The memorial of St. John Bosco, January 31, is almost upon us. Back in the days of limited entertainment (it boggles our amused-to-death minds to contemplate this), street shows were the thing. As a young man, St. John Bosco utilized people’s desire for fun and entertainment to evangelize scores of local youths. He juggled and performed other tricks to attract a crowd and then incorporated catechesis into his act. He provided the entertainment for free and asked only that the mesmerized youths go to Mass or pray a Rosary in return.
I’ve been pondering how to teach our kids the faith in the spirit of St. John Bosco. Do I make our faith alive and fun, naturally incorporating it into play? Or do I consider it a “subject” we have to “get through”? There is nothing wrong with insisting upon memorization or systematically studying our doctrine … nor is there nothing wrong with making this a fun and/or organic endeavor.
Here are some ideas I’ve thought of. I would like to hear your ideas in the comments!
At our children’s youngest ages, nurturing the sense of wonder is foundational. (I mean this is the sense of amazement and awev– not in the sense of skepticism.)
Go on a walk
- Call out the things you see that are beautiful (look at the different ways God shaped trees!)
- Call out the things you see that exhibit God’s wisdom (trees to give us fresh oxygen!)
- Call out the things you see that exhibit God’s mercy (trees to give us shade!)
Wonder at the fact that God is with us always and cares about everything in our lives.
Wonder at the presence of Christ in the Eucharist.
Wonder at the fact that we are His sons and daughters, which makes us princes and princesses.
Wonder at the great, big family he gave to us: the saints our brothers and sisters and Mary our Mother.
An Ordered World
Teach that God’s design has order and purpose.
Play the “ordered toward” game. In short, it involves recognizing the fact that everything God made is ordered toward something. You can play the game silly (“is spaghetti ordered toward wearing on your head?”) or as trivia (“I’m thinking of something that is ordered toward giving us heat and light.”) Learn about this game in more detail.
Isn’t this one of those things we mean to do and never get around to? (Or is that just me?) Here are some ideas as to how to make memorizing the Word of God part of your life:
- Print out the verse in pretty font and ask the kids to decorate it. Hang it on the wall while you learn it.
- Print out the verse and paste it onto places where they stare anyway: the back of a cereal box; the refrigerator; or the bathroom mirror.
- Put the verse to the tune of a familiar song and learn it by singing it.
- Once you are familiar with it, make a game by going around the table at breakfast or lunch and having each person say the next word. Whoever misses is “out.” Or just cheer when you do it successfully!
- Say the verse whenever the situation commends itself. My son just told me this morning that he “is trying to change but can’t.” There are a lot of verses that would apply here, but the one that popped to mind was “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”
Other truths to learn
- For lists of things you want your kids to learn (the Ten Commandments; the fruits of the Spirit; etc), nothing beats a song or rhyme.
- Print out what you want them to learn and put it in a strategic spot: the bathroom. One mom I know regularly posted signs like “God loves you” and “Love is willing the good of the other” near the toilet: one sign was for those facing forward and the other sign for those facing backward. Or occasionally put a little note on their dresser for them to find.
Live the Liturgical Year
I can’t think of a more organic way to teach the faith than by ordering your family life around the liturgical year. Some examples:
- When better to learn about St. Thomas Aquinas than on his feast day (January 28)? Talk about how he had been locked into a tower by his family, who disapproved of his vocation to the Jesuit priesthood. They even sent a woman of “ill repute” into the tower to tempt him. He chased her from the room by waving a burning log he had grabbed from the fire. Is this or is this not a great segue into talking about purity? What are we willing to do to keep ourselves pure?
- On the feast of the Presentation of Our Lord we talk with our kids about how Mary’s fiat wasn’t just a once-and-for-all thing, but a continual submission unto the will of God. Even as she heard that a sword would pierce her heart, she gave her “yes.” Teach them to ask her to help us say “yes” to the will of God when it is a difficult thing to do. And since it is a feast day, after all — make some cupcakes topped with little cocktail swords.
- Learn about Our Lady’s apparition at Lourdes on its optional memorial on February 11. If you are blessed to have an account with FORMED, watch a video about it — and then go out and make your own grotto in the backyard! Talk about how Our Lady intercedes for us always and is a true mother to us.
Play and joy are some of the great gifts God gives us. Let’s learn how to be more like the great educator St. John Bosco and ask Our Lord how we can teach our own “students” in our domestic church via ways that bring our faith to life.
Copyright 2020 Amanda Woodiel