There is an age-old saying that says, “If you want to learn something, teach it.” I was reminded of this fundamental truth when, as a seminarian intern serving at St. Joseph parish in St. Johns, I found myself teaching fifth grade religion in the parish school. Teaching young people is an especially exciting challenge because one never quite knows the questions they may pose – especially in religion class.
I had finished teaching my planned lesson for the day, and so I thought it would be fun to allow the kids in my classroom to ask me questions that they thought were important. One of the students raised her hand and I called on her. With the sort of bluntness that only a fifth grader has, she asked, “Why do we have to have religion class in school?” It’s not often that I am at a loss for words, but given the setting, her honest question stopped me dead in my tracks for a few moments. There are many things that our seminary training prepares us for, but I have to say that I wasn’t expecting to get a question like that on that particular afternoon.
As I engaged her in a bit more discussion, I discovered that the subtext of her question really had more to do with wondering why she had to keep learning about her faith. She was a bright student, consistently at the top of the class in religion, and she wanted to know why she needed to keep learning about a subject that she felt she had mastered.
The truth is that each one of us should be lifelong learners, especially when it comes to learning about our faith. As we grow through the course of our lives, we encounter a vast array of experiences and people that can either be supports or challenges to us. When it comes to times of challenge, especially when we are adults, I think we can be on shaky ground if we are only relying on the concepts of faith as we learned and understood when we were children, or whenever we last attended confirmation class. Just as our lives are dynamic – we constantly grow and change – so too, our faith is meant to be dynamic. Our faith – and the relationship with God which faith helps us to express – is meant to grow and deepen throughout the course of our lives. All of this happens through an ongoing, lifelong mix of prayer, reflection, regular attendance at Mass, study, reception of the sacraments, and the open and honest sharing of our faith that helps to nourish and strengthen our relationship with Jesus Christ and the Church.
The arrival of summer and a more relaxed schedule is a great opportunity to seek out some resources that will help each of us to grow in faith. What a blessing it is that we live in a day and age when a rich diversity of resources is available to us in so many ways, making them easier to access now more than ever.
Wondering where to start? Take a few moments and chat with the parish director of religious education or youth minister. The staff member or volunteer who coordinates the RCIA should be able to make some connections. Perhaps there is a parish coordinator of adult faith formation. A chat with your pastor or parochial vicar could open a world of possibilities. The key is this: don’t be afraid to ask, and don’t be afraid to learn more about your faith. A deeper understanding of faith, a deeper friendship with Jesus and a more intense love for the Church awaits each of us. And so, our journey in FAITH continues.