A new initiative out of Ireland is using Biblical dioramas to engage parents and children in Scripture. The Jesse Box, says one of its creators Sebastian Kraszkiewicz, aims “to help pass the faith to the children and to encourage family liturgy.” The diorama kit provides tools for children who, with the help of their parents, can create and act out different stories from the Old and New Testament. The biblical stories currently available include the Creation account, Exodus, the Christmas story, and Pentecost. The set is accompanied by study manuals and activity books to help guide the children through each story. The Jesse Box, co-creator said Paul Barnes in an interview with CNA, has the potential for engaging the entire family — parents and children alike — to learn more about the faith. It is designed in such a way that, by helping the children assemble the dioramas and guiding them through the stories with the provided study guides, parents also engage with the Scripture stories. “The family gets together, reads some Scripture and then make that story using the components that you find in the story manual for that story,” Barnes said. “And the basic components are the backgrounds you put in three background scenes, you make the characters and you make the props for that story and as you are doing that, of course, you are talking about the story.” “Even though this is for children, it is really for the whole family,” he said. Barnes, along with fellow Jesse Box creators Gerry Malone and Sebastian Kraszkiewicz — who is married to Malone's daughter — where recently in Rome to bring this initiative to Bishop Jean Laffitte secretary for Pontifical Council to the Family. Speaking of their meeting with Bishop Laffitte, Gerry Malone told CNA that the prelate expressed “the need of initiatives like the Jesse Box box to help our children and families grow discovering the love of God in the Scripture. Because the family faces extraordinary challenges in today’s society.” The name for the Jesse Box was inspired in part by Isaiah 11:1: “There shall come forth a shoot from the stump of Jesse, and a branch shall grow out of his roots.” Since medieval times, the Tree of Jesse has often been depicted during Advent, offering a visual representation of Christ's genealogy. In a similar way, Malone said, the makers of the Jesse Box not only wanted to provide a tool for discovering the genealogy of Christ, but for all “salvation history.” Ignatius Press is the distributor for the Jesse Box in the United States. Julie Johnson, a consultant for the publishing house, told CNA that the initiative is a unique catechetical tool because it helps “students become an active part of God’s love story…where it becomes their story.” “Students not only learn about events and characters throughout the Bible, they come to know who these characters are and learn how to relate to similar faith journeys. Through the Jesse Box, the Word becomes flesh, it comes alive for students.” “The family is the nucleus of society and it is critical that it is whole in order to restore the culture,” she continued, and the Jesse Box does just that. “Older siblings can guide younger siblings, family members can learn together or learn from one another.” “The Jesse Box is not a mere toy, but rather a tool that while simple to use, also probes into the meaning of our faith on all levels... Our faith should bring families together and the Jesse Box should be the catalyst to accomplish this goal.” This is the core idea behind the Jesse Box, said Kraszkiewicz: “to help pass the faith to the children and to encourage family liturgy.” Because it is difficult to keep the attention of young children for long periods of time, he said, the Jesse Box helps to get them involved in the Bible stories: “they cut out, create their own characters,” and therefore feel as though they are taking part in the story. “If you are creating something then you take a little bit ownership of so you feel that story becomes yours.” Moreover, by engaging with the Scripture stories in a tangible way, Kraszkiewicz continued, children can relate the various stories to their own lives, especially if they are experiencing difficulties. “It is a help for parents to equip their children for the future,” Kraszkiewicz said, noting how it is becoming increasingly difficult for children “to receive Christian values” in today's society. Kraszkiewicz said, “the most important job of a parent is to pass the faith to the children.”
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