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We had a good class last night, active and involved, but not out of control. This was really only my second full class session with them. I am just now starting to get to know the students – their strengths and weaknesses; those we are quick to respond and those who need to be drawn out, and so on. The whole process improves when we get to know each other a little better.

The main theme for the entire year in 5th grade CCD is the Sacraments.  We began our efforts in this direction with a broad overview of the seven Sacraments. We asked the students to make a list of the Sacraments they have already received and those they expect to receive in the future.

As we got into the text, we ran up against a number of terms and concepts that were pretty-much new to the class.

  • Evangelazation
  • Vocations
  • Sanctifying Grace
  • Initiation

So we had to take a detour and discuss the meaning of these terms.

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.  “Actions speak louder than words.”

We discussed the concept of a “vocation” as a calling and provided some examples.

We discussed “sanctifying grace.” We described “grace” in general as simply God’s love. We compared it to the love of a parent to their child, and continuing the metaphor, we asked the class to think of times when they felt their parents’ love more than others. (ie: getting a hug, comforting, praising, etc.) Just as a hug is a way a parent can convey his or her love to a child, the Sacraments are God’s way of extending his love (grace) to us.

We discussed the three categories of Sacraments:

  • Sacraments of Christian (Baptism, Confirmation, Eucharist)
  • Sacraments of Healing (Penance/Reconciliation, Anointing of the Sick
  • Sacraments of Service of Communion (Holy Orders, Matrimony)

We had time to briefly go over the three categories and discuss each Sacrament.  Next week, we’ll do a little review/reinforcement and then move on to a more detailed study of Baptism.

We finished up with a practice I may make a regular part of the program. At the beginning of class, I told the students that I would be asking each of them a question at the end of class, “What did you learn tonight?” Just before the end, I asked the question and went through the class for answers.  Everyone answered with something we had covered, and were rewarded with a chocolate chip cookie. They seemed to like that. Maybe we’re on to something.  🙂

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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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We had our last real CCD class last night. I’d like to tell you we ended on a high note, but I would be less than truthful.

I was a little nervous about this lesson because it stuck its toe into the water of sexuality. The lesson started out with a discussion of love in its various forms, including a reading from 1 Corinthians 13 (“Love is kind…” etc) However, about half-way through the chapter, the text included a two-paragraph section on sexuality.

After addressing the importance of respecting their own bodies, as well as the bodies of others, it included sentences such as these.

“As we grow towards sexual maturity, we are to follow the example of Christ and practice chasity.”

“Chasity is a virtue that helps us express our sexuality in ways that are proper for our time in life.”

“…we do not engage in sex before marriage.”

I expected a slew of questions, most of which I wouldn’t want to answer without parents around, however I really didn’t get many. This was a subject the students really did NOT want to discuss.

I admitted that I wasn’t sure exactly how to approach the subject, because I wasn’t certain how much the students had already learned. They assured me that they already “knew it all.”

One student raised his hand and announced, “At my school, we already watched the puberty video.” I guess that covers it.

I talked about the importance of having good communication with their parents, as they will have lots of questions and issues in the coming years. One girl told me that she would never talk to her parents about something like that. “I’ll just get my answers from Google. That way I’ll know I’m getting straight answers.” Yikes! (Oh, yes. We did discuss this.)

Finally, I ran up the white flag and surrendered, when one student asked, “Can we please talk about something else now?” and the entire class agreed. I didn’t argue.

Next week will be the final class for the year. We will not attempt to teach a lesson. It will be mostly social. Parents are invited.

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Mike writes:

Last night wasn’t the best class we’ve had this fall.  I wasn’t on my best game and the kids, as Susan said, “had ants in their pants.” They weren’t bad or misbehaved. We just had trouble getting engaged. That’s life. Some days you get the bear, and some days the bear gets you.

Content-wise, we backed up and covered the chapter we missed last week (Chapter 2 in the text book.)

We started by talking again about the importance of participating in the Church community, and not just sitting on the sidelines and watching. The text showed pictures of people participating in the mass.

We began a soft introduction to the concept of the sacraments. The key concept was that the sacraments are a means of receiving God’s grace. In the course of discussion, we elaborated on two concepts.

When the text mentioned “grace,” I asked the class if they knew what that was. I received blank stares. So we backed up a little and talked about love and people who loved them. We asked the students about times they felt they were receiving their parents’ love more than others. They came up with occasions like when their parents care for them, hug them, fix their favorite meal, do things with them, and so on.  We described “grace” as God’s love for them, and the sacraments as an occasion for them to receive and feel God’s love.

The text emphasized the Holy Trinity, which brought up a whole additional concept foreign to most of the students. Beyond the basics of the Sign of the Cross, no one could really describe the concept of God and the Holy Trinity. We asked, “So how can God be one being but three persons?” One student very astutely answered, “Because he is GOD!” Using that as a springboard, we talked about the nature of God and the Trinity with three concepts.

1. It is beyond our abilities as humans to totally understand the full nature of God. And, yes, God can be one being and three persons because he is, well, God.

2. We told that because of that we could not provide them with a totally accurate description of the nature of the Trinity, but there two examples that may approach the truth. The first was St. Patrick’s description of the Trinity as being like a shamrock with one stem but three leaves.

3. We also asked the students to think about some of the various roles they have in life. They came up with concepts like son, daughter, grandchild, friend, student, soccer player, Scout, band member and others. They are one person, but they have various identities depending on what they may be doing or who they are with. We compared this to God. When we think of God as the Creator, that is the Father. When we think of God as the Savior, that is Jesus, the son. And when we think of God as the source of continuing love and grace, that is God the Holy Spirit.

We finished off with a five minute “quiz bowl,” to reinforce some of the lessons. For whatever it is worth, the students’ retention is really excellent. Something is sticking. There is hope! Back next week.

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