Catechist Corner

It's all about sharing the faith.

A Case for Consistant, Balanced Memorization

I’m not old enough to have been catechized with the Baltimore Catechism, but I do have a copy of it and I’ve heard quite a few people comment on their own experiences with it.  The Baltimore Catechism is primarily laid out in a Q&A format.  It is concise and to the point.  When I hear people that grew up using that catechism, they always talk about how they had to memorize all the questions and answers verbatim.  I’ve even had people begin to recite the catechism to me decades after they learned it.  That’s pretty impressive!

Catechetical programs today are not like that.  Today, we see a lot less memorization and much more conceptual, story-based and scriptural-based teaching methods that help get the message across.  I have to admit that the programs of today seem a lot less dry, make it easier to keep the attention of the students and do a good job of connecting the teachings of the Church to today’s society.

So then, which one is better?  I would say neither, or maybe it’s both.  Okay, I think it’s a blend of the two.

I received a comment in class last night when we broke out into an unscheduled Q&A session that “this is what makes religious ed fun.”  My response was that Religious Education by unstructured Q&A does nothing more than give one points of Catholic trivia.  Unless it is part of a structured program, you can’t understand how it fits into the big picture.  That being said, are the current catechetical programs really answering the questions of our students?  Are we trying to beat around a teaching instead of hitting it head on, like the Baltimore Catechism did?

We have all seen it.  People don’t know their faith today.  Scarier yet, the kids in our religious education programs don’t know their faith all that well either and presumably it’s supposed to be fresh in their minds.  Why might that be?  I would submit because as we teach something, we move on and don’t continue to review it over and over again.  Let’s take the Ten Commandments.  We teach the Ten Commandments to our second graders as we prepare them for First Reconciliation.  That is integral to their curriculum.  We review the Ten Commandments in 6th grade as part of our review of the Old Testament.  By 6th grade, students have forgotten the Ten Commandments.  Sure, it may have had cursory mention in other years, but a mention is just not enough.  That’s a pretty basic thing to know, but we don’t support it from year to year so it gets dropped from memory.  I won’t even go into basic Catholic prayers!  It’s our fault for not holding our youth accountable for this knowledge; our fault and the fault of parents.

I think we, as religious educators need to balance the need to understand our faith with the need to know our faith.  Just going through a program that teaches through Q&A does not help you understand how to truly live your faith because it is not flexible enough to cover that ever developing scenarios we are faced with; but it is a great way to learn “the facts”.  On the flip side, teaching you the meaning of a particular tenant of faith in detail once without returning to it again in any great detail doesn’t really help make it stick.  Should we not have some basic items that every student should be required to show knowledge of every year?  Test on the Ten Commandments every year.  Test on Acts of Mercy every year.  Test on the Act of Contrition every year.  Test on the True Presence every year.  I can go on.

It is important to progress through topics of faith and help students understand what it should mean to them today, but not so exclusively that we never give it an opportunity to set in through repetition and memorization.

Until next time, keep sharing the faith!

On fire!!

Have you ever had one of those nights where you look back and think, “wow” or a night that you wish you could repeat every week?  For me, last night was one of those nights.

When I arrived at Church for Religious Education, my CRE asked if I would be willing to merge my class with another because we had a catechist out.  I figured “why not” and agreed to teach both classes.  Historically, having students that normally part of my class has been hit or miss, but I was going to make the best of it nonetheless.  The first question I get is, “Do you give homework” and I start doing a victory dance in my head.  I tell the student to ask my students that question and the standard response of “only if we don’t cooperate” puts them all in the palm of my hand.  The expectation is set and I see things looking up.  I probably shouldn’t be too joyful about using homework as a threat, but it makes things so much easier when we all understand each other.

We start class with a prayer, Come Holy Spirit, which was not only topical, but I’m convinced that prayer was answered last night.  Then my students ask if we can do the Three J’s.  For those that are not familiar with the Three J’s, it’s something that I picked up from In Between Sundays, a podcast that I frequently listen to.  It consists of sharing your Junk, Joy and Jesus Moment for the past week.  I had my students participate and made it optional for my guests.  I think my guest students were more into it then my own students!  It was a huge success last night and ended up being a great ice breaker.

Our formal topics last night were focused around the activities of the Apostles after the Resurrection.  We discussed Jesus’ first appearance in the Upper Room.  We discussed Doubting Thomas.  We discussed Pentecost and the effect the Holy Spirit had on the Apostles.  I spent time focusing on the before and after of the Apostles’ behavior, including the effects of some of the gifts they received on Pentecost.  Additionally, we discussed how we (and they) knew the Holy Spirit had arrived, namely wind and fire.

After spending some time on Pentecost, we moved on to the missionary activities of the early Church leaders.  We reviewed how they traveled and thier ministries in obedience to the command of Jesus to make disciples of all nations.  We also connected this to Pentecost by discussing how those gifts they received from the Holy Spirit helped them be successful.  We spoke about the Conversion of St. Paul, and how appropriate since yesterday was the Feast of the Conversion of St. Paul.  We also discussed why we call St. Paul an Apostle even thought he was not a follower of Jesus during his earthly ministry.  To help drive that story home, I finished the segment by showing them an artist’s representation of that conversion moment on the road to Damascus.

We discussed what martyrdom was and why the Church believes that martyrs have a special place in heaven.  We spoke about the martyrdom of St. Peter and why he was crucified upside down.  Once again, I showed them an artist’s representation of his martyrdom to help drive that story home.

I ended the class by handing out the lyrics to “Kyrie” by Mr. Mister and played the song.  After listening to it, we discussed the lyrics and what the artist was trying to say through his song.  The references to the Holy Spirit and being sent on a mission are so strong in that song that I love tying it to this lesson.

I left class last night feeling like I myself was on fire!  Not only that, but my students, and I mean all of my students last night seemed fired up as well.  I can’t beleive how much I was able to cover in one hour; and to be honest, I felt like I actually got through to them as opposed to being rushed and lost.  I’m sure it was with a little help from above.  I truly hope that the Holy Spirit can come and kindle in us the fire of His love every week!!

Until next time, keep sharing the faith!

The Game of Life

Hey!  You guys may not remember me.  I’m the Catechist that used to post on this blog.  It’s been how long?  Oh yeah, a month and a half.  I’m embarrassed by the fact that I haven’t posted in so long.  Life got a little bit crazy for me in December.  Work picked up as we neared the end of the year, plus Advent and Christmas time always get busy with things happening at the parish, preparing for time with family and buying gifts.  Additionally, it’s gotten only crazier in January.  Oh, before I forget … a belated Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.

So what’s been going on you might ask?  Besides all the things at work that would bore you, I’ve been busy working on Religious Education stuff.  My classes have been going well.  In my 6th Grade class, we’ve discussed wisdom, focusing on individuals like King Solomon.  I was able to use one of my favorite Old Testament stories (1 Kings 3:16-28) to show wisdom in action.  It was great to see their reactions as I read parts of the story and stopped for impressions.  We’ve also discussed some of the prophets that foretold of the coming of the Messiah, like Isaiah & Zechariah.  I think the differences of how the Messiah was described were a bit tough for them to grasp.  With those topics, we wrapped up the formal curriculum around the Old Testament.

This week, we moved into the New Testament, exploring parts of the Gospels in a little more detail.  We got to focus on one of my favorite New Testament stories, “The Boy Jesus in the Temple” (Luke 2:41-52).  Oddly enough, the prior week I got asked the question if Jesus knew he was God from the time he was born.  I referred to this passage to help express my opinion.  As we reviewed this story, I chose to focus on Luke 2:51.  We discussed the significance of the fact the Jesus was “obedient” to his parents.  I always find it such a powerful example that Jesus, who is God, was obedient to His human parents.

On top of my 6th Grade lessons, I had the opportunity to present at RCIA this past week.  My topic was “The Sacraments of Healing”.  As much as I felt comfortable with my knowledge around the Sacrament of Reconciliation, I still felt that this needed to be spot on, so I did a lot of work with the Catechism and some other resources to help make sure I got it right.  Additionally, I had never done much work around the Anointing of the Sick, so this gave me an opportunity to increase my own knowledge as well.  I felt very good about my presentation and our catechumen asked some insightful questions which was a signal to me that my presentation was giving him reason to think.

On top of that, I’m also working with my CRE and fellow catechists in developing a plan for our 6th Grade Retreat that will be happening in early February.  My CRE provided me the framework and I helped build out a more detailed discussion plan.  The theme of the retreat will be the Ten Commandments.  Lastly, I’ve been methodically working on my pastor to allow me to create a Facebook page for our parish.  After months of my pastor not having time to focus on it, we met today and he agreed that we needed to do it.  And just like in the business world, the person who has the idea gets the project.  Don’t get me wrong.  I’m very excited about doing this.  It will be a great opportunity to stay connected to parishioners beyond the Sunday Liturgy, but for it to be successful, it needs constant focus.  Please pray for me as I deal with whatever the game of life throws my way.

Until next time, keep sharing the faith.

1 Kings 3:16-28 (Douay-Rheims)
View in: NAB RSVCE Vulg
16Then there came two women that were harlots, to the king, and stood before him:
17And one of them said: I beseech thee, my lord, I and this woman dwelt in one house, and I was delivered of a child with her in the chamber.
18And the third day, after that I was delivered, she also was delivered, and we were together, and no other person with us in the house, only we two.
19And this woman's child died in the night: for in her sleep she overlaid him.
20And rising in the dead time of the night, she took my child from my side, while I thy handmaid was asleep, and laid it in her bosom: and laid her dead child in my bosom.
21And when I rose in the morning to give my child suck, behold it was dead: but considering him more diligently when it was clear day, I found that it was not mine which I bore.
22And the other woman answered: It is not so as thou sayest, but thy child is dead, and mine is alive. On the contrary she said: Thou liest: for my child liveth, and thy child is dead. And in this manner they strove before the king.
23Then said the king: The one saith, My child is alive, and thy child is dead. And the other answereth: Nay, but thy child is dead, and mine liveth.
24The king therefore said: Bring me a sword. And when they had brought a sword before the king,
25Divide, said he, the living child in two, and give half to the one, and half to the other.
26But the woman whose child was alive, said to the king, (for her bowels were moved upon her child,) I beseech thee, my lord, give her the child alive, and do not kill it. But the other said: Let it be neither mine nor thine, but divide it.
27The king answered, and said: Give the living child to this woman, and let it not be killed, for she is the mother thereof.
28And all Israel heard the judgment which the king had judged, and they feared the king, seeing that the wisdom of God was in him to do judgment.
Luke 2:41-52 (Douay-Rheims)
View in: NAB RSVCE Vulg
41And his parents went every year to Jerusalem, at the solemn day of the pasch,
42And when he was twelve years old, they going up into Jerusalem, according to the custom of the feast,
43And having fulfilled the days, when they returned, the child Jesus remained in Jerusalem; and his parents knew it not.
44And thinking that he was in the company, they came a day's journey, and sought him among their kinsfolks and acquaintance.
45And not finding him, they returned into Jerusalem, seeking him.
46And it came to pass, that, after three days, they found him in the temple, sitting in the midst of the doctors, hearing them, and asking them questions.
47And all that heard him were astonished at his wisdom and his answers.
48And seeing him, they wondered. And his mother said to him: Son, why hast thou done so to us? behold thy father and I have sought thee sorrowing.
49And he said to them: How is it that you sought me? did you not know, that I must be about my father's business?
50And they understood not the word that he spoke unto them.
51And he went down with them, and came to Nazareth, and was subject to them. And his mother kept all these words in her heart.
52And Jesus advanced in wisdom, and age, and grace with God and men.
Luke 2:51 (Douay-Rheims)
View in: NAB RSVCE Vulg
51And he went down with them, and came to Nazareth, and was subject to them. And his mother kept all these words in her heart.

6 + 6 = Q&A

Q&ASome of my readers may remember a post I made a few months ago called “6 + 6 = Awkward“.  Well, it’s that time of year where we review the Ten Commandments.  After some introductory reading, I chose to review each commandment in detail.  I asked for a volunteer to read the First Commandment aloud.  A boy raised his hand and I chose him to read.  The first words out of his mouth were, “What is adultery?”

I actually chuckled.  I forced patience on them because I told them there were five other commandments that we needed to review before we got to that one.  It’s very clear though, what was on their minds and that they already had an idea of what that commandment relates to.  To no surprise, they had questions, lots and lots of questions.

When we finally got to the Sixth Commandment, I explained it’s literal meaning as well as it’s broader meaning, just like I did with each commandment before it.  Then I let the questions begin:

– What does adultery mean?
– You have to be married?  Why?
– How about if it’s with your girlfriend?
– What if you live with your boyfriend?
– What if you love your boyfriend?
– What if it happens the day before you get married?
– Is being a homosexual a sin?
– What if someone has already done stuff?

I have to thank my students from last year for preparing me for this discussion.  Last year, I flew by this topic and avoided answering questions in any detail.  Not this year.  I felt like I missed a teaching opportunity the last time this happened and I did not want a repeat of that this year.  Oddly enough, I did not prepare for the discussion.  In fact, I completely forgot what had happened last year; but when the first question arose, I felt at perfect ease discussing it.

The Holy Spirit must have been guiding me last night because I had a “sex” discussion with these kids without skipping a beat.  I did everything possible to control the giggle-fest that ensued once the discussion began and I was successful in doing so.  Also, while talking about it, I wrote the word “Sex” on the board to dispel any sense of hesitation or shyness on my part.  My inclination was that by have a serious and open discussion about what the Church teaches regarding this topic, I had more of a chance of making an impact.

We focused on things like the importance of sex only happening within a marriage, why it is otherwise considered a mortal sin, what the natural purpose of the act is (i.e. love, commitment and procreation), why being with a boyfriend / girlfriend is not enough, etc.  We even discussed why being a homosexual, or more accurately having those tendencies, is not a sin in and of itself.  I focused on the fact that a person is not a sin, only acts are sins.  I did this to help distinguish between the dignity we all deserve as human beings and the sinfulness of acts that we may commit, irrelevant of any sexual tendencies.

All in all, the discussion went very well.  I made it a point to not let it digress and gave them the opportunity to ask some questions that were clearly on their minds.  My only regret was not having a little more time.  I know I left some questions unanswered and since next week is a unit review, I may leave a little extra time to answer any remaining questions.  I’d rather they ask me and come away with an accurate understanding of what we are called to believe then to have the questions remain without answers or with poor answers from others.  Of course, recognizing the controversial nature of the topic, I gave my CRE a heads up just in case any parents called in about it.  While my comments were perfectly in line with the teachings of the Church, that does not mean that some parent out there may not like what was discussed.

Until next time, keep sharing the faith!

1 Kings 3:16-28 (Douay-Rheims)
View in: NAB RSVCE Vulg
16Then there came two women that were harlots, to the king, and stood before him:
17And one of them said: I beseech thee, my lord, I and this woman dwelt in one house, and I was delivered of a child with her in the chamber.
18And the third day, after that I was delivered, she also was delivered, and we were together, and no other person with us in the house, only we two.
19And this woman's child died in the night: for in her sleep she overlaid him.
20And rising in the dead time of the night, she took my child from my side, while I thy handmaid was asleep, and laid it in her bosom: and laid her dead child in my bosom.
21And when I rose in the morning to give my child suck, behold it was dead: but considering him more diligently when it was clear day, I found that it was not mine which I bore.
22And the other woman answered: It is not so as thou sayest, but thy child is dead, and mine is alive. On the contrary she said: Thou liest: for my child liveth, and thy child is dead. And in this manner they strove before the king.
23Then said the king: The one saith, My child is alive, and thy child is dead. And the other answereth: Nay, but thy child is dead, and mine liveth.
24The king therefore said: Bring me a sword. And when they had brought a sword before the king,
25Divide, said he, the living child in two, and give half to the one, and half to the other.
26But the woman whose child was alive, said to the king, (for her bowels were moved upon her child,) I beseech thee, my lord, give her the child alive, and do not kill it. But the other said: Let it be neither mine nor thine, but divide it.
27The king answered, and said: Give the living child to this woman, and let it not be killed, for she is the mother thereof.
28And all Israel heard the judgment which the king had judged, and they feared the king, seeing that the wisdom of God was in him to do judgment.
Luke 2:41-52 (Douay-Rheims)
View in: NAB RSVCE Vulg
41And his parents went every year to Jerusalem, at the solemn day of the pasch,
42And when he was twelve years old, they going up into Jerusalem, according to the custom of the feast,
43And having fulfilled the days, when they returned, the child Jesus remained in Jerusalem; and his parents knew it not.
44And thinking that he was in the company, they came a day's journey, and sought him among their kinsfolks and acquaintance.
45And not finding him, they returned into Jerusalem, seeking him.
46And it came to pass, that, after three days, they found him in the temple, sitting in the midst of the doctors, hearing them, and asking them questions.
47And all that heard him were astonished at his wisdom and his answers.
48And seeing him, they wondered. And his mother said to him: Son, why hast thou done so to us? behold thy father and I have sought thee sorrowing.
49And he said to them: How is it that you sought me? did you not know, that I must be about my father's business?
50And they understood not the word that he spoke unto them.
51And he went down with them, and came to Nazareth, and was subject to them. And his mother kept all these words in her heart.
52And Jesus advanced in wisdom, and age, and grace with God and men.
Luke 2:51 (Douay-Rheims)
View in: NAB RSVCE Vulg
51And he went down with them, and came to Nazareth, and was subject to them. And his mother kept all these words in her heart.

Here I come to save the day!!

Mighty MouseSuperheroes.  Who’s your favorite?  Maybe it’s Superman, or Batman, or Wonder Woman, or maybe it’s even the Green Lantern or the Flash.  Mine happens to be Mighty Mouse, for those of you who remember the little guy.  No matter which superhero is your favorite, they all have a couple of things in common … they use their gifts and talents to help people, and they all suffer in one way or another while doing their good deeds.

We focused on superheroes last night in class with the 6th graders.  We spoke about their favorite superheroes as well as some of their real-life heroes.  We discussed some of their qualities, like courage and love of their fellow man.  We spoke about the challenges that they each face and how difficult it truly is being a hero.

Then we transitioned to one of the great Old Testament heroes.  To quote the movie, it was “Moses, Moses, Moses.”  We reviewed Moses’ early days and how he came to leave Egypt, but we focused mostly on his calling.  We spoke about what it means to be called.  Each and every one of us is called to impact the world, albeit in different ways; but being called can be a scary thing.  Most times, you are being called to do something that you haven’t done before or that you think you just cannot do.  I know I’d be a bit scared if I saw a burning bush that was telling me to take off my shoes, because last I checked, bushes don’t speak.  We know that’s how Moses must have felt, among feeling other emotions.

What if Moses had said “No thanks, God, I’m not your guy so go with your backup plan”?  News flash – God doesn’t make backup plans.  We each have a purpose for being here, most likely more than one; but we all have a choice to fulfill that purpose or not.  If I had not accepted my call as a Catechist, then maybe some kids would not learn their faith as fully.  Sure there are other Catechists, but there is only one Catechist that does things “exactly” the way I do it (we are all unique, after all) and maybe my style impacts some students in a special way; or maybe this ministry is preparing me to help someone in the future who is struggling with their faith that would not otherwise be helped, or maybe I help set an example that will touch someone’s heart.  None of us truly know what our purpose is, but saying no to our calling will definitely have an impact that none of us will ever truly understand, sort of in the same way that saying yes will have an impact.  If Moses had said no, then who knows what might have happened to the Israelites.

Luckily, Moses said yes.  Afraid and unsure, but trusting in God, he went back to Egypt to demand that the Hebrews be freed per the command of God.  We discussed how God supported Moses’ words and reviewed the first 9 plagues.  Then we discussed the biggie – The Angel of Death, and why Passover and the Passover Seder have been and continue to be so important for the Jewish faith.

That was the perfect segue over to the Eucharist.  We all know the Last Supper occurred at the Passover Seder that year.  Just as the Jews celebrate and remember through a meal the saving power of God by His freeing them from Egypt, we too remember the saving power of God through Jesus through a meal.  Of course, there are differences between the two celebrations as well, but it was interesting to see some of the links.

So, whether it’s one of the Super Friends, Mighty Mouse, Moses, Jesus, or even your grandmother; heroes love, sacrifice, trust in good, help others and show people the way.

Next time, the class will discuss the rest of the Exodus and the Ten Commandments.  Until then, keep sharing the faith.

1 Kings 3:16-28 (Douay-Rheims)
View in: NAB RSVCE Vulg
16Then there came two women that were harlots, to the king, and stood before him:
17And one of them said: I beseech thee, my lord, I and this woman dwelt in one house, and I was delivered of a child with her in the chamber.
18And the third day, after that I was delivered, she also was delivered, and we were together, and no other person with us in the house, only we two.
19And this woman's child died in the night: for in her sleep she overlaid him.
20And rising in the dead time of the night, she took my child from my side, while I thy handmaid was asleep, and laid it in her bosom: and laid her dead child in my bosom.
21And when I rose in the morning to give my child suck, behold it was dead: but considering him more diligently when it was clear day, I found that it was not mine which I bore.
22And the other woman answered: It is not so as thou sayest, but thy child is dead, and mine is alive. On the contrary she said: Thou liest: for my child liveth, and thy child is dead. And in this manner they strove before the king.
23Then said the king: The one saith, My child is alive, and thy child is dead. And the other answereth: Nay, but thy child is dead, and mine liveth.
24The king therefore said: Bring me a sword. And when they had brought a sword before the king,
25Divide, said he, the living child in two, and give half to the one, and half to the other.
26But the woman whose child was alive, said to the king, (for her bowels were moved upon her child,) I beseech thee, my lord, give her the child alive, and do not kill it. But the other said: Let it be neither mine nor thine, but divide it.
27The king answered, and said: Give the living child to this woman, and let it not be killed, for she is the mother thereof.
28And all Israel heard the judgment which the king had judged, and they feared the king, seeing that the wisdom of God was in him to do judgment.
Luke 2:41-52 (Douay-Rheims)
View in: NAB RSVCE Vulg
41And his parents went every year to Jerusalem, at the solemn day of the pasch,
42And when he was twelve years old, they going up into Jerusalem, according to the custom of the feast,
43And having fulfilled the days, when they returned, the child Jesus remained in Jerusalem; and his parents knew it not.
44And thinking that he was in the company, they came a day's journey, and sought him among their kinsfolks and acquaintance.
45And not finding him, they returned into Jerusalem, seeking him.
46And it came to pass, that, after three days, they found him in the temple, sitting in the midst of the doctors, hearing them, and asking them questions.
47And all that heard him were astonished at his wisdom and his answers.
48And seeing him, they wondered. And his mother said to him: Son, why hast thou done so to us? behold thy father and I have sought thee sorrowing.
49And he said to them: How is it that you sought me? did you not know, that I must be about my father's business?
50And they understood not the word that he spoke unto them.
51And he went down with them, and came to Nazareth, and was subject to them. And his mother kept all these words in her heart.
52And Jesus advanced in wisdom, and age, and grace with God and men.
Luke 2:51 (Douay-Rheims)
View in: NAB RSVCE Vulg
51And he went down with them, and came to Nazareth, and was subject to them. And his mother kept all these words in her heart.