It has been some time since I have last posted on this blog, I have been very busy and very tired with my new job. I have been working six days a week since July and what little time I have had to myself I have either been keeping up with my praying, reading and studying the faith, and I have been volunteering at my local parish as a PSR Catechist.
Being a PSR Catechist has been challenging, as I was hoping to get older students to be able to discuss deeper theological matters; however, I was given the assignment of 4th graders, an age group (or younger) as a teacher I always avoided teaching. It has been a rewarding challenge that has allowed me to grow deeper in my own faith. The few classes have been duds on my part. At first, I attempted to teach the course material in a lecture format and hoping the students would engage in questions for explanations , but often times the students just looked bored or made comments that were not on topic. For Example, we discussed matters of creation, I was hoping the students would object to the lesson having read a CNA article that claimed that students around the age of ten lost their faith in God because of “science,” but, of course, they did not object to much of anything.
One of the next classes was on the topic of the Holy Trinity. I attempted to explain the Athanasian Creed and discussed elements of St. Patrick and Dante’s Divine Comedy, again, to bored faces. Another time we discussed the two parts of the mass and I used language from John’s Gospel to discuss “The Word” who was with God in the beginning and the mystical miracle of being present for Christ’s sacrifice over 2000 years ago. So again, I was faced with blank stares, no questions, and off topic comments.
I asked myself, “How on earth do I reach these 4th graders?” I attempted to change my lessons a bit every week, but with little to no success. I used the Smart Board and attempted to use bribery with no success. Finally, I came to the topic of my latest class which was the Ten Commandments with a special focus on the first three commandments. At this point, I was at a loss on how to articulate and get them to remember any sort of lesson. Finally, after some prayer and reading, a thought crossed my mind as I had just watched a show on the Book of Daniel; remembering as a child how I always enjoyed great storytelling, I decided to employ Daniel’s story into a lesson on the Commandments I began the lesson with the book work and going over the Ten Commandments. It appeared to be another boring lesson as we then began to focus on the first three Commandments.
After going over in detail the first three Commandments, I told them it reminded of a story in the Bible about a man who could interpret dreams named Daniel. In a dramatic flare, I began to tell them the story about how Daniel and his friends were put under the control of the Babylonians and Nebuchadnezzar. One day Nebuchadnezzar told Daniel and his friends that they must worship a statue and Daniel’s friends resisted because of their love for God. Nebuchadnezzar angry at their disobedience ordered them to be BURNED! The kids bored faces melted into worried faces. I told them Nebuchadnezzar threw them into the fire and for some reason they did not burn because God (rewarding their faith) protected them from any harm. I told them that in our world today a great many people will demand us to worship false gods and we must resist them, no matter the consequences. I warned them by resisting there would be consequences for these actions, but God would reward us for our faith. By doing this, we would be fulfilling God’s first commandment. So I told the class, “I am Nebuchadnezzar, worship my statue!” The kids shouted with great enthusiasm, “No!” I repeated myself and they responded even louder, “No!”
During the story, I told them the rulers that oppressed the Hebrews changed and that Cyrus now ruled the Hebrews. After some time Cyrus was convinced to outlaw praying for 30 days by members of the court attempting to rid Daniel, as he was favored by Cyrus. I told them that Daniel could not follow this law because of his love for God, and he disobeyed Cyrus. Cyrus, as ruler, could not tolerate this disobedience from one of his subjects so he sentenced Daniel to death! I told them with a great roar that Daniel was thrown into a den of hungry lions–the kids sat at the edge of their seats–Daniel prayed to God for protection, and again, because of the faith of Daniel, the lions did not touch him. Cyrus was moved by this revelations and finally Daniel was set free. I explained to them that there have been laws in the past, such as in Nazi Germany; Soviet Russia; Soviet-controlled Poland; modern day places in the Middle East and Mexico, that prevented people from worshipping God. It is our duty no matter the cost to resist these people and pray as Daniel. I told them it is possible that we could rounded up or that our Priests could be pulled from the altar during and shoot them in the middle of the street. We must continue to have faith like Daniel and doing so we would keep the third commandment.
After class, I teach the class with a Deacon and he came up to me and said, “What a class!”
I replied, “I don’t know what came over me.”
He said, “The kids have never been so enthralled, I know what came over you, the Holy Spirit.”