Leading with beauty*

Prayer tables for November classrooms

This month we’re learning all about what it means to be a saint by focusing on Saint Martin of Tours and then moving on to more general concepts on the topic.   When considering your prayer table decorations, be sure to include some images of the saints in heaven.

  • Chances are you may have a statue, picture, or even a holy card of your favorite saint – be sure to share that devotion with your students by using it as a prayer table decoration.
  • When you call or email your students before the November class, you can invite them to bring their favorites as well!
  • There are many images of saints available for print online, and I recommend starting here.  Go to the Search tab and then type in your saint name on the Title line.  If you’re looking for images of Saint Martin, you’ll find a couple options at this site.  (Go to the site or simply right click on the image below and then “open in a new tab” to get a higher resolution version.)

  • You also might want to consider printing an image like this one for your prayer table.  It’s a very common set-up seen in many different versions, and all follow the same pattern of an elevated picture of Christ or Mary with devoted saints looking on.  Usually the saints were the favorites of the one paying for the painting or they were the patrons of the church or city in which the painting was located.  See more examples here, here, here, here, here, and here.

  • Sometimes the donor (the person paying the artist) was also added to the painting, usually in the corner or at the very bottom, humbly peeking in on the holy scene.  (That’s the case with the kneeling man in the foreground in the last example link in the list above.)
  • The kids in your classroom can create their own versions of this style by copying these basic elements.  Start with the focus of the work, a major scene from the life of Jesus or Mary. Add a few favorite adoring saints, and don’t forget to have them add themselves down in the bottom corner.

*The post title comes from a talk given by Fr. Robert Barron.  You can read a summary of the concept of leading by beauty in this article.  I use it here because in many cases the prayer table in your classroom is the point with the greatest potential for beauty.  In the midst of classrooms built for function, whose use for Family Formation is temporary, your prayer table is a creative expression of beauty that can begin as a point of interest and introduction for each month’s topic, and lead to deeper prayer.

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