The same is true for us catechists. This is a holy paradox that requires prayerful contemplation, but the Bible is very clear. It is in obedience and humility that we receive the strength to rule.

Again: "If you fully obey the LORD your God and carefully follow all his commands I give you today, the LORD your God will set you high above all the nations on earth" (Dt. 28:1) (NIV).

If we are to be effective leaders, we must radically submit to the authority of God. What we're talking about is conversion, beginning with you and me. Here are some suggestions:

1) Get to Mass and confession regularly and watch your effectiveness in the classroom soar. Remember that God speaks very softly and our sins make a racket. If you want to have an intimate and transformative relationship with Jesus Christ, if you want His power to flow through you and out to the world, you've got to clean up your act. That takes humility and trust. If the thought of this fills you with anxiety, pray for the grace to begin. If we are genuinely committed to our own ongoing conversions, no matter how small the baby-steps we take, then we have a shot at giving children a potentially life-changing experience of the Church's loving leadership. Here's a great examination of conscience to use before your next confession.

2) Practice holy purity. Saint Josemaría Escrivá once said, "Where purity increases, so does the capacity to love." That thought always brings me up short and makes me think. Consider the impurity of magazine covers beside the check-out line at the supermarket, or the media we watch or read or listen to, the way we dress, the language we use in moments of stress or fatigue. Let's ask Our Lady, Saint Joseph, and Saint Josemaría Escrivá to pray for all catechists and parents, to bring the graces needed to expand our capacity to love through the practice of holy purity.

3) Look to Our Lady as a model
of both holy purity and the loving practice of authority. Imagine being given the task of molding the Messiah's character! Mary was very young, but she accepted the job with great faith and humility, trusting that God would provide. A great many saints, many of the popes, and the most holy priests I have ever known have had deep devotion to Our Lady. She is an expert at conforming our wills to Christ, and a powerful and faithful intercessor. Here is a beautiful litany to Our Lady, and some easy instructions for praying the holy Rosary.

When we have confidence in our God-given role as teachers (and parents), children are happier and better behaved. They don't know it, but they are hungry for adults to take charge and give them good guidelines for behavior, and meaningful answers to their many questions. When we fail to lead, it causes them anxiety; they act out and chaos ensues. But with God's help, we can be gentle and caring instruments of conversion and bring the beauty of holy obedience and loving authority into the lives of our students.

Next week: I'll talk about another secret weapon when it comes to discipline—learning styles—and how they help you create exciting, memorable lessons that kids love.