I Am Sherlocked: Vocation Sleuthing for Children

Sherlock is delicious. Like "The Woman," I am Sherlocked.

Do you Sherlock? The BBC's reinvention of Sherlock Holmes captivates me: the ingenious puns on the original Conan Doyle titles, Benedict Cumberbatch, the music, Moriarty and his creepy sing-song voice, Martin Freeman's John Watson, the character of Mary, Benedict Cumberbatch. . . . The only thing I don't adore about the series is that limiting each season to three episodes is cruel and unusual punishment. The Geneva Conventions surely must have a paragraph on this.

Benedict Cumberbatch is not, of course, the first Sherlock to win my heart: Jeremy Brett's detective portrayal delighted my adolescent days. He was an enchanting actor, and a brilliant Sherlock Holmes. I was once in London when Brett was playing Holmes in a live stage production, but I didn't have the money to buy a ticket. I still want to kick myself for not finding a way to get some cash to see Jeremy Brett. Second kidneys are highly overrated, I hear.
Jeremy Brett as Sherlock Holmes (Tumblr)

But Benedict Cumberbatch? Well, at the risk of sounding girly, he's dreamy. And that voice!
Benedict Cumberbatch as Sherlock (Tumblr)
Basil Rathbone as Sherlock Homes

For those of you keeping score, I never really cared for Basil Rathbone. Yes, Sherlock Holmes has a talent for condescension, but Rathbone is just a bit too supercilious for me.
The Sherlock Holmes stories by Sir Arthur Ignatius Conan Doyle are hugely entertaining. Millions of readers have plunged into the Holmes narratives, scanning for clues and racing to solve the mystery before the great detective. We love mysteries. Perhaps because daily life presents tangles we rarely resolve before bedtime, we love the satisfaction of finishing a mystery novel. The resolution of the riddle provides relief.

My own children have spent many happy hours pacing around the house, small notebook gripped tightly in hand, searching for evidence to solve some imaginary puzzle. When the children's show Blue's Clues was all the rage, we staged countless scavenger hunts throughout the house. I still find paw prints in odd places. 
That's why I really like the children's activity for March from the Apostleship of Prayer. This month, Pope Francis has been asking us to pray for an intention close to his heart: vocations. This is his evangelization intention for the month of March, and the work of the Apostleship of Prayer is to get that prayer intention out to the world. The USA's national office of the Apostleship of Prayer always provides reflections and activities for children so they can learn what the Pope is praying for and join him in prayer.

The AoP's vocation activity invites children to work like a detective to learn about the ways God reveals to each person what his wonderful plan is for him or her. Even before we were born, God knew the plans he had for us; vocational discernment is the practice of paying attention to the clues God provides that help us learn what makes us truly, deeply happy. God's plans are always good, full of hope and joy (see Jeremiah 29:11). Discerning our vocation is not always easy, but it will lead us closer to the Heart of Jesus. Here's the activity:

My own family did the "Vocation Activity" at dinner Friday night. We had a close friend over, a Jesuit priest, and he was happy to join in. Our nine-year-old daughter Rose led the investigation, jotting down notes in her little notebook as she grilled Fr. Joe with the questions on the sheet. What we didn't expect was the depth and beauty of the conversation, especially as we lingered over the final question: What gifts and talents do you see in me that I should be grateful for--gifts I might be able to use to serve God and others?

At first, Rose omitted that question; she would have been content to let the activity end with her examination of Fr. Joe and his own vocational discernment process. When I asked her about the final question meant to reflect on herself, she replied shyly that she wanted to skip it. Gently, Fr. Joe proceeded with some observations about Rose's unique gifts. While Rose had initially felt too self-conscious to ask the final question, she soon felt inspired by Fr. Joe's comments. True humility, as St. Teresa of Avila maintains, is accepting the truth about ourselves. If our talents are a gift from God, humility requires that we embrace them and put them to work for the good of the kingdom. Rose felt stirred as she listened to Fr. Joe's "evidence" about how God is working in her life. After that, the older children didn't want to be left out. The adults--Fr. Joe, my husband, and I--looked around the table and offered simple observations about the gifts God has given each of them.

We talk about vocations a lot in our family, encouraging the children to discover God's plan for their lives. We discuss regularly priesthood and religious communities, the single life, and marriage. Using the AoP's Vocation Activity Friday night was a loving and peaceful way to extend that ongoing conversation and affirm God's generosity to us. I hope the AoP can help your family indulge in its own vocation sleuthing. We are praying for you!