As long as I was a teacher, I was excited for this conclave. I had such plans of how to make it come alive for my kids–you can imagine my disappointment when I realized that I wasn’t going to get to do anything, not having a classroom anymore. But I figure plenty of you do, so here’s what I’d do:
Do some kind of tribute to our current Holy Father leading up to Thursday. Read parts of an encyclical, tell the story of his life, say a rosary for him, discuss how these authors love him, or check out this candid interview from 2010. Talk especially about his heroism in stepping down and what this might mean for the Church in the future. Discuss what problems the Church is facing now and how the Holy Father has shepherded us through the past 8 years.
- If your school’s technology guidelines permit, have your kids join in the #ThanksPontifex Twitter storm on Thursday, especially from 7:45-8:15pm Rome time (1:45-2:15 EST). You might want to run it by an administrator first, but I think it would be very powerful to your kids if you told them that you’re going to ask them to tweet in class. Brainstorming different things to say could be a good element of your tribute to him.
- Show this slightly tongue-in-cheek video about how to become pope to help them understand who the pope is in the Church. Follow it with some apologetics defending the papacy–more on that later in the week.
- Click through this cool interactive graphic thingy for details on just how the conclave works. Check out some great links at EWTN if you want more than just a cool clicky thing.
- Frame the “search for a new pope” with this article in which the author tells the media to quit being so ridiculous. It’s easy to listen to all the pundits talking about what the Church needs in a pope–as it turns out, what we need is God’s will. High schoolers should have no trouble reading it–summarize the ideas for younger kids. The most important point the author makes is that truth can’t change. No matter who’s elected, it will have no effect on Church teaching.
- Having established that doctrine can’t change, have the kids describe what they’d like to see in a pope in an essay or a drawing, depending on age group. Discuss nationality, age, previous experience, education–what do you think our Church needs right now?1
Have every kid pick a cardinal.2 Either let them choose their favorite in their essay or randomize it using Adopt A Cardinal. Have your kids pray for their Cardinals–heck, you could even run it like a student government election and have them campaign for their cardinals. Promise some awesome prize to the kid whose cardinal wins–a week of dress down days or a fun day in class or ice cream or something. If they’re rooting for someone–especially if they really want to win–they might actually care about this. That would be awesome.3
- Debate what name the new pope should choose. Do we need a John to keep with the spirit of reform, a social justice Leo, or a Gregory to bring back more traditional liturgical practices? (Before some punk kid suggests it, tell them Petrus Romanus is not an option.)
- When habemus papam, cancel lesson plans, turn on some news source that won’t malign our new Holy Father, bring out snacks, and eat and watch TV all day. It’s something to celebrate!
- Pray, pray, pray–for our current Holy Father, for our future Holy Father, for the cardinal electors, for the media, for disgruntled Catholics. Pray as a class, pray as a school, pray as homework. Remember that this is in God’s hands. How exciting!
All right, fellow teachers, help each other out. What ideas/projects/lesson plans/resources do you have? Let’s team up to make our kids LOVE the papacy!
- Personally, I’m pulling for a Russian or Greek Eastern rite bishop in his 60s. I know it’s not likely, but I think that with all the work JPII and Benedict did towards reunification with the East, a move like that could bring thousands of people back into union with Rome–given a 20+ year pontificate, that is. [↩]
- This list sorts them from youngest to oldest and has some pretty good facts-at-a-glance. [↩]
- If you homeschool, give each of your kids a continent. You have enough kids for that, right? Give your least favorite kid Antarctica. [↩]