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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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I have been very derelict in my responsibility to keep this blog updated. Sorry about that. Here is a catch-up.

Jan 31 — We completed our coverage of the Sacrament of Confirmation. We spent a fair amount of time discussing that this sacrament confirms what was done for them by their godparents at Baptism. Since our entire class was baptized as infants, we pointed out they had no say in whether they were to become Catholics or not. However, they will be old enough to make a choice for themselves to become a full time Catholic. We also  pointed out that most religions have a similar process when a child reaches their early teens.

Feb 7 — We had a special treat. One of Mrs. Scanlon’s second graders and his  younger sister had not been baptized as infants. Father Kavenaugh baptized the pair on Feb 7. Our class sat in and observed. Father did a great job explaining the steps and their meaning.

Feb 14 — Ash Wednesday. No class.

Feb 21 — I was out of town on family business. (My wife’s and my first grandchild was born in South Carolina last week. )  Mrs. Rudolphi took over the class and presented a lesson on prayer.

Feb 28 — This week’s class will be the first of two on the Ten Commandments.  These have been some of our favorite classes of the year. The subject brings out many, many questions and lots of great discussion. If parents ever thought they would like to sit in on a class, this would be the one to do so.

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Last night’s class almost left the rails, but it turned out pretty well anyway.

We finished up the lesson on the Sacrament of Baptism. Most of the students returned their “homework,” where we asked them to ask their parents about the church where they were baptized, the priest and their godparents.

Father Kavanaugh stuck his head in for a few minutes and talked about Baptism.

We had the class read aloud one page of the text and had them answer a few questions. We then spent a few minutes talking about an emergency Baptism, in which anyone can perform the rite. (Typically this is most common when a person, like a newborn, is near death and there isn’t time for a priest to get to the scene.)

We then divided the class into two groups and assigned them to read and study the last two pages of the chapter, which describes the actual prayers and actions of a normal Baptism. And then they played it out. We provided a little water, oil, a candle and a white garment (t-shirt.) They really got into it, maybe a little too much.

We think they learned something. At least, when we did our end-of-class “what did you learn tonight” activity, they all were able to recite something quickly and without duplication.

I think I had the chance to speak to all the parents last night, but just to be safe, here are the plans for the Christmas pageant. Our class will provide the narrators. Two students do not want to read, so they will be assigned to play one of the characters. We will rehearse November 29 and Dec 6. The pageant will be held during the regular CCD class period on December 13. We may have a final “dress rehearsal” on Saturday morning, December 9. We’ll let you know. If your child is nervous about this, please assure him or her that Mrs. Rudolphi and I will get them “coached up” ahead of time and will be there to support them on the evening of the performance. We have done this for a number of years, and we haven’t lost anyone yet. Feel free to give me a call or send me an email if you have any questions.

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We had an interesting class Wednesday evening, even if it didn’t go as planned. The students were full of questions about the subject of the class, Baptism, so we went with the flow. If they are asking question, they are engaged, and that is the best. So we had a rather free-flowing discussion that covered a lot of ground.

For our pre-class exercise, 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. Parents – please ask your child about this.

We intended to cover the second of two chapters on Baptism, but wanted to backtrack and go over a handful of key points from the chapter we skipped. These included the purposes of Baptism.

Joins us with Christ
Brings us into the Church
Wipes us free from all sin

The last point prompted a lot of questions, particularly about the relationship between Baptism and Reconciliation. We also talked some about original sins; what happens to babies who die before being baptized; and the nature of Heaven. It was a pretty free-wheeling discussion, but all, more or less, on target.

We finally 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.

We left the class with a small “homework” assignment. Before the next class, they are to find a way to shine the light of Christ they received at Baptism with some person or persons. Next week, we will ask them what they did. You may wish to remind your child of this.

Also, next week, we will finish off the chapter on Baptism and conduct a role-play where students will walk through a mock Baptism ceremony.

When I mentioned this to the class, several jumped in and asked “with a real baby?” We won’t do that next week, but that is something we have done in the past. Monsignor has presided over at least two real Baptisms, in church, with the family, but during a Wednesday evening CCD time slot. Usually, most if not all the other classes attend. Initially some were skeptical of this, but the two times we did it, it worked out great. Monsignor Costigan walked through the ceremony and explained the significance of each step. And the roughly 150 students present, were totally well behaved. The difficulty with doing this every year is finding a set of parents who are willing to have their child’s Baptism performed on a Wednesday evening. So parents – If you know of a family who should be having a child baptized between now and the end of April, and might be willing to be part of the program, please let me know.

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We had a really good class last night. Mrs. Rudolphi and I are liking these kids more and more every week. They are bright, attentive, cooperative and engaged.

As the students arrived, we had them complete a crossword puzzle with answers from last week’s lesson. We had one somewhat funny coincidence. The answer for one of the words was to be “blessedtrinity.” One student answered “theholytrinity.” Not only is it the same thing, but the letter-count is the same, and the third letter is a “cross letter” and it is an “e” in each answer. We all got a chuckle out of that.

We continue to work on reinforcing their knowledge of the basic prayers. They had the Hail Mary down pat, so we moved on to the Lord’s Prayer.

The rest of the evening was spent on Chapter 3, which is a broad-brush overview of the Sacraments. We started by handing out a work sheet with two columns, labeled…

Sacraments I have received

Sacraments I expect to receive at some time

We asked them to fill in the boxes based on their own experience. We used this as a springboard to explain each Sacrament. Most were not familiar with Holy Orders or Anointing of the Sick. It led to a good Q & A discussion. Many did not understand that it IS possible for someone to receive all seven Sacraments. And much to their surprise, there are actually a few married Catholic priests with families.

We divided the class into pairs and threes and asked them to read P 36 together and to answer three questions which they would find the answers in the text.

What are some of the signs of God’s love in the world? (Many good answers)

What is the greatest gift of God’s love? (Jesus)

What is sanctifying grace?

This led to a good discussion of grace. Most had just a scant understanding, and the definition in the book didn’t help much. We explained grace as simply being God’s love for them. To bring it to life, we asked if there were times that they felt their parents love more than others. Many good answers, like hugs, comforting moments, and so on. We used this concept to explain that the Sacraments are God’s way of transmitting his love to us, just like a parent transmits his or her love through a hug or a kiss.

We showed the class that the Sacraments are divided into three categories.

Sacraments of Initiation (Baptism, Confirmation, Eucharist)

Sacraments of Healing (Reconciliation, Annointing of the Sick)

Sacraments of Service of Communion (Holy Orders, Matrimony)

It was a good discussion and they seemed to grasp the concepts.

We had volunteer read aloud from text and covered the concepts of Christian initiation (process of becoming a member of the Church) and a Common Vocation (a call for all Christians to live good and holy lives and to be witnesses of the faith.)

That got us only about half way through the chapter. Next week we will finish off.

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I am sorry for the very late posting for these first two classes of the year. Life has been very busy.

We discussed Jesus’s baptism and the role of John the Baptist.

We discussed the Holy Trinity. We explained that as mere humans, we cannot understand the concept of three persons in one God, but we gave a couple of examples to help draw the students close.

On Oct 11, we took two pages from chapter 1 and divided it up into four sections. We asked the students to pair-up with a partner and assigned each team one section to read, understand and to teach back to the rest of the class. Somewhat to our surprise, it actually went very well. They students really got into the exercise and exhibited energy and creativity. Yea!

We finished with the end-of-chapter quiz and discussed the questions and answers. And as we do in every class, we ask each student to tell us something they learned that evening. They are rewarded with a cookie for being able to do so.

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How did I miss a blog entry last week?

Last Wednesday, we  picked up the exercise we did not finish the previous week. We broke the class into two groups and assigned each group a segment of the second chapter on Baptism. The boys who started prepping their lesson the previous week continued on the same segment. The rest of the class (the girls), concentrated on the third and fourth sections which dealt mostly with the actual Baptism ceremony. The assignment – work as a team to read and understand the section (2-4 paragraphs) and then teach that section to the rest of the class.

They did OK. I think the most memorable part of the experience for each of the groups was that we allowed them to “role play” a Baptism. This was the essential part of the girls’ assignment, but when they were done, we allowed the guys to act it out also.  We provided water, oil, a white garment and a candle. The groups self-assigned their roles as the narrator, priest, the one to be baptized and the godparents. No water fights. No spilled oil. No fire. Victory!

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