Did my kids really understand what it meant to be Catholic? I decided to find out, with a lesson that just might have been a little bit mean.
by Becky Arganbright
One day, out of curiosity, I asked my kids: “What do you say to people when they ask you what religion you are?”
I said, “Yes, you’re Christian, but you’re also Catholic.”
“Oh.” They said. That was it. Just “oh.” Maybe I was being picky, but their casual attitude bugged me. Did they really understand what it meant to be Catholic?
I decided to find out.
Giving my kids the Church’s treasures…
For our next “Sunday School” lesson, I gathered together an assortment of props that I either made or found around the house: a crucifix, a Blessed Mother Statue, a paper Eucharist, a picture of the Pope, a holy card on the saints and a simple piece of paper labeled “Sacraments.”
“All of this represents the treasures of our Catholic faith,” I told them, showing them my little pile of props and symbols.
“We have a Pope, who guides the Church,” I said, and I passed the picture to Max, who looked happy to claim the first “treasure.”
“We have the Sacraments, one of them being Reconciliation, which erases our sin with the Blood of Jesus.” I passed this onto Luke, who happily waved his paper around.
“We have the Blessed Mother, because Jesus gave her to us.” I gave the statue to Lucy and she promptly hugged it.
“We have the friendship and communion of the saints, who pray for us.” I gave the holy card to Max as well.
“We have the beautiful symbols of the church, like statues and crucifixes,” I said. I gave the crucifix to Luke, who gazed at it happily.
“But most of all, we have the Eucharist, who is Jesus Himself.” I gave the paper Eucharist to Lucy, who looked happy to have “the best” of all the treasures.
“Look at all your treasures!” I said to the kids. “And these are only some of the treasures of the Catholic Church—I didn’t have enough paper to make all of them!”
The kids looked impressed indeed, looking with appreciation at the treasures they were holding. I was happy. They looked happy. I knew I was getting through to them. I could have left it at that, but I didn’t.
Instead, I did something very mean.
I took their treasures away.
…and taking them away
“The Church has gold not to hoard, but to scatter abroad.” (St. Ambrose)
“Now let’s pretend that you’re all grown up, and you decide that there are some things about the Church that you don’t agree with. So you decide to leave the Catholic Church and join a new church. There are many churches out there that let you believe whatever you want and it’s okay.”
The kids seemed to be considering this. I could see the “hmmm” working in their brains as they considered the freedom of believing whatever they wanted and living according their own “rules.”
To my dismay, the kids nodded their heads and agreed. “Let’s go to the other churches.” they said.
“Ok,” I said. “But first…” I walked over to Luke who held the crucifix. “I will need the crucifix back. Because although other Christians believe in Jesus, they don’t believe in the need for statues or religious symbols.” And I took the crucifix away.
Then I walked over to Lucy. “And I will need the statue of Mary back. Because even though they agree that she’s the Mother of God, they don’t agree that she is our Mother and that we should pray to her for help. So I’m sorry, but I will need that back too.” And I took the statue away.
I walked to Max and held out my hand. “I will need the Pope back, please. Because he is the head of the Catholic Church, not those other churches.” Max reluctantly gave the picture of the Pope back to me.
I walked back to Luke, who was clinging onto his only treasure left and took it out of his hands. He protested, but I said, “Nope. No one else has the Sacrament of Reconciliation.”
I went back to Max. He knew what was coming and tried to put the saint card away from my reach. “I’m sorry,” I said—and I truly was. “But even though the saints are for everyone, the other religions don’t believe we should use them for help and friendship.” And I pried the saint card out of his hands.
Last, I went to Lucy who was still holding the paper Eucharist. “The very worst part is that you cannot receive the Eucharist anymore. The other religions don’t believe it is truly Jesus. They have grape juice and crackers. But we have God.” And I took the paper Eucharist away and placed it on top of my pile.
When I turned back to my kids, I was surprised and a little sorry to see my kids looking sad—genuinely sad. Lucy’s face showed hurt and her eyes glistened with tears. Luke rubbed his eyes to keep from letting his tears show, and Max looked at me sadly.
We are Catholic, and richly blessed!
“This is what it means to be Catholic,” I told them. “You are Catholic and you get to share the treasures of the Church that Jesus left behind for us to help us in this life. But most of all, you get Jesus Himself in Holy Communion. Other religions don’t have these treasures. If you leave the Catholic Church, you must leave these treasures too.”
Before the tears could spill, I hurried on, “But don’t worry! You are still Catholic, which means you still have all the treasures of the Church!”
And with that, I quickly redistributed the “treasures” back to the kids. Lucy clung to the Blessed Virgin statue, Luke reclaimed the saints and the Sacraments and Max got the Eucharist and the picture of the Pope.
The kids looked at their treasures happily, vowing to “never leave the Church again!”
I had heard from someone who was considering leaving the Catholic Church that the best advice she ever got was “to know what she was leaving.”
I hope and pray that this will never be the case for my kids, but if they should leave, I hope that they at least understand what they’re leaving behind. But for now, they were with me, united together with our Catholic faith.
Suddenly Luke realized that I got their “treasures” mixed up and each kid was holding something different. “Hey!” he protested, “I was supposed to get the crucifix!”
“It’s okay, Luke!” Lucy said. “We’re Catholic! We get to share!”
I smiled to myself, thinking that that was the best treasure of all.