The Sacredness of Summer
Summer weather pulls us ‘outward’, as we spend more time socializing with friends, neighbors and family, traveling, along with a myriad of outdoor activities. It does not have the ‘pull’ towards reflection and prayer that Advent’s dark and quiet atmosphere offers.  Still, summer is sacred time, as all time is. How do we combine this inclination to turn outward with a sense of God’s continual presence?

Use the abundance of flowers, vegetables, fruits, insects and leaves of summertime to help children see the sacredness of God’s created world in a variety of activities.

Read a beautifully illustrated version of the Christian creation story. Then help children begin to see God’s ‘handwork’ in the world around them.

Look for as many differently shaped leaves as possible in a confined area. Don’t forget bushes, flowers and weeds as well as trees! Marvel at the variety in shape, size, color (how many shades of green do you count?)

Touch trees and compare the colors and textures of the bark.

Another day, look for seeds. Maple trees’ ‘helicopters’ are fun, but do the children realize each one carries the possibility of another tree? What kinds of seeds do evergreens have? What about marigolds, sunflowers, etc.?

Attend a farmer’s market. Are these lettuces different from the ones in the grocery store? What kinds of fruits grow in your area? Can you find different colors of potatoes? Smell different herbs.

Sow lettuce seeds in a window box. Keep a chart of when the seeds germinate, and measure them for height. Learn how to thin seedlings, and how to make a salad with your produce.

Dig for worms. Talk about how they benefit soil. Look for insects in the soil and on the sidewalk. Show interest (not squeamishness!) in these amazing, tiny creatures. Bring in children’s books on insects.

In June, many nurseries have sales on annual plants. Have children plant flowers in pots.

And all the while, remind the children that all this is God’s gift to us. Do this simply by saying, “Look at the beauty of this leaf! God is such an artist to have made this!” “Thank you, God our Creator for all this!” “I wonder why God decided to have the robins kind of hop when they walk and ducks waddle?”

Your reward for this will be twofold: you will have the great pleasure of enjoying nature through the eyes of children, and you may come to feel the sacredness of summer yourself!

In Honor of St. John the Baptist: A Simple Play for Children and Adults
Of all the feasts in the Christian year, there are only three celebrations of births: Jesus, Mary, and John the Baptist, each filled with the Holy Spirit before birth.

Consider putting on a simple play about John’s nativity, observed June 24. This often has a greater impact than listening to a story. Adults and children can participate with little preparation. No actor speaks but should be encouraged to mime.

Parts:
  • Narrator: tells the story
  • Zechariah
  • Gabriel
  • Elizabeth
  • Mary
  • Crowd: at least four people
  • A doll

Story: Based on Luke 1:5-25; 39-45; 57-80.
Scene 1: Zechariah, Gabriel, the Crowd
Narrator: Zechariah and Elizabeth were good people, but they were sad because they had no children. Some people were praying at the temple. Zechariah was praying there too, in another room. Suddenly, the great angel Gabriel was with him! Gabriel said, “Zechariah, you and Elizabeth are going to have a baby boy! Name him John. God says John will grow up to be a very holy man!”
Zechariah was shocked—first an angel, now this news! He wouldn’t believe it. “Well now,” said Gabriel, “you won’t be able to talk until John is born!” Gabriel went away. Zechariah tried to tell the people what happened, but he had no voice!

Scene 2: Elizabeth and Mary
Narrator: Gabriel was right: Elizabeth was going to have a baby. She and the silent Zechariah were very happy. Mary, Elizabeth’s cousin, came to visit. Mary was expecting Baby Jesus. “Mary!” cried Elizabeth. “My baby is so happy you’ve come! Both babies are gifts from God!” They hugged and visited.

Scene 3: Elizabeth, doll, Zechariah, the Crowd
Narrator: When John was born, friends came over. “What’s the baby’s name?” they asked. Zechariah wrote down, “John.” Right away, Zechariah could talk! And he talked and talked, thanking God for John and all God’s blessings.

Conclude the play by reciting the Hail Mary together.

Jesus, Water and Kids
In several cultures, the feast of John the Baptist is celebrated with fun using water—picnics by rivers, getting splashed in lakes or fountains, etc. Connect his feast with young children’s love of water play and other Christian scriptures.

Fishing for Stories: Jesus lived near water, and used water imagery in his teachings. Suggestions for stories are listed below. The children will not fully grasp the scripture meanings as clearly as they might understand the Nativity scriptures, but the aim here is to familiarize them with these scriptures. This is not a formal lesson, but a way of keeping Jesus in mind on a warm day.

Draw a simple fish outline on a piece of cardstock or construction paper, about 6 inches long. Cut this out and use it as a pattern for six more fish. On each fish, write a scripture citation:
  • Mark 1:9-11 (Jesus’ baptism)
  • John 2:6-10 (changing water into wine)
  • Matthew 4:18-22 (Jesus meets and calls the fishermen to follow him)
  • Mark 6:45-51 (Jesus walks on water)
  • Mark 9:41 (Jesus talks about giving a drink of water)
  • Luke 5:1-11 (the miraculous fish catch)
  • John 21:2-11(Jesus appears on the lake shore after his Resurrection)
Attach a paper clip to each fish. Make a fishing pole out of a dowel and a length of yarn for line. Tie a small magnet to the end of the line. Experiment with sizes of paperclips to make certain the fish can be ‘caught’ with the magnet.

Spread a blanket on the floor and scatter the fish on this. Allow the children to go ‘fishing’ from the ‘shore’. When it is story time, choose one child to catch that day’s ‘story fish.” Read the scripture story listed on the fish. Mention that Jesus lived near water and many people worked to catch fish for their jobs. Then offer water related activities, and refer back to the stories as children play.

Enjoying and learning to appreciate water:
  1. Fill a water table or several dish pans with water and marine life plastic animals, small boats, etc
  2. Bring in three or four cardboard boxes, each big enough for a child to sit in. These can become ‘boats’. Designate an area of the room or playground as the sea; suggest they fish like Jesus’ good friends.
  3. Serve cold water to thirsty children and together say a thank-you prayer for the gift of clean water.
  4. Using an eyedropper, drop a small amount of food coloring onto absorbent paper. Have children drip water onto the paper with eyedroppers, watch the color spread and become less intense.
  5. Have children help you name all the ways they use water in the classroom. Suggest they do this at home with family members.
  6. Spread a length of blue paper on the art table and suggest children create a mural of underwater life with paints or markers. Provide a book or magazine with pictures of a variety of fish and other marine life.
  7. Cut clean sponges into fish shapes and have children make fish prints with paint and the sponges.

Celebrating Saint Paul
June 29th is a feast day of St. Paul, one of the most influential saints of all 2000 years of Christianity. For young children, this may mean hearing about him for the first time. Use the story and the related activity to introduce your children to this great saint.

This story lends itself to many actions on the part of the storyteller. Enjoy being animated and encourage the children to join you in the actions. Some examples are: displaying a determined facial expression, shaking a finger when Saul disapproved of Christians, shading the eyes from the bright light, act out writing when Paul writes his epistles, swaying from side to side while speaking of the shipwrecks.

The text is below. You can also download a free coloring book about this story. Print a copy for each child, stapling on the left-hand side. They can draw and color it, read and share it with others.

A Determined Man
Long ago, there was a man named Saul. He was very smart. He was also very determined.

[Discuss the meaning of the word ‘determined’ (someone who does not give up) so children truly get a picture of a determined individual]
Saul heard of Jesus and about what Jesus had taught. He didn’t like what he heard.
“This is not a good idea!” Saul said. “I must do something right away!”
Remember, Saul was a very determined man! Saul decided to go see Jesus’ friends. He’d tell them to quit talking about Jesus!
But as he traveled, he suddenly saw a light so bright, he had to cover his eyes. He even fell down!
“Saul! Saul” a voice called. It was Jesus!
Saul couldn’t see anything, but he now understood that Jesus was calling him to teach others the good things Jesus had taught.
So Saul changed. He even changed his name to Paul. Now he understood that Jesus was good and what he taught was right. Paul became a teacher and a writer.
But one way he did not change: he was still determined!
Paul traveled for years, teaching others about Jesus. He had some amazing adventures!
One time, he had to escape from people who disagreed with him. He hid in a big basket and his friends snuck him away.
Sometimes people who were against Jesus put Paul into jail. Still determined to keep teaching, Paul wrote letters to people about Jesus’ teachings while he was in jail.
He traveled on ships and three times the ship got wrecked! But determined Paul kept going!
So Paul went on for years, teaching and showing hundreds of people how to live as Jesus taught. For Paul was a very determined man!