Sunday, August 05, 2007

Teaching about the Sacraments

I have begun preparing this class in earnest. Looking over the school calendar for the year, I have about 175 class sessions to cover everything a high school student should know about sacraments. That equals 35 total "weeks", but that doesn't account for the fact of Mass days and Rally days, which reduce class length to 40 minutes and 32 minutes, respectively. Thus to be on the safe side, I will imagine that I need to cover the material in 30 50-minute sessions.

Or another way I could look at it is: I actually have 37 "weeks" if by that we mean Mon-Fri periods where "most" of the days are teaching days, although some of them have as few as three days in them.

How I divide the course material, of course, depends on what the course material actually is. An initial look at my resource reveals the following:

  • The course textbook.
  • The Catechism + footnotes to source material; the Documents of Vatican II; Denzinger's Sources of Catholic Dogma;
  • Seminary handouts from Sacraments courses.
  • Seminary bibliographies
  • The Internet
  • The ASU library
To get a sense of how the course material should be divided, I compared the table of contents of the course textbook, the Catechism, and the list of course objectives given to me by the school.

Sacraments: Course Objectives

  1. The Catholic Sacramental Vision

    1. Sacramental awareness

    2. Grace

    3. Symbols and rituals

    4. Prayer

  2. Christ and the Sacraments

    1. The Paschal Mystery

    2. The Incarnation

    3. The Church (+ models)

    4. Death – Resurrection – Pentecost – Sacraments

  3. History of sacrament and Sacraments

  4. Sacraments and human life

  5. Symbols and rituals

Textbook TOC

  1. “Sacraments: encountering the sacred”

  2. “Symbols: doorways to the sacred”

  3. “Rituals: meaning in symbolic actions”

  4. “Prayer: worshiping in word, in act, and in silence”

  5. “Jesus Christ and the Church: sacraments of God's love for the world”

  6. “The Sacraments in History: changing church, changing sacraments”

7-13. The Seven Sacraments

*. “Conclusion: the sacrament you”

Catechism TOC

  1. The Sacramental Economy

    1. The Paschal Mystery in the Age of the Church

    2. The Sacramental Celebration

  2. The Seven Sacraments of the Church

    1. The Sacraments of Christian Initiation

    2. The Sacraments of Healing

    3. The Sacraments at the Service of Communion

    4. Other Liturgical Celebrations

How do I organize this jumble? I've been thinking about this for a while. What the course objectives are asking me to do is to survey a heaping ton of material in a short time. But perhaps I'm moving too quickly. What are my hopes for this class? How do I plan to inspire my students to care about this "object of study", these "sacraments"?
  • I hope that my students develop their sense of the sacred; the fact that the liturgy is God's tearing open the veil that separates this world from the spiritual world; that in the Mass and all the other sacraments, Jesus Christ--made present by the Holy Spirit--is the Father's perfect victory over, and transformation of the world. He is revealed and made known, and we are gratuitously permitted to take part in his, the everlasting worship of the Father, together with the Holy Mother of God, the saints, and angels.
  • I hope that my students gain a proper understanding of the visible elements of rite and symbol; how the sacraments are indeed the historically-conditioned and culturally saturated outer manifestations of the sacred Mysteries. Yet their form and appearance are not, therefore, our plaything, as if history belonged to us more than it does God. Precisely in their historicity they are the God's sanctification and purification of history and culture (Just as Christ's humanity sanctifies and purifies our humanity). Thus the first determinant of rite and rubric is neither a sarcophagus filled with other men's prayers (whether ancient or medieval), nor the passing fancies of historically ambivalent modernity, but rather something else entirely (will get into later). Thus I want to communicate that many sacramental forms are subject to development in continuity. Newman to the rescue!
  • I hope my students learn not only that the sacraments are sacred but how; I would like to reveal to them the drama which is made visible for them who have eyes for it. I would like them to not only see, but experience how Catholic worship is not amorphous "praise" or disorganized, ephemeral affections; but it is patterned, structured, complex, dramatic; the re-incorporating of the present into the singular drama of eternity. We are not just telling God how much we like him; we are presenting ourselves as bodily participants in the Crucifixion that saved fallen humanity and reversed the progress of sin and death that even now threatens to push us individually over the threshold of delusional despair. (Huge breath).
So now I feel like I can answer the question: how do I organize this mess?

1 comment:

Matt of CG said...

Sacraments: Course Objectives

I. The Catholic Sacramental Vision

A. Prayer


After that revision, everything's cool. You are so well prepared and well versed. Don't get discouraged if they aren't totally receptive to you at first, but you're used to that. You came to our parish for your pastoral internship after all.

Did you look at that "Truth Gives Freedom" booklet I gave you way back for some inspiration?

Where ever your heart goes when you produced: that homily about the parable of Lazarus and the Rich Man (the blacks are very black and the whites are very white), your blog caption under your profile picture, and your Youtube discernment video is where your heart should be in your classroom. In those instances you were engaging, endearing introspective, profound, poignant and concise in your direction and meaning. Again, Jesus was nothing if not concise.

***Find something that will make your space distinguishable from all the other classrooms as the student passes through your threashold.***

My first thought was of my sense of smell. You could burn the incense used in Mass if they don't already get a snout full in church on campus. Or you could bring warm confections to class just for the ambiance. Everybody responds well to the smell of cinnamon.

For me and Br. Thomas of course, Byzantine iconogrophy is a kick in the pants. It's the prominance of all that gold which makes them stand out. You could have the letters, "IHS" over the door on the exterior and interior. Find an excuse to have the Chi-Rho and the Ave Maria, A over M symbols somewhere against your walls in banner form on stands, if they don't let you paint them.

And in case any of your students are blind or pre-occupied, some choral music between classes so they know where they are or are passing by. (incidental program music)

I fully anticipate one of the kids saying, "Whoa, it's like Jesus' MySpace in here."

You could even have Br. Thomas drop by as a special guest speaker when discussing the value of prayer. And maybe have an actual black and white habit-wearing nun visit the class. One about our age or younger (They exist, I saw them in Sylmar at St. Didacus and they all had Central American looking faces.) If I was a teenager I would remember a young nun coming to class for the rest of my life.

Our reverence for the Blessed Virgin Mary is the one thing that makes a Catholic a Catholic. Oh yeah, there is confession.

One more thing, maybe you could get a copy made of the current papal standard and place it on the entire surface of your desk to be held down by a layer of plexi glass or someting.

I'm just spitballing, don't ya know.

Seriously though, I'd start looking for that nun right now.