Posts Tagged ‘gospel’

I’m a little late posting an update for last week’s class. I was traveling for work Thursday and Friday of last week and, to be honest, didn’t think about it over the weekend. Oops.

We had a small group turn out last Wednesday, maybe only 10 or 12 students. We started off the first of two chapters covering the Eucharist. We covered several key points.

–The first Eucharist was at the Last Supper, which in turn was a Jewish Passover meal (Seder.) We talked a little about the origin of the Passover celebration and the Passover story in Exodus. We had a lot of questions about why God would kill the Egyptian first-born sons, which didn’t help us stay in topic. My fault.

–We connected the words in Luke’s Gospel account of the Last Supper to the words used in the consecration in the Mass. We emphasized Jesus’s command to “Do this in memory of me.”

–We discussed the concept of the Real Presence, that Catholics believe that Jesus is truly present in the bread and wine of the Eucharist. This differs from what most Protestant faiths profess, that their “holy communion” is simply representative of Jesus’s body and blood, not a Real Presence.

–We emphasized that the Eucharist is at the very center of what it means to be a Catholic.

I’d like to tell you that I was making a significant impact on the students, but in truth, I think everything I was throwing out was bouncing right back at me.  It wasn’t working. Then we changed the subject.

We were talking a little about the connection to Passover and Jewish history. Students started asking questions about the Bible and the focus switched to the biblical account of creation (Adam and Eve, etc.). There seemed to be a lot of interest, and since I was making such great progress with our earlier topic (sarcasm), I decided to head off in a totally different direction. (We’ll pick up where we left off with the Eucharist this week.)

Most of the students were very confused about the relationship between the biblical account of Creation and what they learn in school. They didn’t understand why Adam and Eve weren’t eaten by the dinosaurs. So we talked a little about how Genesis was written for a group of illiterate, nomadic goat herders who lived in tents in the desert. Those people had no concept of the Big Bang, DNA, evolution or anything of that nature. We told the class that Genesis tells us that God created the world and everything in it, and that what he created is good. However, the Bible is a religious book, not a science text. So it’s up to science to explain what “tools” God used and how he did it. The creation story in Genesis should be viewed as a broad story with a strong underlying truth. The details are left to science. As such, Genesis is not really in conflict with their science classes.

This probably sounds a lot like “intelligent design,” however, I pointed out again, we are teaching a religion class, not a science class.

This week, I want to finish up just a little more on the Creation story and then complete the half-taught lesson on the Eucharist.

An important scheduling note – NEXT WEEK, February 13, is Ash Wednesday. There will be no CCD class. We ask parents to bring their children and join them for Mass at 7 pm.

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We had a busy night last evening. The class was lively and engaged.

We started with a chapter review of last week’s lesson on prayer, the various types of prayer, etc. Terms like “petition” and “intercession” didn’t stick very well, but overall, the students seemed to get the general idea. We were extremely encouraged to note the number of students who volunteered that they have been trying to spend at least 30 seconds in private prayer every day. Most said they did so during their moment of silence at school. Whatever works! (Parental encouragement is always helpful on this point!)

Our primary lesson was the first of two on forgiveness and the Sacrament of Reconciliation.  We started by reading the story of the prodigal son. (Luke 15:21- ) As we discussed the story, we asked how they would react if they had been the father or the other brother in the story. Most agreed that the son who blew his part of his father’s fortune shouldn’t get off easy. We contrasted this most natural human reaction to God’s infinite love. We emphasized that God’s capacity for forgiveness is infinite and there is nothing they could do that is so evil that God would not accept them back with open arms. Several students asked about sinners in Hell and Satan. “If God will forgive anything, what’s their story?” We replied that you must ask for forgiveness and express remorse (contrition). We’ll cover the four main steps of forgiveness when we hit the next chapter (in three weeks.)

We broke the class up into small groups of 3-4 students each and asked them to work as a team to write, and then act out, a short story about the act of forgiving. I was a little surprised how much they got into this project. Each group did a very good job acting out their little scenario.

We presented the biblical story of Jesus’s giving the Apostles and their successors the power to forgive sins (John 20:21-23).

As the clock started to run down to dismissal time, we briefly covered the concept of sin. We asked the question. “Can you sin, while doing nothing?” We discussed the concept of sinning through inaction. That is, not doing something that they ought to do. We re-introduced them to the Confiteor and read the prayer together, with an emphasis on…

“…I have greatly sinned in my thoughts and in my words, in what I have done and in what I have failed to do…”

Next week, we’ll have a special class. Cathy Scanlon will take our class on a guided tour of the church with explanations for the various symbols, objects, etc. It should be interesting. I expect I’ll learn something myself. If any parents would like to come along for a refresher, you would be most welcome. We’ll meet in the classroom and then walk over to the church. We’ll bring the children back to the school for after-class pick up — probably in the school lobby.

The following week is Ash Wednesday (Feb 22). We will not have CCD class that week, but I believe there will be an ashes service that evening. As they say at Mass, “Check the bulletin for other important announcements.”

We’ll be back on February 29. (Yes, it’s Leap Year, folks.) We’ll be focusing on the four steps of any forgiveness process and the specifics of the Sacrament of Reconciliation.


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We decided we needed a break in our routine last night, so we split the session up into two parts.

Before we started, we added about a minute of silent, personal prayer to our opening prayer. We first introduced that last week.

For the first half hour, we finished up the chapter on prayer that we had begun last week. We covered sacramentals. These are objects, blessings, etc. that remind us of some religious concept. Examples we discussed from recent experience and objects within the room included the Sign of the Cross, the Crucifix, a statue of Mary, a Rosary and others.

We briefly discussed the practice of maintaining the Blessed Sacrament in the tabernacle behind the altar. We talked about how this is tangible evidence of God’s presence in the church. It is why we genuflect and bow to the altar.

We also discussed Holy Days of Obligation. The class had trouble naming more than one of the six (Christmas was the easy one.) until one student found a list in the back of the textbook. Sly dog!

In case you are wondering yourself, the complete list is:

  • Solemnity of Mary Jan 1
  • Feast of the Ascension 40 days after Easter
  • Feast of the Assumption Aug 15
  • All Saints Day Nov 1
  • Feast of the Immaculate Conception Dec 8
  • Christmas Dec 25

(I wonder whatever happened to the Feast of the Annunciation on March 25? That was one of the HDBs when I was growing up.)

The second half of the class was a “quiz bowl” that covered material we had taught since September. We split them up into four teams of 4-5 students each. We allowed them to consult with each other and also reference the textbook, but didn’t give them much time to look up something.  It was great to see the class lively and engaged. However, it was also somewhat disheartening to realize how little many of the students have retained from material we have covered and reviewed several times.

For example, there is no good reason why a team of five students shouldn’t be able to name the three parts of the Holy Trinity without having to look it up.

Other “easy” questions that we have covered repeatedly in different forms, but gave multiple teams difficulty,  included:

Name the three Sacraments of Initiation. (Baptism, Confirmation and Eucharist)

What is the sacrament by which man is made a priest or deacon? (Holy Orders)

Name three of the twelve apostles.

There are four key symbols of Baptism. Name three of them. (Holy Water, white garment, Sacred Chrism and a candle.)

What is the first season of the Church’s liturgical year? (Advent)

What is the only Sacrament of Initiation we can receive over and over again? (Eucharist)

We probably need to re-evaluate our teaching methods. If the students are not retaining the material — even after lively and engaged discussions — then we’re just wasting everybody’s time.

Any ideas?

By the way, we have backed off on our original plan to have the students read the Gospel of Matthew throughout the year. We simply do not have time to review and discuss it in class.  It may (or may not) have been a good idea in concept, but it just hasn’t worked in the roughly 50 minutes we spend together each week.

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Sometimes you beat the bear and sometimes the bear beats you. I’m afraid it was my turn to be beaten Wednesday night. The class was reasonably well behaved; that was not the problem. Whether it was the subject material, my teaching efforts or some external force, we just couldn’t get the class engaged. When I mentioned this to Mrs. Rudolphi after class she agreed, but said “Don’t worry about it Mike. I think maybe three of them were listening to you.” In any case, we plow on.

The class was the first of two on the Eucharist. We discussed the origin of the sacrament at the Last Supper, and explained the Last Supper as a celebration of the Jewish Passover. We emphasized that through the Eucharist we are:

Nourished in the Word of God

Joined more closely to Christ and one another

The grace of Baptism grows I us

We are strengthened to love and serve others.

We explained the concept of a covenant, and described the original covenant between God and the Jewish people. We also described how, at the Last Supper, Jesus disposed of the old covenant and created a new covenant for his followers. We celebrate this covenant in the Eucharist.

We discussed the Eucharist’s role as a memorial, a meal and a sacrifice. We had the class break up into pairs to work together. They read a passage from the text and listed ways the Eucharist fits into each of these roles.

We read the story of Jesus appearing to two of his disciples on the road to Emmaus. The disciples did not recognize Jesus until they stopped for a meal. When Jesus broke the loaf of bread, suddenly the disciples recognized him. We compared this story to connecting with Jesus through the breaking of bread in the Eucharist.

We particularly emphasized the key Catholic belief that Jesus is truly present in the bread and wine of the Eucharist. (Real Presence) We pointed out that while many Protestant churches have communion services, they believe the bread and wine (or grape juice) only represent Jesus. We believe that while the bread and wine do not change chemically, Jesus is truly present there.

We briefly discussed he concept of Jesus as the “bread of life.”

We gave out two “homework” assignments.

  1. To ask their parents to take them to Mass this weekend, and, when they receive the Eucharist, to think about the concepts we discussed.
  2. If they have not already done so, read all of the Gospel of Matthew through Chapter 8. We’ll have a short quiz at the start of class next week.

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Happy New Year, and welcome back!

We started off 2012 with a good class last night. As we got going, we did ask the class to make a stronger effort to listen to our discussions and to actually follow along when another student is reading aloud from the text. Sometimes I think some of the students just “zone out” when we are reading from the text., I (half-jokingly), pointed out, it can be frustrating to tell someone “The sky is blue.” But when you ask them a minute later, “What color is the sky?” you get a blank stare. While we do try to generate a lot of information through discussion, we also have to pull information out of the textbook.

Before the break, we had started on the Sacrament of Confirmation.  We had discussed the Pentecost and the relationship of that event to Confirmation. Last night, we began by reviewing that to refresh everyone’s memory.

We compared Confirmation to Baptism in two ways.

— We described Baptism as the first step to entering into the Church community, and Confirmation is the second half of the process.

— We also discussed Confirmation as an opportunity for them to make a commitment to God and the Church.  Since most children are baptized as infants, they really don’t have a say in the process. Their baptismal promises are made by their godparents; their parents select their godparents; and they don’t choose their own name. In Confirmation, they make their own commitment; select their sponsor; and choose a Confirmation name. We pointed out that most other religions have some kind of commitment ceremony around the time a child turns 12-14.

As expected, the idea of taking another name was fascinating to the class, and we spent probably too much time discussing that.

We talked about the need for preparation to receive Confirmation and emphasized that it is a two-year process, beginning in seventh grade. We walked through the actual process of the sacrament.

We finished up with the Gifts of the Holy Spirit, but to be honest, I don’t think that concept stuck with the class very well. It is a subject that could easily occupy an entire class session to get across.  At least they have been exposed to the concept, if they don’t fully understand it.

We’re done with Confirmation. We’ll start the next class with a short review and then move on.

Our readings of the Gospel of Matthew have fallen off, just because we have been busy with other material and haven’t remembered to make assignments. We’ll talk about that next week and resume the assignments. I think we’re up to around Chapter 7. If you would like to encourage your child to read and review those first chapters before next week, that would be great.

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Oh, wow! We had a very lively and interesting class last night.

We started off with a mandatory “good touch-bad touch” discussion. In light of all the news coming out of my brother’s and sisters’ alma mater (Penn State), it was probably well timed.

We went over seven or eight guidelines or pieces of advice for children to follow to avoid becoming abuse victims. I don’t have my guide sheet with me right now. I’ll update this posting in a day or so with some of the specifics. The two primary themes were “You can and should say ‘no’ to an adult who is making you feel uncomfortable” and “Talk to your parents.”

I did reference the Penn State issue in a very general way, and recommended the children ask their parents about it if they want to know more.

As has already been very obvious, this class just loves to ask questions and discuss things. So you can imagine how this subject took the lid off the can of worms. Almost none of the questions or discussions focused on personal abuse. They were much more interested in talking about stranger abduction, someone breaking into their house, and similar subjects. Mrs. Rudolphi was a tremendous help in this discussion. We let it go for a while, but eventually some of the questions just got to be absurd. Some of the students were just making up bizarre situations to keep things going. So we moved on to other things.

We really didn’t have time for a full lesson after that, so we organized a “quiz bowl.” We divided the class into four teams. We have them a few minutes to review the chapters of the Gospel of Matthew that they have (supposedly) already read (Chapters 1-5). Then we asked them questions from those chapters. We allowed it to be “open book,” but didn’t give them a whole lot of time to look up answers if they were starting from scratch. Actually, I was fairly happy at their recall. It went well.

We have no class next week due to the Thanksgiving week. We’re back on November 30. The Season of Advent will be on the agenda for that night.

Please ask your child to read Chapter 6 of Matthew, and any of the previous chapters he or she may have missed.

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As Mrs. Rudolphi and I discussed after class this week, we aren’t making much progress through the text, but we are having some interesting class sessions. The students are full of questions and enjoy the discussions. Since fifth grade is not a sacramental preparation class (as are first, second, seventh and eighth), we don’t feel a real need to stick strictly with the text. If the class wants to question and discuss a subject that is vaguely related to religion, God, morality, etc,  we’ll run with it.

We do have one problem we need to address. There are a handful of students who have really taken the advice to “get engaged.” However, more than half of the questions and comments tend to come from that handful of the students. We (I) need to do a better job of spreading it around and getting the more quiet students involved. That will be a goal next week.

On another down-note, we did not discuss the class’s reading assignment, chapter four of the Gospel of Matthew, because only two students admitted to have actually read it. Please give us some help on this at home. Each chapter is quite short and shouldn’t take the student more than a few minutes to read it. We asked them to double-up this week and read both chapters four (last week’s assignment) and five (this week’s assignment.) Parents – please give your child a little nudge. Thanks.

This week’s class was the first of two sessions on the Sacrament of Baptism.  We discussed the concepts that Baptism is the first sacrament to be received and no other sacrament can be received without Baptism. Baptism brings the recipient into the Church (Body of Christ, community, etc.) We also discussed how Baptism wipes our souls free from sin, but we can receive it only once. After that, we have Penance/Reconciliation for forgiveness.

One student asked why an infant would need to have his sins forgiven when he hasn’t had the chance to commit any. That opened the discussion of original sin. Many of the students didn’t think it was fair that God would penalize someone born today for the sin of Adam and Eve. We pointed out that is why have the Sacrament of Baptism.

A student asked why we are typically baptized as babies. Why not, he asked, wait until you are about to die and then get all your sins forgiven at the same time. This led to a lively discussion that largely focused on the idea that you never know when your life may end.

One student then asked how it is that we know all these teachings (all Christian teachings) are true?  This led to a discussion of the concept of faith, which, to be honest, I don’t think we handled very well. Towards the end of the class, Father John stopped by, so we kicked the question over to him. I’m not sure he answered it much better. I’m betting this question will come up again.

Next week, we plan to finish up the Sacrament of Baptism.  Hopefully.

By the way, parents, you are always welcome to sit in on the class and observe, and/or participate as you wish.

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We are not making very fast progress through the curriculum, but we sure are having some interesting classes. We are having lots of discussions, questions, etc.

We started with a quick overview of Chapter 3 of Matthew. Only a few students had read it before the class. Your help reminding your child about that weekly assignment would be greatly appreciated. This week’s assignment is Chapter 4.

Since it has been a couple of weeks since we covered the first half of the chapter, we continued with a review of the main points.

We covered the Seven Sacraments —  broken down into the Sacraments of Initiation (Baptism, Confirmation and Eucharist), Healing (Reconciliation and Anointing of the Sick) and Communion of Service (Matrimony and Holy Orders.)

We discussed the concept that we receive Sanctifying Grace through the Sacraments.  Again, we described “grace” as simply God’s love. We compared God’s love to parental love. Through the Sacraments, we receive God’s love, in a similar fashion that a child receives and feels his/her parents’ love through actions like a hug and kiss. As Mrs. Rudolphi put it, “The Sacraments are God’s way of giving you a hug.”

We discussed the concept of a vocation as a calling. We talked about how, as Catholics, we share a common vocation to holiness and evangelization. Of course, the term “evangelization” was a new one to nearly all the students. After defining the concept, we brainstormed on different ways they, as fifth graders, could answer the call to evangelization.  We suggested the best way to evangelize is simply to live a good life and serve as an example.  One student correctly described it as being a “role model.” We emphasized that they should not go out of their way to call attention to their actions, ie: showing off. Rather, just do the right thing (What would Jesus do?) and let their actions be their message.

Several weeks ago, we briefly covered the Sacraments of Initiation. So last night, we did an overview of the remaining four. There wasn’t much discussion of Reconciliation, as the students were already familiar with it.

We had many questions about the Sacrament of Anointing of the Sick. We pointed out that modern medicine has accepted that there is a definite connection between a person’s mental/spiritual outlook and their physical health. So Anointing of the Sick serves two purposes. Together with Reconciliation and the Eucharist, it prepares a person for the possibility (or imminence) of death, but it also can serve a healing role in a spiritual sense.

The students had greater difficulty getting their minds around the Sacraments of Matrimony and Holy Orders. They seemed to understand that through Holy Orders, a priest enters a life of service. They had a little tougher time understanding that a man and woman enter a life of service to each other through Matrimony.

We had a lot of discussion about why priests are not allowed to marry (most of the time.) One of the students asked if, instead of getting married, a priest just “had a regular relationship?”  Yikes! That one came out of the blue. We talked a little about the hierarchy of deacons, priests, bishops, cardinals and the pope. And, of course, we mentioned that Savannah has a new bishop.

We finished off with a story about the exceptions to the “no married priests” rule. Yes, there are some married priests. Ask your child about it. See if anyone was listening.

By the way, our text is published by Sadlier Publishing Company. If you are interested, you can find some outlines and other material at their Web site. We are using the  “Project Disciple – We Believe” curriculum.

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Sorry for the late posting. I was out of town all day Thursday.

We aren’t making much progress as far as the textbook is concerned, but we are having some interesting class sessions and discussions.

We started with a review of Matthew Chapter Two. Actually, for most of the class, it was an initial impression as they indicated they had not read it at home during the week. Oh well. This chapter involves the visit of the Magi, Herod’s treachery, the flight to Egypt and Herod’s murder of all the male babies in Bethlehem. Also, in this one chapter, Matthew makes several references to Old Testament prophecies. We talked about all kinds of things, including Herod’s motivation for wanting to kill the infant Jesus. We discussed Matthew’s use of the prophecies as part of his ongoing campaign to establish Jesus’s credentials as the Messiah.

As that discussion was winding down, Father John stopped in for a visit. The class kept him busy with questions on anything and everything they could think of. One big question was why God allows evil in the world. I can’t even begin to remember the rest of them.

Next week, we plan on completing our introduction to the Sacraments.

Also, parents, please ask your child to read Chapter 3 of the Gospel of Matthew.



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We had a jam-packed class Wednesday night.  It doesn’t look like that is going to change.

1.) Adding the Gospel of Matthew to the weekly lesson opens up lots of opportunities for discussion.

2.) The lessons in this new text are fairly packed, also with lots of opportunities for discussions, explanations and questions.

Mrs. Rudolphi and I try to make our class sessions as interactive as possible.  We want to the students active and engaged. We want them to ask questions. We also ask questions of them, and try to get them to think about issues. Of course, this is time consuming and frequently chaotic.  However, we are not wedded to the idea of having to cover every single word in the text. We’ll cover all the sacraments before the year is out, but we probably won’t hit every chapter, every paragraph, every exercise, etc.

We started with a quick review of the material we covered last week – the Holy Trinity and Jesus’s baptism.

We then went straight to their “homework assignment,” Chapter 1 of Matthew. In our review, we emphasized two points in this chapter.

1.) It begins with a lengthy genealogy of Jesus, tracing his roots back to Abraham. We pointed out that the author did this to establish Jesus’s credibility as a Jew. We compared it to a politician in Savannah who might claim that his family has been in Savannah since Oglethorpe. We said that this was especially important since Jesus initiated major changes in the Jewish faith (eventually Christianity), and those changes would be more acceptable coming from someone with roots within the community rather than an outsider.

2.) The second half of the chapter tells the story of Joseph’s initial intent to divorce Mary when he found out she was pregnant with Jesus. We talked about why he would want to do this. The Bible also describes him as “righteous” for wanting to “quietly divorce” Mary. We told the students that since the standard punishment for adultery at the time was to be stoned to death, a quiet divorce would actually have been fairly mild treatment. Of course, as the Bible tells, God sent an angel who appeared to Joseph in a dream and told him give Mary a break. Another point we tried to make from this story, was that the people portrayed in the Gospel were very real people, with all the same strengths and weaknesses as people today. They were happy, sad, angry, frustrated, jealous, kind, caring, funny, and so on.

Parents, please encourage your child to read Matthew Chapter 2 this week.

We skipped Chapter 2 and began Chapter 3 in the text, which was a broad overview or the sacraments. We got about half way through the chapter and will finish up next week.

We started talking about the sacraments in general terms. The text described them as “effective signs.” We talked a little about signs. To convey the concept of “effective signs,” we compared the Sign of Peace at Mass to a hug a child receives from a parent. While the Sign of Peace is certainly a sign of friendship, it does not usually create a real feeling in either party. On the other hand, when a child receives a hug of love from a parent, they really experience a feeling of parental love. Thus it is an “effective sign.” It actually has an effect.

We discussed the sacraments as a way of receiving “sanctifying grace,” which we described simply as God’s love. Continuing the comparison to a parental hug, the sacraments are a way God channels his love (grace) to us, just like a hug channels a parent’s love to his or her child.

We did a quick inventory of the sacraments our students have already received. We agreed that all had received Baptism, Holy Eucharist and Reconciliation, and a couple believe they may have received the Anointing of the Sick. We all agreed that none of them were married, confirmed  or priests.

We covered a short overview of the sacraments of Baptism, Confirmation and the Eucharist. We will go into more detail in future chapters. We stopped short of hitting on the remaining four, which we will take up next week.

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