I found the following filed away and I just pulled it out and thought it would be worth sharing.

Top Ten “To-Do’s” with Primaries

By Kelly Renz

  1. Show great reverence for the Bible, the church space, God’s name, etc.
  2. Use images kids can identify with to understand faith terms.
  3. use the senses and employ multi-sensory teaching.
  4. Get kids – and yourself- moving.
  5. Ask lots of questions; lead them to think, consider, analyze, compare.
  6. Talk frequently about emotions; it helps them apply their own experience.
  7. Be inclusive; draw in every student, even the most shy.
  8. Be joyful and enthusiastic about your faith; it will be contagious!
  9. Recognize good behavior often; never shame or belittle.
  10. Never assume they know how to pray; expose them over and over to all forms of prayer.

The one caveat I would say is number 6.  It is great to apply things to their own experiences but primary age kids love hard and fast rules and facts so be sure to tap them into what is true and what God wants them to know about Himself.

Would you add anything to the list?

The Catechism says:

“Prayer is the life of the new heart. It ought to animate us at every moment. But we tend to forget him who is our life and our all. This is why the Fathers of the spiritual life in the Deuteronomic and prophetic traditions insist that prayer is a remembrance of God often awakened by the memory of the heart: “We must remember God more often than we draw breath.”1 But we cannot pray “at all times” if we do not pray at specific times, consciously willing it. These are the special times of Christian prayer, both in intensity and duration (Para. #2697)”.

Seek to take time as class begins and as you conclude class to draw your students into prayer.  I shared in a previous teaching tip that this could mean going into the church and being quiet and still, sometimes its gathering them around your a prayer space in your classroom and at other times it’s having everyone stand to take time for prayer and each person sharing a petition or two.

It is also very important to use Scripture as you pray since it is God’s very Word to us. For example, recently I was teaching on Baptism to 6th Graders and before class started I asked 3 students to read a specific Scripture verse during our opening prayer.  They read those 3 Scriptures (which spoke of Baptism) and then I prayed a spontaneous prayer building on what they read.

How are you building a habit of prayer into your lessons? How are you helping students know how to pray and listen to God?

And he [Jesus] said: “I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” – Matthew 18:3

My kids are the 3, 2, and 1 and they have an innocence about them that not only my wife and I delight in but so do others who encounter them.  This, I believe, is true for anyone who interacts with young children.  The authentic simplicity and excitement of children is challenging to match.  Adults seem to lose that sense of wonder and joy that kids have about the world around them.  Take for example the way a young child will talk about what is right and wrong: My 3 year old son will say things like…Daddy it’s not nice that my sister hit me or how carefree he is when he says…Do we get to go to Mass today? This is not to mention how uninhibited they are as they sing some song about Jesus.  All three of my kids know the St. Michael the Archangel Prayer and they say it with gusto.  The older we get the more we tend to lose what Jesus treasures in children and calls all His followers to imitate.  Here are 3 ways to live Matthew 18:3 in and out of the classroom:

1)   Be a person of wonder… Approach life as an adventure and take delight in the little things.

2) Imitate children by seeking to live life with a spirit of joy and simplicity.

3) At the end of each day find one thing that you did that resembled a child-like faith.  It may be challenge the first week or two but the more you do it the more you will “become like little children”.

Having this kind of faith and outlook on life brings renewal to the body of Christ from an authentic Gospel perspective.  And it helps others encounter the good news of Jesus Christ.

This past Saturday our parish had their annual “Forgiveness Day” for the students who are preparing to receive their First Reconciliation next week.  It was from 9:30 AM to 12:30 PM.  Students rotated through 8 different stations each focusing about an aspect of the Sacrament of Reconciliation.  Here is a little bit about each station:

1) Priest Station – one of our priests talks with the students about the Sacrament of Reconciliation, shows them one of the “Reconciliation Rooms” or Confessionals and answers any questions the kids have.

2) Game Station – A station where there is a board game that students play answering various questions about the Sacrament.

3) Snack Station – A snack is served and kids do a word search related to reconciliation.

4)Movie Station – A brief video about Reconciliation and discuss some of the details from the video with the students.

5) The Quiz Station – Students are posed various questions that they are asked to answer.

6) The Story Station – A story is read about forgiveness and then discussed with the kids.

7) The Heart Station – Students decorate a heart, cut out of felt, which has their name on it. This is then put on a large banner and put in our gathering space for Reconciliation.

8) Activity Station – Students played a “hands on” interactive game with a reconciliation theme.

The parents who help out share with us how much they enjoyed the experience.  We also find even parents who did not help out share with us how much their child enjoyed it and how they talked about the experience the rest of the weekend.  Forgiveness Day is a great way to prepare students and help them feel comfortable about making their First Reconciliation.

Does your parish do any kind of retreat for the 2nd graders preparing for their First Reconciliation?  I’d love to hear what you do!

Last night I went Trick or Treating with my family.  It was a joy to watch my kids get excited about dressing up and going trick or treating.  My son went as St. George who “fought the dragon”.  He was so excited about it!  My daughter’s went as a princess and a Bumble Bee – not quite as inspirational.  In my experience with secular holidays I find that people are liturgical by nature – they want to celebrate.  They want to decorate and manifest a sense of joy, excitement and celebration in their lives.  Our Catholic faith is so rich because we have this as a natural part of our tradition.  Unfortunately we struggle to decorate and manifest the various Solemnities, Feast Days and Memorials of various saints and events during the Church year.  At least in our homes we struggle to decorate and celebrate like we do for holidays like Halloween, Valentines Day and Fourth of July.   I believe there are various reasons for this but suffice it to say we as Catholics should really work toward celebrating various Feasts of the Church Year.

3 Ways to Celebrate:

1. Celebrate All Saints Day as a special day – not just the day after Halloween.  Make going to Mass on All Saints Day a very special event.  Have a special dessert celebrating All Saints and talk about your favorite saints.

2.  Celebrate the saint your child is named after.  Make that day a special day where that person gets to choose what is for dinner.

3. Always connect the secular holidays to our Catholic Faith.  For example share with children that Halloween focuses (as least much of it) on what is scary and dark.  Christ is the light who dispels the darkness.  Also, the Saints are the opposite of darkness and fear because they were filled with the light of Christ.  It is the saints who we can go to in order to be protected and who can guide us on our path to heaven.

Happy Solemnity of All Saints!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

All You Holy Men and Women of God…Pray For Us!

This is a great article in this “Year For Priests”.  Enjoy!  A few months ago I found this poster and put it on my office door.

From Catholic Mom:

This poster from the Diocese of Raleigh)

I hope that you often hear a prayer for vocations offered at Mass. We need more priests. Jesus implored us to pray for more workers because the harvest is in abundance. But I am also certain that each of us is called to do more than pray.

I do not believe that our priest shortage is because God has stopped calling men to the priesthood. Rather, young men have stopped hearing and stopped answering this call. As parents we are called to impart the faith to our children. We are to give them the faith foundation that allows them to hear God’s call. He is calling each of them to a vocation. For some it will be to the vocation of marriage. For some it may be to the vocation of consecrated religious life. For some it may be the vocation of being single. And for some it is the vocation of the priesthood. Our families, our little domestic churches, are the font of vocations.

Our parish community must support families as they nurture vocations. The parish should enable families to build a life centered around the faith. Parents cannot teach what they do not know. If you have read my blog for any length of time, you know that I frequently lament the sad state of catechesis of Catholic adults. Therefore, it is up to the parish to bolster the religious education of both adults and children. This takes time, talent, and treasure.

Over the last four weeks I have attended Mass in three different parishes. Every single one of them had an announcement from the ambo as well as a blurb in the bulletin pleading for religious education volunteers. If you are reading Catholic blogs, you are light years ahead of most of the Catholics in the pews. You are qualified to teach. Remember: God does not call the equipped. He equips the called.

Religious education efforts will foster vocations. You may plant the seed of faith in a child who is not getting this formation at home. You may strengthen and develop the faith of a parent so that he can nurture the vocations of his children. Your efforts and sacrifices for your faith will inspire others to make efforts and sacrifices of their own.

Of course, all this doing is not a replacement for prayer but done in conjunction with prayer. Children are never too young for us to pray for their vocations. I would like to share a prayer I try to say daily for my children.

Heavenly Father,

I bring to you my children. (insert names here)
I ask that you send your Holy Spirit into their hearts and give them the grace to hear your call. May they discern the vocation to which you are calling them. If you are calling a child to the vocation of marriage, I also ask you to send your Holy Spirit into the heart of his or her future spouse. May this spouse respond to your call and with my child seek to serve you faithfully. May they keep their faith in Christ anchored in your One, Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church.

I ask this through the intercession of our Blessed Mother Mary and through your Son, our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.

Easter Sunday is the most solemn celebration of the entire Church year.  Pope John Paul II said:

“…Christ’s Resurrection is the strength, the secret of Christianity. It is not a question of mythology or of mere symbolism, but of a concrete event. It is confirmed by sure and convincing proofs. The acceptance of this truth, although the fruit of the Holy Spirit’s grace, rests at the same time on a solid historical base.”

At the heart of Christianity is this mystery of the Resurrection of Christ from the dead, who destroyed/conquered death and gives us a hope for the promises of salvation.  Nothing in the New Testament was as powerful as the miracles of Jesus bringing the dead back to life.  It was spiritual but more specifically it was concrete and indisputable that Jesus Christ, the Son of God, raised the dead to life.  He also, being the one who sacrificed His entire life and lived His mission “to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many (Mt. 20:28)” suffered a horrific passion, died a humiliating death on the Cross but three days later amazed even His most devoted followers by rising from the dead and overcoming death.  This is life because Christ is life.  He truly is “the resurrection and the life (Jn. 11:25)”.

2 Lessons for the classroom:

1) The amazement at Jesus bringing the dead to life and then He Himself rising from the dead was concrete and tangible, something not only spiritual but something seen with ones own very eyes.  Let us remember that the sacraments show us something very tangible and concrete. They have the power to grace us with God’s healing, strength, joy, and life giving love.  Show students how the sacraments are so important and have the power to impact and change our life – actually bringing us to life.

2) Every Sunday is a mini-Easter.  The reason why we celebrate in New Testament times the 3rd Commandment on Sunday is that the followers of Christ remember the first day of the week (Sunday) as the day that Christ rose from the dead.  Share with your students (as often as you can) how Sunday is not only a time to gather with fellow believers and worship God but it is a time to be renewed in our faith in the Risen Christ.

This reality of the Resurrection is at the heart and soul of our Catholic Faith and the mystery of salvation.  Let us truly rejoice!  God be with you this Octave of Easter and throughout these 50 days of Easter.

I found this from the Catholic Heritage Curricula website and thought I’d post it.  Praise a great skill to bring into the classroom.  ~ William

Words of praise, indeed, are almost as necessary to warm a child into congenial life as acts of kindness and affection.  Judicious praise is to children what the sun is to flowers.   — Christian Bovee, 19th century English author

Can you guess which teaching tool is age-appropriate for all grades, takes no prep time, warms the heart, and doesn’t cost a nickel?  Good for you!  You guessed it!  It’s praise.

To be effective, praise should not be vague, but must be directed at a specific action or work.

‘What a good boy!’ is vague and ineffective praise.  ‘See what a good job you did, staying between the lines on your handwriting page!’ is specific.  The former is a ‘warm fuzzy’ alone; the latter is a ‘warm fuzzy’ with directions embedded: praise as a teaching tool.

For example, you might say, ‘See how you made this letter ‘o’ stay right between the lines?  This is your best one.  Do you see any others that are really well done, like this one?’  Rather than pointing out only the o’s that are too small or go above or below guidelines, this method of ‘teaching praise’ demonstrates to the child what the goal is, and also points out that he can do it.  Pointing out the positives is a way to point out the negatives without mentioning them specifically. [If the letters that touch the top and bottom line are best, then it follows that dinky or wandering letters aren’t the best.]

Ineffective praise lets the child know that you are happy with him, but without knowing exactly what he has done to please you.  Specific, effective praise not only lifts a dear little heart and brings a beaming smile to his face, but encourages him to continue his efforts, now that he understands what is expected.  ‘Oh, so that’s what it’s supposed to look like!  Hey, I really can do this.’

St. Philip Neri said, ‘If we wish to keep peace with our neighbor, we should never remind him of his natural defects.’  This advice works for children as well.  However, there are times when pointing out errors is unavoidable.  In these instances, offer the child a ‘praise sandwich’:   ‘Look at all these good letters, here and here and here.  Now, see how this one keeps wandering below the line?  I’ll bet you could bring this one up, just like the others.  See?  Here’s another one that is exactly right!  Way to go!’

‘Praise phrases’ are sincere and specific; they point out the positive rather than the negative.  ‘Beautiful work on your spelling test; you got 16 out of 20 right.  You are improving.’ is much better than the deflating, ‘You missed four this week.  I guess that’s better than missing six like you did last week.’

Some useful ‘praise phrases’ are:  ‘Good job on the———-‘  ‘Look at the nice work you did on—‘  ‘Wow!  Your—–just keeps getting better and better.’  ‘I like the way you are——–‘

Good use of teaching tools, Mom!

In Their Hearts,

Theresa Johnson

first_communionOur parish has 200 children receiving their First Communion in the next two weeks.  We will have three Masses for the First Communicants.  Here are a few ways that catechists and parents can help their child prepare for one of the most special days of their life!  

1) Take the opportunity to live in the moment

Yes, there is lots to prepare for…dress clothes, gifts, invites to the party, groceries, a clean house, etc, etc…  But don’t forget that is all secondary to helping your child be prepared and excited about receiving Jesus Christ body, blood, soul and divinity!  As you share how wonderful Jesus is to receive and to always be close to Him the child in turn will be excited and seek to focus on being close to Jesus.  Take many moments during the final days and share with excitement your love for Jesus and how Jesus helps you be holy, to be loving, to be patient.  As they see how important Jesus is to you they will continue to grow as they receive Jesus every Sunday. 

2. Make a Novena or pray a Rosary everyday for the one preparing for First Communion.        

Prayer is powerful and full of God’s abundance.  Take the time to pray and seek the floodgates of God’s life to be poured out to the child(ren) receiving First Communion.  

3) Continue a life of Grace

It’s not about one special day in the 2nd or 3rd Grade.  It’s the beginning of a marvelous friendship and abundant graces in ones life.  It’s sad that so many who receive Jesus in 2nd or 3rd grade don’t go to Mass very often after their First Communion – if they only knew the treasure of graces.  God knows how much we need Him and He wants to give Himself to us.  He wants to form a constant foundation and give us a wellspring of grace and strength to draw from in our daily life.  We need Jesus in the Eucharist so much – it’s our lifeline!  

4. Go to the Sacrament of Reconciliation – i.e., Confession

Go to the font of mercy and have children receive the sacrament.  Go to Confession so they can be cleansed of sins, even if it is just venial sin so they can be open to all the graces Jesus Christ has for them at their First Communion.  Going to the Sacrament of Reconciliation opens one up to a more profound reception of Jesus in the Eucharist.

memorizationMemorization is key to helping kids learn the faith and know their faith.  In a world filled with information, facts and proof’s for everything we need to help students retain the material covered in the religious education classes. 

I am not recommending a strickly Baltimore Catechism style of learning but memorization has a very important place.  Today’s classroom needs to form, inform and transform students.  Each component is essential to the learning and conversion process. 

Diane Fitzpatrick has a good article on helping kids memorize at http://catholicism.suite101.com/article.cfm/memorization_helps.

giftsConsider 3 Gifts to bring not only in the days leading up to Christmas but during the Christmas Season from Matthew 2:10-12:

[10] When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy;
[11] and going into the house they saw the child with Mary his mother,        and they fell down and worshiped him. Then, opening their treasures, they offered him gifts, gold and frankincense and myrrh.
[12] And being warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they departed to their own country by another way.

The wise men brought 3 wonderful gifts:

Gold… Gold is a gift for a King.  Gold reveals something about a treasure.  Christ is that treasure and king!  What gold can you give in your life to be a gift and treasure to others?  How can you use your gift or talent during Christmas to show Christ to others?

Frankincense…This is usually burned when offering something to God or in prayer.  How can your words and actions this Christmas be an offering to praise and love God?  This is a holy time, don’t miss the opportunity to make your actions and words an authentic offering to Christ, the newborn king.  Offer Him your committment to live for Him as he comes into your heart this Christmas is the gift Christ wants! After all, it’s his Birthday!

Myrrh…This is an odd gift.  Myrrh is a scent or a balm usually used at the time of death.  This gift is a a prefiguring of Christ’s death on the cross.  Our gift is to die to our sinful ways and our imperfections so we can be the best-version-of-ourselves for Christ to use.  We want to die to what does not lead us and others closer to God’s will.

They departed…by another way — May we depart by another way having really lived this Advent Season and Christmas Season to the full.

May Christ reign anew in your hearts this Christmas!  The world longs for the gifts of our Gold, Frankincense and Myrrh!

Over the last couple year’s I have had an increasing number of older children who need to be prepared for Sacraments.  There are various reasons why a child had not been prepared at the traditional time but the most common is the parents fell away from the practice of the faith for a period of time and they are ready to begin again.  What a wonderful thing – beginning again!  It is very exciting to help prepare children, especially through their parents.

The following attempts to describe the average parish situation:

1) If a child is past the 2nd grade and has not received Reconciliation or Eucharist then they come to the parish seeking direction on what they need to do.

2) Parishes seem to do the following:  a) they recommend that the student enroll in the Religious Education Program and the studentsattends the specific grade level class that they are in at school.  b) Some parishes have a special sacramental preparation program that meets on a regular basis (once a week, every other week, or once a month) outside of the class they are already attending.   c)other parishes have a one or two year Christian Initiation Program for Children (also known as CIC or RCIC).  This Program not only meets on a regular basis but it follows the Rite of Christian Initiation promulgated by the Second Vatican Council.  This rite came about as a result of the call for the renewal of the 4th Century Catechumenate.

3) My thoughts: The pastoral issue regarding Christian initiation for children is interesting, because Christian Initiation for Children is ideal but not easy to implement.  In addition, there is not a lot of martial available which provides the necessary curriculum for a separate”class” or “session” for these students.  Currently I meet with the parents and give them material to help them prepare their child for the Sacraments of Reconciliation and Eucharist.  Most of the students who need to be “caught up to speed” are in our School of Religion Program in their particular grade level class.  The parents are helping prepare them for the reception of the sacraments at home.

I continue to seek input for others on what they are doing to help prepare children who are receiving the Sacraments of Baptism, Reconciliation and Eucharist at non-traditional times.