In the Pope John Paul II Cultural Center in Washington, D.C., there is an exhibit called “Hands of Peace.” One can see bronze castings of hands of people from the many places the pope visited. Each cast also has the person’s name, country of origin, occupation and a personal quote about his or her faith. The theme for the exhibit is that Pope John Paul touched and was touched by hundreds of people wherever he went, and each pair of hands has a story to tell of the person’s faith journey.

In anticipation of the May 1 beatification of Pope John Paul, help children understand that their hands are part of their spirituality.

Discuss this by asking them if they can guess some ways our hands help us show either God’s love to others or show God our love. Then pantomime these actions:

Silent prayer
Wiping tears

After they have guessed these, ask them if they can think of other ways we use our hands for showing love. You may need to have suggestions ready, such as:

Preparing food, feeding someone
Making gifts for people
Lighting a candle before prayer
Giving the Eucharist
Caring for babies
Setting up a prayer table
Growing a garden (using God’s gifts to provide food and flowers)
Brushing teeth (caring for our bodies which are gifts from God)
Holding hands

Have each child look at his or her hands on both sides, then open and close fingers, clasp hands, etc.

Holding up your hand, tell children that the center part of the hand has five bones (plus the wrist bones), each finger has three bones, and the thumb has two, so each hand has 27 bones!

Then make handprints in a variety of bright colors. You can do this with paint on paper or fabric. If time and budget allow, do plaster cast of each child’s hands.