Yesterday was the last day of religious education classes — my fifth graders and I went out side to play “Baseball Review.” I lobbed questions (gently), one at a time … and if the “batter” got it right, s/he took a base. If s/he gave the wrong answer, the question was given to the “catcher” on the other side. If the catcher got it right, the first player was “out.” If not, the “batter” got another question.
I was amazed to discover what answers they got right — and what questions they missed! After months and months teaching about prayer and the sacraments, they could name the sacraments, and could come up with eight out of ten of the commandments. However, they couldn’t tell me the name of our pope — or name even one of the Joyful or Sorrowful Mysteries. Hmm… more work still to do!
Suddenly I found myself empathizing with the hundreds of religious sisters from decades past, who labored to teach thousands of Catholic schoolboys and girls the mysteries of the faith (and watched helplessly as those students left the Church later in life). The kids could recite the Catechism … but had they caught the Spirit?
It’s an unfortunate reality for parents and catechists alike: Our influence in the lives of the children entrusted to our care is not something we can wholly control ourselves. They may look up to us, and on a good day they may even appear to be listening to us … but what they recall is altogether a different matter.
For good or ill, children are watching us. Learning from from what we say … and especially from who we are. If we do our jobs right, years from now when they are grappling with issues of faith, they will remember our carefully prepared lessons. They will also remember us as men and women of faith who showed them the love of God.
An authentic religious education does not stop with the mind. It perseveres, until it reaches the heart.
Prayer for Catechists as We End the Year
We have run the race, we have finished the course.
We have guided these children, gathered before us.
Our worksheets completed, our workbooks read.
Our rosaries prayed ’til our fingers bled.
And now … It’s all up to you, Holy Spirit.
We release these little souls into your care,
Knowing they are safest there.
Make them good, and pure, and true.
Show them how much they are loved by you!
It is important to teach them about the church, all the sacraments and prayers. However, more important than any prayer they may learn or sacrament they may receive is that they find a relationship with God, personal and intimate. Children find ways to foster this relationship by the relationship they have with others. If you loved those children with the spirit of God’s love then they have learned more than you could ever teach them in their lifetime with books or prayers. Pray that the Holy Spirit work through your ways to show them the love of God.