Are You Smarter than a Fifth-Grader?

Archdiocese of Washington: Year of Faith series

Written by:

Dominican Brothers of the Province of St. Joseph

Children love to ask questions.  “Are angels real?”  “Who was Jesus’ daddy?”  “Did Jesus have a doggie?”

I once heard a mother ask her daughter, “Where does God live?”  The little girl immediately reached up with her left arm like she was trying to grab her favorite toy from the top of the refrigerator and pointed straight up to the sky.

Children have great faith.  They are curious about the world, and when you tell them a little bit, they want to know more.

Children also have a great sense of wonder.

I remember the day a fifth grader ran up to me at school, pulled me aside, and wanted to ask me about angels, with a glow in his eye.  We talked for five minutes, but I was on my way that same day to visit an eighth grade classroom.

The response from the eighth graders was very different.  Let’s just say a bit of that childlike wonder had dimmed.  Those eighth graders had already learned how to be tough, and they were surely skeptical.  When I asked how many of them believed in angels, one girl – only one – raised her hand.

Children grow up quickly these days.  Our faith sometimes grows tired and weak as we get older.

We don’t remain children forever.  But, what happens to our faith?  Are we stuck thinking that faith is just a childhood memory?

Have you ever wanted – once again – that same glow you see on a child’s face?

Try this: ask those same questions children ask.

For one year, beginning next week, we’ll help you ask a weekly question.  The questions will be the exact same questions grade-school students are asked in Catechism class.  We’ve taken them directly from the yearly assessments given to second through eighth graders in the Archdiocese of Washington, D.C.

We are calling the series, “Are You Smarter than a Fifth-Grader?”  Let’s see if you can pass the test!

That’s not all.  After you have had a chance to think about the question, we will follow-up with a short, relevant, and hopefully insightful reflection to go along with the answer.

Whether you know it or not, next week begins the Year of Faith, called for by Pope Benedict XVI.  To help celebrate the Year of Faith, the Archdiocese of Washington has asked three young Dominicans – members of the Order of Preachers – to give a weekly series that reflects on the wonderful truth of our faith.

The Order of Preachers was founded 800 years ago by Saint Dominic to help others come to understand the truth of our Catholic Faith and to pass that understanding on to the people of God, so that we all might grow in love for the source of that truth.  While there may not be a written portion on the entrance exam for heaven, a greater knowledge of the faith can only draw us closer to Jesus Christ, who is both the source and the goal of our happiness.

5 Replies to “Are You Smarter than a Fifth-Grader?”

  1. My now-6th-grader had these questions, among others, for our former parochial vicar during his term at our parish. I hope the poor man wasn’t scarred for life.

    Why are there THREE stations for Jesus falling down (she thought they should be consolidated, because Jesus probably fell down WAY more than three times)

    How can you REALLY get both forms of Communion through the Host, when the bread is the BODY and the wine is the BLOOD.

    Why do we have to have the Smoky Tea-Kettle Thing (a question that pretty much deleted the word “thurible” from my vocabularly)

    Why are you wearing a DRESS (aka cassock) and isn’t it supposed to have 33 buttons

    What is Spy Wednesday (the vicar’s response: you finally got me with THAT one)

  2. Parents need to make children their priority because I believe it pleases God more than one trying to accumulate

  3. Absolutely right, Msgr. My daughter of 8 is always asking these type of questions and it always strikes me that real faith has much of the “childishness” and innocence that we see in our children’s face when they ask such questions. How sad that our adult hearts are so hard and we live in a world where the ego and power drive rule so many people. However, when every other kid around my town is deciding whether to dress up as a witch or a vampire for Halloween and my daughter is asking me to read “A child’s book of saints” and pestering me to buy a cross, then I know that things aren’t completely lost!

  4. I can’t wait. This will be great to post in our church bulletin. I am the editor and always searching for interesting things about the Faith that the people who pick up the bulletin might actually read. And they could share it with their children and grandchildren. This is a wonderful opportunity to tune people into The Year of Faith.

    Thank you so much.

  5. Brings to mind an anecdote which I heard lately.
    A little girl’s mommy was pregnant for a while and finally had a baby boy. When her baby brother was brought home and put in a crib in the parent’s room the little girl asked if she could spend a few minutes alone with the new baby in the parent’s room.
    The parents discussed the matter and decided that it would be o.k. but, just in case, they’d listen at the door.
    The little girl went into the room then closed the door. The parent’s were out in the hallway where they heard their daughter’s footsteps cross the room then … the little girl could be heard whispering; “Tell me about God. It’s been a few years and I’m starting to forget.”

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