I really enjoy teaching my students about the sacraments. After all, the Holy Spirit spreads the grace of Jesus Christ through the sacraments. How could I not enjoy teaching them? In fact, I like to teach my kids that they don’t “do” the sacraments, they celebrate them!
This can be a challenge when teaching the Sacraments of Healing. How can I teach my third graders to approach Reconciliation and the Anointing of the Sick with a sense of excitement and joy?
I decided that I would begin the lesson on the Sacraments of Healing with a simple exercise. As we read the lesson about Reconciliation and the Anointing of the Sick, I asked the children to highlight the important sentences. This got the class off to a good start. Using a highlighter is always a big hit with my third graders.
After reading the lesson, I told my students that that I loved seeing the big smiles on their faces after celebrating Reconciliation; I mentioned that some of them even skipped back to their pews! God wants us always to come to him to receive this gift of forgiveness. They all agreed that this is a good reason to celebrate.
However, some of my students were not as familiar with the Anointing of the Sick as they were with Reconciliation. I shared the times when my parents received this sacrament and then gave them a homework assignment: they had to ask their parents if they had seen a family member receive this sacrament.
This is an important lesson. Parents should pass on these stories of their faith to their children. Each story adds to our shared Catholic history.
For example, I shared the story of the first Mass said by our former associate pastor, Father Jeff Mollner. At this Mass, Father Jeff gave his parents two special gifts: the purple stole that a priest wears during Reconciliation and the white cloth he used at the ordination to wipe the oil of chrism off of his palms. Father Jeff thanked them for teaching him the lessons of justice, mercy, and love.
This story led to a spirited discussion. Was this a tradition? Was there a certain kind of gift that new priests had to give? Did they have to give it to their parents? Or could they give it to someone else, such as a close friend, or one of their godparents? We asked our seminarian friend, Andy Boyd, about this. (Mr. Boyd is well known to my class—we Skyped with him earlier in the year.) Andy responded that it was up to each individual priest to decide what gift he would give and to whom.
Some students began to wonder if religious sisters gave a special gift to their parents when they take their final vows. We asked the third-grade teacher’s aide, Sister Margaret Butcha, who is a Servant of Mary. She said that the Servants of Mary do not have a tradition of giving a special gift to their parents. However, she liked the idea of thanking your parents at the time of taking your final vows.
Even after our class had ended, the students were still discussing the stories they had heard. They learned that the story of our faith is a shared one that is centered around the sacraments, our families, and the Church. When we come together in the sacraments, we share the stories of our faith; and as my class demonstrated, sharing stories is a reason to celebrate. This was a good lesson—for both my students and their teacher!
Thanks for sharing these wonderful ideas, Barb. Another way to help children approach the Sacraments of Healing with joy and excitement is to lead them in guided reflections in which they have a conversation with Jesus about something they need forgiveness for and in which they imagine that they are sick and Jesus comes to visit them. In both cases, the encounter with Jesus is a welcome one and helps them to keep this in mind when they approach these 2 sacraments since they are encounters with Christ.
Barb, I am a CRE and teach sacrament classes for First Penance and First Communion. I also tell them they are celebrating the sacrament each time they go to Confession or to Communion. Our church is in the round, so at our First Penance service I stand in the middle to “direct” them to the priests, then afterwards, they come back passed me, usually skipping and smiling. Some say, “That was so fun!” They are so excited the first time they celebrate that it just rubs off on all of us!
Kim, that is so true! It does rub off on all of us. I think anyone who’s been away from this sacrament should attend a First Penance with their favorite 2nd grader and see the joy on their faces! Maybe this will help open the way for more people receiving this Sacrament.