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Faith & Fun


Fostering a Lifestyle of Faith

 

Fall is in the air. School has resumed. Life is busy. When there aren’t enough moments in the day to squeeze in all the things we must do, let alone the things we wish we could do, it’s easy to let nurturing and growing our family's faith become just one more item on the “to do” list. But we’re called to so much more! We're called to nurture a lifestyle of faith in our homes – our domestic churches. With my own children now grown, I can look back on my successes and failures in encouraging this lifestyle, and share with you some definite favorites. Because I’m not the most creative person in the world I was always on the lookout for fast and fun activities that we could easily work into our busy schedule. Read on for this family's four tried and true favorites.

Four Fast & Fun Favorites for Fostering a Lifestyle of Faith:

1. The Liturgical Year and the Saints
I fell in hopelessly in love with the rhythm and beauty of the church’s liturgical year and I wanted my children to love it as well. Most parishes offer a FREE calendar each year that has all of the Church’s feast days, and the colors of the liturgical seasons, marked and noted. Grab (or download) one! Our calendar was kept in a prominent spot near the kitchen and referred to each and every morning. We kept our favorite saint book (Saints for Young Readers) on the breakfast table and took turns reading the saint of the day and the accompanying short reflection. We tried lots of different books but kept returning to these two treasured volumes. The readings are short and sweet, and work for a wide age range. And so, our day began with thoughts of Heavenly things. Success!


Our September home altar

2. A Home Altar
This same calendar got us going on the tradition of keeping a small table as a home altar that changed through the seasons. Here’s where the colors (noted on the calendar) came in: green cloth for Ordinary Time, purple for Advent and Lent, special cloths for Christmas and Easter. Our altar generally had a crucifix and candles, and statues of Jesus and Mary. And depending on the season we might have our Advent Wreath or Nativity Set or our beloved Easter Scene on it. It was graced with photos of departed loved ones during All Souls; flowers for Mary on her feast days; Holy Cards or statues for special saint days. You get the idea. By keeping it simple and do-able, our home altar became a constant and beautiful reminder of the many treasures of our Catholic Faith. (These "no rules!" ideas from Lacy at Catholic Icing can help you succesfully - and joyfully! - create a home altar too.)
Success!

3. Games!
Ok, this may not always fall into the “fast” category, it was by far the most fun! We chose several entertaining games that we all enjoyed, and that also taught us more about our faith, and set aside time at least once a week to play them together. The board game Divinity was an all-age favorite that gave us a fun way to “study” the Catechism of the Catholic Church at each player’s own level. Every time we played all of us inevitably learned something new about our faith! Even to this day when my youngest (a recent college grad) comes to visit he pulls out another favorite, the strategy game Settlers of Canaan and insists we play! That’s fifteen years of faith and fun! Catholic Child carries a terrific assortment of the latest and greatest faith-building games and puzzles for all ages. Find your favorites and play! Your kids will treasure this time together!
Success!

4. Car Time
Catholic SongsEven if you don't live in the middle of nowhere like my family did, you probably still find yourself packing the kids into the car for errands, activities and sports on a regular basis. You can make that time work for you! My oldest preferred to listen to music while the youngest loved audio stories. We found faith-filled favorites for both. The enchanting tale King of the Golden City, with its allegorical message of faith for every age, was played over and over. Another soothing favorite that combined beautiful music with teaching about the Eucharist was Bread of Life, Bread of Heaven. With Catholic Child’s vast selection of stories and music, it's easy to keep a variety of both on hand. Time that could otherwise have been wasted was well spent.
Success!

The Future
Now my boys are adults, and despite more and more “silver strands” appearing in my hairbrush, I’m grateful for this phase of life. I still count on Catholic Child for fun and true Catholic products and feel good about sharing the Catholic family lifestyle they promote with my grand nieces and nephews, godchildren and friends’ grandbabies while I wait eagerly for my own! Now that Catholic Child is on Facebook it will be even easier to share what I love most with my loved ones.


Thank You to Leanne R. for this contribution. After spending many years in the arid central valley of Californiawhere she home-schooled her two sons, Leanne now resides in a sleepy coastal town where she delights in picnic dinners on the beach with her husband, walking her dog rain or shine, reading all things Catholic, and visits from her young adult sons.





Habemus Papam! Electing a New Pope

 

The year 1415. That's seventy-seven years before Columbus “sailed the ocean blue." It's also the last time in the history of our church that a pope has resigned. Were you startled by Pope Benedict’s sudden resignation? Do you feel a bit anxious about whom his successor will be? Startled and anxious myself, I have found great comfort in repeating the verse:
“You are Peter – and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hell shall not prevail against it.” (Matthew 16:18)
These words are a reminder that God is at the helm of our Holy Catholic Church. Do not fear. He will guide this election.

What Happens Now? Some of our children will remember Pope Benedict’s election, and even the day our now Blessed John Paul IIs was elected pope. But for younger children, this will be their first experience of a papal conclave and all that it entails. It’s an exciting and momentous occasion - full of history and mystery! All of the cardinals from around the world who are under the age of 80 will gather in Rome very soon. First they will pray and celebrate Mass together, asking for the guidance of the Holy Spirit. Then they will gather in the glorious Sistine Chapel and begin the voting process. The new pope must be chosen by two-thirds of the gathered cardinals. Since no electronic gadgets of any kind are allowed in the conclave, the Cardinals signal their voting results to the public by the smoke issuing from the chimney which is visible to all those gathered at St. Peter’s Square. Black smoke (made by adding wet straw to the burning ballots) means the vote was not successful. White smoke means we have a new Pope! Habemus Papam!

What Can We Do? Since most of us won’t be trotting off to Rome for a front row seat at these festivities, we can do our best to involve our families by first and foremost praying that the Holy Spirit will guide the cardinals as they gather for this conclave. When we pray this traditional prayer for the election of a pope we will be joining hearts with people the world over:

" O God, eternal shepherd, who govern your flock with unfailing care, grant in your boundless fatherly love a pastor for your Church who will please you by his holiness and to us show watchful care. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen."

Then we can pray for our new Pope! We can make it a daily habit to ask God to bless him and keep him as he takes on his role as the successor of Peter and leader of our beloved Catholic Church. We can all be “armchair travelers” and follow closely the news of this election while preparing our children for the joy and excitement of seeing the White Smoke! Look here to learn more about electing the pope.

Finding fun, kid-friendly resources for introducing children to the basics of electing a new pope can be challenging. One excellent book is We Have a Pope by Karen Congeni. It's full of vivid color photos from Pope Benedict’s own election and describes in simple language the history of the papacy and exactly how one goes about becoming Pope. Another favorite for “the inside-story” on what it is like to be Pope is Max and Benedict. It presents a delightful look into Pope Benedict’s daily routine as told from the viewpoint of a fluttering little Blue Rock Thrush. Additionally, we carry several inspiring books for young readers about the lives of both Pope Benedict and John Paul II. For the older set we recommend the fantastic epic films about the lives of some very remarkable popes: John Paul II, John XXIII, "The Pope of Peace", and Paul VI, the "Pope in the Tempest."

Fun Activities Gather the children for some creative learning about “all things Pope” to celebrate this most auspicious event! Below are links to some delightful papal arts and crafts, and delicious recipes to help get you started. And here is a link to a free coloring page of Jesus giving the keys to St. Peter that has my favorite comforting verse.

  • Lacy at Catholic Icing has a long listing of a variety of fun Pope-ish arts & crafts.
  • From Catholic Cuisine, an Edible Chair of St. Peter recipe here and cupcakes here.
  • For the ambitious, check out this recipe for, and interesting backstory of, the delicious looking Papal Crema Cake.
  • Look here to learn more about electing the pope.

And let us remember:

"Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the LORD your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you." (Deuteronomy 31:6)

Thank You to Leanne R. for this contribution. After spending many years in the arid central valley of California home-schooling her two sons, Leanne now resides in a sleepy coastal town where she delights in picnic dinners on the beach with her husband, walking her dog rain or shine, reading all things Catholic, and visits from her young adult sons.





Making Memories & First Holy Communion

 

ice Booklet

One of my fondest memories of making my First Holy Communion is when my catechism teacher had us make Sacrifice Booklets. Every day we were to mark a line when we offered up a sacrifice, or did a good deed for others. By the time we made our First Communion, our little booklets would be filled up and represent our own special gift from the heart for Jesus. As a child it felt so good to think that Jesus would be coming to live in my soul, and that I could give him a small offering of love in return. To this day I still have my sacrifice booket and it's one of my most treasured mementos from that time. As I reflect, I remember that in His eyes I am still a child of God, and that I must continue striving to keep my soul a welcoming haven for His visits to me.

Sacrifice Booklet - it's easy and fun to make! And it be done as simply or elaborately as your child wants.

1. Cut a sheet of construction paper or themed card stock in half, then fold that in half to form the cover for the booklet. Invite your child to give the booklet a title and decorate it.
2.   Have several sheets of blank paper cut and folded to go inside of the cover, for the pages of the booklet. Talk with your child about how long he or she wants to build up their gift for Jesus. Then add enough pages, whether it's for every day of the month leading up to First Holy Communion day (hmm... a good tie-in for Lent?), or enough for the week or two before.
3.   Staple the sheets to the cover at the center fold, write the date at the top of each page and you're done! Easy, right?

To present this project to your child, you might say something like: "Maria, you know that Jesus will be coming in to your heart very soon. Isn't it exciting?! To be ready for His visit, would you like to prepare a little gift for Him? Today I'll help you make a special booklet. You can use it to keep track of all your good deeds and the sacrifices you offer up to prepare for your First Holy Communion." Then you can give your child either the materials for the project, or a completed booklet you've made beforehand, along with stickers and art supplies so they can add their personal, finishing touches.

First Communion Scrapbook - My children have loved putting together a sort of First Communion scrapbook before and after the big day. In preparation for their First Communion, we've traditionally had our children call their Godparents and ask them questions, an interview of sorts, regarding what their own First Communion day was like, and if they have any advice to share. The children write down what was said (with alittle help from mom or dad or an older sib) and that page begins their scrapbook. We just used a standard binder with page protectors for the kids to decorate. But there are lots of options, including this memory book, or a photo album that can be added to.

More memory-making items to fill up your child's First Communion Scrapbook:

  • First Communion-themed art work or coloring sheets that your child has done.
  • Holy Cards and their First Communion congratulations cards.
  • Stories of Eucharistic Miracles
  • Lots of photos from the day, dated!
  • Journal entries by the child about his or her preparations and feelings, and the celebrations that took place.
  • Letters from your child, to Jesus.

Receiving the sacrament of First Holy Communion is an extraordinary event. As you continue to prepare your son or daughter with inspiration, guidance and prayer, you can feel joyful in the memories you are helping create for your child.

Check Catholic Child's Pinterest Board for some inspiring & fun ideas.
And we've highlighted some favorite Catholic blog posts below
for more preparatory and celebratory ideas:

- Angie at Many Little Blessings has created a wonderful 48 page downloadable eBook, First Holy Communion Preparation and Printables.
- Plus, she shares an extensive list of fun ideas, resources and more sites here, for inspiring ways to make your child's First Holy Communion the most memorable day ever.

-See Catholic Icing's thoughts on First Reconciliation, and her creative ideas for snacks and desserts to help you create a festive First Communion celebration.

Thank You Susana for sharing your memories! Susana is a homeschooling mother of 6, who enjoys writing, design, and celebrating the Liturgical Year with her children.



First Holy Communion Gift Guide

Personalize it!

A Gift of Love
If a child you love will be receiving First Holy Communion this Spring, you may be considering what sort of gift to give. Here's a guide for ideas and help in choosing just the right item for your special person. Any gift of love will be cherished by your first Communicant. But with whatever you choose, always include a generous portion of prayer - the gift that keeps giving.

Hail Mary . . . Tucked into my jewelry box among my most treasured items is my First Communion rosary. I can still remember receiving it, the sparkling beads, delicate chain and silver crucifix were a gift from my grandmother. That rosary, my very first, made the day even more special for me, reaffirming the fact that I was a full-fledged member of the Church. Rosaries are spiritual, meaningful gifts that children will cherish for a lifetime. (My father's First Communion rosary is still the only one he uses!) Consider this special gift of prayer for the young person in your life.Olivewood Crucifix

Christ Before Me . . . "Hey Mom," my son said as we were driving one day, "Did you know that just looking at Jesus on the cross is a prayer?" I assured him that I did, and went on to explain that it's called contemplative prayer, and that some scholars believe it's the deepest kind of prayer. First Communion is a perfect time to share the gift of contemplation with a child, and one way to do this is to give him or her a crucifix of their very own. Whether large enough to be hung on a wall, or small enough to be hung on a neck, a crucifix is a reminder that Jesus is always with us and will always love us. Catholic Child has a variety of lovely crucifix necklaces, and wall crucifixes to choose from.

The Word of God . . . When I was a child, I thought the Bible was what other religions used. It wasn't until I was older that I First Communion Biblerealized that our daily readings and Gospel were taken directly from the Bible, that the Bible was a Catholic book! Encourage your child learn to love the Word of God from her very first day in full communion with the Church. Choose a "real" Bible, like the First Communion Bible with it's festive commemorative cover, that a child can grow up with. Or select a version with stories and illustrations that bring God's Word to life for youngsters, such as the Catholic Children's Bible or the Bible for Young Catholics.

On This Day . . . Every encounter with the Jesus in Eucharist is unique and special. Personalized First Communion Holy Cards
But nothing compares to the first time we receive the Blessed Sacrament. Help a child appreciate and remember this most special and holy day forever. Personalized Remembrance Holy Cards are a fun thing to start with! Children love handing them out to frineds and family who've joined the celebratoin. They're perfect for tucking into Thank You notes, too. To keep precious photos organized try a memory book like My First Communion album, or an entertaining storybook and memory book rolled into one, such as Today I Made My First Communion.

The Story of a Soul . . . It's a well-known fact - children love stories! And they learn from them. You can help children deepen their Faith through the gift of a storybook or audio story that shows what it means to live as a Catholic. You'll find Bible Stories and stories of the saints on DVD too. Among the dozens of titles available to choose from, Brother Franics DVDspecial favorites are:

On this special day, the very beginning of the First Communicant's life-long spiritual journey, it's important to remember that although material gifts are wonderful, they can't compete with the most lasting gift of all . . . your prayers.

Thank you to Lisa S. for this post. Lisa is a wife and mother of two with a "dream job teaching middle school science at a great Catholic school." She loves teaching this subject "not only for the fun and exciting, ever changing discipline, but also because I get to show these tween and early teens the wonder and power of our God."





Remembering Jesus' Baptism... and our Own

 

The Feast of the Baptism of Our Lord is celebrated on the Sunday after January 6th. This year's celebration on January 13th happens to coincide with the traditional Feast date. It marks the end of the Christmas season on the liturgical calendar and brings us back to Ordinary Time for afew weeks before we begin readying ourselves for Easter. We can make the most of this special day by using it to teach our families why we celebrate the sacrament of Baptism.

Jesus didn't need baptism, he was the Sinless One! Rather as St. John Chrysostom wrote, "... baptism needed the power of Christ." His baptism was important because it foreshadowed our own need for baptism to wash away original sin and to receive new life through the Holy Spirit. At Jesus' baptism the doors of heaven were opened. At our own baptisms heaven is opened to us!

To help young children understand the why behind their own baptism, and how it made them Children of God, the book, Today I Was Baptized, or Dvd, Born into the Kingdom are wonderful resources.

As we celebrate Jesus' baptism, why not start a family tradition of celebrating each and every one of your baptisms? As you fill in your new calendar, along with marking birthdays, mark the date for your baptismal births, too! Just as children never tire of hearing about the events surrounding the day of their birth, they also love hearing specials stories about their sacramental journey.

  • Keepsakes: Get out the pictures, certificates, candles and other keepsakes, and share each family member's story as you add them to the calendar. (Wish you had a safe place to store all these sacramental treasures now that you've rediscovered them? Here's special box to keep them safe. Or look in our Baptism department for smaller keepsake boxes.)
  • Memories: Call Grandparents and Godparents who will enjoy recalling the sacramental celebration by sharing stories of their own.
  • Celebrate: A simple relighting of your baptismal candle at a family meal with an accompanying "Happy Baptism to You!" is enough to make the day festive.
    If you like to bake, a cake in a the shape of a shell or dove to symbolize baptism is a fun treat.
    Too busy to bake? Grab a treat from the bakery and top it with an inexpensive dove cake-topper from the wedding department of your local party store.
    If you want to go all out and have an elaborate celebration, add our festive Baptism-themed napkins and tablecloth!

I hope you'll enjoy making a new tradition for your family. After all, we want our children to know and remember that their birth as God's child is just as important as their birth as our child.

Thank You to Leanne R. for this contribution. After spending many years in the arid central valley of California home-schooling her two sons, Leanne now resides in a sleepy coastal town where she delights in picnic dinners on the beach with her husband, walking her dog rain or shine, reading all things Catholic, and visits from her young adult sons.





Rejoicing with the Angels

"We are not nearly so alone as we imagine, whatever the hour or place."   St. Thomas Aquinas on Angels

The current immense popularity of angels also means that they are often misunderstood. And misrepresented. September is the perfect month to delve into the mystery of of these heavenly companions and learn more. The month ends with the Feast of the Archangels on September 29th, and October opens with the Feast of our Guardian Angels on October 2nd. What fun to spend this month immersed in "everything angels" and end the month rejoicing with an Angel Party!

Angel Facts
Most of what we know about angels comes from the writings of St. Thomas Aquinas (earning him the title of "Angelic Doctor"). He writes that each angel is "its very own order in the universe, far greater than a star," and points out that "almost instinctively, we want to know more about them... because they are all so very close to us and our living."

As adults, we can turn to St. Thomas to fulfill our yearning to know more about angels, but what about our children? It's all too easy to forgot about the things we can't see. And what a pity if we do! God has given each of us our own Guardian Angel to look after us and help us get to heaven, and scores of others to hear our prayers, too.

  • Angel in the Waters, a lovely picture book, is the sensitive tale of a tiny baby in the womb who talks to its Guardian Angel who is always there.
  • The Catholic Encyclopedia for Children includes interesting angel facts.
  • For teens, Did Adam and Eve Have Belly Buttons?  will answer some of the questions they have, or be asked, about angels.


    Angel Fun
  • Audio Stories
    The lively Cat Chat: Amazing Angels and Super Saints, finds the children learning lots about St. Michael the Archangel and their guardian angels as they prepare for an All Saints party. The classic, King of the Golden City, shares a rich allegorical tale in which a young girl's Guardian Angel leads and guides her.
  • DVD
    My Secret Friend: A Guardian Angel Story , a sweet movie for ages 5-9, is an adventure story revolving around a little girl's belief in her Guardian Angel, her eventful family vacation.

    Praying to the Angels
    Guardian Angel Prayer PillowcaseAs our children head back to school (whether, walking, biking, riding a bus or driving themselves) isn't it comforting to know that they have their very own Guardian Angel constantly by their side? And that we can beseech these guardians to be on "high alert"?
    As our teens and young adults face tough moral decisions daily, isn't it reassuring that we can beg assistance from the awesome and mighty Archangel, St. Michael, to defend them in the battle for their souls?
    Encourage your whole family to say an "angel prayer" each day this month. The habit of praying daily to our angels will remind us all that "we are not so nearly alone as we imagine" and that the angels do indeed protect and guide us on our journey to heaven.
  • Find the traditional Angel of God prayer and Prayer to St. Michael in the Catholic Children's Prayer Book, or Cardlinks: Prayers.
  • Teens may find the prayer their heart has been longing for in this prayer book for teens.
  • Choose a Prayer Pillowcase for sweet, heavenly dreams!
  • Invite your kids to sing their prayers with the help of Good Morning Jesus, and Kids Sing for Jesus CDs.

  • Rejoicing with the Angels
    Involve the whole family in planning an Angel Party to celebrate learning more about these saintly super heroes and to rejoice in their very existence!

  • The Feast
    No party is complete without food! A simple plan could include Angel Food Cake dressed up with whipped cream and fruit topping, along with some kind of celestial punch, like white grape juice mixed with 7-Up and floating "clouds" of vanilla ice cream. For a complete meal, angel hair pasta in cream sauce is a good place to start, with some fluffy, cloud-like rolls, complimented with a heavenly" ambrosia salad. You'll enjoy reading this post from Catholic Cuisine if you're into festive (and hearty!) themed meals.
  • Party Favors
    Adding faith-filled trinkets to the table setting is a fun way to keep thoughtsSt.Michael Rosary Ring  of angels and heaven alive in the hearts and minds of your loved ones. Kids with wheels will know their angel rides along when equipped  with Guardian Angel themed Scooter and Bike Clips, or Auto visor clips, this one designed specially for your new driver.

I hope your family will enjoy discovering more about the Angels and the role they take in our lives.

Visita Quasumus, Dominie: Visit, We Beseech You, O Lord

Visit, we beg You, O Lord, this dwelling, and drive from it all snares of the enemy:
Let your holy Angels dwell herein, to keep us in peace;
And let your blessing be always upon us.
Through Christ our Lord. Amen

A big "Thank You" to Leanne Rose for this contribution. After spending many years in the arid central valley of California, home-schooling her two sons, Leanne now resides in a sleepy coastal town where she delights in picnic dinners on the beach with her husband, walking her dog rain or shine, reading all things Catholic, and visits from her young adult sons.





 

Summer of Son-Shine!

Summer is here and that means plenty of opportunity for kids to be creative, unwind, and soak up some Son-shine! After their year of homeschooling our kids are ready for some fun activities and have dubbed this the “Summer of “Son-shine”! The idea behind the Summer of Son-shine is that we bring Jesus, the Son of God, into as much of our summer fun as we possibly can. The kids and I had a so much fun collaborating and thinking about the fun things we could do. To kick things off we came up with a Summer of Son-shine Tea Party. If you’d like to host one of your own, read on for some ideas that we came up with to share with you.

    Invitations:

  • Get a free download of our design for you to use at your own party! As young homeschoolers, our children memorized a dear, sweet poem and we thought it'd be perfect to use on the invitations. We love how they turned out!

    Decor:

  • Sunflowers make a great decoration for your
    Summer of “Son-shine” tea party! Tell the children that just as the sunflower looks to follow the light of the sun, so to should we always seek the light of the Son of God to guide our way in everything we think, say and do!
  • Print, decorate and display the Beatitudes. Talk to the children about them and tell them that Jesus gave these to us. Let them know that putting the Beatitudes into practice will help us be more like Jesus and let His light shine through us. Then share Mathew 5:16 “Let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.”
  • The Menu:

  • Young children will be excited to share their skills in preparing snacks that are light and simple. Sun-themed snacks like sunflower seeds are great, and kids will especially enjoy using cookie cutters to shape cheese and sandwiches, pineapple wheels, lemon “son-shine” sugar cookies and more!
  • Older kids might enjoy helping you bake something more elaborate, like the darling sun cupcakes, above, or these cheery sunshine cookies.
  • “Son-shine” Sun Tea
    Our kids love to make sun tea because it's easy and doesn’t require any boiling water. To make “Son tea”, place 4-6 tea bags (fruity flavors like peach are super yummy in the summertime) in a big glass pitcher or container. Fill the container with water and cover. Then just place the container in direct sunshine and leave it to steep for 3-5 hours. Once your tea is ready, add ice for a refreshing drink, or serve as is with the addition of some delicious honey. Explain to your children how the power of the sun helps to release all the yummy goodness of the herbs and flavors in the tea bags. Let them know that when we let Jesus into our hearts, the power of His love gives us grace and helps bring out the goodness in us too!
  • Activities:

  • To See -We like the idea of starting the party off with an episode of The Friar. With a concentration on Jesus’ parables,these short movies provide great entertainment with valuable lessons. Any of the 11 episodes would be a great jumping point and set the tone for good behavior and fun at your party. Parables are said to be earthly stories with a heavenly meaning. Be sure to share that with your children! The Friar DVDs do a great job of helping them to understand the symbolism in the parables. We’ve found that once our kids understand the symbols in the parables, they love to compare them to real life situations of their own.
  • To Make - Have the children cut a sun out of construction paper or cardstock and glue it onto a sheet of blue. Have a collection of holy cards of Jesus ready for the children to choose from and have them glue one onto the sun. Children can then write “Jesus is my Son-shine” around the top of the sun and “He lights the way” around the bottom of the sun. When working with a large group, it can help to have a sample already done so that the children have an idea of what to do.
  • To Sing - A few lively rounds of "This Little Light of Mine" is a joyful way to wrap up the party.
  • Party Favors - As a sweet way to say "Thanks for Coming" send children home with a sun-shaped sugar cookie packaged in a little, ribbon-tied cellophane bag. To help them remember and practice the love and lessons they've learned, you could even tuck in a copy of The Beatitudes for Children.

Thank you, Susana! Susana is a homeschooling mother of 6, who enjoys writing, design, and celebrating the Liturgical Year with her children. She has written for St. Mary's Messenger and you can read the archives of her homeschooling adventures at montessoricandy.blogspot.com





 

June: Sacred Heart Activity Calendar

June is the month dedicated to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. In honor of this special month, we bring you this fun printable calendar activity that kids are sure to love!

During the month of June, talk to your children about the idea of making reparations to the Sacred Heart by offering up their good deeds and sacrifices to heal Jesus' Heart. Use our free printable calendar to engage your children by having them color a heart each day to remind them to offer up their good deeds. You can even have the children place a small band-aid over each heart, representing the reparation and healing!

As added reinforcement, add some of the great Sacred Heart of Jesus themed items Catholic Child has to offer.
I especially love the idea of having children use the Sacred Heart of Jesus Prayer Pillowcase with the Act of Contrition prayer this month. Also having the super-sized Sacred Heart Color-me Poster from this terrific set is a great way to honor the month of the Sacred Heart. Plus it's an indoor treat for hot days!.
Find out more about the whys and hows of honoring the Sacred Heart of Jesus in the article below.

Thank you, Susana! Susana is a homeschooling mother of 6, who enjoys writing, design, and celebrating the Liturgical Year with her children. She has written for St. Mary's Messenger and you can read the archives of her homeschooling adventures at montessoricandy.blogspot.com





 

June: A Month Full of Heart

We welcome June as that time of year that signals a lull in regular schedules, and offers instead revitalizing summer activities. Speaking of which, it's also the month our Church dedicates to the Sacred Heart of Jesus!

The Sacred Heart can be seen in pictures, medals and other art as a vibrant red heart, encircled by a crown of thorns. Thanks to St. Margaret Mary (1647 to 1690) we have some very rich and beautiful devotions to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, which we can use to help us grow in love for Him.

In 1673, St. Margaret Mary began to have a series of visions in which Jesus showed her His Sacred Heart. He said that is was a symbol to remind us of His suffering, out of love, for each and every one of us, and asked her to help spread the devotion to His Most Sacred Heart. Even though this brought her much suffering from non-believers, Saint Margaret Mary did her best to carry out Jesus' request.

Today, this wonderful devotion to the Sacred Heart is practiced all over the world, with many families even consecrating themselves to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, and prominently displaying a picture of the Sacred Heart in their homes.

Our Lord made 12 promises, through St. Margaret Mary, for those who devote themselves to His Most Sacred Heart:

  1. I will give them all the graces they need in life.
  2. I will create peace in their families.
  3. I will comfort them in all their troubles.
  4. They shall surely find in My Heart protection during life and especially at the hour of their death.
  5. I will shower them with blessings in everything they do.
  6. Sinners shall find in My Heart the source of an infinite ocean of mercy.
  7. Weak souls shall become fervent.
  8. I will bless the homes where an image of My Heart shall be exposed and honored.
  9. I will give to priests the power of touching the most hardened hearts.
  10. Those who spread this devotion shall have their names written in My Heart, never to be erased.
  11. The all-powerful love of My Heart will grant to all those who shall receive Communion on the First Friday of nine continuous months the grace of final repentance; they shall not die under My displeasure, nor without receiving their Sacraments; My Heart shall surely be their protection at that last hour.

With these promises, Jesus shows His infinite love for us! Our Lord has given so much - everything! - for us. Yet asks so little in return: to stay close to His Sacred Heart and remember Him with our thoughts, words, and actions.

You can help your children begin a devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus by simply talking to them about His love and sacrifice for us. This concept is very easy to relate to children of all ages and can quite easily touch their heart. As a child, I was taught to simply say, “Sacred Heart of Jesus, have mercy on us”, whenever I remembered during the day. You could also try making a family Holy Hour in front of the Blessed Sacrament, and encourage the children to focus on the burning love of Our Lord’s Sacred Heart. For older children and teens, you might want to ask them how they can reciprocate that burning love for Jesus, and ask them if they would be willing to sacrifice for Him, just as He did for us.

To celebrate the month dedicated to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, why not make these colorful play-doh-style cookies representing the thorn encircled heart? This fun family activity reinforces the beautiful message of God’s love for us! You can find step by step instructions and pictures showing how to make these yummy creations (and other crafts to honor the Sacred Heart of Jesus) over at Catholic Icing.

Our Faith can help provide your family with plenty of fun filled ways to celebrate the summer. Enjoy introducing a Sacred Heart devotion to your family with a little help from Catholic Child! Stories about the Lives of the Saints, whether in Books, on Audio Stories, or DVD, always help children learn about the love Jesus has for us all, and offer ever understandable and true examples of how to show Him our love and friendship. Remember, when you Shop By Age, it's easy to find what's just right for your Catholic child!

Thank you, Susana! Susana is a homeschooling mother of 6, who enjoys writing, design, and celebrating the Liturgical Year with her children. She has written for St. Mary's Messenger and you can read the archives of her homeschooling adventures at montessoricandy.blogspot.com



Happy Birthday, Catholic Church!


 

"When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. And suddenly a sound came from heaven like the rush of a mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting. And there appeared to them tongues as of fire, distributed and resting on each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit..."


We celebrate the joy-filled feast of Pentecost 50 days after Easter. This glorious day, in which the Holy Spirit poured forth the gifts and graces needed by the Apostles to go out and preach the Good News, is considered the birthday of the Church. If we take a moment to stop and consider the events of Our Lord's Passion, just over 50 days before, and remember how scared the Apostles had been, it's easy to realize just what an amazing feast day Pentecost truly is!

Phillippians 4:13 comes to mind : “I can do all things through Him who strengthens me." God is so wonderful and awe inspiring! Just think, God gathered common men and through the Holy Spirit, transformed them into the courageous leaders of His Holy Catholic Church.

Use the opportunity of this most joyous feast day, to celebrate and talk to your children about how great God truly is! I like to look at the Liturgical calendar and try my best to plan recipes, activities and purchases for feast days ahead of time so I feel prepared. It’s never too late or early to do this since the Church feasts repeat themselves every year.

Below are a few ideas to help you celebrate the feast of Pentecost.
But first, download our free printable
of the beautiful song "Come, Holy Ghost"!
Free Printable

Your children will be proud to know these words
so they can participate confidently in the
joyful singing at Mass!

 

  • Red is the Liturgical Color of the day! Before Mass on Pentecost Sunday, explain to your children that the priest will be wearing red vestments that day. They'll love having you help to choose a red outfit or accessory for them to wear to Mass too!
  • In Italy, it was customary for rose petals to be scattered from the ceiling of the church to represent the tongues of fire that rested upon the Apostles. How beautiful this custom seems! Recreate the symbolism in your own home by scattering red rose petals across your dining room table.
  • Bake a cake to celebrate the birthday of the Church! The children will enjoy decorating it with whole or sliced strawberries and inserting candles to represent the fiery tongues brought forth from the Holy Spirit! Don’t forget to light the candles and sing "Happy Birthday!" Oh, and chocolate lovers, don't miss these clever Sundaes for Pentecost Sunday.
  • Make fruit cups, fruit salad, or fruit skewers representing the fruits of the Holy Spirit. Kids will love to help in the planning process too. As you choose which fruits to use in your yummy creation, talk about the fruits of the Spirit. You can assign a fruit to each child. The fruits of the Holy Spirit are: Charity, Joy, Peace, Patience, Kindness, Goodness, Generosity, Gentleness, Faithfulness, Modesty, Self-control, and Chastity.
  • Decorate for Pentecost the day of, or the night before. The fun-to-make Holy Spirit Banner would make a perfect art activity for this feast day, and it'd be a festive decoration for years to come! You could also have the children draw and cut out doves representing the Holy Spirit to hang from the ceiling, display on your feast table or make a colorful collage with. These cute Holy Spirit Hand Print Doves over at Catholic Icing would be adorable decorations and such fun for the kids to make.
Gift of the spirit

The Gifts of the Holy Spirit are: Wisdom, Understanding, Counsel, Fortitude, Knowledge, Piety, and Fear of the Lord. As the Catechism of the Catholic Church notes, these gifts "complete and perfect the virtues of those who receive them."  When we're infused with the gifts of the Holy Spirit, we respond to the promptings of the Holy Spirit as if by instinct.  As in the hymn, Come Holy Ghost, Creator Blest, may the Holy Spirit take up rest in your heart and inspire you to guide and teach your children every day. Have a blessed and happy Pentecost!

Thank you, Susana! Susana is a homeschooling mother of 6, who enjoys writing, design, and celebrating the Liturgical Year with her children. She has written for St. Mary's Messenger and you can read the archives of her homeschooling adventures at montessoricandy.blogspot.com





The Very Mary Month of May

Mary in Garden

We celebrate our Mothers this month. But did you remember that May is also the month to honor our sweet and loving Heavenly Mother?
Does your family have any special customs or celebrations to honor our Blessed Mother during this wonderful spring month?
If not, here are a couple ideas to get you started. And you'll find even more on our Pinterest Board.


Praying the Family Rosary
Praying the Rosary is a long loved tradition that helps us mediate on the life, death,
Hail Mary Printsand resurrection of Our Lord. Have you ever heard the term, "To Jesus, through Mary"? The Rosary definitely fits that description perfectly! I grew up praying the Rosary every night with my family, and now my husband and I try our very best to say a family rosary each night too! The Holy Rosary doesn't take long at all to pray in its very basic essence, but still, little ones ages 5 and under can get a little fidgety about a quarter of the way through the prayers. To help them understand, and to capture their attention and help them participate better during this special family prayer time, we enlist the help of books, pictures, and even CDs, that feature the mysteries and meditations of the Rosary. I'd be lying if I said I didn't enjoy and receive the fruits of these resources too! After all, we are called to be like little children to enter the Kingdom of God, are we not?! Seeing pictures of the significant events of Jesus' life, and hearing the meditations can really make the Rosary come alive for children and adults alike! We figure if we're going to make the time to say this powerful prayer as a family, we want to do it in a way that will leave a lasting impressionon our children. A loving and joyful impression that will stir desire, as they grow up, to continue praying and reaping the graces of this beautiful holy tradition. I have a friend who prays the Rosary with her children in the morning before school. Other families say it in the evenings, before or after supper, like us. Regardless of when or where you pray it, you can be sure that this loving devotion to Mary will help strengthen your family's spiritual life, and bring you closer to Our Lord Jesus Christ, and each other!

Create a Collage
Our Lady has had some very beautiful and extraordinary names attributed to her during the centuries. Mystical Rose, Medaitrix of all Graces, Morning Star, Ark of the Covenant, and Mother Most Amiable are just a few! Imagine how Jesus must feel when we honor His Blessed Mother with such exquisite titles. You can read the titles given to the Blessed Virgin Mary in the Litany of Loretto to your children. Then, using holy cards, stickers, tissue paper and other art supplies you can create a collage featuring Our Lady's many holy qualities and titles. Encourage your children to include pictures they've drawn of and for Our Blessed Mother, and invite them to add special messages, poems and sentiments of their love. With so many distinguished titles to choose from, children will enjoy choosing a new way to address Mary every day of May, or least, every week!

May Crowning - You can do this anytime in May!
One of the most exciting things about May, when I was a little girl, was looking forward to our Church's May Crowning! It was so fun to dress up again in my First Communion dress, and carry roses down the aisle to the statue of Our Mother of Divine Grace, while the parish sang hymns in her honor. Both boys and girls would participate in the darling tradition, with one lucky girl and boy being chosen for the honor of carrying the crown of roses to be placed atop the head of the statue. Whether or not your parish holds a May Crowning, you can plan one with your children in your very own home! You can make it as simple as having your child collect flowers from the garden and making a "daisy chain" to form a crown for your own statue of the Queen of Heaven. If you're yearning to try a more elaborate May Crowning, check Lacy's delightfully complete May Crowning celebration ideas over at Catholic Icing.

Have a wonderful month dedicated to our Blessed Mother. And to all Mothers everywhere, may you enjoy a blessed and happy Mother's day!

Thank you, Susana! Susana is a homeschooling mother of 6, who enjoys writing, design, and celebrating the Liturgical Year with her children. She has written for St. Mary's Messenger and you can read the archives of her homeschooling adventures at montessoricandy.blogspot.com





Holy Week With Little Ones

Can you believe Holy Week is already here? Hail Mary Prints
Growing up, I remember our home being very somber and quiet during this time which certainly set the tone for the seriousness of Our Lord's suffering and passion. But now, with young children of my own, I like to emphasize the ray of hope that lies at the end of the week. Amidst the bitter sweetness of Holy Week, I remind my children that Easter is the rainbow at the end of the storm. They feel reassured when I remind them that the gates of Heaven were opened because Our Lord chose to suffer for us. Because He loves us so much. Since we homeschool, we get to take Holy Week off and "work" instead on focusing on this last and very important stretch of our Lenten journey with Jesus.

Not all schools take their Easter/Spring break this week so you may not be reveling in a whole week off. But you can take a few minutes to talk to your kids about the coming events of Holy Week and enjoy these simple ways to help your family keep Christ the center of attention during this most special week.

  • Say the Stations of the Cross together if you can, and look at pictures of each Station and talk about what's going on there. This can be an impromptu talk while cozied up on the couch together. Or, take a picnic blanket and the conversation outside under your favorite tree and enjoy this Spring weather! By taking a few minutes to talk with your kids and listen to their questions about the Stations, you can help deepen their understanding and appreciation for this very visual prayer.
  • If you've heard the Stabat Mater, you know the melody is very touching. The same goes for the hymn, "O Sacred Head Surrounded," taken from a poem by St. Bernard. I'd heard these songs year after year, but it was just a few years ago that I decided to take a closer look at the lyrics with my children. Afterwards, they were so happy when they heard the hymns at Church and recognized them! The Holy Heroes Station of the Cross CD includes the Stabat Mater and it's never too late to learn!
  • On Holy Thursday kids love to hear about the Last Supper. Use your favorite picture of the Last Supper and share the story of how the events of that evening unfolded. It's a good time to mention that it's the anniversary of the institution of the priesthood, and the institution of the Holy Eucharist, too. Curious young minds will want to dive deeper and learn more, so grab the opportunity to explore priestly vocations and the Holy Eucharist with them. Visit Catholic Icing for a great= easy & cute Last Supper craft.
  • If you're going to Holy Thursday Mass try to give the children an understanding of what's taking place that night, including the washing of the feet. I can still remember the time my father told me how St. Peter told Jesus to wash not only his feet, but his head as well! I thought my father was just being silly. Later that evening when we were at Mass and I saw and heard this very thing, I looked at him, and my dad winked at me and smiled. Kids often don't get what's going on at special Masses, so giving them a little head's up beforehand, even in the car on the way to Mass, can open up a world understanding, and love of the Liturgy!
  • Going to Church for Good Friday services is so different from what we are used to seeing and hearing at Church. Let your kids know how it's different, and why, and give them little things to keep an eye out for, like the kissing of the crucifix. If your little ones just can't last for the entire three hours, that's okay! Back at home they may want to bake hot cross buns, make Easter dinner Resurrection napkin rings, or put on a Passion Play. For prereaders who want to act out the scenes (if you don't already have an Easter scene playset, Catholic Icing's Resurrection Set works for this; just download, cut and color!) you can narrate the action using the readings for Good Friday, or your favorite children's Easter book to help you out. Maybe the best thing you can do for your older kids who want to "do it all" themselves is to give yourself over to their wonderful efforts by being an appreciative audience member.
  • Holy Saturday is a fine day for baking and crafts! That evening in our home is spent dying Easter eggs and baking Resurrection Rolls. These are fun and very easy to make, and provide another opportunity to talk about the events that took place on Good Friday, and the hope that lies ahead on Easter day. If you can invest more time (and ingredients), and want to share a Gospel-guided story with your kids, try Catholic Icing's Easter Story Cookies. Making them is another fun & yummy & hands-on way to share the true meaning of Easter with your kids.
  • To make Resurrection Rolls you only need 4 ingredients:Resurrection Rolls
    - Refrigerated crescent roll dough -
    to represent the cloth Our Lord's body was wrapped in

    - Large marshmallows - their whiteness symbolizes the innocence & purity of Jesus
    - Melted butter - symbolizes the oil with which Jesus' body was anointed
    - Cinnamon - symbolizes the spices used in the traditional Jewish burial

     

    Directions:
    -Take a marshmallow and tell the children that the white represents the innocence and purity of Jesus.
    -Dip the marshmallow into the melted butter while explaining that Jesus' body was anointed with special oil at his burial, and. . .
    -While rolling the marshmallow in cinnamon, and go on to explain how spices were part of the Jewish burial tradition of Jesus' time, too.
    -Then place the marshmallow on the crescent roll dough, and while you're folding the dough over it continue the story of how Jesus' friends took His body from the cross, lovingly prepared It for burial and then wrapped It in linen cloth. Now the kids will want to make the rest of the rolls themselves, and you know their minds will be replaying the story of Good Friday! When all the marshmallows have been wrapped it's time to put them in the oven, which, of course, represents the tomb.
    -Bake the rolls at 350 F for about 13 min. You can bake them then, or, early Easter morning before the kids are up. That way, right when they wake up they get to open a "tomb" and find the marshmallow "gone" (you and I know they've melted) representing the Resurrection!

    My children love this activity and look forward to it every year. I hope yours will too!

    Have a Blessed Holy Week and a joyful Easter!

Thank you, Susana! Susana is a homeschooling mother of 6, who enjoys writing, design, and celebrating the Liturgical Year with her children. She has written for St. Mary's Messenger and you can read the archives of her homeschooling adventures at montessoricandy.blogspot.com.





Exhausted.

Jesus makes it joyful

On Ash Wednesday, simultaneously so long and not at all long ago, we sat in our pew during the evening Mass surrounded by 8 grade levels of CCD classes. I was tired and pregnant and hungry. I felt disheveled and drained and not at all ready to embark on the arduous journey of Lent.

Our pastor was giving his homily in that excited, personable tone he uses during the mostly-children's services. "How does it make you feel to fast?" he asked them. Some answers trickled in. He pressed on. "And how do you feel after that?"

Exhausted. The answer he was looking for was "exhausted."

As Jesus wandered the desert, the devil taunted Him and tested Him. He was thirsty and hungry but He had to keep up the fight. It was most certainly exhausting. He was exhausted.

So fasting helps us to feel the same kind of exhaustion that our Lord felt. It brings us experientially closer to Him. And that feeling of exhaustion, our pastor suggested, is a feeling we should strive for throughout the entirety of Lent.

Striving for exhaustion? I'd never heard Lent presented that way before. Sure, I knew about the specifics- the prayer, the fasting, the almsgiving. But to step into Lent with the intention to do as much and give as much and sacrifice as much as possible so that every night we drift off to sleep exhausted from our efforts, exhausted in solidarity with Jesus, was something I hadn't considered.

A whole-life approach to Lent, that's what it was. We discussed it, my husband and I, and decided we would do what we could to exhaust ourselves over these 40 days.

Apparently God was on board with this plan too because immediately afterward my husband found himself agreeing to participate in the 40 Days for life silent prayer vigil. And then agreeing to spend four days helping a fellow parish family move to a new home. And then we said "yes" to adopting a pair of dairy goats who needed a home. It was all so very exhausting.

Meanwhile at home, I fought the urge to avoid the challenges and frustrations of the everyday. I agreed to ridiculous projects and messy games. I closed the computer and opened the dishwasher. We added a decade of the Rosary to the evening prayer routine with our older children. And I've been exhausted.

We've stumbled, of course. We've had our moments of sitting down to read too late and then sleeping in too long. I've thrown my hands up at the state of the dining room floor and buried my face in the virtual world of homemaking perfection instead. Lucky for us the Lord lets us start over, and start over we do.

And what we've discovered throughout this particular Lenten journey is that along with the deep sense of exhaustion comes an overriding sense of peace. A sense of being one with Jesus in His suffering, but not in a painful way. Somehow He allows our participation in His challenges to feel... joyful.

With a few days left until Easter, there's still time to give exhaustion a try. Whether you've had a wonderful or a terrible Lent, and I'll leave defining those terms up to you, there's still time to pour yourself out for our lord. We can take these last few days and fill them with the things we ought to do or have been meaning to do but have been a little too tired or distracted to do. There's still time to truly exhaust ourselves before the invigorating, triumphant joy of Easter.

Thanks Dwija! Dwija lives with her husband and their five (soon-to-be-six!) children in rural southwest Michigan in a house they bought sight-unseen off the internet. Between homeschooling and corralling chickens she enjoys her work as a freelance writer. Need a break? Take ten and go read more from Dwija at her blog house unseen. life unscripted.





St. Joseph's Feast Day

March 19th is the feast day of St. Joseph, but even better, the Church has dedicated the whole month of March to him! It's not a surprise that St. Joseph is chosen by many people, places and occupations as their patron saint. But did you know the patron saint of fathers is also the patron saint of the universal Church? Quiet, compassionate, humble, generous, obedient Joseph.

Because of his role as foster father to Jesus, some Catholic families have made it a custom to celebrate March 19th as "Catholic Father's Day." We like to honor St. Joseph by thanking him for his intercessory prayers for our family, and celebrating his day Italian-American style! Why Italian? St. Joseph's feast is a big day for the Italian-American community, mostly because his prayers are attributed to stopping a famine in Sicily in during the Middle Ages. (Fava beans were the answer. What was typically used as cattle fodder, suddenly became a life-saving staple for those folks.) So on this day, many Italian-Americans wear red (thought to be derived from the color purple, signifying Joseph's royal lineage), and set up community St. Joseph tables or altars to pay homage to him.

St. Joseph Virtual AltarSt. Joseph Virtual Altar

Here's a festive St. Joseph's altar!
Photos permission of thankevann.com


And this one! Make it using
this free download.

Ways for your family to celebrate St. Joseph's Feast Day:

  • Go to Mass and ask for St. Joseph's intercession and guidance, especially for the head of your family.
  • Make a special donation to your local food pantry. Offer your time too, if you can.
  • Enjoy an Italian feast and let the children get creative by shaping bread or cookie dough into symbols associated with St. Joseph such as the lily flower, staff or sandals, saw or hammer.
  • Honor dad this day and display some photos of him with the children. Invite the kids to draw pictures of, or write about, the things they love most about their dad.
  • At dinner, put dad in the spotlight with an interview! Have the children ask questions about when he was growing up. He'll feel honored to share memories and special lessons he's learned over the years.
  • Make a St. Joseph's Day Altar with your kids. It's easy to ge started using the download link above. Kids will have a great time adding their personal touches to all the pieces while they learn about St. Joseph.
  • Stop by catholiccing to see Lacy's sweetly devotional, fun and simple St. Joseph's Novena with free craft download. Take a look at her St. Joseph Altar for Beginners, too. You'll see how much fun you and your children can have learning more about St. Joseph.
  • Talk to your children about St. Joseph, and the virtuous examples he gives us. We like to listen to the Glory Story Cd about St. Joseph on this day.

Here is something you can use as a guide to help your children lean more about what the Bible teaches us from St. Joseph's life. I hope it makes it simpler to apply his beautiful examples of virtuous living to your children's daily lives.

St. Joseph was a compassionate and caring man. When he discovered the Blessed Virgin Mary was with child after they had been betrothed, he was concerned for her and decided to divorce her quietly so she wouldn't be exposed to public shame or cruelty. From this we can teach our children (and remind ourselves) to be compassionate to those whom we think have wronged us. We can do our best not to make a big fuss or spread gossip about the person or the situation.

St. Joseph was man of faith, obedient to whatever God asked of him without knowing what the outcome would be. When the angel came to him and told him the truth about the child Mary was carrying, St. Joseph immediately took Mary as his wife. No questions asked. When St. Joseph learned that his family was in danger, he immediately left everything to lead them to safety in a foreign country, where he waited patiently until the angel told him it was safe to go back. From this we can learn to pray for the "faith of St. Joseph", so that we may always answer God's call, no matter what. St. Joseph also displayed an obedience that was immediate and without question. Give your children some examples and ask them how they can practice immediate obedience around the home. (One example might be emergency preparedness and the scenario of you shouting at them to "Run to the front yard, now!" or "Dial 911!" Would they ask "why" before obeying? Or would they act out of blind faith through love and trust?)

St. Joseph loved Jesus and had a great concern for his safety. Not only did he leave behind all he knew to protect Jesus, but upon his return settled in the town of Nazareth to protect His life. When Jesus stayed in the Temple, Joseph and our sweet Mary anxiously searched for Him for three days. From this we can learn to do everything possible to keep sin from entering our soul, and to keep Jesus close to our heart. Lovingly remind your children that doing good deeds, talking to Jesus and offering up little sacrifices and sufferings will help keep Jesus near to them always.

St. Joseph respected God and His commands, as we see when he went to Jerusalem to have Our Lord circumcised and the Blessed Virgin Mary purified after Jesus' birth. And also when he took the Holy family to Jerusalem for the Passover, which may not have always been easy for our dear carpenter. Joseph was humble, and gave to God that which was asked of him. This helps us recall that God commands us to do things too, in the 10 Commandments and according to our state in life. Make it a fun activity and spend some time going over the 10 Commandments with your kids. Help them understand the relevance of God's commandments in their lives using real life examples. This will give your children the tools they need to obey God's laws in ways that are appropriate to young people, and also help them with challenging situations they may encounter on a daily basis.

Have a wonderful feast day in honor of St. Joseph!

Contributed by Susana L. Susana is a homeschooling mother of 6, who enjoys writing, design, and celebrating the Liturgical Year with her children. She has written for St. Mary's Messenger and you can read the archives of her homeschooling adventures at montessoricandy.blogspot.com.




On What Day is Everybody Irish?

On St. Patrick's Day, of course!

Our dear St. Patrick is so beloved, that on his feast day, March 17th, even non-Catholics celebrate the day. In my home town of Chicago, the city dyes the Chicago River Green for the day and holds a big St. Patrick's Day parade. I remember the first time I ever attended the parade. I was five and my much older big brother took me downtown, carrying me on his shoulders so I could see over the heads of the cheering crowds. He told me that St. Patrick was the reason for all of the fun and festivities. The thought of all those people turning out for a Catholic saint's feast day was amazing to me. Since we were Catholic, my brother told me we especially should think about the saint's message. He explained that St. Patrick had enduring faith and trust in God, especially when the going got tough, and it was because he maintained a close relationship with God and faithfully answered His call that he was able to convert all of Ireland. Then my brother suggested that we say a little prayer asking God to touch the hearts of the parade goers who might not know who St. Patrick really was. This little faith lesson from my big brother made me feel so proud and happy to be Catholic!

It's wonderful when the world wants to celebrate a Catholic feast day, even if people don't exactly know the history or meaning behind the day. We can take it as an opportunity, like my brother suggested, to say a little prayer for them to hear God's voice. And we can learn more about the Saint or feast day ourselves, so we'll be able to share inspirational tidbits when the opportunity arises

Here are a few faith-facts you can share about St. Patrick, who lived from 387-461:

  • He was actually Scottish! Kidnapped as a teen and taken as a slave to Ireland.
  • It was during his captivity that Patrick came up with some of his most beautiful prayers of praise and adoration. While most of us would have been angry and bitter at the circumstances, Patrick's friendship with God grew even stronger.
  • After escaping from Ireland, Patrick had a vision in which the people there were cringe out to him, "We beg you, holy youth, to come and walk among us once more." This spurred Patrick on to join the priesthood.
  • From shepherd boy to Bishop! Patrick returned to Ireland as a Bishop, now leading not sheep into the pasture, but men, women and children into the Faith.
  • St. Patrick is often pictured with a shamrock. This is because (as legend goes) he used this abundant Irish plant, a 3-leafed clover, to illustrate the Holy Trinity to the peoples of Ireland.

I don't live in Chicago any more, but I do still try to add a little "faith and fun" to St. Patrick's Day for my family. My kids look forward to a touch of green throughout the day, whether it be green milk in their cereal, or making green shamrock cookies. We bring out our St. Patrick DVD and books to enjoy for the day too, and as on many feast days, may even enjoy an impromptu play by the kids acting out the story of St. Patrick performing one of his many miracles.

Corned beef and cabbage anyone? If your family isn't too keen on that supper, how about some Shepherd's Pie instead? Lacy at Catholic Icing has a yummy recipe for it. Make sure you see her darling St. Patrick's Day Trinity Song video and St. Patrick paper bag puppet craft, too.

Wishing you a happy and blessed St. Patrick's Day!

Contributed by Susana L. Susana is a homeschooling mother of 6, who enjoys writing, design, and celebrating the Liturgical Year with her children. She has written for St. Mary's Messenger and you can read the archives of her homeschooling adventures at montessoricandy.blogspot.com.



 

Plant a Lenten Garden (no dirt required!)



 

Celebrating Lent with a Yes!

"I'm going to give up cleaning my room!"
"Yeah, and I'll give up doing math."

I had just brought up the topic of Lenten sacrifices and these are the responses I got from our they-crack-themselves-up children. I would have told them I was going to give up doing laundry, but they might have liked that a little too much, what with the prospect of not having to fold or put anything away for the next 40 days and all. No, we had to think of something "good" and "real".

But in a year like this, a year in which I'm busy navigating, or rather "fumbling through", our first year of homeschooling and I'm pregnant, there's just not much left for me to give up. Wine? Done. Caffeine? Ditto. Television? Check. Sugar? That would be a total cop out because I'm already eating much less than normal (not because I'm some kind of pregnancy saint. Oh nonononono. Only because this baby is quite picky and prefers high quantities of salt multiple times a day. She's already bossing me around and isn't ever born yet! Tsk, tsk, tsk).

What else? Electricity? Jennifer Fulwiler recently suggested turning out the lights one night a week during Lent. That might work...

But maybe I'm going about this all wrong. Maybe instead of just observing Lent by giving up something we like, maybe we can celebrate Lent by doing more of what we ought. Doing more of what will ultimately bring us true joy, even if the change in routine is a little painful in the beginning. Maybe if we're lucky it'll stick. It'll become a habit. And a little change for Lent can become a big change for life.

As for me, I can go to bed a little earlier. And wake up a little earlier. Pray more, especially before our day begins. Stay focused on my vocation as a wife, mother, homemaker, home educator, and daughter of God. Avoid falling into the rabbit hole of the internet when I need to "just look something up real quick." Be truly present to the small, beautiful, challenging, God-given moments of our lives and remember to give Him thanks in everything.

As Cardinal-Archbishop Dolan recently said: The new evangelization is accomplished with a smile, not a frown... it is all about a 'yes' to everything decent, good, true, beautiful and noble in the human person. The Church is about a 'yes!', not a 'no!'.

We can make this a season of "yes" to our Lord instead of focusing entirely on the "no" of self-deprivation. We can use this season of Lent as a springboard into the rest of our year- a year filled with joy and smiles.

A big YES! to contributing writer Dwija Borobia. Dwija lives with her husband and their five (soon-to-be-six!) children in rural southwest Michigan in a house they bought sight-unseen off the internet. Between homeschooling and corralling chickens she enjoys her work as a freelance writer. Delight your spirit with more from Dwija by visiting her blog at house unseen. life unscripted.




Globe Trotting with the Saints

When celebrating the saints, do your children ever wonder when, or where that saint's story took place? In our family, when talking or reading about the saints, we usually get all sorts of questions from the children. Their curiosity offers the perfect opportunity to take a closer look at the culture, history, traditions and geography surrounding the saint we're celebrating.

Here are a few ways we incorporate cross curricular studies into our saintly celebrations:

Read the story:
There are so many feast days to choose from each month! Choose however many work for your family, by having the children draw a saint's name from a basket, or picking a saint yourself, based on a particular saintly virtue you'd like your kids (or yourself!) to practice. Then look for books and stories about the feast day or saint.

One of the feasts we'll be reading about this month is for Our Lady of Altagracia. (St. John Bosco) would be another great January choice for kids.) Our Lady of Altagracia is the patron Saint of the Dominican Republic. Legend says that the prayerful daughter of a rich merchant asked him to bring her a portrait of Our Lady of Altagracia from his travels, but no one there had heard of that title. The merchant, staying overnight at a friend's house, described his problem as they sat outdoors after dinner. An old man, who just happened to be passing by, pulled a rolled up painting from his cart, gave it to the merchant, and said, "This is what you are looking for." It was a painting of the Virgin of Altagracia! They gave the old man a place to stay for the night, but by dawn he was gone, not to be seen again. The merchant placed the image on their mantle, but it repeatedly disappeared only to be found outside in an orange grove in Higuey, where later, a chapel was built in Our Lady of Altagracia's honor.

Get the Globe out!
Place a fun colored sticker on the globe to show where you live, be it a star, an arrow or dot. Next, help your children locate the place where the story of the saint took place. For kids already familiar with the globe, you can make a game of it by asking "Who can show me where the Dominican Republic is?" For children just learning the globe, you can help them narrow it down by asking them to first find the continent, and then give them hints from there. Once the area has been located, put a sticker there to show how far it is from where you live. In our home, it's almost a given that one of the kids will pull out the globe now, when we read about the saints. Even my kindergartner enjoys searching the globe and likes to talk about how he would get to different places. This in turn leads us to talk about whether we could travel to the spot by plane, boar, train or car. Seeing these places on a globe or even a map, helps to reinforce the concept that the Catholic Church is universal, and the children really like having that "real world" connection.

Open an Atlas or hit the Internet!
After you've located the country or town where your saint's story takes place, bring out the atlas - or do a web search - to find out more about the local culture, foods & traditions of the people there today. Many atlases mention the percentage of Catholics in any given region. Use this statistic to discuss possible scenarios the saint may have faced at that time and in that place. What would it have been like if the saint was a missionary? In the case of Our Lady of Altagracia, it was the Spanish missionaries who introduced her image to the Dominican people and now, Our Lady's feast day of January 21st is celebrated as a national holiday!

Get Cooking!
See if you can find any special ethnic food that you can make to help celebrate the Saint of the Day. For example, many North Americans have the custom of eating corned beef & cabbage on Saint Patrick's Day. For our feast of Our Lady of Altagracia, we'll be preparing a traditional Dominican dish, Arroz con habicheuleas, which means we'll be chopping cilantro, tomatoes, onions & bell peppers to make a sauce for black beans and white rice. For dessert we'll have oranges to tie in the story of our Lady (remember her picture in the orange grove?) and my 9 year-old wants to make orange rolls! We're using the recipe for orange rolls from over at CatholicCuisine.com. She's got a yummy orange smoothie recipe for the occasion, too, plus fantastic feast day cooking and baking ideas! Another inspiring source is Lacy at CatholicIcing.com. She does fun, simple treats & the most creative crafts! Here's a directory of saints she's done projects for and posted.

Contributed by Susana L. Susana is a homeschooling mother of 6, who enjoys writing, design, and celebrating the Liturgical Year with her children. She has written for St. Mary's Messenger and you can read the archives of her homeschooling adventures at montessoricandy.blogspot.com.





Mass and the Eucharist for Children.

"I love so much a soul's desire to receive Me, that I hasten to it each time it summons Me by its yearnings."    Jesus, to St. Margaret Mary Alacoque

The Joy of The Real Presence
"God is everywhere, in the very air I breathe, yes everywhere, but in His Sacrament of the Altar He is as present actually and really as my soul within my body..."    St. Elizabeth Ann Seton

There is "something different" about being in a Catholic church. We Catholics know what the "something" is! The presence of Christ in the Eucharist! How do we share the miracle and joy of the True Presence in a way that our children can understand? How do we ensure that our youngsters are prepared for their First Holy Communion, hearts joyful with the truth of what they are soon to receive? A life altering truth that will keep them coming back for His miraculous and loving gift, again and again.

The Miracle of the Eucharist
"While all sacraments confer grace, the Eucharist contains the author of grace, Jesus Christ Himself."
Fr. John Hardon, S.J.

It was while attending a class for parents of First Communicants that this truth rocked my heart, mind and soul. The teacher presented a video about the Eucharist which included a startling (to me) look at the Miracle of Lanciano, in which a host miraculously changed into physical flesh and the wine into physical blood when a doubting priest pronounced the words of the consecration. I nearly fell out of the little student desk I was perched in! Why hadn't I heard this before, I wondered, and why weren't we teaching our children about these miracles?

Skeptical by nature, I began a thorough reading of everything I could find about this and other Eucharistic Miracles. This led me to study anew the theology of the Eucharist, beginning with scripture, especially John Chapter 6, and the writings of the early Church Fathers. Consequently, not un-like doubting Thomas, I was brought to my knees before the tabernacle, whispering with joy, "My Lord and My God." My life had changed forever! I finally understood with unshakable certainty the incomparable gift we, as Catholics, have been given.

For Children
"...when we reach out to receive His Body, Jesus reaches out from Heaven's door [like] a handshake from Heaven." from A Handshake from Heaven by Carol Bannon

The greatest gift that we can give our children is this certainty - this TRUTH - this JOY! If you think that sharing some awe inspiring stories of Eucharistic Miracles would be an effective way to give this gift to your child, take a look at Jesus With Us: The Gift of The Eucharist and Little Catechism on The Eucharist. Both of these illustrated books include sections about Miracles of the Eucharist in language young children can understand.

Teens Need Miracles
"From the Eucharist comes strength to live the Christian life and zeal to share that life with others."
Pope JPII

If they haven't encountered it already (count your blessings!) your teens and young adults will soon be facing a world that doubts the True Presence. A closer look at the very real and awesome Eucharistic Miracles might be what's needed to brace our young people against the nay sayers and to ignite their zeal in defense of the Truth. Adoring Jesus with the Holy Father shares a rich resource of papal prayers and perspectives on the real presence while Matt Pinto's teen book, Do I Have to Go? delivers a masterful presentation of Eucharistic Miracles. It will open teenage eyes to this awesome gift - a gift they have the choice to receive... or turn their backs on. For teens (and adults!) who need help focusing on the miracle of Jesus' presence in the Eucharist, The Mass: Four Encounters with Jesus That Will Change Your Life can't be beat.

Keeping the Joy Burning
"Every act of reverence, every genuflection that you make before the Blessed Sacrament is important because it is an act of faith in Christ, and act of love for Christ. And every sign of the cross and gesture of respect made each time you pass a church is also an act of faith."    Pope JPII

Keeping the joy of their First Communion alive and burning in our youngsters' hearts obliges us to keep the joy alight in our own. Like the warm, red glow of the tabernacle lamp proclaiming the presence of Our Lord, we too can honor God in our midst. It can be as simple as a humble genuflection or bow as we pass by, or a reverent whispering heavenward of "My Lord and My God" at each elevation of the Host. Let them see you doing it, and little ones will soon be whispering those four words of love right along with you. On the home front, remember to make it easy for your kids to get their eyes and hands on a variety of materials that reinforce these teachings! Fill your family library with books, DVD and audio stories about the Mass, the Eucharist and, always, the lives of the Saints.

More favorite children's books & audio stories about the Mass & the Eucharist:
The Weight of a Mass
The Mass Book For Children
Today I Made My First Communion
Cat. Chat CD Vol. 4 - The Mass Comes Alive

For hands-on fun: Visit our favorite crafty Catholic at this link to find a fun-to-make sparkly monstrance.

Many thanks to contributing writer Leanne Rose for this post.



 

Eucharist Adoration - "Be Still and Know that I am God

"To be alone with with Jesus in adoration and intimate union with Him is the Greatest Gift of Love - the tender love of Our Father in Heaven."    Mother Teresa

"Did you ever consider well, dear Christian soul, that, when the Sacred Host is publicly exposed, Jesus is not on His Eucharistic throne to receive the adorations of the angels and to enjoy the company of the blessed? These He finds in heaven. But He is on His Eucharistic throne to receive your adoration, to listen to your confidences, and to console and alleviate your sorrows and trials."  from the The Holy Eucharist, by Jose Guadalupe Trevino.

Eucharist Adoration
As I arrived at my parish for Adoration, how heartbroken I was to find my Lord all alone in that big, dark, empty church. When I knelt before Him in still and silent prayer, the profound peace that can only be found in His Presence swept over me and I ached to find the words to share this remarkable treasure of our Catholic faith. My eyes filled with tears as I called to mind those words Jesus spoke to his disciples the night before his agony so very long ago, “My soul is sorrowful even to death. Remain here and keep watch with me” and upon finding them asleep, “So you could not watch with me for one hour?” (Matthew 26:38,41) Tears fell for all the times I’ve been too busy to “keep watch with Him” in Adoration and for all the times He’s been alone and waiting. I prayed that someday the church would be full of parish families come to adore their God.

Who
Holy Hour is not just for adults! Young and old are all invited to sit and be still in the presence of our Lord at Eucharistic Adoration.

What
Eucharistic Adoration is first of all acknowledging that God is our Creator and furthermore, that God is indeed present in the Eucharist. Jesus in His Eucharistic presence is exposed, usually in the sacred vessel called a Monstrance, and adored as His heart is revealed to us. He only asks that you keep watch with Him, opening your heart, mind and soul in quiet and reverent adoration and prayer. You may find the DVD Children’s Adoration in the Third Millennium helpful in preparing your children for Adoration. It uses actual footage of children of all ages, and their families, at Adoration.

When and Where
If you don’t yet make regular visits to your church for Adoration, find out if they offer First Friday Adoration. It’s a wonderful way to begin (and the consistent dates are easy to remember). You may be surprised by how much you begin to look forward to these tranquil, revitalizing “dates” with Jesus. If your church doesn’t practice First Fridays, choose a day and make it work for you by marking it on your calendar for the next few months. (Spontaneity works great for some, but others of us operate best with brightly highlighted reminders on the calendar!) It won’t take long before you begin to experience a yearning that will remind you of the upcoming day.

Why
Even a few moments spent in prayer and adoration can bring a deeper peace into your personal life, thus, into your family's life! After many years of leading Holy Hours, Fr. Antoine Thomas, of the Community of St. John, has formed a children's Eucharistic Adoration program known as Children of Hope which is being implemented in parishes around the world. (To learn more from Children of Hope click here.) He has found the benefits of Adoration for both children and their families to be:

- Children who previously had only the weekly experience of Mass, discover that the Host is actually the person of Jesus, mysteriously hidden. They develop a greater interest in the mysteries of our Faith and the liturgy of the Mass.

- They understand more than other children of their age who have not experienced Eucharistic Adoration the relationship between the gift of the Eucharistic Presence of Jesus and His sacrifice on the Cross out of love for mankind.

- They become much more aware of the various degrees of sin and seem very eager to receive the sacrament of Confession often. They become friends with Jesus by spending time with Him and become living signs of faith in Jesus’ Real Presence in the Eucharist for those who doubt, and therefore also become wonderful signs of hope for those who despair in finding God on earth.


How
As one who is never without a book to read or something to do, a Martha by nature, it was difficult for me at first to be a Mary; to simply sit at the feet of Jesus, gaze upon him, and be still. (Luke 10:38-42) But with time and through prayer, I’ve learned to open my heart and just be in His presence. The same can be true with children and teens. “My child will never sit still for Adoration!” you exclaim. Yes, children are fidgety and God knows that! It's okay to start small; even five minutes after Mass to quietly visit Our Lord present in the tabernacle would be a start. Your teens especially need quiet time before Our Lord. Their lives are stressful and jam-packed with activities. This time of prayer in Adoration may give them the much needed opportunity to share with their Creator burdens of their hearts that they will not share with you.


A Happy Conclusion
Before I left our Lord that day when I had lamented finding Him so alone, a young mother came in to church, pushing her toddler in a stroller. I couldn’t help but smile thinking how happy that must make Him who proclaimed, “Let the children come to me and do not hinder them; for to such belong the Kingdom of Heaven.” (Matthew 19:14) What greater gift can we give our children than to bring them before the Eucharistic Heart of Jesus and teach them to be still and know that He Is God! Psalms 46:10

A big "Thank You" to Leanne Rose for this contribution. After spending many years in the arid central valley of California, home-schooling her two sons, Leanne now resides in a sleepy coastal town where she delights in picnic dinners on the beach with her husband, walking her dog rain or shine, reading all things Catholic, and visits from her young adult sons.

 



 

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