Posted tagged ‘Classroom’

Leading With Beauty: The Sacrament of the Sick

January 17, 2018

This month’s topic is the Sacrament of the Sick, and while we no longer associate the reception of this sacrament only with imminent death, these two pieces, both entitled The Death of Saint Joseph, teach some profound truths about the sacrament.

This first one, by Giuseppe Maria Crespi, shows the Holy Family in their final tender moments together on earth. St. Joseph’s tools are laid down signifying that his work is finished, and his ever-present staff is still blossoming with three white lilies as a symbol of his purity.  Notice the heavenly realities as well: the background filled with angels ready to lead him into paradise.  I’d like to think that’s his own guardian angel nearby, wiping his brow.

On this one, Joseph’s lack of color is a striking contrast to the rest of the window, but look at the peaceful expression on his face!  The Blessed Mother is by his side as we always pray she will be for us (“now and at the hour of our death”).

In both of these works, we see Christ at the bedside, holding Joseph’s hand and imparting a blessing.  That is exactly what happens to those who receive the Sacrament of the Sick – you see the priest there, blessing and anointing, but it is really Jesus right there by your side, blessing, and anointing.  That is the wondrous thing about the Sacraments – they promise the grace you need at the moment you ask.  In this case, the special graces include strength, peace, courage, forgiveness of sins, and uniting the person with the suffering of Christ.

Catechist Saints – John Bosco

January 31, 2017

Reposting from 2016:

From a very young age, John had a love for the Faith and felt a desire to teach it to others. His methods were unique for the time and have much to teach us still today. John knew that he needed to get people’s attention before they would listen to what he had to say, and he was determined to develop the skills to help him do so. His creative attention-getters included magic tricks, juggling, acrobatics, and even tightrope walking. Once a crowd had gathered to watch, John found ways to weave teaching the Faith into the show.

Eventually, he was ordained to the priesthood and gathered a growing number of street urchins for his informal oratory – instruction, Mass, and play time. His joyful spirit and love for the Faith was very attractive and soon he had such a large crowd of boys that his “school” needed a permanent home.

John’s creative methods, kindness, love and joy are outstanding examples for Family Formation parents as we strive to pass the Faith on to those in our own little oratories.

Saint John Bosco, patron of catechists, pray for us!


“Raise [your children] with great care in the holy fear of God, because on this depends their health and blessings for your house.”

Art for May Prayer Tables

April 14, 2016

Peter art

I love these old-school line drawings often found in pre-Vatican II prayer books, hymnals, etc.  They’re simple and beautiful and are typically filled with teaching points!  This one is no exception and will be a great choice for our May topic of Apostolic Succession.

The main center panel is a depiction of two major encounters Jesus had with Peter:

  • One is the conversation from John 21:15-17 (and on to verse 19, if you want) where Jesus tells him to “Feed my lambs” and “Tend my sheep.”
  • The other is from Matthew 16:15-19 where Jesus gives Peter the symbolic keys to the kingdom.

If you want to keep your prayer table simple, cut off the side panels and just use the center section for your prayer table art.  It really is the perfect accompaniment to the classroom lesson and there’s no end to the conversation it could jump-start along the lines of “Why Peter?” and “Who are the sheep?” and “What do the keys mean?”

If you did want to go deeper though, the side panels are filled with Old Testament references foretelling the Papacy.

  • The first quote on the left is from Isaiah 22, where God is talking about a man who serves as prime minister to the king: “I will give him the key of David’s house to bear upon his shoulders; none may shut when he opens, none open when he shuts”. The prime minister of the Kingdom of Israel had the same power of the king, and had the authority of “keys” to bind and loose, to act in the name of the king. When Christ gave Peter the power to bind and loose, he was clearly calling to mind the imagery of the king-prime minister relationship.
  • The quote on the right is from Ezechiel 34: “They shall have a single shepherd to tend all of them now; who should tend them but my servant David? He shall be their shepherd, and I, the Lord, will be their God, now that he rules them on earth; such is my divine promise to them.” The Church reads this as David being a forerunner for Peter, as the ruler of God’s people on earth while God reigns in heaven.
  • The other images relate to other types for the papacy.
    • In the upper left, Leviticus 21 discusses the Jewish High Priest “whose brow has been anointed with the holy oil, and his hands consecrated for the priestly office, who wears the sacred vestments . . .”
    • In the upper right, Peter is compared with King Cyrus, the Babylonian king who helped to rebuild the Temple at the end of the Babylonian captivity.
    • In the lower right, Peter is again compared with the high priest.  God is rebuking the priests of Israel, and talking of replacing them with more faithful priests. This quote from Ch 2 says, “Afterwards, I will find myself a priest that shall be a faithful interpreter of my mind and will; I will endow him, too, with a faithful posterity, to enjoy the favour of the king I have anointed.” Peter is deemed to be that “faithful priest” in the Church’s spiritual interpretation of that text.
    • In the lower left, the quote is taken from III Esdras, a non-canonical Old Testament book.

You can find the original version here.  (I just spiffed it up a bit in MS Publisher.)

And thanks to John for coming to my rescue on the Latin. (You’re the best!)

Art for October Prayer Tables

September 5, 2015

This is my third year of searching for ways to make your classroom prayer tables just a little nicer and this feature is definitely gaining in popularity (at least among the catechists here at the Church of Saint Paul).

The idea started with something I heard from Father Barron:

Postmodern man might scoff at truth and goodness, but he’s still enthralled by beauty, says prominent theologian and evangelist Father Robert Barron.  Beauty, then, is the arrowhead of evangelization, the point with which the evangelist pierces the minds and hearts of those he evangelizes.  “Lead with beauty,” Barron said to an audience of Catholic journalists and communications professionals gathered in Denver for the 2013 Catholic Media Conference.

I quote him here because in many cases the prayer table in a 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, a 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 and understanding.

This month’s topic is all about Holy Scripture and I can’t think of a better piece illustrating the inspiration aspect of it all than this one by Guido Reni.

God is the author of Sacred Scripture. “The divinely revealed realities, which are contained and presented in the text of Sacred Scripture, have been written down under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit.”

“For Holy Mother Church, relying on the faith of the apostolic age, accepts as sacred and canonical the books of the Old and the New Testaments, whole and entire, with all their parts, on the grounds that, written under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, they have God as their author, and have been handed on as such to the Church herself.”

God inspired the human authors of the sacred books. “To compose the sacred books, God chose certain men who, all the while he employed them in this task, made full use of their own faculties and powers so that, though he acted in them and by them, it was as true authors that they consigned to writing whatever he wanted written, and no more.”  (CCC 105-106)

In this piece, we see Matthew writing down his version of the Gospel for the first time while listening attentively to God’s messenger.  Different artists have tackled this same theme, sometimes picturing the messenger guiding Matthew’s hand or whispering in his ear, but I like this one with the child-like messenger holding up his fingers as if to say, “Remember, [this] happened first and then [that] and next it was […]”  And Matthew, very attentive to this inspiration is recording it all in his own words.  This work instructs and inspires, simply and beautifully.  (Exactly what sacred art should do!)

A few practical details:

  • This piece and thousands of others are available free on the ‘net in a very nice resolution here, at the Web Gallery of Art.
  • A word of warning – while many of their pieces are sacred art, some are not.  In fact, you may find some that you deem to be offensive. For this, and other reasons, Family Formation always recommends that children not be allowed to use the internet without parental supervision.
  • When I find a piece I want to print, I simply double click on the thumbnail image to see the larger version.  Then right click on it, copy, and paste it into a MS Publisher (or Word) document to print.  You can adjust the size a bit bigger without losing resolution and you can always go smaller.
  • From there, I just print and if it’s something I want to use on an easel I’ll spray glue it onto a mat or some kind of card stock.

Leading with Beauty: Mary – God’s Masterpiece

April 17, 2015

May is the traditional month to honor the Blessed Virgin Mary and it happens to be the topic for classroom lessons this month so including your favorite statue or other image of her is an obvious focus for your classroom prayer table.  Mary is one of the most popular subjects in all of art history so you’ll have no trouble finding something you like.

I chose this one simply because it’s a favorite of mine.  I love the work of Fra Angelico and the Annunciation is my favorite Mystery of the Rosary and all the gold tones in this piece remind me of the glory of Easter, so out of thousands of choices this is the one I pick for this month.

I love her humility and youth, but I especially love the fact that her finger is holding her place in the book.  I know, I know – that’s probably not the most compelling thing about this image but it’s such a great human touch and reminds me of a few things.

Traditional images of the Annunciation show that Mary was studying and praying when Gabriel suddenly showed up for his visit.  She didn’t have an appointment for an angel to drop in an ask her to be the Mother of God, so seeing her pictured this way just implies that study and prayer were a typical, routine part of her life.  (Lovely Example #1)  It also seems to me that she is expecting God to work in her life and is waiting and to see what today brings. (That expectation is Lovely Example #2 to me.)  This expectation means she’s ready to respond (“Be it done unto me according to Your word!”).  She doesn’t have to clear her schedule or finish up something before responding.  Anyway, those are a few of my rambling thoughts about the Annunciation.  (I have lots more, but it’s time to hit the Publish button and get on to some other work.)

One more thing – the other part of this work can be found here.  It’s not known if they were originally part of an altarpiece or if these two faces were cut from a larger work, but they clearly belong together.

If you want a reminder of what this Leading with Beauty thing is all about, click over here for an explanation.

Little visits with Jesus

March 27, 2015

The classroom activity for 4th-6th graders this coming month is to spend 20 minutes in silence with Our Lord in Eucharistic Adoration.  Before skeptical you shakes your head in disbelief that this can ever be successful, I want you to read this article by Elizabeth Foss on how it’s more likely our group of 4th graders will appreciate this experience than if we were to do it with an equal number of adults.

Children are actually more inclined than adults to approach the Blessed Sacrament with full faith and trust in the mystery before them. In their innocence and purity, they accept that Jesus is really present somehow in the monstrance and that they are exceptionally blessed to be able to kneel before the King of Kings. But they need someone to get them there.

And so you’re not tempted to just allow this to be a one-time experience for your kids, consider the findings of Father Antoine Thomas, whose ministry, “Children of Hope,” has brought children’s Holy Hours to parishes worldwide:

“After many years of leading Holy Hours for children, I can tell you the benefits are numerous for both children and their families:

  1. Children who previously had only the weekly experience of Mass discover that the host is actually the person of Jesus, mysteriously hidden.
  2. They develop a greater interest in the mysteries of our faith and the liturgy of the Mass.
  3. They understand — more than other children of their age who have not experienced Eucharistic adoration — the relationship between the gift of the Eucharistic presence of Jesus and His sacrifice on the cross out of love for mankind.
  4. They become much more aware of the various degrees of sin and seem very eager to receive the sacrament of confession often.
  5. Families accompanying their children witness a growing desire for peace and forgiveness within the family.”

Those are pretty substantial returns on your investment of an hour (or even less than a half hour for very young children).

We have perpetual adoration available at the Church of Saint Paul and you are welcome to stop in with your children for any length of time, day or night, for a visit with Jesus.  This article from our archives may help you to prepare your children so the experience is more successful.

Leading with Beauty: Kneeling Before the Majesty of God

March 10, 2015

This month’s topic is Kneeling Before the Majesty of God and while I could recommend any number of paintings which feature God in all His heavenly glory, I think I’ll go with this one featuring his hidden earthly glory instead.

This is Saint Norbert worshiping Our Lord, truly present in this ornate monstrance.  Norbert was a worldly man who had a very dramatic conversion story and went on to found a religious order that continues to this day.  One of the other things Saint Norbert is known for is defending the Eucharist against heresy and disbelief, and one of his attributes* is to be pictured with a monstrance.

I think the value this piece would hold on a classroom prayer table is this:

  • Norbert’s obvious devotion.  His posture, focus, position of his hands – all are expressions of love for He who is before him.
  • The beauty of this particular monstrance.  We offer our best to God, and some craftsman (and this artist, Marten Pepijn), certainly did that, also as a sign of their devotion to God.
  • And finally, there are details you can cover such as:
    • What is a monstrance? (A sacred vessel with a glass opening through which the Sacred Host can be seen.  From a Latin word meaning to show.)
    • Why is that lamp burning just to the right of the monstrance?  (That is a sanctuary lamp, required by canon law to be lit wherever the Blessed Sacrament – consecrated hosts – are reserved, to remind believers of their sacred presence.)
    • Where can we find the Eucharist in our church?  (Answers vary slightly with each church, but it would be most typical to find the Blessed Sacrament reserved in your church’s tabernacle and in an Adoration Chapel.)  Make sure your students know where the Blessed Sacrament is reserved in your church and remind them of the proper signs of devotion and respect.  (genuflecting, sign of the cross, reverent behavior, etc.)
    • How can we find where the Eucharist is another Catholic church? (Look for the sanctuary lamp to point the way.)

*In art, an attribute is an object that identifies someone, most commonly referring to objects held by saints.  (e.g. Saint Peter is often identified as holding keys, Saint Joseph by carpenter tools and a staff with lilies, etc.)

If you want a reminder of what this Leading with Beauty thing is all about, click over here for an explanation.

Thanks to the Web Gallery of Art for their truly remarkable collection of sacred art!

%d bloggers like this: