When I first moved to the Northwest, I was an idealistic 21 year old fresh out of a huge state school with a vibrant campus ministry. Before that I had attended 13 years of Catholic school in a VERY traditional religious community, and I also came from a family that prayed often at home and went to mass daily from first communion to high school graduation. I had a vague experience of CCD in 9th grade, where several of the kids didn’t know their prayers, but in general, I just assumed that there were certain prayers every Catholic knew. Fast forward eleven years of teaching and I’ve realized that I should never assume any knowledge of prayer on the part of my students. So here are my top five prayers every Catholic kid should know and why. The links are to websites with the full text of the prayer.
- All the prayers of the Rosary.
The rosary is the quintessential Catholic prayer, and knowing the prayers that go into it connects students to thousands of years of tradition. To pray the rosary students need to know: the sign of the cross, the Lord’s prayer, the Hail Mary, the Glory be, the Fatima prayer, the Hail Holy Queen and in some places, the prayer after the rosary which begins with the words “O God, whose only begotten son”. Once students are familiar with these prayers, the 20 mysteries of the rosary familiarize them with key scriptures and events in the life of Jesus.
Why should students know this prayer? For many reasons, but one of my favorites is simply because Mary asked us to. In many famous Marian apparitions, Mary asks the people who see her to pray the rosary for peace. Our world desperately needs our prayers for peace. Our families desperately need these prayers for peace. Our students need these prayers for peace.
- The Memorare.
The memorare is another beautiful Marian prayer that I think all students need to learn. It’s also a beautiful prayer of intercession, so it would make a great teaching tool within a unit on the various types of prayers. I learned this prayer in middle school and it is one of my go-to prayers when I am asking God for help with situations and people in my life.
Why should students know this prayer? I love the idea that Mary is our mother and just waiting to bring our prayers to God. When explaining how Mary intercedes for us, I love to give my students the analogy of when something isn’t working for them at school. If they are really in trouble and need someone to go to bat for them, most of them know they can count on their mom. (As a teacher I know the power of a mom on a mission.) There are also many great vocabulary words in this prayer: intercession, incarnate, despise, petitions and more!
- The Saint Michael Prayer
This was a prayer I said many times as a child. For some reason, many of my teachers used this as our class opening prayer when I was in elementary school. The story behind the prayer is that Pope Leo XIII had a vision of Satan that left him deeply affected and concerned for his church. He composed this prayer and encouraged people to pray it after each Mass for the protection of the faith and believers. This is a prayer I still pray when I feel I am under spiritual attack or when I find myself deeply afraid or troubled by something.
Why should students know this prayer? While people may disagree with me on this, I truly believe in spiritual attack. I think that when we are trying to live God-centered lives and learn and live our faith, Satan is ready to try to get us off track. This prayer asks God to protect us from these attacks. I have found that when my mind is full or worries or fears, this prayer always reminds me that God’s power is so much bigger than my enemy.
- The Prayer of Saint Francis
Before I go into this prayer, let me say this: I know that Saint Francis didn’t write this prayer, but I still love the prayer and when I learned the real story of how the prayer came to be, I actually loved it more. This prayer was first printed during WWI, and then distributed to soldiers on a prayer card with Saint Francis printed on one side and the prayer on the other. Soon it became known as the peace prayer of Saint Francis.
Why should students know this prayer? This prayer contains so many powerful requests of God, and its inclusive language makes it a prayer that many religions can pray together. Its focus is on giving to others and doing God’s work in the world, which can expand a student’s view of prayer as mostly intercession to prayer as a mission.
- The Chaplet of Divine Mercy
I’ve written about the Chaplet of Divine Mercy briefly before in some of my Lent posts, but someday soon I want to devote some serious time to the Chaplet on the blog. This prayer is the most powerful prayer I have ever prayed. Given to Saint Faustina in a series of visions from Jesus, this prayer can be prayed on a rosary and is simple to learn and remember. When I was in middle school and a friend’s dad died unexpectedly, we prayed this prayer. On September 11, 2001 we prayed this prayer at my school in North Jersey, where many of my friends had parents who worked in or near the Twin Towers. When I was in labor with my son and his heart stopped, I prayed this prayer top the rhythm of my contractions. Six weeks later he was baptized on Divine Mercy Sunday.
Why should students know this prayer? Jesus told Saint Faustina to spread this prayer and that he wanted to shower the world with mercy. Middle school is such an important time to learn about mercy. Life is not fair, and middle schoolers desperately want it to be. Thinking about the fact that Jesus loves us and forgives us despite our complete lack of worthiness can help start conversation about how to live a life of mercy towards others. I also have seen so many answered prayers come about because of the Chaplet that for me it is an amazing way to show students the power of prayer.
These are just a few of many amazing prayers. Please let me know in the comments of any prayers you think I should add to my list of must-knows. I hope you have a blessed start to the school year. If this blog is helpful to you, please consider sharing it with a friend! Thanks!