“Mom, do you remember when I was afraid of the snake?” Lucy asked me the other day. Boy, do I ever…our first family religion lesson was nearly our last.
by Becky Arganbright
“Mom, do you remember when I used to be afraid of the snake?” Lucy asked me one day out of the blue. She smiled at the memory, remembering the little four-year-old girl who had been crying hysterically over the story of Adam and Eve. I rolled my eyes at the thought of those tough early days, but then smiled too. It seemed like such a long time ago, back when I had nearly given up on doing any religious training with my kids after that Adam and Eve story went horribly wrong.
But then, something wonderful happened that made everything perfectly right.
Catechism lessons gone awry
Back when the kids were little, I didn’t see the need to rush into teaching my kids the catechism. At the ages of six, four, and one, they all seemed too young to understand anything about their Catholic faith. And to be honest, I didn’t feel ready to teach them. A funny little fear kept gnawing away at my insides at the possibility of failure. I was worried that my kids wouldn’t understand what I taught them. I was worried they would be bored to death. Silly reasons to delay, maybe. But fear is funny that way, and it can make even the silliest excuses seem legitimate.
It doesn’t help that I’m not crafty in any way. I had tried to do a craft of the Last Supper out of egg cartons one day and nearly had a meltdown. My kids had deserted me for the swing set as I cried and sweated over hot-gluing a paper Jesus and disciples to an egg carton. They did not see the point of this exercise or make any connection to Jesus. Instead, they wanted to know what happened to the eggs and if Jesus really did have an egg carton for a table.
Without any teaching aides (I couldn’t seem to translate the Catechism into “kid-friendly” terms), crafts or books, I was lost. So other than teaching the kids some prayers and God’s great love for them, that was all I could offer.
Then one day, I overheard my nieces and nephews talking about Noah and his ark. Then they went on talking about other Bible stories: Adam and Eve, Moses. the burning bush. When my kids looked confused about the stories, I realized with a start that I had never once read them a Bible story! I had a children’s bible at home but for whatever reason, never thought of using it. Well, I would remedy that. I made up my mind to start our first Sunday School lesson with the story of Adam and Eve.
“I don’t like snakes! I never have!”
I gathered my small brood around me as we started reading the story of Adam and Eve from the children’s bible. The kids enjoyed looking at the pictures of God making the Earth and all its creatures. I pointed out how He made the Garden of Eden and Adam and Eve to enjoy it. They especially liked the idea of Him making an apple tree, since apples are their favorite fruit.
Then I came to the part of where the Devil, disguised as a sneaky snake, came to tempt Eve to disobey God. I used my best “evil” voice to give a little animation to the story. I saw that the kids were glued to the story and was about to pat myself on the back when Lucy burst into tears.
“No!” she cried, “I don’t want the snake to get me!”
For a moment, I was caught off guard by her outburst. “Why would the snake get you?” I asked.
“Because he’s the devil! If he can get Adam and Eve, he can get any of us!”
I blinked. I had not expected my young children to look this deeply into the story. I had been looking at it from the perspective of the snake being sent away “to slither on his belly” for the rest of time while Adam and Eve got a second chance from God. And now Lucy somehow realized that the devil can and will tempt any of us, slithering away to try to snatch souls from God.
I tried to console Lucy that the snake would not get her. She continued to cry. I assured her that God would protect her. She was not convinced. Didn’t the snake get Adam and Eve to disobey God and be sent away from His lovely garden???
I rubbed my temples. How did I ever get into such a mess?
As Lucy continued on with her hysterics, Max and Luke, who up until now had been looking concerned, began to cry too. “I don’t like snakes!” Max wailed, “I never have! Don’t we have some in the backyard?!”
An inspiration from heaven
I just sat there, shaking my head. So much for our first Sunday School lesson! As I watched my kids continue to cry in fear, begging me to put the bible away, a wave of discouragement came over me.
“You see, God?” I complained inwardly. “This is why I never wanted to bother! I can’t even teach them a simple Bible story!”
Suddenly an image of Our Lady of Grace flashed through my mind. Along with this came the distinct inspiration to show my children this image.
I jumped to my feet. “Stay there!” I ordered them. “Don’t move!”
I didn’t have any pictures, holy cards or statues of the Blessed Mother. I made a mental note that I needed to stock up on those.
I turned on my computer, trying to remember the name of the Lady I had seen so many times. Was it our Lady of Guadalupe? Our Lady of Fatima? Our Lady of Grace? I couldn’t remember and didn’t want to waste time, so I quickly Googled “Our Lady standing on the Snake.”
Multiple pictures of our Lady of Grace popped up. I grabbed the laptop and ran back to where my children were still sobbing.
“Come look,” I coaxed the kids. They hesitantly moved over to the computer, a little fearful of what I would show them now.
“You see?” I said, “The snake can’t get you. The Mother of God is standing on his head.”
The tears stopped. Relief came next. Then giggles. It was rather funny, seeing our Lady standing on the devil’s head.
“Why is she doing that?” Lucy asked.
“Do you really have to ask?” I asked her. “She’s your Mother. And a Mother will do anything to protect her children from evil. Even if she has to stand on his head.”
A lesson still remembered
Now, six years later, I have continued with our Sunday School lessons. As the kids have gotten older, we’ve delved a little deeper into learning about our Faith. I am still a person who prefers simplicity rather than books and crafts, and I’ve found that daily emails from Catechism in a Year is perfect for me. The kids and I have been learning about our Catholic faith together.
Lucy still recalls often that day of our first catechism lesson and we all have a good chuckle over the incident of the snake. However, since that day, Lucy is no longer afraid of the devil. While she understands that he is one to be avoided, and that she must stay in God’s good grace, she also knows that her Mother has her back. As she has so often pointed out to the other kids, “He can’t get us. Our Lady is still standing on his head.”