Teaching children goes beyond the walls of the classroom. In fact, it is most crucial outside of the classroom. Unsplash

Speaking Out: The smallest things can mean a lot

By  Paula Ducepec, Youth Speak News
  • February 12, 2020

I volunteer as a catechist at our parish, so believe me when I tell you that teaching elementary aged children is not the easiest, especially when talking about difficult topics like understanding Church teaching. 

As catechists we help familiarize the children with the Church and its teachings and it is not enough to teach them with just words. We must teach them with words and deeds. 

Children learn by mimicking; this is why we do a lot of follow-the-leader activities in our classes during our formative years. The adults that accompany us set out an example in what and what not to do. 

Our teaching goes beyond the walls of the parish hall. In fact, it is most crucial outside of the classroom. I have seen many an adult who, with all the good intentions in their hearts, have missed setting a good example to the children because they have been doing too much.

If I could illustrate the most common types of catechist activities in the Mass they would be the courtside reporters, the shushers and the effigies. 

The courtside reporters would talk to the children the entirety of Mass explaining what is going on play-by-play while running the risk of turning the children’s attention entirely on them and no longer on what is happening at the altar. The shushers are those who try to settle the kids by constantly shushing them who eventually becomes the loud distraction. Then the effigies are those who have turned to mere statues and do not acknowledge the children at all. They are the ones who would exemplify the proper actions, expecting the children to simply follow suit without the proper explanations.   

It is hard to convey to the children the solemnity of the Mass if we cannot discipline ourselves from becoming the distraction that we are trying to avoid. And we have all, at some point in our catechist careers, been guilty of this. 

There is proper decorum and etiquette observed in every given situation and environment. Proper etiquette is given by authority expecting you to adhere to them because they give reverence to the place and to the people that are part of the institution, while decorum is simply good manners that are expected from every individual, especially during the Mass. 

So very little is asked from us: we stay quiet, we respond appropriately, stand up and sit down when we need, kneel when needed, avoid talking to our neighbours and keep off our phones. Though these guidelines are almost too obvious, it seems that the congregation is finding it too hard to follow. And many individuals turn their heads toward the youth as those who set such atrocious behaviour.

The age-old saying that “actions speak louder than words” is still very relevant. The simple performance of an action or the choice of inaction are statements. 

We sit and stand just as the priest sits and stands because the priest acts as Jesus, and we follow his gestures just as we would Jesus. We stay seated during the homily so that our full attention will be towards the Word of God. We also remain seated as we wait for the eucharistic elements being prepared just as we would for Christ to come. 

We stand during the Penitential Act as we confess our sins to one another as an agreement to the New Testament command. We stand in reverence to Christ our King during the reading of the Gospel, acknowledging the great honour bestowed on us as we hear God’s own words. 

Sitting, standing and kneeling for one hour in the morning is not your weekly workout with Jesus. Every gesture that we do, the smallest things, mean a lot. It’s a sign of who we are, what we believe and what we are trying to protect. Every action is deliberate so let’s not forget to act appropriately.

(Ducepec, 22, is a Bachelor of Science undergraduate student at the University of Toronto studying Anthropology.)

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