Sunday, August 10, 2008

Sacraments Course design continues...

A late post, but I am cutting some hours of sleep this weekend to ensure some basic goals for the semester. A colleague loaned me her copy of the actual UbD textbook, which I have been reading voraciously, making notes, and essentially cramming so that I can produce a curriculum I can be proud of.

Although the book says several times that it is not meant to be practiced in rigid "steps", I don't have time to be creative about my process. Essentially I must do the following to complete stage 1 of the 3-stage process for the first unit:

  1. Establish what that unit will be.
  2. Lay out and prioritize the "Big Ideas"
  3. Identify 2-5 "Essential Questions"
  4. Identify corresponding "Understandings"

What is the first unit?

Don't you just love that it's early Sunday morning and I don't have the answer to this question yet? To answer it, I need to look at my fake "sacraments standards" and ask some hard questions about content organization. I have already decided not to separate the units by individual sacraments; I believe that such a structure is a near disaster.

Consider what I already had:

  1. God, Christ, and Church
  2. The Catholic Sacramental Vision
  3. Liturgy and Sacred Time
  4. Origins, Purpose, and Effects of the Sacraments
  5. Sacraments in Scripture and Tradition
  6. Historical Development of the Sacraments
  7. Ritual and Practice
  8. Sanctification of Human Life

I could probably work with this, but there are glaring problems. #3, "Liturgy and Sacred Time," is a catch-all for topics I consider worthy, but it had little internal cohesion as a unit. It includes topics such as the Liturgy of the Hours and other liturgies beyond the seven sacraments; the liturgical calendar and the missal; the overal structure of the liturgy, sacred time, silence, blah blah. Let's see if I can't impose some better order...

All right. I've removed the unit called "Liturgy and Sacred Time", and moved elements of it into the unit "The Catholic Sacramental Vision" and "Ritual and Practice", as well as deleted a couple of elements. But I am not finished. First, there is a the big matter of order. Should I begin with #1 or #2? "God, Christ, and Church" as an introduction has the advantage of stressing the personal and religious character of the sacraments. "The Catholic Sacramental Vision" has the advantage of being the more direct and concrete of the two.

I'm starting with #1, "God, Christ, and Church". It will serve better as a review and a primer for everything that follows.

What are the "Big Ideas"?

UbD categories "big ideas" as follows:

  • Concepts
  • Themes
  • Ongoing debates and points of view
  • Paradoxes
  • Theories
  • Underlying assumptions
  • Recurring questions
  • Understandings or principles

Here are my "fake standards" for "God, Christ, and Church":

  • the meaning of the phrase, “God is Love”.
  • patterns in the actions of God in creation, revelation, and salvation.
  • “incarnation” as referring both to Christ as the presence of God and to the experience of God in tangible things.
  • how the Paschal Mystery fulfills Christ’s promise of eternal life.
  • how the event of Pentecost characterizes both the power of the Holy Spirit and the Mission of the Church.
  • Biblical images of the Church as the Body of Christ, the Bride of Christ, the People of God, and the Temple of the Spirit.
  • qualities of the human and divine aspects of the Church.

Let's break this down according to UbD's categories:

  • concepts: incarnation; experience of God; Paschal Mystery; Pentecost; Church;
  • themes: God as love; fall and redemption; presence of God in creation; the admirable commercium; moving through death to life; grace of the Holy Spirit; Church as the Body of Christ; Church as the bride of Christ; Church as the People of God; Church as the Temple of the Spirit; Church as graced society of sinners
  • ongoing debates: substitutionary atonement vs. mystical participation; Church as visible vs. invisible; church as sinful vs. perfect; grace as immediate (from HS) or mediated through the church; charismatic renewal and "pentecostal catholics"
  • paradoxes: God is both merciful and just; God creates without needing us; Infinite eternal God wholly present in a 1st c. Palestinian Jew; God both totally beyond us and accessible to anybody; Christ's victory through defeat; salvation of the world through human vessels; Church both perfect and sinner
  • theories: soteriology and models of atonement; Models of the Church (Dulles);
  • underlying assumptions: faith in God's self-revelation in Jesus Christ; the Holy Spirit guides the Catholic Church and protects it from doctrinal error
  • recurring questions: What is authentic love? How can we talk about God if he is a mystery? What is God like? Where can I find God? How is Jesus fully human and fully divine? How does salvation "work" in Christianity? Why was Pentecost necessary? Why is the Holy Spirit necessary? Why do we need a church? What do the Church's titles mean? Why do some texts call the Church "perfect" when it obviously isn't?
  • understandings or principles: Love is not so much a feeling as it is a skill and a choice, based on virtue and freedom rather than appetite; Mysteries of faith are not unsolvable puzzles but supreme realities to be lived in; Paradoxes keep us from trying to "grasp" God in an idolatrous way; Paradoxes can lead us to deeper--but not complete--understanding by reflecting on them; God reveals himself in creation and in human beings, infallibly in the Scriptures and fully in the person of Jesus Christ; the Incarnation introduced a new economy of symbols because God allowed himself to be fully present as a creature; the Paschal Mystery is understood in various ways to be the linchpin of Christian salvation; Christ's salvation depends on his continued presence on earth through the Church as his Body, through the power of the Holy Spirit, and this mystery was initiated fully on Pentecost; the scriptural images of the church unveil God as the source of its holiness and the gaurantor of its mission; the Church is both a graced, organic, visible society of sinners and the unblemished, in vitro presence of, and access to the Kingdom of God.

Dang. That's a lot.

Let's break this down further into the three-tiered content priorities:

Outer: Worth Being Familiar With

  • Divergent beliefs of Catholics and Protestants about Christian fundamentals
  • Theories of soteriology and their contributors
  • Avery Dulles' Models of the Church

Middle: Important to Know and Do

  • Terms: mystery, paradox, agape, eros, incarnation, grace, paschal, pentecost, mystical
  • Look up passages from Scripture; read for understanding

Center: Big Ideas and Core Concepts

Big ideas: mystery, paradox, authentic love, "incarnation" and religious representation, Paschal Mystery, Pentecost, Church

Big ideas framed as understandings:

  • To call God "Love" both respects God's mysteriousness and summarizes his self-revelation to human beings.
  • The Paschal Mystery is the linchpin of God's love and of Christian salvation.
  • The Church is the visible continuation of the presence of Christ and the Paschal Mystery throught the power of the Holy Spirit.

Core tasks:

  • Critically examine uses of the word "love" in popular discourse and in theology.
  • Explain how the Paschal Mystery fulfills Jesus' promise of eternal life.
  • Interpret data about the Catholic Church according to the distinction between its human and divine dimensions.

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