Posts Tagged ‘Immaculate Conception’

I had no entry last week, because I was out of town for work. Mrs. Van Brimmer took over the class and taught the Rosary. I understand it went very well.

We had our usual group of six students last night, as we continue to work our way through the “Faith Assessment” questions and answers. These are basic elements of the Catholic faith that our students should be familiar with before Confirmation. You can see the entire program here.


Last night, we were on the “Miscellaneous Questions” section. We had the students take the quiz to start, to see what they already know, and to make them think about the questions. Then we discussed them.

  1. What does catholic mean?
  2. Transubstantiation is:
  3. Can a non-catholic receive communion at a Catholic mass? Why or why not?
  4. What is the distinction between the Virgin Birth of Jesus by Mary and the Immaculate Conception?
  5. What is fasting and abstinence? In which liturgical season are these generally practiced?
  6. Where do you find the letters INRI? What do they stand for?
  7. Understanding, Counsel, Fortitude, Knowledge, Piety, Fear of the Lord and Wisdom are the seven __________?

If you don’t know the answers, feel free to click the link above and learn.

Given the importance of transubstantiation to our Catholic faith, we supported that concept by watching a video by Bishop Robert Barron on the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist.


We finished up with a little throwback in Church history. In the past, we had discussed that prior to the Second Vatican Council, the Mass was said in Latin. Although I had explained that everyone had a translation available, the class never seemed to grasp the idea. A few weeks ago, when helping my siblings clean out some boxes at my father’s home in Pittsburgh, I came across my original St Joseph’s Sunday Missal, with all the Sunday masses in two columns, English on the left and Latin on the right. I passed it around the class. The students were very interested.

This continues to be a small, but great group of students.  They are engaged and behaved. We can talk about things, have open discussions and even joke around without the entire lesson running off the rails. They are fun and interesting to work with. Mrs. Rudolphi and I look forward to each week.

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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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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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