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Last night we finished up our lesson on forgiveness and the Sacrament of Reconciliation (aka Penance or Confession.)

We began with a review of our last class, which seems like it was a year ago. We covered the four steps of forgiveness.

  1. Admission or confession
  2. Expression of sorrow or contrition
  3. Forgiveness by the injured party
  4. Some form of penance or reparation

And, of course, we connected these steps to the elements of the Sacrament. We discussed a number of other concepts.

–You can do wrong or sin by doing nothing when there is some act you should be performing. Inaction can be as wrong as action.

–The seal of the confessional. The priest must not disclose anything you confess.

–The priest is an intermediary between you and God.

— No sin is too great that it cannot be forgiven. One of the students asked about suicide. That prompted a short, but interesting discussion.

–There are usually regular times for Confession, but you can call a priest any time and ask him to hear your confession.

–And we reviewed the mechanics of the Sacrament. We provided the students with a two-sided “cheat sheet.” On one side was a series of questions to help them examine their conscience. The other side had a step-by-step instructions on how to go through the process, including a version of the Act of Contrition.

We broke the class into groups of two or three and asked them to read the final page of the lesson in the text. It included a list of four actions to help us turn our hearts and minds to God.

–Follow Jesus’s example and spreading the good news

–Trust in God

–Care for the needs of others

–Pray daily

We asked them to brainstorm examples of how they might do that.  During the discussion that followed, we emphasized several points.

One of the best ways to spread the good news is simply to live a good life and be an example for others to see. Related to that, under “caring for the needs of others” several students cited grand gestures, like feeding the hungry and so on. We suggested that those kinds of acts are great, but equally important are the little things that they can do every day. We brainstormed some daily life examples.

We talked about the importance of trusting God, but pointed out that prayers aren’t always answered in the way we expect. We told the fictional story of the rural minister whose church was being threatened by rising flood water. Saying he trusted in God, he rejected the help to be rescued by the four wheel drive patrol, a boat and even a helicopter, and he drowned. When he arrived at the gates of Heaven, he was wet and angry. St. Peter told him, “Reverend, we heard your prayers. We sent the four wheel drive vehicle, a boat and eventually a helicopter to rescue you. What exactly were you waiting for?

We also talked about finding a time during their daily routine to spend a few moments praying. One girl indicated she tried to pray when her father was driving her to school. I didn’t ask if that was a reflection on her Dad’s driving skill.

We have four weeks left in the “season.” We will cover Anointing of the Sick, Holy Orders and Matrimony, and then have a wrap up session in the final week.

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This week we started our two-part lesson on the Sacrament of Reconciliation. Right off, we pointed out to the students that the Sacrament of Reconciliation is also called Penance or Confession. It’s the same sacrament, just different names.

Our initial goal was to discuss the concept of forgiveness in general, whether it be a part of a Confession or just among friends or family. We introduced the four steps necessary for any process of forgiveness. Later, we connected these general concepts to the actual steps in Reconciliation.

  1. Admission of wrongdoing / Confess sins
  2. Express regret or sorrow / Act of Contrition
  3. Forgiveness / Absolution
  4. Reparation or payback / Penance

We divided the class into pairs and threes and asked them to prepare a role-playing exercise. One student in each group was to be angry because or something done by the other student(s). They team was to come up with a story to explain why the first student was angry with the other(s). They then role-played the forgiveness process. We threw a couple of curves at them, for example, by asking one of the groups with two offenders each to blame the other for the offense. We then let them play it out, sometimes completing the process and sometimes not. The scenarios that bogged down were just as instructional, maybe more so, than those that ran to completion. The students got into the exercise, and, hopefully, they learned something from it.

We then went to the textbook and began the chapter on Reconciliation. We had volunteers read aloud page 140 which describes the four steps of Reconciliation – contrition, confession, penance and absolution. We connected each of these steps to the list we discussed earlier, although pointing out that the text put the steps in a different order.

The students then read P 141 silent. It described individual and group celebrations of the Sacrament as well as the seal of confession. We discussed this until time ran out.

We will have no class next week since it is the night before St. Patrick’s Day. We will be back in two weeks and finish our discussion of Reconciliation.

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Here is an update on the schedule for CCD for the rest of this year.

We will not have a regular class for the next two weeks (February 3 & 10) due to the parish mission and Ash Wednesday. However, we consider these two events a part of our CCD program. Please bring your child to the mission on Wednesday, Feb 3rd at 7 pm. We hope parents and siblings will stay also.  The mission should be over by 8 pm.

On the following week, Feb 10, Ash Wednesday Mass will be celebrated at 7 pm. Again, we hope our students will attend with their family.

Here is the tentative line-up of topics for the remainder of the year.

Feb 17 – Ten Commandments 1

Feb 24 – Ten Commandments 2

March 2 – Forgiveness (Ch 15)

March 9 – Penance (Ch 16)

March 16 – No Class

March 23 – Anointing of the Sick (Ch 18)

March 30 – Matrimony (Ch 24)

April 6 – Holy Orders (Ch 25)

April 13 – Prayer (Ch 12)

April 20 – Overflow date

April 27 – Last Class

As you can see, we are fairly well booked. Frankly, the second half of the year has some of the more interesting and engaging lessons. As always, parents are most welcome to sit in. I have one date open (April 20). I expect something will occur to shift the schedule to occupy that date. I’m not worried. We may have a CCD Penance Service that may fill one of the earlier dates and cause everything else to shift down. That is still up in the air as of this writing.

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We’re hitting the home stretch of the CCD year. We will have no class next week (March 18) due to St Patrick’s Day week. We’ll be back March 25 with the CCD Penance Service. Please note – students’ families are most welcome to join this service. We will meet, as usual, in the classroom and walk over to the church as a group. If parents do not stay for the service, the students can be picked up in the gym at the school.

Last night’s class was a good one, but Mrs. Rudolphi and I can tell spring is in the air. The class was not ill-behaved. They were mostly engaged, but it took a little more work to keep them focused. They love the group or role-playing exercises but we didn’t have one in last night’s class None the less, we struggled onward.

Our focus was to finish the Sacrament of Reconciliation (Penance, Confession.) We picked up on last week’s lesson of forgiveness and the four elements of any forgiveness process, and connected them to the four key elements of Reconciliation.

  • Admit the wrongdoing. / Confess sins.
  • Feel and express regret or sorrow. / Act of Contrition
  • Forgiveness / Absolution
  • Some make-up or reparation / penance

Other key points of discussion were:

–We discussed our conscience and how we should know right from wrong. We included instruction from parents and teachers, the Commandments and experience.

–There is no sin so great that God will not forgive you, if you are sincerely sorry and ask for his forgiveness.

— You should receive the Sacrament at least once a year, but can do so at any time, and should do so frequently.

–We discussed private confessions vs a Penance Service and also the time and place of private confessions at St. Peter’s.

–Should you feel an urgent need for forgiveness, you can call a priest any time, 24/7.

–The priest is bound to secrecy about what is confessed.

–We discussed avoiding people, places and things that lead (tempt) you to commit a sin. They seemed to get this concept. Several students freely admitted they had friends who were “trouble.”

We sent them home with a “cheat sheet” to help them prepare for the Penance Service. It includes some Commandments-based questions to assist with their examination of their conscience and the Act of Contrition. We encouraged them to think about it over the next two weeks and bring the sheet with them to the Penance Service.,

I talked with Monsignor Costigan last night about coming to talk with the class about Holy Orders and the priesthood in general. He is available on April 15, so we will flip-flop our last two classes. We will have Monsignor on April 15, and then cover the Sacrament of Matrimony on April 29.

Regarding the class on Matrimony, this occasionally can run afoul of things that may have happened or are happening in a student’s home life. (divorce, separation, etc.) Mrs. R and I try to deal with this with sensitivity, especially since we don’t know what we may stir up. If you have any concern, please give me a call and let’s chat. In nine previous years of teaching 5th grade CCD, I have not had any complaints from parents. Of course, you are always most welcome to come and sit in on the class.

We will finish up the year with an instructional Baptism in the church on April 29. We did this several years ago and it worked out very well. We will cap that evening with some sort of little reception/refreshments to send the students out the door with good wishes.

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We had a very active and energetic class last night. It was fun. I hope our students also learned something.

This was the first of two classes on the Sacrament of Reconciliation (aka Penance, Confession) that will prepare the students for the CCD Penance Service on March 25. We focused last night on the concept of forgiveness and the four steps necessary for any forgiveness process, whether it be in a confessional or just between two friends.

1.) Admission/Confession – The doer must admit to the offense.
2.) Contrition/Sorrow – The doer must feel and express sorrow for the offense.
3.) Forgiveness – The injured party accepts the apology and forgives the doer.
4.) Reparation/Pay-Back – The doer usually does something to make up for the offense. Of course in the Sacrament, this is the penance.

We had the students pair up with a partner and come up with some kind of story that involved one student committing some act that angered the second student. We then walked them through the forgiveness process.

The students were very creative and really got into the exercise. One pair of girls (Marlee and Hannah) had scripted out an elaborate skit and needed no encouragement or prompting at all. They were great! In several cases, the process bogged down because one of the students would not admit to the offense, express sincere regret or provide the forgiveness. This actually worked out very well. We used these cases to show how the forgiveness process breaks down if one party or the other does not follow through.

Next week, we will continue on this general subject, but we will get more into the specifics of the Sacrament of Reconciliation, including preparation for the Sacrament.

Remember, there will be no class on March 18. We will be back full-speed with the Penance Service on March 25.

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

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

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

2.) Trusting God when we need help

3.) Caring for the needs of others

4.) Praying daily

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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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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