I once had a student ask why we spent so much time talking about the saints; did he not attend faith formation classes to learn about Jesus? I told him that this is precisely why we learned about the saints: “our communion with the saints joins us to Christ” (Catechism of the Catholic Church 957). The saints reveal much to us about God, and they give us an example of how to live as followers of Jesus. Since there is so much to share about the saints with the students in our faith formation programs, catechists can be challenged to know where to start. Here are four ways to teach about the saints that have worked well in our faith formation program.
1. Patron Saint of the Class
At the start of the year I have my catechists choose a patron saint for their classes. My hope is that this saint will become as much a part of the class as any of the students. I provide each catechist with a large picture of her or his patron saint to display somewhere in the classroom, as well as smaller, wallet-size pictures for the children to paste into the front cover of their textbooks. I also give the catechists a short prayer that was either written by the saint or inspired by something that the saint may have done or said. Throughout the year, whenever catechists need an extra activity or two, they can choose to share stories about their patron saint, connect the saint’s life to the themes of their classes, and spend time learning the short prayer. By the end of the year the students will have a solid relationship with at least one saint after months of prayer and conversation together.
2. Warm-Up Activity
I also encourage catechists to include the saints as a part of a warm-up activity for their lessons. I provide them worksheets about a saint whose feast day is approaching, and catechists can begin class by discussing that saint’s life and how that saint can provide the Church with an example of how to follow Christ.
3. Saint Break
Since there always seems to be a time in every class when the group needs to take a break from whatever they are doing, I provide catechists with extra activities that are perfect for just such moments. These activities may include a book about a saint that they can read, a video they can watch, a picture they can color, or a prayer that they can discuss and pray together. These five- to ten-minute activities usually fill the perfect amount of time to refocus the class. Stories about the lives of the saints can really captivate young minds.
4. Saint Games
Finally, children can enjoy learning through playing a game. Over the years, my catechists and I have made up some great saint-based games. Here are a few of my favorites:
- Saint or Ain’t? The catechist names a saint and two facts about him or her and one falsehood. The students have to guess which of the three statements is false.
- Matching. Students have to match a list of saints in one column with their patronages in another. We did this for Confirmation, using the saints whose names were shared with or similar to our candidates’ names. This was a great resource for them when choosing their Confirmation names as well.
- Swat the Saint. After the class learns about several saints, the catechist writes all of the saints’ names on the board. The class is divided into two teams, each of which is given a fly swatter. As the catechist reads a fact about one of the saints, the teams must decide which saint it is and swat his or her name on the board before the other team.
How do you teach your students about the saints? Share your ideas in the comments below.
For more ways to teach about the saints, download the free lesson plan Which American Saint Are You? or the free PowerPoint presentation Saints for the New Evangelization.