Monday evening, I led my 8th graders in their first guided reflection. We were focusing on the Holy Spirit and how the Spirit helps us to pray.
I invited the young people to make themselves comfortable…most chose to sit or lay on the floor. The guided reflection I used is from the Finding God program and is on a CD.
After getting the young people to shift gears, I turned down the lights and put on the CD. The reflection lasted about 12 minutes during which time my aide (Kris) and I were free to move about and make sure kids were focused. The guided reflection invited them to imagine they were meeting Jesus and speaking with him about prayer.
For the most part, things went very well. Most of the kids were quiet and cooperative. There was a smattering of antsy-ness and giggling that Kris and I continually and quietly addressed.
When it was over, we talked about the experience. I told them that this was something new and that I expected there to be some difficulty. I also told them that at their age, it can be difficult to hold still for an extended period of time. Finally, I told them that a few of them were just downright acting immaturely and needed to act their age. I reminded them that I wasn’t scolding them…I was coaching them on a skill for Christian living and giving them tips and advice on how to grow into it.
I asked how many would say that those 12 minutes were the most peaceful moments of their day…every hand went up! I explained that we could continue to work at this each week if they promise to try harder or we could just forget it and do book work. Every single one of them requested without hesitation that we do this every week.
This was a fascinating experience to introduce young disciples of Christ to a facet of Christian life that has been practiced for over 2000 years! It requires patience and an understanding of the adolescent mind and heart. Was it a challenge for me? Absolutely. At times I was frustrated. However, I thoroughly enjoyed this opportunity and look forward to mentoring them into a prayer relationship with the Lord, guided by the Holy Spirit.
I know that an athletic coach recognizes that kids need to learn step by step. I’m sure that when a coach introduces a new skill or a new play, the first few times around can be a bit rough. The coach’s job is to develop those skills…to polish them and to move his or her players to the next step. I am using the same philosophy in teaching reflective prayer to young people. The first time around, they handled it as I would expect 13-year-olds would. I am satisfied with how it went for the first time. I am not satisfied that this is the best they can do.
We catechists walk a fine line between reaching for ideals and taking kids where they are at. Next week, they’ll be better and the week after that they’ll be even better.
I must say that a number of the kids appeared to be truly intrigued with what we were doing and I find that to be very rewarding. Wait till I tell them that what they are learning is called MEDITATION! I think I’ll wait another week or 2 before I say that….I don’t want them to think that I’m trying to make them holy (even though that’s exactly what I’m trying to do!).