I used to teach Catechism to a combined 3rd and 4th grade class at our local public school.
I didn’t have a whole lot of confidence. I was confident in my grasp of the Faith, holding postgraduate qualifications in theology – but how do you boil that down and give it to a 9-year-old in a way that he/she will understand and in a way that moves him/her to respond? I am NOT very good at teaching children. I love children – but I’m NOT very good at teaching them.
And lets face it – the degrees are meaningless at the end of the day. Can we share our Faith with others? THAT’S what counts. Can I help any given man, woman or child to encounter Jesus and begin a relationship with Him?
God willing I’ll gradually grow better at this.
Anyway, in this class there were two boys that were ringleaders for trouble. We’ll call one of them Tom, and the other one Harry.
Tom swears that his grandfather was best friends with Bl. Pier-Giorgio Frassati, which told me that he had already had some exposure to someone very devout, such that he understood that knowing a saint in real life is exciting!
Anyway, the class started one day with them all calling me Mrs Myname. I corrected them and explained that I was Miss because I wasn’t married. Harry piped in with the astonishing remark “but you’re so pretty!!”
Well, if that didn’t just melt my heart! Here’s the toughest kid in the class, the one who encourages all sorts of shenanigans that disrupt the class – but he starts the lesson with a compliment!
By now? I was on my guard already. I was NOT going to be distracted from the work we had to do. A compliment is NOT collateral against future mischief.
So I can’t actually remember what the class was SUPPOSED to be on, because it only took a few minutes more and I WAS distracted. The class turned into a general Q & A about all sorts of things to do with the Faith, things that they were generally too afraid to ask an adult because the questions were never taken seriously.
They asked me about Heaven and Hell, about Grace, about Angels, Saints, the devil… stuff that technically didn’t get covered as part of the course (but perhaps SHOULD be covered). One kid was asking me all sorts of strange questions about the nature of God and His attributes:
“Can God expand His size?”
THEN Tom did what I knew he couldn’t resist doing… he asked a silly question for cheap laughs from his classmate.
“Miss Myname, does the devil have a girlfriend?”
Aha. You’re not getting the better of me here, Tom! Nope. Sure you got your laughs… (even *I* had to stifle a giggle!) BUT… you didn’t bargain on getting a serious answer to your question, did ya?
Well… I told Tom to think about when they’re all out in the playground, how they don’t like hanging out with the kids who only talk about themselves, who are “full of themselves” as it were. I said that the devil was just like that – he was totally full of himself and he was such boring, tiresome company that no girl would want to be his girlfriend! We used this as a Segway to talk about pride and humility and how to be humble like Jesus. It was a bizarre little turn to take in the conversation, but it actually opened us up to some really fascinating and worthwhile topics.
This is the favourite memory I have from my time as a Catechist – I remember this lesson and how much I enjoyed answering their questions and seeing them get all fired up and excited about their faith. The more they asked, the deeper their questions got – it was an absolute privilege to witness the growth that happened in that one lesson.
I’m a hopeless teacher. But sometimes the Lord works even through that.