Monthly Archives: October 2014

Learning About a Saint: St. Nectarios, the Wonderworker (Commemorated on Nov. 9)

A boy named Anastasios was once born in Greece to parents who loved each other, God, and their 7 children very much. Anastasios loved to obey his parents, to learn from his grandmother and his siblings, and to study in school. He especially liked learning to read. Why? Because he wanted to be able to read the Holy Scriptures, so that he could learn more about God!

When Anastasios was 14, his parents had to send him to another city to work and study. The work that he found did not pay very well, so he had ragged clothes and very little food. One day, he wrote a letter to Christ. In his letter, he explained that he did not have enough food or clothes. He asked his Lord, Jesus Christ, to send him what he needed. He sealed up the letter, marked it “To my Lord, Jesus Christ,” and went off to mail it. On the way, he began to talk with a kind man named Themistocles, who offered to deliver the letter for him. Anastasios gave the letter to him and went back to work.

Themistocles was curious about the letter, so he opened and read it. He knew that he could be the one that God used to answer the letter, so he then went out and bought the things that Anastasios needed, and sent them to Anastasios with a note saying these things were “for Anastasios, from the Lord Jesus Christ.” Anastasios was so grateful to God for answering his letter: he kept on thanking and thanking Him for providing what he needed.

Themistocles soon offered Anastasios work in his own shop, where Anastasios was better cared for and even had evenings free to read, pray, and study. Years passed, and Anastasios grew up. All that studying made him wise enough to teach, so he got a job as a teacher. He helped children to read and write, and also taught them more about God.

All this time, Anastasios spent as much time as he could in the church, participating and worshiping in the services. Finally the time came when Anastasios realized that he wanted to serve God as a monk. He was tonsured a monk, and given the name Nektarios.

Nektarios studied in Athens, and when he finished his studying, he was ordained a priest. He worked for a while in Egypt, doing the usual work of a priest like performing the services, as well as baptisms and marriages. He worked hard to help people stop arguing with each other, so he helped to bring God’s peace to his people. The people liked how Father Nektarios helped them, and they worked hard to obey him, because they knew that God was with him. Before too long, he was consecrated as a bishop.

Some unkind people didn’t like Bishop Nektarios. Because of that, they lied about him to the Patriarch, saying that Bishop Nektarios wanted to take away the Patriarch’s job. The Patriarch believed those people, and Bishop Nektarios was banished from Egypt and sent back to Greece. Bishop Nektarios was so sad to leave his friends, but he had to leave.

When Bishop Nectarios got to Greece, he was even more sad because of what he learned. The unkind people had sent the same lies to Greece ahead of him, so he was not able to serve in the Church or teach about God in Greece, either. But, instead of feeling sorry for himself or getting angry with God, or complaining, the Bishop prayed. He prayed that God would give him one place where he could preach.

God heard Bishop Nektarios’ prayers and provided an island, Evia, where he was allowed to preach. Bishop Nektarios was so happy that he went to the island and began to pray and preach there. At first, no one would listen because they had heard the lies, too, but the bishop kept praying and preaching. Soon the people of Evia got to know the bishop and they began to love Bishop Nektarios and attend the services with him.

After a while, Bishop Nektarios was asked to be the principal of a school for young men. He moved to Athens to do this job. He worked hard, teaching the young men about the True Faith. One day, the school’s janitor became sick. That man would lose his job if he did not get his work done. Bishop Nektarios, even though he was very important as the principal of the school, began to do the man’s work for him (such as sweeping, cleaning toilets, etc.) while the janitor was sick, because the bishop wanted to show his students that one must have faith but one must also do good deeds. He was a good teacher who knew how to teach not just with words, but also with his life.

While doing all of this, Bishop Nektarios helped every poor or sick person who came to him. People realized that he was kind and loving, so they came to him when they needed help. He always knew what to do to help the people who came to him; whether to give them things, tell them wise words from God, or to pray for them.

When Bishop Nektarios was old, he wanted to retire from being a principal. Years before, he had met some young ladies who had wanted to become nuns. He had told them to wait to be tonsured as nuns, to be sure it was God’s will. They had waited, so finally he gave his blessing for them to look for a place for a monastery. They found a deserted monastery on the island of Aegina, and the people of the island came to help restore it. Bishop Nektarios tonsured the young ladies as nuns, and then he built a cell outside the monastery for himself so that he could live nearby. (He also helped to build cells for the nuns, and also a church, even though he was old.)

Even though he was retired, Bishop Nektarios went on teaching. More young ladies came to be nuns at the monastery. So many of them came from poor families that they did not know how to read or write. Bishop Nektarios taught them how to do so, so that they could read and chant the services in the church. At the same time, other people on the island came to see Bishop Nektarios, to ask him for help, advice, and/or prayers.

Bishop Nektarios spent the last few years of his life in this way, on Aegina, working hard, and helping everyone that he could. After a few days in the hospital because of a disease he had for a long time, he departed this life on November 9, 1920. He had served God well for all of his life, and was ready to go to be with God. The nuns and the people of Aegina were sad to say goodbye to their bishop, but they also knew that now they had another person in heaven praying to God for them.

There are many, many stories of people who were healed through Bishop Nektarios’ prayers, both throughout his lifetime, and since he has departed this life. He is a good saint to ask to pray for you when you are ill. His prayers bring people peace just like his presence and his wise words did, when he was still alive on this earth.

“A man, with his mind in heaven were you, in the world still living,

O Nektarios, Hierarch of Christ. You led a devout and holy life,

and in everything you were truly impeccable, righteous, and inspired by God. “

~ from the Oikos

St. Nektarios, please intercede for our salvation!

This picture book is a great way to tell Sunday Church School students about the life of St. Nektarios: https://orthodoxchristianchildren.com/component/virtuemart/1071/9/children-s-books/the-story-of-the-holy-hierarch-nectarios-the-wonderworker-detail?Itemid=0

Learning About a Saint: St. Nectarios, the Wonderworker (Commemorated on Nov. 9)

A boy named Anastasios was once born in Greece to parents who loved each other, God, and their 7 children very much. Anastasios loved to obey his parents, to learn from his grandmother and his siblings, and to study in school. He especially liked learning to read. Why? Because he wanted to be able to read the Holy Scriptures, so that he could learn more about God!

When Anastasios was 14, his parents had to send him to another city to work and study. The work that he found did not pay very well, so he had ragged clothes and very little food. One day, he wrote a letter to Christ. In his letter, he explained that he did not have enough food or clothes. He asked his Lord, Jesus Christ, to send him what he needed. He sealed up the letter, marked it “To my Lord, Jesus Christ,” and went off to mail it. On the way, he began to talk with a kind man named Themistocles, who offered to deliver the letter for him. Anastasios gave the letter to him and went back to work.

Themistocles was curious about the letter, so he opened and read it. He knew that he could be the one that God used to answer the letter, so he then went out and bought the things that Anastasios needed, and sent them to Anastasios with a note saying these things were “for Anastasios, from the Lord Jesus Christ.” Anastasios was so grateful to God for answering his letter: he kept on thanking and thanking Him for providing what he needed.

Themistocles soon offered Anastasios work in his own shop, where Anastasios was better cared for and even had evenings free to read, pray, and study. Years passed, and Anastasios grew up. All that studying made him wise enough to teach, so he got a job as a teacher. He helped children to read and write, and also taught them more about God.

All this time, Anastasios spent as much time as he could in the church, participating and worshiping in the services. Finally the time came when Anastasios realized that he wanted to serve God as a monk. He was tonsured a monk, and given the name Nektarios.

Nektarios studied in Athens, and when he finished his studying, he was ordained a priest. He worked for a while in Egypt, doing the usual work of a priest like performing the services, as well as baptisms and marriages. He worked hard to help people stop arguing with each other, so he helped to bring God’s peace to his people. The people liked how Father Nektarios helped them, and they worked hard to obey him, because they knew that God was with him. Before too long, he was consecrated as a bishop. 

Some unkind people didn’t like Bishop Nektarios. Because of that, they lied about him to the Patriarch, saying that Bishop Nektarios wanted to take away the Patriarch’s job. The Patriarch believed those people, and Bishop Nektarios was banished from Egypt and sent back to Greece. Bishop Nektarios was so sad to leave his friends, but he had to leave.

When Bishop Nectarios got to Greece, he was even more sad because of what he learned. The unkind people had sent the same lies to Greece ahead of him, so he was not able to serve in the Church or teach about God in Greece, either. But, instead of feeling sorry for himself or getting angry with God, or complaining, the Bishop prayed. He prayed that God would give him one place where he could preach.

God heard Bishop Nektarios’ prayers and provided an island, Evia, where he was allowed to preach. Bishop Nektarios was so happy that he went to the island and began to pray and preach there. At first, no one would listen because they had heard the lies, too, but the bishop kept praying and preaching. Soon the people of Evia got to know the bishop and they began to love Bishop Nektarios and attend the services with him.

After a while, Bishop Nektarios was asked to be the principal of a school for young men. He moved to Athens to do this job. He worked hard, teaching the young men about the True Faith. One day, the school’s janitor became sick. That man would lose his job if he did not get his work done. Bishop Nektarios, even though he was very important as the principal of the school, began to do the man’s work for him (such as sweeping, cleaning toilets, etc.) while the janitor was sick, because the bishop wanted to show his students that one must have faith but one must also do good deeds. He was a good teacher who knew how to teach not just with words, but also with his life.

While doing all of this, Bishop Nektarios helped every poor or sick person who came to him. People realized that he was kind and loving, so they came to him when they needed help. He always knew what to do to help the people who came to him; whether to give them things, tell them wise words from God, or to pray for them.

When Bishop Nektarios was old, he wanted to retire from being a principal. Years before, he had met some young ladies who had wanted to become nuns. He had told them to wait to be tonsured as nuns, to be sure it was God’s will. They had waited, so finally he gave his blessing for them to look for a place for a monastery. They found a deserted monastery on the island of Aegina, and the people of the island came to help restore it. Bishop Nektarios tonsured the young ladies as nuns, and then he built a cell outside the monastery for himself so that he could live nearby. (He also helped to build cells for the nuns, and also a church, even though he was old.)

Even though he was retired, Bishop Nektarios went on teaching. More young ladies came to be nuns at the monastery. So many of them came from poor families that they did not know how to read or write. Bishop Nektarios taught them how to do so, so that they could read and chant the services in the church. At the same time, other people on the island came to see Bishop Nektarios, to ask him for help, advice, and/or prayers. 

Bishop Nektarios spent the last few years of his life in this way, on Aegina, working hard, and helping everyone that he could. After a few days in the hospital because of a disease he had for a long time, he departed this life on November 9, 1920. He had served God well for all of his life, and was ready to go to be with God. The nuns and the people of Aegina were sad to say goodbye to their bishop, but they also knew that now they had another person in heaven praying to God for them.

There are many, many stories of people who were healed through Bishop Nektarios’ prayers, both throughout his lifetime, and since he has departed this life. He is a good saint to ask to pray for you when you are ill. His prayers bring people peace just like his presence and his wise words did, when he was still alive on this earth.

A man, with his mind in heaven were you, in the world still living,

O Nektarios, Hierarch of Christ. You led a devout and holy life,

and in everything you were truly impeccable, righteous, and inspired by God. “

~ from the Oikos

 St. Nektarios, please intercede for our salvation!

This picture book is a great way to tell Sunday Church School students about the life of St. Nektarios: https://orthodoxchristianchildren.com/component/virtuemart/1071/9/children-s-books/the-story-of-the-holy-hierarch-nectarios-the-wonderworker-detail?Itemid=0

Here are a few ideas for you to use with your Sunday Church School students:

***

Before teaching your Sunday Church School children about the life of St. Nektarios, you may wish to study more about him. Find a summary of his life here: http://stnektariosfund.org/stnektarios. Read about his life and see actual photographs from it here: http://www.orthodoxphotos.com/Holy_Fathers/St._Nektarios_of_Aegina/.

***

“When he was still a young man, Anastasius (St. Nektarios’s name before he became a priest) made a pilgrimage to the Holy Land. During the voyage, the ship was in danger of sinking in a storm. Anastasius looked at the raging sea, and then at the captain. He went and stood beside the captain and took the helm, praying for God to save them. Then he took off the cross his grandmother had given him (containing a piece of the Cross of Christ) and tied it to his belt. Leaning over the side, he dipped the cross into the water three times and commanded the sea, “Silence! Be still.” At once, the wind died down and the sea became calm.

“Anastasius was saddened, however, because his cross had fallen into the sea and was lost. As the boat sailed on, sounds of knocking seemed to come from the hull below the water line. When the ship docked, the young man got off and started to walk away.

“Suddenly, the captain began shouting, ‘Kephalas, Kephalas, come back here.’ The captain had ordered some men into a small boat to examine the hull in order to discover the source of the knocking, and they discovered the cross stuck to the hull. Anastasius was elated to receive his ‘Treasure,’ and always wore it from that time forward.”

Tell your Sunday Church School students the story of this miracle. Then, show them the photograph of St. Nektarios wearing that cross, at: http://full-of-grace-and-truth.blogspot.com/2009/11/st-nektarios-wonderworker-bishop-of.html. (While you’re there, you can also read more stories of St. Nektarios’ life.)

***

“St. Nektarios is considered the Patron Saint for people who have cancer, heart trouble, arthritis, epilepsy and other sicknesses. Visitors to this shrine leave filled with the love and peace that St. Nektarios gave to all when he lived.

“St. Nektarios is a true icon of Christian love and patience. We are all called to love all people and to encourage them. As people of faith, we offer prayers as a means of help for all. St. Nektarios encouraged others by being with them at difficult times. He prayed to God to give them peace and courage to face their problems. We take him as our example. ” ~ from http://www.stnektarios.org/historyofsaint.php

With your Sunday Church School class, talk about how to love and encourage all people. How can we learn from St. Nektarios and continue God’s work on earth, acting as he did? Discuss who your class would be able to help, and make a plan for how to help, pray for, and encourage them.

***

Study and discuss the writings of St. Nektarios.

1. His “A Hymn to Our Lord Jesus Christ” begins as follows:

CHRIST The Word! Thine Incarnation

Links my nature to Thine own;

By Thy sore Humiliation,

I am lifted to Thy throne;

By Thy suffering Thou hast fired me

With a zeal to sacrifice,

And to noble life inspired me,—

Hence my grateful songs arise.” ~ St. Nektarios the Wonderworker

Read the rest of this hymn here: https://gabrielsmessage.wordpress.com/tag/st-nektarios-of-aegina/

2. “Prayer is forgetting earthly things, an ascent to Heaven. Through prayer we flee to God.” ~ St. Nektarios the Wonderworker

Read more of his writings here: http://www.saintandrewgoc.org/blog/2013/11/12/writings-of-saint-nektarios-the-wonderworker-bishop-of-penta.html

***

St. Nektarios is called “The Wonderworker” for a good reason: God works many miracles through him, even to this day! Here is one story of a miracle of St. Nektarios that you can share with your Sunday Church School students. This miracle happened recently in Romania: http://www.orthodoxmom.com/2009/11/04/miracle-of-st-nektarios/

***

Send this iconogram of St. Nektarios to your Sunday Church School students: http://www.iconograms.org/sig.php?eid=283. Besides his icon, there is a brief summary of his life included. Encourage your students to ask St. Nektarios to pray for them.

On Materialism

“Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal;” (Mt. 6:19)

 

In this age in the United States of America (and, indeed, throughout the world), the acquisition of “stuff” is what many people embrace as their goal for life. With the forthcoming holiday season, the fight-to-convince-everyone-to-acquire-more-stuff will be intensifying all around us. But is more stuff really what we or the children in our care (such as our Sunday Church School students) need?

 

Elder Paisios of the Holy Mountain (Mt. Athos) said, “I have realized that the destruction of man lies in the abundance of material goods, because it prevents him from experiencing the presence of God and appreciating His benevolence. If you want to take someone away from God, give him plenty of material goods. He will instantly forget Him forever.”

 

As Orthodox Christians, we do not want to forget God forever. (Nor do we want our children or Sunday Church School students to forget Him.) Neither do we want (them) to miss out on experiencing God’s presence and appreciating His benevolence. Therefore it is imperative that we be careful to set an example of simplicity and contentment in our own lives; and also encourage our students to place their hope in God, rather than in their things.

 

Beyond setting an example for them with our own lives, there are many ideas available to help us further teach our students to guard against materialism. Here are a few:

Ask your students what is their most prized possession. Have them write down what it is or draw a picture of it. Then, talk with your students about what is truly important in life. An idea of how one teacher did this is found at: http://www.5thgradecommoncore.com/blog/my-most-prized-possession-lesson. After the discussion, ask the students to look again at their original “most prized possession.” Is it still their most prized? Or is there something else that is more valuable? Ask them to tell the class, and explain why they ended up with what they did.

 

Encourage your students to focus any comparisons they may make on those less fortunate than them. Because, as Theodore Roosevelt so aptly put it, “comparison is the thief of joy,” we must be careful not to compare ourselves and our stuff to others. If we do compare, then  we should compare ourselves to those who have less than we do. We can work to this end by teaching our students that not everyone has as much as they do. For example, we can show them the pictures on this page http://borgenproject.org/children-and-their-most-prized-possessions/. The page features pictures of children from different parts of the world, photographed with their most prized possessions. Talk together as a class about the photos and how it feels to have so much more than these real kids do. Brainstorm ways your class can help provide for children in your neighborhood or around the world who do not have enough.

 

Use the plethora of advertisements (perhaps bringing in one copy of the Sunday paper would suffice to this end) which appeal to our greed as an opportunity to talk with your students. Discuss how the companies who pay for the advertisements are trying to make you feel discontent with what you have, and convince you that you need to buy their product. Talk with your students about the products being advertised. Do the students really think the items as amazing as they are advertised to be? What makes them think so/not? (Idea from  http://www.parenthood.com/article/10_simple_ways_to_combat_greed.html#.VEf6AseJOuZ.)

 

Consider challenging your students to join you in the Minimalism Game (see http://www.theminimalists.com/game/ for details). On day 1 of the game, each participant gets rid of (gives away, recycles, or otherwise shares) one item before midnight. On day 2, two items; day 3, three; etc. The participant who keeps at it the longest is the winner! (Actually, everyone who participates wins because of eliminating excess in their home while helping others!)

 

‘Tis the season… to face materialism head on and find ways to combat its influence in our lives and in the lives of our students. As we successfully turn away from our greed and toward Christ and His people, we will, indeed, be storing up “treasures in Heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal. For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.” (Matt. 6:20-21)

*******

Additional lesson ideas:

***
Show your students (of any age) the book Material World: A Global Family Portrait by Peter Menzel. If you don’t have access to the book you could print out and show (or show on your computer screen) several of these photos from that book: attp://menzelphoto.photoshelter.com/gallery/Material-World-Family-Portraits/G0000Ip09fSBViW8/C0000d0DI3dBy4mQ. After looking at the pictures, discuss what your students see in them, as is appropriate to their age level: How are these different families doing with their material goods? Which families look content? Does their contentment seem to have anything to do with how much stuff they have? If your students took a picture like this with their family and their stuff, what would it look like? Would they look content?

 ***

Teachers of very young Sunday Church School children can read a book such as More by I. C. Springman to their class. After reading, use the story to begin an age-appropriate discussion about materialism.

 ***

Students in grades K-6 will benefit from this lesson on (not) loving money, which focuses on 1 Timothy 6: 6-10. Find the lesson at: http://ministry-to-children.com/the-love-of-money-bible-lesson/. The lesson is well documented and printable!

 ***

Older elementary or middle school students could begin a discussion on materialism with this skit on “stuff”: http://www.kidssundayschool.com/618/gradeschool/stuff.php. It is available for download as a pdf, so that you can print copies for the students who will read/perform the skit.

 ***

Middle or high school Sunday Church School students can read and the discuss this article about one couple who pared back their lives: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/08/08/business/08consume.html?adxnnl=1&adxnnlx=1414166722-C2NoCO+I+Pw8Upcc5k4g1Q. What are the results of their simpler living? How does this simpler living work for the pair?

 ***

 Print and cut apart the following quotes (or any others you may find and add) about materialism and/or contentment. High school students can select a quote from a basket in which you have placed the cut-apart quotes. The students then take turns to read their quote to the class, and begin a discussion about the quote by stating whether or not they agree with it, as well as why. Together as a class, read 1 Tim. 6:6-10. Compare that quote to the others that had been read. Students can then each select their favorite quote, and illustrate it. Hang the illustrations around your classroom to remind you all to be content with what you have; and to avoid materialism.

Contentment vs. Materialism Quotes:

“He who is not contented with what he has, would not be contented with what he would like to have. ” ~ Socrates

“To be content with little is difficult; to be content with much, impossible.” ~Marie von Ebner-Eschenbach, Aphorisms

 

“The things you own end up owning you. It’s only after you lose everything that you’re free to do anything.” ~ Chuck Palahniuk, Fight Club

 

“We’ve got a sort of brainwashing going on in our country, Morrie sighed. Do you know how they brainwash people? They repeat something over and over. And that’s what we do in this country. Owning things is good. More money is good. More property is good. More commercialism is good. More is good. More is good. We repeat it–and have it repeated to us–over and over until nobody bothers to even think otherwise. The average person is so fogged up by all of this, he has no perspective on what’s really important anymore.

 

Wherever I went in my life, I met people wanting to gobble up something new. Gobble up a new car. Gobble up a new piece of property. Gobble up the latest toy. And then they wanted to tell you about it. ‘Guess what I got? Guess what I got?’

 

You know how I interpreted that? These were people so hungry for love that they were accepting substitutes. They were embracing material things and expecting a sort of hug back. But it never works. You can’t substitute material things for love or for gentleness or for tenderness or for a sense of comradeship.

 

Money is not a substitute for tenderness, and power is not a substitute for tenderness. I can tell you, as I’m sitting here dying, when you most need it, neither money nor power will give you the feeling you’re looking for, no matter how much of them you have.” ~ Mitch Albom, Tuesdays with Morrie

 

“It is the preoccupation with possessions, more than anything else that prevents us from living freely and nobly.” ~ Bertrand Russell

 

“Life isn’t about having, it’s about being. You could surround yourself with all that money can buy, and you’d still be as miserable as a human can be. I know people with perfect bodies who don’t have half the happiness I’ve found. On my journeys I’ve seen more joy in the slums of Mumbai and the orphanages of Africa than in wealthy gated communities and on sprawling estates worth millions. Why is that? You’ll find contentment when your talents and passion are completely engaged, in full force. Recognise instant self-gratification for what it is. Resist the temptation to grab for material objects like the perfect house, the coolest clothes or the hottest car. The if I just had X, I would be happy syndrome is a mass delusion. When you look for happiness in mere objects, they are never enough. Look around. Look within.” ~ Nick Vujicic

On Materialism

“Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal;” (Mt. 6:19)

In this age in the United States of America (and, indeed, throughout the world), the acquisition of “stuff” is what many people embrace as their goal for life. With the forthcoming holiday season, the fight-to-convince-everyone-to-acquire-more-stuff will be intensifying all around us. But is more stuff really what we or the children in our care (such as our Sunday Church School students) need?

Elder Paisios of the Holy Mountain (Mt. Athos) said, “I have realized that the destruction of man lies in the abundance of material goods, because it prevents him from experiencing the presence of God and appreciating His benevolence. If you want to take someone away from God, give him plenty of material goods. He will instantly forget Him forever.”

As Orthodox Christians, we do not want to forget God forever. (Nor do we want our children or Sunday Church School students to forget Him.) Neither do we want (them) to miss out on experiencing God’s presence and appreciating His benevolence. Therefore it is imperative that we be careful to set an example of simplicity and contentment in our own lives; and also encourage our students to place their hope in God, rather than in their things.

Beyond setting an example for them with our own lives, there are many ideas available to help us further teach our students to guard against materialism. Here are a few:

Ask your students what is their most prized possession. Have them write down what it is or draw a picture of it. Then, talk with your students about what is truly important in life. An idea of how one teacher did this is found at: http://www.5thgradecommoncore.com/blog/my-most-prized-possession-lesson. After the discussion, ask the students to look again at their original “most prized possession.” Is it still their most prized? Or is there something else that is more valuable? Ask them to tell the class, and explain why they ended up with what they did.

Encourage your students to focus any comparisons they may make on those less fortunate than them. Because, as Theodore Roosevelt so aptly put it, “comparison is the thief of joy,” we must be careful not to compare ourselves and our stuff to others. If we do compare, then  we should compare ourselves to those who have less than we do. We can work to this end by teaching our students that not everyone has as much as they do. For example, we can show them the pictures on this page http://borgenproject.org/children-and-their-most-prized-possessions/. The page features pictures of children from different parts of the world, photographed with their most prized possessions. Talk together as a class about the photos and how it feels to have so much more than these real kids do. Brainstorm ways your class can help provide for children in your neighborhood or around the world who do not have enough.

Use the plethora of advertisements (perhaps bringing in one copy of the Sunday paper would suffice to this end) which appeal to our greed as an opportunity to talk with your students. Discuss how the companies who pay for the advertisements are trying to make you feel discontent with what you have, and convince you that you need to buy their product. Talk with your students about the products being advertised. Do the students really think the items as amazing as they are advertised to be? What makes them think so/not? (Idea from  http://www.parenthood.com/article/10_simple_ways_to_combat_greed.html#.VEf6AseJOuZ.)

Consider challenging your students to join you in the Minimalism Game (seehttp://www.theminimalists.com/game/ for details). On day 1 of the game, each participant gets rid of (gives away, recycles, or otherwise shares) one item before midnight. On day 2, two items; day 3, three; etc. The participant who keeps at it the longest is the winner! (Actually, everyone who participates wins because of eliminating excess in their home while helping others!)

‘Tis the season… to face materialism head on and find ways to combat its influence in our lives and in the lives of our students. As we successfully turn away from our greed and toward Christ and His people, we will, indeed, be storing up “treasures in Heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal.

For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.” (Matt. 6:20-21)

Hosting a Saints Festival

We have much to learn from the saints, as do our Sunday Church School students. It is important for us to help the children learn about those who have fought the good fight and finished the race before them. There are many ways to do so. One way that is both educational and fun is for your parish to host a saints festival.

Every saints festival should have a theme. For example, one can have as its theme one specific saint’s life. Another festival may focus on a story from scripture that includes a variety of saints. Or perhaps the festival will celebrate many saints by learning about a theme such as faithfulness, featuring stories from various saints’ faithfulness. When planning a saints festival, the theme will drive the activities, so select the theme carefully!

Some parishes encourage children to arrive at the festival dressed as a favorite saint. They may even have a “parade of saints” and allow the children to tell everyone else a little about the saint whom they are emulating. This extends the learning by having the children learn more about a saint, pre-festival, and allowing them to learn from each other during the festival.

Regardless of whether the children dress up or not, plan a variety of activities for the festival. Included in the activities should be a story from scripture or the life/lives of (a) saint(s); related games/activities; a snack (which could also be related, if you have creative people in your parish); and a related craft. Some parishes have also included doing service projects that fit with the theme. Others have invited various parishioners to tell about their work and how the saints help them with it. There are a myriad of ideas and possible ways to extend the learning. While planning, keep in mind two important considerations: 1. How does this activity help to communicate the theme for the festival? Does this particular activity help to teach the theme? and 2. Are we helping children with a variety of learning styles to learn in their favorite way, in these activities? Are the activities varied enough?

The saints festival can be simple or elaborate: depending on the planners and how much time they wish to spend in preparation. Much more important than intricate decorations or flashy games is the theme of the event and how each activity helps to teach the children about an aspect of that theme. Active involvement will translate into lasting learning.

There are so many saints whose lives are great examples for us! Adults and children alike can benefit from learning about their lives! Let us do what we can to learn from them, and find ways to teach the children in our care about them as well, so that we can all work to become more like them; and ask them to intercede on our behalf.

Through the prayers of our holy fathers, Lord Jesus Christ our God, have mercy on us and save us. Amen.

**********
Following are ideas for hosting a saints festival:

St. John Chrysostom Antiochian Orthodox Church in York, PA once held a “heavenly” saints festival, featuring the stories of various saints. There was “heavenly” themed food and decor, and a variety of activities. Read the description at http://www.antiochian.org/1163373420 .

***

St. Nicholas Cathedral in Brooklyn, NY turned their saints festival “parade” presentations into a quiz competition for the audience, to see which side could correctly answer the most questions about the saints which the children presented. See pictures of the costumes and read more at  http://www.antiochian.org/1155500905 .

***

St. John Chrysostom Antiochian Orthodox Church in York, PA hosted a saints festival based on the theme “Fishers of Men.” Read about the activities (including a story, song, craft, games, and related snack) at http://www.antiochian.org/outofthebox/saintsfestival .

***

An idea for a saints festival theme: Teach the children about St. Phanourios. http://myocn.net/tradition-thanks-st-phanourios-finds/ can help you to make a St. Phanourios cake to share. Game ideas include “Sardines,” “Hide and Seek,” a scavenger hunt, or even a version of hide and seek where you have hidden items around the room ahead of time and the children must find them (instead of finding people as in regular “Hide and Seek”). For a craft, have the kids each make their own “lost and found” game such as  http://www.catholicinspired.com/2010/11/st-anthony-lost-and-found-game.html, only smaller (as suggested here http://www.kidspot.com.au/cute-diy-find-it-jars/ ). Be sure to pre-print and perhaps even laminate the list of items they’ll be putting into the jar, so that they have a nice game (the jar and the list) to take home with them. Every time they play it, they will be able to remember St. Phanourios and how he helps people find lost things!

***

Here are a few game ideas for a general saints festival celebrating the lives of many saints:

  1. Create your own “Saints Bingo” boards with saints that you have studied together, and play. See  http://showerofroses.blogspot.com/2011/10/all-saints-bingo-30-card-printable.html for a Roman Catholic version, as inspiration.
  2. Make a scavenger hunt (for older students, or students working in multi-age small groups). Post people holding icons of the saints around the room. Each person holding an icon should know a bit about the saint; especially the part that is being asked about in the scavenger hunt. Students are given a handout of questions, fill-in-the-blank style, and need to find the answers to complete their hunt. See http://showerofroses.blogspot.com/2012/10/all-saints-scavenger-hunt-printable.html, a Roman Catholic version, for question ideas.
  3. Make “I Spy the Saints” collages. Divide the group into smaller groups. Assign each smaller group a saint, and have them collect a variety of items representing that saint. They can arrange the items in a collage, mixing in other items if needed. Have the groups each make an “I Spy” list of things for people to look for in their collage. Groups can then go around looking at the other groups’ collages and trying to find all the things on the list. (For added fun after the event, photograph each collage, type up the “I Spy” lists, and print the photos and lists into small books for the children to keep.) (Inspired by http://www.catholicinspired.com/2012/05/catholic-i-spy-fun-for-all-ages.html .)

Hosting a Saints Festival

We have much to learn from the saints, as do our Sunday Church School students. It is important for us to help the children learn about those who have fought the good fight and finished the race before them. There are many ways to do so. One way that is both educational and fun is for your parish to host a saints festival.

Every saints festival should have a theme. For example, one can have as its theme one specific saint’s life. Another festival may focus on a story from scripture that includes a variety of saints. Or perhaps the festival will celebrate many saints by learning about a theme such as faithfulness, featuring stories from various saints’ faithfulness. When planning a saints festival, the theme will drive the activities, so select the theme carefully!

Some parishes encourage children to arrive at the festival dressed as a favorite saint. They may even have a “parade of saints” and allow the children to tell everyone else a little about the saint whom they are emulating. This extends the learning by having the children learn more about a saint, pre-festival, and allowing them to learn from each other during the festival.

Regardless of whether the children dress up or not, plan a variety of activities for the festival. Included in the activities should be a story from scripture or the life/lives of (a) saint(s); related games/activities; a snack (which could also be related, if you have creative people in your parish); and a related craft. Some parishes have also included doing service projects that fit with the theme. Others have invited various parishioners to tell about their work and how the saints help them with it. There are a myriad of ideas and possible ways to extend the learning. While planning, keep in mind two important considerations: 1. How does this activity help to communicate the theme for the festival? Does this particular activity help to teach the theme? and 2. Are we helping children with a variety of learning styles to learn in their favorite way, in these activities? Are the activities varied enough?

The saints festival can be simple or elaborate: depending on the planners and how much time they wish to spend in preparation. Much more important than intricate decorations or flashy games is the theme of the event and how each activity helps to teach the children about an aspect of that theme. Active involvement will translate into lasting learning.

There are so many saints whose lives are great examples for us! Adults and children alike can benefit from learning about their lives! Let us do what we can to learn from them, and find ways to teach the children in our care about them as well, so that we can all work to become more like them; and ask them to intercede on our behalf.

Through the prayers of our holy fathers, Lord Jesus Christ our God, have mercy on us and save us. Amen.

Introducing a Resource: PRAXIS magazine (Featuring “The Ministry of Teaching,” Volume 11, Issue 3) (permission requested)

PRAXIS magazine, published 3 times a year by the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America, is a wonderful resource for Orthodox Christian Sunday Church School teachers. Every issue can be ordered by subscription, and is full of articles useful to Orthodox educators. (Interested readers can subscribe to PRAXIS here: http://www.goarch.org/archdiocese/departments/religioused/praxis_subscription_form.)

To better serve Orthodox Christian educators, many back issues of the magazine are available to the public. These can be found online at http://www.goarch.org/archdiocese/departments/religioused/praxis. Every magazine has a specific theme, ranging from prayer to pop culture to icons to adult education to teaching difficult topics. Each issue contains a variety of articles, most relating to the theme, and all useful to an Orthodox Christian educator. “PRAXIS is THE magazine for professional catechists,” says Carole Buleza, Director of the Antiochian Orthodox Department of Christian Education.

For example, let us look at the PRAXIS issue “The Ministry of Teaching,” Volume 11, Issue 3, published in the spring of 2012. Articles include “Christ, the Teacher of Teachers;” “The Role of the Priest in Christian Education;” “Why They Teach;” book reviews (including one of Jim Pierson’s Exceptional Teaching: A Comprehensive Guide for Including Students with Disabilities, for example); and “Religious Ed Basics: Achievement and Incentives;” and much more. Each article focuses on a different aspect of Christian Education. Not all articles will be applicable to each reader, but every reader is sure to find articles that are helpful in any issue.

To further investigate PRAXIS’ helpfulness, let us look closely at the last article mentioned above, “Religious Ed Basics: Achievement and Incentives” (pp. 24-25). This article recounts the incentive program that is carried out at Holy Trinity Church of Dallas, TX. Their Sunday Church School rewards students for attendance, achievement, and graduation. Students who have attended at least 80% of their Sunday Church School classes receive the attendance award, which varies from year to year (ie: a lapel pin or a necklace), and comes with a promotion certificate. For the achievement award, each age group is assigned an age-appropriate test/task. Tasks range from making the sign of the cross (age 3) to raising money for Support A Mission Priest or speaking in the church’s Oratorical Festival (grade 12). Students who successfully complete the task(s) for their grade level are awarded an icon, different for every age level. By the time the children graduate, they have a collection of beautiful icons to keep for the rest of their lives. Graduates who have successfully participated in the program are given an icon, an Orthodox Christian Study Bible, a prayer rope, and a variety of useful books and pamphlets. The PRAXIS article includes graphics such as an achievement award chart showing the age groups, the achievement they are expected to accomplish, and the icon which they are awarded. The article is inspiring, and can help Sunday Church Schools of all sizes to think through their program and consider what incentives they may want to offer to students in their program.

Articles such as “Religious Ed Basics: Achievement and Incentives” are what PRAXIS is all about. The word “praxis” means (according to http://www.merriam-webster.com) “exercise or practice of an art, science, or skill;” “customary practice or conduct;” or “practical application of a theory.” This magazine is aptly named, as its articles take the Orthodox Church’s Traditions and offer practical applications that enable Orthodox Christian educators to practice their skills in the classroom in effective ways. Orthodox Christian Sunday Church School teachers and directors will find this magazine to be an inspiration and a help to their goal of educating students in the Faith.

Some quotes from PRAXIS’s “The Ministry of Teaching;” V.11 , Issue 3, Spring 2012:

“We can teach as Jesus taught. By taking a closer look at Jesus’ teachings, we begin to discern a distinct ‘style of teaching’ that we can imitate in our own ministry of teaching.” ~ Anton C. Vrame, PHD, “Christ: The Teacher of Teachers,” pp. 6-8

“…the whole Church has the responsibility for Christian Education.” ~ Rev. Dr. Peter G Rizos, “The Role of the Priest in Christian Education,” pp. 9-12

“Sometimes the students teach the teacher, even if they’re only four years old.” ~ Rosemary Shumski, “Why They Teach,” p. 15

“The ministry of Sunday Church School teachers is central to the life of the parish, but they cannot do this task alone.” ~ Anton C. Vrame, PHD, “Recognizing Teachers,” p. 40

“When children see adults taking matters of faith seriously, children will begin to take it seriously.” ~ Anton C. Vrame, PHD, “Recognizing Teachers,” p. 40