EDUCATION: Formed in His Communion

The third day of SJE Vacation Bible School 2018 saw trouble under the Big Top.  Reynaldo was intent on his circus animals doing impressive tricks for the campers.  He was NOT pleased when he thought their attempts were not up to snuff.  He was really mean to them!  Later, as he slept, God spoke to Reynaldo in a dream and told him that his behavior was unacceptable.  Reynaldo asked for, and received, God's forgiveness.  After he woke, Reynaldo asked his friends, the animals, to forgive his unkindness.  They graciously forgave him and peace was restored to the greatest show on earth.  After this introduction, campers returned to their classrooms to learn more about God's forgiveness.  

Today's lesson used the example of a zebra herd to illustrate the importance of rules.  The campers learned the zebras have a leader, the stallion, who disciplines any animal who does not follow the rules.  Just as zebras have rules, so do we.  God's rules are there to guide us and making a deliberate choice to break those rules is committing a sin.  The lesson used the image of a zebra's strips to help the children visualize this, asking them what they might look like if they had a stripe for each sin they had committed.  It asked the children how those stripes might disappear and talked about the Sacrament of Reconciliation.  The children learned that this sacrament makes things right between us and God.  They also learned that the priest hearing their confession can never, under any circumstances, talk about what he has heard.  (This concept was amazing to the third graders -- like a bunch of astute lawyers, they kept throwing out hypothetical cases in which a priest might reveal what someone had confessed.)

After this introduction, the lesson moved to a discussion of the line "Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us" in the Our Father.  Campers discussed the importance of forgiving and being forgiven, talking about examples from their own lives in which they had either given or received forgiveness.  

We continued reading the biography of St. Joseph of Cupertino.  Campers learned that Joseph, after being thrown out of the monastery, was homeless and poverty-stricken.  He asked for help from his uncle and his mother, both of whom rejected him.  However, his mother, realizing that she had committed a sin against her son, asked his forgiveness and helped convince the friars to take Joseph back.  Because Joseph had such a bad reputation in the monastery, however, he was assigned to work in the stables where he could not break anything.  Despite this bad job, Joseph was happy and forgave those who rejected and hurt him.  He truly lived the words about forgiveness in the Our Father.

After the lesson of the day, the children rotated through the various stations, such as Games, Music, Crafts, and Snack.  They also returned to their classrooms to learn about the Bible Story of the day.  On Day Three, the children heard the story of Zacchaeus, the sinful tax-collector.  They learned that Zacchaeus made his living by overcharging his countrymen for their taxes.  The Roman authorities allowed tax collectors to charge whatever they could get away with, as long as Rome received the proper amount of taxes.  Zacchaeus was not a popular person because of this -- he was widely regarded as a sinner and a traitor in his community.  Nevertheless, when Zacchaeus heard that Jesus was in town, he was moved to try to see the Lord.  Because he was a short man, however, he could not see over the crowd and decided to run ahead of Jesus and climb a tree so that he could get a good look.  The children heard that, as Jesus was passing, he called Zacchaeus down from the tree and invited himself to dinner at the tax collector's house.  The crowd was scandalized and angry, but Zacchaeus was moved to reform his life because of his encounter with Jesus.  He promised to give half of his belongings to the poor and to reimburse anyone he had cheated with four times as much as he had taken.   The children then acted out a skit that extended this theme of good behavior and bad behavior by illustrating the importance of the Golden Rule. 

After such an eventful morning, the children were picked up by parents from their classrooms and went home to rest and prepare for VBS Day 4.  The theme of Day 4 is  God Guides and the color of the day is blue.

Parental Resources

Father Mike Schmitz on how to make a good confession

What if I haven't been to confession for a LONG time?  Tips

How to Help Your Kids Love Going to Confession



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