The Nearness of God

Overall, week 4 (last night’s session) went pretty well. It was one of those nights when I felt a bit scattered myself but I don’t think I got in the way too much! Here’s what we did:

  • We briefly reviewed last week’s session and they recalled that the focus was on the Holy Spirit.
  • We had a “breathing contest” – to see who could hold their breath the longest! I then told them about how we can think of the Holy Spirit as the breath of God and how we can do breathing exercises as a preliminary to prayer to remind us of the Spirit’s presence within.
  • I showed them a simple breathing exercise that I call “60 Seconds to Grace” – breathe in slowly and deeply for 5 seconds, hold it for a moment, and breathe out slowly for 5 seconds. We did this 6 times and I told them that in just one minute, they can slow down their heart rate/respiratory rate to a more relaxed state. (Feeling somewhat scattered, this calmed me down!) Be aware that when you practice this with them, they have trouble doing it slowly. They tend to huff and puff in and out…it takes a while to show them how to breathe deeply.
  • We listened to a recording of “Come Holy Ghost” as they looked at the lyrics. I told them that this song will most likely be played at their Confirmation.
  • We then moved in to this week’s focus on “The Nearness of God”
  • We talked about how today, with advances in science, some people feel they can explain everything with science and have no need for God. I introduced the notion of atheism.
  • For the song of the week, I played “Dear God” by XTC…a powerful song that questions God’s existence. I told them that in just a few short years, when they go off to college and leave behind the very Catholic community of Evergreen Park (and, for that matter, Chicago), they will encounter many folks who not only are not Catholic and not Christian but who don’t believe in God.
  • We read from the text book about the relationship between science and religion and the nearness of God.
  • I showed them the first 5 minutes of E.T. – The Extra Terrestrial and I explained how many people approach their relationship with God the way E.T. approached his situation: feeling alone and abandoned “down here” and needing to get the attention of someone “up there” to come “down here” and save them. I explained that God is already here with us, in our midst, and in our hearts and that, because of God’s nearness, we can call on him at any time.
  • I sent them off to their sacred space with their vigil “candles” and the lyrics of “You Are Near.” I led them through the breathing exercises before playing the song and asking them to reflect on the words. When the song ended, I invited them to speak to God, who is near, in their hearts.
  • Their behavior during prayer was improved…about a B- up from a C…still a lot of fidgeting and a few voices that wouldn’t completely stop.
  • When we gathered back, I told them that they had gotten better but still needed to work on a few things.
  • I asked them how they felt about the prayer time/sacred space and they immediately and unanimously said they like it and want to keep doing it. I find that so interesting. They ask for their sacred space every week and then, while experiencing it, aren’t always completely comfortable and seem to be fighting it to some degree, and yet want to do more of it. It reminds me of the 2 disciples on the road to Emmaus…their hearts were burning along the way as “the stranger” spoke to them even though they didn’t fully understand what was going on or recognize that the Risen Christ was in their midst! These kids know that something special is going on in their midst, but they are not yet recognizing the full presence of Jesus in their midst.

It is wonderful to be a part of their growth and development!

About Joe Paprocki 2365 Articles
Joe Paprocki, DMin, is National Consultant for Faith Formation at Loyola Press, where, in addition to his traveling/speaking responsibilities, he works on the development team for faith formation curriculum resources including Finding God: Our Response to God’s Gifts and God’s Gift: Reconciliation and Eucharist. Joe has more than 35 years of experience in ministry and has presented keynotes, presentations, and workshops in more than 100 dioceses in North America. Joe is a frequent presenter at national conferences including the Los Angeles Religious Education Congress, the Mid-Atlantic Congress, and the National Conference for Catechetical Leadership. He is the author of numerous books, including the best seller The Catechist’s Toolbox, A Church on the Move, Under the Influence of Jesus, and Called to Be Catholic—a bilingual, foundational supplemental program that helps young people know their faith and grow in their relationship with God. Joe is also the series editor for the Effective Catechetical Leader and blogs about his experiences in faith formation at www.catechistsjourney.com.

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