Julian Haas uses Minecraft for a look inside the Church

Many Catholic parents can admit they have a hard time teaching some of the routine let alone complicated aspects of our faith to their kids in a way they find fascinating and interactive.

One of the last things a parent may think to do is ask a kid for advice. However, you may want to rethink that.

Nine-year-old Julian Haas a soon-to-be fourth grader at Point Harmony Elementary in Cross Lanes, with the help of his dad, Mark Haas, has constructed a way to connect fun and games to faith and formation – Minecraft!

“It’s super cool to build something and be able to teach people real stuff about the Church,” Julian said.

The Catholic faith can be a bit intimidating and even strange, but by using Julian’s favorite game – which happens to be the most popular game in video game history – the Haases have made faith facts attention grabbing.

For those who don’t know what Minecraft is think LEGO and Lincoln Logs meet video gaming. There are many ways to play the game that uses blocks, creatures, and adventure, but it is best known for its creative building fun as you are limited only by your imagination.

So how did this endeavor begin? Julian had been playing Minecraft for a couple years in some of his free time. He was most proud of an imaginary community he built, “a town that has houses and also a baseball field, a football field, and even a hotel,” he said.

Dad was so fascinated he wanted to think of something the two could build together.

“I went to him with ‘why don’t we try to build our church?’”

Their church is the Basilica of the Co-Cathedral of the Sacred Heart in Charleston. A little daunting of a task, but Julian was happy and eager to accept the challenge.

It took the duo a couple of months to complete.

“We would work on it a little at a time, maybe leave it for a week, then come back to it,” Mark said. “We impressed ourselves.”

left to right, front row – Isaac, Josephine, Ruth, Magdalyn; back row – Julian, Mark holding Victoria, and Renae. Inset: Grace

The whole family enjoyed it – mom Renae; sisters Ruth, Josephine, Magdalyn, and Victoria; and brother Isaac. Julian will have to wait a couple years to get the reaction of his youngest sibling, Grace Elizabeth, who was just born in July.

“We had fun working together in Minecraft, but then I thought we could use this somehow,” Mark said. “I thought we could really use this to teach (and learn).”

Mark is the music director at the church and instinctively thought of what an audience may want and respond well to – “a video!”

They completed their first video We Built Our Church in Minecraft in January; and Mark posted it on his Facebook page. Watch it and you will get an inside look at the Basilica – colorful block version of course – and a great commentary from Julian and his dad about the gathering area, church store, sacristy, nave, choir loft, sanctuary, and bell tower that Julian was excited to demonstrate – “it actually tolls!” The tour also includes a peak at the cry room at the church, where they jokingly said brother Isaac belongs. He makes a cameo in the video.

“People would tell me they thought it was really cool,” Julian said, adding that his teacher even saw it.

The Minecrafters have completed five additional videos now, which led Mark to create a YouTube channel they titled, “Catholic Minecraft.”

The list includes:

· Going to Confession in Minecraft! (which lists a resource for confession from fathersofmercy.com). Viewers can see what the confessional at the basilica looks like and find out what to expect, what to say (including our prayers), what happens, and why you would go to confession.

· Praying the Rosary in Minecraft! This video defines what the Rosary is, the prayers it includes, and the mysteries – the life of Christ to think about as you pray. The resource they share is: thecatholickid.com.

· The Sacrament of Baptism in Minecraft! “This one is my favorite and was most fun to make,” Julian said. Check it out to view not only the baptismal font in the co-cathedral, but also get some pretty intricate Minecraft creations that visually aid references in the bible of God’s baptismal waters, including the creation of the earth; Noah’s ark (Julian included cages with animals and also adequate beds for Noah’s family); Moses and the parting of the water; and the baptism of Jesus.

· The Four Marks of the Church in Minecraft! Learn how the four marks of the church are recited at Mass in the Nicene Creed – one, holy, Catholic, and apostolic. Julian also reveals in the video a mind-blowing fun fact that “there is even a diocese on the moon!” (Bonus: sister Ruthie makes a sweet appearance in the video).

· Altar Serving in Minecraft! Julian loves being an altar server at Mass, so watch this video to get an altar server’s point of view. Julian explains his duties during the Mass, and the duo stops to explain what a few words mean and the importance. They also explain why altar servers are to hold their hands in prayer a certain way.

“I really like teaching people this way,” Julian said.

The platform help’s uncomplicate the message. Jesus’ teachings are pretty simple, according to Julian.

His outlook – while on the super impressive side – is blissfully sensible. His favorite bible verse reflects that straight-forward unassuming faith Jesus wants us to have – I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. (John 14:6).

His favorite song, “O God Beyond All Praising,” echoes our wonder of God’s blessings, mercies, and love for us.

If we heed Julian’s advice, we can all grow in faith if we don’t try to complicate it, and choose to see it more like children, and then share it.

Julian’s favorite saint, Mark (which is Julian’s first name), teaches us in his Gospel (10:45), “For the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve.” Mark is also the Gospel writer who gets right to the point all while painting us an impressive picture of Jesus and making it easy for us to put ourselves in the scene of the readings.

So, what will Julian come up with next to build and tackle as a topic?

“I want to keep it a surprise,” he said.

You will have to keep tabs on or subscribe to their YouTube channel (https://www.youtube.com/@catholicminecraft) to find out.