Last week, I briefly discussed the usual arrangement of our class altar. Now, I’d like to briefly describe the structure of our opening prayer. One of the guiding principles here is to stick with the traditions of the Church as much as possible, which means that prayer texts are almost always from the Bible, the Liturgy of the Hours, and other traditional devotions. These prayers may often be abbreviated for time.
Before the prayer begins we have one student light a candle and another prepare a small quantity of holy water. A third student is chosen as the reader, or this task is given to the assistant if the reading is long or presents too many pronunciation difficulties. After the candle is lit, and all gathered have blessed themselves with the holy water, we begin with the Sign of the Cross and then a traditional call and response. Most commonly one of the following:
Our help is in the name of the Lord.
Who made heaven and earth.
Open my Lips, O Lord.
And my mouth shall declare your praise.
or during Lent
We adore you, O Christ, and we praise you.
For by your holy cross you have redeemed the world.
The designated reader immediately proceeds with a Biblical text. This will either be from one of the Lectionary readings for that particular Sunday, or something directly connected to the lesson plan. Afterwards the teacher names the intentions for the week and students have the opportunity to add their own (verbally or silently) as they desire. Then the reader or teacher reads the concluding prayer.
We break with this format when the occasion calls for something different. In November, for example, we use the Little Litany of the Holy Souls and the Litany to St. Charles Borromeo. In a more musically inclined class, we might try our hand at chanting a Psalm text.