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This was our second to the last class for the CCD year. We are charging towards the finish line.

We opened the class with a short review of last week’s lesson on the Sacrament of Anointing of the Sick. Then we moved on to the main topic of the class, the Sacrament of Matrimony, including the outlines of a Catholic marriage and family. Sometimes this can be a sensitive subject, so we started off with a warning. I don’t know the details of all our students’ families, and don’t really need to. However, it is quite likely there are students in our class who have experienced divorces and/or other unusual family situations, with their parents or other members of their family. 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.

— 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.

— 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.

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 little strange.

We 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. Don’t be so needy and demanding of their parents’ every waking minute that they never to spend any time with just them.

Next week will be the final CCD class session. Monsignor Costigan will be a guest speaker to talk about his life as a priest. We will have a pizza snack and drinks.

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We are in the home stretch of the CCD year, with just two more classes left on the schedule. Last night, we started with a review of the Sacrament of Reconciliation, just to solidify (hopefully) some of the key concepts. Then we moved on to the Sacrament of Anointing of the Sick (Ch 18).

We hit several key points.

The Sacrament has evolved over the years from 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 took a big chance and allowed the students to break into teams of three and role-play the administration of the Sacrament. I had a small amount of vegetable oil to use for the anointing. The two teams of girls did great. I had to sideline he three guys because they were cutting the fool and not listening. I guess they got the message, because they settled down and, after cooling their heels for a few minutes, I allowed them to continue with the exercise.

Our next class will focus on the Sacrament of Matrimony, which is usually a fairly interesting class. We’ll finish up on April 17 with a visit from Monsignor Costigan, and maybe some pizza to celebrate the completion of another year.

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We had another good class last night. Mrs. Hanzel took half the lesson and did a great job.

In the first half of the class period, we finished up the exercise on the Commandments we began last week. The class was broken into groups of two or three and asked to come up with a list of commandments that were appropriate and relevant to fifth graders. The students really got into the exercise. They presented their results and they were great.

Mrs. Hanzel then took the lead and presented a lesson on the season of Lent. We started by showing a video which you can watch here.

The audio was not very strong, so we told the class they needed to be quiet and to listen carefully. They must have been interested because we didn’t hear a peep. Mrs. Hanzel then passed out a Lent questionnaire and a graphic drawing showing a path through the six weeks of Lent, and we talked about it.

Important note: We will have no class for the next two weeks. Here is what the rest of the year looks like.

February 27 – No class due to First Penance

March 6 – Ash Wednesday. Mass and distribution of ashes for your family at 7 pm.

March 13 – We will cover the Sacrament of Reconciliation.

March 20 – No class. SCCPSS spring break

March 27 — Penance Service in the church. Students should report to the classroom.

April 3 – We will cover the Sacrament of Anointing of the Sick.

April 10 – We will cover the Sacrament of Matrimony

April 17 – THIS IS THE LAST CLASS. We will cover the Sacrament of Holy Orders, most likely with a guest speaker.

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We had a good class last night. We finished off our coverage of the Ten Commandments and started a group exercise that we will continue next Wednesday.

We started out by pointing out that the first three commandments, which we covered last week, deal with our relationship with God, while the last seven address our relationships with other people.

#4. “Honor your father and mother” As mentioned above, we emphasized the need to love and respect your parents throughout their life and to help and support them when they need it. We talked a little about the role reversal that frequently happens in life. Right now, the students are highly dependent on their parents. 30 or 40 years from now their parents might be dependent on them.

#5 “You shall not kill” Not a lot of discussion here.

#6 “You shall not commit adultery” Surprisingly, the first student I called up on could define adultery. We emphasized the importance of the marriage vows, but did not wander far afield on this one.

#7 “You shall not steal” Again, this one was pretty obvious to the class. We did broaden the definition to go beyond just physical objects to include intangibles like ideas, software, pirated music downloads, and so on.

#8 False witness – Most of the class had a pretty good general idea of what this was all about. However, we expanded the discussion to include issues more relevant to them, like gossip and rumors.

#9 & 10 Two “covet” commandments – We described “covet” as to want something so badly that you are willing to commit a wrong to get it. Regarding coveting a neighbor’s goods, it pointed out that it is OK to admire something like a new phone or something similar a friend gets. But when you want it so badly you are willing to steal it, it is coveting.

We didn’t spend a lot of time on the issue of coveting another’s wife or husband, but we did point out that God so values marriage that two of the commandments refer to it. The adultery commandment applies to the people within the marriage, but the covet commandment addresses someone outside the relationship.

We then retold the story of Moses and Mt. Sinai with a minor revision. In this story there was a group of fifth graders in the crowd when Moses presented the Commandments. The fifth graders objected, saying there wasn’t really much there that applied to them, since they are really into murder and aren’t even sure what that adultery thing is. They sent Moses back up the mountain to ask God for another set of Commandments, this one relevant to 5th graders. We broke the class into four small groups and gave them poster boards and markers. We told them to imagine they are God, and to come up with a second set of Commandments, this one applying to the issues fifth graders face.

We let them work on that for about ten minutes until it was time for pick-up. We will continue next week and allow them to present their commandments to the class. We will then take a little time to talk about Lent.

There will be NO CCD in two weeks, on February 27.

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First off, an apology for not being more regular in writing these updates. Some health/medical issues in my family have caused a great deal of disruption to our normal routine.

On Wednesday, Mrs. Hanzel started he class with a review of last week’s lesson, with a focus on knowing The Lord’s Prayer. Then we stepped outside the normal curriculum to take a look at the Ten Commandments. This subject used to be a part of the 5th grade curriculum, but it dropped out when we switched textbooks a few years ago. However, since these classes produced such engagement and energy, I kept them a part of our curriculum.

We started by telling the story of the Israelites escape from Egypt and how they came the base of Mt. Sinai. We talked about how they were worshiping idols, generally misbehaving and needed a set of rules to live by. We then had the students take turns reading aloud from Exodus Chapter 20, which is the first description of the Commandments.

We distributed a listing of the Commandments that included a chart showing how they are numbered differently in different religions. (Most Protestant churches break up the first three “God Commandments” into four and combine the “covet commandments” into just one.) We pointed out that this is only an issue when you discuss a particular commandment with a Protestant friend. If you are discussing the Fourth Commandment, a Catholic would be talking about “Honor your mother and father,” but the Protestant friend would be talking about keeping holy the Sabbath. We walked our way through the first three Commandments with these key points.

#1 “I am the Lord your God…” We discussed how worshiping statues and other idols was common in the time of Moses. We asked the class to think about false gods in a modern sense. We broke the class into small groups and asked them to brainstorm some things that modern people might place higher than God. They came up with things like money, popularity, music stars, gambling, alcohol abuse, drugs, and even electronic games.

#2 “You shall not make wrongful use of the name of God” We talked about using God’s name improperly. We also pointed out that the early Jewish people took this commandment so far as to give God a name that could not be pronounced. It eventually evolved into Yahweh or Jehovah.

#3 “Keep holy the Sabbath” We discussed why Christians changed the Sabbath from Saturday to Sunday, and the requirement to attend Mass on Sunday.

Next week, we will complete our coverage of the last seven Commandments. Either next week or the following week (depending on our progress), we will introduce our favorite exercise of the CCD year, when we ask the class to come up with a set of commandments relevant to modern 5th graders. That is always interesting.

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This is our first class summary in quite a while. We lost several weeks of regular class periods to the Christmas pageant. And I was out of action last week due to some medical issues.

Last night, we picked up our coverage of the sacraments with the Eucharist. Father Kavanaugh stopped in and talked with the class for the first half of the period. He talked about the “real presence” of Christ in the host and cup. He talked about being a mystery. We had some Q&A which is good because it shows some engagement by the students.
We followed up his talk with a discussion of the origin of the sacrament. We discussed the Jewish Passover, now the Last Supper was a Passover seder meal and now the Mass has similarities. We also discussed he concept of a covenant.

We showed a short video that reinforced many of the concepts that we had discussed. It’s a little humorous and he students seemed to enjoy it. You can watch it here.
And, as always, we finished up by asking the students to tell us something they had learned during the class and rewarded them with a cookie.

Next week, we are going to talk about the structure of the Mass and teach the class how to use a missalette.

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My apologies for not posting a summary of last week’s class. We had a family situation that took me out of town.

For the past two weeks, we have covered the Sacrament of Baptism. Last week, we handed out a question sheet, and asked the students to answer some questions about themselves, like…

My name is:
I was born on:
I was baptized on:
At (church):
My Godparents are:

We were pretty sure there would be unanswered questions, so we asked them to take the sheet home with them and ask their parents for help. Most returned them this week, and learned a little about themselves in the process.

We started into the chapter in the textbook. We had volunteers read the first page. We handed out a sheet with questions, the answers for which were contained in the text, and asked the students to locate and answer the questions.

1. Does everyone get baptized at the same age? (No)
2. What do we call adults or older children who are preparing for Baptism? (catechumens)
3. Who helps prepare people for Baptism? (the entire Church community)
4. What do Godparents do? (multiple answers)
5. What is the best day to be Baptized? (Sunday)

On the issue of godparents, we did make a distinction between what it means in the Church, as opposed to a common lay meaning. Outside the church godparents are often considered the intended guardians of a child if both parents should die. Within the Church, that may or may not be the case. We explained that frequently godparents are not a couple, and may be married to other people (eg: an aunt from one side of the family and an uncle from the other.) Within the Church, the godparents stand up for a child during the ceremony and answer questions in his or her place. They are also expected to be involved in the child’s life, especially their spiritual life.

Last night we picked up where we left off. We passed out a sheet with ten questions. The answers were to be found in the text. We had them read one pages silently and answer the questions for that page. Then we had volunteers read the last two pages, again with the students looking for the answers to the questions. Then we talk about the questions and answers.

I have been using this technique because I found that just having the students read something silently, or having volunteers read from the text doesn’t cause anything to “stick” with them. To be honest, the same applies when I just talk. Last night, we spent 5-10 minutes discussing original sin and answering questions. Just a few minutes later, quite a few students were totally stumped when they encountered a question about original sin and Baptism’s role with it. It was like our discussion never happened.

Sigh.

In any case, by having them actually have to think about a question, find the answer in the text and write it down, I hope some of the material may not totally float out of their brains when the class is over.

Then we came to the fun (risky) part of the lesson. We divided the class into three groups of three and had them role-play a Baptism. One student was the priest, one the catechumen and one the godparent. We had water, oil, a white garment (tee-shirt) and a candle – the four symbols of the Sacrament. We gave them a few minutes to prepare and then had them walk through the process. I let the “priest” say the prayers and anoint with oil, but I dribbled the water. There was no point in providing them with too much temptation for mischief.

The exercise did not go totally off the rails. It actually went fairly well. The students really got into it. Hopefully, by acting out the Sacrament, they may actually remember it.

I wasn’t going to ask them what they learned, but several students jumped right up and started telling me. So we went through the class, and everyone was able to cite something, and was rewarded with a cookie.

I just received word a few minutes ago (Thursday morning) that our fifth grade WILL participate in the Christmas Pageant on December 19. Our class will be the narrators. Please note, this is different from what I told the children last night, when I thought we were not going to be part. So the next two classes will be devoted to rehearsal with the “performance” on December 19.

No class next week, the evening before Thanksgiving. Well see everyone back on November 28.

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