Summer Schools for Flourishing

By Annie-Rose Keith

Connecting Faith and Life

Jonathan David and Melissa Helser are Protestant worship leaders who steward a beautiful facility in North Carolina, offering what they call “a place for the heart.” Their program offers weekend to six-month retreats and “discipleship schools” for individuals looking to tend to their inner life and relationships, walk in emotional health and stay connected to Jesus in every season.

Sounds amazing, right? This must be a wonderful opportunity for our Protestant brothers and sisters who are able to go! We have similar opportunities for Catholics, but what about the other six months of the year … or what if you have familial obligations and simply going to Mass is a chore? Spiritual retreat and development are very hard to come by in our culture of distraction, especially when children are in the mix! 

As we move into the summer’s loose definition of “structure,” I humbly offer some options to try with your child or grandchild at home this summer. Idea 1) Ask the Lord in prayer or use the Saint Name Generator ( to “assign” them a saint for the summer. Encourage them to ask that saint to pray for them during your family prayer time or, if they’re older, invite them to think about what their particular saint would do in a situation. If our eyes and hearts are tuned in, we can see our saints’ prayers working for us and a really beautiful relationship could grow! Idea 2) Mass. This is obvious, but what if you tried going to Mass at a different parish one weekend? If your parish is a more modern building, what if you went to a church that’s more classic in architecture? Our diocese has a pilgrimage trail of various parishes for an added challenge! Idea 3) Teach them the Angel of God prayer if they have a hard time going to sleep, or if they have a bad dream. Even if they are completely playing the system and just trying to stay up later, there is comfort in repetition. The very first prayer my grandmother ever taught me was this one, and I hope it brings my children the same peace it brings me. Idea 4) Place the Church and our Catholic faith in your daily life. Melt it together. Here is an example I like to use to remind me of this.

Sometimes, I like to imagine Pope Francis sitting in the Donut Bank here in Evansville at 5:30 in the morning, shooting the breeze with the other wiser fellows. I’m serious. Here we have a holy man who followed God’s call for him and was ordained to share in the priesthood of Christ, who likes to make interesting conversation, enjoying Evansville’s top brew with other gentlemen who equally like to wordsmith and hold court. The only difference between a meeting of the minds like that and a meeting of the papal Curia is the level of paperwork and official documentation. The Holy Spirit moves through each group equally and the Holy Spirit’s guidance does not waiver. What does waiver, however, is our openness and discernment to receive the Holy Spirit’s guidance.

The entire Church, as a living and breathing organism, is formed around our needs as God’s children. We are washed clean and made new at our baptism, we are nourished with spiritual food each week when we receive the Eucharist at Mass, our young people are confirmed and sent out to serve as missionary disciples just like when they are sent out into the workforce, our liturgical seasons reflect the earth’s natural seasons, and we go see “The Great Doctor” for healing when we receive Anointing of the Sick. Our Catholic faith is all encompassing and it’s not meant to drag us down! He wants us to flourish, so why not start reminding ourselves of that this summer?