Because most philosophies that frown on reproduction don't survive.

Monday, April 30, 2018

Confessions of a Confirmation Catechist: Shark Week

Earlier this week, I had a call from the religious ed. office that they'd figured out what was wrong with the A/V system, if I wanted to try to watch a movie again with the class, on our last day. That was a good option, especially as we were adding in the 6th and 7th graders because they were going to be teacherless this week. I bought more snacks and went to the library to pick up Soul Surfer, with its perfect tween blend of just enough religion, blond girls in bikinis, and a shark. The kids were a bit disappointed that we weren't going to watch Spiderman: Homecoming, which was the other library movie in my bag, but people allowed as how Soul Surfer was an okay substitute.

My friends, I don't even have to tell you what happened. For the second week in a row, an with a different system, technology wrestled us to the ground. While my poor overworked DRE searched for the missing cord that would allow us to have sound with our visuals, I coaxed the crowd along, getting the eighth-graders to tell the younger class their confirmation names and what they'd done for service hours. "Oh, MrsD, that's a nice idea!" you say, and it would be a good idea in a cozy sharing circle, but the rows of tables and the reluctance of any child to stand out by making him- or herself loud enough to be heard, meant that I trooped from table to table, feverish baby on my hip, and repeated each answer so that it could be understood across the cafeteria. The sixth and seventh graders seemed less jaded, and answered questions a bit more readily. It helped that I'd had some of them in my class last year, so that they were excited to meet the baby they'd watched grow all year.

The DRE's own third-grade class, all four of them, sat waiting politely in the back of the cafeteria, so I included them in the general snacking.

After a while it became clear that whether or not the cord was located, we were simply out of time to show a movie, and yet there was still an hour of class time left. This was actually okay. My mojo already died last class, so I didn't have mourn it as I did then. The day was sunny, so we headed to the playground, and I took the third-graders along since they'd been so good.

Still, you can't milk playground time forever, even on a lovely spring afternoon. I brought the troops in with half an hour on the clock, and this time I made them all sit on the floor up front. (I am gifted with a carrying voice, but it's wearing to combat the acoustics of a school cafeteria.) We tried on different topics for size. I asked the eighth-graders if they could remember one thing I said during the course of the year. Someone remembered about the 25 popes, someone else remembered that we'd talked about the gifts of the Spirit, and I made as much hay with that as I could.

"If you don't remember anything else I've said all year," I said, "remember this: God loves you. He loves you more than your parents do. He loves you more than you love yourself. If your friends abuse you and think you're stupid, God still loves you. If you disappoint your parents, God still loves you. If you hate yourself, God still loves you. He knows you better than you know yourself, and you are his. And nothing you can do can make him stop loving you.

Then I tested the entire group to see if they knew more prayers than my four-year-old. (Did I mention that I'd brought my four-year-old for the second week in a row so that he could watch a movie?) He had to be hauled to the front for trying to worm his way under the stage curtains, but fortunately one of the sixth-graders is also my child and so took the baby for me.

"Prayer isn't just saying words that you memorize, though. The Hail Mary is a prayer, but that's not all that prayer is. The Mass is the perfect prayer, but that's not all that prayer is. Prayer is turning your mind and your heart toward God. And since the Bible tells us to pray always, there must be other ways of praying than formal prayers. If you're sitting on the bus staring out of the window at the spring day, and you think, 'That's beautiful!', you're talking to the Creator of that beauty. If you're frightened or in a bad situation and you think, "Help!", you're praying. Who are you asking for help? Yourself?"

We talked the Eucharist, but I don't remember much what I said, except to emphasize that the Eucharist is actually God, his body and blood. Jesus didn't explain it away as a symbol or a nice thing we do, and he was willing to be unpopular and to lose friends to make it clear that he was speaking literally about his flesh being true food.

We still had time to fill, so we said the Divine Mercy chaplet again, with the same meditations as last time. By the fifth decade the room was quiet (all except my four-year-old) and people said the responses with eyes closed.

Right before I dismissed the room I gave an Honorable Mention to one of the fellows who spent the year doing quiet acts of service for me, helping to neaten the room up each week after class when I had my hands full with baby or papers, without needing to be asked or looking for service hours. Everyone deserves to be honored at some time in his or her life for the necessary work that others don't see or appreciate. I wish I'd brought a gift card or a little prize, but I hope that the public acknowledgment was a bit of a reward.

And that was it. I wished eighth grade a happy summer and told seventh grade I'd see them next year, and my year was done. (Sixth and seventh grade still have two more classes, but rank hath its privileges.) I have thoughts about what I need to do next year, but there's a whole summer to write that post. I think maybe I've had some good object lessons in humility and in just letting the Holy Spirit work, whether or not I came off as particularly wise or knowledgeable. Who cares! For now, I'm checked out of religion class.

Confirmation Catechist, signing off.

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