Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Thanks to Ferde, Once Again

Posted by Webster 
“Have you ever taught CCD?” I asked Ferde one day, before teaching my own first class. “Yes,” he said, “once. It did not go well.” Today marked the return of my dear friend to religious education, and it went very well indeed. Explaining the Real Presence to fourteen fourth-graders, “Mr. Rombola” had them eating out of his hand. Look at those boys listening to him. You would have thought he was reading Harry Potter or Treasure Island, not John 6.

After preparing the class for confession two weeks ago and taking them to receive the Sacrament of Reconciliation last week, I guess I thought, What’s the next highest hurdle? All I could think of was, Adoration. Take the kids to Eucharistic Adoration. Which we have in our lower church twelve hours a day, five days a week. 

Ferde is a regular at Adoration, as am I. But while I think I get the doctrine of the Real Presence, I know Ferde gets it. The night of my first communion, as I stood nervously waiting in my long red robe, he walked by me, clapped me on the shoulder, and said, “Just remember, Webster. It is the body and the blood of Christ.” Ferde, the retired actor, can say things in a way you’ll never forget.

And so I got the idea of inviting Ferde to help me teach my class today. The goal was to take the children to the Adoration chapel for the last ten minutes of the hour—but first to prepare them by teaching them about the Eucharist. I began by listing several points on which Catholics differ from Protestants—Pope, saints, all-male priesthood . . . ending with the Eucharist. Then I turned the class over to Mr. Rombola and held my breath.

I had that warning echoing in my ears: “It did not go well.” Turns out, though, that Ferde’s one experience teaching religious ed was with a group of surly high-school students. Ferde can match anybody’s surly. I can only imagine how “not well” that class went.

But today—magic. There was not a peep for fifteen minutes as Mr. Rombola explained the Last Supper, the institution of the Eucharist, and then traced it back to John 6, in which Christ foreshadowed (if that’s the right word) His gift of His own Body and Blood: “The one who feeds on me will have life because of me.”

Then we shepherded the class, two by two, across the street to the Church. Boys removed their caps at the proper moment (small victory!) and each pair of children followed me up the center aisle of the lower church toward the altar. Then, two by two, they took their turns kneeling on both knees before the Blessed Sacrament, saying a few words to the Lord, and taking a seat in a pew to wait for the others. When all had paid their respects and the silence meter was starting to tremble, I led the kids back to the school, with Ferde “covering our six” from the rear.

When we were back in our seats in the classroom, I asked if anyone had any impressions. A., our high-IQ Big-Bang theorist, had the only comment, but it was a great one. She said: “I feel like I did last week after confession: all fresh!”

I felt the same way.