Celebrate September’s many wonderful feasts and teach your students about the liturgical year
By Rachel Gleeson
A new school year is upon us! The beginning of a year is a great opportunity to share with students about how we celebrate as a Church: the seasons, saints, and feasts that make up our year as Catholics. September has a number of wonderful feasts. The saints we celebrate this month include Saints Matthew, Andrew Kim, Jerome, Padre Pio, and Vincent de Paul, as well as the Archangels.
There are also a few Marian feasts this month. September 8 is the Birth of Mary, while September 12 is the optional memorial of the Most Holy Name of Mary. September 15 is the memorial of Our Lady of Sorrows. Devotion to Mary’s sorrows goes back centuries. Traditionally, we recognize seven sorrows that Mary experienced throughout her life as the Mother of God:
- The Prophecy of Simeon
- The Flight to Egypt
- The Loss of the Child Jesus before the Finding in the Temple
- Mary Meets Jesus on his way to Calvary
- The Crucifixion and Death of Jesus
- The Body of Jesus is Taken Down from the Cross
- The Burial of Jesus
By honoring Mary’s Sorrows we recognize that, even for Our Lady, life was not always pleasant. We acknowledge that following Christ is challenging and does not guarantee an easy life. Even for Mary, who was conceived without sin and never sinned, God did not prevent sorrow from entering her life.
To help students appreciate Mary’s suffering we need to place it in the right context. Each event corresponds to a passage in the New Testament. A good exercise would be to read these Biblical accounts and have students reflect on what it would be like to be Mary in these situations. What would she have felt? How would she have looked at Jesus during this event? What does this event show us about Jesus and Mary’s relationship?
Download our free printable and have students draw pictures of each event in the provided squares. On the back, students can write a key Bible verse from the passage that describes the event. You could also use it in praying the Seven Sorrows Rosary. In this prayer, meditate on each of the Seven Sorrows of Mary while praying one Our Father and seven Hail Marys.
Another major feast day this month is September 14: the Exaltation of the Holy Cross. This is a great opportunity to teach students about the True Cross. We are told that St. Helena discovered the Cross of Christ. She knew it was His True Cross when a leper was healed after touching it. Today, the Cross is split up into numerous relics around the world. One piece is held in the Basilica of the Holy Cross in Jerusalem located in Rome. Other relics there are thorns from Christ’s crown and the sign that was hung on his Cross.
This feast is a great opportunity to explain what relics are. There are three classes of relics. First-class relics refer to parts of a saint’s body, such as bone, blood, or hair. While elementary students may be concerned by such things, middle-schoolers may find it cool in some ways. Second-class relics refer to items that saints used in their lives. Examples include St. Francis’ habit and St. Therese’s writing desk. Third-class relics are objects, often medals or holy cards, that are touched to first- or second-class relics.
September is an excellent opportunity to start explaining the liturgical year to students. Each feast has its own character. Share with students how these celebrations enrich our lives and year as Catholics and highlight aspects of our faith. They are beautiful reminders of the grandeur and mystery of the Church.
Rachel Gleeson is a campus minister in Colorado.
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