7 Ideas To Help Kids Become Pentecost People

by Family, Holy Spirit, May

Recently, the lyrics to the song “One Spirit, One Church” by Kevin Keil and Maryanne Quinlivan, OSU, began running through my mind:

We are a pilgrim people,

we are the Church of God.

A family of believers,

disciples of the Lord.

United in one spirit,

ignited by the fire.

Still burning through the ages,

still present in our lives.

If the fire of the Holy Spirit has ignited the hearts of a “family” of believers, that flame must be burning even in the very young who have been baptized, right?

The Gifts of the Holy Spirit

Too frequently, we may consider these seven gifts of the Holy Spirit (wisdom, understanding, counsel, fortitude, knowledge, piety, and fear of the Lord) as only being present in those who have been confirmed. While it is true that the Sacrament of Confirmation seals and strengthens those gifts, St. Thomas Aquinas points out that these traits are infused into every Christian at baptism.

In his Summa TheologiaeAquinas goes on to say that these gifts are permanent ones that are nurtured by the practice of the cardinal virtues of prudence, justice, fortitude, and temperance along with the theological ones of faith, hope, and charity.

The Spirit at Work in Children

One may believe that very young kids can’t act on the gifts of the Holy Spirit, but I’ve found just the opposite to be true.

Children regularly prove that the Spirit animates them. I’ve often witnessed kids, of their own accord, exhibiting piety. A friend’s toddler granddaughter regularly engaged in fervent conversation with the Blessed Mother while standing in front of a statue of Mary in grandma’s garden.

I recall a visit to a cathedral my own family made when our children were small. When we couldn’t locate the 5-year-old, we discovered him on his knees in front of a large crucifix, deep in prayer to Jesus.

Decades later, his son did the most surprising thing. Christopher wasn’t yet three, and he was spending the day at our house. In the midst of running errands that day, Grandpa and I passed by church and decided to pop into the adoration chapel for a quick visit, grandson in tow.

Christopher had never before been in the adoration chapel. Without any preparation or prompting by us, the moment he entered the chapel, he immediately threw himself down prostrate in front of the Blessed Sacrament, arms outstretched, reminiscent of the posture of a priest at ordination. No, he wasn’t throwing a temper tantrum; he was quietly and reverently worshipping God.

Grandpa and I could only observe this piety in wonder and with gratitude to the Holy Spirit for animating this child in such a profound and powerful way.

Years later, his five-year-old brother surprised us by requesting that at the end of praying the rosary together, he wanted us to sing (rather than recite) the Salve Regina . . . in Latin. He led us perfectly.

His cousin, at age four, climbed atop a play fort in the basement and, arms spread wide in an impromptu performance, belted out the entire sung version of the Gloria.

Intellect and Will

While silent prayer, vocal worship, and pious demeanor may be more personal or private manifestations of the Holy Spirit’s gifts, young kids can even act on the traits that inform the intellect and direct the will.

Children I’ve observed give ample example of this. There’s the little boy who practiced fortitude and avoided doing evil when, as he told his mother, “I led myself into temptation,” but realized his error and changed course.

There’s the 11-year-old girl whose wisdom and understanding are so ingrained that she speaks freely about her Catholic faith in her public school, and her sixth-grade classmates are listening. One student has been so moved that (with the permission of her non-religious parents) she attends Mass with her young evangelist friend’s family.

How to Nurture the Gifts in Children

According to Aquinas, the Gifts of the Holy Spirit are “habits,” instincts,” or “dispositions” God provides as supernatural assistance to the baptized in the process of obtaining “perfection” They are intended to “perfect” the cardinal and theological virtues, and the virtue of charity is the key to unlocking the power these seven gifts hold.

We adults have to be the examples, the guides who encourage, teach, and give kids the opportunity to put the Paraclete into play in their lives.

The children referenced above were prepared to “speak” with Mary’s statue, prostrate themselves in adoration, joyfully sing and pray in worship, and lead others to Christ because of the examples set by their parents, grandparents, catechists, clergy, and other adults who themselves were living lives sanctified by the Holy Spirit.

Charity Lights the Fire

Because charity is at the root of the Corporal Works of Mercy, inviting kids to join adults in these activities is a great first step on the road illuminated by the Third Person of the Holy Trinity.

I recently wrote The Day God’s Helper Came, a hardcover picture book introducing little Catholics to the story of Pentecost. It’s really quite easy to engage our children, grandchildren, and students in these works. Here are some simple things we can do:

7 Ways To Celebrate Pentecost With Kids

  • Have kids help prepare a meal for a family welcoming a new child or struggling with job loss or the death of a loved one.
  • Go through outgrown clothes in the kids’ closets and donate them so other children can benefit.
  • Arrange to have Mass offered for a deceased friend or relative.
  • Visit someone in a nursing home or retirement center.
  • Send a get-well card to someone who is ill.
  • Shop together for groceries or bottled water to donate to the food bank.
  • Do something kind for a housebound neighbor—mow the lawn, wash windows, shovel snow.

Those are just seven ways to put the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit into action. It’s a good bet your kids can come up with even more. After all, they are Pentecost people, too, living in a “family of believers.”

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