By what yardstick do we measure the success of teaching the faith to the children with whom we’ve been entrusted? I asked myself this question as I prepared my last two classes of the year. I may be tempted to use an objective measure, such as a minimum percent-correct score on the unit review. I may be tempted to use a more subjective measure, such as gauging how much the children were entertained. I’ve come to the conclusion that there is no simple yardstick—we will never know how successful our efforts are in teaching the faith. Ultimately, this is the work of the Holy Spirit. All we can do is share Christ’s love, the Gospels, and the truths of the Church, and help children see how God is at work in their lives. The more we can do this—and the more we trust in God—the less likely it is that our students will fall away from Jesus Christ and his Church.
This can be both liberating and frustrating. While we can’t measure success, we can observe the fruits of the Holy Spirit that are blossoming in our students, such as:
- the look on a student’s face the moment that he received the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ during First Holy Communion.
- the excitement and tears of parents watching their child walk into the confessional for First Reconciliation.
- the pride on a student’s face when she shares with the class an example of how she was Christ to others.
- the twinkle in a parent’s eye as she volunteers to join our team and teach faith formation.
- the sincerity in prayer of a child who shares prayer intentions with the class for a sick grandparent.
While these observations are not definitive proof, I see these as examples that the seeds of faith are taking root. These roots grow because of God’s grace and not because of anything we did (or failed to do). Are these sure signs of success? No, but when we have the peace that surpasses all understanding, when we do our best with humility and good intention, and when we give God the glory for any teaching success, we can’t help but experience the inner joy of sharing in God’s will and doing his work.