Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Approaching Lent with children

Many children hardly notice that before preparing the altar and the gifts, the priest prepares himself and the assembly through a ritual hand washing, called the Lavabo. If the following catechesis is offered at the start of Lent, then paying attention to this particular moment in the Mass can become part of the children’s Lenten observance.
On the first day of Lent that you meet with the children, place a small glass bowl, a small towel, and a glass pitcher half-full of water on a low table decorated with a purple cloth. On a large index card, in your best handwriting, copy out the following prayer:
Lord, wash away my iniquity, cleanse me from my sin.
Gather the children around the empty glass bowl. Remind them of the moment during Mass when the priest washes his hands. Explain that this hand washing is a gesture, a silent prayer that the priest does with his hands. Announce that this prayer is called the Lavabo. Then ask for a student volunteer. Have the child hold his or her fingertips over the bowl and pour a few drops of water over them; dry them with the hand towel. When you are finished, ask the children what this prayer might mean: What is the priest asking God to do? Why would the priest wash his hands at this moment? After the children have had a chance to reflect on the meaning of the gesture, suggest that the priest is not only asking for clean hands and ask: What else would the priest like God to clean? Then bring out the index card with the prayer on it. Explain that this is the prayer that the priest says as he washes his hands. How can the priest wash away his sins by having someone pour water on his fingers? Finish your reflection by going around the table and practicing the gesture with each other, taking turns being the one who pours the water and being the one whose hands are cleaned. Ask the children if they think that the priest is the only one who needs to have a clean heart to approach the altar of the Lord.
With children under ten by singing a verse from one of the following psalms: Psalm 51, Psalm 63, or Psalm 23. With older children, the lesson could continue with a solemn reading of the first twelve verses of Psalm 51. Ask them if there are any lines that sound familiar. Draw their attention to verse 4 (RNAB) or verse 2 (NRSV) and then invite one child to reread the Lavabo prayer. End with the children’s spontaneous prayer and singing.

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Dumbstruck by the Mystery

...our temptation is always to impose our prejudices or our measure on reality -- except when we are faced with a fact that leaves us dumbstruck, and instead of dominating the fact ourselves, we are dominated, overcome by it. If there were no moments of this kind, the Mystery could do anything, but in the end, we would reduce everything to the usual explanation. But not even a Nobel Prize winner can stop himself from being dumbstruck before an absolutely gratuitous gesture. If there were not these moments, we would find answers, explanations, and interpretations to avoid being struck by anything. It is good that some things happen that we cannot dominate, then we have to take them seriously, and this is the great question of philosophy. If the conditions for the possibility of knowledge (see Kant) impose themselves on reality or if there is something that is so powerfully disproportionate that it does not let itself be "grasped" by the conditions of possibility, then the horizon opens. If this were not the case, then we could dominate everything and be in peace, or at least without drama. Instead, not even the intelligence of a Nobel Prize winner could prevent him from coming face-to-face with a fact that made him dumbstruck -- instead of dominating, it was he who was dominated. Here begins the drama, because I am called to answer. It is the drama that unfolds between us and the Mystery, through certain facts, certain moments, in which the Mystery imposes itself with this evidence. These are facts that we cannot put in our pocket, which we cannot reduce to antecedent factors.
-- Julian Carron in "Friends, that is, Witnesses."