This week we celebrate Holy Trinity Sunday and the feasts of St. Kevin, Justin Martyr, St. Blandina, and St. Norbert, among others. How do you explain the Trinity to kids? We’ve got some strategies to try . . . plus, practicing “pardon me,” a special birthday ritual, an in-depth look at the Sign of the Cross, and a special feature: 101 Things To Do with Your Kids This Summer.
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The Week at a Glance
Younger kids: Act out, paraphrase, or read a kids’ version of one of Sunday’s readings. Try acting out the Gospel reading: What might it have looked like for the apostles to worship the risen Jesus on the mountain, but at the same time doubt? Point out that Jesus asks his followers to baptize not only in his name, but in the name of the Father and the Holy Spirit as well: we need the help of all three persons of the Trinity.
Older kids: Have your kids read the Sunday Scriptures before Mass (Saturday evening works well). Then explore the Scriptures with these activities:
- Ask: What line or image from these readings stood out for you? Why?
- Ask: Did you notice a common theme or connection between the readings? All three readings (and the psalm) emphasize the special nature of God’s relationship with his people. In the first reading, Moses speaks of God’s special action on behalf of Israel, and the unique relationship that creates with his people; in the second reading, Paul emphasizes our “adoption” by the Father through the Son; in the Gospel reading, Jesus promises to always be present to his followers.
- Study: Read the Scriptures in their original context and check out scholarly notes in the New American Bible Revised Edition. The links at the top of this article will take you to the Scripture text in the NABRE.
- Advanced Bible study: Explore the readings in greater depth at The Sunday Website.
- Ask: How do these readings call us to live as a family? What, for instance, does it mean for us to acknowledge that there is no other god but God? Or that we are children of God? How do we live out Jesus’ missionary mandate?
Practice lectio divina
Read one of this week’s Scripture readings (or a few verses) slowly and prayerfully with your kids a few times. For more about how to do lectio divina with kids of all ages, see Lectio Divina for Kids: Praying with Sacred Texts.
Teach younger kids to say the sign of the cross
This week is a good time to teach kids as young as two and three years old to say the sign of the cross. Let them attempt to imitate you as you slowly make the motions. You can explain to kids four and up some of the meaning of what they are doing. If you’re a bit rusty on the sign of the cross, you can get a refresher in how to make it reverently
Teach your older kids the 21 things they do when they make the sign of the cross
Can you name the 21 things we do when we make the sign of the cross? Stephen Beale can, and does, in 21 Things We Do When We Make the Sign of the Cross. Go to his article for reflections on each of these items; here is the short version:
- Open ourselves to grace
- Sanctify the day
- Commit the whole self to Christ
- Recall the Incarnation
- Remember the Passion of the Lord
- Affirm the Trinity
- Focus our prayer on God
- Affirm the procession of the Son and the Spirit
- Confess the faith
- Invoke the power of God’s name
- Crucify ourselves with Christ
- Ask for support in our suffering
- Reaffirm our baptism
- Reverse the curse
- Mark ourselves for Christ
- Remake ourselves in Christ’s image
- Soldier on for Christ
- Ward off the devil
- Seal ourselves with the Spirit
- Witness to others
You can also learn the history behind this prayer (which is actually a sacramental, a means of preparing ourselves to receive grace) over at the Catholic Education Resource Center.
Practice saying “pardon me”
In his general audience for May 13, Pope Francis emphasized the importance of three little sayings in family life: may I?, thank you, and pardon me. In previous editions of The Bread, we focused on practicing thank you by leaving out a stack of thank you notes out for family members to write in, and practicing please and may I? with a few games.
Practicing pardon me is a great way to prepare kids for saying I’m sorry in more serious situations. Spend the week focusing on this little phrase with your kids with the following strategies:
Talk about why we say pardon me. Explain that we say “pardon me” whenever we cause inconvenience to another. Offer some examples (e.g., when we are asking people to move so we can pass by, when we spill, when we are late). Saying pardon me doesn’t necessarily mean we did something intentionally wrong, but it is a polite way of showing that we care about others in our presence, and that we want them to have a pleasant experience with us.
Put up a sign reminding people to practice the word. You can print out the picture accompanying this image, or jot down a note on your dry erase board.
Model it for your kids. Make a point of saying pardon me extravagantly and often with your spouse this week as a way of modeling the practice for your kids.
Act it out. Play a game of charades in which teams act out different situations that might prompt someone to say, “Pardon me!”
What do you know about the Trinity?
Do your older kids and teens know the answers to these questions about the Trinity? You’ll find succinct answers to all of these questions in the Compendium of the Catechism of the Catholic Church:
- What is the central mystery of the Christian faith? (#44)
- What does it mean for us to believe in one God in whom there are three persons? (#48)
- Do the three persons of the Trinity do different work? (#49)
- What event in the Gospels showed forth the Trinity? (#110)
- How do those who live in heaven experience the Trinity? (#209)
Talking about the Trinity with kids
Explaining the Trinity to kids can be hard when we as adults have such a hard time grasping the concept. Teens might find the explanation at Busted Halo helpful, or Fr. Robert Barron’s excellent video explaining the Trinity.
If you have younger children, make or find a traditional symbol of the Trinity and place it on your home prayer table. Traditional symbols include trefoil (the shamrock), the pansy, or the Trinitaria, a delicately perfumed white flower with three petals. Or make a triangle surrounded by rays, with an eye looking out from the center. As you make your symbol of the Trinity, talk about the unity of the three persons in one God.
Celebrate birthdays with words of affirmation
The next time you celebrate a birthday, start a a birthday party tradition by having everyone else in the family tell that person why they are glad he or she was born. You may find it helpful to model this for younger kids. Or purchase a large piece of colored poster paper and have your older kids and teens write their words of affirmation on it before the birthday party, making a large card with birthday messages that can be displayed during the week of the birthday.
Meal game: Build a story
This week during a family meal, tell a story as a family. Here’s how:
- One person starts off by offering an opening line or two, such as: “Once upon a time, there was a boy named Harry who dug a hole in his sandbox.” Or: “Missy always wanted to see the world, but not from the back seat of a UFO.”
- The next person (in age, or in seating order) adds a few sentences onto the story.
- Set up some ground rules, such as: Don’t dominate the story (add a few sentences and hand it over to the next person); everyone gets three turns, after which the story has to be wrapped up, etc.