Mimi McCaul, who teaches at La Salle High School in Pasadena, California,
passes along to you some of the strategies she uses in the course Jesus of
History, Christ of Faith. Thanks, Mimi!
On the first
or second day of the course, ask the students as a class to brainstorm
everything they know, or any impressions they have, about Jesus. Write these
ideas on the chalkboard, but be sure that the students also copy the list on
paper for their own use.
students as individuals to organize all the brainstormed ideas into
specified categories, perhaps chronological or topical. They should turn
these categorized lists in to you. The activity is useful in four ways:
It stirs the
students' imagination and memory about Jesus.
You can get
a sense of the students' knowledge about Jesus.
Used as an
icebreaker, the activity gets the students involved right away, contributing
to the class.
can keep the categorized lists, bringing them out at the end of the course
to see how much more they know about Jesus and have come to know him.
The goals of the
"faith portraits" strategy are these: a. that the students hear the story of
Jesus as told through the Gospels b. that they formulate a personally meaningful
portrait of Jesus based on the Gospels.
This part of the
course follows the historical and cultural background (chapters 3-5) in Jesus of
History, Christ of Faith, and the activity can be done as a portion of time in
each class session.
1. Each day in
class, have the students, seated in a circle, take turns reading a gospel
passage out loud. (We start the semester with Mark, then go to Matthew, read
some portions of Luke, and end with selected sections of John).
2. As the gospel
passage is read, the students should take notes so that they can later build a
portrait of Jesus. The notes will fall into these categories:
information: for example, name (with explanation of origin), aliases, birth
date, bhace, height, weight, hair color, eye color, distinguishing features,
profession(s), religion, baptismal record, mother, father, family, death and
resurrection (The students will discover that the Gospels provide no
information on some items.)
traits: for example, compassion, sensitivity
for example, sayings, parables
for example, friends, social life, travels, home
events: for example, initial gathering of followers, journeys,
confrontations with authorities
disagree about the personality traits manifested by Jesus in a particular
passage. So as the passages are being read, encourage free discussion and
explore the students' reactions to the passages. No two people hear a story
in the same way. How we hear tells us something about who we are and how we
3. When the
class has finished working with one of the Gospels, ask the students each to
write a summary portrait of Jesus as portrayed by the author of the Gospel. As
the Gospels are studied, you can ask the students to point out differences in
the accounts given by the four Evangelists.
4. After all
four Gospels have been read and discussed, ask the students each to write a
summary portrait of Jesus. It should include their favorite names for Jesus,
traits they find especially appealing, and so on. They need to answer this
question: How do I see Jesus now that I have studied the Gospels?