To help celebrate the 5th anniversary of my blog, The Catechist’s Journey, I’ve invited a number of people to be guest bloggers here over the course of a week! Today, I’m featuring Jared Dees, the creator of The Religion Teacher, where he shares practical resources, activities, lesson plans, and teaching strategies for catechists and Catholic school religion teachers. He is the Digital Publishing Specialist at Ave Maria Press, where he manages websites, eBooks, and eTextbooks. He also blogs for them at Engaging Faith, a resource for Catholic high school theology teachers and youth ministers. Jared is the author of the eBook, The Religion Teacher’s Guide to Lesson Planning, which you can get for free at his website. Here’s what Jared is serving up for us today. Thanks, Jared!
Using Prayer Effectively in Catechesis
by Jared Dees
First let me congratulate Joe on his blogging anniversary! He has always been a trailblazer for the rest of the religious education bloggers. I’m so thankful for this website and the great inspiration it has provided to me and thousands other catechists around the world. Keep up the great work Joe!
Prayer is one of those things that as catechists we have the amazing opportunity to share with young people.
The most important role for a catechist is to plant seeds. The short time you have with your students is an opportunity to introduce them to a variety of prayer methods and help them integrate prayer into their daily lives.
Personal Prayer for a Catechist
The most effective way to teach prayer is to live a prayerful life as an example for others. If as catechists we don’t pray and pray constantly, how can we expect to teach others to pray?
I know prayer can be intimidating some times. Not only is it hard to find time to pray, once you find time it can be hard to know what to do.
When you are developing a personal prayer life, start small and build upon what you’ve started. Set aside a designated time and fit it into a routine. Then, once you have solidified the time and place, start to experiment with a variety of types of prayer.
These experiences can be vital when you are teaching young people to pray. Share your struggles and highlight the types of prayer that inspire you the most. The more personal your prayer experience is, the more excited your students will get about the prayer you are teaching them.
Beginning Class with Prayer
Most catechists begin each session with prayer. Whether you are using a prayer table or prayer book, there are many ways to pray before class. I thought Nick did a great job beginning his class with prayer in Joe’s recent featured catechist video. Although prayer was led over the PA, Nick was a good example and he and his aide set up the prayer table very nicely.
Joe has posted a wide variety of options for to use in pre-class prayer. Check out his guided meditations to start your class off right. Or, experiment with spontaneous prayer using the handout Joe shared created by Jonathan Sullivan.
I have to admit that I have always fallen back on the 3-Minute Retreat when I haven’t planned prayer to start a class. The music sets a nice tone and the simple method can have a great impact on people of all ages.
Ending Class with Prayer
If you begin class with prayer, why not end class with prayer? It is a great way to remind yourself and your students that everything we do is in dedication to God.
I know of many programs in parishes and schools that end class (or the day) with a memorized prayer like the Act of Contrition. This is a good way to make a habit of prayer and helps young people learn their prayers.
Where I volunteer, we invite the parents to join us at the end of class for prayer. Although the attendance isn’t always impressive, the invitation is important and I like the idea of extending the classroom beyond the walls. It is also a great opportunity to have students show off what they’ve learned.
Practicing Prayer During Class
Prayer is not something we just learn about, it is something we have to learn how to do. Prayer is a skill that we learn through practice and grace. As catechists we can introduce young people to the Catholic traditions and methods of prayer and practice them during class with the hope that they will pray outside of class using what we have taught.
“The life of prayer is the habit of being in the presence of the thrice-holy God and in communion with him.” (CCC, 2565)
Prayer is all about bringing young people into the presence of God. Remember that ultimately it is God who acts through prayer, not the hard work of any catechist. Allow God to extend his grace through the prayers that you teach.
Remember that even if it seems like you aren’t getting anywhere, it is God’s grace that is at work. Trust that the seeds you are planting will bear fruit in the years to come.