Preparing for Easter - Lenten prayer spaces in school

Marie Norbury

This article describes some of the Lenten prayer opportunities available at a London school to demonstrate why it is important  -  indeed essential  -  to find time in our hectic lives to stop and 'listen for the voice of the Lord and enter into his peace'.1 Marie Norbury is chaplain and a teacher at St Mary's Catholic Junior School, Carshalton.

lentenThe spring school term is a busy one. Shorter than the other terms, it is nevertheless one where large areas of the curriculum need to be covered, learning deepened and progress shown. This is also the term when we enter the season of Lent: a time of reflection, preparation and inward conversion. In a Catholic school, Christ should be at the heart of everything it does2 and yet, at this busy time, there is a danger that prayer becomes squashed into the day rather than being the space out of which everything else grows. Given the time constraints it can be a challenge to create the space needed for meaningful Lenten prayer experiences. Yet, as the chaplain at one Catholic junior school discovered, when such opportunities are available, the pupils' responses are often surprising.

Throughout Lent there were three main prayer focuses available to the whole school during lunchtimes: the Sacrament of Reconciliation, Lectio Divina and the Lent Tent which emerged as being one of the most popular prayer experiences for all year groups. Introduced to the school in the recent past, it hadn't been used for a couple of years so for many children it was a new experience. This year, however, the Chaplaincy Team, made up of Year Six (10-11 year olds) children, were insistent that it should not just be available but that it had to be on the stage, in the centre of the school. These young people were instrumental in helping make the Lent Tent happen. They helped with setting it up, marshalling the very large number of children who came, sensitively guiding the children as they waited, making prayer displays, supporting the younger children and putting everything away at the end of lunch. This was very much child-directed prayer. It was lovely to witness these young people growing in confidence as they helped to support others into prayer. A recently bereaved child came to the tent every day it was open and was supported in prayer by two Chaplaincy Team members.

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