The fall we began GIFT (Growing In Faith Together), I explained to our priest about all the different aspects of GIFT and how I planned to slowly introduce them because it was overwhelming for me to think about them all right now. I said it would be good the first month if everyone just tries to do the home lessons. “And pray together as a family,” he added.
So, from the very beginning, praying has been emphasized in GIFT and Little Lambs. Memorized prayers are important because when we are in a group of Catholics, we feel like a part of the group if we are able to join in the prayers that the others are praying.
I’ve learned that there are many more prayers in our faith than I knew about. The first year I handed out booklets I purchased with lots of prayers in them and encouraged parents to learn these prayers with their children. But, I’m guessing, that most of these families were like mine, and the prayer booklets were quickly buried under the other papers that accumulate in our homes.
I decided I need to come up with
- something that reminded families each month to continue to work on learning prayers
- something that is cheap so that each person in the family could have their own prayer book, and
- something that could be personalized so that each person felt ownership of their prayer book.
My solution: PRAYER RINGS!
All you need to make the prayer rings are:
Covers: You will need two covers for each prayer ring — 5 5/8” by 4 3/8”. I cut covers from foam boards because I like how they make the prayer rings sturdy and they are easy to decorate. Drawbacks are that you need to cut them with a roller cutter and you have to have a way to put holes in foam board. Our parish has a big hole punch that works. But my favorite way to put holes in foam board is to use a drill press (my husband has one in our garage).
You can also make covers from poster board. This is easier to cut and punch holes into.
Prayers: Print the prayers on cardstock. I use brightly colored cardstock. The younger children often pick the next prayer to work on by the color of the cardstock. ? There are several options for printing:
Cut apart the prayers and punch holes in them (I do this before class).
Rings: Use 1-inch binder rings to hold the prayer rings together.
How to Make the Prayer Rings:
Decorate covers: At the beginning of each year, each participant gets two prayer ring covers to decorate. They decorate new covers each year because it makes the prayer rings “new”.
Select prayers: For the first class of the year, I put the prayers on tables so that participants can easily see what the prayers are.
Then each child picks up the prayer cards of the prayers he/she knows – plus one prayer to learn. These prayer cards are all put in their prayer rings.
Some families let each child pick a prayer to learn. Other families have all the children pick the same prayer. Which way works best? The one that best fits that particular family’s dynamics.
Parents pick up one copy of each prayer card for their prayer ring. Then, no matter what prayers their children pick up to learn, the parents have their own copy of the prayer.
I’ve discovered in helping my children to learn prayers, that one person needs to be reading the prayer while the others are learning to say them by memory. This keeps everyone learning the prayer correctly – not adding, deleting, or substituting words.
Put together the prayer rings: Put the prayer cards in order according to the numbers on them. (The first year I did not number the prayers but quickly learned that it is much easier for each member of a family to find a prayer if the prayer cards are numbered.) Add a cover to the front and the back of the pile of prayer cards. Use the binder rings to hold it all together.
And your prayer ring is complete!
Families are ready to go home and start memorizing a prayer.
When they come for the next class, have the prayer cards where families can pick out a new prayer to memorize. When I first started doing prayer rings, I spread the prayer cards out on a table each class. This makes it is easier for families to pick a card. But, it is takes a lot of time to put out all the different prayer cards and to pick them back up.
I now put the prayer cards in a plastic container. This saves me a lot of time and families can still select a new prayer.