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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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Sorry for the late posting. Life has been busy, but I’m off for the MLK holiday today so I have a minute.

Last Wednesday’s class was the first “normal” lesson we have had since before Thanksgiving. Continuing our overview of the sacraments, we started on the Eucharist.

We emphasized that the Eucharist is the greatest of all the sacraments, and the center of all Catholic worship. We then examined the first Eucharist at the Last Supper. We pointed out that this was a Seder meal, and once again, that Jesus and all his apostles were Jews. We discussed the idea of a covenant, the Jews belief in their covenant with God and Jesus creating a new covenant.

We handed out a sheet of paper with three columns, labeled memorial, meal and sacrifice. We had the class team up with a partner and read the next section together. We asked them to write a few words in each column to describe how the Eucharist is each of those three concepts.

The next section dealt with the story of the two disciples who met Jesus after his resurrection on the road to Emmaus. They didn’t recognize him until they stopped for the night and had a meal. When Jesus broke the loaf of bread, the disciples suddenly recognized him and then he disappeared. We talked a little about the significance of breaking bread. To reinforce the story, we divided the class into two groups and had them role play the story.

We reinforced the concept of “real presence.” That is, that Jesus is truly present in the consecrated host and wine, and not just a symbol.

We finished with the last section of the chapter in the text, which emphasized Jesus’s statements that he is the bread of life, and “I am the living bread that came down from Heaven.” We had volunteers read the text.

Next week we will continue with the Eucharist with a study of the structure of the Mass. Monsignor Costigan is scheduled to be a guest visitor.

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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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Monsignor Costigan visited our class at my request last night.  Originally, the class was to be focused on the Sacrament of Holy Orders. However, I thought it would be more interesting to have Monsignor to come and talk about his life as a priest and the priesthood in general, and to answer questions.

He did a great job and the class seemed genuinely interested. There were a TON of questions. After a series of questions focused on the “seal of the confessional,” I did need to ask the class to broaden out their questions. Fifth graders love to come up with convoluted “what if…” scenarios that sometimes need to be reined in.

Next week will be our last traditional class period, and we will cover the Sacrament of Matrimony. This is usually an interesting class with lots of questions and discussion. I’m looking forward to it.

We will cap off the CCD year with a final class on April 29. We will have a “teaching Baptism.” This will involve all or nearly all grades. We will have a full-scale baptism of the infant daughter of one of our parish families, and Monsignor will explain each of the prayers and actions as he proceeds. We did this several years ago and it was a big success. We will finish up with some kind of reception/refreshments. Should be fun.

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We’re almost home, parents. The barn is in sight. Don’t give up on us now. A few of our “regulars” were absent last night, and we missed them. It’s been three weeks since our last regular class. We had our CCD Penance service last week. It went very well and I think the students who were there thought it was a rewarding and meaningful experience.  In our year-long coverage of the Sacraments, we are five down and two to go. We covered #5 yesterday, Anointing of the Sick.

We began by comparing the Sacrament of today with the old, “Last Rites” or Extreme Unction of yesteryear. It is no longer administered to just those on their death bed, but the grace of the Sacrament can benefit anyone who is sick, undergoing surgery or any other health issue. We talked a little about the mind-body-spirit connection. Anointing of the Sick is not faith-healing and is not intended to cure a person’s ailment. It can give a person a sense of peace that may allow their body to heal better.

We discussed who can and should receive the Sacrament, and when and where it is administered.

We had one student read a blow-by-blow description of the way the Sacrament is administered while two other students role-played a priest and a sick person. (We actually used some olive oil as chrism and they did NOT make a mess of it!)

We finished with the end of the chapter quiz and discussed the answers.  And as always, we asked each student to cite one thing they learned during the class and rewarded them with a chocolate chip cookie.

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Last night was our second-to-last CCD class for the year and the last one during which we will try to teach a serious lesson. Spring fever is certainly upon us. The students were all hovering about six inches over their seats when we began class. Lots of energy!

As expected, we had a pretty interesting discussion. Last week, we discussed the Ten Commandments in general and the first commandment in detail. Last night, we went over the final nine commandments. There were lots of questions and plenty of discussion. Among the points we discussed were:

— Don’t use the name of God improperly, through exclamations, cursing and so on.

— Why Catholics celebrate the Sabbath on Sunday rather than the “seventh day,” and our obligations to honor the Sabbath, such as attending Mass.

— The fourth commandment to honor your father and mother is intended for all ages, not just children. It’s easy to honor your parents when you are a child and are dependent on them. However, God wants us to honor our parents, especially when they are old and they are dependent upon us.

— “You shall not kill” raised a ton of questions, including war, accidents and suicide. We could have spent all night talking about the morality of military combat, but we didn’t have that much time. We simply pointed out that while God hates war, sometimes a justified war is better than the alternative.

Accidents are not considered a sin. However, someone who kills another in a car “accident” would certainly have some responsibility if they had been drinking, using drugs, driving recklessly, etc.

We discussed the Church’s teaching that suicide is a mortal sin. While many of the students believed their life belongs only to hem, we pointed out that their life is a gift from God, and so for someone to take their own life would be taking something that belongs to God. We did discuss two important related points.

1.) Many people who commit suicide are mentally impaired and may not be responsible for their actions.

2.) Only God knows if the person may have repented and asked for forgiveness at the last moment.

Because of these points, we emphasized that they should never judge what might have happened if they hear about a suicide.

— The commandment prohibiting adultery raised some questions, mostly “What is adultery?” (Of course, one of those questions came after we had just spent ten minutes explaining and discussing it. Thank you for paying attention.) We referred back to our discussion of marital fidelity when we covered Matrimony, and the importance of keeping marriage vows to be faithful.

–“You shall not steal” was pretty straight-forward. The class understood it right off and we didn’t have much discussion.

–The prohibition against false witness raised some questions. We tried to relate the concept to 5th grade lives by talking about gossip and rumors, which they seemed to understand.

— The ninth and tenth commandments prohibit coveting your neighbors wife (or husband) and anything that belongs to your neighbor. “Covet” was a new concept to most of the class. We said that while it is OK to admire something that belongs to another person. It is wrong to want it so badly they would be willing to steal it or do something else wrong to obtain it.  We related the same concept to a married couple. While the sixth commandment obliges a married couple to be faithful to each other, the ninth commandment prohibits a third person from trying to interfere in the couple’s relationship. At their age, the students didn’t seem to understand why someone would do such a thing. Mrs. Rudolphi and I assured them that while this may be a foreign concept to them now, as they grow older they will see that it is not as uncommon as they might think.

Next week will be our last class. We are going to do something special. I’m just not sure exactly what that will be.

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We had a different class last night. We had a “field trip” over to the church. We joined the sixth grade class for a very nice program presented by Cathy Scanlon. She had a complete set of priest’s vestments and the various “tools” used during the Mass, like the chalice, paten, etc.  She explained the various colors for the vestments, the seasons of the Church year and the uses for all the parts of the altar kit. Much of this we have already covered in class, but reinforcement is always good.

We only had about half the class in attendance last night, which was too bad. Despite the reaction of a few of the students who had trouble sitting still for 45 minutes, it was really an interesting and informative program.

Next week is Ash Wednesday. There will not be a normal CCD class. We strongly encourage parents to bring their child to the Mass and ashes service at 7 pm.

Hope to see you then!

 

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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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This is a late post. I was on the road Thursday and Friday for my work and didn’t have the time to update. Sorry.

This lesson had the potential to be one of the best of the year, based on teaching it in past years. Unfortunately, this particular group has a great deal of difficulty staying focused on the main activity and discussion. The side chatter, cutting up and general mayhem kept the lesson from achieving its potential.

This has been an issue since the first of the year, and to be honest, it has been very  frustrating. We are going to discuss this at the start of class this week. Any of our students who are not interested in making at least some effort to control themselves and not distract their fellow students (and the teacher) with unwarranted side conversations, joking around and generally misbehaving will be asked to leave the class. If you get a call to come and pick up your child, you’ll know why.

The primary thrust of this week’s class was forgiveness and the Sacrament of Reconciliation. We talked about the concept of forgiveness in regular day to day life and compared it to the act of forgiveness in the sacrament. Each process usually consists of four steps.

  1. The “wrong doer” must admit they did wrong.
  2. They must express regret and ask for forgiveness
  3. The injured party offers forgiveness.
  4. Frequently, the “wrong doer” offers some reparation to make up for the damage done.

In Reconciliation these steps are the equivalent of:

  1. Confessing our sins.
  2. Praying the Act of Contrition
  3. The priest’s providing absolution.
  4. The penance.

As a way of demonstrating this process, we asked for two volunteers to role-play an act of forgiveness. We asked them to create a story to explain why Clair is angry at Robbie. Then we did an Oprah Winfrey type talk show where we put the two together to work out their differences. We followed the model above.

We also hit a couple of other issues regarding the Sacrament of Reconciliation, including:

–There is really no reason to be embarrassed to talk with the priest. At their relatively young age, there is probably nothing they can confess that the priest hasn’t heard before.
–The absolution covers all minor sins, confessed or not, but all “mortal sins” must be confessed.
–The priest is absolutely bound by secrecy and cannot reveal what you confess to anyone else.
–There is nothing you can do that is so serious that you cannot be forgiven.

This week will include coverage of “Anointing of the Sick” and we’ll move on from there.

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We started Wednesday’s class with a couple of timely subjects, Advent and the Feast of the Immaculate Conception.

We wished the class a very Happy New Year and asked if they had a New Year’s celebration last weekend. Naturally, they were very confused, but at least it got their attention. We talked about Advent marking the beginning of the Church year. We brainstormed for a few minutes about the meaning (preparation) of the season and ways they can prepare for Christmas, aside from drawing up lists of presents they want.

A question from one of the students got us off on the issue of the actual date of Christ’s birth. We talked about how an interpretation of the Gospel stories of the Nativity indicates Christ was probably born sometime in the spring, but in the early Christian times, no one really knew Jesus’s exact birthday. We pointed out that most early cultures had some sort of celebration during, what is now considered, late December. We brainstormed for some reasons for this. Eventually, we pulled out that December 21 (usually) is the shortest day of the year, and most cultures had some sort of festival to celebrate the days becoming longer. Early Christians tied a celebration of the birth of Christ to the Roman Saturnalia to co-opt an existing celebration.

I was a little surprised that none of the students had a clue what the Feast of the Immaculate Conception commemorates. I really thought a number of students would think that it commemorates the virgin birth of Jesus, but no one even had that (incorrect) idea. So we talked about how the feast commemorates the Church’s teaching that Mary was the only person, aside from Jesus himself, to be born without Original Sin.

The Feast of the Immaculate Conception is a Holy Day of Obligation — next Wednesday, December 8. We will NOT have a regular class session on that day. Rather, we ask that parents bring your 5th graders and the rest of your family to Mass at 7 pm.

Back to the textbook, we read the story of Jesus meeting up with two of his disciples after his resurrection on the road to Emmaus. The disciples did not recognize him until they broke bread. Jesus talked to the disciples about how his death was part of God’s plan, as laid out in Holy Scripture. We made the connection between breaking bread in the Gospel story and the present-day Mass. This transitioned us to a discussion of the importance of Scripture.

We talked about how some fundamentalist Protestant religions believe almost exclusively in the Bible. However, in the Catholic Church, teachings come to us from both the Bible and the evolving traditions of the past 2,000 years.

We distributed Bibles to the class and had them turn to the index of books. We briefly gave an overview of the Old and New Testaments, and the different types of books included in each.

We finished off with the story of St. Jerome, who translated the Jewish and Greek texts of the Bible into Latin so it could be read by the common people of that time.

Before breaking, we issued a challenge. We challenged the students to read one complete book of the Bible between now and the first class in January. We suggested the Gospel of Matthew, since it is fairly straight forward and also fairly short. For any student who reads one of the books and can pass a simple comprehension quiz that proves they did so, we will have a simple prize. We would appreciate any support parents can provide to give their children a little “push.”

Upcoming weeks…

December 8 – Feast of the Immaculate Conception. Mass at 7 pm. (I’ll be sitting up front on the left (by the choir section), if anyone wants to join me.)

December 15 – Last CCD class of this calendar year. Students should report to the church for a special Christmas program. Parents and other siblings are welcome! There will be some type of Christmas party following the program. Details of the party are still in the works.

December 22 & 29 — Christmas break.

January 5, 2011 — Back in business.

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