So again I ask, does God give you his Spirit and work miracles among you by the works of the law, or by your believing what you heard? ~ Galatians 3:5
"The consolation was for us, not just for the children," says Corinne Addiss, a remarkable catechist from New York, recalling a day last summer when she and her Vacation Bible School team received a beautiful sign of God's presence working powerfully through the children.
"We were in the second day of our program. Almost a hundred children nursery school age through sixth grade children enrolled, with another thirty-something junior counselors, grades seven and above. My energy was uncharacteristically low. I wanted to just get through the week. This day's focus was the Eucharist, and one of our 'stations' was Adoration.
"As a teacher was finishing up with a group of about twenty little ones, they all came out of the pews and she showed them how to genuflect properly in front of the Blessed Sacrament, on both knees. As she watched, one child suddenly went down on her belly, prostrated in adoration before the monstrance. And then, one after another, the children followed until all of the children were lying with their hands extended in front of them, adoring Jesus—in a position no one in the program had taught them."
The teacher, Corinne remembers, knelt in silence, tears streaming down her face as she gazed in awe at the sight. "There was no 'earthly' explanation; it was something within the children. It was their faith in God."
It would seem the program received special graces that day. She says, "There are always graces. But that day, there were graces being accepted."
Corinne has created many programs in her diocese over the years and has a reputation for doing creative, effective work.
"We are in competition with the world which attracts minds and souls through the senses," she explains. "We try to appeal to the senses of sight and sound as well. Jesus used visuals—coins, mustard seeds, mountains, boats, etc. We decorate everything in an imaginative and cost-effective way using rolls of plastic table covering, brown paper bags, things from home, paint, and lots of creativity! A visual teacher can produce great fruits by helping children 'see' and learn the truths of faith. It's about busting the myth that faith is no fun. When great stuff is taught in fun, interesting ways, it bears fruit."
"Most often I am flooded with ideas when I'm sitting in church in front of the Blessed Sacrament," she says definitively. "If I try to force them, it's useless. I'll go to Adoration and sit with my list of projects and say, 'Okay, God, I need your help,' and I just start jotting down ideas. Once I've got an outline for the VBS, I talk it out with others and together we finalize the plan."
Here are some of the activities that prepared the children to appreciate the Real Presence of Christ in the Holy Eucharist:
Saint Anthony and the Donkey. "A month before the VBS program, I visited all the religious-ed classes. I told the children the story of Saint Anthony and the Donkey (the story of a miracle that affirms the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist) but I didn't finish it. The kids were howling in protest, begging to know how it turns out. I ended with 'Come to VBS next month to hear how the story ends!' and they did! On the day we taught the Holy Eucharist we began with a re-enactment of the story. We had a barn, town square, cobble stone road, haystacks and all. Junior counselors dressed as St. Anthony and his donkey."
Spiritual Survival Kits. "In every program we do, the children make Spiritual Survival Kits. They love them! They decorate a box and put their name on it. They make their own rosaries, scapulars, and prayer books to put with the holy water, holy cards, and miraculous medals we give them for the kits. We explain, 'If we always carried a survival kit with us that was filled with the tools (flashlight, food, water) we might need in our daily lives, we would be better prepared when an obstacle or even an emergency happened upon us. But for survival and to be better prepared to deal with obstacles and emergencies in the spiritual life, we need the tools in this Spiritual Survival Kit, which are called sacramentals. They help us to be more open to the sacraments—especially the Holy Eucharist, which is the source and summit of our faith.'"
Mass Confusion. "We created a game that would teach about things that are used in the Mass (chalice, paten, vestments, etc.). We put beautiful color photos of those things on 10 x 14 foam board. Each junior counselor, standing side by side, would hold a picture. In a big basket were smaller cards with names of the items. Each junior counselor gave a hint and might say, 'I am what is used to hold the water and wine before it becomes Jesus' Precious Blood.' Once a clue had been given for each item, the children divided into two teams would scramble through their basket for the correct word to place beneath the corresponding picture. It's fun and it helps them when they go to Mass to make the connection!"