We adore you, O Christ, and we praise you because by your holy cross you have redeemed the world…
As we lead our students into a deeper awareness of Catholic social teaching, we need always to keep in mind that we are following Jesus, that the basis of Catholic social teaching is rooted in Jesus himself. Our work for peace and justice is fueled by our relationship with God, our work is powered by our prayer life, and it is the Spirit who calls us to prayer. This season of Lent calls us to conversion, to turn fully toward God with our whole being. Are your students looking for ways to deepen their Lenten experience? How about adopting a traditional prayer practice during Lent? The prayer of the Stations of the Cross continues to offer life to us today and can be drawn upon in several classroom activities related to justice. Ask your students to consider picking up the cross and carrying it throughout the 40 days of Lent as they walk with Jesus and the poor and suffering in our world today.
In his February 1, 2006 Cornerstone Forum Newsletter Update essay available at http://www.cornerstoneforum.org/whatsnew.php?issue=75, (scroll down to Meanwhile…the Lost Art) Gil Baillie refers to the “art of carrying the cross” as a “neglected art.” Baillie also provides an added insight into the meaning of human dignity in pointing out that some of our attempts to avoid suffering have negative impacts on our lives by “depriving us of the opportunity to take responsibility for our choices and behavior, thus robbing us of our moral dignity.” This is an aspect of human dignity we rarely consider; rather, we usually blame others for any affront on our dignity. How many of us, including our students, have looked at our own human dignity from this viewpoint?
If learning to pick up our cross and carry it is an art form, Lent offers a perfect time to begin practicing it. Most of our parishes will be offering opportunities for communal prayer during Lent including the Stations of the Cross. Some parishes offer justice-oriented readings to go along with this wonderful prayer practice, others offer the more traditional format. Lent offers each of us the opportunity to deepen our relationship with Jesus, to consider the Way of the Cross and its meaning in our own lives, and to help bear the burden of suffering in our lives and in the lives of others as we seek justice and peace for all. In the past, an important part of Jesus’ journey on the Way of the Cross was neglected by omitting the Resurrection. The only way to reach that Resurrection love we so desperately need in our world is to pick up our cross and carry it the distance. Jesus will lead us to the peace and justice we seek.
Stations of the Cross
http://www.silk.net/RelEd/ezinelstations2.htm The Religious Education Webzine offers an excellent classroom project based on the stations of the cross. Students explore variations of praying the stations and are encouraged to write their own prayers and reflections and/or find their own images for the various stations. In addition to the examples Gilles Cotes offers, check out the AIDS Way of the Cross of Jesus Christ by Sister Kay Lawlor,M.M.M from Uganda in African Prayers available at http://www.africaaction.org/campaign_new/page.php?op=read&documentid=1120&type=35&campaigns=4
The Catholic Relief Services website in conjunction with the Operation Rice Bowl Project http://orb.crs.org/Schools_and_Religious_Educators/lesson_plans.cfm has activities such as a world awareness quiz as well as a reflection based on the Stations of the Cross. There’s also a slide show Stations of the Cross your students can access at http://orb.crs.org/Individuals/activities.cfm (Both the slide show and reflection would aid in introducing the project from the Religious Education Webzine mentioned above.)
http://www.americancatholic.org/Features/Customs/stations/default.aspThis site from the Franciscans and St. Anthony Messenger Press offers students even more examples of how to pray the Stations of the Cross. The first selection, excerpts from Stations of the Cross: I am There by Norman Haskell, puts the student at the cross allowing the student to “be a companion” of Jesus, not just a witness at the scene. Readers are encouraged to draw upon their personal experiences as they meditate at each station.
The USCCB website presents the Stations as prayed by the Late Pope John Paul II http://www.usccb.org/nab/stations.shtml
http://www.coc.org/ej/justice/topics.html?ID=9076 The Center of Concerns, for those with access to the Education for Justice pages, offers Stations from Ecuador and another one addressing debt. The site also has reflections on Food and Hunger which could be used in conjunction with discussions on the Offering of Letters for Bread for the World.
Lenten Justice Cross project
http://www.smp.org/ActivityPage.cfm?Activity=454 Drawing upon the prophet Micah’s words and the disciplines of fasting, praying, and giving alms, this classroom activity from St. Mary’s Press involves making crosses out of craft sticks. There are several meaningful adaptations of the project to carry through the Lenten season or it could be a short, one day project. The project is presented by Joseph Grant and taken from Justice and Service Ideas for Ministry With Young Teens (St. Mary’s Press, 2000)
Other dates and activities:
The month of March marks other important dates as well as the beginning of Lent. Check out the following:
Women’s History Month
This year’s theme is Women: Builders of Communities and Dreams. In addition to looking at women leaders from United States history such as those featured at the http://www.nwhp.org/whm/2006/honorees.html , consider tying in women of our faith tradition by visiting Women of Prayer and Justice prepared by Eleanor Lincoln, CSJ and Catherine Litecky, CSJ through the Women at the Well Ministry. The retreat is available at the Good Ground Press site http://www.goodgroundpress.com/index.asp?PageAction=VIEWCATS&Category=17 )
The retreat offers students a chance to sit and reflect with women such as Dorothy Day, Teresa of Avila, and Catherine of Siena to glean their wisdom and join their journey of love. It could be viewed over a period of days or once a week or even all in one sitting although that might lessen the impact of the reflection period. Perhaps students could add their own reflections throughout the month using women working for justice today such as Helen Prejean and her work to abolish the death penalty. Or students could come up with women of justice in their own families, parish, or communities and write a reflection based on the work these women are doing or have done in the past.
The anniversary of Bishop Oscar Romero’s assassination March 24
This is the 26th anniversary of Romero’s assassination. One way to honor his life and gifts would be to read excerpts of his homilies with your students some of which are available at http://www.justpeace.org/romero.htm .
Also, if you have not watched the film Romero (available at many video rental stores), this month would be an excellent time to do so and to invite older students to watch it as well. Consider having a peace and justice film day featuring the film Romero and invite older students to view the film through the lens of Catholic social teaching. Hand out sheets with the seven core values of CST to your students (available at http://www.paxjoliet.org/justeach/justeach2.html ) Have them view the movie looking for the various ways those values are embraced or rejected by the various figures in the movie. Discuss the struggle within Romero himself to fully embrace those values as he became more aware of the suffering Jesus in the poor people and moved to a deeper understanding of following Jesus. His conversion experience in the film is deeply moving and shows his perseverance in prayer and the resulting courage to fight the injustice and oppression in El Salvador.
A good reflection piece to follow the movie would be the Institute for Peace and Justice’s Me, A Prophet? worksheet at http://www.ipj-ppj.org/Reflections%20-%20Advocacy%20Suggestions%20-%20Lesson%20Plans/Jeremiah%20Worksheet.htm This reflection exercise adapted from James McGinnis’ Christian High School and Youth Group Teacher Resource Book (Institute for Peace and Justice, 2003) and Peacemaking and the Powers (Institute for Peace and Justice, 2005) uses the prophet Jeremiah’s reluctance to accept God’s call as it probes our own obstacles to living prophetic lives. It ties in nicely with the theme of reluctance raised in Romero and invites participants to enter into their own dialogue with God regarding how they themselves might be being called to live prophetic lives.
The Annunciation of the Lord March 25
Consider gathering paintings that depict the Annunciation and have your students reflect on the various ways the angel and Mary are shown. Is the angel inviting? Frightening? What is Mary’s posture before the angel? Is she frightened, surprised, engaged by the message she’s being given? Read the words of the angel to Mary and give your students a few moments to consider the message. God calls us to give birth to Christ in the world today as we reach out to others and offer our loving service as we work for peace and justice. Ask your students, “what is your stance before God? Are you ready to say “yes” as Mary did? If not, what holds you back?” Students could choose to act out their stance striking a pose that depicts their inner response, or they could put it into words in discussion groups or journaling. (adapted from a prayer led by Paul Lachance OFM.)
March Calendar , adapted from Center of Concerns calendar (www.coc.org)
Women’s History Month
May this Lenten season be one of prayerful journey for you and your students and lead each of you to the full joy and truth of the Resurrection…
Blessings, Colette Wisnewski