Taking Prayers to Heart

people praying in church

I was born in 1959, which means that my first few years of faith formation in the early to mid-60s involved the Baltimore Catechism and its emphasis on memorizing. After the Second Vatican Council, my remaining years of formal faith formation (mid-60s and 70s) moved in new directions inspired by the Council but with a definite shift in one specific area. Memorization was deemed an old-fashioned, lifeless way of learning. The result, of course, is that as I grew older and my faith grew (yes, faith formation after Vatican II did nurture my faith!), I lacked the ability to recall formulas of our faith and a number of traditional prayers that my older siblings had taken to heart (memorized).

This caught up with me years later when, as a consultant for the Office for Catechesis for the Archdiocese of Chicago, I visited a parish where the senior citizen’s group was conducting a study of the Catechism of the Catholic Church. I introduced myself and offered my assistance as a resource, but before I could leave the podium, the woman in charge invited everyone to stand and pray. “Let’s recite the Memorare,” she said. Immediately, every person in the room began praying the words of that beautiful prayer except for you-know-who. I had to lip sync!

That experience left me feeling incomplete as a Catholic: everyone else knew something that I did not. While it’s true that we don’t want to simply memorize words that we can rattle off without thinking, it is also true that these words enable us to join hearts and voices together and to pray in words that have been passed down to us like family heirlooms. The Catechism teaches us that, “The memorization of basic prayers offers an essential support to the life of prayer, but it is important to help learners savor their meaning.” (#2688)

Having said all that, here’s a suggestion for your entire faith community (children and adults alike): A Prayer of the Month. Identify one prayer per month that the entire parish is encouraged to memorize/take to heart (for example: the Memorare, Act of Contrition, or Hail Holy Queen). The prayer could be recited each week after Communion at Sunday Mass as a way to encourage parishioners to join in. The prayer can be included in the parish bulletin, on the parish website, and on social media, along with an accompanying article providing some background and understanding of the prayer. Encourage reading a book like The Words We Pray, which explores the richness of traditional Catholic prayers.

In addition to the “obvious” (Our Father, Hail Mary, Glory Be), which traditional prayers would you recommend be taken to heart by Catholics?

At Home with Jesus the Teacher

Jesus the Teacher plush figure

It’s not a surprise that the “Jesus the Teacher” figure created by Loyola Press as part of the Adaptive Finding God program for children with special needs has been quite a hit! What’s so impressive are some of the creative ideas that our Loyola Press customers have come up with for using the Jesus the Teacher […]

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10 Things Catechists Can Be Thankful For

Thank You image by woodleywonderworks under CC BY 2.0

With Thanksgiving upon us, I thought it would be a good time for us catechists to pause and give thanks for so many blessings that we have. Here are 10 things that I think catechists can be thankful for, and I invite you to add to the list. For those we are privileged to teach. […]

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A New Beginning This Advent

As Christmas approaches, life becomes hectic, overbooked, and our prayer time can shrink. But if we take intentional steps, Advent can become a period of deepening our relationship with our Savior. The word advent means “coming or arrival”—the coming of Christ into the world. Advent is a time of preparation. During this season, we direct […]

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When Young People Don’t Want to Be in the Skits

comedy and tragedy masks

I went into my session on the Beatitudes with a mixture of confidence and trepidation. Confidence, because after experimenting with ways to convey the Beatitudes over the past few years, I felt I had a solid lesson plan that would get the young people out of their seats and engaged. But I also felt trepidation, […]

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Prayer Blankets as a Component of Adult Faith Formation

sewing a blanket

As we continue to expand our notion of what adult faith formation is—taking it beyond the scholastic sphere—I’d like to talk about one idea that combines several aspects of the six tasks of catechesis. I’m referring to the practice of parishes creating a Prayer Blanket (or Prayer Shawl) Ministry. In this ministry, parishioners sew/create prayer […]

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Using Prayer Intentions Notebooks

One idea/activity that I have highly encouraged catechists to use in their sessions is inviting young people to write down their prayer intentions as soon as they enter the room. This is a good way to get them on task immediately and to begin establishing a climate of prayer, which is key to an effective […]

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Advent: Of Elves or Angels?

Advent: Of Elves or Angels? - angel pictured

Advent is a time of expectation and excitement as we prepare for the birth of Christ. Within Advent is the unfolding of beautiful readings that build from one week to another, along with complimentary music, colors, and the rituals surrounding this liminal time. The opening of Advent calendars or the many other creative ways of […]

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Games for Learning about Eucharist and the Mass—Free Printables

games for learning about Eucharist and the Mass

In the Sacrament of the Eucharist, we receive the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ. When we celebrate the Eucharist, we join in communion with the family of the Church. Help children deepen their understanding of the Eucharist and the Mass with fun review games. Children will enjoy playing Mass Bingo, Eucharist Tic-Tac-Toe, and a […]

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When the Craft Is a Challenge


Crafts are an important part of any elementary faith formation program, and there are a multitude of great crafts that are perfect for our faith formation programs. After spending just a few minutes on Pinterest, I’m sure you’ll feel overwhelmed by the number of options. How do we select which crafts to use for our […]

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