In preparation for the 50th International Eucharistic Congress in Dublin this month, the Cube of Love program has been introduced to primary schools around Ireland
By Emilie Christy and Ann Marie Foley
Leah is explaining what it means to be first to love. “Yesterday my friend pushed me, and I pushed her back. She never said ‘I’m sorry,’ so I got angry and walked away. Then I came back and said, ‘I’m sorry,’ and we were best friends again. That’s how you ‘be the first to love.’”
“Be first to love” is one of the Gospel-based phrases written on the six faces of the Cube of Love, an educational program catching on across the globe, particularly in Ireland. When they roll the cube, the children (and the teacher, too) take the phrase that comes on top as their personal and class motto for the day.
Grainne experienced the effect of the Cube: “On Monday a boy hit me with a ball in the chest, but by accident. I had to breathe very slowly. Another boy, Jamie, came over and asked, ‘Are you ok?’ I felt he was ‘sharing the hurt with me,’ and then I was okay and we went back to class.”
As a preparation for the 50th International Eucharistic Congress in Dublin this month, the Cube of Love program has been introduced to primary schools around Ireland. Áine Jordan, member of the Cube of Love team in Ireland, explained: “Some teachers and parents reflected on the theme for the Eucharistic Congress: ‘The Eucharist: Communion with Christ and with one another.’ We realized that the Cube of Love could really help us to respond concretely each day to the call of Jesus, whom we receive in the Eucharist, to love one another as he has loved us.”
The program is advertised on the website of the International Eucharistic Congress (iec2012.ie), and the Cube of Love team has been impressed by this response from schools.“We have recently spoken to a representative of the Association of Religious Advisors for Primary Schools who is using the Cube with great results in the schools of her diocese. She would like us to present the Cube of Love to the Association’s annual meeting in September,” one of the team told Living City.
The Cube of Love is now rolled every morning by an estimated 2,500 children in over 40 primary schools around Ireland, ranging from small rural schools to large city schools. Because of the demand, the Cube is now even being produced in the Irish language for schools where all subjects are taught in Gaelic.
The Cube is proving to change behaviors, beginning with the youngest among us, giving hope that the Civilization of Love that Pope John Paul II called for can become a reality.
“This year I’m working with eight 12–13 year olds with special needs who are preparing for the sacrament of Confirmation,” explained an elementary Catholic school teacher in Ireland. Several have Asperger’s Syndrome, a form of autism that affects their behavior and day-to-day interaction and relationships with others. “Generally the class is interested, lively and engaged in the program. The typical issues and questions that arise are: ‘Why does God let suffering happen?’ ‘What is the point of making our confirmation?’ ‘What do we really believe?’ While they may have had little experience of concretely living their faith, there is a great openness to prayer and the activities involved in the program.”
At one point, however, this teacher soon began to feel that something was missing. “How could I make the preparation for Confirmation more real and relevant for me and for the children?” Chatting with a friend who had used the Cube of Love, he decided to give it a try with the class.
With very little introduction, the students started to roll the Cube. They were all eager to tell the story of how they lived it each day.
Here’s what Jake had to say one morning: “I was with a group of my friends, and this not-very-nice guy came over and wanted a ‘go’ on my scooter. He kind of pushed everyone around a bit. My friends said, ‘Say no!’ After my friends left he was still hanging around, and I remembered we rolled ‘Love your enemy’ that day in school, so I just gave him a ‘go.’ My friends saw him coming down the road on the scooter and they were really confused. But I had decided to be the mature one.”
After hearing a few experiences like this, this teacher decided to actually read what was in the Cube of Love kit that he had been given and noticed that in the teacher’s guide there was a prayer and some ideas for each face of the Cube.
“We explored what more we might do with the Cube,” he shared, “and the children decided to roll the Cube each day. I asked the class to introduce one of the younger classes to the Cube. During the confirmation ceremony, after introducing the Cube to their parents and families, a presentation was made to the younger children who are preparing for their First Holy Communion. So the confirmation class is now experiencing their own Pentecost as they get a chance to pass on the faith to younger children.”
“What’s important about the Cube of Love is that the children are not just learning six Gospel-based phrases but they are learning how to put the Gospel into practice in their normal school lives,” said Declan O’Brien, retired principal of St. Conleth’s primary school in County Kildare. He was interested in it as a way to teach Gospel values to the children in his Catholic school, where students of other faiths or with no faith tradition also attended.
“No one seemed to have any difficulty using the Cube of Love,” he said.
Some statistics in Ireland:
2,500 children roll the Cube every morning
40 schools use the program
The program is being promoted at the Eucharistic congress this month
**Living City, the Focolare monthly magazine of culture, religion and dialogue