Arts and Crafts in the Classroom for the Non-Artist Catechist

Arts and crafts are not my specialty. I am upfront about this with my students, but I don’t want my lack of art skill to mean that we don’t have any artistic activities in our sessions. I certainly appreciate fine art. I have asked young people to draw pictures as responses to themes we’re discussing. And I do find some projects that I can lead that appeal to the artistic side of young people. What’s […]

“If These Walls Could Talk…” Catholic Walls Do Talk!

This is a picture I took several years ago of my wife, Joanne, pausing to sit and reflect at the Art Institute of Chicago. This is generally what we do when we encounter art: we pause and let it “speak” to us. Art that relies on images, shapes, and objects speaks to us without using words to tell a story. I remember as a young child attending the Latin Mass and not understanding most of it. […]

The Boy in the Back of a Nativity Painting

Long-time catechists may find themselves going back to the tried-and-true activities that they’ve used before with predictable outcomes. But sometimes breaking out of that cycle can be a good thing. For a number of years, I would print out artwork that depicted the Nativity. I had 15–20 images from various artists. The first-grade children and I would sit in a circle on the floor, and I would show the images to the class and then […]

Singing Grace Before Meals

As I continue my quest to encourage Catholics to sing more when we gather for faith formation and various other activities in our parishes, I would like to suggest a simple melody for singing Grace before mealtime. Rather than create a new melody, I suggest we use the melody from the traditional “Agnus Dei” and use the words of our traditional Grace Before Meals prayer: Bless us, O Lord, and these thy gifts which we are […]

St. Cecilia, Patron Saint of Musicians, Pray for Us

Tomorrow, November 22, we celebrate the feast day of St. Cecilia, the patron saint of musicians. I’ve made no secret on this blog about my insistence that music and singing must be a part of our catechetical ministry. I also believe that we have a largely untapped embarrassment of riches right under our noses in the form of young people who are adept at playing various instruments such as cello, flute, classical guitar, or piano. These […]

Another Go-To Hymn for My Playlist

Not that long ago, I posted about my newly formed playlist of what I call “Go-To Hymns”—songs that are easy to sing along with and can be used easily for prayer services when a pastoral musician or song leader is not present and if you are not comfortable leading song. It occurred to me recently that another piece of music that should be a part of every Catholic playlist is a Litany of Saints. Talk […]

I Created My Playlist of “Go-To” Hymns!

Not long ago, I posted about creating a playlist of “go-to-hymns” that you can rely on to invite people to sing at any and every parish gathering so that we can more truly and consistently express the joy that is ours in the Risen Christ. Since then, I have been presenting at a number of gatherings (workshops and seminars) around the country where people have made a point of singing joyful hymns and refrains as […]

Changing It Up with a Craft

It was the week when all the students in Texas had to take standardized tests. Even on a good day, my third-grade faith formation class is a squirmy bunch. After being at elementary school all day, doing nothing but taking standardized tests, I knew they would be extra squirmy. I needed to do something different to keep their attention this time. I wasn’t going to follow my regular class plan, so I needed a hands-on […]

When the Craft Is a Challenge

Crafts are an important part of any elementary faith formation program, and there are a multitude of great crafts that are perfect for our faith formation programs. After spending just a few minutes on Pinterest, I’m sure you’ll feel overwhelmed by the number of options. How do we select which crafts to use for our lessons? Sometimes, as a catechist in a parish, we might not even have a choice—the craft activity might be chosen […]

Forming Children and Youth for the Mass, Part 2: Song and Praise

This is the second article in a series about forming children for active participation in the Mass. Catechists can encourage children and youth to participate in the Mass by helping them become comfortable with singing and sung prayer and praise. Age-appropriate music should be a regular element in every catechetical session. Most textbook series come with a grade-level CD or music recommendations of common hymns we sing at Mass. That’s a place to start. Certainly, […]

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