Advent catechesis is as easy as `A-B-C’ at Mary Queen of Peace

Rion Rumney made an analogy that was light years ahead of his four earthly years of life.

During a recent religion class discussion of the phases of the moon, the youngster announced to his Mary Queen of Peace pre-K4 teachers and classmates that the crescent moon reminded him of “God’s thumbnail.”

Rion’s astute observation – made during a lesson on the many types of light – was prompted by an Advent-related ABC book used throughout the season by his Mary Queen of Peace teachers Michelle Monaghan and Judy Boraks: “My Very Own Christmas Prayer Book.”

On Dec. 6, the class studied the book’s “C is for Candle” page as a way of launching into the letter of the day: “L is for Light.” They chanted in unison: “Candle, candle burning bright. Shining in the cold winter’s night. Candle, candle burning bright. Fill our hearts with Christmas light!”
Monaghan uses every moment as a teachable one.

“Why does the Advent wreath get brighter every week? Because every week we add what? A candle!” Monaghan said, asking her youngsters to join her in prayer: “Dear God, help us to be like Christmas candles. Help my light shine as Jesus told me to, that I might be a Christmas candle making Advent brighter, day by day, week by week.”

In the world of a 4-year-old, being a “source of light” boils down to being kind to family, friends and strangers.
“What would happen if everyone let their light shine?” Monaghan asked them. “Then we would have a beautiful world, a peaceful world, a kind world. Please try to encourage everybody to let their light shine!”

Next, Monaghan reviewed two previously studied Advent words: “A is for Angel” and “B is for Birthday.” She quizzed the youngsters on the name of the angel who visited Mary and challenged them to list the members of the Holy Family.

Turning to the word “Birthday,” Monaghan reminded her students to sing “Happy Birthday” to Jesus with their families on Christmas morning.

“On our birthdays we get gifts because the Wise Men brought gifts to Jesus!” Monaghan said, connecting that concept to yet another lesson on light: “How did those Wise Men find the stable where Jesus was? They followed the big, bright star!”

Before directing the children to the day’s related craft – gluing a pattern of suns, moons and stars onto a construction-paper letter L – Monaghan encouraged her students to be like the Christmas tree in their classroom: Bright, colorful, expressive and happy.

“If you’re that way to other people, then that sets the scene for people to be that way to you,” she told them.

Other Advent-related words from the book include donkey, inn, quiet, tree and wreath.

“They just absorb everything so quickly,” Monaghan marveled. “We’ve only been talking about Advent for a week, and they can already tell you the whole story. They notice the purple cloths and vestments when they go to church.”

The book’s “X is for Xmas” page describes how secular culture cuts “Christ” out of his very own birthday. The corresponding prayer tells readers that whenever they see Christ reduced to an “X,” to never “cross out Jesus Christ.”

“I will think about the cross, the real one, the one Jesus died on so my sins can be crossed out,” the prayer reads. “I know that ‘X’ marks the spot where Jesus belongs.”

Additional ways Mary Queen of Peace School celebrated Advent 2016 included the following:

• Every sixth grader was assigned a reading from the Old Testament and made a corresponding Jesse Tree ornament for hanging on the schoolwide Christmas tree.
• The Mission Club of second through fourth graders made angel necklaces out of paperclips and sold them to the student body to raise money for the Missionary Childhood Association.

• Fourth graders dramatized Our Lady of Guadalupe’s appearance to Juan Diego during a schoolwide prayer service on that Dec. 12 solemnity. All students prayed a decade of the rosary, with reflections and prayers dedicated to the Americas; sang two Marian hymns in Spanish; and presented roses to Our Lady of Guadalupe.

• During the final school assembly before the Christmas break, third graders presented five “Living Portraits”: The Annunciation; the Angel’s appearance to Joseph; the Visitation; Mary and Joseph’s search for lodging; and the Nativity. The Posada song was sung in Spanish, and lower elementary students presented “Silent Night” vocally and in American Sign Language.

• Throughout Advent, the schoolwide Christmas tree was wrapped in growing paper chains composed of students’ good deeds, each action performed in honor of their priests – Fathers John-Nhan Tran, pastor; and Ian Bozant, parochial vicar. The chains were given to the two men as Christmas gifts from the student body.

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