Between Sports and the Party: When Teaching the Faith Feels Like Babysitting

Now read line-by-line from the Prodigal Son, and once again give personal witness to the kids about how it relates your own life, and give them room to tell bits of the story as much as they can. Ask and repeat questions as the story progresses: how does the son feel now? How about the father? How about the older son? In my class I tie the story to selfishness and selflessness: the father always thinks of others even when he's being sinned against; the older son is selfish; the young son undergoes a change of heart. See if they can add their own similar experiences.

R2: More stories

Tell/read the story of the Paralytic, and point out that people went nuts over Jesus forgiving sin, because only God can forgive sin. I make a skit out of it in my class; it keeps the kids engaged.

Cover the story of the woman at the end of Luke 7, talk about humility and pride, get the kids to give examples of both in their lives. Point out that Jesus forgave sins only in person.

Talk about the Centurion. He doesn't confess any sins, but he sets a great example of faith and humility for us sinners. See if any kids can connect what he says to something they hear at Mass.

Jump ahead to the risen Christ in the Upper Room per John 20. Read "he breathed on them, and said to them, 'Receive the Holy Spirit.'" Connect Jesus' breathing on the apostles to God breathing life into Adam. Flesh out the Creation story a bit for those who may not know it.

Read "If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained." Explain what "retains" means to the kids; get them to explain the passage back to you. Discuss how in a practical way this would have to work, e.g., how can an apostle forgive your sins if you don't tell him what they are?

R3: The Sacrament

Talk about your own first Confession, how you did it then versus now as an adult—how often you go, how it works, what sort of things the priest tells you. Use personal witness. Then go back to the stories and things you've already talked about; connect each of them to Confession. Better yet, bring up the stories, and let the kids tell you as much as they can. Help them only as much as they need. Let them see how the sacrament is rooted in the Bible stories and also human nature.

Hand out an Act of Contrition, which the kids and their parents can take to Confession. Everyone read it, together; see how much the kids can explain what it means. Help them out with "near occasion of sin." Discuss "Examination of Conscience"—which the Prodigal son did. Discuss "rehearsing" your confession like the Prodigal Son did.

Talk about some sins that you have trouble with, and how you aren't perfect, and commit them over and over. But point out that Jesus loves you and will forgive you every time you tell him you are sorry. You'd like to tell Jesus in person, but he's in Heaven these days, so you 'fess up to one of his priests instead. Like your mom, Jesus already knows your sins anyway; it's for your own good that he provides a priest so you can still confess out loud and in person; and then hear the words of forgiveness go right out of the priest's mouth and into your ear.

Time permitting, pull out the Ten Commandments, and you and the kids name some typical sins. Figure out which Commandments they violate. Think of some sins that aren't obvious. Discuss the difference between sins of Commission and Omission.

If that outline works for you, you'll be primed for (C). I bet for Communion you can make up something similar yourself using Adam and Eve eating Sin in Eden; the death of innocent Abel; Melchizedek's Bread and Wine; Abraham's near-sacrifice of Isaac; the Ram; Moses' Manna and Quail; Moses' Passover meal; Cana; Loaves and Fishes; Eat My Flesh, Drink My Blood; the Last Supper, aka the New Passover; and how we eat God at Mass, a kind of antidote to Adam and Eve eating Sin.

Spend leftover time on the Mass in general: what Epistles, Psalms, and Gospels are; who wrote them and why. Act out Paul going around setting up parishes, and then having to write them letters later when the people start to mess up. Talk about how the Mass is both a sacrifice and a meal. Expand on the stories so the kids have some context, and don't forget to ask lots of questions and let the kids contribute as much as they can.

And remember, the first year is always the worst.

In Christ, I am your brother,
Christian LeBlanc

3/14/2014 4:00:00 AM