Friday, February 26, 2010

Two-Minute Cadre

This post is also available at the Amazing Catechists website.

We use the Bible more than the textbook in 6th grade catechism. The textbook shows what the kids should learn, but the learning itself is Bible-sourced. For that to work, the kids need some idea of what the Bible is. Asking Google "what is the Bible?" produces answers such as these:

The Bible is the account of the work of God in history bringing to fruition His prophetic declarations concerning Jesus.

The Bible is the account of God's action in the world and his purpose with all creation.

The Bible is the source of truth, the standard for meaningful life, the revelation of Jesus Christ, the key to true freedom and liberty, and true food for man's soul.

The Bible is a collection of individual books that together tell the story of a group of people bound by a common faith in God.

The Bible is a collection of writings which the Church has solemnly recognized as inspired.

Zzzzzz.....snorrrrg......snorrrrg.......braaack! Oh, 'scuze me, I just nodded off for a second there.

Nothing wrong with these definitions, but they won't do for 6th grade. They're too erudite, too abstract, too dry for kids...maybe even for me. Besides, the kids need more than a definition. They need a 6th-grade level concept of the Bible so that the stuff we learn in class isn't forgotten, doesn't float off into the ether. They need what the French call a cadre, a framework/ skeleton/ plan/ design. But 6th grade isn't about the Bible, per se, and time is tight on the lesson plans, so they gotta get a Bible cadre quick.

Quick means 2 minutes or we go.

(I hold up the Bible with my finger separating the Testaments.) Hey y'all, what's this book? The Bible. Yes, it has two sections. The first is the Old Testament, which was written before Jesus was born. If the first section is the....?  Old Testament, yes, then what's the next one? The New Testament. Yes. If the Old Testament was written before Jesus was born then the New was written....? After Jesus was born.  Yes. Testament comes from the verb testify. When people testify in court, what do they do? They say what they saw somebody do. Yes, what happened; and they swear to tell only....? the truth. So the Testaments do what? They say what people did. Yes, what happened. God inspired the writers to write only the truth... like in court.

(Now I hold up the Bible divided into 3 parts with my fingers.) The Bible tells the history, the story of God and us; the story has 3 basic parts. The little part in front, Genesis, tells about when Adam & Eve physically lived in perfect friendship with God in Eden until they sinned. This last little bit is Revelations, which reveals to us that in the future we will once again physically live in perfect friendship with God as Adam and Eve once did. All the 1,500 pages in the middle is the story of us getting back to where we were in the first place. We're living in the middle part right now.

Now, quick review:  Two sections, the Old and...the New! The New Banana? No, the New Testament! Which was written when? After Jesus was born! Yes, and the first part of the story is about...Adam & Eve before they sinned. And the end? When we are with God again. And the middle? When we try to be in heaven. Umm, yeah, that explains it pretty well. Good children, y'all learn fast.

Ok, maybe 3 minutes.

Digression: During the Olympics, have you seen the Windows 7 commercial with the French guy? His French is the best, it's a real pleasure to hear him speak.

Monday, February 15, 2010


As is usual every two years, my wife and I hooked up the rabbit ears last Friday night so we could watch the Olympics....especially the part of the Opening Ceremony when all the athletes process into the stadium (much of the Opening Ceremonies bores me, or annoys me....digressing already, I see). I'm always struck by the confidence of youth that's on display during that parade of optimism. All the smiles, laughter, cutting up, taking pictures, the energy, the self-wonder, the physical expression of being the best in world (or at least in the company of the best in the world). I notice this Titanic confidence most of all in the athletes who have won before, and are back for more medals: confidence piled on confidence, masters of all they survey at such a young age. I see them competing, being interviewed: Usain Bolt, Phelps, Shaun White, Ohno. They reign supreme, exude an air of omnipotence. They're the best, and they know it, can't hide it, and don't try: the Conquerors. It's not in the nature of youth to soft-pedal, and I appreciate not having to endure bleats of false modesty.

Anyway, for the last couple of Olympics, this youthful barrage of virtuosity kept reminding me of something, or someone. I dimly recalled a definitive display of the boundless confidence of youth: watch me, I'm the greatest; I'm incredible, nobody else can do this as well; I'm in awe of myself, aren't you; I don't mean to brag, but I am the best in the world, it's just a fact; I love being the best and you can love it, too.

What was that definitive, physical expression of Omnipotent Youth? Some sports event? Something military? Political? A movie scene? No, no...all examples of barking up the wrong trees. And it wasn't Mr. Olympia, Arnold Schwarzenegger, either (why would you think that?); it was Van Cliburn playing the piano. Van who?

When I was a kid in the 1900s, Van Cliburn was a big, big deal. Wikipedia says:

"The first International Tchaikovsky Competition in 1958 was an event designed to demonstrate Soviet cultural superiority during the Cold War, on the heels of their technological victory with the Sputnik launch in October 1957. Cliburn's performance at the competition finale of Tchaikovsky's Piano Concerto No. 1 and Rachmaninoff's Piano Concerto No. 3 earned him a standing ovation lasting eight minutes. When it was time to announce a winner, the judges were obliged to ask permission of the Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev to give first prize to an American. "Is he the best?" Khrushchev asked. "Then give him the prize!" Cliburn returned home to a ticker-tape parade in New York City, the only time the honor has been accorded a classical musician. His cover story in Time proclaimed him "The Texan Who Conquered Russia."

America was crazy for Cliburn. My parents & grandparents, who played classical music around the house, made him a dinnertable topic. He was on TV. He was on the hi-fi. He was practically a kid.  He beat the Russians at their own game. He exposed me to Tchaiko and Rachmaninoff at an impressionable age. And he was gloriously full of his own potential. Just watch this world class performance:
YouTube - (Cliburn)Tchaikovsky Piano Concerto No.1 Mvt III
Could any Olympian revel in his victories more than this giant-killer?