One Sunday, as I was preparing my classroom for the arrival of my second graders, the popular saying “The devil is in the details” came to mind. I seemed to spend an inordinate amount of time preparing for my class and attending to every little detail. I noticed that I began to worry: Is my prayer space too busy? Will the children understand my explanation of the day’s Gospel reading? Will my craft backfire? I began to question whether worrying about all of these little things was all that important. Was my attention to detail “devilish” in the way it made me worry unnecessarily?
I recalled an encounter I had earlier that reminded me that details do matter. I had stopped at a drive-thru restaurant. I handed the money to the cashier. The cashier threw the money into the register without even counting it—I had paid and that was all that mattered. The exact amount of what I owed was just a detail. This recollection made me think about how I approach my ministry as a catechist. I cannot be satisfied with simply presenting Christianity with a broad-stroke brush. I do need to pay attention to the details. The small stuff counts.
After this epiphany, I looked around my classroom with a new pair of eyes. I looked at how all the little touches I add to the classroom—all the little details that require so much time and energy—draw my students closer to an encounter with Christ and our faith. The students gather in the prayer space at the start of every class. There, they experience the power of intercessory prayer. (They can jot down prayer requests and include them in our prayer basket.) The crucifix is placed in the center, reminding us that our Lord should be at the center of our lives. The white felt covering the table recalls our Baptism and the purity of Jesus. Another piece of felt that matches the liturgical calendar provides a quick quiz to see who was paying attention at Mass. The statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary has her place at Jesus’ side. A rosary leads from her statue to the crucifix as a reminder that Mary always leads us to her Son. The picture Bible was there as God’s inspired Word. A small bowl with holy water is always a weekly hit as the children love to have access to it.
The prayer space, in all its detail, inspires great curiosity and interest about what lesson the class would hold for the day. It offers teachable moments about our faith and about our life in Christ without me even saying a word.
These extra efforts—efforts that I sometimes wonder if they are just “busy work”—do matter. For example, when taking attendance, I explain what a saint is, and instead of calling out the students’ names, I say, “Future Saint so-and-so.” I always get a resounding “Here!” This definitely seems to matter as it provides a great opportunity to let them know that it’s our calling to be saints.
By God’s grace, I was filled with hope because I saw that heaven is in the details.