Summertime, When the Learning is Easy

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Summertime blesses us with a much-needed break from school routines, and sometimes work routines. During these precious months family activities abound, and so do the opportunities to grow in our faith as we relax and enjoy God’s creation all around us. Making simple connections between family fun and our Catholic faith can yield practical and, at times, even surprising teaching moments — both spiritual and relational. Here are just a few examples.

Planting the Seeds

Whether tending the landscape around our home or planting a flower or vegetable garden from scratch, attending to the earth provides fertile ground for conversation about our faith. Starting plants from seed? Use the parable of the mustard seed in Scripture (see Mt 13:31-32) — a tiny spec — that grows into an enormous bush, just as our faith flourishes when we place our trust in God.

Or try the parable of the seed that is sown in the busy path, the rocky ground, the patch of thorns and the rich soil (see Lk 8:4-15). Which one takes root and why? Discuss how we must prepare our hearts and minds to hear the Word of God and follow it. Point out how plants require tender loving care to grow strong and healthy, as does our faith life. We can nourish ourselves spiritually with Scripture reading, prayer and exposure to good things.

Having a problem with weeds? That’s the reality of gardening and life. Fortunately, as Catholics, the gift of reconciliation helps us eliminate problems in our lives that may be blocking our relationship with God and with others. If the garden is neglected, it will show. The same applies to a person’s faith.

Praise God today for the beauty and wonder of His plants and flowers and for the weather He blesses us with to enjoy the good gifts of the earth. Also, point out how fun it is to eat what you grew (God’s goodness).

Putting Faith on the Menu

What would summertime be without a picnic at the park? A family meal around a wooden picnic bench sets the perfect table for a discussion about the Last Supper, the meal Jesus shared with His apostles that would change history forever. Breaking bread together, whether it is PB&J, hotdogs or chicken legs, families become bonded in a special way.

Eating a meal in the outdoors reminds us of the Israelites in the dessert of the first Passover meal, when they had to be prepared to eat on the go.

During picnics enjoy one another’s company and praise God for the shade of the trees, the song of the birds and the breeze that helps kites fly. And, as you clean up, talk about appreciating God’s creation by being good stewards of the land so that others in future generations can enjoy the same pleasures.

Fishing: A Perfect Hook

The next time your family casts a line into a babbling brook, off the side of a boat or into the waves at the seashore, reel them in by drawing parallels between fishing and faith. After all, many of Jesus’ closest friends were fishers by trade. Jesus told His apostles that they would be fishers of men. Many great conversations took place between Jesus and His disciples while fishing or over a fish meal on the beach, some recorded in the Bible, some not. You can do the same. Fishing is a great opportunity for the participants to have no-pressure conversations.

Many of the miracles Jesus performed happened near or on the water — walking on water, the multiplication of the loaves and the fishes, the apostles pulling in a net overflowing with fish after a long day of catching nothing at all. With God, all things are possible!

Fishing is a sport that requires patience and persistence in order to be successful. These are important virtues for life as well. It also requires quietness and stillness, the very same posture need to place ourselves before the Lord.

Creative Camping

Perhaps no other summer family activity brings us closer to God’s creation than camping, in which we eat, play and sleep in the great outdoors. While pitching tents, think about the people in the Old Testament who spent their lives in canvas abodes and appreciate more fully our less-nomadic lifestyle. This is an opportunity to help one another and to appreciate both giving and receiving.

During hikes through hilly forests observe God’s handiwork everywhere, from the smallest ant to the largest redwood tree, and marvel at how all of life sustains itself perfectly, thanks to the Master.

Building a campfire can evoke stories of Pentecost, when the Holy Spirit, in the form of tongues of fire, descended upon the apostles’ heads and they became “on fire” for the Lord. Is our family on fire for the Lord? If not, how can it be?

Gazing upon the stars, recall how God promised Abraham that his descendents would be as numerous as the stars in the sky. And, finally, snuggling in sleeping bags, remember how the Son of Man had no place to lay His head. How many people are sleeping tonight without a pillow and blanket? Remember them?

Summer family activities are chock-full of potential insights relevant to our Catholic spirituality — if we look at them through the eyes of faith — and can lead to lifelong memories. How many creative ideas can you and your family think of?

Published in Take Out, Family Faith on the Go (OSV), Summer 2007

Copyright 2009 Elizabeth Ficocelli

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