I am Maria Barbara, an LSE in the Junior School at St Paul’s Missionary College, Rabat. I form part of the Pastoral Care Team (PCT) within the same school. The aim of the PCT is to provide for and assist students with their spiritual needs. Lately, I came across an advert for the Animating and Creating Prayer Spaces course organised by The Pastoral Formation Institute on social media. Being part of such a team, attracted my attention and thought it would benefit my personal growth and the students I come across daily.
The Power of Involvement
After completing the course and experiencing the beauty and benefits of prayer spaces, I was eager to share the knowledge I acquired with the boys at school. I remember once, reading a quote from Benjamin Franklin, “Tell me, and I forget. Teach me, and I remember. Involve me, and I learn.” This made me reflect on the importance of providing such opportunities that would involve the direct participation of the boys and have lasting effects on their future lives.
Preparing the Football Fortitude Prayer Space
All educators know and experience the energy we encounter during our school days, especially during break. Being a boys’ school, the majority are obsessed with a football game. Thus they are most of the time discussing matches, and favourite teams and playing the actual game. As soon as the break bell rings they hardly bother to eat their lunch but grab the football and run to start their football match. Witnessing this reality, I couldn’t not choose the Football Fortitude Prayer Space, which is aimed at students in Junior 4 to Junior 6.
Getting the prayer space started, I needed to book part of the turf ground so that there was ample space for the boys. Resources play an important role during the prayer space as they attract the attention of the boys. Thus, I kept in mind this to provide adequate resources which attracted their attention. I provided football gear, multi-studded shoes, which they are familiar with as they need to wear to be able to play in the football ground, six footballs, pencils, instruction cards and a prayer template. I made sure that instruction cards are clear so the students could comprehend what was written on them.
One of the main reasons I wanted to set up the prayer space outside was to provide fresh air for the boys and a sense of relief and liberation, as they had ample space in an open-air space. It also reminded me of the various times Jesus prayed outside, being on a shore, on a boat, on the mountains, in the Gethsemane garden, and anywhere he could connect to his Father. Jesus prayed in places where he was comfortable and could relate to his Father. This Football Fortitude prayer space made it easier for the boys to connect with God whilst realising they can pray to Him for strength, especially when facing a difficult life ordeal.
The Concept of the Football Fortitude Prayer Space
This prayer space focused on overcoming difficulties in our lives. At the age of eight to ten years, one starts experiencing things that might feel challenging such as exams. It is an age where students better understand life’s trials, with their mindset, but for them, these are the most difficult challenges one could ever encounter. This prayer space gave a clear picture and combined the football game with life’s struggles. Moreover, using the football as the main resource of this activity helped the boys to reflect on situations where they felt discouraged or scared and to seek God’s fortitude in such situations. Kicking the ball helped them release their fears and anxieties while putting them in God’s hands. Prayer can be more than just words. The best prayer activities combine something to reflect on, and something to do that symbolises a response (Portsmouth, 2017). Such activities are very beneficial as they help the students connect with God in prayer while doing what they love doing most.
This prayer space made me reflect that we can create and animate a prayer space with the most common things we could ever think of. I never dreamt of preparing a prayer space on a football ground, yet it was possible, and it was successful. The students could reflect and express themselves most enjoyably while praying. Choosing their break time area for this prayer space made the boys realize that prayer can be a space where they can rest, and where they can let go of their anxieties, fears and discouragement. Prayer should not be associated with churches only but should be provided in places where everyone reaches it.