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Bring the Little Children to St. Faustina
By KC Davy
Bring the little children to St. Faustina. That's part of my mission as a first grade religion teacher at Mother of God School, a Catholic school sponsored by Mother of God Community in Gaithersburg, Md.
The community is canonically recognized within the Archdiocese of Washington as a "Private Association of the Faithful" and is a member of the Vatican's Catholic Fraternity of Charismatic Covenant Communities and Fellowships. We have a wonderful school that has produced many fine graduates, one of whom is Fr. Andy Davy, MIC (my son). He and the Marians have visited our school on several occasions to share the message of Divine Mercy to the children, grades Pre-K-8.
Since we try to teach the children about many of the beloved saints, I wanted to make sure that St. Faustina — the apostle of Divine Mercy — was near the top of the list. Most of the children who begin school here have never heard of her; I hadn't either before I met the Marians.
It is easy for teachers to incorporate learning about St. Faustina. Around her feast day (Oct. 5), I read a children's version of her life to the class. Helen's Special Picture is a good one for young children ("Helen" was St. Faustina's birth name) and can be read in one or two sessions. The main focus at this time is on Faustina's life as a child. The children come to see that she was much like they are now. They see that even as young children, they can be holy, do holy things and actually want to pray! Even as little children, they can help others — just as young Helen did little things to help the poor and to love Jesus. They notice through the stories that Helen was well liked and other children wanted to be with her, follow her and listen to her tell stories of Jesus. Children love learning about the saints, and with encouragement from parents and teachers, they will want to be like them.
In the course of the school day, when situations come up, we can ask: "What do you think St. Faustina would say or do?"
One year our school chose classroom patron saints, so we were able to go into more detail for a semester. Most days I would read a chapter or two of another Faustina biography published by the Daughters of St. Paul. So the students really got to know St. Faustina well. They heard stories of her life in the convent. Her many struggles got the children's attention! They learned how special she was and how Jesus appeared to her and gave her a special mission. Since the lessons took several months, the children seemed excited to hear about her. Many days they would ask, "Are you going to read to us about St. Faustina?!"
Lent is a good time to go into more detail about how Jesus came to her and spoke with her and how she began to write down His words and her thoughts, which was to become a Diary of 600-plus pages! Again, using the story books is a good way to do this, even if you have read it before. The Mother of Mercy Messengers have a resource DVD, Divine Mercy for Young Hearts, which has worksheets, puzzles, etc. Giving the children holy cards of St. Faustina and the Divine Mercy, having them draw what they think Jesus looked like, painting a picture of Him — those are some ideas that keep the children engaged and help imprint many memories. Three years ago I wrote out a very simple version of the life of St. Faustina, and each page was illustrated by a group of two to three children. This became a "book," simply bound by rings. They loved doing this, and I have the book available for current first graders to see.
The message of Divine Mercy is so important to our faith. Children need and love to hear about how much Jesus loves them and is always willing to forgive them. Young children are aware of what is "fair" and "unfair," and they can grasp how great God's love can be! I am continually amazed how much young children understand about spirituality. Learning about St. Faustina is an excellent way of teaching them about this message. From there, it is a springboard to telling about the works of mercy and how they can and do perform these often. She is a saint for today, one who persevered in difficult times, a modern saint who lived at a time when our students' great-grandparents were living, not so long ago.
In the classroom, celebrate the life of St. Faustina! Have a party to celebrate God's mercy! Have cupcakes and show the DVD "Divine Mercy for Young Hearts." The children are the hope of the future.