Becoming Holy Rascals: Blending The Sacred With Playful Imagination

Becoming Holy Rascals: Blending The Sacred With Playful Imagination

A “holy rascal” like this hardly needs ZOOM to get into the Kingdom–they are already IN, asking us to go out and play and wondering why you and I are so bound to seeking the kingdom in devices.

Pandemic Prankster Offers A New Experience of Easter

My inner child jumped with joy as my imagination and the nation’s was captured on Easter Sunday by the image of a Catholic priest playfully squirting a water gun in the midst of the worldwide pandemic which has disconnected us from our usual church communities and worship services. Who was he? Why would he do that? Reactions from the public swiftly poured in judging the priest’s actions as irreverent or as downright leading a revolution.

I am referring to the priest’s image more metaphorically as a “Pandemic Prankster.” What is the role of a “Prankster” in our society? Can he even exist in our ecclesiastical environments? One of the words used to describe the term “prankster” is “rascal.” I honestly think that this priest emerged from the active symbolic universe as a “Holy Rascal,” an identifier coined by Rabbi Rami Shapiro. Shapiro expands the concept brilliantly: “Holy Rascals are spiritual culture jammers who playfully pull back the curtain on the great and terrible wizards of parochial piety and shallow spirituality to free religion from hucksterism and pious pabulum.”

By asking a question that was child-centered and theologically astute, the priest reasoned: “I thought, what could I do that would keep the quarantine restrictions going and give kids the experience of Easter?” and out he stepped into the imagination of children who will never forget the prankster priest and holy rascal that gave to them a new experience of Easter, one that blended the sacred with the playful imagination of the child. 

Play & Centering Children Theologically

Adults fail to instruct children if we do not put them in the center theologically. Children should not be reduced to the simple object of pedagogically well-structured lessons. The mystery of the very nature of the child must be the fertile soil from where our theology arises, the rest, all the educational interventions follow when we begin to delve into what the nature of the child is and why it was so revered by Jesus when he summoned the children to come to him (Matthew 19:14). More importantly in this passage, Jesus warns us that unless we are like children, we cannot enter the Kingdom. 

What is the mystery that lies within the heart of a child? Children PLAY. Children have wild imaginations; their brain waves are going in patterns that are similar to monks in deep meditation which means they are mini mystics beholding the world with wonder, tenderness and joy. A “holy rascal” like this hardly needs ZOOM to get into the Kingdom–they are already IN, asking us to go out and play and wondering why you and I are so bound to seeking the kingdom in devices.

I challenge us to follow the cosmic catechism of play, come home to our own inner child and begin to richly play with children. There is a mystery in that play that deserves to be explored. We owe that reminder to the Pandemic Prankster Priest whose image will remain with all the children he pastorally led to become “Holy Rascals” and future Spiritual Revolutionaries. 

Three Spiritual Practices With Children

Three things to do with children as spiritual practices including wonder, imagination and play (integrate biblical principles and ideas you want to teach):

Nature: Seek out natural environments like arboretums, botanical gardens, organic farms and spaces where children can interact with nature and animals. Teaching children that *WE ARE NATURE* rather than we “look at” nature is very important. 

Creativity: Have children draw the Corona Virus and the Pandemic as if it was “visible” and they are engaging with the virus, asking questions, confronting it, etc. (they can do this as an illustration or make their own comic). They can act out the dialogue and make a play around their visualization. 

Connection: Speak to children about how the Corona Virus has shown us we are all connected. Go through international news and look at pictures from the Quarantine around the world (people in Italy sing from their balconies, people in Colombia are dancing salsa from their balconies too and police are leading the lessons). Emphasize how this is NOT happening “over there” but to people “Here” and “Everywhere”.  


Diana Muniz has worked as an Arts Educator and Art Teacher for over 20 years teaching in public and private Montessori schools, museums, galleries and nonprofits.   She worked with incarcerated youth as an art teacher for the Harris County Juvenile Detention Center through an award-winning social justice project named is Children’s Prison Arts.  She is currently a chaplain at Lyndon B. Johnson Hospital in Houston, Texas and is interested in the intersection of Art, Creativity and Spirituality. 

This Post Has One Comment

  1. Janet K. Seeley

    I happened on your website almost by accident while seeking the Table Prayer my family says at gatherings while holding hands around the table.
    “Be Present At Our Table Lord” has been spoken, mumbled, giggled and sung by my mother’s family as long as we can remember, probably for at least a century. They were active members of the United Methodist congregation in Kansas, Ohio and Indiana until my mother, Arlene and father, Robert, set sails for the Unitarian church in the 1950’s when I was about 7 years old. I loved being raised Unitarian AND loved going back to Morganville, Kansas to visit Grandma Ruth Schwab and Grandpa Ed. We always attended their home church where grandma played organ and piano for over 50 years and Ed ushered and passed the plate. My honored job was to sing in the choir!
    Now, many years later, my 35 year old son and his family are 8-year members of a United Methodist Church in Colorado. Every time I visit, I belt out the familiar songs with tears in my eyes. Funny how “what goes around, comes around!” I am saddened, as are they, by the recent split in the UM church. Ruth championed human rights in Kansas in her many roles for the church in her community and state-wide. I know that she would say something similar to “the rift is not in God’s Holy place, but here on earth, where it is our job to work together to settle a peaceful, righteous solution.”
    I am passing on the the Holy Rascals article to my son and family, in case they have not seen it. The humanity it expresses and nurtures would be right at home in the Unitarian Church and it’s families, as well as many other places of worship Christian or not.

    Thank you for making this resource available!

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