encourage your child to read and review those first chapters before next week, that would be great.

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