For the past nine months, I've served my church as a religious education instructor. It's a good experience and has helped enliven my faith and its practice. My students are fifth-grade boys, five of them. We meet each Tuesday evening for 90 minutes in the church's school building. At times they're little cretins, God Bless Them. Their energies and desire for entertainment are overwhelming. I've prayed to morph into a video game on occasion. Religious education can be entertaining and interesting. It's more serious and less entertaining in the main. Coming at the end of our school and workdays, I think we're tired and also have much to do once "RE," as it's called, concludes. There is also a great deal of curiosity, interest in what is new or different, and desire to be validated.

I've grown to love these boys, or young Christian gentlemen as I call them. I see them as the men and leaders of tomorrow. I'm a father, and they're not my sons, but through this experience, I've come to think of them as a little bit of mine, so to speak. I decided to summarize what we've tried to learn together this year and thought I'd share it as a more general reflection on life. I've changed the words a bit to make the meaning less tied to my particular faith. The statements are focused on boys, but an analogue could be developed for girls.

1. I am a young gentleman of faith.

2. My life is a mission that does not end.

3. The first compass for the mission is to love God with all my heart, mind and body.

4. The second is to love others as I love myself.

5. The core of life is love.

6. Love includes mercy, which obligates me to understand and practice forgiveness.

7. A gentleman has a proper awareness of his faults and the ability to improve through lifelong learning.

8. Love, mercy and forgiveness break the chains of ignorance and its consequences in action.

9. A gentleman of faith respects women and cares for them as persons of faith.

10. It’s okay for a gentleman to cry and also to give himself a break.

On the one hand, I think I've not done much if this is the sum of "my teaching." Of course, there are many points about our shared faith that were discussed and learned too. However, in another way, the list is more than enough. As an adult, I think the ten points still serve many of us well, whatever our faith might be.

I've decided to give the students a prayer book and put a copy of this lesser decalogue in the book. As pre-teens enter the important and often challenging next years of school and life (middle school), I encouraged the boys to make time for God each day. It's not necessarily for anyone to see, but it will reward those who practice a regimen of prayer and reflection — even briefly — each day.

I told them also that when they are driving, in not too many years, they should go to church or a place for reflection by themselves and sit and be in God's presence.

Taking time to be still with God is important to hear our inner voices remind us of what He says to us. We took some time to visit one of the many statues at our church recently to talk about this kind of reflection and centering, which can occur in many forms, anywhere on earth — and does do so each and every day among the faithful.

I'll carry good memories of these weekly meetings with the boys. I've helped them learn to express their faith, in its thoughts and feelings, in relationship to themselves, their families, their fellow students and to life. It's satisfying: a quiet man who himself struggled to put into words what he thought at that age now can help in this way. It's important to learn how to articulate the link between thoughts, words and deeds. It is a way of expressing the active face of reason and revelation in humanity. That's work that makes me feel good and gives me peace. May it have benefited those boys as well.

Bernard Rowan (browan10@yahoo.com) is associate provost for contract administration and academic services and professor of political science at Chicago State University. He is a past fellow of the Korea Foundation and a former visiting professor at Hanyang University.

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A young gentleman's decalogue

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19.05.2024

For the past nine months, I've served my church as a religious education instructor. It's a good experience and has helped enliven my faith and its practice. My students are fifth-grade boys, five of them. We meet each Tuesday evening for 90 minutes in the church's school building. At times they're little cretins, God Bless Them. Their energies and desire for entertainment are overwhelming. I've prayed to morph into a video game on occasion. Religious education can be entertaining and interesting. It's more serious and less entertaining in the main. Coming at the end of our school and workdays, I think we're tired and also have much to do once "RE," as it's called, concludes. There is also a great deal of curiosity, interest in what is new or different, and desire to be validated.

I've grown to love these boys, or young Christian gentlemen as I call them. I see them as the men and leaders of tomorrow. I'm a father, and they're not my sons, but through this experience, I've come to think of them as a little bit of mine, so to speak. I........

© The Korea Times


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