I once visited a church that was getting ready for a summer catechetical program. The air of excitement was palpable as volunteers bustled around getting classrooms ready for the two-week event. The games, songfests, outdoor activities, and food that were part of it had the makings of a memorable experience.
“Summer school” in my mind conjures up images of stuffy classrooms and boring lessons. Summer catechetical programs are quite different. If done creatively, they engage children in learning more about their faith while inviting them to be explorers in the process. Shouldn’t this be the model year-round? And, as adults, how might we use the summer months to revitalize our faith with an open and adventurous spirit?
A few years ago, while writing one of Sadlier’s Gather in My Name events, I came across a book about becoming explorers of the world in the midst of daily life. The author compiled all sorts of clever ways to discover what’s right in front of us. Ron and I were already on a grand adventure as we traveled around the country on a year-long journey. Even so, we found that it was easy to lose the sense of discovery once the routine of traveling took hold. So I incorporated some of the ideas from the book during our hikes and visits to national parks and forests. I bought a small magnifying glass so I could explore the micro world along with the macro one. It opened up new insights into the wonders of creation.
The highlight of my summer has come and gone – my daughter, Anna’s, wedding. She and her husband, Bobby, are great adventurers. They rock-climb, camp, hike and generally revel in the glory of the outdoors. It was fitting that they chose Psalm 104 for their wedding ceremony. It speaks beautifully of seeing God in the heavens that are “stretched out like a tent” (vs. 2) and in the landscapes that cover the earth. With this psalm as a field guide, we can all venture out into the world around us and make our own vacation school. It’s bound to open up insights, knowledge, and the inspiration that come with being explorers of God’s creation.
Read Psalm 104 and reflect on each element of creation that it extols. Let the psalm lead you into a more reverent attitude towards the natural world.
Download my Exploration Reflection and use it on your own or with family members or friends to create an informal summer school around God’s creation.