Several years ago, our family went on an adventure that my husband and I had dreamed of and saved for all our married life: a 36-day cross country RV trip. One of my fondest memories of that family experience was reading the Scripture readings for each day during the week, and having our boys play ukulele while we sang a praise song or two. We had an image of the Sacred Heart of Jesus taped on the front wall of our rented RV and it contributed to the sacred atmosphere. Most of the time we performed this ritual on the road, since we often had six- to eight-hour drives between destinations. But sometimes we did this praying and singing at beautiful locations, like alongside a rushing river at Yosemite. On Sundays, our family attended Mass at a parish in the area. I felt like God was with us on the whole trip.
As Catholic families, we don’t have to re-invent the wheel or reorganize all our current plans in order to have Catholic summer experiences with our loved ones. Rather, we can capitalize on activities we already love to do and have on the calendar and give them what I like to call “a little Catholic twist.”
For example, maybe your family enjoys camping, hiking, or visiting zoos or parks. Why not read about and have a discussion on St. Francis of Assisi and his great love for God’s creation – the animals, the flowers, the stars, and yes, even the bugs. With the beautiful weather, many families participate in sports during the summer months, like biking, softball, soccer or boating. Consider discussing Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati. He loved sports, particularly mountain climbing, and he’s a wonderful role model for young people.
Hopefully we all continue going to Mass on Sunday throughout the summer. That shouldn’t change just because the seasons do. Even though summer ushers us into Ordinary Time, there are still some special feast days tucked into these warm months, such as the Feast of the Holy Trinity, Corpus Christi, the Transfiguration, and the Sacred Heart of Jesus. Might you do something special in honor of a summer feast day? For instance, consider having your home enthroned in celebration of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. Another idea is to visit different parishes this summer. Do you normally go to a very large suburban parish? Try a small rural parish, or an urban one. Why not visit a parish where you will encounter different ethnic backgrounds, or the Eastern spirituality of one of the Eastern-rite Catholic churches? And while there, don’t forget to go to Confession together!
Family outings are always popular during the summer. Consider taking your family on a pilgrimage to a shrine in your area. Or a convent or monastery, if they permit visitors. Cathedrals and basilicas are also great destinations. While traveling, talk about the purpose of a pilgrimage, and how it is a time of getting away from our normal routine and spending time with the Lord.
On a similar note, why not find out if there are Catholic retreat centers or campgrounds in your area. In my home state of Ohio, we have Catholic Family Land, a terrific opportunity to vacation and worship with others who are enthused about faith and family.
All of us spend time in the car, and summer is no exception. The next time your family is driving to visit friends or relatives or to attend an event, consider using this time to pray the Rosary together. Or tune in to Catholic Radio, where you’ll be surprised at how much you can learn about our Catholic faith. It’s likely to generate some interesting conversation!
Check out Catholic activities that might already be in place for your children this summer, such as Vacation Bible School or teen programs sponsored by your Youth Group.
At home, many families enjoy pizza and movie nights in the summer. Use some of these opportunities to incorporate a good Christian family film.
Playing games together as a family can be fun and rewarding. It doesn’t have to be a Bible Trivia game necessarily (although that’s a great source for learning) but do make it a point to play board games or backyard games with the entire family and take a break from those electronics.
Summer is also a time for projects around the house, inside and out. Maybe you have a garage, basement, or playroom that needs cleaned and organized. Take your donations as a family to a homeless shelter or similar organization, discussing the importance of the Works of Mercy. In the yard, plant a Mary Garden or other sacred space that inspires prayer and meditation.
Lastly, summertime is a great time to catch up on reading, whether curled up in a cabin or lounging by the pool. Many families enroll their children in a summer library reading program. Make sure a good Catholic book makes it in the mix for each of you.
Enjoy your summer – with a Catholic twist!