This is what paradise is made of for the baby.
Oh, he’ll play with the toys a couple of times a day, mostly if you sit down there with him and put the shapes in the box and wheel the truck around and start the music playing and show him just how FUN it all is.
But mostly it’s our stuff he wants.
And you have to think that he’s got a point. If we like it so much – so much that we won’t even share – it must be important, right?
You can interpret the baby’s behavior anyway you like, and I’m sure that child psychologists have countless theories about the matter ranging from the seeds of envy to something Oedipal.
As for me, when I watch the baby turning from his childish things and reaching for the materials of grown-up life, what I see is nothing but the human drive to grow beyond his present into the possibilities of the future.
And how does that work itself out? By watching other people whom you sense are further along that path than you have and doing what they seem to enjoy and think is important. (Except for the dirty socks part)
It’s a good train of thought for September, as we begin our school years and our catechetical programs. What are our children learning about faith through the way we live it? Does our behavior and our grasp of our faith draw them, attract them and coax them? Does it look like something they want to do?
Consider the question on a personal level. Does your faith bring you joy? Or have you made faith a force for division and pressure in your household? Is Sunday morning a happy time, or is it three hours divided into the following segments: one hour of stress and yelling, followed by an hour of obvious boredom, followed by yet another hour of gossiping about the congregation and complaining about the priest.
Well? Is the experience of faith that your children witness something that they’d want for themselves, or is it something they’ll gratefully run from the minute they leave home?
Now turn to our catechetical programs. What do the children see there? Do they hear about an amazing, unique gift of faith called Catholicism? Do they hear about the salvation and joy that Jesus – and no one else – gives?
Or are they accumulating credits for graduation, putting grades on a report card or doing time until they’ve been confirmed?
Is faith being presented to them as something true and irreplaceable by anything that world offers, or is it being taught as one option among many that is really no better or truer than the other?
Does their teacher’s talk about faith entice them to pursue its mysteries as adults, or does it, in the end, seem like nothing worth living, much less dying for?
Finally, what of our parishes and the institutional life of our Church in general? Do our children experience the vibrancy of God’s mercy and love here? Or is it politics, slogans and faux enthusiasm through which the discerning child can see in short order?
Teaching is, in the end, little more than modeling. We all know that. Even when content is the issue, when the matter at hand is the necessity of just learning the chapter or mastering the formulas, we’re more inspired to master it when our teacher is enthused about the material and communicates to us that if we learn this stuff, our lives will be changed – for the better – somehow.
Are children intrigued by the adult faith they see lived out around them? Does it entice and attract them, or is does it just convince them to stay mired in kid stuff – because at least that's fun.
Amy Welborn is a columnist for Our Sunday Visitor and Catholic News Service and a regular contributer to the Living Faith quarterly devotional.