Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Happy The Home- Family Shrines- St. Maximilian Kolbe

There are many ways to encourage parent involvement in religious education, but if there is one thing that we can help our families to do, it should be to pray with and for each other.

By making their home a school of prayer, parents show their children Who God is, and who we are.  They witness the living out of faith becoming an integral part of the day.  Kids see moms and dads turning to God in praise and petition.  Prayer changes a home.

One new project that I am going to try both in my classroom and my CCD program this year are traveling shrines.  I really like the idea of uniting our families together with a bag of goodies that visits each home.  The first one that will be making the rounds with my students will center on family prayer and encourage the creation of a place of prayer in the home.

The patron Saint of my classroom is St. Maximilian Kolbe.  (And tomorrow is his feast day!) My students and I will spend the first few weeks of school learning from the life of St. Max, and he continues to be a big part of our environment all year long.  So, I thought that carrying our devotion to St. Max into the homes of my students would be another neat way to connect home and school, as well as a way to encourage family prayer. Here is our St. Max traveling shrine, ready to spend one week in the homes of each of my students this school year.  Once it comes back, it will be restocked and sent home to another family, eventually making it to all of the students.  Other take-home-learning bags will also be visiting my student's homes (usually focusing on skills, like math/reading/writing) but I want this one to be the most special.

You could create a traveling shrine for any Saint, but here are some basics that I would include:
1. A simple introduction note, explaining the shrine, giving ideas for use, and a date for its return.
update: click here for an editable version of the letter that you can adapt for your program.
2. An icon, framed picture, or small statue of the Saint.  It would be a nice idea to have your priest bless the item before sending it to the homes.
3. A prayer notebook for the families to record their intentions and thanksgivings.
4. Books for both the kids and the adults about the life of the Saint.
5. Holy cards (or something similar) for each family to be able to keep after their time with the shrine.  Bonus points if the card includes a prayer asking for the Saint's intercession.
6. Simple activities that the families could choose to do about the Saint:
-coloring pages or activity sheets
-an easy craft with supplies included
-a list of recommended websites with more information
-a movie about the Saint or music CD that would encourage prayer
7. A bag to carry it all in.  Make sure that the bag is labeled with where it should be returned (ex. a tag tied on that reads "St. Joseph School 5th Grade").  I would also recommend a card or paper that lists the original contents of the bag so that parents can pack everything up before sending it back.

This is what I included in our St. Max Shrine:

While visiting the National Shrine of St. Maximilian Kolbe at Marytown in Libertyville, IL,  I was able to buy this beautiful icon of St. Max complete with a prayer for his intercession.  I stuck it in a garage sale frame, and it is ready to travel to my students' homes.

I was also able to get this great graphic novel about St. Max there:

There are enough of these St. Max post cards from the National Shrine that each family can keep one.  That way, even when the traveling shrine is passed on to another family, they will still have a little reminder of St. Max in their home.

Also included are a book for both the kids and the adults (seen in the pic at the top of the post.)
Mary's Knight by Patricia Edward Jablonski, FSB. (We read this out loud in class, but I think that the kids will enjoy having their own copy for a week.)
Hero of Auschwitz by Marytown Publishing (A short little booklet for the grownups who might not know much about Max.  It also contains illustrations & pictures.)

To help maintain the connection between the families, as well as to really encourage prayer, I made a simple prayer journal to travel with the shrine.  Here is a cheap notebook:
And I wrote a note about how to use it on the first page.  Click here for the text of this note.
And labeled one side of the pages with the title Thanksgivings: (so sorry for the blurry pics.  You get the idea.)
And the other side with Prayer Requests:
And made a simple cover:
Then it was time to decorate a bag to have the students carry it all back and forth in.  These are just simple canvas bags available from any craft store.  I used acrylic paint to decorate one side.
This black bag got the "St. Max Family Shrine" label, as well as some symbols of St. Max's life- a white and red crown, the M and Cross from a Miraculous Medal, and a piece of a prisoner's uniform with the #16670.  Obviously, you don't have to decorate a bag like this, but make sure that it is labeled somehow so that it can be recognized for its purpose.
Here it is all packed up with the goodies and ready to be sent home for a family to enjoy!  I probably will also add some St. Max & Mary coloring pages and activity sheets as well, because who doesn't love those :).

If you are interested in teaching your students the story of St. Maximilian Kolbe click here for my cross-curricular resources for teaching about St. Max.
And here for some additional St. Max activities.

In my next Happy the Home post, I'll be sharing my ideas for a traveling Family Marian Shrine for the families in my Immaculate Conception CCD program.  Check back, and let me know if you have had any success with a similar idea!

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