Coming To Faith

“Coming To Faith”, published by William H. Sadlier Inc., New York, NY
Second Grade Text: “Coming to Jesus” &

Fifth Grade Text: “Coming To God’s Life”

Important Note: Thomas H. Groome is the primary author of various religion textbook series from W.H. Sadlier, most recently the “Coming to Faith” series. Thomas Groome is an ex-priest from Boston College, and an advocate of inclusive language and ordaining women.

Thomas Groome: His influence on religious education (Eamonn Keane).

For more on Thomas Groome please see: www.ad2000.com.au

Reviewed by Ann Hill, BS in Education

February, 2005

Second Grade Text: “Coming to Jesus”

The presentation of the workbook includes nicely done color illustrations or photographs on every page, with a brief review/test page at the end of each Chapter.

The publisher divides curriculum content into four units:

  • Unit I -“Our Catholic Faith,” which includes We Believe in God, Jesus is God’s Son, The Holy Spirit, Belonging to the Church, Belonging to the Parish, Prayer and The Bible.
  • Unit II -“The Sacrament of Reconciliation,” with, God Loves Us Always, We Make Choices, God Forgives Us, We Prepare For Reconciliation, We Celebrate Reconciliation, Advent, and Christmas.
  • Unit III -“The Sacrament Of The Eucharist,” dealing with The Mass, The Eucharist, Liturgy Of The Word, Liturgy Of The Eucharist, Lent and Easter.
  • Unit IV -“We Celebrate The Eucharist,” which includes Celebrating First Holy Communion, Celebrating Our Life With Jesus, Jesus Christ Is With Our Community, Mary Our Mother, and Jesus Christ Is With Us Forever.

ACCURATE POINTS OF THE TEXTBOOK:

  • God created everything that is, and everything He created is good.
  • The word, “Divine”, is used only to describe God.
  • God sent His own Son, Jesus, who was promised. Jesus is Lord and Savior.
  • The Trinity is accurately described and correctly called “Father, Son and Holy Spirit.”
  • The general overview of Jesus’ life is accurate: In the Temple, telling of God’s love, helping the poor and sick, working miracles, his arrest (although there is no mention of trial, Pilate, etc) nailed to a cross, died on Good Friday, and rose on Easter Sunday. (but does not follow through with the Ascension into Heaven, although it mentions Pentecost)
  • The Greatest Commandment is mentioned.
  • The Pope and Bishops carry on the work of Peter and the Apostles.
  • At Mass, we receive Jesus Himself in Holy Communion.
  • We should pray to Jesus every morning, night and mealtime. We can pray alone or together.
  • Prayer is talking and listening to God.
  • God always loves us and forgives us when we are sorry.
  • Every day we must ask ourselves, “Will this choice help me to be a better person.”
  • “Sin is freely choosing to do what we know is wrong.”
  • The Sacrament of Reconciliation is covered fairly accurately, but there is no mention that Confession must be used prior to First Holy Communion.
  • The examination of conscience is covered fairly well.
  • There is a good emphasis on the importance of forgiveness towards others.
  • Confession can be behind a screen or face-to-face, and the confidentiality of the priest.
  • Communal Confession is correctly described as requiring a private confessing of sins.
  • The children are encouraged to listen carefully and pay attention at Mass; quiet helps others to pray.
  • Both the Old Testament and New Testament make up the Bible.
  • It correctly states that the gospel is read by a priest or deacon.
  • “Through the words of the priest and the Power of the Holy Spirit, the bread and wine become Jesus Himself.”
  • The text correctly states that Communion may be received either on the tongue or in the hand, although the several photos throughout the book show only Communion in the hand.
  • A good point is made that after Mass Jesus wants us to bring His peace to others in our family, parish, school, and neighborhood.
  • The text makes a good suggestion on how to be a peacemaker-“Be first to say, ‘I’m sorry’ when there is a fight,” not arguing when your family asks you to do a task, and forgiving someone who has been unkind to you.
  • Jesus is called the “Lamb of God.”
  • The one hour fast prior to Communion is covered.
  • There is an explanation of the importance of the Sanctuary Light and Tabernacle used to reserve the Blessed Sacrament, and to genuflect when entering the Church.
  • The Annunciation and Visitation are described, but does not use those two terms
  • Mary’s special Feast Days are listed, and the Rosary and how to pray it are included.

INACCURACIES AND OMISSIONS:

The story of Adam and Eve speaks in generalities from the Bible and does not tell a word about God’s Command, the Tree, Fruit, Serpent or use the term, “Fall.”

On P.17, God created you in His own Image and Likeness, but does not tell then what that means.

P.72 states that the Bible has many stories; it needs to be clarified that these are true recountings of actual events that really occurred, since today there are those people who try to re-write Scripture and claim God didn’t really mean the things He said.

In general, the lessons over-emphasize God’s Mercy and His Love, and only lightly cover sin and God’s Justice, and be presumptuous about His Mercy. (P. 85 & P. 117 examples)

They use the term, Baptism, and states that it makes us children of God and members of Jesus Community, the Church, but it doesn’t tell what Baptism is.

P. 47 states, “The Catholic Church is our home in the Christian ‘family.’ ” This statement implies that we are just one of many churches, rather than the True Church, and the Only Church that Jesus started.

P.50 states that Mass is “Jesus special meal,” a serious downplaying of how holy and sacred the Sacrifice of the Mass is.

P.51 states, “With the other Bishops, the Pope as Bishop of Rome, teaches us how to follow Jesus.” The statement makes it sound like the Bishops and Pope are on the same level. This is not quite accurate, since all authority comes from the Pope, with the Bishops being subject to him.

The Sacraments are spoken about, but nothing is mentioned about the important graces that come from them for our benefit.

The term, “Eucharistic Ministers” is inaccurately used; it is accurate to say, “Extraordinary Ministers who may be utilized to distribute the Eucharist in extraordinary circumstances.”

The events of the Annunciation and Visitation are described, but the terms are not included.

P. 140 It is paramount to have children understand that the Mass is a Sacrifice, but this is blurred by calling it a “special meal,” which is over emphasized.

The unit on Lent does not give a very complete explanation of the season; it does not mention anything about it being a time of sacrifice or fasting, or why this is done.

Both Lent and Easter are not given much emphasis. Also, these should logically precede explanations of the Mass, which they do not.

New Age Tendencies:

P.79 “Jesus want us to know that God will love us always like a loving father or mother.” In Scripture, God has told us to use, “He” in the male tense.

On Pgs.90 & 91 the Ten Commandments have been rewritten: The Fourth Commandment reads, “We listen to and obey those who care for us.” This diminishes the authority of the parent, who is not specifically mentioned, giving others such as teachers, babysitters, etc. equality with the parent. The Fifth Commandment states, “We care for all living things,” which is an extremely loose interpretation; “Thou Shalt Not Kill” means that we do not to kill other human beings. Also, in Genesis, God gave both Adam and later again, Noah the right of dominion over the animals, and there is a difference between their value and human beings. The vagueness of these rewritten Commandments, tends towards New Age homogenization of Christianity.

The back of the book has what is titled, “The Prayer Of Quiet” which reads: Sit in a comfortable position. Relax by breathing in and out. Shut out all sights and sounds. Each time you breathe in and out, say the name, ‘Jesus,’ ” Additionally, P.66 shows a method of prayer where a girl is sitting with her legs crossed in a lotus position on the floor for meditation. This is Eastern Meditation and inappropriate to Catholic teachings.

P.42 brought in a non-related subject of ecology, when the lesson being taught was supposed to be on the Holy Spirit and Pentecost. It reads, “Come Holy Spirit, show us the way, Help us be friends of Jesus today. Help us be fair, peacemakers, too, Care for God’s earth as we should do.”

A number of Bible stories are not very complete, such as the multiplication of the loaves, and Mary Magdalene going to the tomb (St. Peter and St. John omitted.)

P.194 Easter is equated with Spring, a mere weather season. Easter is the time of the Resurrection of Christ, the fulfillment of the Promise of Redemption, and the end of satan’s stranglehold on mankind, rather than the temperature outdoors.

Outcome Based Education can be seen with some of the above New Age tendencies, and with:

There are a number of non-academic activities that are unnecessary. (P. 25-“Trace your foot on a sheet of paper and make a path to follow Jesus.”-this has nothing to do with Our Lord.

Most activities are done with another partner or group.

P.106 tells a story about two children who teased another classmate, and then asks the children to tell about a time they had a situation in their lives when they had to decide to be either good or bad; this is calling for a public confession of a wrong they may have done, and is prying into their personal consciences.

P.54 uses an example of a boy who has a lot of problems in his family, and then asks, “Does a family member ever make you feel happy, sad or angry?” This is prying into what is personally going on in people’s homes and families. Another example is on P .34, “Think of a time when you were very scared. Did someone help you? Tell about it.”

P.101 has prayers which have had just enough of the wording changed, that when people come together to pray, unless they learned this particular version, they would not be able to pray together.

Subtler problems include not giving God and the Saints their proper titles:

Peter should be called, Saint Peter.

The Mother of God is called simply, “Mary” and is never given the title always used to address her as, the “Blessed Virgin Mary.”

A number of times, it is emphasized that Jesus is the Son of God, but there is an aversion to saying that Jesus is God, and God the Son, which is under-emphasized. Being God is what sets Jesus apart from other founders of religions.

Throughout the book, pictures of the family show only 1 or 2 children in Caucasian families, and minority families are depicted with no more than 3 children.

These are the noticeable characteristics of the stronger and weaker points in this course of study.

Fifth Grade Text: “Coming To God’s Life”

The presentation of the workbook includes nicely done color illustrations or photographs on every page, with a brief review/test page at the end of each Chapter.

The publisher divides curriculum content into four units:

  • Unit I -“Jesus Christ Blesses Our Lives,” which includes God’s love, forgiveness, Jesus love for the Church. and the Sacraments of Reconciliation and the Eucharist.
  • Unit II -“Sacraments of Initiation,” which covers Baptism, Confirmation, more on the Eucharist, explanation of the Mass and liturgy, the Church calendar, Advent, and Christmas.
  • Unit III -“Sacraments of Healing and Service” dealing with Reconciliation, Anointing of the Sick, Matrimony, Holy Orders and the Priesthood, Lent and the Easter Triduum.
  • Unit IV -” A Community of Faith, Hope and Love,” includes the four Marks of the Church, virtues of faith. hope and love, prejudice, the Apostles’ Creed, and the Corporal and Spiritual Works of Mercy.

ACCURATE POINTS OF THE TEXTBOOK:

Jesus was like us in all things except sin.

Jesus is both human and divine.

Holy Communion is called, “a union,” we are “made one with Jesus,” the Eucharist is truly “the body and blood of Christ,” and the Holy Spirit accomplishes this remarkable act. Unleavened bread and pure wine must be the ingredients used.

We are to kneel for the Consecration.

Only a Priest or Deacon may give a sermon.

Our Blessed Mother is called, “The greatest of all the Church’s saints,” the Assumption is explained, and the Magnificat prayer is included.

Sin is discussed: Jesus will always forgive our sins if there is contrition, that we can sin in thought, word and actions, and there are mortal and venial sins.

The seal of Confession is included, and the importance of forgiving others as an extension of Christ’s forgiveness to us. Communal Penance is described accurately.

A person in the state of mortal sin must receive absolution in the Sacrament of Reconciliation prior to going to Communion.

The Priest is referred to as the “Celebrant” of Mass, not the “presider.”

Only a properly ordained Bishop can ordain a Priest or another Bishop.

Catholics have a responsibility to evangelize others.

The text does a good job if explaining “service to others” and how to prepare one’s self through prayer and reading the Bible to be a better Catholic.

The children are asked to discern if they may have a vocation be a to the Priest or religious.

The word, “Catholic,” is defined as meaning “Universal.”

Baptism is done, “In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit,” although the inclusive terms, “Creator, Redeemer and Sanctifier” are used also in the book.

In the Sacrament of Matrimony, the bride and groom can receive Communion together “if both are Catholic,” reaffirming the Church’s position on non-Catholic reception of Communion.

At Confirmation, one is to choose a Saint’s name, not just any name they happen to like.

If others in the family don’t go to church, try to go with someone who does and ask God’s help to bless your family.

Sacramentals are described.

Fifteen decades of the Rosary are included.

Stations of the Cross are also part of the curriculum.

INACCURACIES AND OMISSIONS:

The curriculum does not point out that Confession is needed prior to ~ Communion.

Taking Communion in the hand is explained, but receiving Communion on the tongue is not even mentioned as an option.

P .292 has an exercise called “Pray Of Inner Stillness,” where children are to quiet themselves listen quietly to their breathing and then use a mantra-like phrase. This is all too close to Eastern Meditation, and not appropriate in Catholic teachings.

“Grace” is mentioned but needs more emphasis and explanation considering its importance.

The series mentions the term “Original Sin” but does not explain the context of its origins: Genesis: the tree, or the apple being forbidden fruit, the fall or the serpent.

The discussion about Baptism does not include that one is Baptized only once.

Jesus is often called, “the Son of God,” but only once in the book is he called, “God the Son.”

The term, “Eucharistic Ministers” is inaccurately used. It is accurate to say “Extraordinary Ministers who may be utilized to distribute the Eucharist in extraordinary circumstances.”

Several Gifts of the Holy Spirit have been renamed as, “Right Judgment, Courage, Reverence, and Wonder & Awe.” The publisher states that their text is in keeping with the Catechism of the Catholic Church, and has the approval of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops. However, when checked, these new terms were not found in the Catechism.

There is a problem in the curriculum with somewhat of a slant towards Outcome Based Educational subject mater and teaching techniques:

p.177: “What does this mean to you?” is a common Outcome Based Education phrase, which is used throughout the book. OBE is notorious for letting students interpret an answer any way they wish. The teaching of Catholicism has concrete accurate answers, which the teacher can draw out through phrases like, “What is the answer to _.”

This is true also for tests, which should be using “fill-in-the-blank” or “multiple choice,” but have approximately 50 % of answers written out essay type responses, which is also characteristic of OBE.

P.128 uses “God-hero,” when quoting Isaiah who foretold of the Messiah, and P.IIO uses the term, “humankind.” This is a feminist inclusive-wording influence.

The OBE pattern of using small groups discussions are used 23 times, where the children get into groups (or with a partner) and then report what the group has decided. It would be better to have the teacher lead a discussion with all the children contributing; this way the class is enriched by having the opportunity to hear individual ideas from everyone, and individuality is not lost to the group consensus. The discussion also has better direction and guidance.

Social Justice issues, mentioned on at least 14 occasions, and Sexism (p.211 & 218) are both popular OBE issues. These issues must not be traded at the expense of our understanding that everyone has challenges and must pick up his cross. God created all people and loves all people, and had something specifically in mind for each individual when He assigned them their station in life.

The popular OBE subject of caring for the environment/ecology is included, fortunately not overly covered.

“It takes a village,” when P.64 uses the example of what Catholics can learn from a Pagan tribe called the Masai, who come together as a “Village” to show us how a dispute is reconciled among their tribesmen.

In general, there are too many non-academic non-essential projects that take away time from learning doctrine: a) seven different times, the lesson plans call for putting on a play. One or two plays per year would be enough .b) Another recommended activity, such as writing poetry(Haiku or cinquain) is a project more appropriate for English class, rather than religion class.

Prayers at the end of the book are somewhat re-worded, making it confusing to pray with others who did not learn their prayers from the same publisher. Prayers should be standardized.

These are the noticeable characteristics of the stronger and weaker points in this course of study.