Reflections of Sexual Morality ~ Part Two ~ Talking to Eighth Graders about dating

Over the past three years I have been teaching Eighth and Ninth Grade Faith Formation, last year I took off, this year I am back at it teaching one class in each of those two grades. Great kids, great age. What I realized that I was teaching Catechism, but the kids didn’t know Jesus. They didn’t really pray outside of rote prayer, and they did not really think about having a personal relationship with God. You could say I went kind of rogue. The Catechism book I was given to work with was less than adequate. After the second session or so I all but threw it away. Why? Because I was not about to talk to kids about the bible readings in Leviticus “drunken debauchery and orgies”. Talk about keeping ones innocence… Oh dear Lord – whoever put that book together needs to have their head examined. Once again, I digress.

*Note:  This year there is a really good new book to teach from.

Regarding the first book I worked with, I did tell my director I wasn’t dealing with that book (why), and – what is the main point we are to learn this year? Apostles Creed. Fine, no worries. I have this. We worked on the Apostles Creed and it’s meaning line by line. I also bought each child a wooden rosary, because I found the scriptural reference for them. We worked on that each week, learning about the conception, birth, life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. You could say, I made Mary’s Rosary more about her son, and God the Father than most consider. It worked, they learned.

We also talked each week about various aspects of Mass, prayers, we discussed personal prayer time with God every week – which was really encouraging. We also spoke of other matters in their every day life and how Christians live.

When formal dances came up and discussion on who their dates where, things became interesting. One girl, 13 was dating a very popular boy – age 13. They had been going steady for a full year and they were also allowed to be home alone together. No chaperones. What are their parents thinking? Oh – wait. . . We know they aren’t right? Other kids were saying “nope, no way I don’t wait a boyfriend or girlfriend” and there were a few (both classes) that felt left out because they didn’t have an actual “data” for their formal dinner dance.

I tossed out a question to them, the same I used with my own sons and their friends while they were growing up. “Do you know what the purpose of dating is?” There were more looks of wide eyed wonder than giggles, blushing or downcast glances.

Because everyone does it!

For fun!

To be Popular!!!

Nope! That’s not it. (me)

Well . . . what’s the answer then? (confused looks around the classroom).

Well, we probably shouldn’t want to do anything simply because everyone else is doing it – right? Everyone jumps off a cliff, are you going right behind them? :heads shaking, no:

And… Aren’t there a lot of fun things you can do with your friends, girls with girls, guys with guys – or a group? :heads shaking, yes:

Okay, and while I get the idea that “popular is good”, do we really need to date at this age to be “popular”, don’t you want to be liked for who you are? :thoughtful heads shaking yes”.

~ Okay, okay – but what is dating for then?

Dating or courtship is a time that you spend getting to know a man or woman to discern if they are the type of person you want to spend the rest of your life with – in marriage. When you are old enough to consider marriage, then you spend time learning about what you are looking for in a marriage partner, who you want to spend the rest of your life with. For you kids, when your older – what you should be looking for is another Catholic or Christian who will attend church with you every week. You look for a good person who will celebrate your life together with God, raise your family together – in God.

The kids were actually relieved to hear that dating was something adult. They really didn’t have to worry about a date for an eighth grade dinner dance. We talked some more and reaffirmed their need to enjoy time on their own, growing up, growing in their relationship with God and others and they could wait to worry about dating (and kissing ,because yeah that came up with giggles in the back) until they were older.

I encouraged both classes to speak to their parents about these things, almost every one of them said their parents didn’t have time or wouldn’t bother. I told them to give it a try anyway I was sure their parents would love to speak to them about life events like this.

The truth is, a lot of parents don’t talk. They are either uncomfortable, embarrassed or just too busy to consider the consequences of not spending time helping their children in developing a well rounded moral view of their mind, body and souls.

Added challenges are the loose values in society today, many of which have been loose (but unspoken of) all along. If we want to raise good kids, that means we spend an awful lot of time focused on them. Monitoring what they’re watching on TV (and TV does get worse all the time, really it does). People laugh when they hear I did not allow the oldest two to watch Rugrats before youngest was much older because I didn’t want him to pick up back habits (that Angelica was a rude one). Books, friends, video games. It takes a lot of time and effort.

This also means taking the time to talk to our kids about love, sex and marriage. Of the two classes of eighth graders that I had, only one was from a broken family. What these privileged (to have long Christian marriages) are overlooking is that the peers of their children are not being brought up the same way, they are from broken homes, mom or dad may have a revolving bedroom door ( I was a rarity in not having one, single after my divorce ).

Who is stopping to talk to these kids about virginity or remaining pure for marriage, their special love? ? ?

*Note: Said dinner dance did have strict rules on heel height and modesty in dress, a rarity in public schools today.

 

Reflections of Sexual Morality ~ Part One ~ Her name was Maria

In recent days I have come across a variety of writings in regards to sexual abuse of females (abused males should be included in this). A few months back, while reading the “about today” section of the Divine Office, I read part of a very tragic story of a young girl, only eleven who was brutally murdered for “saying no”. There were other writings in this article too, combined with the other writings I have recently come across that have led me to the topic of “sexual morality”. It is an important topic that really is overlooked in so many ways now. This will be the first of … in essays. Lively conversation is appreciated, crude or rude will be deleted.

The story of the little girl (because eleven is still a little girl to me), caused me concern because she is now a saint. Saint Maria Goretti. There is much to be found of her tragic life and death on the internet. Her story was originally used to propagate saving your virginity at all cost, including your life. We know today that is a false view and we do what me must to survive. Our lives are far more important to God (and ourselves!) than our virginity.

In the research I have done over the past few days, it is clear Maria was from an extremely poor farming family. Her father died, she being the oldest girl at eleven was left home to cook, clean and care for siblings (I have read she was also babysitting for a neighbor’s infant the day she so tragically died). I don’t really want to go into all of the details that I have read, as I have suggested spending some time surfing, you will find a lot of information, much contrary.

The most consistent information I found is though she was only eleven, the church for at least a while, referred to her as a young woman. She is said to have shunned the advances of the “landlords” 20 year old son. I have also read things to indicate he had learning issues, etc. Considering a girl of eleven in those days had not yet begun her first menstrual cycle, was too young to be married and he was almost twice her age, it does seem to indicate he had issues. . .

Maria was stabbed over 14 times (number varies with article), in her throat, lungs, heart, abdomen, severely enough that her organs were protruding. The amount of conversation the child, who was found unconscious is said have held in some readings is simply unrealistic. Her surgery was performed with no anesthesia, and at one point she is said to have awoken for a short time. I would assume the loss of so much blood and pain would have her unconscious even without medication. She is said to have forgiven her murderer, after being prompted by a Priest, just before she died.

So much of her tragic life and death seems to have been embellished upon. Maria did not go to school, rarely went to mass, and had items placed in her hands as she died. She was not buried. Her remains lay within a statue that some confuse to be her actual remains, in a glass coffin under an altar. That so bothers me. I understand it to be Catholic tradition but … let the child go. I know. I am a “bad” catholic for saying this I suppose. She was but a child of such tragic circumstance.

At the time she was canonized, as I stated before, propagated saving your virginity at all cost, including your life. The church does not teach this now. My concern is knowing, so many countries hold Saints in a higher esteem than here in the United States. I know it concerns me that young girls in some far off mission are being taught improperly on how valuable their virginity, their purity is to God (and man).

The Catholic church has defined and changed the meaning of Saints from the original intention in the bible.  Saints are God’s Holy people, living humans in the bible.  Follows of Jesus, children of God. 

While we absolutely need good role models, the list of 10,000 plus saints and the background and true life stories of many give one pause.  Often while reading through the saint area of the Divine Office it is noted that not much is even known about this or that saint – or even correct spelling of their name.Focus should perhaps not be on “saints” but on our Tritarian God and all of His children.

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Note: I spent some time debating whether to write about Maria’s story. It is because of her story that I am writing this series. I also believe, in some small way this is a way to pay homage to a child who lived a tragic life, death and … after life. My heart tells me this child deserves to be buried somewhere pretty under a tree, with wild flowers growing nearby. A place she never seemed to have a chance to play, sit with a book or pray.

The remaining portion of the article that I read, which I wish I could quote but because I use the free version and unfortunately did not copy/paste the article… I will have to admit I can’t give exact quotes… The author of said article acknowledge that we may not all pay homage to plaster saints, etc., but what about the value of virginity, purity why is there none in today’s world” <<< This comment holds merit however, I do believe perhaps the lifestyle of the author and unfortunately the readers the article is intended for are living at a handicap, and perhaps not able to fully understand the experience, life and God in the world most of us live. For this reason, and knowing there are other every day folks who are missing very good points, please look for the next article in this series.