At St. Matthew’s VBS, kids learned how Jesus’ power will guide them through all the trials that life throws their way. At VBS, the faith was presented to kids in a compelling way through catchy songs, dances, games, intriguing Bible adventures, videos, and cleverly crafted activities. All this was wrapped up through an uplifting phrase in which the kids collectively shouted, “Trust Jesus!”
Kids being in a state of raw innocence coupled with a curious understanding have a fascinating interpretation of the faith when it is portrayed in a powerful way. This begs this question – how do small kids view the faith after such an uplifting experience? While perceptions will vary to wide degrees, a common denominator is that kids display an awe and wonder of God. In point of fact, my seven-year-old envisions God as a larger-than-life being. Four-year-old Violet Abaray almost instinctively told us that “God will protect us.” This sheer innocuous trust in God is likely why Jesus asserted, “Whoever humbles himself as this little child is the same as the greatest in the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 18:4).
A belief in a child-like trust in God was not lost on the prophets and the saints. In the Psalms, King David echoed this child-like attachment to God with a total reliance on God for safety (see Psalm 131, 23) while throughout the lives of the saints we see their conviction of a simple yet profound dependence on God. In our “me-centered” society we often get sucked into attempting to white-knuckle it on our own during hard times. Yet, it behooves us to emulate this child-like trust in God when things go array in our lives.
But, rather than leave kids in a state in which they are reliant on their simplistic passions the faith acts as a tender mother to guide them on their journey towards maturity. While their innocence allows kid’s thoughts to explore grand images of the faith, the Catholic setting steers their faith into areas where children can grasp fairly easily. Rather than view God in vague terms, Catholicism gives kids more concreteness in which to channel their sometimes quirky thoughts. In the Catholic setting, worship is not strictly confined to the reflection of unseen things. Our connection to God is facilitated through a variety of means that engage our human senses. So, kids see holy water they can touch as a reminder of our Baptism. Kids see crucifixes that remind them of Jesus’ sacrifice for us. Kids see statues of the saints to contemplate their heroic lives. Kids touch rosary beads and it teaches them how to pray through quiet contemplation. Kids see the rising smoke of incense which reminds them where their prayers are headed.
And kids have access to the Eucharist, which we worship as it is the body, blood, soul, and divinity of our Savior. Through Holy Communion, kids can see God, touch God, taste God, and receive God into themselves to transform them.
At Mass, we sit, stand, and kneel. All of our breathtaking array of tools that engage our human senses allow our kids to know our faith and experience it more fully.
While a child’s faith journey won’t be perfect by any means. Indeed, those teenage years are rife with rebellious detours and perceived dead-ends along the way. However, mother Church has a built-in GPS mechanism that allows us to engage the little ones while covertly guiding the teens back on their journey to God.
At VBS, we saw the faith grow for both child, teen, and adult alike. Here, we taught the kids and the kids humility taught us. Mother Church smiles when she’s sees that her children learn from each other and has their faith flourishing at all ages. Yes, trusting Jesus works no matter how old you are.