How can we catechists keep the message of Lent a focal point in our classes for six weeks? Beyond keeping a purple cloth on the prayer table, here are a few ideas for keeping Lenten themes the focus of every session for the entire season.
- Challenge young people to silence. I started this last year with my seventh graders. At first they had a hard time settling themselves for a few moments of complete silence in the classroom, but as the weeks went on, they settled faster. I challenged them to spend at least 40 seconds each day in absolute silence. The practice in silence may not bear immediate fruit, but giving students permission to be quiet and unplugged for even a few moments is important.
- Include Lenten devotions, such as the Stations of the Cross. Many of us like to do an art project as we talk about the Stations of the Cross, which is a wonderful idea. Last year I led my group in a classroom experience of praying the Stations of the Cross, and I was pleased by their receptiveness to this devotion.
- Remind young people of the rules of fasting and abstinence. This doesn’t need to be heavy-handed. Since we tend to share the Church’s guidelines at the beginning of the season, one fun way to remind young people of the weekly call to abstain from meat might be to ask about what meatless meals they are enjoying during the season.
- Share information about charities or individuals who will receive funds from parish almsgiving efforts. Whether the parish supports a local or international charity or encourages individuals to give alms to the charity of their choice, invite young people to get informed about issues affecting the community and help them by discussing some of them within the context of sessions on service or Jesus’ presence to those in need.
- Incorporate the Lenten Gospels into sessions. At the beginning of the year, I order the textbook chapters to correspond to the liturgical year. Then, during Lent, I introduce the Year A Gospels (which are used in the RCIA Scrutinies) with the help of Finding God, Grade 7. An option for other grade levels would be matching themes of service, resisting temptation, or Reconciliation to the plans for Lenten sessions.
- Display and refer to a Lenten calendar. If we distribute a calendar to young people at the start of the season, we can display a copy in the classroom too. Even when not specifically pointed out, the presence of the calendar may remind some of the students of this opportunity for growth. Another type of calendar to display would be the parish calendar of Lenten events. If the parish is doing a mission or having a speaker series, invite older students to attend. Highlight opportunities for praying the Stations of the Cross or celebrating the Sacrament of Reconciliation.
Incorporating even one or two of these ideas can help make the season of Lent more meaningful for the young people in ways that help them integrate the season into their lives.
How do you keep the momentum of Lent going in your classroom throughout the 40 days?