Easter Egg Psalms

Catholics do a great job at Lent. We fast, pray, and give like champs. For forty days we fill devotionals, give up things we love, and pick ways to help others. I love picking lenten devotions and planning my lenten promises. My classroom and home are taken over by the color purple and the symbols of the season. And then when Easter comes around: poof! Down come the stations of the cross, the purple cloths, the signs of sacrifice. It’s hard to find the same sort of support and planning to celebrate Easter in our homes and classrooms, even though it’s a much bigger deal!

For the last several years I’ve been on a mission to celebrate Easter even bigger and better than I celebrate Lent. I’ve found some of the best music of the season to play throughout the 50 days. I’ve taught my students about the Via Lucis, the Stations of Light, and prepped stations to display in our school hallways. I’ve studied the Acts of the Apostles with my 7th graders and planned activities for Divine Mercy Sunday. My goal is to eventually have at least 50 great ideas for how to celebrate this season, and I’m really excited for today’s idea: Easter Egg Psalms.

My amazing mother-in-law is the 3rd grade religion at my school, and she had this brilliant idea for celebrating the Easter season with her students. She has the third graders go through the Psalms and pick a few verses that sing the praise of God. They then copy these verses and put them in plastic Easter eggs, one for each day of the Easter season. The eggs are placed in a basket on the class prayer table and the students open one each morning and use the verse for morning prayer.

I love the idea of having students find and write the verses, but the reality of school this year is that asking a student to find 50 verses to share with their family might be a bit much to ask. Also, for home use it might be nice to have a set of 50 bible verses all ready to cut out and stuff into some plastic eggs. So at the end of the post you will find 50 verses for each of the 50 days of Easter. They are ready to use and share- even though we are a week into the season, we still have six more weeks to celebrate! It’s never too late to start a new prayer tradition with your family or class.

Happy Easter!

A saint who changed the way the world prays: Resources and ideas to celebrate Divine Mercy Sunday

It’s still one of my favorite teaching moments. I was staring at the student saint requests for our living saints project. Five different students had requested to perform as St. Faustina Kowalski for our living saints performance on All Saints Day. For a pretty obscure saint with a hard to pronounce name, she certainly had a large fan group in this class. I remembered studying her life with the class the year before, but I wanted to hear from the students themselves why they wanted to perform her life for the school. The response I got from one of the girls was so inspiring she got the role on the spot.

“I feel like she just really listened to God, and because of that, she changed the way the world prays,” the student told me. Then, after a pause, she added, “I want to listen like that.”

St. Faustina has been one of my favorites for a long time now. I was first introduced to the Chaplet of Divine Mercy in middle school, probably around the time she was canonized in the year 2000. Since then, the prayer has been with me at all the most difficult times in my life. And St. Faustina has walked my faith journey with me. If our son had been a girl, he would have been named for her.

With Divine Mercy Sunday just around the corner on April 19th, I wanted to share some resources for you to share with students and families to help them learn about St. Faustina, the Divine Mercy Chaplet, and Divine Mercy Sunday. Some links are to other blog posts, some are to free resources I have created and some are affiliate links to Amazon resources. Each link will be clearly marked with its type.

Links to Resources on Amazon:

(these are affiliate links- this means if you purchase a resource, I receive a small commission at no cost to you.)

1. The Diary of St. Faustina– one of the things Jesus asked St. Faustina to do was to keep a diary of their conversations. This diary is huge, but an amazing spiritual resource. One of my life goals is to read the whole thing straight through, but as of yet I have only prayed with portions of the text.
2.St. Faustina Kowalska: Messenger of Mercy– I love the Encounter the Saints Series from Pauline Media. They are easily readable books of about 100-125 pages geared toward middle grade readers. I still use them with my middle school students because it introduces them to in depth reading about saints at a level almost all of them can handle.
3. Divine Mercy Prayer Cards– The ten pack was the most economical way to find these on Amazon. They make great end of year or confirmation gift!

Other blog posts with St. Faustina:
Knowing the Saints
Five Prayers Every Catholic Kid Should Know (and why)
Five ways to have a Holy Lent
Books to Use During Lent

Free Resources:

I hope you and your family had an amazing Easter and look forward to hearing hor you celebrate Divine Mercy Sunday this week. Let me know your great ideas in the comments!

Acts Passports

One of my least favorite things about religion textbooks is the fact that they are all designed with a once a week parish class in mind. In order for publishers to make their money, they have to create books that they can market for both the school and the parish consumer. The result, as far as middle school is concerned, is a set of books with roughly 12 to 15 chapters and not nearly enough content or rigor for the Catholic school setting. So most years, we run out of New Testament textbook content right around Easter, even though I have been supplementing extensively throughout the year. (Also, apparently after the gospels, the entire New Testament fits neatly into one chapter about Peter and Paul. Makes sense.). So a few years ago I developed a project with takes us neatly to the end of the year, while also expanding students’ knowledge of the New Testament and the early church.

After Easter, we begin reading all of Acts of the Apostles together as a class. We read from chapter 1 through chapter 12 together, taking notes and discussing highlights. I also model for students how to take notes on important events and keep track of the setting.

After this, I split the class into three groups who each read and record one missionary journey of Saint Paul. Students take notes on where Paul is, who his companions are, and what he says and does in each city. They also use the computer lab to look at interactive maps using http://www.about-jesus.org/paul-first-missionary-journey-map.htm for the first journey, http://www.about-jesus.org/paul-second-missionary-journey-map.htm for the second journey, and http://www.about-jesus.org/paul-third-missionary-journey-map.htm for the third journey.

Once students have a good grasp of the events and places of their assigned missionary journey, we move on to creating a “passport” that Saint Paul may have used for his journey. Each place he visits needs a description of the events there, and a stamp for the passport. They also fill out a map of the journey and a profile of Paul. The final projects are always so cool!

I’ve included the files for the project, but you could certainly tweak to fit your classroom needs.  I’m still working on the rubric- I would like it to be more content based than class behavior and effort based, but I find that writing rubrics in May often needs to include behavior and effort portions as “end of the year-itis” sets in.

In addition to being a lot of fun, this project also helps students to celebrate the Easter season along with the Church and provides students with a familiarity with the mass readings each week. As always, please let me know in the comments if these ideas are helpful to you!

Happy Easter!

Via Lucis

When reading through my Magnificat magazine this month, something caught my eye. The Stations of the Cross have always been one of my favorite Lenten practices, and I love the way that our school displays them in the hallways so students can pray them any time. So I was really excited to discover the Via Lucis, or Way of Light, described in the magazine. The Via Lucis are 14 Resurrection stories that follow the gospel accounts of the Risen Christ.

So this last week, my class has been learning each of the 14 Stations of Light.

Via Lucis

1. Jesus Rises from the Dead  (Matthew 28: 1-10)   

2. The finding of the empty tomb (Luke 24: 1-12)              

3. Mary Magdalene meets the risen Jesus (John 20: 11-18)                 

4. Jesus appears on the road to Emmaus (Luke 24:13- 24)        

5. Jesus is known in the breaking of bread (Luke 24:25- 35)                 

6. Jesus appears to the disciples in Jerusalem  (Luke 24: 36- 49)

7. Jesus gives the disciples his peace and the power to forgive sins
(John 20: 19-24)

8. Jesus strengthens the faith of Thomas (John 20: 24- 29)         

9. Jesus appears by the Sea of Tiberias  (John 21: 1-14)  

10. Jesus forgives Peter and commands him to feed his sheep
(John 21: 15- 19)        

11. Jesus commissions the disciples upon the mountain 
(Mark 16: 14-18  )       

12. The Ascension of Jesus  (Acts 1:6-12)               

13. Mary and the disciples wait in prayer (Acts 1: 13-14)           

14. The Holy Spirit descends at Pentecost (Acts 2:1-11)

Each student worked with a partner to read the story in the Bible and retell it in their own words. They also wrote a short three sentence prayer to connect the station to their own lives. Then they created stained glass windows to match the events of the station, using paper. This took a little longer than I had hoped to put all the way together, but this week we will be replacing the Stations of the Cross with the Stations of Light.

10 Great Songs for Easter

One of the ways that I am trying to help my class celebrate Easter this year is by teaching them some of the classic Easter hymns and songs, and also introducing them to some more contemporary music as well. I hope some of these songs can help you in your celebration of Easter.

This post contains affiliate links. That means if you use my link to purchase one of the songs, I receive a small commission at no cost to you.

  1. Christ is Risen by Matt Maher. I love so much about this song, but especially the opening chords and the way the song builds into the bridge, when we sing “Oh, Church! Come stand in the light! Our God is not dead, he’s alive, he’s alive!”
  2. Everything Comes Alive by We Are Messengers. This song makes me want to dance every time I hear it. It’s fun and easy to sing along with as well. I love the repetition of the lyrics “I’ll be with you in heavenly places”.
  3. Alive by Natalie Grant. This song covers the entire story of Jesus in one beautiful constructed poem. I find this songs works really well with the 4 movements of the Spiritual Exercises of Saint Ignatius. I could also see using the lyrics in a lesson about the parts of the Easter vigil liturgy because it starts with creation and goes through salvation history to the resurrection.
  4. Forever by Kari Jobe. This is another good one for hearing the whole story of the Triduum. While not super easy to sing along with, the refrain is simple and powerfully sung.
  5. The Strife is O’er by Palestrina. This is a traditional Easter hymn and this recording features organ and choir. It’s a nice shift from the previous contemporary pieces and has that hymn rhythm and feel.
  6. Jesus Christ is Risen Today is another traditional Easter hymn, written in the 14th Century. I love this song, although it is often slightly out of my singing range. In Catholic celebrations of Easter, this song is almost always featured.
  7. The Hallelujah Chorus from Handel’s Messiah. Although this appears to be a Christmas song making its appearance on an Easter list, the Hallelujah Chorus is actually the resurrection song of the Messiah. This is a fun one to talk to students about when they ask about why it’s played at Christmas.
  8. Glorious Day by Casting Crowns. This is another contemporary song that tells the story from the beginning of the passion to Jesus’s “Glorious Day” of resurrection. Students often know this one from the radio, and I often play it during Lent too.
  9. Because He Lives by Matt Maher. I feel like Matt Maher is great at creating choruses and bridges that I belt along with in my car. “Because he lives, I can face tomorrow! Because he lives, every fear is gone!” Amen.
  10. Easter at Ephesus is an entire Easter album by the Benedictines of Mary, Queen of the Apostles. I love all of the their seasonal albums, which have a mix of hymns and chants all simply sung by the Sisters. I use each of their albums often and love exposing my students to this simple and beautiful form of prayer.

Do you have any favorite Easter songs to sing or pray with? Please let me know. I look forward to expanding my repertoire and my playlists.

All the links in this post are affiliate links, so if you click on any of the links and purchase songs or albums, I receive a small commission at no cost to you. Thank you for supporting my ministry as a Catholic teacher.

He is Risen Indeed!

Last year around this time, I emailed our pastors. I love Lent and Holy Week, and I think that as a teacher I really do help my students to live these out. We pray the Stations of the Cross and go to Adoration weekly. We read the passion account from John. We learn some beautiful chants. We pray, fast and give to charity. But then when Easter comes, it goes away just as fast.

I want to make this year different. I want to be just as intentional with my celebration of Easter as I am with my observance of Lent. I want each of the 40 days of the Easter season to feel joyful and triumphant. Death, where is your sting? Where is your victory? Jesus is alive!

I’m not entirely sure how to do this, but I am sure that I want to start. Here are my initial plans and ideas, but I would love insight from readers as well. First of all, on Tuesday morning after Easter (we get Easter Monday off) I am going to gather some students to help me decorate the school with Easter banners and decor. When students walk in the door, I want them to immediately feel that something is different. I also want to adapt one of my favorite class activities- an outdoor Bible scavenger hunt into an Easter version, using only the New Testament and of course, plastic Easter eggs.

Some other ideas I am toying with include: Divine Mercy Sunday party, renewing our Baptismal promises in class, activities with the Glorious Mysteries of the Rosary and making our own “Resurrection Stations” to retell the stories of the resurrected Christ in a similar fashion to the Stations of the Cross. We will also start studying Acts of the Apostles in my 7th grade class. For prayer each day we will sing one of the great Easter hymns.

Stay tuned for some additional reflection about how our class tries to transform our school this Easter. I am excited to see how God blesses us in this endeavor.