Patty Knap calls herself a “born again” Catholic. She planned to be a wife and mother of four or five kids with several girls, but as life played out, she’s a single mom with two young adult boys. She counsels at a crisis pregnancy center, teaches CCD, takes online classes with the Avila Institute, and loves the beach, dalmatians, and America’s national parks. She also saves recipes in a pile until it gets big and then throws them out.
This past year with my first-grade CCD class was pure joy. Their curiosity is so great, and their reactions and observations to Bible stories, learning about the Sacraments, the Mass, saints or prayers they're learning for the first time can be quite entertaining!
We were reading the story of the Lost Sheep. Andrew, who never raises his hand, calls out, “The guy stood there counting 99 sheep? That's a little weird!” I got a good laugh out of this one, and went on to explain that as many sheep as the shepherd had, he still wanted the missing one, just like how God wants every one of his people to come to him. I asked the kids to imagine being at the beach with their family one day, and there were hundreds and hundreds of people there. “Just as you're getting ready to leave, your parents realize one of their children is missing. Are they going to say, ‘Oh, well, we have these other kids...let's go.’ Or are they going to start searching immediately, start praying, ask everyone to help look for their missing child.” This made the kids laugh, but one boy said, “Well the last time we were at the beach my mom and dad were furious at me because they couldn't find me for like two hours and I think if I ever do that again they WILL leave me there!”
Lucas's question of the day: “Why did God come up with just 10 Commandments? I mean there's a bunch of other stuff we're not supposed to do. My mom and dad have a lot more rules than just ten!” A few classes after our lesson on the 10 Commandments, Dylan noticed a list of ten rules written on the classroom blackboard. No gum chewing. No repeat trips to the bathroom. No cell phone use in class. No calling out. No food or drinks in class. “Oh, there's the 10 Commandments!” he called out. Apparently we needed to review the real 10 Commandments!
Antonia wanted to know what Jesus's last name was. Two other kids answered, “Christ, Jesus Christ! That's his full name.”
We were doing a lesson on forgiveness, working up to the Sacrament of Penance. I explained that Jesus will forgive any sin we are sorry for and ask forgiveness for, and it will be as if that sin never happened. I said, “Imagine you take a candy bar from a friend without asking. You might say you're sorry the next day after you've eaten it, and your friend might say ok, you're forgiven...but she might remember that incident for a long time. With God, He forgets all about it and never thinks about it again — like it never happened.” Jack had an adorable look of fascination on his face as he simply said, “Wow. That's awesome!”
I alluded to salvation, heaven, eternal life at the end of our earthly life. A few children mentioned a grandparent or someone in their family who had died. Clearly Julie wasn't convinced that heaven is such a special place. “So far I really haven't heard anything that great about heaven!” she announced.
Some of my students had no idea what a difference prayer makes. “Just think, prayer is the most powerful force in the universe,” I said. “What?!” one little girl said. “Why didn't anyone tell me that before?!”