As with previous Popes, Francis teaches. It’s his job so to speak. As parents, we also are called to be the first and primary teachers, the “first heralds” of the faith to our children. We can learn a great deal about fulfilling that role by watching him do his job. In order to help us remember that teaching is more than just delivering content, we developed an acronym for the word TEACH that reflects what we’ve learned from Pope Francis regarding teaching:
T – Tell. All teaching should use words. St. Paul puts it this way, “faith comes from what is heard” (Romans 10:17). We need to take the time to tell our children what we believe. We have to deliver the content of the faith. For example, from the earliest age, we should tell our children both outside of and during Mass (of course, in a whisper) that the Host that Father is holding up after the consecration is Jesus. At three years old, we don’t have to get into the definition of a Sacrament or the biblical proof of Christ’s presence, we just need to tell them simply, “that is Jesus”.
E – Every. Every is meant to remind us that we should always be looking for teachable moments. In Deuteronomy, Moses says that parents should diligently teach our children when walking or sitting, when you lie down or when you rise (cf. Deuteronomy 6:6 -7). In other words, teaching should be done everywhere, every time. So, next time you pass a Catholic Church, say a prayer and cross yourself, explaining to the children why. Next time, you’re stuck in traffic because of a wreck, say a prayer with your children for the people in the accident and their families. Teachable moments abound. They’re everywhere. Just be looking for them and then use them.
A – Actions. As parents, we must strive to act in ways that are consistent with what we’re telling our children we believe. In a sense, we’re called to be signs to our children of the truth we possess and profess. Pope Francis, from the day of his election, has been telling us to care for the poor and the needy, the less fortunate and the marginalized. If you watch, his actions absolutely convey this teaching. He washes the feet of incarcerated teen agers in prison. He stops to embrace a disabled child and to speak with his parent. These small actions give flesh to the concept. They make the concept incarnate. We, too, should do this for our children. If we’re talking about Christ’s presence in the Eucharist, go to adoration with them or simply and piously genuflect before you enter the pew. These actions make a difference.
C – Call. As parents, we should call our children to live what they believe. If there is a child in the neighborhood who gets teased, encourage them to reach out to that child lovingly. As they get older, encourage them to look for ways to serve. Our daughter volunteers as a “mentor” for a 3rd grader at a local elementary school. Call them to help separate gifts and wrap them at the local parish as the parish prepares to deliver presents to the less fortunate. Call them. Include them from as early an age as is prudent and possible.
H – Help. We must be willing to help our children live out the call. For example, our high school daughter is not able to drive yet. In order to be a mentor, we have to drive her to the school. We have to help her. When, as a mentor, her phone was stolen out of her back pack and ultimately deposited in the toilet by a first grade boy while she was talking with her 3rd grader, we had to help her walk through how to handle the first grade boy. We helped her by pointing out his less fortunate background and the fear he must have felt when he realized he was caught. According to the teacher who witnessed her meeting with the “perpetrator”, our daughter was gentle and forgiving while also offering instruction to the child. She handled it gracefully, and she handled it by herself. We merely helped.
Hopefully, by keeping this acronym before us as well as by watching the Holy Father in action, we will continue to embrace our role and responsibility as teachers of our children. If you’d like to hear more about this acronym, you can go to the Relevant Radio Archives for Morning Air with Sean Herriot and listen as Trey has a conversation with Sean. It occurred during the 6:30 am slot today, December 5, 2013.