There were probably 15 or 20 of them: smiling, squiggling, four year olds. It was their turn to visit Jesus, exposed in the monstrance for First Friday adoration at Northwoods Catholic School.
And it was me and them for the next 15 minutes.
We went through the routine. We pointed to the red sanctuary candle, which shows us “Jesus is home.” We pointed to the crucifix, and I got the unanimous exclamation of “Jesus!” to my question, “Who is that?” Before I could even turn to the Our Lady of Fatima statue, one little boy already blurted out “It’s Mother Mary!”
But I still had 10 minutes with them in the chapel.
They’re too young to take turns one by one to pray in front of the altar…and already, I could tell their attention span was reaching its limits. What to do, what to do…
“Ok! Now everyone hold your imaginary flower, just like this.” I held out my hand, as if proudly displaying a beautiful sunflower.
At first they had confused looks on their faces, but then one by one started “showing” me theirs.
“These flowers are your special present to Jesus today! I’m going to go around and collect them in this vase.”
Next, I made a circle with my hands, as if it was the top of a vase. “You’re all going to put your special flowers for Jesus here.”
Immediately, their eyes lit up! A chorus of, “Mine is red!”, “Mine is blue!”, and “Mine is rainbow!” began to fill the chapel. They began straightening up in their pews, waiting expectantly for me to come around.
“Ok! Now only your BEST flowers can go in this vase. Remember: these are for Jesus!”
A little boy blurted out, “They have to be good, because, because, because…Jesus is the KING!”
I couldn’t help but smile. “Good answer! Jesus IS the King.”
One by one, I went around and let them carefully put their imaginary flower in the imaginary vase I held. No one was wiggling. No one was distracted. Seriously, and reverently, each one offered the best of their imagination. Their eyes followed me around the chapel.
I whispered a, “Wow, what a special flower for Jesus!” or “Good job” to each of the kids. At the end, with all eyes still on me, I went up and “put” the imaginary vase in front of the altar.
“Does anyone want to give a very special flower to Mother Mary too?”
Those two rounds of “collecting” flowers for Jesus and Mary filled those ten remaining minutes. As they, one-by-one, awkwardly genuflected and trotted out of the chapel, I couldn’t help but smile at the power of imagination.
How easy it can be to make an offering to God- and how happy He must have been with those 4 year olds! It was just as real for them- AND for Him- as if they really did have flowers in their hands.