Had our final religious ed class for the year last night.  The parish sprung for pizzas and sodas, and we played a variation on “Are you smarter than a 5th grader?”  The set-up was this: the kids could ask the two of us teachers any question about the catholic faith that they wanted, so long as they had researched the answer.  Parental assistance was fair game.   I told them I wanted to be absolutely humiliated in my ignorance.

Overall, Miss K. & I fared pretty well.  We couldn’t name all ten plagues (um, it was ten, right*?), and nor correctly perform the Byzantine Rite sign of the cross.   We could drum up a list of the twelve apostles with some effort (Matthew, how could I forget you?  You are my patron!), and with less difficulty list the 10 commandments, but not in order.  But we got through questions about the Seamless Garment philosophy with flying colors, knew when and where the Holy Spirit had shown up in visible form, and yes, we do know what the catholic teaching on birth control is.  Tons of fun.

But, as always with teaching, there was a rather sharp lesson for me.  One of the dads wisely sent in this one: What is the Catholic teaching on salvation?  A brilliant question – here you are at the last night of a school year of instruction, let’s make sure these kids have heard the most important lesson.   (And while we’re at it, find out: Do the teachers even know?  It is a legitimate concern.)

I learned from this question that a) I am long winded and b) I *still* haven’t boiled it down to a bumper-sticker version.   Yes, of course I know what the church teaches.  I know it in too much detail.   I found myself starting with original sin, summarizing the experience of Isreal, passing through the Incarnation, quickly on to Calvary, the creation of a church, the ordinary means of salvation through the sacraments, and then a few notes on baptism of desire and so forth.

I passed the quiz but failed a test of my own.  Because although I know it is important to give kids the details of the faith, there is a time and place for being able to quickly sum up the reality of salvation in a few short words.

Catholic words, though.  Even though catholic theology encompasses the (typical) evangelical protestant teaching on salvation, it contains something more.  And I don’t want my bumper-sticker-version to be misleading.

But evangelical protestants are dead on right: Every time you teach, no matter the subject, it really ought to lead to a brief invitation to conversion and faith.  And if a child comes out of my class knowing only one thing, it should be the answer to the question of “What must I do to be saved?”.

So that is my homework for this summer.  To find my own words for the short version.  I think it is there in the creed.  But I need to get the hang of communicating the creed to my audience in a way they will take it home and make it their own.


*Yes.  I have read the pentateuch. More than once.  But I’ll admit I’m prone to skimming certain sections.  Truth is I get to the plagues and I just kinda think: Okay, disaster after disaster.  I get it.  Never really worried about whether it was gnats or bumblebees or whatever.