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Everyone enjoys playing “dress up.” Although some, especially older students, may feign distaste, young and old alike enjoy becoming someone else.
As we discuss the lives of the saints during October, I prepare my students for a special Dress Up as Saints Week. Each student is given the name of a saint and a short script (written in first person) so that he or she can speak as that saint for All Saints Day.
For this project, I haunt thrift stores for supplies. Our costumes tend to be simple but effective. For St. Thérèse of Lisieux, we used a black choir robe with a belt, a piece of fabric cut as a collar, a white wrap-around for the wimple, and a black veil. She carried roses and a crucifix.
We also make good use of stretchy headbands to create different hairstyles, cloth with holes cut in the center for tunics, strips of cloth that can be used as stoles, and oversized long dresses. Simple additions like a piece of fishing net (for St. Andrew) and gloves with the fingers cut off (for St. Padre Pio) can help identify a saint.
I hope that some of the following suggestions will help you make the saints come alive for your students as you prepare to celebrate the solemnity of All Saints.
During one of the classes in October, my students and I dress in our saint costumes. We have our scripts with us, and we go to other classrooms to introduce ourselves. One boy wears a simple tunic and carries a stuffed dog. He says, “My name is St. Rocco, and I tried to help people who were dying when a terrible plague spread across Europe. When I got sick, too, I went to a cave so I wouldn’t infect anyone else. I was ready to go to God. But a mysterious dog brought me food every day. And miraculously I got better. I went on to help many more people.”
I also work with the parish staff and parents so that my students and I can attend Mass together, as a group, late in October. We sit together in the front pews, in our saint costumes. At the end of Mass, our pastor likes to say, “We have some special visitors with us today. Why don’t you tell us who you are?” Each students stands in front of the congregation and says the name of his or her saint.
I challenge my students to make good use of these costumes. Why not be a saint for Halloween?
Two years ago, the boy assigned the name of St. Andrew loved the costume and story about his saint so much that he proudly wore the outfit for all parties and events for a full week!
I enjoy dress-up, too! Every year I pick a new saint to study. During the Halloween parties at the local public school, I visit my daughter’s classroom dressed as a saint. When I’m given the opportunity, I love to tell people who I am.
Before assigning a student the name of a saint, I pray about it. I try to come up with a saint who might help guide the student in a special way, given his or her special gifts and interests. Our classroom has been blessed by visits from St. Sebastian, St. Veronica, St. Rose, St. Andrew, St. Paul, St. Francis, St. Bernard, St. Lucy, St. Elizabeth of Portugal, St. Padre Pio, St. Anthony, and many more.
Dressing as the saints so that saints come alive is one of the most memorable activities of our formation year.
Judith Costello, MA, OCDS is a catechist and a member of the Holy Cross Community of Third Order Carmelites. She lives with her family on a farm they call "Sagging Acres." She is a published writer and an exhibiting artist. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.