In spite of an inscrutable schedule change (from Sunday between two of the masses to Wednesday evening (well, given that they added a mass, and there were concerns about parking and traffic, maybe not so inscrutable)), I’m back for a second year of teaching catechism to children who are preparing to be received into the Catholic church this Easter. In most things the parish has good sense; why they keep me around as a teacher remains beyond my ken (well…maybe the fact that they’re in desperate need of teachers (ref. schedule change mentioned above) explains part of it), but I’m making the most of it and will do my utmost to get them ready.
This year’s class is mainly fifth graders, but a few other grades thrown in as well. We’ve only had two sessions, so the class size hasn’t really stabilized yet. I won’t be surprised to pick up at least one or two more before mid-October. They come from several different schools, and, of course, have different levels of comprehension, literacy, and motivation. Actually, this year’s class seems a little more motivated than last years, or at least they’re doing a better job of pretending. They might be slightly more mature, too, which will help.
The first week, of course, was laying out the goals of the class, as well as expectations, their key assignments (chosing a patron saint and writing a report), and the like. I also got to touch, very briefly, on the Trinity. We’ll be hitting that topic repeatedly, I think, since their ideas on the Trinity were a little fuzzy.
Last week I started working on my (very rough) course outline by introducing the Apostle’s Creed. Last year we waited until half way through the course to broach the Apostles Creed, even though it’s a prayer that they are supposed to know. My thought this year is to go through it line by line and unpack the theological and doctrinal themes contained therein in an effort to build an understanding of the prayer, not just knowing the words. It should, in theory, help them remember it if they know the meaning of what they say. Also, since October is the month of the rosary, we’ll have a natural opportunity to use the Apostle’s Creed each class for the month (it being the very first prayer in the rosary), which should aid in memorization.
We’re about half way through, having spent a while on the meaning of “God, the Father almighty” [omnipotent, always-being, all good, all perfect…, to include my rant about not having a proper verb tense in English to describe the extratemporal nature of God] and “creator of heaven and earth” [and everything else out of absolutely nothing]. We got to the mystery of the incarnation (I love seeing the lights go on when you explain that the Annunciation happens nine months before Christmas), and ran out of time. Next week is the death and resurrection, along with judgement, then the Holy Spirit [one line is all He gets in this Creed, which will be interesting to unpack] and all the rest.
My two biggest challenges are going over their heads and going down rabbit holes. I have warned them, repeatedly, that I’ll do my best to explain as clearly as I can, but that I do tend to aim pretty high with the explanations. They are perfectly welcome, and encouraged, to ask questions to make sure they followed the explanations (Hmmm…I’ll have to reiterate that this week, and underscore that I’m there for them, not to hear myself speak), but I need to remind myself to watch their faces to see where they get lost. Still, I want to convey the idea that understanding of the basic tenents of the faith is well within their grasp, even when the themes or ideas are complex and deep.
Also, I just need to watch out for rabbit holes and diversions that get me off track, no matter how personally fascinating they are.
So, if you have it in you, say a quick prayer for me (that I not mislead or confuse anyone), but most especially for the students as they prepare for their sacraments at Easter.