This is irresistibly adorable.
We covered a lot in class last night. One thing stands out most in my mind, however. In explaining the different branches of the unified Church (Triumphant, Militant, and Penitent), I emphasized the cyclic effects of prayer.
We're all part of the Church, regardless of where (or when!) we are. The saints in Heaven intercede ceaselessly for those of us on earth / in Purgatory. Those of us on earth are meant to offer our prayers and works of charity to aid those souls in Purgatory. Finally, the souls that benefit from our prayers in Purgatory return the favor by interceding for those of us on earth.
The kids liked the idea that they had the power to help free souls from Purgatory. We went over the importance of St. Gertrude the Great's Purgatory Prayer, and they each vowed to recite this prayer for Holy Souls Day. When we added our prayers up at class end, in reciting the prayer at the opening and close of class, we were able to send 22,000 souls to Heaven. If they do the same for tonight, that's another 11,000 souls who become saints as a result of their innocent prayers.
The kids all wanted to know how the souls in Purgatory could help us (since I explained prayer was a two way street). Souls in Purgatory aren't forgotten by God. In fact, they are very, very dear to Him and He listens to their prayers always. As a result, we can rest assured that the gratitude they have for those who pray for them is always brought to God. They always ask for blessings to be heaped upon those generous enough to help them attain Heaven.
It was at this point I explained the "Communion of Saints." First, I explained the meaning of the word "communion." Most of the children assumed I was referring to the Eucharist, but the word "communion" refers to the intimate communication between God and His people. The Eucharist is, for us, the Communion of Saints because it is the most intimate communication God can give to us. He, Himself, becomes present within us in a wholly unique way. The Church (all branches of it) is known as Jesus' Body. Thus, when we accept the Eucharist, we accept perfect union with all other members of His Body. It's a mystery we cannot fully grasp, but it is vital to our identity as Catholics.
To help the kids better understand this concept, I explained we could view ourselves as Jesus' Hands. Jesus, being in Heaven, asks us to care for one another as He, Himself, cares. Thus, when we see someone who is struggling to carry a heavy school bag, a little sibling who can't reach the table for a snack, or even a tired parent who needs a little quiet time, we can help! We can share the burden of books, we can retrieve the snack for our little siblings, we can play quietly while Mom or Dad reads a book. After all, it's exactly what Jesus would want us to do. Jesus relies on us to extend helping hands to everyone we meet. We, in effect, become His Hands, because we are the instruments with which He blesses others.
Thus started the torrent of stories. Kids were trying to out-do each other in kindness.
"We helped an old lady who fell on Halloween and we didn't take any candy!"
"I gave my extra lunch money to a homeless family who didn't seem to have warm enough clothes!"
"I didn't yell at my little sister even though she kept taking all my stuff. I just let her have it because I didn't want my mom to get upset."
"I helped my friend with X, Y and Z because she didn't understand what was going on in class."
On and on they went! It was wonderful. What a great reminder of the importance our children also play as the Hands of Christ. :) May they always be so enthused to see the opportunities granted to them to act on God's behalf.
Please note: For this particular entry to make sense, you'll have to read the original one which can be found HERE. It's titled "Question Box Stumper - Adam and Eve."
This'll be jumbled, but I was in the shower a second ago when another thought struck me...
Adam, as a man, would have carried both an X and a Y chromosome. Since he technically had no mother, where did the X come from? EVE!
Women do not carry the Y chromosome. Only men. Women, instead, have a double X. Since we were taken from men and "closed up" with flesh, the only thing God would have taken would have been the X chromosome then finished us off with a second helping.
More proof that Eve was part of the equation from the very beginning... even though Adam was completely unawares!
:) :) :)
So last Tuesday, I chose the Big Bang Theory question out of the question box. While I was elated to delve into that with my students, I got smacked with a stumper at the tail end of that discussion.
One of my kids shot her hand up and asked "Why did God create man before woman?"
I knew it would happen eventually. My first stumper! I took a moment and said, "That is a great question! I honestly am not sure of the answer. Looks like this is one we get to save for next week!"
She was triumphant. She deserved to be. All the questions that got sent my way this year have been cake. To finally stump me... all the kids got excited. Ha ha ha. It was fun to see them so giddy. The best part, though, is I know all of them will be looking forward to how I tackle it this week. It's one of the reasons I love the question box so much. I've always got something to get them psyched about coming back!
Anyway, this one really did stump me. I talked it over with my Spiritual Director to gain some insight, but she had the same original reaction I did. We both had a good laugh over it, but neither of us offered any "concrete" answer that would satiate (and not befuddle) 6th graders.
My original thought process was "Man was created in the image of God. God, though "genderless" personifies the creative capacity of men moreso than the creative capacity of women. Though women take part in creation, it's a more passive role - accepting into herself the life that man offers. Mind you, I don't claim women are more passive in bearing forth life ('cause let me tell you, honey... we're about 1,000 times more active than men are in that regard). However, in the simple act of creation, women are the passive recipients of the life force men actively give.
Also, Adam may very well have come before Eve to solidify that God wishes men to be the heads of families.
That's when it hit me... God didn't create man first. God created man and woman at the same time. After all, when God brought forth Eve, He brought her forth from the rib of Adam. Eve, though not "alive" in the way we picture her - wandering around the garden getting hustled by a wily snake - existed within the bosom of Adam. God wished of Adam to recognize the need for a true mate so that Adam would appreciate the gift when God deemed him ready to accept her.
I then went and looked up the Hebrew versions of Adam and Eve. Here's what I found:
Adam comes from the Hebrew word "adamah" which means "earth" (a hilarious note for Battlestar Galactica fans out there). It also traces roots back to an Akkadian word, "adamu" meaning "to make." Akkadian, by the way, is a defunct Semitic language, so it's no wonder it shares the sound of the Hebrew.
Eve (or Eva) comes from the Hebrew word "havah" or "chavah" meaning "to breathe" or "to live."
Keeping this in mind, it makes sense, then, that Adam (earth) already possessed the breath of life (Eve) within himself. Until he was mature in both mind and spirit to appreciate understanding this gift, God with-held this knowledge from him. Adam thus had to ask God for a mate (prayer, anyone?). Only when Adam understood his need and God as the answer to that need did God cause Adam to sleep, thus enabling Him to "awaken" Adam, opening his eyes to the gift of woman that He chose to bless humanity with.
Okay, for real, how awesome is that?! The Holy Spirit let me dangle for a whole week this time, but ya know what? He knew the kids would be hounding me tonight, so He cut me a break. :) Three cheers for the Holy Spirit! :)
I love the idea this graphic depicts!
So one of the questions I pulled from the Question Box this week was:
"Did God really make the earth like it says in the Bible or is the big bang true?"
I laughed at this, because I'd been meaning to write up a blog on this very topic for MONTHS now. So many people accuse religion and science of being mortal enemies. In fact, religion and science typically go hand-in-hand. You just have to pay attention to how the pieces fit.
The Creation Story of Genesis is my favorite example of this (followed closely by the Exodus from Egypt saga). When you tell someone that you believe the Bible speaks the truth, 9 times out of 10 they'll say "Oh, so you believe God made the world in 6 days, dinosaur bones were buried just to test us, and the first two humans were Adam and Eve? So the world is like, what... 20,000 years old to you, right?"
Seriously... I have gotten into this discussion so many times it's laughable. I do enjoy it, though, because by the time I'm done explaining how the Judaic Creation Story fits within the Big Bang's framework, they're typically at a loss as to how to respond to my points.
I'll go ahead and take this time to throw out as a quick reminder that the Genesis Creation Stories were finally written down WAY before Charles Darwin (father of evolution) or Georges Lemaître (father of the Big Bang Theory) existed.
Anyway, pull out your Bible's and follow along. I'm going to give you the Cliff's Notes version.
Remember... just because a scientist didn't theorize this until way later doesn't mean someone (namely, whoever penned down the creation story of Genesis in the first place) couldn't have come up with it first.
1st Day - "Light"
Think of the original "Big Bang" as the biggest explosion of light ever. Considering that EVERYTHING in the universe was crunched into a space the size of a pin-head and suddenly SURGED outwards at a rate incomprehensible to human minds, an incredible amount of energy / light was released, encompassing huge amounts of "space" in the process. Thus, a massive amount of light. MASSIVE.
2nd Day - "Separation of Waters"
Welp, since our early "Earth" was a boiling hot mess, most "water" was in the form of vapor. As the temperature cooled, water began to liquify, so we've now got liquid water on the earth as well as in the air as vapor. Poof - separation of waters.
3rd Day - "Dry land and plants"
Now that the earth had cooled even more, the crust was becoming visible beneath the water, and plate techtonics began to create the continents we know today. Obviously, now that the earth was emerging from the waters, plants were evolving and springing to life.
So we're halfway there, and it's looking like the Bible and the Big Bang / Evolution are still saying the same processes took place. Let's move on down the line...
4th Day - "Sun and Moon"
Woo hoo... our two favorite celestial bodies are now in plain view of the Earth since the weather patterns have been properly established. The overpowering vapor / gas clouds have cooled enough to separate, and we have our first glimpse of the sun and moon. Plus, the kicker here is that if you follow popular theory about how the moon formed, another, smaller planet smashed into the Earth at about this "time" as well, thus marking even the moon's "creation."
5th (and 6th) Day(s) - "Animals" and "Humans"
Congratulations. We have now arrived at the fulfillment of our evolutionary process (up to this point, anyway). Animals... and obviously complex creatures like humans, came late to the game due to the time necessary for our development.
Once again, I'd like to remind everyone that Genesis was written way before "science" as we understand it even existed. That being said, it's incredible that these ancient authors were about as spot on as it gets regarding the evolution of the cosmos and life on Earth.
Anyway, in conclusion, the Genesis creation story does fit in line with Big Bang / Evolution. And as for the "days" argument, MOST Christians (Catholics included) teach that the "days" translated from the Bible actually equate millennia, not literal "24-hr" days. They're referred to as "long days" when this particular story is taught to children. And considering 24-hr days are man-made products anyway, with the sun not showing up until "day 4" how exactly would one hold God to a standard that didn't technically exist until the middle of the "week?" Ha ha.
So see? Religion and science don't always have to be enemies. Sometimes they really are two sides of the same coin and can be very complimentary. This is one of those cases. I enjoy this example because it really does serve to bridge divide.
So tonight I introduced my class to the Rosary. Being October, I thought it fitting.
I had printed out this beautiful image on a large, laminated poster in order to impart the idea that the rosary is pretty much the photo album of Jesus' life, but I quickly realized that the kids (for the most part) hadn't even been introduced to what the rosary was let alone how the mysteries played into the recitation at all.
I was floored!
So we began with where the rosary came from, how St. Dominic codified it courtesy of Our Lady's visions to him concerning the prayers, and the importance of the Hail Mary as a Jesus-centric prayer.
We focused, in particular, on Our Lady's words to St. Dominic. They are so beautiful, and they explain in perfect detail why this litany of "Angelic Salutations" is so vital for the regeneration of faith for humanity. She says to St. Dominic:
When God willed to renew the face of the earth, He began by sending down on it the fertilizing rain of the Angelic Salutation. Therefore preach my Psalter composed of 150 Angelic Salutations and 15 Our Fathers, and you will obtain an abundant harvest.
In other words, God began His renewal with the Annunciation. The angelic salutation that the Blessed Mother refers to is Archangel Gabriel's greeting of "Hail Mary full of grace, the Lord is with thee!"
I explained to the children that at this momentous event, the Blessed Mother came to understand that she was not only a mother, but the Mother of God! She was chosen to be "blessed among women" as the harbinger of salvation, even before John the Baptist. Her heart at these tidings was full of joy, brimming with gratitude, exaltation and hope that God would bestow upon her a gift so incomprehensible.
For many women, the moment of learning they're pregnant is a happiness incalculable. So when we say the "Hail Mary" we not only call to mind this immeasurably happy time for Our Lady, we call to mind this happy time for humanity as well, because as the Blessed Mother pointed out through St. Dominic, that first "Hail Mary" was the trumpet that sounded the calvary had arrived.
... Calvary ...
Until now, it never occurred to me how fitting it is that Christ died on Calvary. He truly was waging war against evil, and through that "last stand" He gained for us everlasting victory over death itself.
My heart has been humbled by so wondrous a thought.
As usual, I digress (but I thank the Holy Spirit for it this time).
Anyway, upon the Blessed Mother's acceptance of the news the Annunciation brought, Jesus was conceived within her (the Incarnation). So again, through the Angelic Salutation, Mary delivered her "Fiat" which, in turn, drew the Word of God into her womb. Thus, the Hail Mary prayer - ever echoing in thanks this most merciful act of God - is instrumental in helping us "fertilize" the earth. These prayers send a flourish of smiles across Our Lady's face because they remind her of a time so divinely precious that graces overflow in gratitude, raining down on souls as glorious, spiritual nourishment.
So I guess I'll be adding more to my Rosary series, especially for my CCD kids who are so hungry for these beautiful blessings of our Faith. If you, too, are interested in reading more about the Rosary, check out my sidebar and click on the "Rosary" heading under Categories. I've got a 4 part series (which will eventually stretch into about 12-15 parts) that delves into the most basic (and surprisingly misunderstood) understandings of this Advent Psalter.
So I had my CCD class again tonight.
As my title implies, I am frustrated. I'm also failing my kids.
Argh. This is driving me up a wall.
I'm supposed to be dedicating my Tuesday nights to delving into the Old Testament and the history behind our most revered Catholic traditions. I'm supposed to be explaining the link between Abraham's sacrifice of Isaac and God's Sacrifice of Jesus. I'm supposed to be teaching these kids why the Passover of Moses prefigured the Passover meal of Christ that we celebrate at each and every Mass.
Instead, I'm repeating concepts that should've been addressed in 1st or 2nd grade... TO NO AVAIL.
I'm starting to feel almost frantic. We're now more than a month into classes and these kids haven't even touched their text books. How can they? They wouldn't have clue one what was in them because they have absolutely NO FOUNDATION with which to understand the material!
I just... I don't know what to do.
For October, we've been tackling the Rosary. Do you know most of my class claims they've never had a rosary before? Some had never seen one!
THIS IS SIXTH GRADE!
How did they go six years without seeing a rosary???
And their prayers. Oh Lord... help me! These kids don't even know their prayers! Apostle's Creed? What's that? Prayer to their Guardian Angel? Pfft... what the heck are those?
I am so heartbroken over how badly we've taught our students. I'm heartbroken over how little schooling their parents have done regarding their faith. And I truly feel overwhelmed with how little time I have to begin filling in the missing pieces.
So I've been doing what I can. I've broken down things to their most basic levels. Sign of the Cross, the Trinity, Our Lady's role in leading us to Christ.
But still they look at me glossy-eyed. Still they come to me week after week with the same questions on the most basic aspects of our religion.
Today, during a quiz, I had SIX students (out of my 14) ask me what Christians were. SIX! And another 4 couldn't tell me that Jesus was Jewish.
It's not their fault. If anything, I feel like it's mine because I'm apparently not doing a good enough job explaining these basics to them well enough that they understand them from week-to-week. I have to admit, though, that I just can't believe they're this lacking in their Catholic formation. I just can't.
My plan of action is to simply keep going. If I don't get to this year's lesson set, I guess I won't get to it. I'm going to have to talk to my DRE about this. What good is explaining those higher-level concepts to them if they don't understand the foundation for which they're meant for? So I'll keep searching out the cracks and filling them in with all I've got. I want these kids, if nothing else, to understand that we have a God who loves us, who created us to be His family, who provides for us as a loving Father, who can and will punish us as a loving Father should, and who will eventually call us home as this Earth is only a temporary proving-grounds.
I want them to understand this. I want them to see the proof of this throughout Salvation History... throughout the motion of Divine Providence in their own lives. I want to give them the tools with which to SEE Divine Providence in action for themselves so that they can give thanks for it and help it along through their charitable deeds for others.
I want them to be proud of their faith. I want them to know how very blessed they are to be part of the Church.
To do that, they need to know God. And too many of them simply do not. Too many of them think of Him as this old man in the sky who sent a baby boy to create Christmas trees and angels for us. We don't really need to think about Him until we're about to die. He's not really active in our lives. He's far away and He's busy with other things... other people.
I want to teach them that they are - each of them - the most important thing God cares about.
It seems so simple, doesn't it?
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