My ten-year old daughter, Molly, finished up a week of "Totus Tuus" at St. Andrew's on Friday. Totus Tuus, besides being Pope John Paul II's motto "Totally Yours," is a week long program in parishes lead by college students and seminarians geared towards elementary and middle school students. I think a lot of people would compare it to a Vacation Bible School type of thing---but Catholic.
I might be speaking out of turn. I don't have much experience with Vacation Bible School but what I've seen is that it is basically the same program as the Methodist or the Christian Church down the street---same characters, same songs, same skits etc, etc, etc. And I'm not taking anything away from the volunteers that help put on the VBS programs. I know they work very hard and do it out of love for the kids. My question is for those who do the programming. Why do we have to rip something off from the Protestants when we have such a deep and rich faith that really goes unexplored at a typical VBS program.
My daughter came home every day talking about the different saint they learned about or a different sacrament. She went to to mass everyday and even went to adoration. My daughter, who is only ten years old, was looking up Padre Pio on the internet so that she could learn more about him. I didn't see her bringing home a bunch of crafts or practicing songs (although they did do some crafts and did sing songs). We didn't have to wash her t-shirt every night so that she would be color coded for her age group. It didn't feel like a big production. It was catechesis. It was evangelization. It was fun.
I think our children have been underestimated and have been spoon fed this vanilla "Jesus Loves Me, This I Know, For the Bible Tells me So" education for too long. And that is fine for pre-schoolers but really down plays what our elementary and middle school kids are capable of. My daugher, who loves to escape into books and enjoys Harry Potter and Doctor Who and all types of fantasy came home every day talking about her faith. Our kids should be challenged and not dumbed down.
I believe more programs should be like Totus Tuus and centered around the Eucharist and the sacraments and Mary and the saints instead of focusing on some cartoon characters and sing-along songs. Unfortunately, I don't see things going in that direction. I see them going in the wrong direction where middle school programs are blended together with the elementary programs and the elementary programs are dumbed down even more. And that's just wrong. Because you'll never bring middle schoolers to their faith by treating them like children.