Not many people automatically associate Ignatian spirituality with children’s Bible reading, but in fact it’s an easy fit. Children love stories and are experiential by nature, and the Ignatian method for meditation on Scripture offers just that.
We start the meditation by asking God for his grace, just the way that Ignatius teaches us. Then we use our imaginations to enter into a Gospel story, sensing and feeling what’s happening in the scene.
This method we’re describing here doesn’t analyze the scriptural passage or look for insights—that’s Bible study, a different enterprise altogether. Instead, we try to experience being a character in the story that’s unfolding. It finishes with a question or two that will help reflect on the story that was just experience, which is a modified form of what Ignatius called the colloquy. These questions help move the story seamlessly into prayer.
This is a kind of spirituality that children embrace! They can read the meditations themselves, or an adult can go through it with them out loud, encouraging them to close their eyes and move mentally and emotionally through the story.
In the next few weeks we’ll be bringing you a series of Ignatian-style scriptural meditations for children and we hope that you’ll share them with your kids or students!
SHARE A BIBLE STORY WITH A CHILD:
JESUS IS BORN
Your name is Anna, and you live in a place called Bethlehem. It can be busy sometimes, which is good because your mother and father run an inn, and you get to see lots of different interesting people. Sometimes your mother asks you to help out, and you do all sorts of things: run errands, pour wine at dinnertime from the big pots in the kitchen, tidy rooms when the guests have left.
But your most favorite thing is when you father comes in and says, “Can you run out to the stable and see to things there?” That’s because you never know what animals might be staying in the stable while their human owners are at the inn! Sometimes there are donkeys or even horses, and they feel warm and small good. Sometimes there are chickens (they’re loud in the morning, but you get to gather the eggs). Sometimes there are pigs, or dogs, or even some strange animal you’ve never heard of. It’s amazing what things you can see!
Tonight it’s especially crowded at the inn because of some official kind of meeting going on in town. The inn isn’t just full; there are people sleeping in the hallways, people sleeping on the roof! You’ve never seen so many people there in your whole life, and your mother and father are run off their feet. “Go out and feed the animals in the stables!” calls your father, and you speed to the door, but he calls you back. “Wait—take this bowl of soup with you. There’s a family out there, too. We didn’t have space for them here.”
A family? You balance the hot soup as best you can and run out to the stables. Sure enough, there are people there, a man and a woman and—a baby! The baby is crying, and you tiptoe up to the trough where it’s lying. You’ve forgotten your soup. You’ve forgotten all the animals. What are you feeling as you go through the door and see those people? What do you feel when you look at that baby?
You don’t know how, but you understand that something special is happening here. Not just a baby (though that would be special enough), but a very special baby. You look at his mother, and her face is shining, it seems that there’s light all around her head. The man takes the soup from you. “You don’t want to spill it,” he says gently.
But then you look back at the baby, this very special baby. What are you feeling as you look at his face? There’s a glow here, too, and then the mother says, “Would you like to touch him?”
You reach out your hand and carefully, gently, you touch the baby’s cheek. You feel warm all over. It’s like something big, bigger than the stables, bigger than the world, took you up in its arms and hugged you. Are you happy? Are you surprised? Look at the baby’s mother. Do you feel her gentleness? Look at the baby’s father. Do you feel his kindness?
Think about what you’re smelling and hearing, too. The animals are making noises. The donkey is crunching on its hay. A chicken moves past you, clucking. The dog who’s sleeping by the doorway is softly snoring. It’s warm here, even though there’s a cold night wind outside. It’s hard to think of ever leaving this warmth.
This is the birth of Jesus Christ, God’s own Son who came to earth as a baby. Aren’t you lucky to be able to share something this amazing? You were one of the first people to see him! What made this experience special?
What would it be like to be part of the start of something that is going to change the world forever? What would you like to say to the Baby Jesus?
Is there a special prayer you can say to him now?
by Jeannette de Beauvoir