Friday, February 3, 2012

Godly Play: St. Thomas Aquinas

January 28 was the feast day of St. Thomas Aquinas and I told the children his story on this quiet Saturday afternoon. I have to admit that I fell in love with this story of the saint who "thought for God". In this story, we learned that Thomas had many questions about God and wrote pages and pages about God and his two favorite kinds of books, the Bible and those by Aristotle.  But in the end, he found that the most important things about God were beyond words and could only be expressed in being close to God.

Our materials for the story of St. Thomas Aquinas

For the story, we needed:
- a St. Thomas figure
- two felt books to represent the Bible and the works of Aristotle
- a wooden ox, because Thomas was called "the silent ox"
- a map of Italy to show where Thomas was from (a piece from a Europe puzzle)
- a bit of straw, because Thomas felt at the end of his life that all he had written was like straw in comparison to being close to God

My 6-year-old daughter, who was so eager to play with the materials as I was making them, said she did not really like the story. (In fact, she is still playing with them as I have added them to our Candlemas Winter nature table.) My 8-year-old son, who was not so impressed by the materials, found the story riveting.  I'm not entirely sure if the different reactions were due to age or personality or a combination of both.

Our Wondering phase was fairly quiet until I mentioned that the part of the story that told something about me was that Thomas loved books (just like me!). My son suddenly became attentive again and exclaimed, "I like books, too!" Then, my daughter started examining the felt books and asked if she could draw in them. When I explained that we might need them to tell the story again, she asked if she could make her own book. Since I had some extra felt in a closet, I thought, "Why not?" and pulled out the materials for her.  Then, my son decided that he wanted to make one as well.  They made the two books pictured below, cutting the felt themselves and binding the paper with a needle and thread. The red one is my daughter's and the black/green one is my son's. 

The felt books that my children made during the Creative Phase.

My daughter drew detailed pictures of Mickey Mouse in hers (which is, of course, just fine).  Expecting my son to draw super heroes in his, he shocked me by writing out The Lord's Prayer in English in his book. (He knows this prayer much better in German and usually only wants to say it in that language.) Then, he drew a "map of heaven" as he has been trying a lot lately to picture what heaven might be like. Then, he drew detailed sketches of the human body including the outer layer and then the internal organs. And when we visited the Berlin Aquarium on Monday, he insisted on taking the book with him to make sketches of the fish. 

A peek inside their felt books.
(I asked their permission to take this picture!)

So suffice it to say that our Creative Phase turned out much differently than I had expected or could have planned. But then again, that is one of my greatest joys in working with children: you never know what they are going to do next!

I will always treasure this story of St. Thomas Aquinas, because of what we learn from his relationship with God and for how my children have perceived and experienced it. 

linked to Catholic Icing


  1. As you say, it's fine for your daughter to draw whatever she wants to in her book. But oh how gorgeous that your son has put into his book some really mind- (and spirit-) stretching stuff! And then I come back to your daughter because it was her idea in the first place to make a book to write in.

    (It's never a contest, but there is sometimes for me a struggle to try explicitly take joy in what *all* the members of the circle have done.)

  2. I certainly struggle with this, too. But I think for God it is a bit like when my son gives me a 10 minute lecture on some Marvel figure that he is interested in. Marvel is not my *main* interest in life, but I am interested in my son, so I try to listen attentively. I'm sure God listens much more attentively to the kids who draw things like Mickey Mouse and takes more pleasure in it than I am capable of. But, yes, it is nice when a child shows a direct link between what he/she has heard and their thought patterns afterwards.