Tag Archives: Christianity

Three Kings Day Mediation for Religion Teachers

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Over the past week I have seen people taking down Christmas decorations or I have been asked when is it okay to take down your Christmas tree. It would appear that people are so eager to celebrate Christmas that when the day itself has come and gone they then pounce to take all their decorations down. Have we forgotten the Twelve Days of Christmas? Three Kings Day or the Epiphany is celebrated on the 6th of January. The 6th of January is the last time we turn on the Christmas lights and the tree before we take them down. In some countries around the world Three Kings Day is still a school holiday.

Why is the Epiphany so important?

The gospel of Matthew tries to explain to us that Jesus was recognized and worshipped as a King by wise and powerful men. The wise men were foreigners, they were not Jews. The story helped people to see that the coming of Jesus was a special event for the whole world. The three wise men also brought gifts of Gold Frankincense and Myrrh

As you return to school tomorrow keep Little Christmas/Three Kings Day alive and in the hearts of your students by trying out a short simple meditation. This meditation was inspired by one of my lecturers in college.

Speaker:

(Ask students to get comfortable in chairs or go to the school oratory)

I invite you to close your eyes. Concentrate on your breathing. Begin to listen to all the noises around you. The ticking of the clock, cars in the distance etc. Now focus on your own breathing. Has it slowed down? Slowly breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth. On my count I would like you to breathe in throughout your nose and out through your mouth.

7/11 technique applied here (Breathe in counting to 7 and breath out counting to 11) this relaxes and helps focus the students.

Bring students into the manger ask them what they see around them and invite them to sit down in the manger. They look up and see a bright star and three wise men following the star they bring three gifts to the baby Jesus. Name the gifts. Ask each student to think of three people in their own lives that brought gifts into their lives. However, get them to think of different kind of gifts like love, friendship, trust, happiness, (perhaps the gifts we see on the Advent Wreath). Ask them to imagine themselves looking into a mirror and to look at themselves. What do they see? Are the happy with what they see? Tell them that they are all beautiful in the eyes of God. Tell them to pick one important person in their own lives who have given them certain gifts that has helped them become the person they are today. This person is now standing beside them in the mirror. Tell each student that they are beautiful in the eyes of this person. Ask God to bless this person.

Slowly invite the students to quietly open their eyes.

Class activity can follow this short mediation. Discussing each students ‘special’ person. Worksheets etc.

Christingle! An activity based learning tool for religion class during Advent and Christmas

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Christmas and Advent are my favorite time in the liturgical calendar. As a religion teacher I love finding new creative ideas to engage my class and advent is the best time to do this! There are vast amounts of resources available to teachers during this christmas season.

This week is the last week of school before the Christmas Holidays begin and I always try to make the last lesson with my class fun, memorable but also intellectually engaging. In previous years my class have made advent wreaths, angles for the top of their christmas trees and even their own manger and this year was proving pretty tough to think of more creative lesson plans. So, I began to think back to my own school days and remembered the Christingle! 

There are many different stories about the origin of the Christingle. However, we do know that it originated in Germany. Each church celebrate Christingle in their own unique way but the meaning of Christingle always remains the same.

One story I found which I immediately grew quite found of was this:

“there were three children, who were very poor, but wanted to give a gift to Jesus, like the other families at church were doing. The only nice thing they had was an orange, so they decided to give him that. The top was going slightly green, so the eldest cut it out and put a candle in the hole. They thought it looked dull, so the youngest girl took her best red ribbon from her hair and attached it round the middle with toothpicks. The middle child had the idea to put a few pieces of dried fruit on the ends of the sticks. They took it to the church for the Christmas mass, and whereas the other children sneered at their meagre gift, the priest took their gift and showed it as an example of true understanding of the meaning of Christmas.”

Christingle means ‘Christ’s Light” and is a symbol of Christian faith. It is made up of different parts:

Orange– this represents the world

Four Cocktail Sticks– the four seasons or the four corners of the world.

Dried Fruit (or sweets)– remind Christians of God’s gifts to the world including kindness and love. Also are a symbol of God’s creations.

Red Ribbon– goes all round the ‘world’ and being the colour of love to remind us the Jesus loves us and reminds us to show us how much we love him especially at Christmas. (one other meaning is that red symbolizes blood to remind us that Jesus died for us but for younger children I personally prefer the symbol of love, especially at Christmas)

Candle– it is nice to use a birthday candle because it reminds the children that Christmas Day is after all, Jesus’ birthday. The light of the candle also reminds us the Jesus is the light of our world.

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The Finished Product:

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The Prodigal Son, Forgiveness Pope John Paul II forgives his Shooter Ali Agca

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Intended Learning Outcomes:  

  • Students will be able to recall the story of May 13th 1981 when Ali Agca shot Pope John Paul II.
  • Students will be able to highlight similarities between the parable of the Prodigal Son and the story depicting the shooting of Pope John Paul II.
  • Students will understand the importance of forgiveness within the Christian faith
  • Students will understand concept of “morally good” actions.

Assessment of Learning Outcomes.

Students will part take in Group Work. Each group will consist of two pupils. As a team they will construct a newspaper article retelling the story of May 13th 1981 when Ali Agca shot Pope John Paul II. The article must contain Key Words from both the story of the Prodigal Son and of Pope John Paul’s shooting i.e Forgiveness, Sinner, God, Jesus, Ali Agca, Prodigal Son.

 Lesson Outline

Students will watch a short video clip recalling the main events of May 13th 1981, the day Pope John Paul II was shot. As a class the pupils will then identify the two main people involved in the story. They will then outline comparisons and similarities between the characters within the parable of the Prodigal Son and the day of May 13th 1981. i.e Ali Agca represents the younger son from the prodigal son who sinned against his father.

Students will watch a short video clip showing Pope John Paul visiting Ali Agca in prison and forgiving him for shooting him on May 13th 1981. They will then consider and answer questions verbally and on a sheet considering the action of forgiveness.

  1. What did the Pope do? What else could he have done?
  2. What were the effects of his actions?
  3. Why did Pope John Paul forgive Ali Agca?
  4. Is this a ‘morally good’ action?

They will then progress onto more personalized questions such as:

  1. Can we learn from the actions of Pope John Paul II?
  2. How does this persons actions challenge each of us?

Students will now be spilt into groups of two. They will be given the task of compiling a short newspaper article incorporating the key words and message of forgiveness in the Prodigal son and the shooting of Pope John Paul II. The article should reflect the message of ‘Forgiveness within the Christian community’ and how important it is. They will also have to choose an appropriate title and picture for the article. When they complete their tasks a select number of groups will read their articles and they will be handed up for correction.

The John Paul II Awards (Faith Development Resources for RE teachers)

 

Adolescents question faith and establish independence. It is important to remember that these questions and need for individualism is a normal process and not a spiritual problem  but a normal process of development. Questions can be a sign that their faith is growing.  As religious educators, or anyone involved in helping adolescents with faith development should respond openly to these questions, doubts and anxieties. Adolescents is a time where we try to discover some meaning from what we are taught. We critise, read and listen which are the signs of a true Christian. True Christianity is always critical, questioning and continually developing in its understanding of God and of human life.

How can we as religious educators encourage faith development of our students in a positive, active and open environment? I believe one way we can help faith development grow is through introducing and implement the John Paul II awards into your school.

John Paul II Awards

The John Paul II Award, inaugurated in 2006, is an initiative that enables young people to express their faith through parish and community based activities. The awards are dedicated to the memory of the late Pope, Pope John Paul II.

If you are aged between 16 and 18 and living or going to school in the Dublin Diocese,  the Pope John Paul II Award will enable you to become more actively involved in the life of your parish and community. Religion is not just for learning, nor a list of rules designed to stop you doing what you want. Religion is for living and through taking an active part in your church and community you will experience the contentment and fulfillment that comes from serving others, especially those in great need.

The award was designed for any students in Transition Year Program or any post primary students between the ages of 16 and 18.

There are a number of awards you can get:

Bronze Award 

Bronze Award Requirements:

Parish Involvement: 1 hour per week x 8 weeks
Social Awareness: 1 hour per week x 8 weeks
Presentation: See below
Top-Ups: 3 hours

The Silver Award

Silver Award Requirements:

Parish Involvement: 1 hour per week x 14 weeks
Social Awareness: 1 hour per week x 14 weeks
Presentation: See below
Top-Ups: 4.5 hours

The Gold Award

Gold Award Requirements:

Parish Involvement: 1 hour per week x 20 weeks
Social Awareness: 1 hour per week x 20 weeks
Presentation: See below
Top-Ups: 6 hours

The Papal Cross Award

Who is the Papal Cross Award for?

Students who have completed and received the Gold Award.

Papal Cross Award Requirements:

Parish Involvement: 1 hour per week x 26 weeks
Social Awareness: 1 hour per week x 26 weeks
Project: See below
Top-Ups: 7.5 hours

These awards have a number elements Parish involvement, social awareness and a project. See this link for more details: http://www.thepopejohnpauliiaward.com/the_papalcross_award.htm

‘Faith in Action’ Resources

Trócaire have developed an Educational resource for all educators. The ‘Faith in Action’ resource contains four weeks of engaging lesson material for the Pope John Paul II Award. Students are then encouraged to spend another four weeks carrying out action projects within their communities. (The resource can be adapted to fit a longer or shorter timeframe.) These resources provide an excellent starting point for all teachers who wish to bring in the John Paul II awards into their school or classroom. The resources provided here range from worksheets, power points, action plans, teachers notes,

Check out these links for more details and resources:

http://www.cyc.ie/index.php/office-of-youth-evangelisation/the-john-paul-ii-awards

http://www.thepopejohnpauliiaward.com/

http://www.trocaire.org/resources/pjpii-education-resources

Tibetan Prayer Flags

During teaching practice I was asked to teach my LCA class about Prayer. One area I needed to cover with the class was forms of prayer used in other faith traditions other than their own. I decided to think outside the box.

As I began to research I found these beautiful images of Tibetan prayer flags.                                    images-2

Introducing Tibetan Prayer Flags allowed the students to learn about Buddhism in a new light, it gave their LCA Religion Portfolio a different refreshing approach to the topic of prayer and it really engaged the whole class. By the end of the lessons the class had created and designed a colorful line of beautiful tibetan prayer flags that they displayed around the school.

Here is a link to all the information I used when preparing power points and information for the students:

http://www.prayerflags.com/download/article.pdf