Imaginative contemplation with children

Published on 20 Apr 2018
Mosaic of loaves and fish

by Celia Bermingham

I was asked to lead a day’s retreat for the Year 6 leavers.

I decided that I would lead them in Imaginative meditation in the morning and their “journaling” would be their offering at mass later in the day.  I chose John’s story of the Feeding of the 5000 as I thought that the little boy might be a point of contact for them.

I took them from the Hall to the Church and asked them to spread out so that they felt alone.  This done I read the Gospel to them and then introduced them to the idea of using their imaginations.  We worked through the story once more, slowly with some input from me about place, persons, weather, grass etc. etc.

I could see that all were involved and recollected.  The silence and stillness were quite noticeable.

When I felt they’d had enough time to think about it all, I took them back to the hall where I had laid out pens, pencils, crayons, paper, card glue etc. I invited them to draw what they had seen, write an account or a letter to someone telling of what had happened.  They could, I suggested write a prayer or a poem. In other words they could record as they wanted but what they did do would be part of the Offertory later in the day.

All settled down, even the Head teacher!  I was just about to disappear to a corner when I was approached by a little boy who announced that he couldn’t write.  “Can’t write!”   “Would you like to draw?” I asked.  “Can’t draw!”   When I enquired what he would like to do he told me that he wanted to talk to me.  Then began something I’ll never forget.

“I was that little boy.  Those men took me to Jesus and he wanted my pack-up.  I didn’t want to give it because I was hungry but I had to.  Grownups always get what they want. “

Then he asked me a question. “Have you ever seen a magician?”  When I replied that I had, he reminded me that magicians can pull long strings of handkerchiefs out of their pockets, produce flowers from their sleeves and bring endless flags out of nothing.  Well, he said, that’s what Jesus did with his pack-up.  He just kept putting his hands into the bag and bringing out food for everyone.

I asked him if he had eaten.  “Oh, yes!  Jesus and me sat on a big stone and had our food.”  

“Did you talk?”

“Yes. But I’m not telling you what he said.”

Feeling that I was treading on very holy ground, I asked if that was the end.  “No.  Jesus told me to go home and tell Mum all about it.  I said I would but I told him she wouldn’t believe a word I said.”

Later, at mass, as all took up their journaling efforts, this little boy carried the Bread and Wine!