How can you share the Spirit, the very real presence of God, with your students and in your classrooms? Here are a few suggestions.
YOU HAVE A UNIQUE OPPORTUNITY. As educators and faculty in a Catholic school, you have a unique opportunity to share your faith story with the students you encounter. Your stories are important. Your journey with God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit is an important aspect of how you teach and reach your students. Share your journey and your stories with students and help them recognize the journey they are on every day with God.
MODEL A CHRIST-CENTERED LIFE. Model for your students what it's like to have a Christ-centered life. Your example will teach more than any book can. Wear a visible sign of your faith - a crucifix, a miraculous medal, a scapular - and be ready to explain why you wear it.
LISTEN FOR GOD'S VOICE. Teach your students how to listen with the "ear of their heart" and explain the different sounds heard when listening with our physical ears compared to the "ear of our heart."
READ THE HOMILY. Discuss the homily for the upcoming week in your classroom so that when students hear it on Sunday, they'll be familiar with it.
SPIRIT TABLE. Have a special place in the classroom where students can go to spend quiet time in prayer. This table can be set up by a different student each week. Allow your students to be creative bringing some type of covering/cloth for the table, a special statue or holy card, rosary beads, or even a special family heirloom. Underneath the table, keep a spare box of items that can be used if a student forgets his/her items. Have the students gather at the Spirit Table each day for opening or closing prayers.
HOLY CARDS. Mark significant events from the Catholic calendar by giving your students holy cards to collect. Make an album to keep them in (small 4 x 6 picture albums from A.C. Moore cost less than $1 each and hold holy cards nicely; holy cards can be purchased from Autom for $5 or $6 per 100).
PRAYER BOARD. Have a prayer board in the classroom where your students can add prayer intentions as they come up. This board can be placed near the Spirit Table.
COMMIT EVERYTHING TO PRAYER. Allow your students to hear you say, "Let's commit this to prayer" or "Let's ask God what He wants us to do about this." Teach your students how to have every prayer answered by praying with expectancy (believing God will hear and answer the prayer) and praying "Thy Will Be Done." Teach them how to embrace "His Will" and to let go of their own. This will teach students a lesson to last a lifetime.
CELEBRATE ANSWERED PRAYERS. Set aside some time each day/week to thank God for answered prayers. It's important to commit everything to prayer, but it's also important to thank God for hearing and answering our prayers.
GRATITUDE JOURNALS. Have your students keep a gratitude journal where they must list three things each day they are thankful for. This is especially helpful for older students as they will become more aware, grateful and positive in their own lives.
PRAYER PARTNERS. Teach your students the importance of prayer by assigning prayer partners at the beginning of the school year. This can be done in two ways. First, you can have each of your students pray for someone in your classroom. Second, you can choose people from your community or diocese (i.e. your parish priests, the bishop, a seminarian, someone homebound from your parish due to illness, etc.). Have your student write that person a letter explaining that he/she will be praying for him/her all year. The letter should explain that the student will be praying the rosary, offering small sacrifices, etc. The student should sign only their first name to the letter (for security). Mail the letter from the school address. Students will enjoy having a special prayer partner all year. Keep a list of these prayer partners so that as you learn of a need/intention, you can alert that student to pray.
SAINT OF THE MONTH/WEEK. Divide your students into equal groups, one for each of the months from October through May. Ask each group to choose a "saint," designing a banner with pictures, facts and quotes about that saint. Allow each group to present the "Saint of the Month" each month during the school year, praying for that saint's intercession each day. Another idea is to create a "saint pack" for students to bring home for a week at a time. Your pack might include a small statue of that saint, a relic card with a stand, a journal for students to write in, a book or video about that saint, some facts on that saint, possibly a coloring sheet of that saint or some medals and string to make necklaces.
PRAY THE ROSARY. Begin each day with a decade of the rosary. In a typical week, you will have prayed an entire rosary!
HANDS CARD. Is someone in your parish or community in need of prayer? Have your students make this card. Use a large piece of oaktag. Fold it in half. Trace each student's hand on colored paper. Cut them out and have the students sign them. Glue them all over the outside and inside of the card. Find a picture of the Blessed Mother or Jesus with hands folded in prayer. Glue that to the inside of the card. On the outside of the card, write these words, "We put our hands together ..." and on the inside of the card, write these words, "... and prayed for you." Students will enjoy this fun project and you will reinforce the importance of prayer.
KNEE MAIL. Break up your day by ringing a bell and announcing, "You've God Knee Mail." At that moment, students should stop everything they are doing and get on their knees with hands folded in prayer, eyes closed and listen ... listen for the voice of God ... listen with the "ear of their hearts." If students do not hear God's voice, allow them to simply be present with God and to thank Him for something at that moment. Remind them that we all have things to be thankful for and give them simple suggestions when you introduce this exercise ... "Thank you, God, for my knees that I can kneel" or "for my ears that I can hear." Help them to be thankful for things they may take for granted.
7 GIFTS. Have 7 wrapped gifts visible in your classroom. Mark each gift with one of the gifts of the Holy Spirit (Wisdom, Understanding, Counsel, Fortitude, Knowledge, Piety, Fear of the Lord). On the back of each of these gifts, explain what that gift means in words children can understand. In the course of the days and weeks of the school year, allow the students to "use" these gifts when needed, placing the actual gift on his/her desk until no longer needed. This exercise teaches children about the gifts of the Holy Spirit and that they are available to us at all times.
THE BLESSING. Bless your students. Choose a time during the day or week that you simply place the sign of the cross over your students, one at a time, and offer a blessing. You can do this each day before they leave. Students will begin to ask for that blessing each day and will in turn bless others.