Come Holy Spirit: Teaching Catholic Kids About The Pope

by History of the Church, Holy Father, Holy Spirit, May

During this Season of the Resurrection, we are mindful that the ministry of Jesus did not come to an end with His earthly life. Just before His Ascension, Jesus promised to send the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, to strengthen and guide His Church. The Holy Spirit descended at Pentecost, filling the Apostles with boldness and preparing them to be Christ’s witnesses to the ends of the earth. (Acts 1:8)

On that day Peter, filled with the Spirit, preached boldly to the people in Jerusalem about the saving mission of Jesus. Three thousand souls came to be baptized that day! (Acts 2:14-43) St. Peter, called by Jesus to be the first Pope, continued to lead the early Church under the guidance of the Holy Spirit. And that pattern has continued for the past two thousand years.

Kids are often a little confused about the role of the pope. They hopefully can name our current pope, and maybe even a few Saintly popes from the past. But who is the pope? How is he chosen? What is his job? These are all big questions that kids want to know more about. So how can their parents and teachers help them to learn more about legacy of the papacy?

First, read about St. Peter. Listen to Jesus’ words to His apostle and what He asks of Peter. Make sure that kids see that Jesus had a clear plan and was intentional in forming Peter, giving him the keys of the Kingdom of Heaven. He prepared Peter for his role as the first pope. After Pentecost, read in the New Testament about the work that Peter went on to do as the early Church began to grow. Then talk about how that authority has carried on in an unbroken line of leadership for over 2000 years. 

Another important element to understanding the papacy is learning more about how a pope is elected. While the methods have changed over time, a modern conclave is filled with important protocols and prayerful rituals. From the gathering of the cardinals to watching for smoke from the Sistine Chapel chimney, each part of the process is embedded with meaning. Help kids understand that electing the next earthly leader of the Church is an event that is serious and reverent, but also joyful. The whole world awaits the news of a newly elected pontiff!

Finally, remember to focus on the guidance of the Holy Spirit. The Lord has chosen popes to lead His people over the centuries, but the Holy Spirit ultimately guides the Church. We pray, “Come Holy Spirit” during this Easter Season and always.

Practical ideas to help kids learn about the pope:

  • Make a habit of praying for the pope every day. Add an Our Father, Hail Mary, and Glory Be for the pope and his intentions to your daily prayers.
  • Want to read from the Bible more about St. Peter and the role of the Pope? Here are a few places to start:
    • Jesus calls Peter to become a fisher of men— Matthew 4:18-20
    • Jesus gives Peter the Keys to the Kingdom— Matthew 16:15-19
    • Jesus prays for Peter’s faith so he can strengthen others— Luke 22:31-32
    • Jesus says His flock will be cared for by one shepherd— John 10:14-16
    • Jesus asks Peter to feed His sheep— John 21:15-19
    • Peter leads the early Church after Pentecost— Acts 2:14-43
  • Do your kids know much about Pope Francis? Help them do a little research about his life, finding a kid-friendly biography or video.
  • Watch a video from a past papal conclave. Look for clips of the Cardinals processing into the Sistine Chapel chanting Veni Sancte Spiritus, Come Holy Spirit. Or watch an announcement of Habemus Papam, We Have a Pope!, when the new pope first comes out on the balcony to meet his people and offer his blessing.
  • Learn more about the role of the pope and how a papal conclave works in the book We Have a Pope. Fully illustrated and brief enough for young attention spans, it also packs in details and content interesting enough for older kids. The appendix in the back and free bonus activities can keep the whole family learning!
How do you teach Catholic kids about the Pope? Get practical suggestions and insights from Catholic children's author, Katherine Bogner
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