Celebrate the richness of the liturgical year in your classroom this October!
By Rachel Gleeson
October is celebrated in the Catholic Church as the Month of the Rosary and also includes the Feast of the Guardian Angels. This year, we also have the 100th anniversary of the Miracle of the Sun at Fatima on October 13. These devotions can provide a richer experience of our Catholic faith for students when we share them in the classroom and make them part of our school culture and celebrations.
As Catholics, we have the gift of the liturgical year guiding the rhythm of our days, months, and years. Different feasts and monthly dedications call us to focus on specific elements of our faith. As teachers, we have the opportunity to share these rich traditions with our students and introduce them to the beautiful variety of the liturgical calendar.
At the beginning of the month, October 2 is the Feast of the Guardian Angels. This is a great reminder that it’s not just us watching out for our students but also someone with a little more spiritual firepower. Classic activity options include a craft project around the Guardian Angel Prayer or having younger students memorize the prayer. Be creative! Have each student draw a picture of what they think their guardian angel looks like, explaining that angels do not have physical form but may choose to appear to us in different ways. Help them see that this invisible creature is a real being whom God has entrusted with their care.
With older students, discuss the nature of angels as spirits without bodies. You may need to clarify too that we don’t become angels when we die because they are a different creature with a different role to play. Use examples from the Bible or personal stories to show how God uses angels to help us as messengers and protectors. Last year when discussing guardian angels, my middle school students were fascinated to just hear others’ stories about angels. If there was a time in your life when you feel your guardian angel intervened, share that with your students!
The Rosary and Our Lady of Fatima
The Feast of Our Lady of the Rosary is October 7, but the whole month is set aside to honor this devotion. Why not decorate accordingly? Cut out circles of construction paper and put them on a bulletin board in the shape of a rosary. Make a Mary altar by placing a statue or image of Our Lady in a prominent place in your classroom with a rosary in front of her. Perhaps, most importantly, find an opportunity to pray the Rosary with your class. This can be done by praying the five decades all at once or praying each decade by itself at different points throughout the day. Consider challenging students to finish that last decade at home.
These devotions can also be brought into the class curriculum. You can have students make booklets on the mysteries of the rosary. This gives them an opportunity to create something they can use for prayer throughout the year and beyond. My students staple together copy paper and use their writing utensil of choice. However, note cards or a poster board could be used as a variation. This activity can be as simple or in-depth as you choose. With my middle school Theology students, I require them to include the name of the mystery, the associated Bible passage, and the virtue that is considered the fruit of the mystery. I also encourage them to include pictures. Younger students might include only some of this information rather than all. The booklets can be made to include all four sets of mysteries or only one. Pick what works best for the grade level you teach and how much time you have available.
For a cross-curricular activity related to the rosary, have students research the history of the Battle of Lepanto and why we celebrate Our Lady of the Rosary on October 7. Alternatively, have them learn more about the Miracle of the Sun during Mary’s last apparition at Fatima 100 years ago. There are newspaper articles from that time, photographs, and other historical documents that can be used to help students see the impact of the miracle. They could even write their own news article based on these primary sources.
The liturgical year is a beautiful gift we can share with students. Incorporating different devotions and feasts into our classrooms helps us to enter into the life of the Church. The month of October is a perfect time to begin these traditions with your students because the rosary is such a popular devotion. Let students see the faith come alive and be a part of their everyday life. When the faith informs the rhythm of our life we see how relevant it is to everything we do. Students need to see that relevance and experience the beauty of our faith as something very much alive today.
Rachel Gleeson is a middle school and high school Theology teacher and liturgy coordinator at a PreK-12 Catholic school in Wisconsin.