Father Luca teaches religion in Rome. In this article, he talks about the importance of preparation for his teaching.

When I began to teach middle school religion, my greatest desire was that my students might get to know Christ as I have gotten to know Him.
Initially, I believed that it would be enough to give them input, to speak each time we met about what I might see as most opportune, maybe even taking the cue from current events; above all, I figured that the most important aspect would be to focus on their questions, without giving much weight to the answers that I could give them. As time has gone on however I’ve realized the value of a phrase that don Massimo loved to repeat to us during my time in the seminary: “Before speaking to people, you all must prepare yourselves.” It’s a simple statement, but hard to accept, because preparing myself well means having to choose to give up other things.
When I think about the importance of preparation, great artists like Van Gogh or Pasolini come to mind: it was an attentiveness to the tradition that preceded them that made their work powerful, not a pretense of starting from scratch. I explain this idea often to the kids that I work with, especially those at the artistic high school where I teach: “What does it mean that something is original? How do you know that a pair of jeans original?” And they all respond, “When it has a certain brand!” From there, I continue, “Something is original when we know with certainty that it belongs to another. It’s the same for us. In what we do, in our work, we can be original only to the extent that we accept to discover what has been given to us.”
Three years ago, when I had to begin to prepare my religion courses, I found myself needing to choose a curriculum. There are thousands of textbooks for religion classes (practically every religion teacher in Italy has written one!) and therefore, thousands of different possibilities. At the beginning, I was in contact with various representatives from publishing houses and these representatives had given me around thirty books. I still remember how that afternoon went: I neatly laid out all the books on my desk, and the more I looked through them, the more I was unable to decide where to begin. Thirty books are a lot, each one with its’ own index, its’ own particular take, its’ multimedia content, etc. I decided then to change my perspective: instead of choosing the books myself, I would try to let the books choose me. To tell the truth, not all of the books were equally worthwhile. With some I had already become familiar. I made up my mind at that point to put all of them aside, except for the ones that came closest to Christianity as it had been taught to me.
I chose the text to lead off with, which became my guide for each individual lesson. I would read the chapter attentively, and then evaluate what I had read in light of my own experience. Doing this work of evaluation, many questions arose in me, as well as the need to go deeper into certain things. At the end of this process, I would choose a question to ask to my students, as well as the response to offer them. Preparing the response is very important. It’s not enough just to provoke questions during class; I also have to have a clear response to propose.
I’ll give an example. A few weeks ago in class, I proposed the theme of the terrorist attacks in Paris. I began with a question: “Why do the attacks in Paris seem to us inhuman?” A girl responded, “Because life is sacred.” “And what makes life sacred?” After a couple of other responses, another girl chimed in, “Because it is a gift.” “Do you believe in God?” I asked her. She responded, “No…well, maybe, I do…I’m not sure.” “If you were to open your backpack right now and were to find a package with a great golden bow on it, what would be the first thing to come to mind?” “That somebody put it there?” “Exactly. Every gift presupposes a giver. It’s the same with life. If it really is a gift, as you said, then there must be someone who gives it.” And the girl asked again, “Who is it?” “I think I have an idea. We’ll see about it next time we meet.”
Nell’immagine, don Luca Speziale con un gruppo di ragazzi delle scuole medie.
luca speziale

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