Learning about relationships from the best of teachers

| Deacon Gordon Bird | August 21, 2019 | 0 Comments

Essential to any thriving business, team, organization or organism worth its salt is that they provide opportunities for continuous learning, development and growth. This also applies to the family.

As the new school year approaches, faithful parents are asking that their prayers “be counted as incense” as with the psalmist they lift their hands in petition to God (Ps 141:2). Appealing for the growth, development, health and safeguarding of their children is top of mind. No matter what the age of their girls and boys — preschool on up through college — pleas resound annually from the first teachers of these students.

The first and the greatest teachers indeed! In the final blessing and dismissal of the rite of baptism for children, parents are not only blessed as “the first teachers of their child in the way of faith.” The onus of the blessing compels that they “may be the best of teachers, bearing witness to the faith by what they say and do, in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Responsibility and accountability are in tall order here, yet the good news is that parents will have their children’s early years and then some to press, test and improve their teaching skills. And the family of God helps keep watch at the breach.

Parents come to know that occasioning the time and skills of dependable and reliable godparents, grandparents, neighbors, friends and relatives to help nurture the development of their children is certainly fair game. Plus, it can be a beneficial tactic in teaching them about the value of relationships. As technology competes to displace personal engagement, it is difficult to build relationships unless a couple of things are happening: Communication that cuts both ways and the presence of a real person.

I recall the words of a savvy learning and development leader of a company for which I worked, who early on in my career once told me that effective communication requires listening skills. OK sure, I thought. Yet, he wasn’t finished. And, he said, “listening is not simply waiting for your turn to speak.” Being attentive to the other not only shows that you care; it carries the benefit of learning more than you knew before — through building relationships.

Certainly, there are eucharistic connotations and opportunities in much of life’s learning if we allow for it. In the sacraments of initiation — baptism, confirmation and the Eucharist — God shares his holiness with us so that we, in turn, can make the world holier. Hence, the importance early on in life of experiencing the true, real and substantial presence of Jesus at the Mass, where children can learn that he is spiritual nourishment. Jesus speaks to us, teaches us and sanctifies us in the Liturgy of the Word and the Liturgy of the Eucharist. In word and sacrament we are strengthened in holiness — in and outside of Mass.

Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI explains the value of eucharistic devotion outside of Mass: “Indeed, only in adoration can a profound and genuine reception mature. And it is precisely this personal encounter with the Lord that then strengthens the social mission contained in the Eucharist, which seeks to break down not only the walls that separate the Lord and ourselves, but also and especially the walls that separate us from one another.”

Those words might not be the first teaching iteration to use on a child to explain adoration. Simply taking them to adore the Blessed Sacrament early in life — post-first Communion — may be efficacious for the young to learn to listen patiently in the real presence of Jesus. Adoration can be a prayerful, insightful way to have a conversation with the person of Jesus Christ, which may indeed strengthen them in their “social mission.”

Our behaviors are our beliefs in action. The way we behave in speech and action will likely gain more attention and retention of everyone with whom we have a relationship, especially the young.

The Woodstock era was not exactly a stellar decade of example. But many expressed a strong belief in the ‘60s that we should love one another unconditionally and live in peace. The burning question was how to do that, and one answer was expressed in the line of a song performed by Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young, “teach your children well.”

God’s pure act of love is his only Son, given to us to save us. Jesus is the master of relationships — as we stand or as we fall. He is the best of teachers.

Deacon Bird ministers at St. Joseph in Rosemount, All Saints in Lakeville, and assists the Catholic Watchmen movement of the archdiocese’s Office of Evangelization. Reach him at gordonbird@rocketmail.com. Learn about the archdiocese’s Catholic Watchmen initiative at thecatholicwatchmen.com

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Category: Catholic Watchmen