by Jeanne Heiberg
The ideas, activities, and prayers that follow were presented at St. Peter’s Church in Saratoga, New York, at the invitation of catechetical director, Rita Usher; she invited parents to attend with their children who were in the catechetical program. It was carried out on two Sundays; one for grades K-3, the other for grades 4-6. It worked equally well for all age groups and was enjoyed by the parents as well as the children. Some of the parents also made cards, while others encouraged their children and visited among themselves.
When asked for comments about the event, Rita said, “I could see that the children welcomed the opportunity to work creatively with their families. I also think families working with other families and teachers makes connections and builds community.”
Rita followed the event with an outreach opportunity in which students were invited to share the cards they made with those who are homebound, were suffering from loss, or needed cheering up. This linked the hearts-and-hands activity to the Season of Lent, when we are invited to reach out and grow by helping others.
Commenting on the “Heart-and-Hand Imagery Meditation” (see meditation at the end of this article; share this with your learners before doing the craft), Rita said, “They responded well to the contemplative piece—the prayer that started the activity. We don’t have enough time to slow down and enjoy quiet, and the children responded well to that opportunity.”
Say to the Children
As we enter into the month of February, stores display Valentine’s Day cards, red boxes shaped like hearts filled with chocolate, and flowers tied up with shiny red papers and ribbons. While all this is fun, something bigger is happening. We soon will begin the Season of Lent. We can consider a heart shape that symbolizes love, and a hand shape that symbolizes giving and sharing, to help us prepare for the loving and giving that Lent invites us to make our own. We can make cards to give to people who need encouragement or to let them know how much we love them. We will do this well because we are created in God’s image to be loving and creative.
We are created in God’s image: In Genesis, the first book of the Bible, we read the creation story. Remember, it’s a story about God’s love. It embodies spiritual truth. The account says that we are made in God’s image (Genesis 1:27). Since God is a great invisible reality—not a physical body—how can we, living in our wonderful physical bodies, be made in God’s image?
Because we are made to love. God is love itself. We can’t see God; neither can we see love. But we can feel and experience love in our hearts, and we can see the results of love in kind and helpful actions and in the goodness of others. God created us to love. Our happiness is in receiving and giving love. We are made to grow in love as long as we live.
How do we know this? In the times before Jesus, many prophets and wise people pass on messages from God to prepare people for his coming. Micah, for example, gives the people a message from God that says, “This is all I ask of you, that you love tenderly, act justly, and walk humbly with your God” (see 6:8).
Then God’s own Son comes and tells us more. Jesus tells his followers: “You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind” (Matthew 22:37). He also tells them to love one another (see John 13:34-35).
Isn’t that a wonderful message! God is love, and we are created to love God with all our might, and to love one another. Let’s remember this as we celebrate hearts and love and begin the Season of Lent.
Created to be creative: God is the Creator of all things. We are made in God’s image, so we are created to be creative, too. God wants us to be creative partners, to love, care, help others, and do good things. The arts are one way we can be creative. Of course, there are thousands of other ways to be creative, including working, studying, building healthy relationships, and making all kinds of things. Today we will make cards, small works of art, to give to people who need messages of God’s love.
Talk about the heart: What a beautiful shape the heart symbol is. There are some heart patterns near you on your tables. (Ask students to hold up heart patterns, see MATERIALS below). The heart stands for something important and wonderful: love! The heart is a symbol of the love that we receive from God to share with others. We were created to be expressions of God’s love.
During Lent, God helps you grow in love if you ask for help and look for ways to express love. (You may want to ask students for ideas of ways they can express God’s love to others.)
Talk about the hand: We have to be practical, too. (Hold up your own hand in front of you.) The human hand is a beautiful shape—a little more complex than the heart shape
The symbol of the hand expresses the other way we are made in God’s image: We are made to be creative. We use our hands to express love to others, often by creating something special for them. We are going to use our hands to create cards that we can give to others and, in that way, express God’s love to them. Your cards will be expressions of love for those who receive them—people you love or who need a loving pick-me-up to know God loves them.
Heart-and-Hand Card Craft
* heart patterns [CLICK HERE]
* printouts of Jesus’ words, sized to fit in a 6” x 9” space (inside the card): “Love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind” (Matthew 22:37).
* 9” x 12” sheets of construction paper in various colors
* scraps of construction paper in various colors
* glue sticks
* crayons and markers
1. Fold a piece of construction paper in half so that it measures 6” x 9”. This is the card. Place the pattern of the heart on the front of the card and trace around it. (Or draw a heart without using the pattern. Or trace around the heart pattern on a separate sheet of construction paper of contrasting color, cut out the heart, and glue it to the front of the card.)
2. Add a hand to your card if you would like. Place your hand on the heart and trace around it. Adding a hand is a good way to say that you want to receive God’s love and give love to others.
3. Glue the printout of Jesus’ words to the inside of the card—on the right or left side.
4. Add other things to make the card special: Draw scallops around the heart and/or add stripes, dots, something that you really like, symbols of God, a sun, rays of light, flowers, or crosses (that great symbol of Jesus’ total giving in love). Or cut out other shapes and glue them to the card.
Heart and Hand Prayer
On your prayer table, place the cards the children made and a Bible with the readings marked.
Opening Song: “Where Charity and Love Prevail.” Found in Breaking Bread, published by OCP.
Opening Prayer: Loving Lord, you sent Jesus to us to show how much you truly love each of us. As we enter into the Season of Lent, open our hearts so that we might grow in kindness and helpfulness to others. Help us to forgive when others hurt us. Help us to share what we can with those who are in need. Give us smiling hearts and faces to match so that we may rejoice in the love Jesus came to share with us.
Readings: Micah 6:8 (love tenderly, act justly, walk humbly); Matthew 22:37 (love the Lord your God with all your heart); John 13:34-35 (love one another)
Blessing: Loving Lord of All Creation, you have made us in your image to love you with all our hearts, and to love our neighbors as ourselves. May we be good students of giving and loving this Lent so that we become more our true selves, as you created us to be, in Jesus, your Son. (Make the sign of the cross over all present.) Bless these cards we have made as co-creators with you. May they help us to remember to love you and one another, to be grateful for the good things you give us, and to share good things with others. May these cards be a blessing to those to whom we give them, so they also might know that they are loved. (Make the sign of the cross over the cards.) We ask this in Jesus, who taught and shared the greatest love of all.
Closing Song: “Love One Another.” Found in Breaking Bread, published by OCP.
Heart-and-Hand Imagery Meditation
Share this meditation with students immediately before beginning the craft. Pause at appropriate times to allow children to visualize and pray.
Close your eyes, take a deep breath, and think of something that you love—a place, an activity, a pet, a toy, a food. In the quiet of your heart, say thank you to God for giving you so many good things. Now imagine a person you love. Let that person’s face form in your mind. Say an even bigger thank you to God for this person. Now imagine more of the beautiful and loving things and people in your life, all the gifts of love that God has given you, especially the people who love you and whom you love. Say to God, “Thank you. Thank you. Thank you!” Now see the shape of a beautiful, bright heart forming in front of you as a symbol of all this wonderful love. Ask God to help you create a heart card to symbolize all the wonderful love in and round you. When you feel ready, open your eyes.
Jeanne Heiberg is the author of Advent Arts and Christmas Crafts (Paulist Press) and Advent calendars (Creative Communications). She has taught art, writing, creative catechetics, and meditation, and has directed parish catechetical programs. She thanks Catechetical Director Rita Usher and the teachers, parents, and students of St. Peter’s Parish, Saratoga, NY, for their creative participation in the Hearts and Hands Project, part of an Albany Diocese Program titled Amazing God.
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