I can remember being a child and dreading Palm Sunday and Good Friday. The story of the Lord’s Passion made me sick, literally. I certainly did not want to exclaim “Crucify Him!” with the crowd. I did not want to have any part of having Jesus die on the cross. Yet, I knew it was necessary. In order to get to Easter, you had to get through the painful stuff first. Jesus on the cross is a central part of Christianity. Yes, the Resurrection matters more. Easter is the crucial event – the fact that Jesus conquered death and opened the doors of heaven for us. But, the cross comes first. Good Friday comes first.
I’ve taught my own children about the Stations of the Cross since they were about 3 or 4 years old. They have known that Jesus died for us, for them. Our Church has a huge crucifix hanging over the altar. We have crucifixes in our home. I always felt that they should know who that man is hanging on the cross, what the crucifixion meant. Without understanding that, they can’t truly understand what it means to be Christian.
This year, I am teaching Pre-K through 1st grade religious education. For the season of Lent, I found some coloring sheets of the Stations of the Cross. We are doing three each week. Over the course of Lent, the children will get the full story. It seemed an appropriate thing to do, a simple way to introduce them to the story of Christ dying for us. Several of the children already knew about the Stations and were excited about having the full set of pictures. Therefore, I was very surprised when a mother of a child in my class informed me she was pulling her child from my class because I was teaching about them. She said that she felt that they were too graphic for young children.
Of course, she has the right to pull her child from my class. A parent always has the right to decide about the education of her child. I told her I was sorry that she felt that way, but I did not apologize for teaching this crucial part of our faith. Nor did I change my lesson plan for this week’s class. I discussed the matter with my religious education coordinator. Thankfully, she backed me up and said that what I was doing entirely appropriate. As she stated, “Easter is not about the Easter bunny!” This is so very true.
The Stations of the Cross are not pretty or comforting. They are not meant to be. They tell a horrible story of suffering, of a cruel, undeserved death. If that was all there was to the story, it certainly wouldn’t be appropriate to share with young children. But it is not the end of the story. Easter is coming! Jesus suffered, died and rose for all of us. That includes young children. They deserve to know the truth.