Children's Catechesis: Helping Children Make Sense of Suffering

Authored by Joseph D. White in Issue #4.1 of The Catechetical Review

We all have a natural tendency to seek comfort and avoid suffering. This is especially true of children, who have limited “delay of gratification skills,” meaning that it’s difficult for them to not have what they want, right when they want it.

But suffering is a part of every life. Along with the good times, we also experience illness, hardships, disappointment, and eventually death. If our faith is to be relevant to our everyday life, it is important that a community of faith be able to give meaning to suffering and be responsive to the needs of those who are suffering.

God is always with us
Once, during a rare question and answer session, a young girl from Japan asked Pope Benedict why people must suffer as they did in her country during the tsunami. Pope Benedict answered honestly, saying that he, too, had trouble understanding why suffering of this magnitude is present in the world. He then echoed the words of Pope John Paul II, saying that one thing we can be certain about is that God is always on the side of the suffering. Jesus himself entered into human suffering. In the suffering Christ, we see God’s solidarity with even the most painful moments of human existence. Children’s experience of God’s presence often takes shape in their interactions with friends and family, and most especially with their parents, but in a lesser way with teachers, catechists, and other authority figures. For this reason, it is important that they experience empathy from the adults in their lives, even when their suffering seems small by our standards. Reflecting their feelings by saying, “I know you're frustrated that you can’t play outside today,” or “I’m sorry your stomach is hurting,” lets them know that you care about them, and it helps give them the strength to bear their small sufferings and build self discipline.

The rest of this online article is available for current subscribers.

Start your subscription today!

This article is from The Catechetical Review (Online Edition ISSN 2379-6324) and may be copied for catechetical purposes only. It may not be reprinted in another published work without the permission of The Catechetical Review by contacting

Articles from the Most Recent Issue

Editor's Reflections: Forming Disciples who Make Disciples
By Dr. James Pauley
Free It was yet another miraculous catch of fish. When Peter saw the fish and heard John say “it is the Lord!” he dove into the water in his zeal to be with the risen Jesus, rather than waiting to bring the boat to shore. After the meal, Jesus took Peter aside and asked, “do you love me more than these?” And then Jesus asked again. And a third time.... Read more
Freeing Up for Mission: Critical Steps for the Path Forward
By Jim Beckman
Free Early Memories I had a somewhat magical season of my life that has left lasting memories for me. I was only eleven or twelve. Up until that time, life had been marked by tragedy. My dad had been injured and left paralyzed, one of my sisters had tragically died, my mom had even suffered a nervous breakdown and was away from us for several months.... Read more
Multiplication: Passing on a Message and a Mission
By André Regnier
There is a growing trend within the Church, rightly so, toward mentorship or coaching of our leaders. The idea is that great programs are not effective without great people leading those programs. Associated with this focus on mentorship is a theory some people call “spiritual multiplication”, which attempts to go one step further in mentoring... Read more


Watch Tutorial Videos

We've put together several quick and easy tutorial videos to show you how to use this website.

Watch Now