Any lesson that starts with “Crap I forgot the cans… Lucy go find some can’s”… has to be a good lesson, right?
This week we talked about the Stations of the Cross, The Passion of Christ- to 3rd graders. I try really hard to make the lessons not only memorable- but tangible. I know when I learn things the best way to learn them is when I can almost feel the lesson- touch it. I try to bring that into teaching the littles about God and how I know Him. I joke about why I took on teaching Faith to Lucy’s age, that I would be taking a nap anyway, but honestly, I felt a challenge to make knowing God easy for those kids.
I take that job pretty serious.
This season is very important not only in the Catholic Calendar, Easter is a time to reflect on the most painfully beautiful time in the calendar. I guess I love when pain rides right next to beauty, I love how joy lives right next to broken.
I wanted those kids to get it, to feel a little of what Jesus had to feel. Lent is a compilation of sacrifice and celebration, every time you say ‘no’ to a piece of chocolate or wine, you think about Jesus and all of the hardship He carried. The lesson was the most important part of Easter- the Passion. The sacrifice was beyond all of those we give up in Lent. The pain is heavier, the burden bigger and the intensity higher on those hours. I get that… but how do you share this with 3rd graders?
“Crap where are the cans…” I realized I forgot my 14 or 16 cans, I left them at home. I did bring the packets for each child on the Stations. I did make it on time… but I forgot the cans. I sent Lucy on a hunt for some books and she succeeded. We set 2 books on each desk, then we started. I told each kiddo to pick up the books and hold them. I demonstrated. I told them to hold the books while I read and spoke. I started with Passover, ‘The Last Supper’… then brought them through the journey of Jesus.
Judas- betrayed Jesus. Do you know what that means? He handed Jesus over to the ‘police’ and he knew he did wrong. He did that for money and glory, but it ruined his life. Jesus was arrested and taken in front of a crowd who was determined to hate him. He was judged by unfair judges, because they were scared of him and jealous of him. He was condemned to die. “Do you know what condemned means?”… Told to.
They were following along, and complaining. I had to remind those kids to hold those books up (I promise they weren’t heavy)… and listen. We were almost done. Fast forward to the Station that Jesus takes up His cross. I said ‘set down those books’, now imagine your book was a cross. Jesus’ cross was large enough to hold him, and he carried it for a long way. You guys held those books for 6 and ½ minutes, with complaining words and rests. Jesus carried his cross for hours. He begged God to let this not be His job, but He accepted this. Why would Jesus be scared of this journey?
I reminded them that he was beat, he was spit on… he was belittled, and put down. I told them I would NEVER want that for them, but this was Jesus’ journey. He had to carry his cross, his burden to open the gates of heaven. Jesus carried his cross, through heavy streets while people mocked him and tortured him. I wanted them to feel a little of that sacrifice. Their faces were so interested and they followed along. They listened to the end, well beyond the end of Jesus. We talked about how He was nailed to the cross, how that must have hurt. I really loved the point when we talked about the cross next to Jesus, of the criminal. Jesus said there would be a place in heaven for that criminal, just like that He loved him anyway. They died together that day, and they rose right there too. Jesus died, and his mom was right there. I asked them what they thought Mary felt, and it sparked some conversation. They really put themselves in her shoes.
The best questions was ‘Miss Erin what is a burden?’… ‘A burden is something else tacked onto you moment, it could be losing your job, losing a parent, divorce, failing… many things. Has anyone in here felt a burden on their lives, maybe a cross you have to carry?’ Lucy popped her hand up- ‘I have a burden. I lost my sister, and I miss her all the time’.
That is a burden. Softened by the fact that Jesus took his cross up to that hill and carried that for Madeline, for me, for Lucy and for you.
We covered the whole Stations of the Cross, it was a good lesson. I felt like they got it, they listened as their arms got tired. I can imagine Jesus’ arms were so tired, I hope so much that these kids would have been the ones that offered water or love when Jesus walked by with his cross.
I think of the burdens we all have and how we handle our crosses. This morning I read Lola’s Caring bridge… Lola is prepping to head to Heaven. She recently moved from Northern New York to her hometown- Chicago. She is busy enjoying all the food and treats out there… but she is also changing. Lola’s mom wrote about the changes in her day to day to… her progression, her tumor.
Lola’s sense of humor is pretty amazing, her ability to feel her burden and give it up to God is amazing too. Faith can be a hard thing. Lola shows how faith is so amazing… how knowing God can make you present in the last weeks. Lola has burdens bigger than almost all people, her body is breaking down… her brain is not taking care of her body. DIPG is taking her away…
Her cross is big, Madeline’s was too. Lucy’s is now a heavy cross…
Lola offers her burdens and suffering to the souls in Purgatory. 13 years old… and offering her suffering to others waiting to enter heaven. That is pretty amazing. Lola knows where she will go when DIPG steals her last breaths…
If you ever wonder about faith and God, if you question if He is real… if you wonder if there is a heaven- know that Lola and Madeline and so many others are here to show us. They are gifts to show us He is not only real but there after the cross is carried.
I guess Lent is the best time to reflect on burdens, crosses and pain- then on the last day we celebrate. We find eggs, we spend time as a family, we eat and laugh and celebrate. It’s like life… we live, we feel love and pain, we mourn, we celebrate, we eat, we fast, we pray, we beg, we suffer, we die… we carry our cross.
So… what cross do you carry? What burdens are you carrying on your back? What does your Lent look like?…