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  Echoing the Word May 2013  
  Vol. 12 No. 2, 2013 The Psalms For the Catechist  

Praying the Psalms with Children
Michele Purcell


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The General Directory for Catechesis (GDC) has this advice for catechists:

Genuine catechesis … encourages a climate of listening, of thanksgiving and of prayer. It looks to the free response of persons and it promotes active participation among those to be catechized. (#145)

This emphasis on listening, free response and active participation can be realised in practice by teaching children to pray and meditate with psalms. Joan Chittister, a Benedictine Sister, can give catechists some ideas as to how to pray with the psalms ourselves, before introducing them in the classroom. She writes,

Monastics are encouraged to memorise the verse of a psalm …and repeat it throughout the day. These memorised Scripture phrases become the contemplative centering that day as members go from … task to task … too pressed to allow themselves long periods of daily private prayer. (p. 4)

In the book, 25 Windows into the Soul: Praying with the Psalms, Chittister directs the reader to slowly repeat and memorise a Scripture verse over a number of days, to consider the reflections provided in the book and then to journal what these words mean personally. Chittister promises,

As the years pass …this prayer journal is the start of a rich, quiet life of growth in interior prayer that brings peace and faith and reflection and wisdom to the clatter and chaos that is so much a part of modern life. (p. 4)

Inspired by this method of praying the psalms, and mindful of the GDC’s advice, catechists could pray with their children using the same verse of a psalm during each lesson over the period of a month. This very simple prayer need only take a few minutes of each lesson time. Below is one example using the verse, “Be still, and know that I am God!” (Ps 46:10).

First, explain the method of prayer to the children. Tell them that the psalms are the oldest prayers in our Judeo-Christian tradition. Jesus, and Mary and Joseph would have prayed these words in their own language two thousand years ago. Psalms help us to speak to God, praise God and express everything about ourselves to God, including our joy, anger, hope and fear. Announce that the class will take a few minutes during each lesson to pray the same verse of a psalm for the four weeks of May as a meditation. Everyone will say, “Be still, and know that I am God!” aloud twice and then sit in silence for a short time. An activity will follow before sitting in silence and once again saying the words of the psalm. The class will end the time of prayer by reciting the Glory Be, as is Church tradition when praying the psalms. The children could be invited to take the verse home in their memories or on a card and say it as often as they like each day for the month.

 


Be still, and know that I am God! (Ps 46:10)

Lesson One

The children sit comfortably in a circle, relax and breathe slowly.

Begin: All make the Sign of the cross.

Pray the Psalm: Pray “Be still, and know that I am God!” twice together.

Silence: Sit in silence for a short time (about 15-30 seconds for younger children).

Response – Listening to a reflection: In the story of Genesis in the bible, we read that God made the world and he made people to be happy in the world. Then God rested on the seventh day. God blessed this restful day and made it holy. When we become quiet and still we can remember how God rested on the seventh day as an example for us. We can rest too. We can take time to remember God loves us.

Silence: Sit in silence for a short time (15-30 seconds).

Pray the Psalm: Together slowly pray the verse twice.

End: Let us pray together,Glory be to the Father, and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit. As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be world without end. Amen.”

Lesson Two

The children sit comfortably in a circle, relax and breathe slowly.

Begin: All make the Sign of the cross.

Pray the Psalm: Pray “Be still, and know that I am God!” twice together.

Silence: Sit in silence for a short time (15-30 seconds).

Response – Song: Sing the first verse of the hymn, Be still, and know. Children could join in or listen. Alternatively play an audio version of the hymn. (See references)

Silence: Sit in silence for a short time (15-30 seconds).

Pray the Psalm: Together slowly pray the verse twice.

End: Glory be …

Lesson Three

The children sit comfortably in a circle, relax and breathe slowly.

Begin: All make the Sign of the cross.

Pray the Psalm: Pray “Be still, and know that I am God!” twice together.

Silence: Sit in silence for a short time (15-30 seconds).

Response – Viewing and sharing: Show the children a large photo or painting of beautiful scenery. Pray the psalm verse together slowly while contemplating the picture. Invite individual responses which link the picture with the psalm.

Silence: Sit in silence for a short time (15-30 seconds).

Pray the Psalm: Together slowly pray the verse twice.

End: Glory be …

Lesson Four

The children sit comfortably in a circle, relax and breathe slowly.

Begin: All make the Sign of the cross.

Pray the Psalm: Pray “Be still, and know that I am God!” twice together.

Silence: Sit in silence for a short time (15-30 seconds).

Response – Choosing a picture and gluing a caption: From a display of selected photos and images (eg: calendar photos) placed on the floor in the centre of the circle, each child silently chooses one they like and glues on the paper-strip caption, “Be still, and know that I am God!”

Silence: Sit in silence for a short time contemplating the chosen photo.

Pray the Psalm: Together slowly pray the verse twice.

End: Glory be …

 

References

Congregation for the Clergy. (1998). General Directory for Catechesis. Sydney: St Paul’s Publications.

Chittister, Joan. (2007) 25 Windows into the Soul: Praying with the Psalms. Pennsylvania: Benetvision.

Be still and know from CD collection: As One Voice Vol 2: Uniting God’s People in Song. 2nd ed. Sydney: Willow Connection Pty. Ltd (The song, by John Bell and Graham Maule, can be found on CD3 and the words and music are in the hymn book)

 

 

 

 
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