Sunday, March 8, 2015

Our 3 Baby Steps towards PRAYERFUL Weekly Stations of the Cross with Children

What is this loony child doing in the snow with no coat? 

Being his sensory-challenged, silly self as he crosses from the locked front door of our church to an open side door in order to go pray the Stations of the Cross with his siblings and me.

Now, I use the word "pray" loosely, because, to be honest, our experience "praying" the Stations of the Cross at our church this past Friday was not exactly as reverent as I envisioned it would be. 

Although I introduced all of my children to praying the Stations of the Cross early, determined that they needed to learn more about this rich prayer tradition within our domestic church in ways that were special needs-friendly, and even let them "play" Stations of the Cross on our front lawn (last year when it was not covered with snow as it is this year!), I guess I have yet to get them to a point where they "get it". 

Sure, my children know what each station is now.  (Even Jack, at four, can name and explain each of the stations with some degree of accuracy.)  However, they do not always get the whole walking the way prayerfully thing.

This has become every-so-evident to me this year.

Yet, baby steps are happening... 

Step One:  Tuned Out, Yet Quiet

On the first Friday of Lent this year, I wrongly thought that my children were ready to participate well in my parish's formal Stations of the Cross. 


Although the children stayed relatively quiet during the experience, I am fairly certain that they were not prayerful.  In fact, I think they pretty much tuned out the readings and prayers that were recited as the priest walked from station to station and the congregation prayed from the pews.

After Stations, my children asked why there had been no actors (for we have been to live stations of the cross before which engages them), why they had not been able  walk from station to station, etc.  However, they had few to no comments to make about the reflections or prayers and - cringe - even said they had been bored with the experience.

So how can I even consider this experience a baby step?
Well, we got to the church and the kids were relatively quiet while each station was prayed.

Step Two:  Mama Fails, But Kids Are Engaged

On the second Friday of this Lent, I had no intention of returning to our church for formal Stations of the Cross.  I knew it would be fruitless.  My children are not ready for it.

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Instead, I hoped to dig out our favorite Stations of the Cross reflection  book, The Story of the Cross, and to
go to the church on our own to pray after a homeschool gathering we had.  

Unfortunately, I could not find where I last placed our The Story of the Cross book, and we ended up staying at the engagement we went to until after dark.  I was fairly certain that our church would be locked up by the time we got to it.  So,  our back up plan became to go home and to pray the Stations with a youtube video. Of course, the kids got curious about all the video previews on the sidebar as we began praying, and we ended up watching several by their request. 

One unique Stations video that engaged my children was a shadow puppet one:

Another ever so short, quite silly, but "cool" one (according to the kids) was a stop-motion Lego animation:


Seriously?  You might be thinking.   She misses getting to the church, relies on youtube to lead her and her children through the Stations and then finishes up with shadow puppets and Legos,  and she is considering it a baby step towards prayerful Stations of the Cross success?

You bet I am! 

The children were engaged, asking for more, leading and leading spontaneous prayers as we paused videos.

Step Three:  Less than Stellar, Yet with Self-Directed Prayer and Reflection as a Result

The next logical step in our progression towards a prayerful Stations of the Cross experience would be to get the "quiet" and the "engaged" attitude together at our church.

That was my aim this past Friday. 

I still could not find our
The Story of the Cross book, so I printed out a simple, free Stations of the Cross pdf from Loyola Press and asked the kids if they wanted to go to the church to pray, with Luke in the lead, before fellow parishioners gathered for the formal Stations that our pastor would lead.

The children did, and all looked like it would go swimmingly.

However, when we entered the church around 3:30, there were already people there waiting for 4:00 stations.  This put Luke in an anxious "speed" mode; he wanted to be sure to lead Nina, Jack and me through the Stations of the Cross before the formal ones began.

I told Luke not to worry and did my best to pause the children after Luke read at each station by kneeling to offer a reflection question and a prompt for prayer.  However, my efforts became an increasingly fruitless.

Jack ran ahead at times.  Nina wanted to take part by naming stations before Luke read them.  Luke did not want anyone to "lead" but him.  Jack decided he should be able to name some stations, too.  Luke got more ridiculous... 

Self-centered, less-than-reverent ugliness began to rear up, and, in the end, I spent more time trying to corral, correct and redirect my children than I did meaningfully praying the Stations.  Likewise, the children's prayers were cursory at best.

So, what was the baby step toward prayerfulness in all this?

It happened in our minivan and, then, continued today.

Once we exited the church, we spent some time "chatting" in the minivan about what had just happened and how it must have made Jesus feel.  We talked about how we might feel if someone we love came to visit us and, instead of keeping us company in polite, open, loving and connected ways, simply rushed in, gave us half-hugs and kisses, whined and cried about who knows what, and then ran out the door.  Then, we had quiet moments in personal prayer.

Today, on their own, the children picked up the pdf I had printed out and began to read and pray with it.


Self-directed prayer.

Prayerful Stations of the Cross?

Perhaps through persistence and God's grace, next week, my children and my baby steps will come together to lead us to Stations of the Cross "success". With: 
  • Step One - Quiet
  • Step Two - Engaged
  • Step Three - Self-directed Personal Prayer and Reflections

my children and I may yet have a truly prayerful Stations of the Cross experience this Lenten season.

If not, we'll continue practicing and making baby steps, knowing that our Lord shines down with love and grace despite our failings.

Maybe we'll revisit some of the resources I gathered and shared about in my Stations of the Cross Resource Round Up several years back. Maybe we'll take some tips from you. 

Please share how you approach Stations of the Cross with children.


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