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Posts Tagged ‘Prayer’

We had a last minute change of plans for last night’s class. Originally, we planned to cover the first of two lessons on the Ten Commandments. However, at 6:32 pm, there were only three students in the room. In the past, our classes on the Commandments have been some of the best of the year, with lots of questions, discussions and engagement. I didn’t want more than half the class to miss out on it. Meanwhile, Monsignor Costigan was presenting a program in the church that Mrs. Hubert said would be appropriate for our age range. We changed our minds several times, as more students arrived (7 of 8 total), but we ended up going to the church and listening to Monsignor after all.

Monsignor had several good themes, including prayer, which Mrs. Rudolphi covered with the class last week, and forgiveness, which will be a serious topic for us in a few weeks. The class was well behaved and answered several of Monsignor’s questions.

Next week, we will tackle the Commandments, regardless of our attendance.

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We only had five students in attendance last night, which is a shame because we had a fairly good class.  This was our second-to-last class of the year and the last one in which we would teach a normal lesson.

The focus of last night’s lesson was prayer. After an opening prayer, we asked the class to break into partner groups and read the first few paragraphs of the text. We provided a sheet of paper with three columns. They were to seek the answers to three questions found in the text.

–What is prayer? (A conversation with God.)

–How can we pray? (alone or with others; aloud or silently; scripted, like a Hail Mary, or just whatever we want to say)

–How did Jesus pray (many different ways)

We introduced the five different types of prayer. We discussed each one and tried relate them to our fifth graders daily lives.

Blessing – like a prayer before a meal

Petition – asking God for some help

Intercession – asking God for help on behalf of another

Thanksgiving – thanking God for all his gifts

Praise – praising God for his greatness

We asked the class to make themselves comfortable and to close their eyes. We asked them to remain quiet and to think about having a conversation with God. We told them God would hear anything they wanted to silently tell him. They should talk with God and then to listen. We let this go for about sixty seconds.

We asked if anyone heard God talking back to them, but to no surprise, no one did.

We pointed out that God hears all prayers, but does not necessarily respond in the way we want.  We used an example of a student praying for an “A” on a test for which had or she had not studied. God may respond by not helping with the grade. A poor grade may be a better lesson in the long run to teach the student he or she needs to work for their grades. We also read a short fictional account of a conversation between a person and God. The person complained that he had a bad day and God had not helped by answering his prayers. God responded with reasons for all the supposedly bad things that had happened.

We talked a little about looking for opportunities to regularly pray daily.

We discussed scripted prayer. Most of the students agreed that when they prayed a scripted prayer like the Hail Mary or the Our Father, they were just reciting words without really understanding the purpose or meaning for the prayer. We introduced a match-column exercise from the text that broke down The Lord’s Prayer into its individual components. The students were to match the right hand column with the appropriate line from the prayer. For example. “We ask God’s forgiveness” matches up with “and forgive us our trespasses.” And so on. We then discussed the answers. We allowed only a few minutes for this, but most of the class completed the exercise and, for the most part had very good matches.

We left them with a homework assignment. We asked them to identify some time or action that is a part of their daily life, like brushing their teeth, taking a shower, waiting for a school bus, or whatever. They should note that daily event as a “trigger” for a daily prayer. Next week, we’ll ask them what they decided would be their trigger.

Next week will be our last class of the year. Monsignor Costigan will visit. He will talk about his life as a priest and answer a number of questions that arose this year that were beyond my or Mrs. Rudolphi’s ability to answer. We will also have a pizza snack. It would be very nice if you would send me an email or call if your child is not going to be able to attend. I don’t want to buy a bunch of pizza and have no one there to eat most of it.

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Three classes left to go. We’re in the home stretch, with two of our more interesting classes still ahead of us. Unfortunately, our lesson last week was not one of them. We covered the Sacrament of Anointing of the Sick (Ch 18).

We hit several key points.

The Sacrament has evolved over the years when it was called “Last Rites” and was administered only to those on death’s door.

Anyone can receive the Sacrament, if they are seriously ill, facing surgery or other health issue

It can be received more than once.

The purpose of the Sacrament is to heal the recipient spiritually, not necessarily physically. Although, we did discuss the frequent link between mental and emotional health, and physical health. For example, we hear about people who just “worry themselves sick.”

The Sacrament is frequently combined with Reconciliation and the Eucharist. When a person is near death, he/she may be given a tiny piece of the Eucharist called “viaticum” (provisions for the road or journey).

We were sidetracked with an interesting set of questions, starting with one student asking what would happen if a person took excessive use of the Sacrament. When I asked her why someone would do that, she said, “I don’t know. Maybe as a way to get attention?” These kids are more astute than sometimes we give them credit.

Our next class will focus on the Sacrament of Matrimony, which is usually a fairly interesting class. The following week, we will do a lesson on prayer, which also is pretty good. We’ll finish up on April 27 with as visit from Monsignor Costigan, and maybe some pizza to celebrate the completion of another year.

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Sorry for the late posting. Life has been pretty busy for the past few days.
We had a good class Wednesday evening. Mrs. Rudolphi and I had our new photo sheets, so we at least knew the students’ names. It will still be several weeks before we really get a feel for the class and the students for us. As first glance, though, this looks like a good group.

As we did last week, we started instruction with the opening prayer. We emphasize the proper way to pray the Sign of the Cross. Many students are inclined to simply wave their hand in the general direction of their head and shoulders. We are teaching them that the Sign is a prayer and they should recite it slowly, with their hand touching their forehead, navel, left and right shoulders.

The first part of the lesson dealt with John the Baptist, Jesus’s baptism and the mystery of the Holy Trinity. We talked about John’s role as the precursor to Jesus. We also pointed out that this scene in the Bible that all three persons of the Trinity appear at the same time. (Jesus, the Holy Spirit as a dove, and the Father as a voice from the clouds)

This lead us to a discussion of what exactly is the Holy Trinity, specifically, how there can be one God, but three persons. We were discussing this and I was about to try to explain it when Monsignor Costigan and Paula Hubert walked in. Monsignor was on a recruiting mission for altar servers. I offered him the opportunity to explain the mystery. He declined but said he was interested in hearing my explanation. Gee, no pressure there. Explain the mystery of the Trinity to a group of fifth graders with the pastor listening and grading. I told the class that it wasn’t possible for us as humans to fully understand this mystery of God, but there are several explanations that might come close. I picked out two students and asked them about the various roles they have in life (brother, student, daughter, sister, athlete, friend, cousin, etc.) They are a single human being, but they have different sides to them depending on the role they are in at any moment. To the same extent, the three persons of the Trinity can be thought of as the different roles of God. The Father is the creator; the son is the savior or Messiah; and the Holy Spirit is the side of God who is with us every day and extends God’s love. It may not be the best explanation, but the class seemed satisfied, and so was Monsignor. Whew!

Our next section dealt with the various ways Jesus shows us God’s love. We passed out a sheet with four questions. We asked the students to read the page silently and find the answers to the questions in the text. Some of the various examples involved Jesus feeding people and curing a blind beggar. We also noted the way Jesus treated sinners. He did not shun them; he welcomed them and forgave them.
Our next section was to deal with the way Jesus invites people to follow him. We broke the class up into four groups of four students. We assigned each group a piece of the chapter. We asked them to read their section and then prepare to teach it to the rest of the class. We ran out of time before they had a chance to present their mini-lesson. We’ll tackle that first thing on Wednesday.

We finished, as we will every week, but going around the room and asking each student what they learned that evening. It took a little “teeth pulling,” but everyone was able to cite something. They were rewarded with a cookie.

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The focus of our class Wednesday night was prayer. Some of the key points we covered and discussed included:

  • Prayer is a personal conversation with God.
  • It’s nice that the Church and others have already composed numerous prayers, you don’t have to recite a formal prayer to talk to God. Just using your own words and thoughts is just fine.
  • The various types of prayer (petition, praise, intercession, thanksgiving, etc.) We discussed examples of each one.
  • While a conversation is supposed to be two-way, don’t expect God to come to you as a voice from Heaven. He is much more subtle than that. To make that point, we read a somewhat humorous account of someone talking to God about their bad day and asking why God would let everything go so wrong that day. This was very well received. Everyone wanted a copy. We made the copies and distributed them.
  • Regular prayer is a matter of creating a habit. We suggested the students think of sometime during the day when they are doing the same thing every day, like taking a shower, brushing teeth, waiting for a school bus, etc. We challenged them to start saying a short prayer every day during this activity (or non-activity.) We told them that if they did this long enough, eventually it would become a habit and the daily activity would serve as a reminder for a prayer.

We did a short activity. We asked the students to make themselves comfortable in their chairs and to place their hands on the desk in front of them. We had them close their eyes and just be quiet for a few seconds. We then asked them to imagine that God was right there with them and was listening to their thoughts. What would you say to him? We gave about 20-30 more seconds and let them open their eyes and resume the class.

 And, as always, we finished the class by asking each student to name something they learned that night.

Next week, we are going to tackle the Ten Commandments. This is not part of the regular curriculum. It was part of the curriculum for the book we used for the first few years I taught CCD. We changed texts a few years ago. I continue to address this subject, simply because it has produced some of the liveliest and most interesting discussions. Typically, we take two weeks to cover this assignment.

 Parents – If you would like to sit in on the class, you are most welcome. It should be fun.

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I have assembled a schedule of lessons for the rest of the CCD year. Just so you’ll know, this is highly optimistic. There are all kinds of things that can and will divert us from this plan, but at least it gives us a yard stick to measure how far behind we are at any time.

By the way, several years ago, we arranged for a family in our parish to have their newborn son baptized on a Wednesday evening. We used the Baptism ceremony as a teaching tool. It worked out very well for both the CCD classes and the family. Monsignor Costigan did everything the same as he would otherwise. The ceremony was held n the church with no shortcuts. The only differences were that Monsignor explained what he was doing and its significance at each step. And the child had about 150 honorary godparents in attendance. That child’s older sister happens to be in our class this year. We would love to do this again this year, if only we can find parents with a child in need of baptizing who are willing to go along with it. If you are such a parent, or you know someone who might be willing, please let me know.

Here is the tentative class schedule.

 Oct 30 – Eucharist 1 Ch 10

 Nov 6 – Eucharist 2 Ch 11

 Nov 13 – Liturgical Year & Advent Ch 6 & 13

 Nov 20 – Advent Project (family)

 Dec 4 – Christmas Pageant prep

 Dec 11 – Christmas Pageant prep

 Dec 18 – Christmas Pageant program (Family)

 Jan 15 – Confirmation Ch 8

 Jan 22 – Confirmation Ch 9

 Jan 29 – Prayer – Ch 12

 Feb 5 – Ten Commandments (not in textbook)

 Feb 12 – Ten Commandments

 Feb 19 – Reconciliation Ch 16

 Feb 26 – Lent and Easter Triduum Ch 20 & 21

 March 19 – Lent Project (Family)

 March 26 — Anointing of the Sick Ch 18

 April 2 – Matrimony Ch 24

 April 9 – Holy Orders Ch 25

 April 16 – Easter Ch 27

 April 23 – Open

 April 30 – Last Class

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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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