Catholic at Home: Help us to learn Jesus

Catholic at Home

Jennifer Antkowiak

There was a time in my house where back-to-school prep meant crayons, glue sticks, and uniforms.  Now it’s laptops, mini-refrigerators, and dorm decorations.

This year, I find myself trying to wrap my head around the reality that two of our five kids have graduated from college, two are in college, and my 6’1” “baby” is a senior in high school.

No matter how old they get (and I get), part of me always looks forward to this time of year as a season of learning. There are many famous quotes about how when we stop learning, we “stop progressing,” or “stop growing,” or “start dying.”  That’s scary stuff.

Still, I know that not everyone has a love of learning. Some have closed themselves off from learning. Why might that be?

Maybe we hesitate because we feel too tired to learn anything new.  Maybe we think we’re too busy to devote the time needed.  Maybe we just don’t know how to start.

Learning is critical to developing into our full potential. We need to learn to be able to maximize all the gifts and talents God has given us.  It opens us up to new ideas and helps us to take advantage of greater opportunities.

In Bishop Zubik’s Prayer for On Mission for The Church Alive! He asks our Heavenly Father to “Help us to learn Jesus, to love Jesus and to live Jesus.”

Imagine if we approached learning about our faith in a way that recaptured the eagerness for learning that we had in preschool. Remember that place and time where our minds and hearts were eager and open, and every day was an adventure?

One of my sisters is an elementary school teacher, and I am always amazed at her efforts to make learning fun for her students.

For each lesson, she builds activities that allow for interaction and engagement. If we did the same, one activity to “learn Jesus” could be spending time in Church.  Everything there is designed to engage our senses and draw us closer to Him: the scent of candles and incense, the sight of the stained-glass windows and religious articles, the sound of people praying and singing, the feel of the pews and the holy space, and the taste of the Host.

My sister allows time for her students to practice what they learn.  We can reinforce what we learn about Jesus by trying to emulate Him in our daily lives.  How would He deal with difficult people or situations? Taking action on what we learn makes it relevant and brings it to life.

She introduces real life examples of what she teaches.  As we learn about Jesus, we could spend some time talking with a member of the clergy.  Those who have formally studied theology and have devoted their lives to Jesus can teach us so much.  Many enjoy the role of spiritual advisor. They feel rewarded when they help someone find their way to a closer relationship with Jesus and greater understanding of the teachings of His Church.  If world events have you frustrated and confused about how to think, seek out a member of the clergy for spiritual guidance.

Like the youngest children in faith formation programs, we should also embrace these basics:

God made everything.

Jesus is our friend and teacher.

Jesus loves us.

Jesus loves us even when we make mistakes.

We need to say that we are sorry for our mistakes.

We should thank God for everything we have.

Our families are part of God’s family.

We should be kind to everyone because we all belong to the same family.

Let’s pray that we may learn Jesus with child-like wonder.

Let’s pray that we may teach others about Him through our own behaviors. 

Let’s pray for our teachers as we begin another school year, so that they may have the strength they need to remain passionate about making learning fun.

Every time we pray, or make a sacrifice that benefits someone else, or show compassion for others, we are putting into action how we’ve “learned Jesus.”