Catholic Activity: St. Paul and the Epistle Charades
- beanie or Yarmelke
- prayer shawl
- prayer book
- three chairs
- low table
- two pot lids
- poster board
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This is a charade that works equally well at home and in a classroom with the story familiar and well reviewed. One set of charades will describe who Paul was. Another set will describe three details of his conversion. Three excerpts from his Epistles will introduce the children to some important things he said.
1. We describe him as a Jew.
Boy wearing beanie (like the Yarmelke, the cap worn by boys and men in the synagogue) and imitation prayer shawl sits before audience reading from prayer book. (These articles of wearing apparel are explained beforehand.)
2. We describe him as a Pharisee.
Girl stands before group of children with arms piled high with books. She says sternly, shaking finger at them: "Woe to those who do not keep the Law! And its ten thousand regulations!"
3. We describe him as a Roman.
Boy stands before group holding sign on which is printed: WHEN IN . . . . . . . . . DO AS THE . . . . . . . . DO.
He says loudly: "I live in one of the oldest cities in the world. It is called the Eternal City." ("Eternal City" is a name the Christians have given to Rome.)
4. We describe him as a tentmaker.
Boy drapes sheet over two chairs, then pantomimes sewing tent seams with imaginary needle and thread. Finished, he crawls inside tent, peers out, saying: "This is my home and I made it myself."
5. We describe him under his Jewish name, Saul.
Boy seated on floor with crown on his head, deep in thought. He looks worried, then says: "Who will come forth to fight the giant Goliath?" This of course is King Saul, of the tribe of Benjamin, after whom Saul of Tarsus was named.
Now we describe three scenes from his conversion.
1. The ride to Damascus.
Boy sits astraddle chair or stool as though riding a horse at full gallop. Suddenly sees light in the sky, covers eyes, falls to floor. (This charade is no trouble to cast as all local cowboys eagerly volunteer. Great success always.)
2. We have Ananias and Paul at Paul's Baptism.
Boy with eyes closed to suggest blindness kneels on floor with hands folded in prayer. Girl answers knock at door, leads second boy into room. He places hands on head of blind one, latter opens eyes. Girl brings cup pretending to have water and two boys pantomime Baptism.
3. The escape from Damascus.
Boys enter with clothes-basket, rope, and sheet. Mount three chairs placed together, or low table or bench, tie rope to basket which is set on floor. Boy playing part of Paul gets down in basket and others cover with sheet. Pantomime slowly letting rope out as if lowering basket over wall. (No clowns need apply for parts in this.)
Now we come to the Epistles. These should be discussed during the preparation for the feast, as well as frequently when circumstances suggest them. All appeal especially to children.
1. Run the race as though there were only one prize (I Cor. 9:24).
Boy crouches down in position of runner about to start race. Second boy holds crown and says: "Run your best — there is only one prize!" (You have explained this previously in terms of life, death and eternity.)
2. "If I . . . have not charity, I am become as sounding brass or a tinkling cymbal" (I Cor. 13:1).
Boy stands before audience and says: "I have great faith. I have great hope. I possess many gifts." Girl asks: "And do you not have charity, which means love?" Boy scowls and says: "No!" Girl brings two pot lids from behind her back and clangs them together as cymbals.
3. Put ye on therefore . . . the cloak of mercy, kindness, humility, modesty, patience (Col. 3:12).
(In some translations you will find soul for cloak and benignity for kindness. It is quite proper to make the above substitutions.) Girl stands before audience and boy lays across her shoulders a cape made from an old sheet on which is lettered KINDNESS. (This text has tremendous appeal for children, especially as they start for school each morning. Putting on daily your cloak of kindness is a beautiful thing to do.)
These charades are lots of fun and they teach. Some of them may be simplified for very small children, but strive always to give them more rather than less. Make them reach with their minds. They will if you keep coaxing. They have a surprising capacity for really big ideas.
The Collect from St. Paul's Mass may be used as part of evening prayers this night; and have one of the children compose a little prayer asking Paul to help us see Christ in each other, and love the Christ we see in each other. When a child expresses these ideas in his own words he learns them all the better.
Then after they are in bed with their heads full of Christ and St. Paul, you can turn to this saint with the groan of the well-spent parent (or Sister) and say: "You boasted of being all things to all men: very well, they are your children too. Please help us to make them apostles. Please help us to make them saints."
Activity Source: Year and Our Children, The by Mary Reed Newland, P.J. Kenedy & Sons, New York, 1956
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