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"Saints in the Supermarket"

Resource Page for Teachers

by Lynn and Bob Gillen

November 1998

Please see our links disclaimer located at the end of this document.

Curriculum Connections -

This classroom resource guide will support curriculum in:

    • Religion—Christian life-styles; liturgy; sacraments as signs
    • English—contemporary poetry

Glossary of Basic Terms

Your students may find it helpful first to create a glossary of names and terms relating to this month's article. Definitions can be researched from the article itself, or from the resource materials cited throughout the resource guide.

Litany of the saints

All Saints Day

Sacramental sign






Idea One — Are There Saints Among Us?

A. Where are today’s "living saints"?

This month’s article celebrates saints who walk our earth, saints who often encounter many of us as we go about our ordinary, day-to-day business. The author describes these "saints" as people who do their jobs with concern, good will and dedication. These "saints" are those who populate the service jobs we often take for granted: the supermarket clerks, fast-food workers, medical aides, bus drivers and janitors.

Your students may want to discuss who in their own lives, or in the world around them, exemplify this living sainthood. Who are the people, the positions, who service teens in their day-to-day lives?

For help in finding examples of living saints, your students can try these Web sites:


This is the Web site for Channel One, which comes to many high school classrooms by satellite transmission. Channel One offers message boards where teens can talk among themselves; your students can ask other teens who their heroes and saints are.

Also on this site, in Channel One’s archive of news stories, you’ll find an historic example of a family who lived out their beliefs. The Mendez family, from Westminster, California, helped integrate Los Angeles schools for Hispanics in the 1940s. Their 1945 lawsuit fought educational segregation of Latinos, and led the way for the Supreme Court’s landmark 1954 Brown vs. Board of Education, which in turn opened up for African Americans Southern schools which were previously segregated.


In the same vein, you’ll find on this PBS site Chicano!: the History of the Mexican American Civil Rights Movement. PBS broadcast this series several years ago. The site includes brief biographies of the ordinary people involved in achieving civil rights for Mexican Americans, as well as teacher resources supporting the series.


This is the site for the newspaper The Kansas City Star. Look at "Teen Star" in their home page menu for articles about and interviews of ordinary teens who share their thoughts and beliefs. Your students can find similar features in their own local papers.


This is the site for the magazine World Around You, aimed at deaf teens and adults. Your students may profit from reading "Deaf Teens, Heroes and Adventures." Individuals living lives of challenge are often ordinary people who work hard at living by convictions and beliefs.

How Can I Become a Living Saint?

After your students research and discuss where saint-like people may intersect and influence their lives, they may then find it profitable to discuss how they themselves can be a "saint" to others. How can they themselves be saints in the supermarket, in the ordinary events and circumstances of their lives?

To begin, ask your students to develop a list of 10 desirable qualities they have seen in the lives both of canonized saints and living saints. Starting with an open brainstorming session, they should easily identify a number of saint-like qualities. With further discussion they can narrow the list to 10, focusing on the qualities that would enhance an "ordinary" Christian life (as opposed to the extraordinary circumstances such as martyrdom in the face of extreme adversity or persecution).

When they have shared their lists with one another and have a good understanding of what qualities a saint embodies, they can move to reflecting more personally on their own lives. In discussion, direct them first to identify the different jobs they hold, the situations they find themselves in at school, the interactions they have at home with parents, stepparents, siblings, even grandparents. Are these circumstances similar to some of the service and interpersonal situations described in this month’s article?

This discussion can begin on a lighthearted note, perhaps talking about the humorous situations where teens have "lost their cool" or embarrassed themselves with inappropriate (un-saint-like) behavior. You can then direct them to move to a more reflective, even prayerful, discussion by celebrating/praising the good qualities they already possess and demonstrate in their lives.

The celebration of the good qualities in our teens is important. As adults, we work hard to demonstrate Christian behaviors and attitudes that we wish our young people to emulate. We want very much to pass on this faith we so much believe in. But all too often, we overlook praising and thanking our youth when they do emulate our faith behaviors. Adult recognition of teens’ "saintly" behaviors will reinforce these behaviors and encourage further growth.

Lastly, move the conversation to a discussion of growth by encouraging the teens to talk about how some of the 10 qualities may still be lacking or underdeveloped in their lives. Bring the talk around to identifying specific obstacles to growth, obstacles that are within their control. They may profit from picking one quality they wish to develop, identifying one obstacle to growth, and putting together an action plan to follow through on practical applications. Periodic review sessions may also help the teens in maintaining commitment to their growth.

B. Liturgical Applications

November is the month in which we celebrate all the saints who have gone ahead of us. Your students might connect the idea of sainthood with the Eucharistic Prayer of the liturgy, where the congregation calls on the intercession of Church saints. If you have opportunity to celebrate liturgy with your class, you can ask the celebrant to include the names of saints special to them. Perhaps you can even include names of other Christians whose lives exemplify a living sainthood.

Your students may enjoy writing a Prayer of the Faithful (petitions), focusing on those who serve them and the world in quiet, unsung ways. If there is no opportunity to use the petitions in a liturgical celebration, perhaps a classroom prayer service would be appropriate.

You can also make a connection to the sacraments. A sacrament is, first of all, a sign of God’s presence in our world. The seven sacraments are the most familiar of these signs. But there are others. Those who lead lives of service are certainly signs of God’s presence. Referring to Section A above, direct your students in discussions, which will connect their own instances of saint-like behavior with sacramental signs of God’s life among us.

C. Formal Sainthood

In this same Web site (, see the October 1998 online teacher guide for reference material on the process for achieving sainthood within the Church. And see also the October 1998 reference to ABC News’ Web site ( for a good outline of the process. Also, the October 1998 issue of Catholic Update ( "Saints: Holy and Human" ) provides further background.


Idea Two - The Poetry of Living

Commitment, acceptance, decision, often characterize people who live lives of service, especially in ordinary tasks. They live fully a chosen life role. Poetry often captures both ordinary and significant life moments. One good source your students may enjoy reading is Bill Moyers’ The Language of Life, a collection of interviews with poets who attended the biennial Waterloo, New Jersey, Dodge Poetry Festival.

See Naomi Shihab Nye’s interview with Moyers for thoughts your students may relate to. Nye believes that teens are very aware of the fragility of life and the precariousness of relationships. In the poem, "The Art of Disappearing," Nye describes feeling like a leaf that could snap off at any moment. Decide what to do with your time, she says, because life is fragile. Live as you need to live while you have the opportunity.

Nye heralds "the dignity of self-affirmation" in her poem "The Man Who Makes Brooms." She believes the most splendid moments are often the tiniest ones. And see her poem, "Famous," a light treatment of what is really famous in our ordinary lives and circumstances. Both are also in Moyers’s book.

Again in Moyers’s book, see Linda McCarriston’s interview, where she talks about the capacity for joy in daily life. McCarriston grew up dealing with domestic violence, and writes poetry which attempts to bring this difficult topic out into the air, where others can learn to talk about it. She describes her role as that of a housewife speaking not with the authority of a judge, psychiatrist or priest, but with the simple words of a poet.

Further Online Resources

Try accessing some of these Internet sources for further reference. Be aware, however, that some of these sites may charge for downloading articles contained within the site’s archives. - The New York Times - Los Angeles Times - Time magazine - CNN - MSNBC - This site will take you to a number of online publications. - The Associated Press - The Chicago Tribune - People magazine The Washington Post - The Miami Herald - The Close Up Foundation - The web site of ABC News

Links Disclaimer:

The links contained within this resource guide are functional at the time the page is posted. Over time, however, some of the links may become ineffective.

These links are provided solely as a convenience to you and not as an endorsement by St. Anthony Messenger Press/Franciscan Communications of the contents on such third-party Web sites. St. Anthony Messenger Press/Franciscan Communications is not responsible for the content of linked third-party sites and does not make any representations regarding the content or accuracy of materials on such third-party Web sites. If you decide to access linked third-party Web sites, you do so at your own risk.

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