I teach the First Communion class at my parish in a large room in the basement of the church. For safety reasons, I ask the parents to come downstairs after class and pick up their child. I tell the kids that if they don’t see their parent, they have to stay with me and we’ll go upstairs together and wait. Simple rules. Easy to follow.
One recent Saturday morning after seeing who was left after dismissal, I rounded up the handful of kids and proceeded up the stairs. As the last of the parents arrived, I deposited their children into their care, all the while exchanging small talk. It suddenly occurred to me that I lost track of one of the girls and I was certain that she hadn’t been picked up yet.
My mind started racing trying to re-trace our steps. She wasn’t back in the classroom. She didn’t go to the washroom; it was empty. In the church hall was the Confirmation class so she definitely wasn’t in there. She wasn’t outside in the cold. I peeked through the glass doors leading into the church and saw only a couple of adults praying in dimly lit silence. I went in anyway; there was nowhere else to look. As I slowly went up the main aisle, looking to the left and to the right, up ahead I caught sight of what may have been part of a pink, flowered knapsack. And was that a bit of fur-trimmed hood hanging over the edge of the pew? I walked up and breathed a sigh of relief. There she was in the pew, curled up in the fetal position and snuggled under her warm winter coat.
Bending down towards her, I quietly asked, “What are you doing?”
“I was just praying,” came the confident and somewhat puzzled answer.
“I’ve been looking everywhere for you,” I sighed.
“You have? But I just wanted to pray.”
We gathered up her things just in time for her mother to arrive. As I drove home, I remembered that something very similar happened 2,000 years ago when a 12-year old boy frustrated his worried parents.
“Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?” was his confident reply when they finally found him.
My beautiful little student came to class that morning to learn about the Faith, but she ended up teaching me a valuable lesson: the innocence and confidence of a little child who just wanted to pray. Would that we all had her child-like faith.