GARCIA-LUENSE: Growing in faith during the summer isn’t just for kids
June 14, 2022
(Photo by Grant Whitty/Unsplash)
As summer begins, most parishes offer a popular annual activity: vacation Bible school (VBS). While a regular, systematic catechesis is important, there is something about the more concentrated experience afforded by flexible summer schedules that captures people’s imagination differently. Themed celebrations, decorations, lots of activities, a whole bunch of singing and snacks are hallmarks of VBS. So too is the involvement of multiple age groups and older kids working with younger ones. For many Catholics, some of their best parish memories of growing up are connected to VBS.
And yet, for some reason, we tend to limit the idea of summer catechetical opportunities that look different from the rest of the year to our children alone. Why is that? Why don’t we, as adults, also think that our summer schedules could be opportunities for us to grow in our faith in different ways?
While formal classes for adults in our parishes may take the summer off, there are still plenty of opportunities, especially online, to take a course or seminar. I know that many who dedicate a part of their summer to continuing education so that they can maintain their professional credentials and licenses.
If you can schedule a three-day workshop or a daylong seminar for professional reasons, why not look and see if you can do something formal in faith formation for a day or two?
Summer formation doesn’t have to be formal. Some people have a great tradition of summer reading. Whether on the beach, in a cabin in the woods, or a backyard hammock, there are plenty of folks who find rest and relaxation with their noses in a book. There is certainly nothing wrong with escaping for a while with a new novel from a favorite author or a return to a great classic.
Still, why not include some items designed to help us grow catechetically and spiritually in your summer reading list? This does not need to be difficult or complex. There are plenty of spiritual classics, popular theological essays, church histories and modern thoughtful spiritual writers that are just as well-written, engaging and thought-provoking as any secular writer. Summer formation can easily take place by being intentional about including something that fits into what we already love to do. If you would like to see a list of recommended readings, visit www.archgh.org/adultformation.
Travel is another favorite summer activity. Florida and California are home to famous theme parks and are popular summer tourist destinations. They are also home to some of the oldest Catholic missions in the U.S. The first Mass in current U.S. territory took place in 1565 in St. Augustine, Florida, more than a half-century before the pilgrims went to Massachusetts. The first mission in California was founded by St. Junipero Serra, seven years before the Declaration of Independence was signed.
Closer to home, we have our own St. Mary’s Cathedral Basilica in Galveston and the Shrine of the True Cross in Dickinson.
If you are fortunate enough to travel this summer, why not intentionally include among your various stops and destinations places that touch on our Catholic history and heritage, and places of pilgrimage and prayer that can nurture our souls and spiritual lives? Nearly every part of the country has opportunities that can be easily discovered if you are ready to look.
Taking advantage of the summer to grow in our faith really is about choosing to include our faith in our summer activities. And choosing to include and nurture our faith in our daily lives should be something we strive for every day.
Brian Garcia-Luense is an associate director with the Office of Catechesis and Evangelization.