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Archive for February, 2013

The focus of last night’s class was the Sacrament of Reconciliation. This was the first of three classes that will be largely devoted to Reconciliation/Penance/Confession. Last night, we discussed the “theory.” Next week, we will go through the specifics of confession. And finally, on March 13, Father John will be available to hear the class’s individual confessions. We really hope and encourage that we have a great turnout that night. (Parents – hint, hint!) We did emphasize that our preparation last night and next week should have them ready to celebrate the sacrament and it shouldn’t be a big deal.

We started out talking about the concept of forgiveness in general. I asked two students to help with a role-playing exercise. They were to come up with a make-believe story of Jacob doing something to anger Kaitlin. They decided that Jacob had torn up Kaitlin’s homework.

In the role-play Kaitlin confronted Jacob with it, Jacob denied it. Eventually, Jacob caved in and admitted that he had done the deed. I guided them through the process as Jacob expressed remorse; Kaitlin forgave him; and Jacob offered to try to make it right by going to the teacher and telling her what happened so Kaitlin wouldn’t get a bad grade. We used this exercise to introduce the idea that any act of forgiveness usually involves four distinct steps.

1.) Admission – The offender must own up to the offense.

2.) Sorrow or contrition – The offender must feel and express regret or sorrow.

3.) Forgiveness – The other party forgives the offender.

4.) Reparation or “pay back” – The offender does something to make up for the offense.

Then, using the text, we walked our way through the process of the Sacrament of Reconciliation, connecting each of those four steps to the key parts of the sacrament.

Admission = Confessing our sins

Sorrow = Act of Contrition

Forgiveness = Absolution

Reparation = Penance

We prayed the Act of Contrition together as a class. Other key points we discussed were:

— The difference between mortal and venial sins. Reconciliation forgives all venial sins, even those that the person may have forgotten, but mortal sins must be confessed. We described mortal sins as the kind of crimes you would go to prison for. We didn’t see any need to get more detailed at this age.

— That the priest is an intermediary for God

— Two types of the sacrament, an individual confession and the group Penance services

— The absolute bond of secrecy for anything discussed in Confession.

By the way, after our rather unrewarding experience last week, I took a little firmer posture in terms of classroom management. We have just a few children who are rather needy of attention and try to get it by being either disruptive or loudly outspoken. Normally, I am inclined to allow our class discussions to run free, but there are some students who take excessive advantage of that. Last night, I did not give them as much free rein and it worked. So, parents, if you hear something about that from your child, that’s what it was all about. If you have any question, please feel free to give me a call.

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We tried something a little different last night in an effort to get the class engaged and interested, but it didn’t work. It seems we hit a point like this about this time nearly every year. For what reason, I don’t know. It probably has a lot to do with the teacher, but for better or worse, I’m stuck with who I am.

The primary focus of the class last night was the Mass. As a follow-up to our discussion of the Eucharist last week, we were going to go through the various parts of the Mass and try to convey an understanding of the prayers, purposes and meanings.

At the beginning of the session, I told the class I had two directions we could go. One was fairly traditional, and not that interesting. The other would be more involved and probably more interesting, but it would require their cooperation to make it work. I would decide which way to go about ten minutes into the session, depending on how well they were cooperating.

The first ten minutes went rather well. Volunteers read aloud and we discussed the introductory paragraphs of the text. The class was fairly calm, so I decided to take a try at the “riskier” course of teaching. We counted off the class into four groups. We assigned one part of the Mass to each group. (Introductory Rites, Liturgy of the Word, Liturgy of the Eucharist and Concluding Rites.) We gave the groups a piece of poster-board and markers and instructed them to read about their assigned Mass section in the text and to create a poster to depict it. They would then present their poster to the rest of the class and teach them about their assigned part of the Mass.

We had high hopes for this. We really thought it was a good idea. We went around to each of the groups, trying to encourage and coach them. Unfortunately, that did not help. Left to their own devices, the groups descended rapidly into chaos. One group made a little progress. The remaining three were very ineffective. They were much too involved with cutting-up with their friends, and arguing over what color marker to use, that they didn’t read the material we had provided. When it came time to make a presentation to the rest of the class, they didn’t have a clue.

It’s pretty clear that small-group activities are not working well. The class dynamics are not helped by a small number of students who are very needy of attention and are either actively disruptive or so driven to be the center of attention that they just roll over the quieter students.

The next few weeks will be very full. Since last night’s lesson was a bomb, we will attempt to cover it again next week in a more controllable format. We will also start on the Sacrament of Reconciliation in preparation for the students to receive the Sacrament in a few weeks.

For the next several weeks, Father John will be taking one class at a time and hearing confessions of our students, He will start next week with the 7th grade and work his way down. The fifth grade is scheduled to receive the Sacrament of Reconciliation during the regular class session on March 13. We are going to make a strong effort to prepare our students for this and hopefully relieve some of the anxiety I know they will feel. However, parents, please be aware that this will be coming up on March 13.

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Good morning, parents and friends. We had an interesting class last night. Sorry you missed it. (I’m assuming that most of our students are probably not reading this. It’s OK if they do, but I suspect it isn’t at the top of their hit parade.)

We had some interesting feedback from last week’s discussion about the scientific and biblical accounts of creation. Apparently they loved it. Given the choice, I think our students would prefer an anthropology class over religion. Too bad. We’re teaching religion.

We did finish off our discussion of the first chapter of Genesis. I emphasized again that the target audience for Genesis was a group of nomadic sheep and goat herders. It had to be written in a way they could understand, and still convey its important messages.

1.) God created the world and everything that is in it.

2.) What he created is good.

The details of how he did it are left up to science. And the Bible is a religious book, not a science text.

I drew a picture on the board of the ancient Hebrews concept of the world. Rather than the modern view of planets, a solar system, galaxies, etc, the Hebrews thought the world was like a “snow dome” a flat disc covered with a dome and suspended in water.

The Hebrew concept of the world

The Hebrew concept of the world

We talked about this and then had the students take turns reading the first chapter of Genesis aloud, with that concept in mind.

Although I really didn’t want to go that far, there was a lot of interest in the Adam and Eve story. The class had trouble grasping the concept that the story was more symbolic than historical. One student asked if Adam and Eve were the first humans, and they had children, did that mean that their children had to marry one another to produce the next generation. (Where do they come up with these things?) I really didn’t want to get involved in a lengthy discussion of early humans and evolution, so I just pointed out that there were many things that Bible does not address, like Adam and Eve’s other children and so on. It wasn’t a very good answer, but it got us off of an uncomfortable subject.

Finally, we got back to the main topic of the class, the Eucharist. We passed out a sheet of paper with three columns, with headers for the Eucharist as a Memorial, as a Meal and as a Sacrifice. We asked the students to pair up with a partner and to read a portion of the text that described the Sacrament in those three terms. They were to write a few words about the Eucharist in each column. Aside from the difficulty of getting them to settle down and actually concentrate on that task, it went fairly well. Some of the students had difficulty grasping the concepts of memorial and sacrifice. So we talked a little bit about the use of objects and actions to remember a person or event. We also talked some about the practice of most ancient cultures to sacrifice farm animals or other valued items as a way of worshiping God. We don’t do that anymore. Christ’s sacrifice on the cross and subsequently the Eucharist replaced that practice.

A reminder that next week’s CCD class (February 13) will be replaced by Mass and ashes (It will be Ash Wednesday.) at 7 pm in the church. We encourage all our CCD families to attend.

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I’m a little late posting an update for last week’s class. I was traveling for work Thursday and Friday of last week and, to be honest, didn’t think about it over the weekend. Oops.

We had a small group turn out last Wednesday, maybe only 10 or 12 students. We started off the first of two chapters covering the Eucharist. We covered several key points.

–The first Eucharist was at the Last Supper, which in turn was a Jewish Passover meal (Seder.) We talked a little about the origin of the Passover celebration and the Passover story in Exodus. We had a lot of questions about why God would kill the Egyptian first-born sons, which didn’t help us stay in topic. My fault.

–We connected the words in Luke’s Gospel account of the Last Supper to the words used in the consecration in the Mass. We emphasized Jesus’s command to “Do this in memory of me.”

–We discussed the concept of the Real Presence, that Catholics believe that Jesus is truly present in the bread and wine of the Eucharist. This differs from what most Protestant faiths profess, that their “holy communion” is simply representative of Jesus’s body and blood, not a Real Presence.

–We emphasized that the Eucharist is at the very center of what it means to be a Catholic.

I’d like to tell you that I was making a significant impact on the students, but in truth, I think everything I was throwing out was bouncing right back at me.  It wasn’t working. Then we changed the subject.

We were talking a little about the connection to Passover and Jewish history. Students started asking questions about the Bible and the focus switched to the biblical account of creation (Adam and Eve, etc.). There seemed to be a lot of interest, and since I was making such great progress with our earlier topic (sarcasm), I decided to head off in a totally different direction. (We’ll pick up where we left off with the Eucharist this week.)

Most of the students were very confused about the relationship between the biblical account of Creation and what they learn in school. They didn’t understand why Adam and Eve weren’t eaten by the dinosaurs. So we talked a little about how Genesis was written for a group of illiterate, nomadic goat herders who lived in tents in the desert. Those people had no concept of the Big Bang, DNA, evolution or anything of that nature. We told the class that Genesis tells us that God created the world and everything in it, and that what he created is good. However, the Bible is a religious book, not a science text. So it’s up to science to explain what “tools” God used and how he did it. The creation story in Genesis should be viewed as a broad story with a strong underlying truth. The details are left to science. As such, Genesis is not really in conflict with their science classes.

This probably sounds a lot like “intelligent design,” however, I pointed out again, we are teaching a religion class, not a science class.

This week, I want to finish up just a little more on the Creation story and then complete the half-taught lesson on the Eucharist.

An important scheduling note – NEXT WEEK, February 13, is Ash Wednesday. There will be no CCD class. We ask parents to bring their children and join them for Mass at 7 pm.

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