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Archive for March, 2013

We had a pretty good class this week. The students were reasonably well behaved and fairly engaged.

Although we intended to spend a little time wrapping up the Sacrament of Matrimony and then cover Holy Orders, we spent the entire class discussing Matrimony.

We began by discussing the concept of a permanent commitment and how important it is for a couple to be fully aware and prepared before getting married. While the Catholic Church makes it difficult to get out of a marriage, it also makes it difficult to get into it. Priests and other non-Catholic clergy frequently screen couples and can decline to marry them if they think the couple is not ready or right for each other. As we were discussing this, Mrs. Rudolphi (Where does she come up with this stuff?) announced, “That happened to me!” Huh? It turns out that Mrs. R was Protestant and her fiancée was Catholic. They first went to a Protestant minister and he declined to perform the ceremony because he believed the difference in their faiths was too much for them to overcome. That story was a bit of an eye opener for the class.

We discussed some of the specifics of the marriage ceremony and also the concept of fidelity. We also discussed the concept that in Matrimony, the bride and groom are the actual celebrants and the priest is a witness and blesses the union.

From there we said that Matrimony forms the basis for a Catholic family. We talked about responsibilities within families, including the responsibilities of children. We drew two columns on the white board and head one “adults” and the other “children.” We first asked the class to name responsibilities of the adults or parents in a family and we got the set of answers you would expect – cook dinner, financial support, teach children, etc. When we asked about the other side of the chart, the going was a little more difficult. Aside from household chores, the idea that they might have some responsibilities towards their parents was a totally foreign to them.

Mrs. Rudolphi and I introduced two concepts. (Parents, you can thank us later for this.) The first was to respect their parents; to listen to them; and to try to fulfill their parents’ wishes and expectations. In other words, “Don’t make your parents’ job of raising you difficult.”

The second concept was to give their parents the opportunity to spend time with each other. (Mrs. Rudolphi said “Date night!”) Don’t be so needy and demanding of their parents’ every waking minute that they never to spend any time with just them.

As an example, I related a conversation I had just this week with a mother of two elementary school-age children. She said she was dreading spring break, because one of her children has never learned how to entertain himself. He requires his mother to entertain him…all the time.  Every weekend and every break, he constantly nags her “What are we going to do now?” Fortunately, most of our class was amazed by the story.

Maybe, they will take that lesson home with them and, maybe, make their parents’ life just a little easier.  Hope springs eternal.

We are off next week for spring break, and then back for three classes. I plan to spend some time going over Holy Orders and then as much time as we can spare on the Ten Commandments.

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I think it’s clear we are getting near the end of the year and spring is upon us. Our class was not particularly ill-behaved last night, but the students fell short of being highly enthusiastic. As mentioned in my earlier post, in past years our session on Matrimony has typically generated some interesting questions and discussions. Last night it was a bit like going over the grocery list. Oh well. Somewhat surprisingly, I did get some good responses from my end-of-the-class “What did you learn tonight” questioning. So despite a low level of excitement, they must have picked up something.

We started off with a warning. I don’t know the details of all our students’ families, and don’t really need to. However, I do know that there are students in our class who have experienced divorces and/or other unusual family situations. I emphasized that while we would be teaching the Church’s position on marriage, the students should not take anything as a criticism or judgment on any particular people or situations.

Some of the key points we discussed were:

— Jesus thought enough of the importance of marriage to perform his first miracle at the wedding feast at Cana.

— Marriage has been part of the human experience since the very beginning – ie: Adam and Eve.

— Boys and girls, and men and women are different but equal.

— A Catholic marriage is intended to be a permanent commitment. We talked about some short-lived celebrity marriages and the popular concept of a “starter marriage,” but indicated the Church believes you should enter into a marriage fully aware and prepared and with the full intention of making it a life-long commitment. We discussed the concept of a covenant.

— We discussed the difference between a promise and a vow. A promise is made between one person and another. A vow is a promise made to God. The marriage commitment is a vow.

–The difference between a civil marriage and a religious marriage. A wedding before a judge may cover the legal aspects of marriage, but is very different than a religious marriage, where two people stand before God and promise to maintain a life-long commitment. A Catholic marriage covers both the civil and religious aspects. We were asked whether you could have a civil wedding and then later have a religious wedding. We gave several examples of how this happens.

Next week, we plan to wrap up the chapter on Matrimony and then cover Holy Orders. We’ll have a break the week after Easter (April 3). Then we come back for three final class sessions. We bypassed a lot of chapters in the book in our effort to make it through all seven sacraments. We may go back and pick up some of the chapters we skipped earlier. Or, we may break away from the text and teach two classes on the Ten Commandments. The “BigTen” are not an official part of our curriculum this year, but they have produced some lively classes in the past. Besides, some reinforcement can’t hurt. I’d rather have some final classes in which the students are interested and engaged. Hope springs eternal.

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We will be covering the Sacrament of Matrimony in CCD tonight. In the past, this subject has sparked some interesting questions and discussions. Parents — if interested, take a look at the summaries of the March 21 and 28 classes from last year. (Use the list on the right side of the screen.) As always, parents are most welcome to sit in on any of our classes.

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We had a very busy and packed class session last night.

Father John visited to hear the class’s individual confessions. He brought along some chrism oil. The chrism is not associated with reconciliation, but our main lesson last night was about the Sacrament of Anointing of the Sick. Over the past few months, we had talked about chrism several times and I could tell the students just weren’t getting the concept. I thought if they could see it, they would understand. Father John went around and put a “dab” on the back of each of the students’ hands.

Before Father John began hearing confessions, he led the group in the Act of Contrition. I didn’t know he was going to do this, so I had not given the class any advance notice. The problem is that the students don’t know the Act by heart, so Father John was pretty much on his own.

After that, Father John went across the hall to an empty classroom and the students shuttled over, one at a time for their confessions. I was a little surprised how well it went from an organizational standpoint. I was able to continue teaching the lesson while the students came and went. Parents – You may wish to ask your child about the experience and encourage them to receive Reconciliation more often.

Our main lesson was on Anointing of the Sick.

–We talked about the modern concept of the sacrament and how it differs from the old “last rites” that was usually administered only to someone about to die.

–We spent some time talking about the connection between spiritual/mental well being and physical health.

–We discussed how the sacrament is frequently combined with the Eucharist and Reconciliation. We introduced the concept of “viatecum”, where a dying person is given a tiny piece of the Eucharist to “take along with way” on their journey to Heaven.

–We had a group of volunteers read aloud the steps of the Anointing while two other students acted it out, one as the recipient and one as the priest.

We have just a few class sessions left before we call it quits for the year. Over the next few weeks, we’ll cover the Sacraments of Holy Orders and Matrimony. If we have time, we will also discuss the Ten Commandments. The chapter on Holy Orders does not usually generate a lot of excitement among 5th graders, but in past years, the discussions of Matrimony and the Ten Commandments have been very lively and interesting. As always, parents are welcome to sit in. Also, especially as it relates to Matrimony, if there are any issues in your child’s life that I should know about so I don’t just stick my foot in it, please let me know.

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Last night, we finished off our two-part lesson on the Sacrament of Reconciliation, aka Penance or Confession.

We began by having the class read silently from the text, the last section of the chapter on Reconciliation. The text suggested four ways they could come closer to God. We asked them to suggest real-life examples of each of the following:

1.) Following Jesus’s example and spreading the “good news”

2.) Trusting God when we need help

3.) Caring for the needs of others

4.) Praying daily

We brainstormed a little on #1. We suggested one great way a fifth grader could follow Jesus’s example and spread the “good news” would be by example. Simply by living a good life and following Jesus’s two great commandments, “Love God” and “Love your neighbor,” they would serve as an example to those around them.

The issue of trust was a little more difficult for them to understand. We talked a little about how praying and trusting in God is a great goal, don’t expect God to necessarily answer you the way you want.

I told the joke about the preacher who was caught in a rising flood and waved off a jeep, a boat and a helicopter that tried to rescue him. When he drowned and showed up in Heaven he was angry and felt like God had let him down. St Peter responded, “We sent you a jeep. We sent you a boat. And finally, we sent you a helicopter. Just exactly what were you waiting for?”

The moral – God may answer your prayers, but not always in the way you expect.

When we talked about caring for others, as usual, the students thought in terms of grand gestures –feeding the poor and so on. We pointed out that “caring for the needs of others” can also a matter of how you treat people during routine interactions throughout any day.

When we talked about daily prayer, the class was easily able to come up with examples of formal prayer occasions – before bed, before meals and so on. We pointed out that prayer does not have to be formal, involved and time consuming. Short prayers like “Thank you, God, for this day” while getting dressed in the morning or “Please help me do well on this test” also count. Our text has an entire chapter devoted to the concept of prayer. I hope we have time to fit it in this spring.

Next week, Father John will hear our class’s individual confessions during the regular class period. So our next step was to talk about some of the specifics of the preparation for and the actual procedure of confession. Mrs. Huber had already prepared a two-part hand-out. The first part was a guide to assist the students examining their conscience. It was built around the framework of the Ten Commandments. We talked about some of the questions on the sheet, and sent it home with the students to prepare for next week.

The second part was an outline of the mechanics of receiving the sacrament. We had the class follow along as a volunteer and I demonstrated the procedure, with me sitting in for the priest.

As mentioned above, Father John will be hearing confessions during the class period next week. While that is going on, I believe we will have a regular lesson and just allow the students to go and return as needed. Our next class will focus on the Sacrament of Anointing of the Sick.

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