Tag Archives: Church

Runaway baby Jesus

My 5th grade CCD class has been busy since the Thanksgiving break preparing for our Christmas pageant. My class provides the readers for a fairly simple production. They read the Christmas story, while the third grade class acts out the drama, dressed as Mary, Joseph, shepherds, and so on. We have had three practices, and so far, while it won’t be a Broadway production, it won’t be a fiasco either. But it did come close.

Initially, one of the co-teachers volunteered her one-year old son to play the role of the baby Jesus. This was not a great idea. Young Brady was entirely too much into crawling and pulling himself up on anything that was handy. One of the third-graders (who is playing Mary) is disabled and has a motorized wheelchair. Brady pulled himself up onto the front of the chair and grabbed onto the control knobs. The chair took off with Brady hanging on for dear life.

It was very exciting.

For about five feet.

Until they ran into a pew.

Fortunately Brady was not hurt, which is what made the incident hilarious. In any case, the child has been cut from the pageant team in favor of a younger, more docile child. I think Brady was disappointed. If he could talk, I think he wanted to say, “That was fun!  Let’s do it again.”

The fifth grade reader team.

The fifth grade reader team.

The big show will be at 4 pm Mass on Christmas Eve. Looking forward to it.

While we are on a Christmas theme, our friends Sam and Beth stopped by the other day with our “adopted grandchildren” Helen and Brittany. Mrs. Poolman and I got them each an animal-theme throw-blanket. One was a frog and the other a monkey. Too cute!

The monkey and frog.

The monkey and frog.

Hymns, funerals and extra mourners

I am not much into music, especially religious music. In church I try to sing along, or at least lip sync, when I know the song. However there is no way I can contribute to a song I haven’t heard enough to recognize the melody.

This past Saturday, I was the reader at 5:30 Mass.  Afterwards, I went over to Julie, the song leader, to compliment her on her contribution. A few weeks ago, after a Mass that had four hymns I had never heard before, I had teased her that she and the organist were apparently trying to sing every song in the hymnal at least once during the year. So when I approached her on Saturday, she asked if I thought they were doing any better with their music selection. This got us talking about “So what are your favorite pieces?” I mentioned a few, but said my all-time favorite was “On Eagle’s Wings.”

Julie responded, “Well you must not go to many funerals, because we always sing it there.”

I told her I had been to many funerals as a child (more on that in a moment), but fortunately, I had not much opportunity to do so lately.

During the course of the conversation, I recalled a television show that had a short run in the 1990s that focused on an urban Catholic parish. I couldn’t remember much about it, but I did remember one episode that concerned the death of a nun and a beautiful rendition of “On Eagle’s Wings” at her funeral.

Mrs. Poolman has accused me of being a bit obsessive on more than one occasion. I do hate to leave mysteries unsolved. When I got home, I got on-line and tried to locate this program. Actually, a quick Google search for “tv, drama, catholic, priest” turned up the answer in nothing flat.  “Nothing Sacred” was an ABC network program that had a short run in 1997-98. Beyond that, it turns out there are a number of episodes on YouTube. Since the show had only a short run, it was pretty easy to narrow down the episodes to find the funeral scene. Here it is. The clip is of the entire last segment of the show. The song starts just past the 9-minute mark.

So, why, you might wonder, did I attend so many funerals as a child? It had nothing to do with dying family members, although there were those too. I went to a Catholic grade school, and my sixth grade teacher, Sister Mary Leonard, was also the musical director for the parish. Fairly frequently, when she was called upon to play music for a week-day funeral. Usually there was no substitute teacher available, so Sister just brought the class along for the funeral. Three to four times a month, a grieving group of family and friends would show up at St. Vincent de Paul Catholic Church to say farewell to a loved one, and there, sitting in the back rows of the church, were 40-45 sixth graders.  We were all well trained on the proper procedures and etiquette of the Requiem Mass. We knew all the responses and the words to most of the hymns.

One day, we even attended a wedding. I wonder if the father-of-the bride looked over as he was escorting his daughter down the aisle and wondered, “Are they coming to the reception too?”

Looking back on it, I am a little surprised at how well behaved we all were. However, by that time, we were all veterans of a number of years of parochial school, weekly Masses, monthly confessions, etc. We were well aware that any cutting-up during a funeral Mass, might result in a lightning bolt from the choir loft. In any case, it would not be a pleasant experience. We knew what was best in the long run.

Feelin’ a little discouraged

As I have written in the past, I am involved teaching a fifth-grade religion class at our church. We are Catholic, so this class is for the kids who do not attend the parish’s parochial school. Most Protestant churches would call it “Sunday School.” In the Catholic Church, it’s called CCD.

This is my eighth year teaching 5th grade, and I have noticed that nearly every year, we hit a low point around February. I don’t know whether it is the spot in the curriculum, the attitude of the kids or the way I teach. However, it seems that nearly every year around this time I wonder, “Why am I doing this?”

Classroom management is an issue for me. Part of the problem is I wear hearing aids, so keeping track of multiple voices is very difficult. I have a co-teacher who is essentially my “enforcer.” She was not able to attend this week, so Mrs. Poolman came along to help. At one point she asked me, “You don’t get paid for this, right?” When I pointed out that she knew this was a volunteer job, she replied, “I knew you were a little crazy, but not this much.” Thanks for the support, Mrs. P!

I think there are several issues involved. The biggest is the class meets for an hour on Wednesday evenings. The students have already been in school all day, and this is “overtime.” We are seriously infringing upon their leisure-fun time.

While I try hard to make the class as interesting as I can, sometimes the activities I design to break up the routine are counter-productive. This week I planned a small-group poster activity. But once the groups got together, they decayed quickly into chaos. They were much too distracted by cutting up with each other and arguing over what color markers to use, to actually complete the assignment.

The class is not homogenous. There are typically 20 students on any given night. I have a small group of very quiet kids who I have to work on to draw out of their shells. And I have a few who are not naturally quiet, but are usually engaged and well behaved. And then we have:

–One little girl who is desperately needy for attention. Her way of getting it is to stir up trouble with anyone who is around her and then blame them for the disturbance.

–A few loud, high-energy (ADHD?) boys who have a compelling drive to be the center of all attention. They just roll over the quiet kids.

–A group of socially active “tween girls.” They are not intentionally disruptive, but they are constantly “a-twitter.” They just love to chat with their friends.

Next week, we’ll try it again. Since our last lesson was a total bomb, I’ll need to recover the same material, but in a more traditional style.

I hope I’m getting gold stars on my record somewhere for all this. Sigh.

Happy New Year, everyone!

Here it is, 2013. Where did you go 2012?

Our weekend kicked off Friday night with a sleep over, not the fun kind. We participate in a homeless ministry at our church. Once of twice a year, the church provides overnight housing for a group of homeless families for a week at a time. They need couples to cook meals, be “evening hosts” and “overnight hosts.” Since we don’t have small children at home to worry about, Mrs. Poolman and I usually take one of the overnight assignments. It’s just a matter of going up to the parish center and spending the night sleeping on cots. It’s not a real hardship duty, and it apparently does some good. Our night was uneventful, except that Mrs. P hardly slept a wink. I rarely have such problems.

So Saturday was largely a wasted day. Mrs. P spent most of the day napping on the couch. I made some corn chowder and delivered it to our daughter and her husband who were sharing a case of the flu.

Trouble with the curve We rented a pretty good movie that evening – Trouble With the Curve (Clint Eastwood, Amy Adams and Justin Timberlake.) It’s a story of an aging baseball scout whose attorney-daughter joins him on the road to help save his career and reputation. It was Clint being Clint and Amy Adams being her usual cute-self. Throw in a boy-meets-girl sub-plot with Timberlake and you have a fairly predictable, but still very enjoyable flick. Mrs. P went back to sleep before we were 20 minutes into the show, but I liked it anyway.

Lincoln-Movie-Poster-1536x2048_extra_bigOn Sunday, we hit another movie at the theater that we both really enjoyed. “Lincoln” with Daniel Day-Lewis, Sally Field and Tommy Lee Jones was simply outstanding. I’m sorry we waited until it was almost at the end of its theater run before getting around to watching it. If you miss it in the theater, be sure to catch it on DVD or pay-per-view. The movie is not a comprehensive bio-pic of Old Abe. Rather, it focuses almost entirely on the single month of January 1865, when Lincoln lead a determined effort to convince the House of Representatives to pass the 13th Amendment outlawing slavery. At face value, that probably sounds boring to a non-history buff. However, the script is very well written, and the acting is outstanding. Watch for it to come up frequently when the awards season rolls around.

Mrs. P had to work both Monday and today, New Years Day. Unfortunately, they can’t send those babies home just for a holiday. Last night, some of our friends invited us to their house for dinner. We had a great time, but were back home by 10 pm so Mrs. P could hit bed in time for her 5 am wake-up. I’ve mostly watched football games today. So far the SEC is looking pretty good. Florida plays Louisville and long-tine, popular Gator assistant coach Charlie Strong tomorrow night. I’m back to work tomorrow. It’s been a good break. I may need it. Right now,  January and February look like they will be rocking.

Hello parents! Anyone listening?

This fall I’ve learned a big lesson – don’t try to communicate with adults through their ten-year old children. It doesn’t work. The group in question, of course, is my 5th grade CCD class. (This is religious education for the kids in our parish who do not go to Catholic schools. Protestants call it “Sunday school” except ours is on Wednesday evenings.) This is my eighth year teaching 5th grade, and for some reason, we have had more of a need to get announcements to the parents than in past years. One big issue has been our Christmas pageant. Our class was asked to provide readers/narrators. However, this involved only half the class, which created the opportunity for confusion over schedules, etc.

Unfortunately, announcements made in class go through the filters of 10 or 11 year-olds, who may or may not remember to pass it on to their parents (and may or may not get the information correct.) Even written hand-outs don’t always make it to their intended destination. Of course an in-class announcement or handout is useless for a student who isn’t there that evening.

Then you have the students who deliver the message properly and accurately, but their parents don’t believe them.

Mother of troublesome child: “Yes, she told me that you told her she shouldn’t come to class tonight unless she was in the pageant, but I told her she must have been mistaken.”

Me: “No, she got it right. (And thank you for bringing her. It was a real pleasure to have her here with nothing to do except annoy the other children who are involved in the program.”

I maintain a second blog to update parents on what we are teaching and talking about on a weekly basis. However, judging from the number of “hits” it gets each week, I can see that most of our parents are not taking advantage of this resource to stay informed.

The inability to communicate with parents presents real problems when trying to schedule things like the pageant. One program will be during a regular CCD class time slot. That isn’t much of a problem; the kids should be there anyway. However, a second presentation will be at 6 pm Mass on Christmas Eve. The children have no control over their schedule. They can say they want to read at Christmas Eve Mass, but if their parents have another idea for the family, the little darlings have no say in the matter.

We have one boy who really wants to participate. He stopped my co-teacher in his school parking lot last week and told her how excited he was to be involved. The problem is — he was there for the first introductory run-though of the program but hasn’t been seen since. He missed the next two practices during the regular class time-slots as well as our special Saturday morning rehearsal. So do we penalize the kid because Mom can’t get remember when the rehearsals are and get him there? (FYI – If he shows up, we’ll let him read.)

In January, I’ll assemble an email list and see if that works any better.

Bottom line – I love the kids. The parents are a little exasperating.

An absent-minded priest and a moist turkey

We’re in the middle of a very nice four-day Thanksgiving weekend, at least for me, that is. This is Mrs. Poolman’s year to work the Thanksgiving holiday and to be off for Christmas. She was at the hospital  on Thursday and today (Saturday.)

With Mrs. P taking care of babies and both our children doing the day-side of the holiday with their husband’s and girlfriend’s families, I had a quiet day to myself.  I went to 9 o’clock Mass where I was scheduled to lector. That is usually an adventure, especially when Monsignor C is celebrating. I really like the Monsignor. He is a 70+ year old Irishman with a dry sense of humor. We get along very well. However, he tends to change things and not tell the other members of his team. On Thursday, we couldn’t find any copy of a “Prayers of the Faithful” for that date. When I asked Monsignor about it, he said, “Oh, they are in a special booklet. I’ll have to give them to you at the altar.”

Oh, great, that meant a “cold read.” That’s not usually a problem unless there are some difficult names in the petitions for the deceased, sick, etc. Then Monsignor decided to skip the Creed, which is normally my cue to go to the podium to read the Prayers. As it turned out, as I walked up to the altar, our other priest, Father John, met me half way and handed me the booklet. No problem, after all.

Actually, I have been doing the lectoring long enough that I can roll with the action pretty well. Just about everything that can go wrong has done so for me at one time or another. I do become a little concerned about some of our younger lectors, many of whom are some of my former CCD students who I have recruited and coached. They are significantly less confident about handling some of Monsignor’s curve-balls.

I spent the rest of the day hanging out, working on some photos from a friend’s daughter’s wedding I shot a couple of weeks ago and finishing preps for the Thanksgiving meal. My main responsibility was the turkey. At Mrs. P’s suggestion, I tried a radically different roasting technique. I have cooked holiday turkeys more times than I can count. Usually, I roast it covered with foil at 325 for about 4-5 hours,, uncovering for the last hour and periodically basting. I may never do that again. Here is a great method that produced a fantastic, very moist bird.

1. Prepare the bird as usual, seasoning it and placing an apple, celery and a bay leaf in the cavity.

2. Place in a covered roasting pan and put it into a cold oven.

3. Turn the oven to 450 degrees and when it pre-heats to that temperature (about 15 minutes) set your timer for one hour.

4. When the timer goes off, turn the oven off and just let it sit for five hours. DO NOT OPEN THE OVEN!

I was a skeptic. I didn’t think it would work, but it sure did. Our turkey was a little over 15 pounds. You might need to adjust a little for a larger bird. I really don’t know. The key was the white meat was very moist, which I can’t say is always the case with my more traditional roasting technique.

Another advantage of this technique is that it would work very well to cook overnight.

The rest of the family came over in the evening and Mrs. P got home around 7:30 pm. So our holiday dinner was at 8:30 pm, but it was a great one anyway.

Morons, rednecks and dental hygienists

Several things caught my attention over the weekend.

Apparently people with green lasers are causing havoc with Coast Guard rescue helicopters in Myrtle Beach, S.C. They shine the lasers at the helicopters and mess with the pilots’ vision while they are flying at night. Probably a funny practical joke to the person with the laser. I would imagine it would be less so to the pilot.

Although the article doesn’t state it, I would strongly suspect the culprits of this kind of moronic amusement are probably also to young to vote. Don’t they have anything better to do? And, as always, where are the parents? Idiots!

And a special nod to some of the folks in Jackson, Mississippi, for reminding us once again why most of the rest of the country things you are a bunch of yahoos. After scheduling a wedding for a black couple at the First Baptist Church of Crystal Springs, the church changed its mind and forced them to schedule the wedding at another church. Why? Because some of the church members didn’t want a black couple to get married in their church.

This is so wrong on so many levels, it is just amazing. Seriously, what do you really think God would think of how you treated two of his children? You’re a church! You’re supposed to know better. The pastor said he moved the ceremony to accommodate the haters because he didn’t want any controversy in his congregation.  So how’s that working out for you Rev? Your flock is in USA Today looking like a bunch of redneck Klansmen. 

And finally, I learned something I didn’t know over the weekend. Some dental hygienists are paid all or partially on commission. How I got to be this old without knowing that, I don’t know. But then again, I don’t hang out with a lot of dentists either.

I know when I go to buy a car, the salesman is going to try to upsell me the extended warranty, the undercoating and anything else he or she can tag on. Forewarned is forearmed.  But if I go to my doctor and she tells me I need some kind of treatment, I take it that she is giving me her best medical advice. I thought dental offices were the same. Guess not. I think back on a fairly expensive plaque treatment I had last winter. That was recommended by the hygienist. In retrospect, I wonder if it was really needed, or did “the baby need new shoes?” It shines an entirely new light on dental services.  Hmmm.

A new camera, shoes and a lousy movie

Too much of a good thing? For the second Saturday in a row, Mrs. Poolman and I changed our plans for a dinner out because we ate too much at lunch. It’s a shame to spend money on a nice restaurant dinner when you aren’t really hungry. We need to change that pattern in the next few weeks, as we have a gift certificate at a local Greek restaurant that will expire in mid-August. Don’t want it to go to waste.

Lunch was just part of a busy Saturday. After lunch at our favorite Mexican place, we went shopping. I have been putting off buying a new digital camera for some time. I have a digital SLR that belongs to my job, but is assigned to me full-time. However, my 8-year old “point and shoot” camera finally gave up the ghost a couple of months ago. I have been doing on-line research and reading a lot of reviews. I ended up going to Best Buy and purchasing a Canon Powershot A4000. I think I will like it.

From there Mrs. P and I went shoe shopping. You have no idea how much I absolutely HATE shopping for shoes. I have gouty arthritis in one of my big toes so finding shoes that don’t torture me can be an extremely frustrating and painful experience. I will “milk” a pair of broken-in shoes long past their natural death, just to avoid having to go shop for a new pair. When I find a brand and style that work, I usually stick with it.  That is why I came home with a pair of Rockport Eureka (11-wide) casual shoes. They look amazingly like the brown pair I’ve worn to work almost every day for the past two years. Exciting, huh?

I was scheduled to read at 5:30 Mass so that didn’t leave much time left in the afternoon. I have been trying to recruit some new lectors for the Saturday evening masses. We are down to six lectors, which means our names come up every three weeks. That isn’t a problem right now, but when the fall hits, the weekend schedules become much busier.  I know Mrs. P and I will be totally occupied for at least seven Saturday evenings between Labor Day and mid-November.  I’ve asked a number of people if they would join this ministry, but so far, no takers. Ugh.

We finished off our Saturday by ordering a pizza and renting a movie. (We are SO exciting!) We thought “Wanderlust” with Paul Rudd and Jennifer Anniston looked cute. I am very glad we didn’t spend $20 to see it at a theater. If you like to watch Jennifer Anniston being herself, go ahead and waste a couple of dollars and hours of your life. Otherwise, don’t bother. The story is about a yuppie-couple (Can you still use that term?) who are forced into unemployment. On their way to live with his brother in Atlanta, they stumble onto what must be the world’s last hippie commune in North Georgia. It has an R-rating mostly for vulgarity and one nudist guy in the commune who treats the audience to repetitive full frontal shots. There is plenty of guy-nudity, but almost none of the female sort. In any case, it’s a pretty stupid film that is not well written or acted.  My recommendation – take a pass on it. Definitely keep it away from the kids!

Tomorrow, we’re off to the beach for the first time this summer.

Not feelin’ the love

As we finished up our final CCD class of the year last week, I was reminded of a quote from one of our US senators on the state of education in the US.

“The biggest problem with education in this country is a bad case of PDD – Parental Deficit Disorder.”

He wasn’t talking about our 5th grade religion classes, but it seemed to fit our situation.

As I whined a couple of weeks ago, we are never quite sure how much of an effect we are actually having on our students. And we know the children don’t really appreciate our efforts. Heck, they would much prefer to be home watching TV or out playing with their friends. So would I at their age. (Or even at my current age!)

However, my co-teacher, Mrs. R, and I are a little disappointed in the lack of  participation and/or acknowledgment by the parents, for whom we give up 26 Wednesday nights to teach their children.

–We have 25 sets of parents who we have repeatedly invited to sit-in on an occasional class to see what we are teaching their children. So far not a single parent has taken us up on the invitation. We could be teaching their children straight from the Book of Mormon, and they would probably never pick up on it. (Not that there is anything wrong with the Book of Mormon, if you are an LDS, but we’re Catholic.)

–I maintain a second blog that I update weekly so parents can see what we are teaching and discussing. Of 25 sets of parents, my blog count averages around four to six hits a week.

–At the final pick-up last week, one, but only one, parent came up to Mrs. R and me and said, “Hey, I want to thank you for all you have done this year. You’ve been here every week teaching this group, and I want you to know my husband and I appreciate it.” One other student brought us a “thank you card.” We weren’t expecting a ticker-tape parade, but a few more “thanks for teaching my son/daughter” would have been nice.

Of course, we don’t teach the class for the parents or for recognition. We do it because we think it is an important job that someone needs to do. All the same, some acknowledgment from the parents would have been appreciated.

That’s enough of my whining. I’m on religious education vacation until September.

Good news and bad news

Our CCD director, Pamela, had some good and bad news for me on Wednesday evening. Apparently I have been working from an old schedule of classes and thought we still had two more class session remaining. I was wrong. We had class on Wednesday, but then our next class on April 18 will be the final class of the year. That means that this week’s class was really the last one that we would realy be able to teach anything.

Last year, I would have done a “happy dance” up and down the hallways, but this year,  I was actually a little disappointed.

First, I really like this class of 5th graders. They have their moments, but they are generally fun to teach. They are energetic and have good attitudes. We have some interesting discussions.

The second reason for my disappointment was that I had scheduled a two class-session to cover the Ten Commandments. This subject was not actually in our curriculum in the new texts we began using this year. However, it was such an interesting topic and generated so much discussion in past years, I decided to include it anyway.

Among the questions that usually come up are good meat for discussion like:

–The first commandment warns us to not worship false gods. Here in the 21st century, what are some of the false gods that some people worship? (ie: money, celebrities, fame, drugs, alcohol, etc.)

–What does it mean to take the Lord’s name in vain? Does “Oh, my God!” count?

–Why do Catholics celebrate the Sabbath on Sunday rather than Saturday?

–What are Catholics’ obligation to honor the Sabbath?

–Why do most Protestant religions count the commandments different than Catholics?

–Why would God make it a commandment to honor your parents?

–Regarding the commandment “Thou shall not kill”, what about war, self defense, accidents, negligence, mental illness, etc?

–What is adultery? Does it also apply to boyfriends and girlfriends?

–What does it mean to “bear false witness? Does it mean any lie? What about gossip or rumors?

–Who are the “neighbors” it refers to?

–What does “covet” mean? What is the difference between admiring something that your friend owns, and coveting it?

And so on. Anytime I can get the kids to maybe think of something they haven’t considered before, I hope I’m having some impact.

So on Wednesday, we had a pretty interesting class, but there was the pressure of getting through all ten of the commandments in the roughly 50 minutes we had to work with. Before next year, I’ll learn how to read a calendar.