This week, Alan is attending a Vacation Bible School (VBS) at a Greek Orthodox church in Milwaukee.
It's not that we were looking for a Greek Orthodox experience or anything. Instead, it's because the VBS is being held at the church where his former school rented space, and because of lingering contacts with the church, we found out about it.
Truth be told, I'm not gonna ignore a VBS that's 5 hours long everyday, including lunch. Hello! Peace and quiet for 20 hours this week! Hurray!
Anyway, when Alan got home yesterday, he excitedly told us that "...the priest took us in the church and showed us how he cuts the bread for communion and the symbols for the trinity and the icons." My lowered voice response to this - spoken to my husband, not Alan - was "hell would need to freeze over for something like this to occur at a Catholic VBS."
Anyone reading this disagree?
I've blogged about VBS's before and I suppose this post is basically reiterating what I've previously said and observed, but why couldn't this happen at a Catholic VBS? Say, for a measly 15 minutes, a Catholic priest takes all the kids into the church and points out where the tabernacle is, talks about how Jesus lives there, explains a few basic mechanics in terms of how he reveres and operates the tabernacle....maybe show off the tabernacle light, etc.
What gets me is that every Catholic VBS Alan has ever attended (with the exception of Totus Tuus, which I'll explain more about below) is filled with skads of nominal Catholic children, most of whom attend (snort) Catholic parish schools, and most of whom will graduate from 8th grade not believing that the Eucharist is the real deal. And yet we wonder why people no longer know and believe in their faith?
What if every Catholic VBS took the time to spend just one half hour to review a few basic facts of our faith? What if - gasp! - an actual Catholic authority (like a priest) - rather than a 60-something DRE - spent time with and spoke to Catholic children?
I recall when I blogged about this before, I was impressed with a Protestant VBS Alan attended where the pastor showed up every day to pray with the kids and offer a five minute message. Some people responded in my commbox that priests today are too busy and overloaded with other responsibilities to take such time. I continue to maintain that's hogwash. If we don't trot priests out in front of kids as authority figures to listen to, esteem, and even love - well then, don't bitch about lack of Catholic formation, culture, and respect for the Catholic faith.
About Totus Tuus: It's an authentic Catholic "VBS" that travels around the U.S. (The link I've provided is to the Chicago program, but it gives a really great description. You can Google if the program comes to your neck of the woods. And if it doesn't - contact them to get them to come!) This program is also about 5 hours a day (applause!), but it includes daily mass, confession, and teaching from college age volunteers of the Christendom and Steubenville variety. Alan attended last year in the town we used to live in and we were happy with the results.
Unfortunately, some parents bitched (the parents who didn't understand what they were getting into) because it was too Catholic and GOD FORBID my kid had to go to mass everyday. So Totus Tuus is not coming to that town this year - the parish that hosted apparently felt parents' bitching was more important than the truth. But it's coming to two different parishes in Milwaukee this summer and Alan's all signed up for the end of this month.
I know many "authentic" Catholics believe VBS of any stripe is stupid and time wasted, but I will continue to disagree. Even the most basic "Jesus Loves Me" message has value, in my opinion, especially at the very young ages. The thing is, the people who complain about how un-Catholic and uninspired most VBS's are tend to be the homeschooling parents who would do the most good in volunteering to run a truly Catholic VBS. Well, unless the DRE has anything to say about it. And that is probably the underlying issue. Don't know how to get around that one.
So, kudos to the Greek Orthodox for being Greek Orthodox without shame. Catholic should take note.