When parents and catechists are asked what they want from their children, their response might include a desire for the children’s happiness. We often strive for our own and others’ happiness. What does it mean for our children to be happy? And how can we teach the youngest children about the happiness and love that Jesus calls each of us to live?
The Praying with a Happy HeartPrayer Service uses Scripture as inspiration for a children’s celebration about love and happiness. The prayer service calls on the words of Saints Matthew and Paul to paint a picture for the children of the happiness Jesus describes in the Beatitudes and the love described in the widely quoted description from 1 Corinthians.
The Beatitudes are a timely and suitable lesson for any month of the year. But this month there is a particular tie in to an international event, since Pope Francis has chosen the fifth of the eight Beatitudes, “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy” (Matthew 5:7), as the theme for this year’s World Youth Day. The Beatitudes are eight examples of qualities that bring us closer to the Kingdom of God and were given by Jesus during his Sermon on the Mount. The Beatitudes are at the heart of Jesus’ teaching and are powerful examples for young children.
You may want to connect this prayer experience to the World Youth Day event and theme. Children will feel proud and excited to have a connection to a major event happening in the world and Church. (Learn more about Sadlier resources for World Youth Day 2016 here, including a World Youth Day 2016 eBook with simple information in a reader-style format that can be shared in the classroom or at home.)
The incorporation of movement, rhythm, stories and Scripture makes this Praying with a Happy Heart Prayer Service appropriate and engaging for early childhood and elementary aged children. It can be used in the home or in a religious education setting.
Before you begin the prayer service, review the leader parts and assign reading roles to other adults or older children. Practice parts in advance with emerging readers. Provide art materials such as crayons, colored pencils, or markers for children to decorate the prayer in the activity that concludes the prayer service. Be sure to have a copy of the prayer for each participating child so that all can take their decorated prayers home to pray with happy hearts!