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Leader's Guide for Coyote Meets Jesus

Stories are not just for young children. Everyone loves a good story and good storytelling is a useful tool for teaching. Using folktales as a teaching tool in a catechetical setting or a religion class can help teens understand the Scriptures and their faith in an engaging manner. Beginning a session with a folktale and then comparing and contrasting the themes in the story with those found in Jesus' teachings in the Scriptures can lead young people to a deeper understanding of the Gospel message and how it relates to their life. This online guide provides additional suggestions for using Coyote Meets Jesus in catechetical settings.

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Things to Keep in Mind

The following are some things to keep in mind when comparing folktales to Scripture and in using them as a teaching tool with young people:

  • Although the folktales and the Scripture passages may have some common themes, make sure students understand that folktales are stories that communicate the traditions and beliefs of a specific people and culture whereas the sacred stories of Scripture also communicate God's message to his people.
  • Because these folktales and stories from Scripture were told to people of a different time and culture, it would be helpful to talk with your students about the various cultural traditions and practices that are mentioned in the folktales or Scripture passage, e.g., explaining what a sari is, or the meaning of the word "prodigal." This may require doing a little research before diving into the session.
  • It isn't necessary to be an actor in order to tell the story well but the storyteller should use inflection in their voice and be a little dramatic when telling the stories.
  • Folktales have universal appeal and your students may have heard these same stories told in a slightly different way or attributed to a different culture. Remind your students that folktales have been told orally from generation to generation and that they have often crossed cultural boundaries. Help them to see that even the Gospels began as oral stories of the life of Jesus and that the stories vary according to the different perspectives of the author and the audience the author was addressing.

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Ideas for Using Folktales

The following are some ways Coyote Meets Jesus can be used in the classroom or when ministering to young people:

  • The stories can be used to introduce or as an extension of a lesson in a text book
  • The stories could be used to open or close a retreat or prayer experience
  • While exploring certain topics, such as solidarity or cultural diversity, use the stories to reinforce a theme or deepen understanding
  • Stories with themes related to Catholic social teaching could be used in conjunction with units on peace and justice
  • Stories with themes on compassion, hospitality, and acceptance could be used in preparation for or following a service project

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Chapter Activities

A Dream, a Journey, and a Treasure (England) Matthew 25:14-30
This is a great retreat story. Tell the folktale at the beginning of the retreat and then tell it again at the end. Ask the young people how the story is like a retreat. Read the section on Jesus' story. Conclude by asking the participants: What treasure is waiting for them at home? How has the retreat helped them to see it more clearly?

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Coyote and the Monster (Native American) Matthew 14:13-21
Assign each participant an animal before the story is told. Groups are formed by animal and each group has to decide on a sound that corresponds with their animal (e.g., Coyote=howl). Tell the participants that they have to make the sound of their animal each time it is mentioned. While telling the folktale, pause after each animal is mentioned to allow the sound to be made and not loose the storyline. After the folktale is told ask the small groups to reflect on their character's role and its relationship to Coyote. They can either talk about it in their small groups or in the large group. If no one makes the "compassion connection" between Coyote and his friends, you, as the facilitator, should point this out. Next, have each group draw an outline of their animal on butcher paper (you may need to provide templates). Then read the Scripture and ask the small groups to write words and/or draw pictures inside of their animal that symbolize the ways Jesus was compassionate. When all the groups are finished, hang the posters on a wall and allow the groups to view each others' work.

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The Brothers' Fortune (Korea) Luke 15:11-32
Gourd Art is a popular craft and there are many books on how to do it. Many craft stores sell ready to decorate gourds that can be painted, carved, embossed, or otherwise decorated. However, if you are not able to find gourds to decorate, you can use a cut-out of a gourd on card stock. Also have available paints, markers, and other items that can be used to decorate the gourds.

First read or tell the folktale. Then have one of the students read the parable of the prodigal son. Ask students to list similarities and differences between the brothers in both stories. Discuss the images and qualities of God that are portrayed in the Scripture passage (e.g. love, forgiveness, generosity, and so on) and that the students see demonstrated in the folktale. Ask the young people to decorate their gourd with symbols that represent their image of God.

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How Daya Got Her Sari (India) Matthew 7:7-12
As an icebreaker, before telling the folktale, have the young people build a domino chain and then knock down one of the dominos and talk about the effect it has on the rest of the dominos. After telling the folktale, invite the young people to talk about the chain of events in the story. Next read the Scripture passage. Have the group name some of the decisions that young people face in their lives and list both the positive and negative chain of events that could result depending on the decision the person made. Allow each person to take one of the dominos home as a reminder of the chain of events a decision creates. If possible, write Matthew 7:12 on the back of each domino so each person remembers the connection.

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Zeki Safir and His Hungry Robe (Middle East) Luke 14:7-24
After telling the folktale, have the young people break into small groups and read the Scripture verse. Give each group an old coat or have the groups make wearable clothing out of newspaper. Tell each group to decorate their coat with the supplies that you have given them (markers, buttons, construction paper, old newspapers, glue, tape, pins, etc.) so that their coat is a symbol of the hospitality, acceptance, and unity that Jesus calls us to. Have a "fashion show" and ask each group to explain what they have put on their coats and why.

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The Happy Croatian (Croatia) Matthew 19:16-26
Create a PowerPoint presentation or slide show of people in various types of dress and situations (a homeless person, a farmer, a well-dressed business person, movie stars dressed for the awards, children playing, the elderly, and so on). Show each of the pictures to the students and ask them whether or not they think the person (or people) in the photo is happy or not, and why. Ask the students to define happiness and then tell the folktale. After telling the story and reading the Scripture passage, ask them to compare their idea of happiness with the happiness of the street sweeper in the folktale and Jesus' idea of happiness. Be sure to point out that:

  1. God's commandments are ultimately meant to help us be happy, holy, and whole.
  2. Happiness is not dependant upon the material things we have but upon the good that we do with what we have. Jesus is not necessarily calling us to sell everything but he does want us to examine what we really need, what is distracting us from happiness, and how we are sharing with the less fortunate.
  3. Jesus always allows us to choose weather or not we want to follow his teachings. If we respond to Jesus in faith, however, he promises us eternal life.

End with the slide show put to upbeat music that speaks of Jesus' message.

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Pulling the Lion's Whisker (East Africa) 1 Corinthians, Chapter 13
Introduce the folk tale with an activity that first asks the young people to name the important people in their life. Then ask them what risks they are willing to take for that person? Swim across a river? Walk a tightrope strung between two skyscrapers? Pull a lion's whiskers? After telling the story, ask the youth why the woman was willing to pull the lion's whiskers. Then read the Scripture passage and invite the youth to discuss what the passage says about love, their relationships with others and with God, and how the qualities listed in 1 Corinthians 13 are needed in relationships.

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Whose Gift? (Jewish) Luke 22:1-23
Use this story during Holy Week. Before reading the story show different objects like a beautiful rug, a pretty mirror, gold objects, a game-boy or iPod, and a pomegranate. Ask which gift is best and why. Let them "vote" for the best gift. Read the story and the Scripture passage and ask students how the pomegranate is like Jesus. You may have to help them see the connection between breaking open the pomegranate and Jesus being broken open on the cross-point to the events of Holy Week that illustrate Jesus' sacrifice. After the discussion, show the group the pomegranate again and ask them if they NOW think it is a good gift. Ask them to identify a present day offering or gift that could be used to symbolize Jesus' gift of himself on the cross. End by giving each person a pomegranate, if they are available, and invite them to enjoy the gift during Holy Week as a reminder of Jesus' sacrifice.

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Amor Como Sal (Mexico) John 18:15-27; 21:15-19
Lead the participants in a game that is impossible to win (such as, a puzzle without all the pieces). Let the youth get a little frustrated and observe their failing. Tell the folktale and then read the Scripture passage. Ask the youth to list the similarities that they see between the story and the Scripture passage (i.e., forgiveness, love, and so on). Lead a discussion on God's love for us, pointing out that God not only loves us enough to forgive us when we fail but also calls us to demonstrate our love for God by forgiving others. Close by playing the same game that you opened the session with but this time include all the pieces.

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Additional Resources

Abrahams, Roger D., ed. African Folktales. New York: Pantheon, 1983.
Bierhorst, John, ed. Latin American Folktales: Stories from Hispanic and Indian Traditions. New York: Pantheon, 2002.
Yolen, Jane, ed. Favorite Folktales from Around the World. New York: Pantheon, 1986.
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Acknowledgments

Copyright © 2009 Saint Mary's Press. Permission is granted for this article to be freely used for classroom or campus ministry purposes; however, it may not be republished in any form without the explicit permission of Saint Mary's Press. For more resources to support your ministry, call 800-533-8095 or visit our Web site at www.smp.org.

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