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Mary and Martha Moment: Why We Teach our Children to Be Like Children

Humility is fast becoming a lost virtue in our society. Who wants to put the mental and emotional effort into downplaying their strengths when the world tells us to speak loudly, be aggressive, and tout our successes as fervently as possible? Humility is seen as a weakness. To be small is to be less.

The Catholic Church, on the other hand, tells us to be little. We are taught to be last, not first. To acknowledge and be grateful for our gifts, use them for the glory of God, yet not take any glory for ourselves. In a Church where God Himself diminished His greatness enough to be our food, rarely is anyone called to make themselves a superstar.

A note:  I received an email from a reader who thanked me for not excluding her because she’s atheist. I’m humbled again by her kind words, and I’m pleased that folks don’t feel excluded here. I’m going to be Catholic and motivated by God, and I’m going to share my faith, but I’m certainly not going to judge anyone for theirs. I’m happy to remind people who don’t share my beliefs that it won’t hurt my feelings if they skip over the Mary and Martha Moments. 🙂

The Little Way

st therese St. Therese of Liseux made her “Little Way” popular by teaching us to do everything for love of God, even the little things like sweeping. Our daily duties can be used by God to change the world if we do them in the right spirit. When Christ said we must be like little children to enter the Kingdom of Heaven, one small slice of that teaching includes letting go of our complexity. Children are simple. They have simple needs, simple joys, and simple pursuits. We would do well as a culture to seek a return to the simplicity and wonder of childhood.

The Little House

As a parent, I’ve found it helpful to my own faith that I have to distill some complex teachings down to what a 2-year-old can understand. I call the Tabernacle Jesus’s “Little House”. Jesus is truly present there. It is where He “lives” in a sense, while He waits for us to come visit Him. I like to narrate what the priest is doing during Mass. “See, he’s taking Jesus back to His Little House…”

This is how I used to describe it to my third graders when I took them into the church to “practice Mass” at the beginning of the school year:

This may look a little like a movie theater or a football game, but when we enter, we have to make sure we’re not treating it like we’re an audience there. We’re in God’s house. When we enter, we tell Him hello. We give Him our attention before we sit down.

Why do we genuflect on one knee? It makes us smaller. We are saying with our bodies, “I am small because You are BIG, Lord.”  We are giving him respect and being humble ourselves.

We make sure we genuflect toward the tabernacle, Jesus’s Little House, not toward our pew or a random spot. It’s important to find Jesus when we’re coming to visit Him and when we’re leaving. We say, “Good morning Jesus, I love you. Teach me today,” and “Good bye Lord, please come with me as I leave. I love you!”

I don’t know how theologically sound that is, but it’s what the Holy Spirit inspired me to say at the time.

The Little Children

When you enter a new church, find the Tabernacle. Greet the Christ. Honor Him by your humble genuflection and acknowledge that not only is He present, but He is the Host of the gathering/household.

Teach this to your children as well. It gives me no greater joy than to whisper to my kids at the consecration:  “Look, there’s Jesus!” I think it’s just lovely that my son knew the word “Tabernacle” when he was three, and that my 18-month-old genuflects when we enter and exit the pew.

Share the little-ness of Jesus in the Eucharist with your little children, and allow their innocence to remind you to be more like a little child, trusting in Him to allow ourselves to become simpler.


Please see the beginning of the Eucharist series if you’ve missed any.

You may also like these Mary and Martha Moments:

Photo source from the St. Therese calendar.

Please also visit Finer Things Friday at Amy’s Finer Things.

Unless otherwise credited, photos are owned by the author or used with a license from Canva or Deposit Photos.
Category: Faith Nuggets

14 thoughts on “Mary and Martha Moment: Why We Teach our Children to Be Like Children”

  1. Let’s remember that “Christ’s church” (not the Catholic Church, the Protestant Church, the Baptist Church, etc.) is not a building made up of structures as the term “God’s house” tends to illustrate, but an assembly of all those who trust in the Lord as his or her Savior while he or she follows His will, forsaking self. Romans 16:5 Greet also the church in their house. Ephesians 1-22:23 And he put all things under his feet and gave him as head over all things to the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all. Research the Greek word ekklesia, defined as “an assembly” or “called-out ones.” Let’s teach our children to read God’s teaching (the bible) for themselves rather than looking at any other book, thing or person for His will.

  2. Wonderful post! My 3 year old actually waves to Jesus and says “Hello, Jesus! I know you’re back there!” every time she genuflects and it makes me think of how awesome it is to see her forming that relationship with him so early. Kids are capable of learning those things at such a young age if we show them how wonderful it is by our example.

    Your blog is so inspiring! ~Maria
    .-= Maria´s last blog ..Looking for something? =-.

    1. Maria,
      LOVE that story! “I know you’re back there” is just precious! Thank you so much for sharing that w/us — Katie

  3. Pingback: Finer Things Friday: I Want Some Snow! | The Finer Things in Life

  4. Amy @ Finer Things

    Great post, Katie. Living in a dual denomination household, I feel like I need to “tread lightly” on some of these issues. I do want to teach my children, though!
    .-= Amy @ Finer Things´s last blog ..Finer Things Friday: I Want Some Snow! =-.

  5. so, um, this protestant had to look up what the Catholic tabernacle was….I guess I have not noticed it in the masses i’ve attended.
    .-= tonya´s last blog ..rcwant2be: Holy wah! RT @seattletimes: The Seahawks just fired coach Jim Mora. Details to come. =-.

    1. Tonya,
      It’s not always obvious in a church, but it used to always be in the middle. That’s the great irony, you see, that the castle for the King is really just an unassuming looking little hut. 😉 Katie

  6. My father, your grandfather — your dad’s father — always lifted or tipped his hat when he drove past our Church. It made quite an impression on me and brings tears to my eyes now when I think of him in that way.

  7. Lenetta, Paula, Sarah,

    Awesome additions to this post! I do try to remember to make the sign of the Cross when I pass a Church. My dad remembers when men would take their hats off passing by…

    🙂 Katie

  8. Not only are atheists welcome but Protestants too! LOL!
    .-= Jimmie´s last blog ..New Year, New Calendar, New Art =-.

  9. I like what you told the kids about genuflecting! A beautiful thought.

    It also reminds me that I haven’t really taught my 3 yr old to find the tabernacle before he genuflects. (So sometimes he’s in any old direction!)

    My mom taught me to say “Jesus, increase my faith” every time I genuflect. I think she told me that prayer is by St. Peter… but I can’t remember for sure. I wonder if any of the other Catholic readers know?

  10. Lenetta, we make the Sign of the Cross whenever we drive by a Catholic Church in our area. At my kids’ school, when they pass in the hall in front of the Chapel, they bow their heads towards the tabernacle.

    Katie, I’m glad you told the kids to genuflect towards the tabernacle and not the pew. Big peeve of mine is watching adults do this.
    .-= Paula´s last blog ..Nourishing New Year Resolutions =-.

  11. Lenetta @ Nettacow

    Big thumbs up, Katie! I love to tell my little one “there’s Jesus!” and in our diocese, they still ring the bells during consecration, at which time I tell her that all the saints and angels and Mary are here. Good stuff!

    Something that I’ve recently been remembering – and wishing to incorporate back into my life – is the way that, in Mexico, whenever someone walks by a church – or even a small shrine – they make the sign of the cross. I’ve also read of people asking for the intercession of the saint for which a church is named as they go by (i.e. “Holy Family, pray for us!”) and really like that idea, too!

    It’s on my “list” to get signed up for stumble so I can do that to awesome posts like this. :>)
    .-= Lenetta @ Nettacow´s last blog ..Settling into the New Year =-.

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