We have friends who have recently left the Catholic Church. Our hearts are breaking at the news, but I saw the beginnings of their change in attitude as early as last summer. They packed their kids off to a challenging, Bible-based, non-Catholic Vacation Bible School program. The children would come home with newly learned Bible verses and slowly, they took those verses (most out of context) and used them to challenge the Catholic faith.
As Catholics we must be careful to know and understand the Bible, so that we will see it in relation to all aspects of the faith. Take for example the commonly misquoted phrase, ““For by grace have you been saved through faith.” Eph. 2:8 Many use this scripture to say, “You have been saved by grace (faith) alone.” This scripture is further used to tell Catholics, You believe in getting to heaven by works and scripture says that is wrong. However, the word, “Alone” does not appear in the original scripture. Additionally, elsewhere Scripture states, “See how a person is justified by works and not by faith alone… so also faith without works is dead.” James 2: 24,26
Challenged with all the non-Catholic VBS programs out there each summer, Catholics can be better served by creating fun, faith-based VBS programs in our own churches.
*Teach the Bible from a Catholic perspective. Include Bible history. How many of our students even realize that the Catholic Church put the Bible together?!
*Teach Scripture phrases that show how Catholic faith is found in the Bible. 2 Thes. 2:15 states, “Stand firm and hold fast to the traditions that you were taught, either by an oral statement or by a letter of ours.” 1 Cor. 11:2 says, “I praise you because you remember me in everything and hold fast to the traditions, just as I handed them on to you.” These verses supports the Traditions of the Catholic Church. John 6:51 says, “I am the living bread which came down from heaven; if any one eats of this bread, he will live forever; and the bread which I shall give for the life of the world is my flesh.” John 6:55 states, “For my flesh is food indeed, and my blood is drink indeed.” These teach the importance of the Eucharist.
*Start VBS following morning Mass. This provides families, who are getting out early anyway, to start their morning with the Lord. Ask the Pastor to encourage families to attend Mass before dropping their children off at VBS.
*Incorporate Catholic traditions such as stories of the saints, the Rosary, or recitation of the chaplet into VBS. One parish asked the older teens (who were assisting at VBS) to put on a Saint story skit on the last day. The teens enjoyed this as much as their experience working with the little ones.
Make VBS fun! If we market our VBS programs as well as some non-Catholic churches do, and if our programs are fun, entertaining and informational, we may see conversions to the Catholic faith and additional conviction and conversions in our own lives.
Reprinted with Permission: First appeared in 2007, OSV.com Teaching Catholic Kids, Catechists Know How
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Aimee O'Connell says
Thank you, Mary Lou, for bringing attention to this topic. I *know* there are specifically Catholic VBS curricula available, yet I see so many parishes opting for the more “generic” ones. Nothing wrong with teaching about Jesus or Sacred Scripture, but we miss out on so much when we don’t include the richness behind what makes us CATHOLIC Christians. Our children (and let’s face it — their parents, too) need to remember WHY Catholicism is more than just a brand of worship.
Jennifer Fitz says
This is so important!
We’ve had good luck with two approaches so far — taking a pre-packaged VBS program from a major publisher (“Catholic Version”) and making sure the teaching was good and Catholic, and also building our own in-house programs. This year our DRE is giving The Vatican Express VBS program a try — looks great, and we’re hopeful. Lisa Hendey review it here: https://catholicmom.com/2012/02/22/the-vatican-express-an-authentically-catholic-vacation-bible-school/
Bible stories are soaking wet with Catholicism (except maybe David & Goliath)…should be pretty easy to get that across to kids.
Julia Margaret Johnson says
I happened to fall upon your article tonight. Besides the lovely traditions you suggest, I would also suggest that readers enjoy http://www.Godisgoodvbs.com. We are a solidly, Catholic VBS program that incorporates many Catholic traditions in our curricula. Plus, the assemblies, art, prayer, games and music are solidly Catholic, too. I am hoping that more leaders like you will see how important it is to keep VBS Catholic.