It began with a telephone call from my pastor.
“You always say you love teenagers, right?” he plunged in immediately. “I have a proposal for you.”
I couldn’t imagine what he had in mind.
He told me about twin teenagers, a boy and a girl, whose father had contacted him. The teens had been baptized in a Christian denomination but had never attended church or learned about the faith. Over time, the boy developed a deep yearning for God, and he begged his parents to take him to church. With his sister in tow, they visited a series of Christian churches.
Eventually, they visited a Catholic church. As they stepped out into the bright sunlight after Mass, the boy declared, “This is where I want to be. I want to be Catholic.” His sister decided to join him.
They began attending Mass each week. Increasingly, they expressed a desire for the Eucharist.
The family contacted our pastor, who contacted me to ask if I would privately teach the teens about the faith. I was delighted. The goal was to prepare them to receive the sacraments of reconciliation and Eucharist, after which they could join their classmates for confirmation.
And so it was that one Saturday morning, Eric and Julie arrived at my house.
The first thing I learned was that Julie was always hungry. I mean always hungry. I scrambled to pull together a snack for the teens, then spent a few minutes getting to know them. I was impressed by their genuine yearning for God. I was also impressed by their parents’ support.
As we began instruction in my kitchen, I told Eric and Julie that their only homework was to come to class each week with at least two questions. Then I launched into some of the basics of our Catholic faith. The teens were enthusiastic, but I noticed that they had difficulty framing questions. Some of their early questions included “Why do we make that cross sign?” “What is the purpose of holy water?” and “What does the guy in black do?” My favorite question was, “Why do people bob up and down funny before climbing into those bench thingies?” What Eric wanted to know was, why do people genuflect before climbing into the pew? He did not have the vocabulary to ask his question.
His query jolted me into the realization that these teens needed some hands-on theology, so the following week we took a field trip to the church. I wanted them to view the church as their home.
We checked out the windows, the Stations of the Cross and the reconciliation rooms. I turned on the sound system and let them read at the ambo. We climbed the stairs to the choir loft so they could enjoy the spectacular view of the church from above.
We wandered around the sacristy, fingered the colored vestments (which they called ponchos until I taught them the word chasuble), and entered the walk-in safe with the cool interior release latch. Most importantly, I showed them the tabernacle and explained Jesus’ presence there.
The visit energized the twins. In the ensuing weeks, we dove into the Scriptures. We studied the sacraments, the saints and the role of the pope. They were like sponges, and as their desire to know God continued to deepen, they yearned all the more for the Eucharist. Their excitement was palpable.
On a Saturday afternoon some months later, I sat with the parents as their children had their first confession.
The next morning at Sunday Mass, Eric and Julie received their first Communion. They did not wish to have it announced or highlighted in any way, so only the priest, the family and I knew what was occurring. I watched with a heart full of joy, and as they approached the priest for Communion, I began to openly weep. It was such a delight to see two young souls seeking God, and finding God.
It is my prayer that their young faith will continue to deepen, burst open and spread to all in their midst.
Regina Cram lives in Glastonbury and is a freelance writer. She is the author of Do Bad Guys Wear Socks? Living the G