Thursday, March 25, 2010


6th grade catechism has four more class meetings this year.  The kids have been easy to teach, as usual; we are on schedule, and may even be half a period ahead on course material.  I have little mini-lectures (2-5 minutes) ready to fill in classtime if we finish a lesson plan early, and sometimes within these little bits lies the framework (a cadre, that's right!) of a bigger lesson.  A recurring theme in our class is that humans are comprised of body & soul; therefore God uses physical things to convey spiritual things.  This idea of physical media conducting divine power pops up constantly when discussing miracles, Sacraments, even Jesus Himself.  Thus far it's only mentioned as part of some other topic, e.g. Baptism.  But in the last few days I've been thinking about treating the concept comprehensively this year if class time permits, which I expect it will.

It's a great subject to teach visually, and instead of making a written lesson plan, I sketched out the little schematic below on a 5x8 legal notepad:

First see the bottom, I show the fundamentals of media.  On the left are writers, actors, musicians, anyone who wants to communicate something to others. In the middle is a TV and a book.  We'll discuss how the TV and the book (and by extension theaters, newspapers, radios, etc.) "channel" the ideas in a way that other people can perceive them with their bodies.  The ideas aren't physical, but the media are, and the way the audience accesses the ideas is through their physical natures: eyes and ears, mostly.  On the far right is a person, i.e., a body'n'soul which represents those who will receive what's being mediated.  The body'n'soul pic emphasizes the oneness of our physical and spiritual natures....not unlike the oneness of Christ's divine and human natures.  The kids see the body'n'soul 20 times a year, if not more often, so they know what it means.

Now, at the upper left we start with a standard cartoon of God the Father.  Lines of divine power stretch from Him through assorted Old Testament media in the middle (manna, water from the rock, Elijah's cloak, Naaman washing in the Jordan, and Eisha's bones) to the representative human on the right.  All of the Old Testament examples set a precedent for New Testament and Church examples to follow.  At my prompting, the kids will tell the stories more than I will. The kids have heard them all, so I have a lot of flexibility as to how much time can be spent on Moses' stick, Elijah's cloak, etc.  I have props for some of these miracles & can act them out.
Once we're done with the Old Testament, we'll discuss how Jesus Himself is a prototype Sacrament in that he, physically God, connected directly, physically with people in a new & profound way.  This is shown by the lines running  from God the Father to the Son.  In case there's any confusion, Jesus is always drawn with longer hair than his father; the kids know how to tell them apart.  Jesus is drawn twice because he is a mediator, and also something which is mediated...he's an exception to the overall scheme in that respect.

Having understood Jesus as a new baseline for physical mediation, we'll discuss the miracles he worked.  The tassel healing, clay on the eyes, and the loaves & fishes are miracles chosen for their emphasis on the physical world.  They are noted as the "Jesus on Earth" miracles.  They set a baseline for the Sacraments of the Church, which itself also has a physical and spiritual nature.

Now we'll review the 5 sacraments shown, focusing on the physical media, and why each is appropriate for what it conveys spiritually.  Time permitting, we can first discuss Paul's rag and Peter's shadow as well; they effect a nice transition from Jesus' miracles to the Church's miracles, but they aren't critical.  I don't expect to treat them if time is tight.

I plan to draw all this on the board as I've sketched out.  I'll work from left to right instead of up and down due to the board's orientation, and do the media fundamentals first, not last.  I'm aiming at having 25 minutes to do this: 2 minutes for general media, 7 for Old Testament, 8 for Jesus, 8 for Church & Sacraments.  A quick look at the schematic will tell me if I'm fast or slow.  And if I do get the chance next year, I can very easily expand this to a full 55-minute discussion.  Now that I think about it, 55 minutes might be more reasonable, but it can be adjusted for time.

This post is also available at the Amazing Catechists' website.