As Catechists preparing young children to receive 2 Sacraments in the same school year, we face the challenge of making sure the children know the absolute basics, being as prepared as possible, and trying to keep everyone's interest regardless of their individual knowledge of what we're talking about. Sometimes, the teaching manuals and materials we have proceed with a presupposition that the children already have an understanding of certain details of our Faith or of Holy Scripture. As I began to prepare for this Sunday's lesson, I found this to be the case. The last time we read a Bible story to them, it was the story of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden.
I digress for just a moment to say that for that lesson, I added this story since we were discussing the need for Baptism, and were going to be discussing original sin, yet there was no context for the children to grasp this in the original lesson. It's tough to talk about original sin if the children are not familiar with the story associated with it's entrance into the world.
This week, our lesson begins with teaching the children about the Ten Commandments. The introduction for this was supposed to begin with:
God gave his chosen people some laws to help them. These laws are called the Ten Commandments. God wants you to follow these laws too. They help you make good choices about your friendship with God and others.
Then, the lesson continues with listing the Ten Commandments along with meanings the children will better understand. Who are "the chosen people" and how did they get chosen? Why did they need these laws? How did God give these laws to these people? Who says they are meant for us too?
I'm really not trying to gripe about this. The materials we have now are actually much better than what I have seen years ago, but what I'm getting at is these children already have more questions than I can answer. We need to take a few extra minutes to give them a foundation that will help them understand these things better.
So after searching for quite some time to fine a story or stories already available that would assist me in filling in some of the blanks for the children, I could find nothing that would suffice, at least not in a short period of time, allowing the rest of the lesson to be presented. (We still had to discuss the Ten Commandments, the Great Commandment, the law of love, the Precepts of the Church, and introduce them to why we need to do an examination of conscience.) Are you beginning to see where I am going?
So, based on Scripture of course, I wrote my own. I am including it here in my post, hoping that it may help other Catechists or parents who are also looking for simple material to help teach children some very basic information about how we got from the Garden of Eden to Mount Sinai.
This story will bridge the gap between the Garden of Eden and the 10 Commandments. It will also lay the groundwork for saying yes to God, for doing what God tells us to do, obeying his rules.
From the garden to the mountain; it’s important to do what God tells us to do
After the original sin of Adam and Eve, people continued to make bad choices and sin against God. God already had a plan to forgive people and to bring them back to Him, but He knew that it would take a long time for people to understand how to say no to sin and to say yes to God.
So God made a promise to a man named Abraham that if Abraham would do what God told him to do, his family would become a great nation and one day all families of the earth would be blessed because Abraham said yes to God.
Abraham did as God said, and the people of that great nation which came from Abraham’s family were called the Israelites.
Sometimes, people will only listen to God when they are in trouble or when their lives seem to be really hard. It was the same way with the Israelites. They were slaves or prisoners in another land, called Egypt. Their lives were very hard and they wondered if God had forgotten about them. But God did not forget about them. He chose a man named Moses to lead the Israelites. Moses said yes to God, and God sent many great signs to the land of Egypt until one day, the leader of Egypt, called Pharaoh, released the Israelites.
The Israelites were happy as they left Egypt and went out into the desert, but Pharaoh changed his mind and he and his army chased them. It looked like the Egyptian army had the Israelites trapped as they came to the Red Sea, but God told Moses to trust Him, and to raise his staff out facing the water. When Moses did what God told him to do, the water of the Red Sea parted, or split so that there was a path of dry land for the Israelites to cross. When the Israelites had all crossed to the other side, God told Moses to put the staff down. When Moses did what God told him to do, the water returned and covered the Egyptian army.
God continued to do many great things for the Israelites. He even fed them by raining down special bread called manna. But the Israelites did not think about the good things God gave them. They only complained about how hard it was for them to live in the desert. The Israelites did a lot of arguing and fighting with each other. They kept going to Moses to tell them what to do. Moses did his best, but God saw that the Israelites needed better rules. God told Moses to tell the people that He would give them a wonderful land to live in and that they would be very special to Him if they would do what God told them to do.
The people all agreed to do what God told them to do, and Moses went up a mountain where God wrote some special rules on stone tablets for Moses to take to the Israelites. These special rules are called the Ten Commandments. God gave them to Moses and to the Israelites so they would be safe and learn how to be good to themselves, to each other, and to God.
These Ten Commandments are for us too. If we do what God tells us to do, we will be safe and learn how to be good to ourselves, to each other, and to God.