The next two weeks find catechists trying to focus on a huge liturgical feast while still in the penitential fasting period. Many children in our catechism classes will be released for the rest of December and the last sigh of 2011 to the secularization of these holy days as though they were just another linkage of days in just another ordinary life.
What do we do with that? We have such a short amount of time. How do we touch these children in the brief hour or two they sit at our side learning about a faith full of mystery and tradition? How do we help these children connect to sights and sounds and smells which some only greet when at our classroom door?
This calls for catechism teachers to pull out all the stops and unwrap a few sweet surprises. We want our young Catholics (who might not have any other exposure to the faith except in our classrooms and hallways) to leave class this month with a sense of beauty and awe for the faith handed down to them from the friends of Jesus; the friends who walked and talked and ate and sang and cried and laughed at the side of our Lord.
It is not a dried up crust of a religion. It is a milk and honey and living bread religion.
Do you offer it to your students as though it were a living faith? Do you allow them to feel and taste and see and smell the goodness in these early years so that as they grow and mature they can reach a higher realm of understanding the Christ who sat and walked and talked in their presence?
Remember what Pope Pius XI told us in Quas Primas, an Encyclical on the Feast of Christ the King written in 1925:
(21) “For people are instructed in the truths of faith, and brought to appreciate the inner joys of religion far more effectually by the annual celebration of our sacred mysteries than by any official pronouncement of the teaching of the Church (emphasis mine). Such pronouncements usually reach only a few and the more learned among the faithful; feasts reach them all; the former speak but once, the latter speak every year—in fact, forever. The church’s teaching affects the mind primarily; her feasts affect both mind and heart, and have a salutary effect upon the whole of man’s nature. Man is composed of body and soul, and he needs these external festivities so that the sacred rites, in all their beauty and variety, may stimulate him to drink more deeply of the fountain of God’s teaching, that he may make it a part of himself, and use it with profit for his spiritual life.”
Yes, it’s that time. Time to speak to both the mind and heart of our children through the feasts of the church. Time to wrap these external festivities into our plans and unwrap the sacred truths of our faith in our classrooms.
Little minds can not comprehend the total mysteries of the faith and certainly they cannot understand any official pronouncements. But they can and do understand the inner joys of the faith made known through annual celebrations.
And so we touch this moment within this season.
It’s that time. Time to touch the children’s senses and, by doing so, capture their spirit and invite them into a faith that is anything but lacking.
This Monday is the Feast of St. Lucia. Here is a simple but delightful idea taken from Pinterest. Bake it for your family that morning and bake an extra pan for your catechism class. Find a white dress, red sash, and a crown of greenery—perhaps St. Lucia-in-the-making will happily pay your classroom a visit and serve these sweet treats.
We have one more purple candle to light on our Advent wreath before the birth of our Savior. Do the children know that the Advent Wreath lights a visual path for their heart to follow? Does your classroom have an Advent Wreath? It should!
Why not let the children make their own during the class Christmas party.
Edible Advent Wreaths—I call this my Doughnut Ministry. 🙂
- plain doughnuts (glazed, cake, or however you like them)
- vanilla frosting tinted green
- red hot candies (for berries)
- a plastic knife so they can frost their doughnut
- 4 birthday candles per wreath (I was unable to find purple candles so we used 3 whites and 1 pink)
For my class I added (because it heightened the suspense in this sweet treat):
- green sprinkles
- transparent sugar sprinkles (for snow)
Make a Christ Candle in class. All that is needed is a thick white candle, plastic spoon for carving, glue gun, beads and pretty fabric, and a small plastic baby (found in baby shower section of stores). Children love to carve, love secret compartments, and especially love Baby Jesus, safely tucked out of sight until Christmas morning.
Go here for the how-to: Make a Christ Candle and make sure they all take home this prayer wrapped around their own Christ Candle:
Make us a people of this light.
Make us faithful to your Word
that we may bring your life to the waiting world.
Grant this through Christ our Lord. Amen.
And, for the older children in your programs, don’t forget to make use of meditation and candlelight.
It might sound simplistic but sights, sounds, and smells truly do speak to the child’s spirit long before official pronouncements and teachings penetrate their mental atriums.
Childhood is so brief, so fleeting. Make it beautiful!
If you make a purchase via a link on this site, we may receive a small commission. There will be no added cost to you. Thank you!
Colleen Duggan says
Cay, I’m so! inspired by your ideas. I’m teaching 6th grade Catechism this year and aside from a brief overview of the Jesse tree using my own personal ornaments, I think my students’ educational Christmas prep was an epic failure. Thanks for reminding everything need not be so complicated…a lesson I continue to learn ad nauseum.
Cay Gibson says
Colleen, the only way you can fail is to never have tried. God will take your offerings and make something holy from them. Remember that only the Holy Spirit can teach, we can only present the material. That’s why I think it should be presented as lovingly and beautifully as we can. They’ll remember the beauty. Happy Advent & Blessed Christmas!
Lisa Mladinich says
Amen and amen, Cay! So well said. He completes what we leave unfinished, and perfects what is broken in our efforts. We plant and He waters, and what He waters He tends. We’ll see the fruits in heaven one day, but for now we know that He is with us! And Hallelujah to making lessons beautiful and delicious!