Previously, we had been going over the lessons as outlined, and I would review with him to make sure he understood the material (the purpose and methods of prayer, the holy days of obligation…etc). But this past week, we were going over the chapter covering the significance of the Cross. I was trying to help him see the value of our trials and little sufferings as a way to be open to grace. And I suddenly realized that I did not want to approach our religion classes as classes. It dawned on me that I did not want my son to simply “learn” the material. I wanted him to embrace the material! It was so clear in that moment how very much faith is a gift. It cannot be learned. It must be nurtured!
Now that we live in a so-called “safer” neighborhood, the kids at his school are not lacking in material goods. In fact, there is a dangerous sense of entitlement that I worry about. I could sense that the value of little sufferings and sacrifices would not make much sense in this new environment. I knew then that I must beg our Blessed Mother to take care of her son, my son, and I silently begged her to lead him to her Son. I stopped the lesson and simply faith-shared. I stopped and asked my son to share his thoughts. I saw in that moment that for my son’s personality, he needed to experience God’s love in order for this to make any sense. All of his peers live so comfortably that I could see a danger in not recognizing one’s need for God. I recalled how as a child and teenager and college student, I followed Church teaching out of duty and a sense of responsibility. God later showed me that faith is a love relationship. I do not want to lead my son (and other children) down that same road of rule-following (frankly, my children are very strong-willed and are not wired that way anyway!). I sensed that my son would first need to see God as Love in order for him to relate to any of this material. So I led us in prayer, asking that Mary help him fall in love with her so as to fall in love with God and His will. The details of our faith are secondary and would hopefully be a natural love response to our experience of God’s loving touch (ie. Instead of just learning which days are holy days of obligation and that he needed to go to Mass, I would hope that he look at these days with a desire to go to Mass to celebrate these significant Feasts and core of our faith! Yes, I have high hopes for a sixth-grader!).
 “The easiest and surest way to arrive at falling in love with God is to fall in love with Mary first. When you fall in love with Her, you will want to disappear and to die to yourself like She did. You will desire that the false image of your ego in your heart be replaced by God’s image. Likewise, you will then desire to be incapable of your own action, and instead you will desire to fulfill God’s will, just as Mary did.” S.C. Biela, Behold, I Stand at the Door and Knock (Fort Collins, CO: IAMF 2005), 63.