Lemonade and rosaries: A Catholic family summer

School is out! With that comes sunshine and lemonade, and time for activities that might not fit into the hectic school calendar. Parents of my generation face mounting pressure to spend summers helping our children be smarter, faster, better in academics, sports, music and other activities.

Admittedly, I’ve always been the “mean mom” who calls my boys at the kitchen table for an hour a few days a week to work on math and English to avoid the “summer slide.” But as a Catholic mom, I’m called to do more than cultivate intellectual growth. I’m to help them grow in holiness. It’s a year-round job, but the rhythm of summer presents a unique opportunity to embrace our faith as a family in a different way.

Here are a few ideas to help your kids grow in faith, with all the fun of summer:

Take a field trip. Summer is a great time to visit historic churches and holy sites. Go online and learn about your destination beforehand. When was it built? Who built it? The ethnic roots of many parishes can give our kids an understanding of the melting pot that is the Catholic Church. Check out Old St. Mary’s in Greektown and then head to Astoria Bakery for a treat. Visit Ste. Anne’s in Detroit, established as a parish 75 years before the U.S. was born. Take a tour of a minor basilica — the National Shrine of the Little Flower in Royal Oak — or spend time at the Solanus Casey Center to learn about Detroit’s own Capuchin priest who is on his way to sainthood.

Read a good book. Better yet, read the good book. Choose a book of the Bible to read together. My family talked about this very idea last year but the summer came and went. Now that school is out, we are walking through the Gospel of Luke, one chapter at a time. We’re using the Ignatius Catholic Study Bible, which includes all kinds of interesting footnotes that children (and their parents) find fascinating. We take turns reading a chapter a few nights each week, curled up on the couch or sitting on the patio with a bowl of ice cream. For those with young children, choose a weekly Bible story to read with your children, then do an activity or two with them throughout the week that relates to the story. Websites like CatholicMom.com and MyCatholicSource.com are excellent resources.

Bring your faith on vacation. Sr. Maria Faustina, OP, the principal at my seventh-grader’s school, reminds the students every year on the last day of school, “Never take a break from being Catholic!” In fact, vacations are a great time to amp up your Catholicity as a family. Pray a rosary in the car, around a campfire, or on the beach. Visit shrines and other Catholic sites along the way or at your destination. And embrace the opportunity to attend Sunday Mass at the nearby church. When you’re a child, your world is small. Realizing that the one, holy, Catholic and apostolic Church is represented wherever you go makes an impression and helps children and teens realize they’re part of something big. Really big. Two thousand years old big. Consult MassTimes.org to find a list by city, state or ZIP code.

At the end of the summer, I hope my family will be left with memories of good times spent together. Maybe our seventh-grader will be a better musician thanks to extra practice on lazy summer days. And maybe our high school junior will have a jumpstart on his physics class for the fall. But as a Catholic mom, I know that my first and most important duty is to help my boys know the awesomeness of the one true God, ultimately leading them to heaven. Come September, if my sons are a little further along that path, that will be the mark of a summer well-spent.

Karla Dorweiler is a member of Our Lady of Sorrows Parish in Farmington. Contact her at [email protected]