Introducing Kids to Jesus, Recollection for CCD Teachers, September 8, 2002

Fr. Roger J. Landry
Espirito Santo Parish, Fall River, MA
Night of Recollection for CCD Teachers
September 8, 2002

I. Purpose and Mission of CCD
A. The purpose of CCD is to cooperate with Jesus in his mission of the salvation of the world.
B. Greatest mission ever. So important.
C. That means, practically, introducing kids to Jesus, the Savior

II. Introducting Kids to Jesus
A. We need to introduce the kids to Jesus and through Jesus to all the other things in the faith.
B. Everything we teach and do should flow from Jesus and lead them to Jesus.
C. This way they will get the big picture, to see how everything fits together.
D. Too often they’re concerned two much with memorizing the ten commandments, or the eight beatitudes, or the seven corporal works of mercy, etc. We need to help them synthesize it all, and then start to think with the world view of a Catholic.
D. Practically, we need to relate everything we’re teaching to Jesus the Savior, so that they can see Jesus in everything and everyone:
1) We need to introduce them to Jesus and through Jesus to the Father and Holy Spirit he reveals.
2) We need to introduce them to Jesus and through Jesus to his mother and to the Saints who lived his life and made Him their treasure.
3) We need to introduce them to Jesus and through Jesus to the Church he founded.
4) We need to introduce them to Jesus and through Jesus the Sacraments in which we receive His very life..
5) We need to introduce them to Jesus and through Jesus to his morality based on love. Morality isn’t a list of do’s and don’ts so much as it is a participation in Jesus’ own life, allowing Jesus to live within us. .
6) We need to introduce them to Jesus and through Jesus to the states that last forever, heaven, hell, and purgatory.
E. Everything we do needs to come from Jesus and lead back to Jesus.
F. Therefore, teaching CCD is completely different from teaching math, English, history or any other subject.
1) We’re not principally teaching them about Jesus and what he did, like, for example, we pray in the Creed; our goal is not to have them know about Jesus.
2) Our goal is to help them get to know Jesus personally, like you known another human being, to get to know first hand his wisdom, power, mercy.

III. Catching them for Christ
A. Especially with older kids, faith is “caught” not “taught.”
B. We need to pass on a hunger, an enthusiasm.
C. They need to perceive in us a love, a contagious enthusiasm for Jesus whom we know and whom we’re bursting to introduce them to.
D. They need to see and learn from us why Jesus is the most important person in the whole universe, the one who is the truth who sets us free, who makes us so joyful, who gives us His trust and whom we trust.
E. In other words, we have to help them fall in love with Jesus through our eyes.
F. To help us learn how to do that, we can use our imagination.
1) Imagine if Mary were teaching our CCD class and introducing them to Jesus.
a) What would she say?
b) What would be the expression on her face?
c) Would she do so with a tender, loving smile and contagious joy?
d) Would she describe with amazement the appearance of the Archangel Gabriel?
e) What it was like to be hunted down when he was a baby and later on in his life?
f) What it was like to raise him and take him to the temple?
g) What it was like to see him hammered and bleeding from a Cross?
h) What was it like to be assumed body and soul into heaven?
i) Would she do it from a book or try to persuade them directly why Jesus is so important?
2) Imagine if Mary Magdalene were teaching your students and introducing them to Jesus.
a) Would she do it with tears of joy?
b) Would she mention how she had once washed his fear with her tears and wiped them with her hair?
c) Would she mention how it was to have seven demons expunged from her?
d) Would she mention with what passion he used to preach to the crowds?
e) Would she mention with what love he used to heal the sick?
f) Would she mention how scared she was seeing her Love brutally killed by brutal soldiers hammering him to a tree?
g) Would she mention those terrible three days, thinking they had killed Jesus once and for all?
h) Would she mention her angst at seeing his body taken away, and then hearing her name, “Mary!” from Jesus and her tremendous surprise and joy?
j) Would she mention what it was like to be the first bearer of the great news of the Resurrection to the Apostles, who would in turn bring it to the end of the world?
3) Imagine if St. Peter were teaching your students.
a) Would he tell how Jesus called him from his fishing boat and, even though he was a sinful man and told Jesus so, left everything immediately when Jesus called him?
b) Would he tell the kids about what it was like to be able to walk on stormy water to Jesus by God’s power, as long as he kept his eyes on Jesus?
c) Would he tell them about his bitter tears when he denied the Lord three times and how many nightmares he had hearing the cock crowing?
d) Would he tell them about the mission Jesus gave him to be the rock on whom He would build his Church and, later, being called Satan because he didn’t believe that the Messiah should suffer?
e) Would he tell them about the great gift the Lord gave him in asking him three times if he loved him and then receiving the mission to feed his sheep and tend his lambs?
4) Imagine if Pope John Paul II were teaching your class.
a) Would he try to overwhelm them with what he knows?
b) Would he have them merely memorize formulas?
c) Or would he try to introduce them to someone he knows personally?
d) I’m convinced that one of the most important reasons why so many young people cry in his presence, as they did in Toronto during WYD, was because he is a living witness to the fact that “it’s all true,” that he wouldn’t be there unless God did love us so much that he sent his only Son, that that Son founded a Church and promised the Church that the gates of Hell wouldn’t prevail against it, that he confided to her his mission of saving the world in cooperation with the Holy Spirit who would lead her into all truth and prevent her from ever once making a mistake in an area relevant to our salvation, in what we have to believe (faith) and what we have to do (morals).
5) Now, you. What’s your story? What’s your take on Jesus?
a) Each one of us has to try to introduce these kids to a living person, to Jesus, who is as alive for us as he was for Peter, Mary Magdalene, the Blessed Mother, as he is to the Pope.
b) This personal witness will be what catches the kids attention and leaves them with something they’ll never forget.
c) This is where we need to spend our work in preparation, so that we can be lit on fire with love for Jesus like the saints and pass on that love so that the kids will hunger to get to know Jesus themselves.

IV. The importance of what we teach and how we teach it.
A. The first thing is what we teach.
1) We need to teach what Jesus entrusted to his Church, all of it, including the tough stuff, faith and morals.
2) The kids have a right to it.
B. The second thing is how we teach it.
1) We need to challenge them to live up to it. So often we can think that we’re wasting our time, that they’ll never really live up to the full Gospel, but with God all things are possible. We need to give them the confidence that we do believe that they’re better than the world thinks they are, that they can live up to God’s expectations and do so with love.
2) But we need to teach it with contagious faith, with burning love, with lively hope and with a genuine humility.
3) Since more than 80% of communication is non-verbal, the experts say, we have to realize that these virtues are crucial to the students’ getting the message.
4) In order for us to teach the faith well, we need to get to know it and then we have to transmit it with enthusiasm and passion.
a) The Catechism of the Catholic Church, published 10 years ago this year, is a great resource for knowing the faith. The more we come to know the faith, the more we make it our own and impart it accurately in our own words.
b) Accuracy is key, especially with certain mysteries like the Eucharist, because the kids will trust what we say. To call the Eucharist “bread” and the precious blood “wine” is a great disservice to the students, because they won’t realize the truth that there’s no bread or wine left at all after the transubstantiation.
5) Most importantly, to teach the faith well we need to live it — or at least be striving to live it — well.
a) We can get to know reasons from the “inside” that we would never be able to learn from a book.
b) We really can’t teach about the spiritual benefits of fasting, for example, unless we’ve learned them from personal experience. Or of prayer. Or of living a moral life.

V. What if we find ourselves intimidated by the difficulty of teaching CCD?
A. Sometimes we can become intimidated by how much we don’t know, how poorly sometimes we can communicate things, how insufficiently the kids are learning the material.
B. I’d like to mention two things to keep in mind:
1) The Story of the best and most effective CCD teacher I ever had.
a) His name was Ed Mullen.
b) He was a plumber.
c) He could barely read.
d) We used to tease him in 8th grade CCD about the fact he couldn’t read, the fact he really couldn’t explain well anything he was asked to do. We used to query about why he even came.
e) I’ll never forget his response. He said he saw that the parish was desperate for CCD teachers, that no one was volunteering, and so he said that he would come and try to do the best he can, so that kids could learn about the “most important thing of all,” which is Jesus and his love.
f) I’ll never forget, too, the impression that made on me. This man loved Jesus so much that he would be willing to suffer all types of puerile insults from naughty 8th-graders to pass on to us the “most important thing of all.” His witness has always moved me.
g) Sometimes the Lord can use our weaknesses, our incapacities, our short-comings to teach even more than he can use our talents.
h) So if you’re ever thinking that you’re not really being effective, keep trying: you just might be by your patience and good-will forming future priests.
2) The parable of the sower, seed and soil.
a) You remember Jesus’ parable.
b) The seed, the Word of God, is perfect.
c) Sometimes there’s nothing wrong at all with the sower, us.
d) Sometimes the problem is in the soil.
e) Jesus described four types of soil:
1) The seed that falls along the path, hardened by constant trodding, stubborn to receive the word of God. The seed ends up just being plucked up by the birds, by the devil.
2) The seed that falls among rocky soil, which initially receives the seed with joy, the seed begins to grow, but withers because of a lack of depth. We’re living in a very superficial world. Many times the kids only think about God in the same way we used to think about Santa Claus and the tooth fairy. There’s no real depth to it, no real-life link, especially to the Cross, which every disciple of Jesus needs as the key to open up the mysteries of God.
3) The seed that falls among thorny soil, that initially grows but then is choked by worldy anxieties and the pleasures of the world. It’s not choked necessarily by sins, but by mundane cares and pleasures.
4) The seed that falls among good soil, which bears fruit in acts of love.
f) Knowing this parable, we need to derive from it a few lessons to guide us:
1) We have to keep in mind the context and teach to the context.
2) We have to help the kids become deeper as human beings, so that the seed can be sown more deeply.
3) We have to directly confront in CCD the worldly cares and pleasures that they have, to try to make sure that neither chokes the seed. If they’re worried about their mom being beaten by their dad, it’s hard for them to focus on Jesus right now. If they’re already into drugs or into sexual activity or into playing games all day on a play station or playing sports, it’s going to be part to make sure the seed isn’t choked by these thorns. We need to help them to see these thorns and prevent that they destroy their faith.
4) We have to challenge them to bear fruit in acts of love, so that the seed be planted ever more deeply in their lives.
5) We have to be humble enough to admit that sometimes the seed just doesn’t take.

VI. Back to Jesus
A. Jesus is the alpha and the omega, the beginning and the end, the one from whom everything we teach, say and do in CCD flows, and the one toward which everything we’re doing must be directed.
1) We live in a world in which the kids don’t see the big picture.
2) To show them how everything flows from, and leads to, Jesus in our own faith, in our world, in our lives, is a tremendous gift.
B. So when we’re teaching, our homework, our prep time, is best spent by trying to see for ourselves, so that we can pass it on to them, how it comes from and returns to Jesus.
1) If we’re teaching about the Church, we can show how Jesus founded it, and then how it’s meant to lead us to Jesus here in this world through the Sacraments, through Sacred Scripture, etc., and to Jesus in the next, where he’s gone to prepare a place for us.
2) If we’re teaching about the communion of saints, we can frame it by showing how these people tried to live as Jesus did and now are with Jesus in heaven.
3) If we’re trying to teach about the importance of attending Mass on Sunday, we can show how Jesus himself was always going to the synagogue on the Sabbath, how he told us to keep the commandments, how he speaks to us in the Mass and feeds us with his body and blood, and how Mass on earth is a participation in the divine liturgy in heaven.
4) If we’re teaching about confession, we can emphasize that Jesus is the one who sent the apostles out with the power to forgive sins, how Jesus is the one who forgives us through bishops and priests, and how the forgiveness of sins allows God’s life to live inside of us in this world and makes the next world with Jesus possible.
C. Once we get good at thinking in this terms, we can help the students learn how to do the same, so that with everything in the faith they can see how it leads from Jesus and leads back to Jesus.

VII. Jesus here now
A. We come before Jesus now in the Blessed Sacrament to ask him to strengthen and to help us.
B. Thank you for your work as CCD teachers. Jesus will reward you!
C. He promised us that we wouldn’t have to worry about what to say, that he would give us the Holy Spirit to teach us what to say. Jesus doesn’t lie.
D. Let’s take advantage of this time here to get to know him better, to thank him for the privilege of having been invited to share in the most important mission of all, the salvation of souls, and let’s ask him to fill us with a tremendous enthusiasm and courage for going to tell His and our young brothers and sisters about him with joy.

Praised be Jesus Christ!