Kalamazoo, MI: "Was this childish innocence?", asked Terry Forthwith, religious educator.
Confirmation candidates at Our Lady of Mercy Catholic Church have been reading and discussing Augustine's Confessions and quickly became stuck in Book I.11, where Augustine recounts the jealous look of a baby waiting to be nursed after his blood brother, evidence, he says, of original sin.
"But babies are so cute," the student Alicia Talent said. "To say babies are sinful is to say that Mom, America, and apple pie don't go together. It's not right. It's not done. It's just wrong."
Forthwith decided to teach this part of Confessions through a field trip...to the parish nursery during the 11am Mass.
"Yeah, first Annie wanted the train, then Josh, and after that it became a pile-on," said student John Ballast, who was on floor duty with the ten two-year-olds. "I kept telling them that God wanted them to share, and then they starting crying and pulling my hair. It was a little out of control."
"Then the one-year-olds starting grabbing the plastic blocks out of each other's hands," said Alicia. "I had to hide the matchbox cars or someone would have had an eye out by the end of the hour."
Forthwith was pleased with the pedagogical experiment. "Look, these children are beautiful--all created in the image of God. That was obvious. But we needed to crack some societal misconceptions, and they're a little more sympathetic to Augustine's point now: that original sin creates a tendency toward doing wrong rather than right."
"That, and maybe we should just stock soft toys in the nursery," added John.
Alicia added, "I have to admit this made it real. I'm really looking forward to our trip to the pear orchard."