This past Sunday was my first time as lead teacher for Children’s Liturgy of the Word at my parish. I’m pretty sure I’m the first male to volunteer as lead teacher. In my diocese, there must always be two adults in the classroom (or one adult and two teens — according to the diocese, 2 teens = 1 adult).
I felt the calling to join this important ministry, mainly because I am an educator by trade, and what better way to teach children about Christ and His Church than to be involved in CLW.
As I led the children out of the sanctuary and into the classroom, I noticed no adults or teens in our single-file line. I felt uncomfortable enough having to stand up in front of hundreds of parishioners, so there was no way I was going to yell out for help.
When we got to the classroom, there wasn’t one adult waiting, nor were there two teens waiting for me. Rather, two teens and five adults, including one sister (nun), stood against the back wall, all seven sets of eyes staring right at me. My paranoia and anxiety immediately went into overdrive: They think I’m a big, mean pervert, and all seven of them are waiting to pounce on me the moment I make a sudden move. Sister is here so she can strangle me with her thick rosary beads.
It turned out, of course, that I had nothing to worry about. I still wonder why there were so many “chaperones” there on my first day, though. I mean, I know that my gender and size can be intimidating (6’5″/192 cm and 220 pounds/100 kg), but it doesn’t mean I’m dangerous.
I remember reading an account of an African American father who was teaching his young son about growing up in the United States. One thing he said really stuck with me: “Son, when you get older, be sure not to run into an open elevator, especially if there is a lone white woman in it.”
I am digressing a bit, but I can relate to what the father said. While I am Caucasian, I often startle people with my presence — especially when I lived in Japan.
One time I was walking briskly from a train station in a residential part of Tokyo at night. I was trying to find a friend’s apartment. However, a young Japanese lady happened to be about 25 yards (23 meters) in front of me. She took one look back, screamed, and did her best to sprint in her high heels.
I had never been so insulted. Could I blame her, though? Should I have placed myself in her situation? I guess so. But still…
The Children’s Liturgy went well. The children, between 4 and 9 years old, weren’t the least bit afraid of me. I taught them about the parable of the mustard seed from that Sunday’s Gospel reading (Luke 17:5-6):
The apostles said to the Lord, “Increase our faith!” The Lord replied, “If you had faith the size of a mustard seed, you could say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and planted in the sea,’ and it would obey you.”
I probably learned just as much about this passage as the children did. Children’s Liturgy of the Word is great because it’s broken down in a way in which kids can relate. I talked about how faith is a gift from God, and that faith enables us to believe in Jesus and in His Church.
If we start out with just a tiny bit of faith, we can ask God to make our faith grow, and He will do it. Our faith can also grow when we obey our parents and teachers, and when we help others who are in need.
As I led the children back into the sanctuary after the priest’s homily, I stood proudly as I waited for the children to disperse and find their parents in the pews.
I was happy, but mainly I was relieved: not because it was over, but because everyone was assured that I was not a menace to their children.
I’m just a giant teddy bear on steroids.