Lesson Title: "Making Space for God"
Grade Level or Age Group: I have done this with students grades 8 - 12, and have adapted it for use with RCIA catechumens.
Lesson Objectives: The students will be invited to let God enter more fully into their lives.
Several years in a row at the high School where I used to teach the students in each of the classes in the school were invited to bring pennies and to deposit them in a large pickle jar throughout the period of Lent. Each class had its own pickle jar. At the end of Lent, the jars were weighed and the class with the most pennies was rewarded with a pizza lunch. the school (which had fewer than 150 students at the time, usually raised over $400 Canadian dollars in this fashion. These funds would be donated to a charity.
One year it was my turn to introduce the project to the students in the school. I wanted to introduce it in a way that would also help the students understand the meaning of Lent. Here is what I did.
1. I filled a clear glass with pennies to the very brim. When I came in the class, I placed the glass on the desk so that all the students could see it.
2. I then told the students a story that I called the Mountain of the Rising Star.
3. I asked them how much water could go into my glass full of penny? If I were stuck in the desert like the princess in the Story of the Mountain of the Rising Star, what would I have to do with the pennies in the glass before I could put water in it to drink?
4. I concluded by telling the students that sometimes we need to leave some important things behind in order to find even more important things. For example, we need to think a little less about ourselves to be able to welcome others in our lives, to make friends with them. We need to make a "space" in our lives for others, or else we will never have friends and we are "thirsty" for friendship just as much as we can be thirsty for water. In the same way, we need to make a bit of space in our lives so that God can enter into it. We have to give a bit of ourselves - a bit of our time for prayer, for going to mass, for thinking about God - in order for God to have space to enter our lives a bit more and be our friend. Giving something up for Lent or at any other time during the year can be thought of as making a bit of space for others - people in need and God. We need to let go a bit of ones self to make space for others and for God.
I recently sent the outline of this lesson plan to a Catholic school teacher in Lake Charles, La. who requested a lesson for the Lenten period. She adapted what I suggested above and wrote back to tell me how she proceeded. I find the approach she used very concrete and I am certain that her students cannot but have responded well to it. She has kindly given me permission to share her insights with you and to publish her name and email address as well.
"I modified the plan and want to tell you about it. First, I put medium sized rocks into a small glass container and told them that these were symbols of the "things" in their lives. They represent people, habits (good and bad), daily activities and attitudes. Then I poured a glass of water into the bowl, and told them that this represented God's grace into their lives. Then I took out about five or six rocks and told them that these represented bad habits and things that were taking up precious space in their lives and keeping the grace of God from filling them. Each one I took out, I named. This one is my judging people. This is when I am uncharitable. This one is not praying at all during the day. This one is laziness, and on and on. Then, because the water level was lower, I poured more water into the bowl. They could see it rise and understood that when we "clean house", the grace of God can work and be added to us. This lenten season was going to be a time of renewing and cleansing themselves of the "rocks" that they didn't need to make room for the grace of God.
I also told them the story that you sent of the princess who left home, only to realize the important things in life were right under her nose."
I am grateful to Jeanne for sharing this idea with me and for allowing me to publish it here. It is a welcome confirmation that the material I make available is being used creatively by other teachers.
©Gilles Côté, 2001 If you copy information from this page please acknowledge your source.