Faith that Works

Teaching middle schoolers how to live and practice their faith

So this week in class we have been talking a lot about Lenten promises and why so often we can fail at keeping them.  One of my students said something really valuable about why she failed to remember not to eat candy last year.  “It didn’t really matter.”  When giving something up isn’t attached to something spiritual, she’s right, it doesn’t really matter.  Here are five ideas for at home or in school for living a holy Lent in the year of mercy.

  1. Learn about Saint Faustina and the Divine Mercy Chaplet.  Saint Faustina is a saint my class learns about each year, and I remember thinking that students wouldn’t be as interested in her story as they would Maximilian Kolbe or Miguel Pro, who both died heroic, dramatic deaths.  But year after year, she is a saint they remember.  She is the most requested saint for our All Saints Day service project each year.  I asked my class last year why this was the case, and one of the students said, “I just feel that she really listened to God, and she changed the way the world prays.  I want to listen like that.”  I really believe that this story can change your life, and your students’ lives too.  You can learn about the story of Saint Faustina here.
  2. Actually pray the Chaplet with your class.   The Chaplet of Divine Mercy is a beautiful prayer, and very simple.  Students also like that it is faster than a rosary.  The Chaplet is also a very powerful prayer- my strongest memory of saying it when I was in school was on 9/11 when our whole school gathered in the gym and prayed until the buses came to take us home.  It has become the first prayer I turn to in times of great distress.
  3. Go to Eucharistic Adoration.  The first time I brought my classes to adoration I was terrified.  What if they were noisy?  Squirrelly?  Honestly, sometimes they are.  But I still think it’s better to be there then to not go at all.  For many of my students, they have never been to Adoration before, so it is a real blessing to get to be the one to introduce them to the experience. I am really lucky that our school is right next to our church, so I can bring my students every Friday.  If your school doesn’t have this opportunity, ask your priest if he would be willing to do adoration with your classes.  If he isn’t too busy, I can’t imagine he would say no.
  4. Pray the Stations of the Cross.  This one is old school, I know, but if you don’t set a day and time to pray the stations, you never will.  I do stations on Wednesdays with all my religion classes.  I try to make sure to have a few different options during Lent so that they don’t say they are bored.  One week we pray in the church, another we pray in the hallways of our school.  (A cool thing for a different post- at my school each class creates a station of the cross and they are in the halls all Lent for people to pray.)  One week I have them write their own reflections for the Stations, and we read those for our prayer.
  5. Help students make meaningful Lenten promises.  There’s nothing wrong with giving something up- in fact, my husband and I are giving up eating dinner with the TV on.  But a lot of times candy and tv and those things aren’t really hampering our spirituality, although they certainly could be.  Maybe as a class, make a promise together, so you can help each other keep it.  Some ideas could be: go to mass every Sunday (at my school this is not a given), read a chapter of the Bible each day, say the stations or the rosary on certain days.  I think adding something might be a new idea to some students, and having the class to help you keep the promise could  make a difference.

I hope some of these ideas help your class to have a happy and holy Lent.  If you have any ideas to share, please leave them in a comment on this post.

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