As I reflect on how my religion class has gone so far this year, I’m struck by how often my third graders tie the concepts they learn back to their families and their relationships with one another. With each concept taught, we share stories about our experiences with our families.
Building a comfortable relationship within the class that leads to students sharing family traditions is my favorite part of teaching our Catholic faith. For example, as I was teaching the Rosary, I shared with the children that I kiss the foot of the crucifix as I bless myself. When I demonstrated this, one girl told me that her father kisses his fingers every time he blesses himself.
When I was teaching the Sacraments of Initiation, my students readily shared stories about their Baptism, which many of them knew from pictures. But with this class, they excitedly shared that their classmate received this sacrament right before they all celebrated their First Reconciliation. We all thought that he was very lucky to remember how he celebrated Baptism. He stood up and demonstrated how he had to lean over the baptismal font. Then I shared that my husband, who is 6’-4”, had to lean over too. They laughed at that visual.
When we moved on to talking about the Sacrament of the Eucharist, I included a quick reminder on how the children should hold their hands to receive the Body of Christ. Since movement can be a good practice to help students learn a concept, I asked all my students to stand up and cup their hands so that the hand they write with is on the bottom; the top hand becomes a “throne” that they hold up to receive the Body of Christ. Since I know I have a lot of students with very young siblings, I asked them if they had a story to share about standing in line for Holy Communion with them. One girl shared how her sister, who was being held by her mom, kept reaching out with her hands, saying, “Mine! Mine!” As my students laughed, I told them that even toddlers know that the Eucharist is a gift.
One of my favorite vocabulary terms to introduce to my third graders is domestic church. Now this term really strikes my students as funny. How can their house be a church? I remind them that this is the first place they learned about the love of God through the love of their mother, father, and siblings. The Church is not a building but a family! By sharing stories of their families’ faith, my third graders begin to understand what the domestic church is all about.
The With My Family section at the end of Finding God: Our Response to God’s Gifts sessions has ideas for celebrating the liturgical seasons at home.