February 13, 2009

Students mix faith ingredients to make heavenly parables

By John Shaughnessy

Lorelei Cleary loves the unusual recipe that one of her students created during her religion class.

Calling it his “Kingdom of Heaven” recipe, seventh-grade student Chris FitzGerald listed the following ingredients for his creation:

  • 2 cups of faith
  • 1½ cups of peace
  • ½ cup of love (selfless, if desired)
  • 1 cup of harmony
  • 3½ teaspoons of hope
  • 1 teaspoon of wisdom
  • 1 teaspoon of grace
  • 3 good deeds done that day

Chris then shared the instructions for completing the recipe:

“Follow the Bible. Pray constantly. Follow the Golden Rule. Ask, ‘What would Jesus do?’ Never turn your back to God. Be the best you can be.”

Chris developed the recipe in response to a challenge that Cleary gave to the seventh-grade students at St. Michael the Archangel School in Indianapolis. After teaching a lesson about how Jesus taught in parables, the religion teacher asked her students to create their own parable to define the kingdom of heaven.

“The whole focus of this year for religion in the seventh grade is Jesus’ life,” Cleary said. “They definitely understand what Jesus was trying to teach through his parables. They also understand how difficult it can be to get an abstract idea across to others. So I asked the students to create their own parable.”

The parables the students shared were creative.

“To me, the kingdom of God is like a DVD player,” wrote Alexis Gray. “Whatever you put in, there will be some type of feedback—such as a sign. This parable relates to God’s kingdom because it shows that you can pray or ask for God’s help and get some kind of an answer.

“The response might not be straightforward from God, but the answer could come from your surroundings, or even a simple sign. Just like the DVD player says, ‘Reading disc,’ God might tell us, ‘Reading prayer.’ ”

Chris Motley, another seventh-grade student, viewed heaven in terms of the grades that are earned in school.

“If a person gets good grades, he is rewarded,” he noted. “If he gets a bad grade, he is punished. If a person gets a good report card, he will pass. If he gets a terrible report card, he is kicked out of school.”

Chris Rickman used vegetables gardens to discuss the kingdom of heaven.

“Two men decide to make gardens to provide for their children,” he wrote. “One man grows many vegetables and gives them to his children. The children are not grateful and refuse to eat the vegetables. That man’s children become very thin and very sick. The other man grows many vegetables as well and gives them to his children. His children are grateful and become strong and smart.”

The assignment was one of Cleary’s ways to get her students thinking about their faith during a key point in their lives.

The assignment was fun, says Chris FitzGerald, the student who used the recipe for his parable.

“I liked the project,” Chris says. “It was the first time I made a parable. I like to bake things at home. I thought about a few things, but that sounded like it would be the most fun. I got a cookbook and replaced all the ingredients for a cake with religious things.”

Tapping into students’ interests and creativity can be a key to developing the faith of youths.

“Seventh grade is considered by many to be a pivotal year in a young person’s life,” Cleary notes. “Questions begin to arise about faith and life. Difficulties in choosing and maintaining friendships while still figuring who you are as an individual can come up often. Despite the trials of this age, spiritual growth can expand greatly, and commitments to one’s faith can solidify.”

The teacher believes it’s all a part of having a good recipe for spiritual fulfillment. †

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