Fun Stuff from the Rabbit Hole
Lego Church Project VBS, mega book sale, new video up on the parish friendship problem, and a few personal updates wedged in as well.
Well. That’s been an interesting few weeks.
Nothing badgoing on here at the castle since I last reported in, and we will be picking up with our series on parish hospitality and friendship. Today I’m checking in to quick tell you about some fun stuff.
UPDATE: Um, I accidentally wrote a VBS curriculum outline. So you get that too.
Talking About Parish Friendships with The Coming Home Network
If you’re the kind of person who watches videos, here are Matt Swaim from The Coming Home Network, Rakhi McCormick (her conversion story is here), and me talking about the struggle new Catholics face in forming friendships in Catholic parish life.
I haven’t watched it yet, so I’m not strictly sure how well it turned out, but at least well enough that Matt didn’t have to accidentally leave his machine out on the highway before creating a back-up in order to avoid posting it? So probably it’s fine.
Behind the scenes exclusive: That’s not my actual office in the background, just in case anyone was wondering if the library-garage had been upgraded. It’s that my usual digs were a disaster that couldn’t be fixed for recording purposes on short notice, so I evicted the Lego display from the guestroom/craftroom/mailroom/pantry, put a few of my favorite books up for a background, and faked like an organized person for a few days.
Legos have their room back now.
Speaking of Lego . . .
John Kramer of the Lego Church Project has the season 24 build ready to go, if you are within striking distance of Saginaw Township, Michigan. (He gets mentioned in the video above, by the way.) Would be a great highlight for a VBS program, religious ed end-of-year or start-of-year program, or whatever you’ve got.
Okay here’s your free outline for a Makers-themed VBS curriculum:
Prep: Gather together supplies (Lego, blocks, clean recyclables, glue, craft paper, paint, etc.). Create workstations for projects. You’ll need to have some place (empty classroom tables, for example, in a room that isn’t in use otherwise) where works in progress can remain during the course of the program. Your team will need to make some non-Lego projects for examples as well, using your various alternate media.
Gather your volunteers in a spring pre-meeting (you can attract volunteers in the same promo announcements you used to solicit supply donations). With your team, set your schedule for your VBS calendar, and have your confirmed volunteers pick out and prep your other elements (see below for ideas).
Day 1: Visit by JM Kramer with the display, Q&A. If not in local, then: Slide show (he has loads of photos) of the project for inspiration. Display of other craft ideas, and intro to the craft choices for kids to think about. Games, music, story time, prayer, etc. to round out the day.
UPDATE: I spoke to JM Kramer on Twitter and he says that he’d be open to doing presentations over Zoom as well. So that is a choice for non-locals for VBS, as well as for one-off or on-theme presentations to your parish school or religious ed program. The linked post above has his contact info.
Day 2: Tour your parish church, pointing out the features the kids saw in the project. Kids can bring sketch pads for taking notes on what they want to include in their project.
Do an initial self-organizing into work teams (including those who want to work individually). An adult will have to lead the Lego team unless you just have so many bricks everyone can have all the pieces they want, but kids using other media can work independently or in any-sized teams.
Use your judgement on whether the Lego team should collaborate on a single large project or several smaller chapels. Roofs are a huge technical challenge, so you may want to just leave the top open with the argument that it makes it easier for gallery visitors to view the interior. Budding architects can do some drawn renderings of the hypothetical roof.
Games, music, etc. to round out the day.
Day 3 & 4: Work sessions. Lego leaders should be good at mediation and have some basic bricking skills. Other craft-supervisors really just need to break up glitter-glue fights and help people find the purple crayon — no not that one, the other one. Have the games and music start up as soon as the first fidgeters get restless, but keep a couple supervisors in the craft room to allow kids who just want to work to do their masterpiece.
Catholic Icing has some craft ideas that relate to parts of the church as well. You might want to run a few of the Catholic ABC’s from there for the preschoolers.
At the end of Day 4, take group photos with the completed works for any group projects, and ditto for projects using reusable supplies (Lego, blocks, etc.) that the kids won’t be able to take home. Print out copies so each artist can have a memento to keep. Set up your gallery for the next day.
Day 5: Gallery presentation to the family and staff, and you can perform some music for them as well, if the kids have prepared a theme song or something.
Don’t do individual presentations, just have displays set up and visitors wander around and admire the art and the kids can do ad hoc show-n-tell. Maybe give out some ribbons (generously), perhaps allow kids to vote on winners in various categories, plus a “Father’s favorite” “Sister’s favorite” and maybe some leader-chosen “Best church interior” “Best saint” etc. Note that adult awards can be chosen after the votes from the kids have been tallied, so that you can spread the wealth.
To round out your program you can pick and choose from other elements off the VBS menu, but make it volunteer-driven. Whatever your actual workers are excited about preparing and leading are the elements you want to include. You can skip the other stuff. Seriously. You can.
Bible story possibilities:
The stories from your parish’s artwork, whatever scenes happen to be on display.
Bread of Life theme (Melchizedek; Manna from heaven; Jesus feeds the 5,000; Bread of Life Discourse; Last Supper + basic salvation message) to go with the altar and sacrifice of the Mass as the central place of the central act of Catholic life.
Your picks of sacred-worship themed psalms, stories, and exhortations.
If you wanna geek out, read architect and catechist Christian LeBlanc’s The Bible Tells Me So and pick out a few talks to translate for your age group.
For your music you can just choose some suitably Christian songs you like that are upbeat and easy for kids to learn and sing. If you have musical talent, test out your choices on someone who doesn’t. If the kids are going to sing at Mass, the songs for that need to be worship-appropriate, but for just VBS anything clean-n-holy is good.
For games: Max running around.
Saints: Either do stories from the saints featured in your parish church, or else pick from saints who were artists, artisans, or church-builders. There are no shortage of suitable saint options from every part of the world, so you can rep some of the nationalities the kids may be interested in learning more about about. Possible tie-in there with styles of arts and crafts from around the world.
More on theme: If your parish building is relatively new, you could invite some kid-friendly parishioners to talk about their memories of what it was like to plan the new building. If your parish building is relatively old, you can do a slide show of old black-and-whites from when it was built. (If it’s very old . . . you get the idea.) You could also do general show-n-tell with real life Catholic artists and craftsmen from the parish, as long as their work is g-rated.
Um, okay. Didn’t really plan to spit out a VBS curriculum, but these things happen to me sometimes. Consider it a little gift from Lent-a-Claus.
Book Sale at Ave Maria
Back on plan: There’s a huge 85% off sale going on at Ave Maria Press, ending April 14, 2023. The link listed in their circular isn’t working, but if you go to the main page and click the “sale” heading, it takes you to the massively discounted titles.
I did a bulk order on Living Memento Mori (reviewed here), currently $2, with the decision that this is a book I like so much, and know is helpful for so many people, that I’m just going to carry copies around to give out when I talk to someone who brings up the problem of suffering unprompted and from what they tell me it sounds like the book would be a good fit for them.
Looking through the promo that came in the mail, there are a handful of very strong titles that have been on my wish list for a while, and there are quite a few (like Sarah Reinhard’s Catholic Mother’s Companion to Pregnancyfor $5) that might be something a specific ministry wants to buy in bulk for gifts.
I will say that the media mail rates are particularly favorable the larger your order, so it’s worth asking around and combining orders to get the best price breaks on shipping.
Shout out to the new subscribers from the Catholic Writers Conference. Welcome!
Thank you everyone for praying, the talk went well other than some tech problems. If you attended that presentation and couldn’t get the whole talk due to internet problems, you can reply to this newsletter in your e-mail inbox and I can send you the text of my talk in a PDF. I’m going to address one of the big themes from the Q&A in more precision here on the substack.
If you don’t subscribe, info on how to do that is here. (It’s free.)
Financial sponsors of this newsletter: As always when life pulls me away from writing longer than you deserve, you should have just gotten an extension on your paid subscription. Thank you so much for your patronage.
FYI for everyone, regular reader and subscriber Scoot from the Peasant Times Dispatch has an open prayer request thread if you have prayer needs (you do).
God bless and I hope to be back to regular writing soon.
Well, actually, a child injured her ankle (quite badly) skateboarding today. If you could pray for a quick and complete recovery, I’d be grateful. Other than that it’s been a combo of medical stuff (all good so far, including a successful surgery and recovery for the SuperHusband), family life (good), and, I dunno . . . life? Just a whole lotta life around this place lately.
I refer to “the castle” out of habit from my very first blog, which was an anonymous homeschooling blog called Notes from Greencastle, the name being a reference to our homeschool (we were required for the legal paperwork to give it a name), which school name our eldest chose because there was indeed a green castle in our backyard, and he wasn’t wrong about it being central to the curriculum in those days. At one point the children had a “medieval game” going that included currency, trade, extortion by raiders, all that. But they’re fine now.
I am a contributor to the Companion, and no I don’t get a commission on its sales, it was just a chance to write a few paragraphs on something I felt strongly about, and by which I stand.
Thank you for the shout out! More prayers all around! God bless you!