Catechetical Newsletter

Celebrating Tradition: Octaves and Novenas©ksana-gribakina/Thinkstock

By Mary Sellars Malloy, Senior Editor for RCL Benziger

As we enter into the celebration of the Easter season, RCL Benziger invites you to enjoy an Easter basket full of reproducible prayers and activities to help you keep the prayers, praises, and Alleluias going strong from Easter Sunday through Pentecost Sunday.

Enjoy the classroom activity suggestions and reproducible masters, ideas for celebrating the Saints and solemnities of the Easter season (and a bit about their background), special prayers for special days, and even a blessing prayer for seeds and seedlings!

In addition to the activity offerings, I encourage you to do a bit of advance preparation and to take time to celebrate two often-neglected traditions of the Church. Invite your students and their families to celebrate the traditions of the octave of Easter and the Pentecost novena. These invite us all into days of intentional celebration and intense prayer.

The octave of Easter is the eight days from Easter Sunday to the Second Sunday of Easter (or Sunday of Divine Mercy). Because Easter is too great a feast for just one day, these eight days are meant to be a time of continued celebration and festivity. Here are some suggestions for celebrating the octave of Easter, starting with Easter Sunday:

  1. Prepare a family Easter season prayer table. Place upon it a white cloth, candle, Bible, a small bowl of holy water, and flowers or other signs of creation and new life. Invite family members to add symbols of new life throughout the octave of Easter.
  2. Begin and end all meal prayers and family prayers with three spoken or sung Alleluias.
  3. Take a walk as a family and share how you experience God's presence in creation.
  4. Focus on the joy of the Easter season by inviting each family member to share daily something that made them smile or laugh, or brought them joy that day.
  5. Every day recite or sing together Psalm 118, the Responsorial Psalm for Easter Sunday and sung throughout the Easter season.
  6. Talk as a family about new ways to share the new life you have through Baptism. These might include adopting a new way to serve a neighbor or support a parish outreach effort to serve the poor, or a new way to celebrate family night.
  7. Toward the end of the octave of Easter, read as a family the Emmaus story (Luke 24: 13-35). Discuss as a family the many ways you have experienced Jesus during the octave of Easter - in words of encouragement, in help with homework or housework, in times of prayer, or through deeds and words of love.
  8. This year the final day of the octave of Easter is also the day on which Blessed John XXIII and Blessed John Paul II will be canonized, or named Saints of the Church by Pope Francis. Pray together a Litany of the Saints, and make sure to include in the litany: Saint John XXIII pray for us! Saint John Paul II pray for us!

The Pentecost novena is celebrated on the nine days between the Ascension of the Lord and Pentecost Sunday. It is meant to be a time of prayer for the coming of the Holy Spirit. (Because the majority of the dioceses in the United States now celebrate the Ascension of the Lord on the Sunday before Pentecost, you will need to note that the novena would begin on Friday, May 30, 2014.)

Again, prepare in advance to send home a family-friendly list of ideas. For the Pentecost novena, suggest the following:

  1. Begin or end all family meal and prayer times by singing together a verse of "Come, Holy Ghost," the refrain of Psalm 104 (Lord, send out your spirit and renew the face of the earth) or another familiar hymn or refrain celebrating the Holy Spirit.
  2. The Responsorial Psalm for Pentecost Sunday is Psalm 104. As a family, take time during the celebration of the Pentecost novena to care for the earth. Pick up trash, plant seeds, weed the garden, gather dead branches and leaves, or fill the bird feeder and birdbath. (Remember to relax and enjoy the beauty of the earth, too!)
  3. On a piece of poster board write in large letters the words COME, HOLY SPIRIT! Cut out flames of yellow, orange, and red construction paper. Invite family members to add a flame to the poster board each time they say or do something to show their love for God and neighbor throughout the coming week. Challenge the family to fill the poster board with flames of love and goodness by the time Pentecost Sunday arrives!
  4. On separate slips of paper write the Fruits of the Holy Spirit (love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, generosity, gentleness, faithfulness, modesty, self-control, chastity). Each day draw one slip of paper and as a family focus on living that Fruit of the Spirit. You may also wish to add the Gifts of the Spirit (wisdom, understanding, right judgment, courage, knowledge, reverence, wonder and awe), or create a mix of the two from which to choose.

Any of the above suggestions are, of course, adaptable and suitable for classroom use.

Foster the celebration of these two Easter season traditions in classroom - and family-friendly ways. Enter into the Easter season singing full-voiced Alleluias, and remain faithful in your Easter praises every step of the way to Pentecost Sunday. Christ is risen! Alleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia! Come, Holy Spirit, come!