Student Activities

Most of the activities on this page were created by Denis Hanratty, Religious Education teacher at Aquinas College, Western Australia. Feel free to copy and use the activities so that Edmund's charism can be shared.

Much of the information written here was absorbed from the scholarly publication " Give To The Poor In Handfuls ", by Brother F.B.Garvan CFC.

TO PRINT INDIVIDUAL ACTIVITIES: Just highlight the relevant literature with your mouse, go to printer setup, bullet print selection, and then select print.

Edmund’s Favourite Prayer


Remember, most gracious Virgin Mary, that never was it known that anyone who fled to your protection, implored your help or sought your intercession was left unaided. Inspired with this confidence, I fly to you, Virgin of Virgins, My Mother; to you I come, before you I stand, sinful and sorrowful. Mother of the Word Incarnate, despise not my petitions, but in you mercy hear and answer me. Amen

Answer the Following Questions:

1. What does this prayer tell us about Edmund?

2. What does "intercession" mean?

3. In your own words re-write "Mother of the word Incarnate."

4. Write your own prayer invoking Mary’s aid.

Our Lady of Perpetual Help and the Christian Brothers

This picture is supposed to have been painted in the thirteenth century, by an artist living in the Island of Crete, and whose name has not been preserved. It was painted on a slab of walnut, and in watercolours. Glue, the white and the yolk of eggs, were some of the ingredients that the artists of those early times mixed with their colours. The deep blue in our Lady’s mantle is ultramarine, a very costly colour, made from lapis luzuli. After the colours had dried well on the pictures, artists were accustomed to overlay the work with a specially prepared varnish which gave the picture an appearance of an oil painting, and a resisting power against the ravages of time to which we are indebted for the purity of the colours and the brightness of the gold after the lapse of centuries.

Towards the close of the fifteenth century, the inhabitants of the Island of Crete, where this picture was held in veneration, feared an invasion by the Turks, and many of them determined to fly from the island. Amongst the fugitives was a certain pious merchant, who so loved the picture, and was so determined to save it from desecration, that he decided to bear it away with him into exile. A violent storm arose not long after the refugees had set sail, and, when all hope seemed vain, our merchant brought forth the picture of Our Lady, and holding it aloft, cried out in a voice that was heard above the shrieking of the winds: "Behold the Star of the Sea; she will deliver us: "Save us, O Mother of Perpetual Help, save us, we perish." Their prayer was heard; calm settled on the waters. Here we have the first record of the invocation of Mary under the title "Perpetual Help." A few days later the travellers reached Rome.

The original represents Our Blessed Lady on a bright golden background, bearing the Divine Infant on her left arm. Her features are sadly thoughtful, as if the loving Mother were already contemplating the sufferings of her dear Child in the closing days of His life on earth. With her right hand she supports the tiny hands of the Child, and the whole attitude appears as if she would say: "I am here, Jesus, come and I will help you."

The Divine Infant shows a surprised and startled expression, presumably at the sight of the instruments of the Passion, borne by the angels. The sandal hangs from the right foot by a golden string, as if, in the sudden act of turning around, it had been loosed, as the right leg was being drawn under the left.

The angelic figures are those of the Archangels, Michael and Gabriel; they seem to issue from the golden background, which the artist meant to signify Paradise. St Michael wears a red garment and a greenish mantle covering the hands; he holds a cup from which issue a lance and a rod bearing a sponge. St Gabriel is likewise clad in red; the garment covers the hands, which support a base on which stands a cross and nails.

The Greek letters, Mnrnp Oeov, are the contractions for the words, "The Mother of God", ‘O’ Apxayyenos mizani, "The Archangel Michael"; O Apxayyenos Iabpinz, "The Archangel Gabriel"; Inoous Xpiorros, "Jesus Christ." The signs over the letters are marks to indicate the omitted letters. It is considered that the letters and signs are not part of the artist’s work, but were made to explain the picture, and by someone who lacked artistic taste.

It may be asked why did the Christian Brothers choose Our Lady of Perpetual Help as their patroness.

In the year 1875, a National Synod of the Irish Bishops was held and at this Synod a number of laws were made binding on "Brothers who conduct schools." The laws were of such a nature as to destroy traditions and long-standing customs of the Christian Brothers and in the opinion of the Brothers, to alter materially their Mission.

When the laws of the Bishops’ Synod were published in 1877, the Brothers were greatly alarmed. The decided to appeal to the Pope against the laws of the Synod. The appeal was entrusted to two Brothers Br. Anthony Maxwell and Br. Austin Grace.

After the two Brothers arrived in Rome, they found many friends. Two priests in particular were great help, Fr Douglas and Fr. Morgan. They belonged to the Redemptorist Congregation, and helped the Brothers in the prosecution of the case before the Sacred Congregation, which represented the Pope.

Both priests were insistent on asking the Christian Brothers that the whole case should be placed under the protection of Our Lady of Perpetual Help.

The Superior General of the Brothers immediately gave an order directing that a special novena (nine consecutive days of prayer) should be made to Our Lady of Perpetual Help in each of the Brothers’ schools throughout the world. Further more Father Morgan wrote to the Superior General the following inspired words.

"Have great confidence in Our Lady of Perpetual Help and, if you think well to do so, make her a promise to put one of her pictures in every one of your schools, and to propagate devotion to her amongst your pupils if you win your cause – and it will succeed."

The pictures were sent to every school and were duly set up in a place of honour in every house and school of the Congregation. The Mother of God came to the aid of the Brothers, and on the 3rd of December 1878, the appeal was decided in favour of the Brothers.

This is the reason why even today a picture of Our Lady of Perpetual help can be found in every Christian Brothers’ School and house. The Brothers feel they are indebted to the Mother of God in a very special way. In their hour of crisis she heard their prayers, and in all probability saved them from extinction. Our Lady of Perpetual Help will be forever remembered with gratitude by the Christian Brothers.


A Story About a Great Man.

Blessed Edmund Ignatius Rice was born on the 1st June 1762. He was born in Callan, Ireland at a time of great troubles. England totally dominated the land and people of Ireland. The laws of the time made it particularly difficult, even dangerous for people to practice their Catholic faith. (Any churches which did exist had to be hidden from the public eye, like St Patrick's here in Waterford.) No Catholic was allowed to own land or even receive an education. It was into this troubled land that God sent Edmund Rice. It must be obvious that God had chosen Edmund for a special mission, for against all the odds Edmund succeeded in making a good living and ran a profitable business.

Even as a child Edmund showed the faith and discernment of one gifted by the Holy Spirit. He submitted willingly to the teachings of Holy people like his mother and a Holy Friar named Paddy Grace. In his teenage years Edmund learnt the skills to conduct business. He first of all worked for his uncle in fitting out ships with food for their long journeys.Edmund inherited the business off his uncle when he died. but he coupled his working life with an authentic Catholic spirituality. He attended daily mass prayed the rosary often and helped the poor as best he could.

Edmund married Mary Elliot in 1785 and sadly after a fall from a horse she died four years later giving birth to a daughter Mary who was disabled. It was the way Edmund loved his daughter that increased his love of the poor. One example was the Mendicity Institute where he helped to provide food, shelter and work for people forced off the land because of famine and poor prices. Edmund soon was seen as a man of practical kindness and deep spirituality – two inseparable qualities for a man of faith living "IN" the world. At this time Edmund was more and more attracted to the religious life and that of the brothers and priests. He began reading Scripture more, especially sections about the poor and needy.

It wasn’t long before a small group of likeminded men were meeting regularly with Edmund.

The example of the founder of the Presentation Sisters, Nano Nagle, and advice from another Holy woman eventually led Edmund to consider the religious life. He was well prepared by his daily masses, frequent Scripture reading, and a deep prayer life. His concern for the poor being the practical results of his deep spirituality.

Edmund’s first step toward making his vision a reality was to start a night school for boys. It was extremely difficult to keep people interested in helping but finally two men from his hometown came to help him, Thomas Grosvenor and Patrick Finn. These men also shared his vision of starting a religious order. On the 7th June 1803 Edmund opened his school, which was named Mt Sion. The school was small and had to conduct many outdoor classes for some two to three hundred boys. At this time Edmund also drew up the rules for the New Order he wished to start.

On the 15th August 1808 Edmund and seven brothers took their first religious vows. They were called "Brothers of the Presentation", as the rules they followed were adapted from the Presentation Sisters. News spread about the amazing effect Edmund and his brothers were having on previously uncontrollable boys. By 1809 there were seven hundred children attending Mt Sion. The most important lesson of each day, said Edmund, was the time spent (about 30 minutes) in religious instruction. Edmund had to devise an educational system that thoroughly educated the boys but emphasised spiritual and gospel values. He was succeeding beyond expectations.

Seemingly at the height of his growing successes Edmund faced a very difficult period. From 1816 – 1820 a new bishop seemed to wish to destroy Edmund and his enterprise. Fortunately truth prevailed but a split occurred when Edmund was finally given permission to establish his order as a Pontifical order which meant the bishop had far less authority over the brothers leaving them free to move to where they were needed. The original Presentation Brothers continued while Edmund formed the new "Christian Brothers", the year was 1822.

At this time in history it must be noted that just thirty brothers were educating, free of charge, some 5,500 boys in twelve different towns or cities. Catholic and Protestant alike spoke highly of Brother Rice many looking on him as a saint. His saintliness was further enhanced by his prediction that despite the brothers caring for victims of a Cholera epidemic not one of them contracted the disease. It was obvious to those who had eyes to see that this was truly a "Man of God."

Inspired by the motto adopted by Edmund "The Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away" (Job 1:21) the brothers survived the ordeal of 1829 where they tried relying on the government for assistance. This restricted their religious freedom and so they relied on providence and the support of the people for aid and their faith was rewarded with overwhelming support.

As though Edmund’s trials from without had not been hard enough some of his own brothers challenged his authority from within. Edmund’s faith in God and love of neighbour saw him through what must have been a most trying time.

Br Rice retired at the age of 76 though as expected he remained active in visiting his schools, counselling students, and inspiring his Brothers. He had taught the younger brothers to rely on God, pray deeply, and "give to the Poor in handfuls."

Blessed Edmund spent the last two years of his life confined to his room. This would have at the very least allowed him to pray ceaselessly to God for his brothers and their students. At around 11am. on the 29th of August Edmund went to his eternal reward.

There are now nearly two thousand brothers working in some twenty-eight countries around the world inspired by Edmund and living out his dedication to bring God’s work to the poor and to all who need the living truth found in the "Christian Brothers" tradition.

by Denis Hanratty

COMPREHENSION – Secondary Students

  1. What is Blessed Edmund’s full name?
  2. When and where was he born?
  3. Describe the situation in Ireland at the time of Edmund’s life.
  4. How do we know Edmund was called by God at an early age?
  5. How did he respond to his daughter’s handicap?
  6. What was Edmund’s preparation for his calling and what was the practical side of his spirituality?
  7. What is meant by "rules for the new order?"
  8. Why was religious instruction the most important lesson of the day according to Edmund?
  9. What happened to the Christian Brothers between 1816 – 1820?
  10. Why would "Catholic and Protestant alike" speak highly of Edmund?
  11. What effect do you think the "Challenge from within: would have had on Edmund?


All Ages/Grades, Timed or for Revision

  1. When was Edmund born?
  2. Where was Edmund born?
  3. Who ruled Ireland at the time?
  4. Was it easy to be a Catholic at this time?
  5. Could a Catholic own land?
  6. Were Catholics educated?
  7. How did Edmund succeed in these times?
  8. What did he do for a living?
  9. How was Edmund gifted?
  10. Who was Edmund’s spiritual mentor?
  11. What did Edmund do daily?
  12. Which prayer did he recite daily?
  13. Name Edmund’s wife.
  14. What was his daughter’s name?
  15. Which group in society did he love most?
  16. To what in life was Edmund attracted?
  17. What did he regularly read?
  18. Who was Nano Nagle?
  19. Edmund’s first step was to start a ……………………….
  20. From which town did Edmund’s first helpers come?
  21. Name them.
  22. On what date did Edmund open his school?
  23. What was it called?
  24. Where were the bulk of lessons held?
  25. How many boys attended?
  26. What was Edmund also doing at this time?
  27. What date did Edmund take his first religious vows?
  28. Under what title did they operate?
  29. How many boys attended Mt Sion in 1809?
  30. The most important lesson each day was?
  31. What did Edmund devise for the school?
  32. What did it aim to do? Did he succeed?
  33. What time period covered the trouble caused by the new bishop?
  34. What type of order was Edmund permitted to establish?
  35. This meant the brothers were able to do what other orders could not. That was?
  36. What was the new order called?
  37. How many brothers were there in 1822?
  38. How many boys were they teaching?
  39. What did people think about Edmund?
  40. What incident encouraged people to believe this?
  41. What was Edmund’s motto?
  42. What book in scripture is the motto from?
  43. What year did the brothers try government assistance?
  44. Who eventually supported the brothers?
  45. At what age did Edmund retire?
  46. What occupied him most after retirement?
  47. What had Edmund taught the younger brothers?
  48. Where did Edmund spend the last two years of his life?
  49. At what time and on what day did Edmund die?
  50. How many brothers are there today?
  51. In how many countries do they (brothers) operate?










The Blessed Edmund Rice Crossword


1 He _____ married for only a short time

5 The motto of the Christian Brothers is: TO ____ AND TO TEACH

7 The men who joined Edmund became ___________

8 It took many ______ to gain approval for his Order

10 Edmund used the ________ of education to catch the poor and give them hope.

11 Edmund's family name

14 Edmund was _________ bitter against anybody, even when some spread lies about him.

16 The first school was called this: Mount ______

18 The conditions in Ireland were ___________ for Catholics

19 Edmund hoped to do for the poor through education what Jesus did to the cripples when he would say: "_______ up and go home!"

20 Edmund's wife was named _________

21 Knowing that he could make a difference was the _________ which set Edmund free.

23 The first name of "Mr Rice" as he was known in the streeta and in business circles.

25 Edmund's choice of a religious name.

26 Edmund's first teaching of boys took place at_________ (2 words)

27 Edmund founded the ________ Brothers

28 Thomas__________ who came to help Edmund

29 Edmund learned what we must all learn: that to do good is to do it _______


1 Where Edmund went to work

2 The focus on of Edmund's vision was on poor ___________

3 The English Church-not Catholic but_________

4 Through religious education Edmund _______ the poor to live with more dignity

6 Surname of Friar who inspired Edmund

9 The Founder of which order of Nuns inspired Edmund?

12 Edmund was attracted to this kind of life. (2 words: 9, 6)

13 Country of Edmund's birth

14 Edmund's scripture readings focused on the poor and _____________

15 Edmund attended daily Mass and prayed the ___________

17 Town of Edmund's birth

22 Edmund was a man of __________

24 The Brothers met the ________ of the poor

27 Very different from what we imagine one to be but Edmund helped Bianconi to establish a public transport system -an open ______ pulled by horses.












Art and Craft Activities

Teachers will need to select the materials they want their students to use. You may want to work with colour pencil on paper or oil paint on canvas. The choices are many ! Good luck !

All Ages/Grades


  1. Create your own portrait of Edmund Rice. Include a background that tells Edmund's story.

  2. Make up your own Icon of The Blessed Virgin Mary and write your own prayer.

  3. Using clay or cardboard produce your own imaginative version of Mt. Sion.

  4. Produce a cartoon series about Edmund's life story.

  5. Write you own short pray for the poor and needy. Decorate your page with images of Edmund's mission.



The role of the Christian Brothers in educating working class boys is generally well known. Western Australian Catholic author and historian George Russo here comments on the Brothers' work with the current debate on literacy standards, reminding the Catholic and wider community of what they owe the sons of Blessed Edmund Ignatius Rice.

The recent revelations about the low standard of literacy in our schools are nothing new.

Having given up the fundamentals – changing the rules, so to speak – where was there to go? Anyone could have a say, i.e. try something new, and forget about the old ways of teaching reading and writing, even though they had been well-tried and proven.

Since I came from a background of schools run by Christian Brothers – one of those workhorse organisations within Catholicism that is popular to sneer at today – who performed the essential task of teaching ‘poor boys’ to read and write, I was left wondering at the present state of literacy in government schools.

In spite of the ‘old ways’ the Brothers weren’t such bad teachers after all. In fact, they were first rate.

"The truth is that the Brothers were simple, humble, hard-working, decent men who, for reasons modern minds now find it difficult to comprehend, devoted themselves to a lifetime of celibacy, poverty and academic drudgery."

That’s why the recent beautification of Edmund Rice was a welcome event in the annals of education.

Thomas Keneally spoke in an ABC documentary of their ethos of preparing young men for life.

He remembered them as ‘admirable and devoted teachers,’ terrifically keen on sports of all kinds, and most competitive.

Certainly they had an Irish flavour about them, but they instilled patriotism as well as Christian manners and behaviour.

Another commentator said that "for providing high-quality secondary education cheaply, and sound Christian principles without fuss or frills, they are unsurpassed."

They believed in punishment, but as for being sadists, this was not true.

They had the most profound influence on boys, both on the sporting field and in the classroom.

Even after school we returned to visit the Brothers, seek their advice and help in the problems we were meeting in the world at large.

The Brothers were concerned about the fate of the most vulnerable and dispossessed, yet out of step with a number of educational changes.

They realised that they had to make changes, in the staffing policies of their schools, for example, but believed that something profound had happened within the culture that formed the bedrock of their beliefs.

A belief that was supposed to embody tolerance had come to represent intolerance.

Purporting to help the disadvantaged, the new type of educator became more an instrument of oppression, part of the liberal intelligentsia that gave birth to a new value system, which, in effect, turned into being no values at all, for fear of causing offence or denying individual rights.

Language had been rewritten and certain words banned in the name of individual rights; and by a group that detested censorship.

Political correctness raised its ugly head on American campuses in the 1980s; as a new phenomenon for righting the wrongs of the past, but in reality, its ideological ancestry lay in the turbulent ‘60s.

It involved women’s liberation, removal of prejudices against ethnics and gays, the disabled and others together with the promotion of dissent and non-conformity (for conformity’s sake!).

Its rub was the rejection of authoritarian values – in morals and literacy.

Yet, there was a strange perversion of these ideals with a new kind of authoritarianism in the 1970s.

Mr Whitlam remade the whole machinery of government in his image. The new Labor, committed to an individualistic free-for-all in economics, in private behaviour, represented nevertheless another kind of conformity rooted in prejudice for ‘enlightenment ideas’, and ignorance.

It swept away the Christian safeguards to marriage and undermined family values with the so-called Murphy reforms.

So, in the 1990s, we have reached the point where immigrants are feared, Aborigines rejected, the jobless despised, the poor dumped, and the uneducated (or partly educated) illiterate.

But what of those devastating criticisms of the education system?

The charge that teachers are now failing to teach children properly goes back to those liberal days.

The emphasis of literacy is replaced by a child-centred philosophy that devalues rules and is inimical to the imparting of knowledge and virtue.

The children who are suffering most are those from disadvantaged backgrounds – those whom the Christian Brothers took care of – and for whom schooling was the only lifeline out of the ghetto of poverty.

The situation is complex. It is alright for the better-off who send their children to the better schools, and naturally feel complacent about the problems that ordinary people have to meet in educating their children.

They often come from a background that simply has no imaginative grasp of the importance of the school to a child living in social and intellectual poverty.

These are the kind of parents who subscribe to the teaching of reading by the ‘creative method’, and discard the tried and tested reading schemes of the past as ‘old hat’. In the same way historical facts are wrong because they deny the higher truths of ‘creative subjectivity.’

Descended as I am from poor Italian immigrants, coming from a culture that understood from painful experience that hard work and education were the only route to the social mainstream, I believed that the education of the Christian Brothers was the best; they taught me, and many like me, to read and write; and to be a man.

I recall vividly the work of the young Brother who gave up his Saturday afternoons to teach me Latin so that I would be equipped to follow my chosen vocation in life.

I was being taught Maths, English and History in the school, but our kind of school did not have such ‘high brow’ subjects.

When I think back on the way they taught English; having us learn passages from Shakespeare by heart, stanzas of poetry – as well as writing a paragraph each day for homework – spelling tests, and what was then known as ‘parsing and analysis’; in other words grammar and syntax.

Now, experts say that there is no correct way to teach English - no such things as ‘Standard English’.

The politically correct view brands it elitist’. Teaching individual creativity is the only way, with a value-free language and without ‘social prestige’ elitism.

Yet, depriving children of mastering Standard English inevitably disadvantages them in a society that takes its benefits for granted only to deny them to others.

There were many protests aimed at correcting the false value system of English literature (ridding it of racism, sexism, and ‘male authors’).

My own, a letter to the press, questioned the philosophy of teaching literacy in schools, stating that writing was the only sound vehicle for both transmitting and criticising our cultural values and ideals.

Spelling, punctuation and grammar are first principles when it comes to writing.

Yet I have often heard it argued that a child’s personality could be damaged if one was to impose rules of grammar.

But by what other way can one be truly literate?

A whole range of children’s books fell foul of the ideological censors, including Mary Durack’s for calling aboriginal children, ‘Piccaninnies’.

I heard librarians arguing about what books they should stack in their libraries for fear that they ‘might poison young minds’. Strange! They have actually removed Shakespeare from some libraries.

Yet, I seem to remember that one of the dogmas of the cultural revolutionaries of the 1960s was freedom of expression and rejection of authoritarian censorship.

It seems to me that this brave new world value system can denigrate old methods like the Christian Brothers for methods that pass the dubious test of political correctness.

Where are our traditional norms of behaviour?

It disregards the right of every child to master his/her language to celebrate as ‘meaningful and enjoyable’ being able to express one’s self by writing anything that comes into the little brain.

The current practice of ‘facilitator’ (a passive role) – leaving children to find out for themselves – negates the very raison d’etre of the teachers as leader and guide.

Only from instruction, explanation, guidance will children learn from their adult teacher.

Behind the battles in the modern classroom lie the new ‘certainties’ of educational theory which, for the good of our children, should be questioned and reviewed to ensure a literate generation in the future.

We owe it to our children.

Otherwise, there will be more social casualties.


Why was the canonization of Blessed Edmund Rice such a welcome event? What were some of the educational aims of Blessed Edmund Rice?

It is a sorry fact that those steering public education do not have a clear idea of what Blessed Edmund Rice’s principles of education were. His brothers were to be ‘leaders and guides’ What could they learn from him?

As well as training the mind, his brothers trained the will of their students in order to exercise self-discipline. Can you mention some examples of self-discipline? (eg to conquer laziness)

What in your opinion constitutes a good Christian Brothers’ school? A good library? or a community of brothers and boys learning together?

What were the ideas of the Enlightenment, and why were they detrimental to those of the Christian Brothers?

What does the article say about 1960s educational practice?

Thomas Keneally, arguably Australia’s greatest novelist, paid tribute to the Christian Brothers’ ethos ‘of preparing young men for life’ and who helped him develop his creative imagination. Does the latter say something about the way the Brothers taught English Literature? And, what of preparation for life?

The Christian brothers system of education was rooted in Christian values. The great C. S. Lewis observed that to assess the value of anything one should know its purpose. What is the real purpose of a Christian education?

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