So far, I’ve summarized the first 45-50 minutes of my first session with my 8th graders this past Monday evening, detailing the Engage and Explore steps of my lesson. Today, I’ll detail the REFLECT step which is designed to lead the young people to pray from within the truths they are learning. Here are the details:
- Before class began, I had set up on my prayer center, a circle of battery operated tea light candles (I purchased at CVS…very cheap).
- I had the young people put their textbooks on the floor underneath their chairs and told them that it was time to move into another segment of the class that they are going to really like.
- I introduced the concept of sacred space telling them that, as much as possible, we will spend about 15 minutes of each class in quiet prayerful time. I explained that, one by one, I will call them forward to pick up their candle, turn it on, and proceed to a location anywhere in the room (under a table, on top of a table, behind a desk, in a chair, on the floor, etc.) that they will then claim as their own personal sacred space.
- One by one, they came forward to do just that as I made sure that each location chosen was about 10-15 feet away from the nearest classmate.
- Once they were all in position, I turned the lights out and put on some quiet instrumental background music.
- I invited them to get comfortable, to put their candle down and just stare at it, and led them in some breathing exercises for about a minute and a half.
- Surprisingly they were very quiet and cooperative – usually I get a few wise guys who make wheezing sounds when I invite them to breathe deeply!
- I then led them on a guided reflection, inviting them to imagine that they were aboard the Space Shuttle, orbiting the earth. I invited them to imagine looking down at the earth below and taking in all of the beauty of God’s creation and to look at the moon and stars, thinkin about how good God’s creation is. I did this for about 2-3 minutes.
- I spoke about how we can trust God because of the goodness of his creation that he shares with us. I invited them to talk to God, thanking him for creation. I then invited them to thank God for this quiet time, for the beautiful weather we’ve been enjoying, for the peaceful sounds of the night outside our room, and so on. I did this for 2-3 minutes.
- I then allowed them to just rest in the quiet presence of God for a couple of minutes – complete silence. I finished by telling them that they most likely feel very peaceful right now and to remember that the next time they are in Church and extend a Sign of Peace to someone, that they are wishing that this person will experience the same peace you are feeling right now.
- I slowly called them back to the room, turned a few lights on slowly, and made sure we had not lost any of them to sleep! I’m happy to report that they all stayed awake! They then returned to their seats, placing their candles back on the prayer table.
- When we gathered back, I asked if this was the quietest moment of their day and all but one raised their hand. I said that this is how we are going to pray each week whenever possible – that this is a little different from how they may have prayed before but that it is a grownup way to pray. I asked if they liked it and they responded positively (no gushing or anything, just a few nods, a few “yeahs” and a couple of “uh-huhs”)
All told, we took between 15-20 minutes total for the Reflect step. I never once used the word meditation…kids can often act goofy when they hear that word. I’ll tell them in a few weeks that this is what they’re doing.
Only once during the guided reflection did I need to stop and correct some behavior. One of the boys was trying to hold back laughter and finally let loose with some giggles and guffaws. Over what, I have no idea. I just stopped and said to the whole group, “you need to resist the urge to laugh and giggle when we do this because that’s what children do and you’re not little children anymore. You need to act like young adults.” That seemed to work.
When we were all done, I complimented them on their behavior, telling them that they acted very maturely. We were now ready to move into the final step of the class, the RESPOND step, where I send them out through “my door” (remember, St. Ignatius’ advice? “Enter through THEIR door but be sure to leave through YOUR door!”) I’ll describe that experience tomorrow.