My favorite session of the year is our celebration of All Saints Day on the class preceding November 1. It combines storytelling (one of my favorite ways to catechize) and direct instruction with a dose of games that make for excitement on the part of the children. With this session I’m hoping to leave some knowledge about saints and also a positive association with the fun games. I also use this opportunity to get parents involved in helping with the games.
I begin by reviewing who saints are (those who have died and now live with God in heaven) and why they are important for us (they are models of how to live our lives). I also make the connection between Halloween and the Feast of All Saints. The children are always surprised to learn that the origin of Halloween is “All Hallows’ Eve,” the night before All Hallows’ Day, which we now know as our feast day, All Saints Day.
Once we are settled in our story corner, I tell stories about three of my favorite saints: St. Kateri Tekakwitha, St. Anthony of Padua, and St. Thérèse of the Child Jesus. After I tell each story, I give some basic information about when, where, and how that saint lived, and in what special way each witnessed to God’s love.
Then the games begin!
- St. Kateri’s Stone Rosary: I lay out a twig cross, twine, and pebbles in the pattern of a rosary’s first two decades. A child goes to this station, recites the prayer that comes next, and then adds a stone to help finish building the pebble rosary. This helps me know how well children know the prayers of the Rosary (or if they don’t know them at all), and a volunteer at the station helps the children practice the prayer.
- St. Anthony’s Lost and Found: I fill a large box with packing peanuts and a handful of saints’ medals, wrap the box in wrapping paper, and cut a hand-sized hole in the top. Children put their hands in the hole and search the box until they retrieve a medal.
- St. Thérèse’s Shower of Roses: I put up an over-the-door basketball hoop and add a picture of St. Thérèse on the backboard. Children shoot red silk roses until they make a basket.
- Put a Halo Back on the Angel Ring Toss: I bring in a statue of an angel and plastic “halo” rings. Children have to toss a ring “halo” around the statue.
- St. Francis’s Animal Roundup: I bring in stuffed animals and a basket. Children toss the small stuffed animals into the basket to help St. Francis of Assisi (who was our October saint of the month) collect them.
For all the games, the children have unlimited chances until they win a holy card or medal as their prize.
We also have jars filled with St. Peter’s Fish (fish-shaped crackers) and St. Isidore’s Corn (candy corn); the children have to guess how many are in each jar and write down their guess on a sheet of paper. At the end of the session, the closest guess wins a prize. For a large group, I add a “Fishers of Men” memory match game where the cards are pictures of saints.
To close the event, we gather around our prayer table to pray a Litany of the Saints, using the children’s name saints. I give each child a card I have prepared with his or her name saint. I sometimes have to use my class roster that lists middle names to find a related saint or derivative (e.g., “Our Lady of Grace” for Grace). Most of the children are both surprised and excited to find they are named after a saint, and they often want to learn more about their saints.
Sharing stories of some of my favorite saints and playing saint-related games turns a faith formation session into a fun party and a holy reminder that we are all called to be saints.
The Loyola Treasury of Saints by David Self contains vibrant stories, illustrations, and photographs that detail the lives of saints from the time of Jesus to today.