Teachers give witness to their faith in word and action, a faith that is strengthened through prayer.
By Gail Mayotte, SASV
From the first moment that a student sets foot in a Catholic school, he or she ought to have the impression of entering a new environment, one illuminated by the light of faith, and having its own unique characteristics. (#25, The Religious Dimension of Education in a Catholic School)
Opening the door to a Catholic school can mean “entering a new environment” when faith is tangible and expressed in myriad ways. It is infused into all aspects of school life. It is communicated within instruction and revealed through interactions. It is made palpable within moments of celebration and times of challenge. Indeed all actions and choices should reflect evidence of being “illuminated by the light of faith.”
It would be impossible, however, to talk about faith in action without talking about prayer. Sincere prayer impacts our words and actions. Because teachers are so instrumental in shaping the environment and learning experiences for students, the prayer of the school faculty holds a special place in the life of the school. Through prayer, faculty members come to know Christ more intimately and in so doing can embrace ever more fully their call to be his witnesses.
In prayer we strive to “grasp fully the breadth and length and height and depth of Christ’s love” (Ephesians 3:18). Grasping fully is about knowing: a deep level of knowing that brings us greater awareness of God, our Church, ourselves, and each other. The four dimensions expressed within the beautiful metaphor from Ephesians speak powerfully of the love of Christ. They also invite opportunity to look at facets of prayer. Using the dimensions as a framework, let us consider ideas for faculty prayer.
Knowing God in Prayer
“Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name” (Matthew 6:9)
Prayer is about relationship. To purposely put aside time from the busyness of our schedules to pray together as a school faculty says that we value our relationship with God, desire to grow in our knowledge of God, and want to be transformed for our ministry.
One means for coming to know God more fully is praying with Scripture, for “all Scripture is inspired by God” (2 Timothy 3:16). Praying with Scripture allows us to ponder the mystery and majesty of God.
Ideas for Faculty Prayer
- Utilize a scriptural passage for prayer. Read it slowly and provide time for quiet prayer and reflection. Invite participants to share insights.
- Use an artwork as a visual focus for prayer and read a Scripture passage that relates to the artwork (e.g., Rembrandt’s Prodigal Son, Luke 15:11-32; Rublev’s Icon of the Trinity, Genesis 18:1-8). Invite individuals to make connections between words or phrases from Scripture and details of the artwork. End with spontaneous prayer.
- Choose scriptural and other spiritual quotes to be shared in prayer cards, note cards, postcards, or bookmarks and read in the context of prayer. Each of these media provides a tangible item to take from the prayer with a meaningful reminder of words offering guidance and inspiration.
- Use a three-part process of theological reflection during a time of goal setting or choosing a new direction:
1. Listen to the Spirit of God revealed in daily experiences. (e.g. How is Catholic identity relevant at our school? … in each classroom?)
2. Listen to the Spirit of God revealed in inspirational texts. (Provide a few quotes for teachers to ponder. Ask, In light of your experience, what is the text saying to you?) 3. Hear a call to action. (What new steps do you feel called to take?)
Knowing Ourselves in Prayer
O Lord, you have probed me and you know me. (Psalm 139:1)
Placing ourselves before God in prayer requires humility, for it is only in praying with a humble heart that we are ready to accept God’s desires for us. When we expose our truest selves and let God transform us, the fruits of prayer are expressed concretely as we live out each school day offering presence, encouragement, understanding, and availability to all encountered.
Personal sharing within the context of prayer is a gift to oneself and to one’s colleagues. It acknowledges an attitude of openness and it requires a level of trust among faculty members. Such depth of prayer can strengthen staff unity.
Ideas for Faculty Prayer
- Invite teachers each to bring a symbol of ___ (Catholic identity, community, hope, etc.) to prayer for a special sharing,
- Read a Scripture passage like one of the following and invite reflection and sharing on how teachers bring this value to their teaching. Possible themes and scriptural passages related to them:
Courage – Deuteronomy 31:6
Hope – Jeremiah 29:11
Integrity – Psalm 41:13
Joy – Psalm 59:16
Justice – Micah 6:8
Love – 1 Peter 4:8
Patience – Colossians 3:12
Peace – 2 Peter 1:2
Respect – 1 Peter 2:17
Wisdom – James 3:17
- Prepare quotes related to a particular theme on individual pieces of paper and place them in the prayer space. Have faculty members randomly choose one to read during a prayer. After all have been read, allow time for reflection on the invitations of the passages. Ask, “How are we being called to live out the theme of ___ today?” (or this month, if a monthly focus). Allow for spontaneous sharing. Teachers keep their chosen quotes as reminders as what they are being called to live.
- Choose a prayer that responds to a specific need for the faculty such as forgiveness or guidance. Facilitate a sharing to generate healing or greater awareness.
Knowing Our Church and Our Tradition in Prayer
“The kindness of the Lord is from eternity to eternity.” (Psalm 103:17)
God’s faithfulness has been experienced and celebrated throughout the ages. Through prayers of the Church, saints, and generations of faith-filled followers, we are strengthened in our rich tradition that reveals God’s presence and everlasting love.
Forms of prayer that are part of our tradition include blessing, petition, thanksgiving, and praise. Each of these is an avenue for the school faculty to join in the prayer of our Church.
Ideas for Faculty Prayer
- Share a prayer written by the saint of the day, or read a brief history of the saint on his/her feast day. Choose a quality of the saint to emulate and make it a special focus on that day. End with a prayer invoking the intercession of the saint.
- During the month of Mary, ask each colleague to bring in an image of Mary that he or she finds especially meaningful. Invite a sharing on the diverse images and what is spoken to them about Mary. Pray a Marian devotion (decade of the rosary; novena prayer).
Knowing Each Other in Prayer
“Where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I in their midst.” (Matthew 18:20)
In faculty prayer, we come to know each other more intimately in the sharing of expressed needs. Carrying each other’s intentions bonds us; supporting one another through prayer gives us strength for the journey.
Opportunities to gather for communal prayer and ritual celebrations also give witness to our faith life and energy to our shared mission.
Ideas for Faculty Prayer
- Keep a memory journal in the faculty room. Encourage colleagues to jot down joyful events, special classroom moments, and uplifting stories. When praying together, begin with one or two of the journal items and offer gratitude.
- Create a space within the faculty room for displaying pictures or mementos. When leading prayer, invite intentions for needs related to the exhibited items.
- At the end of a faculty prayer, quotes of blessing (see Numbers 6:24-26, Psalm 67:1, Psalm 80:7,etc.) can be shared. Each teacher takes one. Pairs of teachers bless each other with the quotes they have taken.
- For a special occasion like a seasonal holiday, consider baking or buying a small loaf of bread for each faculty member and including a meal blessing with it so that the loaf and prayer can be shared with colleagues or family.
Teachers give witness to their faith in word and action, a faith that is strengthened through prayer. Time and commitment give to faculty prayer helps the community in striving to “grasp fully the breadth and length and height and depth of Christ’s love” (Ephesians 3:18). Experiencing this great love leads to transformation. It is no wonder then that all who enter the Catholic school can experience entering a special place “illuminated by the light of faith.”
Gail Mayotte, SASV, is a member of the faculty of the Alliance for Catholic Education at the University of Notre Dame.
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