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Balancing Act

To encourage a balanced lifestyle, based on the example of St Benedict and St Scholastica

by The Revd Catherine Williams

Suitable for Whole School (Pri)

Aims

To encourage a balanced lifestyle, based on the example of St Benedict (feast day 11 July) and his twin sister St Scholastica (feast day 10 February).

Preparation and materials

  • You will need an old-fashioned set of kitchen scales, or a school balance.
  • Four small boxes with the words 'life', 'body', 'mind', and 'soul' written one on each box. Each box should contain a weight. The weight of the three boxes 'body', 'mind', and 'soul' need to equal the weight of the one box with 'life' written on it (e.g. fill three boxes with 50g weights and one box with 150g weights).
  • Two monk's habits (optional).

Assembly

  1. Tell the children briefly about St Benedict and his twin sister St Scholastica, who were Christians who lived in Italy about 1,500 years ago. Benedict went to school in Rome and was shocked by the way people were living: eating too much and getting drunk, fighting, leading bad lives. They had forgotten about God.

    So Benedict chose to live a very simple life, out in the countryside. Many people saw that the way he lived was good, so they started to live like that too.

    Eventually, lots of communities grew up that followed this way of life. These were the beginning of monasteries and convents, where monks and nuns lived. This idea spread all over the world and lots of big churches and communities were built to follow Benedict's simple way of living. Tell the children about Benedictine places near you, e.g. St Alban's Abbey, Tewkesbury Abbey, Rochester Cathedral, Gloucester Cathedral, Westminster Abbey (and there are lots more around the country).

  2. Ask for a boy and girl volunteer to be St Benedict and St Scholastica - dress them in monk's habits or equivalent if possible.

  3. Explain that Benedict knew what was necessary to live a good life. Ask one of the children to place the 'life' box on one side of the scales or balance.

    Demonstrate that Benedict and Scholastica believed you needed three things for a balanced way of living. As you explain each element, ask one of the children to place the box on the other side of the scales until, with all three in place, it should balance.

    Body. It's important to look after our bodies - to make sure we're healthy by eating the right foods, to ensure we have plenty of exercise. The monks did this by eating very simple food, including lots of fruit and vegetables, and by doing some physical work every day - like digging the garden, or farming.

    Mind. We also need to exercise our brains every day too. The monks did this by studying the Bible, learning languages and reading lots of good books.

    Soul. St Benedict and St Scholastica knew that the soul needs looking after too, and they did this by exercising their faith, going to worship, praying and singing hymns.

  4. Explain that when the children are at school they have a good balanced day - spending time thinking about God and what's important in life in assembly, using their minds in the classroom, and enjoying PE or playtime when they exercise their bodies.

  5. Stress that as they approach the holidays it's important to remember to try to live a balanced life every day. It's very easy just to watch TV or play football all day, but it's good to have some quiet time too. Perhaps they could say a prayer and think about their family and friends. It's also important to keep exercising their minds - reading or studying, just a little each day. You might ask the children to make some suggestions of ways they could look after their bodies, minds and souls.

Time for reflection

Spend some time in silence thinking about how to lead a balanced life during the school holidays.

Dear God,
Thank you for giving us life.
Help us to learn to live a balanced life every day
So that our bodies, minds and souls are kept healthy.
Amen.

Song/music

'Give me oil in my lamp' (Come and Praise, 43)

Publication date: July 2003   (Vol.5 No.7)    Published by SPCK, London, UK.
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