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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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Sorry for the delay in posting this update. The past couple of days were just a little busy.

In any case, on Wednesday evening, we tackled the last six of the Ten Commandments. This was a rather unstructured, free-flowing discussion. Perhaps it was a little too unstructured, as keeping the class focused on a group discussion was a little challenge. The temptations of cutting up and chatting with one’s neighbors was more than some of our little band could withstand. Even so, it was fairly lively and most of the group was involved.

We started with a review of the first four commandments we covered last week, then moved on to the next set. Here are the key points we discussed.

“You shall not kill” – Surprisingly, there weren’t as many questions about this as I had anticipated. Some students were concerned about killing animals, like for food. Some others were concerned that God had killed in the Bible (the plagues on Egypt in Exodus and the Great Flood in Genesis.) We talked a little about self-defense and then moved on.

“You shall not commit adultery” – We defined “adultery” simply as breaking your marriage vows or “cheating” on your husband or wife. (There was no need to go into greater detail with this age group.) We jumped out of order and also included #9 “You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife.” in he discussion. We pointed out that both commandments underscore the importance God puts on the sanctity of marriage. While the adultery commandment is aimed at the married couple, the covet prohibition is targeted towards the third person in an adulterous triangle.

“You shall not steal” – This must have been self explanatory, as we had no questions or “…but what if?” scenarios.

“You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor” – The class understood the obvious point of the commandment. We elaborated a little and tried to relate it to their age group by including gossip in he conversation. They seemed to make the connection and understood how simple playground gossip can be harmful and run afoul of this commandment.

“You shall not covet anything that belongs to your neighbor” – In earlier discussions, we defined “covet” (which was a concept that no one initially understood) as wanting something so much that you are willing to do something wrong to get it. We gave a few examples and the idea seemed to click.

In response to a question from one of the students, we had a discussion about why the Jewish people did not follow Jesus and become Christians. We provided some historical perspective and explained how in the years immediately following Christ’s resurrection, here was much discussion in the Jewish and Christian community about the nature of Christ. Not everyone believed him to be the Messiah and the Son of God. Those who did followed the apostles and other early Christian leaders. Those who did not remained Jews.

As always, we concluded the class by polling each student and asking them to name one thing they learned that evening. Everyone who responded (and that was all of them), was rewarded with a homemade cookie.

This week, I may start with an exercise. We’ll break the class into small groups and ask them to imagine they are assigned to write a set of commandments for today’s fifth graders. It might be interesting to see what they come up with. They will probably take around half the class period. During the second half, we will cover the upcoming season of Lent.

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Good class last night. We were very happy to see that ten of our 13 students braved the lousy weather to attend. Thank you, parents!

Our main focus was the Ten Commandments. We had lots of discussion and lots of questions. Those are the best classes.

We started with a story, telling the class the background that lead to God delivering the Commandments to Moses on Mt. Sinai.

We had volunteers read the passage from Exodus 20 that is the first mention of the Commandments. (The students were somewhat “atwitter” last night, and references to an “ass” (ie: jackass) and “alien” caused more than a little giggling.)

We distributed list of the traditional “Ten Commandments” that demonstrated how some different religions count them. For example, Catholics count the God-related commandments as the first three, while many Protestant churches count them as four. On the other end, Catholics divide the last two “you shall not covet…” Commandments into two separate statements, while most Protestant sects combine them into one. We pointed out this only a concern if they are talking to a Protestant friend about the 4th Commandment, for instance. A Protestant would be talking about the Commandment to respect the Sabbath, while the Catholic would be honoring his father and mother.

As we walked through and discussed the first four Commandments, we talked about some of these points.

With the first Commandment, we spent some time talking about false gods. In the time of Moses, the issue was not to worship the sun, the Earth, a statue, etc. We asked the students to think about some of the false gods people may encounter today. They came up with ideas like money, drugs, alcohol, fame, celebrities, and so on.  We connected the Commandment to relevant issues today.

The second Commandment, to not take the Lord’s name in vain, was fairly easy for them to grasp. One student did confess she had a lot of trouble with that one. We suggested that it was a challenge she should try to master with prayer.

We talked about the concept of a Sabbath and why most Christians consider Sunday the Sabbath, rather than the “seventh day” (Saturday.) We pointed out that many early Christian leaders wanted to make a distinction between their older Jewish faith and their new Christian religion. Designating Sunday, the day Christ rose from the dead, as the Sabbath was one way to do that. We also discussed that in today’s culture, we have largely gotten away from the concept of resting and avoiding work on the Sabbath, and not necessarily for the better.

As we discussed the fourth (Honor your father and mother.) Commandment, we emphasized several points. The Commandment may seem fairly obvious to fifth graders because they are still very dependent on their parents for the essentials of living. However, even ten and eleven year-olds may need to be reminded from time to time to love, respect and obey their parents. We pointed out that the main thrust of the Commandment was not towards children, but rather towards adults, especially adults whose parents are older and may depend on them. Role reversal. At the time the Commandments were written, it was not unusual for older, dependent tribe members who became a burden to be rejected or abandoned to die. While we typically don’t do that today, the Commandment is especially important when parents or grandparents grow older and need the younger family members’ love and assistance.

Next week, we will finish up with the last six Commandments, and they always generate some interesting discussion. How can you go wrong discussing murder, lying, theft, jealousy, adultery, and gossip?  Should be fun. Parents – come on out and enjoy the class. You are most welcome.

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We had our first opportunity to really meet with our class last night. Mrs. Rudolphi had a family issue and was unable to attend. My wife, Patty, pitched in to lent a hand.

We had 11 students present, with one more child who we know is part of the class, but was ill last night. I suspect we will pick up another four or five more in the coming weeks. Both Patty and I were extremely impressed with the students in the class. They were respectful, polite and well behaved. I realize this should be the norm, but it doesn’t always work out that way. Way to go, parents! Keep up the good work.

The good news is, if this trend continues, we will be able to plan a greater variety of lessons and more interesting activities than we could with a rowdier class.

We started by having them fill out a short information sheet (name, school, phone number, etc.). Then, I took a head-shot photo of each child. I will use them to create a cheat-sheet for Mrs. R and me to learn and remember names and faces.

Once that was out of the way, we anticipated there would not be time to teach a full lesson from our textbook. Instead, we have them a short quiz to get an idea of our starting point. They did very well. One student was able to list all seven Sacraments without a second thought.   We went over the quiz and talked about the questions and answers

By the way, I believe, that if you hit the “follow” button on the bottom of this page, you will receive an email from WordPress.com whenever I post a new entry. Although I am usually able update this blog on Thursdays, sometimes life and work get in the way. That would save you wasted time checking to see if I’ve had the chance to update. More info on following a blog is available here.

See y’all next week!

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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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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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Before we get into anything else, I want to clarify the class schedule for the next several weeks. The original pre-season schedule has been changed, and the schedule posted in last weekend’s bulletin is wrong. Ugh.

Also, we have about 11 or 12 students participating in the Christmas pageant as narrators or shepherds. Several came up to me last night and said they want to be a part of the production, so parents may not know about it. Please see below for more details on this.

As best I can figure out, here is what the schedule looks like between now and Christmas.

 Dec 5 – All students report for CCD at 6:30 pm. The narrators and shepherds who are participating in the Christmas pageant will have a rehearsal. The rest of the class will have a regular class session.

Dec 12 – No regular CCD class, but the Christmas pageant narrators and shepherds will have a rehearsal and a pizza party. Everyone else has the night off.

Dec 19 – Christmas pageant in the church at 6:30 pm. Everyone is welcome. I think the children and parents should go straight to the church that evening. I’ll clarify that and let you know before then.

Dec 24 – The Christmas pageant will be a part of the 6 o’clock Christmas Eve Mass. We have three 5th grade narrators whose parents have indicated they can participate.

Also, there will be a single dress rehearsal for the children in the pageant on Saturday morning (exact time TBA) December 15.

Here is a list of the 5th grade students who have volunteered to be narrators for the Wednesday, Dec 19, pageant program. Please note the three children who have also indicated their availability for the Dec 24 program.

  • Danielle C (also Dec 24)
  • Brendan C
  • Caroline J
  • Jacob E
  • Elizabeth Anne C
  • Jake F (also Dec 24)
  • Autumn H
  • Madeline H (also Dec 24)
  • Hannah B

A couple of our class also volunteered to be shepherds. To be honest, it was a last minute “cattle call” and I’m not sure who is part of the shepherd gang and who is not. Please ask your child if he or she is a shepherd. If so, let me know if the schedule above presents a problem for you. Also, if the shepherds can be available for the Christmas Eve Mass, that would be great. If not, let me know so I can pass it on to the “director” Lynn Hogan.

Is that as clear as mud? Feel free to call or email me if you have any questions. Contact info in the “About ” tab above.

Last night was spent getting the Christmas pageant crew organized. The eight or so students went to the church to watch. Eventually they got bored. So I took them around the church and pointed out some features like the stained class images and statues, and we went through the Stations of the Cross. One of our students, Carter, who  is an altar server, took the class behind the altar and showed the prep room.

As you can see above, our schedule between now and Christmas is going to be a little messy. We’ll have a regular class session for the students not involved in the Christmas pageant next week. However, our next major subject to cover is the Sacrament of Confirmation and I think we’ll hold off on that until after the Christmas break when we’ll have the entire class back together.

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We had a fairly wild class. We tried something different, and it really didn’t work very well. Lesson learned.

The subject was the Sacrament of Baptism. We skipped over the first of the two chapters in the text that deal with Baptism. So we started with some basic information. We talked about the three main effects of Baptism.

1. Provides a source of God’s love (grace.)

2. Wipes us free from sin. Short discussion on the concept of Original Sin.

3. Initiates us into the Church, God’s family, the Body of Christ.

We then divided the class into four groups and assigned each group one section of the next chapter (five) to read and prepare to teach to the rest of the class.

Group one focused on the differences between baptizing adults and older children versus infants. Also talked about preparation for Baptism and godparents.

Group two focused on the initial parts of the Baptism ceremony including Sacred Chrism, the Sign of the Cross and prayers.

Group three dealt mostly with the significance of water in the Sacrament.

Group four focused on the manner of applying the Holy Water (immersion vs sprinkling) and the significance of the white garment and candle.

We did this on a small scale a few weeks ago and it worked out fairly well. Unfortunately, last night it was very difficult to get most of the students to focus on the task. They were much more interested in chatting and joking with their friends, even if they were not part of their group. I take the “blame” for that. I should have seen it coming, but by time it was obvious it wasn’t working, there was not sufficient time in the class period to change course. We plowed on through to the finish. However, we are going to carefully think about it before we try this teaching technique again.

We finished up, as we have for the past several weeks, by asking each student what they learned that evening. Every child was able to cite some topic we had discussed with very little duplication among them. I realize asking a student to name just one thing they learned is not setting the bar very high. Nonetheless, it is rewarding to get that small piece of feedback.

 

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It was great having the opportunity to meet with this year’s 5th grade CCD class last night.  Mrs. Rudolphi was travelling on business yesterday, so my wife, Patty, came along to assist.

We have a fairly large class. It looks like roughly 20 students as of right now. We typically pick up a few extra in the first weeks of class.

We started with opening prayer, the Hail Mary. My first “lesson” of the year was to teach the students how to properly pray the Sign of the Cross. Too many children at this age have no appreciation for the significance of it, or even realize it is a prayer.  They will quickly wave their hand in the general direction of their forehead and chest and mumble a few words. I showed them how to pray the Sign of the Cross slowly, with their handing touching their forehead, navel, the left shoulder and the right shoulder.

The next item of business was to take a picture of each of the children. I use these “head shots” to create a picture sheet of the class with their names. It allows Mrs. Rudolphi and I to connect names and faces a lot more quickly. Before I started doing this, we had to use name tags for several weeks. Remember, we only have them for less than an hour, and with a week in between classes. It’s hard to remember 20 new names and faces without a little help.

We talked about the general curriculum, which for 5th grade is the sacraments.

We discussed the class rules, which are pretty easy.

1.)   Show up.

2.)   Participate.

3.)   Don’t act like a jerk.

We emphasized the importance of respect, for both their fellow students and us, the teachers.

I could tell from our brief exposure last night that most of the students are fairly well behaved and eager to participate.  However, as expected, there are a few who can be a little rowdy and seek to be the center of attention. We’ll work with them. If that is not successful, we’ll turn to their parents to deal with them.

Parents – Please understand. We do not want to be unnecessarily strict. We like to make the class as fun as we can. And many of our discussions are fairly informal and free ranging. However, we have a relatively short period of time with the students each week. We also feel a strong need to pull everyone, even the quiet kids, into class discussions and activities. We really don’t have the latitude or the patience to compete with students who are disruptive, need to be the center of attention or feel the compulsion to entertain the class with their clowning around.

We still had roughly 30 minutes remaining in the class period, so we taught a short lesson on the liturgical year. We compared the liturgical year to the calendar year and also to other non-calendar years, like the school year and sports seasons. After going through the six seasons of the liturgical year, we finished up with a participation exercise. We read one-sentence descriptions of the various seasons (ie: This season begins on Ash Wednesday.). Whoever first identified the season got up and joined the “team” of other students who had ID’d that season.

We have a smart board in the room and I want to make use of it. Last night, however, there was some password problem that kept it out of operation.

As I mentioned in my last posting, I will not be able to attend the next two class sessions. I’ll be back on October 10. The students should still meet in the classroom at 6:30 pm. Mrs. Rudolphi will be there to organize things. As it stands right now, Father John is preparing a class for next week. Mrs. Cathy Scanlon will take them to the church for a class session the following week.

As I have mentioned before, we invite and encourage parents to sit in on the class at any time.

 

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