The first night of seventh grade religious education went pretty well, considering I am facing a room full of kids who are trying their best to prove they have graduated from elementary school enthusiasm to teenage sullenness. I definitely need the inspiration of the Holy Spirit to get through these classes. I thought I would share a couple of things that seemed to work last night.
One of the concepts introduced last night is the Magisterium, the teaching authority of the Church. I explained Christ gave this authority to the Church so His teachings would be protected from generation to generation. To illustrate this, we played the “telephone game”. I gave one student the phrase, “Earth has no sorrow that Heaven cannot heal”. She whispered it into the ear of a classmate. This classmate whispered it to the next student. This continued until the message had been given to each student. About half way through it was clear there was a problem and by the time the last few people received the message it was obvious the content had been lost. The final student reported she was told “Bobby got his first chest hair”. I have an idea that one of the boys in the middle of the group substituted his own message for the original. But that was okay. It provided the perfect opportunity to show how the Magisterium protects Jesus’ teachings from both innocent misunderstandings as well as outright heresies. I don’t think my prankster "heretic" was expecting to be part of the lesson plan.
The other demonstration that seemed to speak to them was to draw an arrow that stretched the length of the chalkboard. I told them this arrow represented their life. At the very beginning of the arrow I shaded in a box just a few inches long. I then asked them what they thought this box represented. Someone said it was birth. Someone said it was the time they were baptized. They were surprised when I told them that little shaded box represented their entire earthly life. The rest of the arrow is their eternal life. However, the choices they make and the way they spend this short time on earth will control how they will spend eternity. It was a good reminder that their earthly goals must be oriented towards Heaven.
Next week will be an even bigger challenge. I have invited parents to join us for a class. I don’t think many of my students ever really talked to their parents about faith. Church is what they do on Sundays. Religious education is left to the parish staff. True faith formation has not crossed the threshold at home. Most of their jaws dropped in surprise when I suggested their parents should still be studying and learning about their faith. Adding to the challenge, after scheduled the parent class for next week, I found out that the Redskins are playing next Monday night. Attending class with their children will keep parents from seeing the opening kick off. Please keep my class in your prayers. I will let you know how many parents show up.