Before Lent began, John and I talked about trying to make a few special day trips with our boys to visit different churches.
Suddenly it was Holy Week, and I noticed that the Shrine of St. Anthony in Ellicott City had a Good Friday liturgy in the afternoon. There’s no time like Good Friday to start acting on your Lenten plans, right?
John has childhood memories of visiting the shrine, so he was enthusiastic about the idea. So Friday afternoon we drove to Howard County, passed fields of cows and charming barns, and pulled in at the shrine.
The liturgy itself was lovely, and Leo, in particular, was curious about the service. He loved walking to the altar to venerate the cross. His younger brother did not and, in his firm voice, made that clear to most of the chapel.
When we left the chapel, we walked the grounds.
We saw an enormous statue of St. Francis holding a monstrance while facing a large donkey.
There was an outdoor altar where the boys raised their arms and sang lines of the consecration as they pretended to be priests.
There was a grotto commemorating Our Lady of Lourdes.
Then we found the outdoor Stations of the Cross.
Now, if you had told me that one day we would have a 6-year-old who loved Star Wars and Transformers, I wouldn’t have been surprised.
But if you had told me that one day our 6-year-old would be jumping out of his skin to see an outdoor Stations of the Cross, I would have been a bit skeptical.
Yet there we were. And there he was, racing from station to station with his younger brother hot on his heels.
There wasn’t much meditation or contemplation involved.
In fact, it may have been the fastest Stations of the Cross ever as our kindergartener raced through the story of Jesus’ journey to the cross.
But, as he paused at each station to tell us what was happening, it was wonderful to see that he felt a personal connection to Jesus’ story.
I can’t take any credit for our son’s knowledge or interest, except that John and I send him to a Catholic school that teaches the kindergarteners the Stations of the Cross.
We are so grateful to his teacher.
Now we’re looking ahead to the summer and thinking of other day trips we could take and other faith encounters we could have as a family. We’re thinking of going to Emmitsburg, Md. I’d also love to visit the National Shrine to St. Rita in Philadelphia, but I don’t know how child-friendly it is. We would like to visit places where our sons can actually appreciate the visit in some way.
I’d love to hear your suggestions and your own experiences.