Four Ways to Encourage Silence

The topic of silence has come up a few times in discussions with my seventh graders, and every time it does, the young people make it obvious by their facial expressions and comments that the idea of silence isn’t one they embrace. That’s not surprising, given the fact that they get so few opportunities to practice silence in our contemporary world. But I know that silence can lead to beautiful moments of prayer and can […]

The Prayer Before Meals Opens a Conversation About Real-Life Prayer

In the middle of a session, the conversation turned to the Prayer Before Meals, and I asked my seventh-graders if they knew that prayer. One girl volunteered that she knew it in Spanish, so I invited her to recite it for our group. But aside from that girl, no one indicated they knew the prayer. I directed the young people to look at the words of the prayer in the book. The same girl who […]

Three Ways to Teach the Creed to Younger Children

I was teaching a class of second graders the Nicene Creed when I started reciting it phrase by phrase. I asked them to repeat the lines after me. A group of children who attended Mass regularly realized they knew what came next and excitedly continued on without waiting for my prompts. I let them go, curious to see how far they would get. They spoke the words very quickly; whenever they paused or thought about […]

Prayer That “Fits” Current Science

In late November my daughter got married, and it was a wonderful experience. In the days leading up to the wedding, my wife was fervently praying for good weather. For several weeks before the wedding date, Chicago experienced unseasonal warmth and lots of sunshine. Forecasters, however, warned that “big changes” were coming, and the target date for those big changes turned out to be our daughter’s wedding day. Needless to say, my wife was not […]

Why Do We Pray?

Have you ever asked kids why they pray? We spend a lot of time teaching children to say their prayers, teaching them about different ways to pray, and even spend time teaching them to write their own prayers, but we don’t often talk that much about why we pray. In class this week we began by reading 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18: “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of […]

Drafting Prayers of Intercession

By the time my students hit my classroom in the fourth grade, most of them know basic prayers such as the Lord’s Prayer, the Hail Mary, and the Glory Be to the Father. Most have also learned that there are different types of prayers: blessing and adoration, petition, intercession, thanksgiving, and praise. This week I decided to delve a little deeper into prayers of intercession, because I felt it tied in nicely to our lesson […]

J.O.Y. in the Classroom: How to Teach Children to Cultivate a Joyful Life

Cultivating and sustaining joy in the spiritual life has received quite a bit of attention in recent years. Pope Francis has made joy a central part of his message, as we see in the encyclical Evangelii Gaudium, The Joy of the Gospel. The Holy Father reminds us over and over again that the Christian life is characterized first and foremost by joy: Joy is a pilgrim virtue. It is a gift that walks, walks on […]

Creative Ways to Pray the Rosary

Teaching children to pray the Rosary does not have to be monotonous and painful. Since every child interacts with the world around him or her differently, Howard Gardner’s Theory of Multiple Intelligences can help catechists make praying the Rosary a positive experience. Here are some creative ways to engage the eight “signs” of intelligence proposed by Gardner. Try praying the Rosary using a different technique each month, or offer several choices for the class as […]

Simple Tips for Leading a Simple Prayer

While it is true that we can pray simply and spontaneously, at more formal gatherings, our prayer is to resemble how we pray at Mass. In other words, the prayer is meant to be liturgical, which means that it should have a basic structure. This means including parts for the assembly, including Scripture, and including elements of sign, symbol, and ritual. Many of us have never been taught how to prepare and lead a simple […]

Celebrating Catechetical Sunday: How Do You Pray the Faith?

How do you pray? What is your favorite form of prayer? When was the last time you thought about your personal prayer life and the way you pray in the classroom? The theme for this year’s Catechetical Sunday, which falls on September 18, is “Prayer: The Faith Prayed.” The USCCB Committee on Evangelization and Catechesis offers resources for catechists, adults, and families to explore what prayer is, how to pray, how to prepare for prayer, […]

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