Enjoy this All Saints Day/All Souls Day lesson plan, suitable for children in grades 4–6.
The children will
Student Handout A (Lazarus Rises!)
Student Handout B (Communion of Saints)
Student Handout C (A Telephone Code Message)
Student Handout D (Prayer Service)
Family Handout (Favorite Family Saints)
Begin by explaining to the children how in Europe and in much of the United States the beginning of November is a time when nature seems to be dying. Say: As Catholics, we begin November by remembering those who have died. We call the first two days of November All Saints Day and All Souls Day. Then ask: Who can tell me what the day before November 1 is called? (Halloween)
Explain to the children that November 1, All Saints Day, was called All Hallow’s Day in England because hallow is another word for holy. The night before was called All Hallow’s Eve, which was eventually shortened to Halloween. Explain that dressing in scary costumes and putting up pictures of tombstones and ghosts are ways to make death seem less scary at a time when nature is reminding us of death.
Then say: But the Church offers us an even better way of thinking about those who have died. On All Saints Day and All Souls Day we remember that we are members of the People of God. United with God, we are also united with all Christians who have come before us in the Communion of Saints.
Ask the children: How many of you are looking forward to Thanksgiving? Christmas? your birthday? summer vacation? (Allow the children to respond by raising their hands.) Say: We all look forward to these exciting times of the year. When we have the promise of something good in the future, it makes us excited right now. Jesus teaches that we have the promise of eternal life if we follow his teaching and example. This is something to get excited about right now.
Tell the following story to the children. It is adapted from the Gospel of John 11:1–44. If you prefer, you can have a few of the children read the story to the class from the Bible. You can also use Student Handout A (Lazarus Rises!)
When Jesus heard that his friend Lazarus had died, he traveled to Bethany, the home of Lazarus. Martha, the sister of Lazarus, greeted Jesus. She said she was sorry Jesus had not come sooner, but she believed Lazarus would be raised on the last day and live with God forever. Jesus told Martha that he himself was the resurrection and the life and that those who believed in him would live forever. Then he called out to Lazarus, who walked out of the tomb, alive.
Tell the children that the story of Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead is about the promise of eternal life. Jesus is the resurrection and the life for all of us. Say: We pray for those who have died because we have hope that they will live with God forever and that we will be reunited with them.
Pass out Student Handout B (Communion of Saints). Have the children read the handout. Then ask for volunteers to answer the following questions. You could write the questions on the board while they are reading the handout.
When do we mention the Communion of Saints? (in the Apostles’ Creed)
What does communion mean? (sharing, communication)
What do we share with the saints? (faith, the sacraments, our gifts)
Who are the saints mentioned in the Creed? (famous saints we have heard of like Saint Francis, people who have died and are in purgatory, us)
Ask the children what they think it means that they are saints too. (They need to work at leading holy lives, being kind to others, and being peacemakers.)
Pass out Student Handout C (A Telephone Code Message), and have the children work on it. Then ask a volunteer for the coded message. (Saints are good and faithful people. They live in heaven with God.)
Emphasize to the children that we do not pray to saints. We only pray to God. But because we believe the saints are now living with God, we can ask them to pray to God for us and with us. We can look to saints as examples of how to live a Christian life.
Invite volunteers to discuss what they’ve learned about All Saints Day and All Souls Day. Then say: All Saints Day and All Souls Day are good opportunities for us to remember how we are connected to one another through the Communion of Saints.
Pick a leader and a reader for the prayer service. Pass out Student Handout D (Prayer Service). Say: Today we heard the story of Lazarus, who died but lived again through the grace of God. Let us pray in thanksgiving that we all have eternal life and are united in the Communion of Saints.
Print out the handout Family Handout (Favorite Family Saints) and have the children take it home to share with their families.
Enriching the Faith Experience
Read selections from a book on the lives of the saints to the children.
Have the children make a banner or poster to decorate the church for the All Saints Day liturgy.
Have the children research the life of a saint and prepare a newspaper front page about the saint as a report. Choose one event from the life of the saint for the headline. Make the main story about that event. Other stories on the front page can reflect the times in which the saint lived.