Updated: Feb 6, 2022
I'm really happy to have been asked to put this together and I honestly can't believe that I didn't sooner. I taught upperclassmen Highschool Theology for 8 years and have an abundance of resources that I have collected. Beg, borrow, steal that is what we teachers do to give our students the best experience without having to reinvent the wheel. In the last few years of teaching I tried to integrate some liturgical living (classroom style) type activities and routines into the school day and the students really enjoyed hearing about and experiencing tradition. It was my attempt to plant a seed in hopes that they could carry this home or remember it for later in their lives. Hopefully this gives you some resources to use or inspires you to create your own Catholic culture in the classroom. What I like about these options is that they aren't just for the theology classroom, any school subject can creatively integrate some of them and of course they can be done at home too. Towards the end I have thrown out some more specific things to do at home or to recommend to parents.
1. Create an Art Contest: Pick a symbol of the Immaculate Conception to sketch, paint, mold out of clay, or make a graphic on the computer.
The symbols are the crown and monogram; lily; enclosed garden; crown of stars; glass (symbol of purity) lily often placed in a vase of transparent glass; lily of the valley.
Bartolome Esteban Murillo
Oil on Canvas
We might not be Murillo, but he must have started somewhere. I like integrating Sacred Art as a way of elevating our teenagers experience of beauty, showing them the God given gifts of others, and encouraging them to cultivate their own skills to the glory of God. It is also a fruitful way to hand down Catholic culture and inspire a sense of appreciation for tradition.
2. Upperclasmen in Theology can read "Ubi Premum" on the Immaculate Conception by Pope Pius IX or read Pope John Paul II’s General Audience on the Immaculate Conception defined by Pius IX.
I have linked both below for convenience. I always assigned Honors Theology these types of reading assignments. If I didn't think I had time to get through the entire thing I would just pull out sections that would highlight the key parts of the message. You can assign small groups varying sections to read and then report to the other groups or have them write about it. Large group reading would work too and I would typically use that time to help teach them to annotate, analyze & synthesize information, and then share connections they are making to other readings or teachings we have discussed.
3. Take a virtual tour of the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception.
In the current circumstances traveling has been minimized so this is a great way to host a virtual field trip. I like this option because it gives them a real experience of seeing the Basilica when they may or may not ever get to see it in person. If I were doing this I would have the students take the tour and then break them into groups and assign them each different aspects of the Basilica to research. The website has easy sections already made so you could do groups by those categories: liturgy, sacred music, history & heritage, and art & architecture.
4. White Out Day!
This is an easy one and more of a "spirit day" type activity that you could do every year. Wear something white to represent Mary’s purity.
5. Give a talk, listen to a video, and/or discuss Theology of the Body.
Pope Pius IX's solemn definition, made in 1854, "The most holy Virgin Mary was, in the first moment of her conception, by a unique gift of grace and privilege of almighty God, in view of the merits of Jesus Christ the Redeemer of mankind, preserved free from all stain of original sin." This means that since the first moment of her existence, Mary was preserved from the sin which we all inherit through Adam and Eve.
Today is the perfect opportunity to talk about purity and/or dating. I integrated these kinds of days into my curriculum all the time simply put, because they need it! Teenagers are being bombarded by the culture and social media to look, act, talk, think, and be a certain way that totally contradicts our faith. They need you, they may not act like it, but they need you. Many students told me that I was the only one talking to them about modesty, purity, and dating. I'm not going to say that this was easy, but I created an environment for open and real conversation so that they could ask questions about what our faith teaches and more importantly, why! I know that teenagers can sometimes be scary to talk to about this, they will look at you like you have a third eye and that is okay, because you are teaching them that they are worth more. Most of them have never actually heard those words spoken out loud to them before. Empower their parents as well, they need resources too! I have linked a video that I think might be helpful. These are just a couple of recommendations, but there are so many options out there so browse around.
Video One: Avoiding Impurity, Father Mike Schmitz
Video Two: Chastity Advice that Actually Works, Jackie and Bobby Angel
Video Three (For Parents): Parenting for Purity, Jason Evert
6. Catholic teen books on purity.
If you are using this option in the classroom you could assign it as extra credit like I used to do or you could break open a section and discuss. I know some teachers who were able to break the classes up and a male theology teacher would take the boys and a female teacher would take the girls to discuss topics presented in the books and do a Q&A. I would also recommend you suggest some of these books for parents to have in their homes so that they are easily accessible to teens that are curious for answers.
Here are a few books that I would recommend on the topic of purity and dating!
(Recommendations will range with regard to where that teen is in their faith.)
7. Go to Confession.
There is no better way to imitate Mary in her sinlessness than to go to confession. Plenty of time to plan ahead. :)
8. Begin your class or end your evening at home in prayer.
Here are some suggestions for for the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception
9. Make an ALL WHITE dinner!
Mary's purity is represented through the color white so set the table with a white cloth, put some white roses on the table, and make a white dinner.
Appetizers: White bean dip, rice crackers and herbed cream cheese, or white cheeses; Soups: white winter vegetable soup, white bean fennel soup, potato soup, cream of celery; Main Course: cauliflower and crab ravioli, chicken breasts with white wine sauce, pasta with alfredo sauce; Side Dishes: buttered cauliflower puree, mashed potatoes, white rice, white bread, white corn, rice noodle salad w/ chicken; Dessert: White cake with white icing, vanilla ice cream, whipped cream, coconut pie
10. Begin your school with morning prayer from the Liturgy of the Hours or end your day at home with evening prayer.
I use the iBreviary for this but you could always use the physical books too.
Pick a few ideas and tell me how they go! We have picked what works for us in our home too and are very excited to celebrate our Heavenly Mother as we prepare for the birth of Jesus. We always do the Liturgy of the Hours for Solemnities, but I am going to try doing some white foods, and a white outfit for the day.
I hope that your Advent is a blessed one!