God created the world. The world is good. The world belongs to God. These are some of the concise, Catholic catechism lessons I teach in third-grade, homeschool religion class. It is good, basic stuff that my third-grade son picked up on easily this year. Easily, that is, until we read in Matthew 4:1-11 that "Jesus was led into the desert by the Spirit, to be tempted by the devil… the devil took Him to a very high mountain and showed Him all the kingdoms of the world and the glory of them. And he said to Him, 'All these things will I give You, if You will fall down and worship me.'"
When my son read this he was puzzled and asked, "How could the devil have offered all those kingdoms to Jesus? I thought you said the world belonged to God?"
"Well, yes, I did," I slowly replied, suddenly feeling like I was in over my head. Mine was a predicament that all parents have found themselves in at one time or another; stumped by their child's question about the Christian faith. It is the predicament that underscores the premise of all eight previous columns in this series on Catholic education. As I said in the introduction, we, as Catholic parents, are primarily responsible for giving our children an education that includes the essential ingredients of Catholic teaching no matter where they learn their ABC's and 123's. We are the ones they will naturally turn to first when questions of the Faith pop into their developing little brains.
The first thing we need to know is that it is okay to say that we do not know the answer to a question, but that we will look for the answer for or with our child. The second thing we need to know is where to find the answer. Parish priests, religious persons, retreats, and parish missions are all great people and places from which to seek answers to our questions. A Bible and a copy of The Catechism of the Catholic Church are two, must-have books for every Catholic household, and there are other helpful media as well:
Internet savvy folks have a wealth of Catholic resources at their fingertips. Check out the CE Library link in the CE Community section of the front page of this website, or just click here. The offline resources below may also be helpful.
For bookworms and study groups:
Catholicism for Dummies by Fr. John Trigilio and Fr. Kenneth Brighenti.
Fundamentals of Catholics Dogma by Ludwig Ott.
Catholic and Christian and accompanying study guide by Alan Schreck.
For newspaper hounds:
The Anchor, weekly newspaper of the diocese of Fall River, MA, or your own diocesan newspaper.
Our Sunday Visitor, a national, weekly newspaper.
National Catholic Register, a national, weekly newspaper.
For the sake of truthfulness, the answers to our children's questions often deserve a little research on our part. After consulting the Bible and The Catechism, I answered my son's question about the ownership of the world in this way: "Let's say you create a really cool LegoTM car, and you love it. Then one of your sisters takes it and says to another person, 'Isn't this a neat car? I'll give it to you, if you'll be my friend.' Well, to this person, the car probably appears to be your sister's. But her holding it doesn't really make it hers, now, does it? No, it does not. Likewise, the world belongs to God, but the devil was acting as if it were his when he offered it to Jesus. Someone watching the creation of the world or of your Lego car from the very beginning would know who the rightful owners were, wouldn't they? This is one of the reasons God has given us the Bible, that we might know the whole creation story and not be deceived how things appear to be at any one point in time."
To my surprise my son started tearing up and asked, "Okay, Mom, but what if the devil breaks the world? Because sometimes when people take your things, they break them, and then you can't ever have them back."
"True," I hastened to reassure him, "but brokenness is not a problem for God. In the very last book of the Bible God promises that He is going to return to reclaim His world, and when He does, He is going to make the world completely new again, no matter how broken it is. So, here's my question for you: Will God be able to make all broken Lego creations new again, too?" A spreading smile and a slight nod were all I needed to know that my son understood. Question answered. Lesson learned. Class dismissed.