Fire lifts prayers to heaven - Catholic Courier

Fire lifts prayers to heaven

GATES – On the evening of April 19, students in grades seven through nine of St. Theodore Parish’s religious-education program gathered around a barrel that was filled with flaming papers inscribed with prayers written by the students.
 

“Can you please remove your hats and take the suckers out of your mouths?” one of the adult catechists said to the students.
 

The students complied, and Maureen Piehler, the parish’s religious-education coordinator, told the children: “As you place your prayers into the transforming flame, they go to heaven.” Piehler had noted that “the flame is a symbol that Jesus is the light of the world going up to heaven.”
It was obvious from the way they watched the flames that the students were enjoying this exercise, even if the barrel occasionally became smoky, causing some of them to leave the throng for a moment or two.
 

“These are powerful prayers!” Piehler exclaimed at one point when the smoke became overwhelming.
 

The exercise was the ceremonial conclusion of the parish’s “TAPS” program. The program’s name stands for “Thank God for Something; Ask God for Something; Pray to God for Something; and Say Sorry to God for Something.”
Throughout the school year, St. Theodore’s catechists had encouraged the students to write down prayers centered around the four themes of TAPS, according to Piehler. The prayers were then placed in a box in each class, and no one ever looked at them out of respect for the students’ privacy, she said.
 

“I’m always stressing that they need to have a personal relationship with God,” Piehler said.
 

Her colleague, Lori Doolin, who teaches seventh-grade catechesis, said that she would begin each class by asking the students to write down their prayers.
 

“I think it was good because it got the kids settled,” Doolin said. “They were in a more prayerful mood when they started the class.”
 

The students themselves apparently liked the TAPS program. Amanda Widzinski, 14, said the program led her to pray for her family.
 

“I think it was good because people that don’t pray on a daily basis got to pray,” she said.
 

Brandon Geer, 14, said he wrote down a prayer for a sick relative once, and liked how the program helped him and his classmates pray more often. He added that he prays at night “if I can remember.”
 

Jeff Smith, 15, an aspiring heavy-metal guitarist, said the TAPS program “forced you to get your thoughts out on paper,” though he joked that it was a struggle.
 

“See, not very much goes on in my head,” he said with a smile.
 

On a serious note, he added that writing down that for which he was sorry may have made him a better person.
 

“It forced you to realize stuff you did wrong -and maybe correct it.”
 

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