Lent is the season of penance and conversion, so this a great time for children to celebrate their first confession.
In our parish, children do this in grade three. It’s a challenge to prepare them in a way that resonates right now, and also equips them to recognise in the future the value in examining one’s conscience, naming one’s sin, requesting God’s mercy and healing, and all the other ideas and practices which inform the complex concept of Christian conversion.
The best starting point, I think, is always sacred scripture. “For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and spirit, of joints and marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.” (Heb 4:12) In my experience, children especially like, and respond to, the story of Zacchaeus, and the parable of the prodigal son.
It’s also good, I think, to situate sin and conscience in the context of good choices and bad choices. Am I right in thinking that “good choices” is something children either intuitively learn, or their parents and peers teach them, even before the school years?
In any event, here are two YouTube clips which lend themselves to this idea of good choices and bad choices. I don’t know how pedagogically valuable the first clip is, but it’s certainly entertaining, and illustrates a point the kids are already familiar with.
The second clip is a real godsend. I vaguely recall a friend (then a teacher, now a seminarian!) sending me a similar clip a few years ago, which he used in class to illustrate supererogatory charity — that is, love that goes “above and beyond the call of duty.” The big difference is that the former clip was American, and this one — filmed just last week — is Australian:
Turns out, Brendan’s generosity is even more impressive than the newsreader makes out. You can read the details here: Is 8-year-old baseball fan Brendan the nicest kid in Australia?
Anecdotes aplenty, and all very funny.
Mother Teresa’s doctor:
Christmas isn’t over! We’re only half-way through the Christmas Octave; by another measure, we’re only part-way through the twelve days of Christmas.
Snopes may have busted the old myth that the popular carol was a secret catechism among recusant Catholics, but The Twelve Days of Christmas still serves the worthy purpose of reminding us to keep our Christmas trees up, and keep wishing others a Merry Christmas, right up until the Feast of the Epiphany.
And thanks to this video, the carol is also good for a laugh. Here’s to Christmas cheer!
Children are an embodiment of hope. In the first place, having children at all is an act of hope in a better future — or at least a bearable future. A pessimist who is sure of impending doom won’t want to bring kids into such a gloomy picture.
In the second place, children can make the world a better place — both in the unconditional love they give in childhood, and in the achievements and contributions they make as adults.
Maybe that’s why Christmas is so resonant of hope. Every child embodies hope. How much more, the Christ child in Bethlehem, the King of Kings and Prince of Peace?
So although this video is secular, and makes no mention of the present festive season, still I think it’s a good Christmas video.
(A pessimist alternative is Greenpeace’s ridiculous message from Santa.)
The Internet can be a wonderful thing. I’ve already described how the web connected Kevin Lee and I. Another such “stranger acquaintance” is Kevin Williams, a pro-life activist and (I’m guessing) evangelical Christian who has produced a film on abortion in the case of rape.
It is called Conceived in Rape, and through it, Williams hopes to communicate that an unplanned pregnancy “doesn’t have to be the end of a life, but rather the beginning of two beautiful lives.”
I would like to share a personal story that is what birthed this project.
About 4 years ago I had been expressing my convictions about abortion to just about anybody who would listen. I had some Christians telling me, “I believe abortion is a sin and is morally wrong — except in the cases of rape and incest. Then it should be allowed.”
I was a fairly new Christian and had yet to read a pro-life book (other than the Bible) and had yet to think this aspect out. I was quite distraught over their statements until it occurred to me that I had not simply prayed and asked God for understanding. So while driving down a lonely mountain road I prayed this simple and heartfelt prayer: “Father, what about children who were conceived in rape and incest?”
I was totally unprepared for what happened next. It felt like a river of love started flowing through me. No words were spoken, no knowledge was imparted, but I experienced overwhelming love. I wept.
As soon as I got home I got busy searching the Internet and read every testimony I could find of people who had either conceived or were conceived from rape or incest. A few days later the Lord woke me up in the middle of the night and imparted to me the absolute certainty that he is going to get these stories out to masses of people. The emphasis on God was so strong that I remember wondering if I was going to play any part in it at all.
At this point I can see that the Lord is the one who did it. I feel a little embarrassed any time I or anybody else says that I’m the producer because, I know that GOD is really the producer.
The film is an hour-long series of interviews with women (and a few men) who are either “rape babies,” or victims of rape. The full-length film can be viewed at www.conceivedinrape.com. Here’s a three-minute trailer:
Williams is also eager to have an extended interview with Ashley Sigrest widely promulgated. In her last year at high school, a classmate raped her and she became pregnant. Despite her pro-life convictions she decided to abort her child. She had hoped — as she was advised — that an abortion would permit her to put the rape behind her, and she could start her life anew.
Wrong, she says. In fact, the abortion made things worse. She describes it as “a one thousand pound weight added to the rape.” Her interview is calm, articulate, and compassionate. It may help other post-abortive women in their recovery and healing.
The Hobbit was the only movie I watched at the cinema last year, and its sequel is probably the only movie I’ll watch at the cinema this year.
But any illusion I had of being a serious fan was smashed as I watched this YouTube. These girls are clearly much better acquainted with Tolkien’s novel. I don’t even know what they’re talking about half the time. (In my defence, it’s 20 years since I read The Hobbit.)
Still, I like this video a lot (all those OMGs notwithstanding). They carry on like my sisters — and, come to think of it, one of my friend’s sisters. Their enthusiasm is infectious.
If you are only half as excited about a 2 minute Hobbit trailer, I have just the trip for you.
Tolkien New Zealand Tour
22 January – 2 February 2014
Come and see the places which were used in the Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit movies with other Tolkien fans. Visiting, among other places: Waitomo Caves, Waikato, Wellington, Rotorua & Ruapehu.
Flights with Air New Zealand and based on 4 star accommodation throughout. Numbers are limited to 12 people; first in best dressed.Contact: Josie Di Mauro
Phone: (03) 9877 2444
I’m going on this trip myself, and acting as a chaplain of sorts. By that I mean I’ll be offering daily Mass, and preaching an occasional meditation on the spiritual insights communicated in Tolkien’s writing.
The rest of the time I’m just a Tolkien fan — though not, I’m afraid, as devoted as the Happy Hobbit girls!