Taking Jesus on a Family Trip

You are a practicing Catholic and you are going with your family on another fun-filled, summer road trip.  Perhaps you have always and most graciously invited Jesus along.  If, however, you have never intentionally provided a comfortable space for Jesus in your well-earned, vacation sojourns, here are some ideas that might help to assure Jesus is already happily and securely buckled up in your travel vehicle before you even invite your other family members on board.

Just a heads up that the following are ideas a family with children setting out on a road trip of several days or longer might enjoy doing together.  If the trip includes two or more adult family members, with no children, plenty of the suggestions may still resonate with travelers who relish keeping Jesus close during the fun times as well as when duty calls.

What You Need:

+ a schedule of Masses at the church the family will be attending on the first Sunday during the trip

+ at least one, small Catholic Bible

+ a rosary for each family member

+ list of scavenger hunt items

+ small box of assorted holy cards

+ chocolate Kisses and Life Savers candies

+ storybooks, word searches, magazines, and the like, having a faith-filled theme

+ Liturgy of the Hours/personal prayer books (optional)

Research Churches and Mass Times

Knowing ahead of time the names, locations and Mass schedules of churches where you will attend Mass the first Saturday or Sunday of your journey is a good idea.  This way, even though everything can be googled on the spur of the moment today, such a particular and special meeting with Jesus will not be left up in the air, but given its proper importance as an integral and essential part of the journey.  A sense of spiritual destination, also, will be established for the first leg of the journey.  If the trip will last longer than a week, calculate the when and where of the next Mass as soon as is convenient.  Keep in mind, agendas on such family outings are rarely set in stone, and flexibility is key to enjoying the outing as a whole.

Bible Trivia Games

Most people, including children, love trivia games.  We have the chance to show our knowledge, and also increase its scope, on any given topic.  To model the importance of your Catholic faith to your children, and also have some fun with it, choose from already selected, or randomly chosen, stories from the Bible and give children the opportunity to respond to questions by raising their hands.  In order to give equal opportunity to all players, calling out answers forfeits the prize given if a correct response is given.  The prizes?  Their choice: Hershey’s Kisses as “kisses from heaven”, or Life Saver candies as “Jesus is my Savior life preservers”.

Be sure to circulate the Bible so that children can have the opportunity to ask their trivia questions as well to the grown-ups.  Same rules apply.  Older children will happily help them out the younger ones with their questions if needed.  Not only is camaraderie and fun interaction promoted here, but an easy, mutual charity, is fostered quite naturally.

Scavenger Hunts

Who doesn’t like a good scavenger hunt?  It’s always fun for children to go romping through nature in a safe wooded area, or through a winding path along the beach, with Mom and Dad close at hand, scouting out treasures on a list.  The list may contain objects as simple as a seashell with the color purple, a twig in the shape of a cross, a red leaf, or a fascinating rock.  Begin the hunt by reminding the seekers about God’s creation, how good and precious it is, and our duty to care for it and use it responsibly.  End the hunt with sharing time, giving everyone, including Mom and Dad, an opportunity to show and discuss their treasures and how each object reminds the finder of its Creator and His love for us.  Example: A red leaf could remind someone of a drop of Jesus’ blood that He shed out of love to redeem us, or its color may simply call to mind the color associated with love, which comes from God, or a triangular leaf could be a sign of the Holy Trinity for someone.

Another variation on the scavenger hunt could be played in the car while on the road.  The person with the box of holy cards calls out the object the rest will be scanning for the next so many miles.  The object must be connected somehow to our faith in God, for example, a church, structures in the shape of a cross, a body of water.  The person with the box of holy cards gets to hand out a card as a prize to each one who spots an object first.

A Continuous Rosary

Saying the rosary daily is an important part of our Catholic faith, and doesn’t have to be left by the wayside because the family is going on an extended excursion.  A creative and meaningful way to recite the rosary on such a trip would be to do a continuous, intermittent rosary.

Early in the journey, recite the preliminary prayers of the rosary as a family.  That will stand as the first interval of the continuous rosary.  The rest of the intervals will be only one decade-long and will be prayed intermittently throughout the trip until your home is right around the corner again.  Don’t worry about not finishing or going over five decades in a day; just keep going through all 20 mysteries, and beginning again, if you get that far.  You will end where you end, and covering the family with this Marian prayer will definitely sanctify everything you do together during your days away.

A different leader will be chosen for each interval; that person will also decide on the prayer intention for the particular decade.  No one should feel burdened by these three to five-minute intervals of prayer, done at periodic and opportune times throughout the journey.  In fact, prayer time will most likely be enhanced with the anticipation of determining “Who’s leading next?”, “What mystery comes after this one?”, and most importantly, “Who, or what situation, is most in need of our prayers at this moment?”

Don’t Forget

You never know who may be watching or what impression you may be leaving, so don’t forget to pray at meals, even at restaurants.  If you’ve never tried it, it may seem awkward at first, but it becomes the norm sooner than you’d think.  Who knows?  Your invitation by example might turn it into somebody else’s norm as well.

For those layback periods of travel when everyone seems to be seeking quieter, personal activities, don’t forget to bring along faith-filled storybooks, novels, magazines, word searches, coloring pages, or video games, to name just a few.

If your daily routine includes reading Morning and Evening Prayer from a breviary or reciting regular devotional prayers, don’t forget to pack these books.  To witness the consistent commitment and love of God in the prayer life of any family member is a priceless thing and can have a profound influence on others, reaching through generations.

Last But Not Least

And last, but not least, be alert to road signs that indicate a nearby point of Catholic interest or historical significance.  If you’re traveling up or down the length of California on the 101, you can hardly miss the turn-off points along the way for many of the missions of St. Junipero Serra.  You might, in such a case, like to choose one of the missions to visit at some point either going to or coming from your destination.  Often, unplanned ventures to places of special interest turn out to be more exciting than the planned ones.

Catholic shrines, Abbeys, beautiful retreat grounds, cathedrals, museums and hundreds of places which spotlight our rich and varied Catholic heritage are almost everywhere to be seen.  Don’t miss them, or miss sharing them with the ones you love most, and who will most benefit from and appreciate them, now, and certainly in later years.

But wherever you visit and whatever you do along the way on your road trip, remember, that invited or not, Jesus wants to be with you.  And should you make the happy decision of including Him in all your plans, your trip will be more gratifying, love-filled, and blessed.  By the way, the same is true for your whole life’s journey.