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Waiting and Preparation: Teaching Advent and Christmas
What should Catholic children know about Advent? They should know that it is a season of waiting and preparation, not fulfillment. In contrast to the frenzied Christmas shopping season, the patient waiting that characterizes Advent has its own particular beauty. More than that, it helps us understand something important about Jesus: he is the awaited Savior of the people of God.
Use the rich symbols and stories of the season to help children experience Advent and lead them to a better celebration of Jesus’ coming at Christmas
Pope Saint John Paul II was born Karol Wojtyla (voy-TIH-wah) in the small Polish town of Wadowice. During World War II, when the Nazis invaded Poland, Karol secretly studied for the priesthood in an underground seminary established by the archbishop of Krakow. He was ordained to the priesthood in 1946. In 1964, Father Karol was appointed archbishop of Krakow; just three years later he was made a cardinal. In 1978, Cardinal Wojtyla was elected Pope, the 264th in the Church’s history. He took the name John Paul II. He began his papacy on Oct. 22 by telling the world, “Be not afraid”; his life showed everyone that to change the world, we must “cast into the deep for a great catch.”
From the start of his papacy, Pope John Paul II made evangelization a key part of his mission, and made pastoral visits to all parts of the world.
In 1981, a Turk named Mehmet Ali Agca shot the Pope twice in an assassination attempt and wounded him. Following Jesus’ example of forgiveness and compassion for the sinner, Pope John Paul II later met with Agca in his prison cell and, gently speaking to him of the forgiveness of Christ, forgave him for what he had done.
Throughout his life, Pope John Paul II was an avid sportsman, hiking and skiing even in his sixties. In 1992, however, his health began to decline. It was later revealed that he suffered from Parkinson’s disease, a degenerative disorder of the central nervous system. Near the end of his papacy, it became difficult for him to speak, and his poor health and physical suffering made public appearances difficult. Still, he bore his suffering patiently, and continued his pastoral work despite his physical pain. He entrusted his health to God, and joined his suffering with that of Christ.
Pope John Paul II died April 2, 2005, and he was declared blessed on May 1, 2011. He was declared a saint on April 27, 2014 along with Pope John XXIII. His feast day is October 22.
Saint Therese of Lisieux was born Marie Francois Therese Martin on January 2, 1873 in Alencon, France. She was the youngest of nine children, but only five girls survived into adulthood: Marie, Pauline, Leonie, Celine, and Therese. Her parents are Saints Louis and Zelie Martin.
Therese was spoiled, proud, sensitive, attention-seeking, and stubborn. One day, Leonie had a box of dress-making materials for dolls that she offered to Celine and Therese. Celine chose one ball of wool, but Therese took the whole box and said, “I choose all!” Eventually, she would learn to choose all not for her own sake but for love of God.
Zelie Martin died of breast cancer in 1877 bringing tragedy into the previously happy family. Four-year-old Therese adopted Pauline as her mother for the next six years.
In 1883, Pauline entered the Carmelite monastery in Lisieux. Shortly afterwards, Therese contracted a mysterious illness. She was miraculously cured by a smile from a statue of Our Lady of Victories. Shortly after Therese’s cure, Marie also entered the Carmelite monastery.
Little Therese had wished to become a nun since the age of three, and now, at the age of ten she begged to join the Carmelite monastery following in the footsteps of her two older sisters. However, the local bishop suggested she wait until she was older.
The Christmas Miracle
When Therese was thirteen she had what she calls her “Christmas conversion.” She says in her autobiography Story of a Soul, “In an instant I grew up.” It was at this moment that she stopped being self-centered and became determined to save the souls of great sinners. This Christmas miracle increased her desire to become a Carmelite nun and gave her back the joy she lost when her mother died ten years earlier. For the rest of her life she would be remembered for the joy she radiated.
St. Francis “Cheat Sheet”
It’s always better to understand something before you try and celebrate it! Knowing some things about the Saint’s life will also help you to have ideas on how to celebrate. Let’s take a look at some of the most interesting and well known things about St. Francis.
Founded the Franciscans
Very well known and popular Saint
Patron Saint of animals, so he is often depicted being flocked by birds, petting a deer, or shaking hands with a wolf.
Sometimes on this day churches will have a “blessing of the pets”
Made the first nativity set
Known for a legend where he tames a wolf
Gave all his money to the poor
Had the iconic “tonsure” haircut
He had stigmata (the wounds of Christ on his hands, feet, and side)
Wrote the “Prayer Of St. Francis”, now a popular song as well
Ok, I think we are ready to look at some ways to celebrate St. Francis of Assisi with kids!
Prayer Of St. Francis
The prayer of St. Francis is one of my absolute favorite prayers of all time! I equally love the song that goes with the prayer.
Prayer Of St. Francis
Lord, make me an instrument of your peace
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
Where there is injury, pardon;
Where there is doubt, faith;
Where there is despair, hope;
Where there is darkness, light;
And where there is sadness, joy;
O Divine Master, grant that I may
not so much seek to be consoled as to console,
to be understood, as to understand,
to be loved, as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive,
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned,
and it is in dying that we are born to Eternal Life.
click the link above for more ways to honor Mary
These are 7 sorrows that Mary endured during her life on earth.
Here’s the complete list.
Prophecy of Simeon
The Flight to Egypt
Loss of Jesus in the Temple
Mary meets Jesus on Road to Calvary
Jesus dies on the cross
Mary receives the Body of Jesus
Jesus is placed in the Tomb
Mary told St. Bridget that 7 graces would be granted to those who say
7 Hail Mary’s each day reflecting on her 7 sorrows. You can
wonderful graces, and very comforting to read.
5 ways to pray: A balanced Catholic prayer diet
Jesus is the greatest example of living a faithful life dedicated to God. He learned to pray at home from his parents, particularly from his mother, Mary. She prayerfully listened and pondered in her heart every encounter, teaching and lesson of her faith. We learn to pray in our families, through religious education and at Mass. Thinking of prayer in terms of a “prayer diet” is a fun way to teach kids the different ways to pray. Traditionally, Catholic prayer includes blessing and adoration, petition, intercession, thanksgiving, and praise. Use the printable at the end of this article to encourage kids to think about what kinds of prayers they pray.
Blessing and adoration
Prayers of adoration, like those seen in the Scriptures with the visit of the shepherds and wise men to the infant Jesus, teach us to worship. Worship is a fitting response to believing in Jesus as our Lord and Savior. We adore Jesus in word, song, silence and even action, especially in the Mass.
“Bless the Lord, O my soul, and do not forget all his benefits . . . who satisfies you with good as long as you live” (Psalm 103:2, 5).
Sing or pray the psalms.
Practice Eucharistic Adoration.
Petition or Contrition
Contrition means to be sorry for things we did or failed to do that have hurt our relationship with God. If you have ever had someone offer you a sincere apology for hurting you, the power of this type of prayer probably hits home. Acknowledging you have made a poor or wrong choice takes courage and, therefore, very much pleases Jesus. Forgiveness is the heart of Jesus’ teaching, making this a very special prayer for us to offer.
“Forgiveness, the quest for the Kingdom, and every true need are objects of the prayer of petition” (CCC, 2646).
Pray the Our Father, which contains the fundamental elements of petitionary prayer in its requests for the coming of God’s kingdom, our daily needs, and the forgiveness of our sins.
Do an Examination of Conscience, and then offer a general prayer asking God’s forgiveness.
Encourage kids to write prayers in a prayer journal.
Another way of understanding intercession is that it is simply asking. This type of prayer compels a person to put aside their desires and trust in the goodness of the Lord. There are many things we probably wish God would give or do for our families, or ourselves, because God loves us; he allows us to come to him and ask, to petition in prayer these requests. Supplication requires humility, which means that, no matter what we are asking, we remember the answer is always up to God, who is all-knowing and will assure we get what is best for us.
Keep a list of your prayer intentions on the refrigerator, or in some other public place.
Pray intercessory prayers in the responsorial style used during Mass: “For (intention), let us pray to the Lord; Lord, hear our prayer” (or another suitable response).
Try to think of a broad range of intercessory prayers: for members of your family, friends and neighbors, community members, the sick and poor and lonely, those affected by conflict or unjust situations, the Church, and political leaders.
Blessed Solanus Casey, a humble Capuchin priest, used to advise people to “thank God ahead of time,” whatever their prayer might be. He knew that God would answer every prayer, even if God’s answer was different than the one for which the person had prayed for. Blessed Solanus understood God’s great love for us, especially as our Father, and how thankful we should be at the excellent care he provides each of us. How often do we remember to thank God for not only the special blessings we receive but also for the daily care he provides.
Prayer of thanksgiving flows from the recognition that everything is a gift from God. Nurturing an “attitude of gratitude” helps us see everything as gift—even our sorrows and suffering (see CCC, 2648).
Try praying a family litany of thanks.
Keep a gratitude journal (or a wall poster for posting “thankful thoughts”).
Practice a Daily Examen in order to better recognize and name God’s gifts.
Praise is a movement of the heart that lauds God for who he is and not for what he does for us. God, by his very nature, is always worthy of our praise. Prayers of praise are an excellent remedy to a grumpy mood, as it shares in the blessed happiness of God. We can praise by simply lifting our eyes toward heaven and smiling at how truly good God is.
“Prayer of praise is entirely disinterested and rises to God, lauds him, and gives him glory for his own sake, quite beyond what he has done, but simply because HE IS” (CCC, 2649).
Sing a song of praise.
Practice praising God spontaneously; invoke the help of the Holy Spirit to speak through your prayer.
You can also listen to songs of praise while in the car or even around the house, letting your spirit silently join the words of the singer.
Activity: What does your “prayer plate” look like?
You can help your kids think about the five forms of prayer with this simple activity.
Download our worksheet.
Talk about how you might “balance out” your family prayer style this week.
At the end of the week, revisit the plate. How have the “portions” changed in the past week?
Biography Mother Teresa
Catholic Nun Born:
August 26, 1910 in Uskub, Ottoman Empire
Died: September 5, 1997 in Calcutta, India
Best known for:
Fighting for the rights of the sick and helpless
Biography: Mother Teresa was a humanitarian. This means she did things to help out other people. Her entire life was fully devoted to helping the poor, the sick, the needy, and the helpless. Where did Mother Teresa grow up? Mother Teresa was born in Uskub, Ottoman Empire on August 26, 1910. This city is now called Skopje and is the capital of the Republic of Macedonia. Her birth name was Agnes Gonxha Bojaxhiu. Her father died when she was eight and she was raised by her mother.
Agnes grew up in the Roman Catholic Church and decided to devote her life to God at an early age. When she turned 18, Agnes joined the Sisters of Loreto to become a missionary to India. Before she could go to India, she had to learn English. She spent a year in Ireland learning to speak English at the Loreto Abby. A year later, Agnes began her missionary work in Darjeeling, India. She learned the local language, Bengali, and taught at the local school. In 1931, she took her vows as a nun and chose the name Teresa. She taught for many years in India becoming the headmistress at a school in eastern Calcutta. What did Mother Teresa do? When she was 36 years old, Mother Teresa felt the call from God to help the poor of India. She received some basic medical training and then set out to help the sick and needy. This wasn't an easy task in 1948 India.
She had very little support and, while trying to feed and help the poorest of the poor, she herself was constantly hungry and even had to beg for food. Missionaries of Charity In 1950, Mother Teresa formed a group within the Catholic Church called the Missionaries of Charity. She described the purpose of the Missionaries of Charity as an organization that would take care of "the hungry, the naked, the homeless, the crippled, the blind, the lepers, all those people who feel unwanted, unloved, uncared for throughout society, people that have become a burden to the society and are shunned by everyone". Wow! Mother Teresa had some lofty goals. If you consider that she herself was starving only a few years earlier, she accomplished some amazing things. When she first started the Missionaries of Charity there were only 13 members. Today, the group has over 4,000 members who care for people all over the world. It wasn't an easy task to build such an organization and to keep the focus on the poorest people. She worked almost up until her death on September 5, 1997. Fun facts about Mother Teresa Mother Teresa has been beatified by the Catholic Church. This is a step on the way to becoming a Saint.
She is now called Blessed Teresa of Calcutta. She never saw her mother or sister again after leaving home to become a missionary.
Albania's international airport is named after her, the Aeroporti Nene Tereza.
She was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1979. Rather than have the traditional Nobel honor banquet, she asked that the money for the banquet be donated to the poor of India.
She once traveled through a war zone to rescue 37 children from the front lines.
She received numerous awards for all her charity work including the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President Ronald Reagan.
It takes around 9 years of service to become a full member of the Missionaries of Charity.
Teaching Catholic Kids provides parents and catechists with concrete ways to live and teach the Catholic faith.
Aug. 9 – St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross
Aug. 10 – St. Lawrence
Aug. 11 – St. Clare
Aug. 12 – St. Jane Frances de Chantal
Aug. 13 – St. Pontian and Hippolytus
Aug. 14 – St. Maximilian Kolbe
Aug. 15 – The Assumption of Mary
From OSV Kids Can You Find, August 2021
On the Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, we remember when Mary was taken (“assumed”) into heaven, body and soul, after she died.
Saint Clare of Assisi’s Story
One of the more sugary movies made about Francis of Assisi pictures Clare as a golden-haired beauty floating through sun-drenched fields, a sort of one-woman counterpart to the new Franciscan Order.
The beginning of her religious life was indeed movie material. Having refused to marry at 15, Clare was moved by the dynamic preaching of Francis. He became her lifelong friend and spiritual guide.
At 18, Clare escaped from her father’s home one night, was met on the road by friars carrying torches, and in the poor little chapel called the Portiuncula received a rough woolen habit, exchanged her jeweled belt for a common rope with knots in it, and sacrificed her long tresses to Francis’ scissors. He placed her in a Benedictine convent, which her father and uncles immediately stormed in rage. Clare clung to the altar of the church, threw aside her veil to show her cropped hair, and remained adamant.
Sixteen days later her sister Agnes joined her. Others came. They lived a simple life of great poverty, austerity, and complete seclusion from the world, according to a Rule which Francis gave them as a Second Order. At age 21, Francis obliged Clare under obedience to accept the office of abbess, one she exercised until her death.
In this week's Gospel, Jesus tells the disciples to rest after they return from their journey of spreading the Gospel message to others.
“Doggone it! Where is it? I know I put it somewhere!” Sound familiar? When something is lost, St. Anthony is a great saint to ask for help in finding whatever you are looking for. But who was Saint Anthony?
Anthony’s birth and baptismal name was Fernando Martins. He was born in Portugal in 1195 to a wealthy family, yet he felt called to the priesthood and chose a life of poverty. At the age of fifteen he traveled to the capital of Portugal to study to become a priest. After his ordination, he lived at an abbey and was responsible for taking care of visiting guests. Once when some Franciscans were visiting, Fernando felt called to join their order. When he took the vows of this order, he changed his name to Anthony.
The plan was for Anthony to travel to Morocco to help spread the Catholic faith. While there, he became very sick. (Have you ever been sick when you were away from home? It is scary. I wonder how Anthony felt when he became sick in a strange country.)
Because he was so sick, his superiors decided to send him back to Portugal. On the way home, a storm came and blew his ship off course. Instead of landing back in Portugal they landed in Sicily, not far from Italy. They then traveled to Tuscany which is in the middle of Italy. Being ill and weak, Anthony’s superiors decided to have him stay with some local friars to regain his health. He spent a long time there praying and studying.
One day, Dominican friars arrived and there was some confusion about who was to give the homily at a Mass. Somehow, it was determined that Anthony should give it. Anthony was not known for his preaching abilities and his superior told him, “Just say what the Holy Spirit wants you to.” (In other words, don’t prepare anything and God will give you the words to say.) His homily was so well received that he was from then on asked to preach to various groups. He became known as a great preacher. What was so special about Anthony’s preaching? Anyone, young or old, educated or not, could understand what he was trying to teach.
Books back in this time were rare and highly treasured. Anthony had a book that he often used for reference when teaching. One day it was stolen. Saint Anthony prayed that the thief would return it. His prayer was answered. The thief even eventually became a member of his religious order! (This is why Saint Anthony is often called upon by people who are searching for lost items.)
Feast day: June 13
St. Anthony, pray for us!
A Beatitudes Prayer
Lord, make me poor in spirit, so I can receive the kingdom of heaven. Lord, when I mourn, help me find comfort. Lord, make me meek, so that I may inherit the land. Lord, help me to hunger and thirst for righteousness, so I may be satisfied. Lord, make me merciful, so I may obtain your mercy. Lord, make me pure of heart, so I may see you. Lord, help me to make peace, so I may be called your child. Lord, when I am persecuted for righteousness’ sake, show me your kingdom.
Beatitudes lesson and worksheets
Meet St. Joan of Arc
Joan made quite a spectacle when she arrived at the French army camp at Blois on
a white horse, dressed in white armor and carrying a banner of her own design. A
pageboy and heralds provided by the dauphin rode with her. Marshal Jean de La Brosse,
commander of the force at Blois, together with his aids, met her.
“So, you are Joan the Maid!” he said, looking her over skeptically. “Th e peasant girl on whom Charles depends to bring victory aft er these dozen years of defeat?”
“Sir, she is the Maiden of whom the prophecies speak!” exclaimed the pageboy, which made La Brosse and his aids laugh heartily with scorn.
“It is the King of Heaven who sends me,” Joan said. Fire flashed in her eyes, and the force in her voice silenced their laughter at once. “If you will follow my banner, God will help you break the siege of Orléans, and the dauphin
will be crowned king of France within the year.”
“Well, that would be a miracle, indeed,” La Brosse said mockingly. “And just how does God intend to accomplish this?”
“We’ll begin with discipline and dignity,” Joan said, nodding at the disorderly camp. “All the men must go to Confession. Today! And then Mass, every day. And the cursing and profaning of God must stop!”
The sneer disappeared from La Brosse’s face. “This is your plan? This is what will bring us victory?”
“Only by relying on God will the men have courage,” Joan said, “and only with courage will there be victory.” And with that, she rode into the camp, leaving La Brosse to wonder if this strange girl had indeed been divinely sent.
The Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity
click above to watch video
Symbols of the Trinity for younger children
Explaining the Trinity to kids can be hard when we as adults have such a hard time grasping the concept.
If you have younger children, make or find a traditional symbol of the Trinity and place it on your home prayer table. Traditional symbols include trefoil (the shamrock), the pansy, or the Trinitaria, a delicately perfumed white flower with three petals. Or make a triangle surrounded by rays, with an eye looking out from the center. As you make your symbol of the Trinity, talk about the unity of the three persons in one God.
The Sign of the Cross: A profoundly Trinitarian prayer
This week is a good time to teach kids as young as two and three years old to say the sign of the cross. Let them attempt to imitate you as you slowly make the motions. You can explain to kids four and up some of the meaning of what they are doing. If you’re a bit rusty on the sign of the cross, you can get a refresher in how to make it reverently here:
1. First and foremost, we pray for the dead. Memorial Day was originally established to honor Civil War dead. Unfortunately, we’ve had many more wars since then, and many more dead to remember. Has anyone in your family perished during a war the U.S was involved in? Search through your family tree and find out. Pray for your deceased family members, and if you have not lost anyone in conflict, pray for one of the many other souls. Consider having Mass said for someone specific who served.
2. Visit a military cemetery to say prayers, or participate in a wreath laying ceremony. If you don’t live near a military cemetery, (try checking here first), you can go to your local cemetery and look for plots marked with a government issued headstone, or medallion. These markers are offered to all veterans so you will have to read the inscriptions to learn whether or not the deceased died while serving or afterwards.
Click the link above to read more.....
Pentecost falls fifty days (seven weeks) after Easter, marking the descent of the Holy Spirit onto the assembled friends and followers of Jesus, and beginning a whole new chapter in salvation history. At Christmas, the Son of God became incarnate in Jesus through the cooperative work of Mary and the Holy Spirit; now, at Pentecost, the Son of God takes on a new body: the Church. Once again, the Holy Spirit is the agent; but this time, instead of working through a single individual (Mary), it is through all the faithful that Christ becomes “incarnate” in the world. That’s why Pentecost is one of the most important days in the Church calendar. See the videos below to help explain Pentecost to your kids.
Here are nine ways you might mark Pentecost with your kids, with links to more ideas elsewhere.
05/31/2017 By Jared Dees
Using this collection of Pentecost activities will help you bring this important feast day to life for students. With these activities, students will be able to explain the meaning of the word Pentecost, recount the events as they unfolded in the Bible, and explain how the Holy Spirit can be active in their own lives.
10 May Activities for Catholic Families Printable
Happy Mother's Day
How to start a Mary Garden
As we leave Mass on Easter morning, perhaps the sun is shining. Maybe the early birds have returned from their winter away, flitting and calling among the open branches.
Gospel Reflection for Kids
April 18 – Third Sunday of Easter
Luke 24:13-35: Two discouraged disciples are joined by Jesus on the road to Emmaus.
They pour out their hearts to him, but they do not recognize him. Jesus explains the
Scriptures to them. It is only when Jesus takes bread, blesses it, breaks it and gives it
to them that they recognize him.
Thinking back now, was there a time this past week that Jesus was close, but you missed him because you were too busy about other things, or perhaps too upset or too angry?
The week between Palm Sunday and Easter Sunday, Holy Week, is the most sacred time of year. During this special time, we enter into the passion of Christ — his crucifixion, death and resurrection — through liturgical celebration and personal conversion. While the season of Lent is a very important time in the Church, it is helpful to remember that our Lenten practices (prayer, fasting and almsgiving) are meant as preparation for the three days of the Triduum. There’s more help online to help you celebrate Holy Week at home
Feast Day: March 17th
I have a super great round up of printables for Catholic kids on St. Patrick’s day here. It’s a mixture of free printables and affordable stuff, but you definitely don’t want to miss this post. Tons of good resources here!
Patrick grew up in Britain, probably in the early 400s, and was kidnapped by Irish raiders at the age of sixteen. After being enslaved for six years, he managed to escape home.
After returning to Britain, Patrick became a bishop. Then he had a dream in which he heard the Irish calling to him, “We appeal to you, holy servant boy, to come and walk among us.” He traveled back to Ireland, and spent 29 years building the Church there.
Feast Day: March 19th
Saint Joseph was the husband of the Blessed Virgin Mary and the foster-father of Jesus. He was a very good and patient man. Even though he never speaks in the Bible, Saint Joseph was a man of action. When God told him in a dream that it was okay to marry Mary, and when God told him to go to Egypt to save Jesus from Herod, Saint Joseph listened. He always obeyed God even though he did not always understand.
Through his love and care for Jesus and Mary, Saint Joseph showed his love for God. Because he trusted God, Saint Joseph allowed Him to work in his life. Trusting God can be very hard, especially when we cannot see how our story will end or why God is asking us to do something. We can pray to Saint Joseph to help us trust God just as he did.
40 Lent Activities For Families
1. do someone else’s chore
2. give someone a hug
3. help someone
4. make a card for someone
5. make a craft for someone
6. do something nice for Mom/Dad
7. do something kind for the earth
8. read a book to a sibling
9. say something kind to a family member
10. say something kind to a friend
11. play with someone different at recess
12. tell your teacher one thing you like about her
13. smile at as many people as you can
14. write a letter/draw a picture for someone special
15. bake cookies for a friend/neighbor
16. give something of yours to a family member
17. give something of yours to a friend
18. help someone
19. do someone else’s laundry
20. clean a bathroom
21. make someone else’s bed
22. set aside some of your own money for giving to church
23. use your own money to buy food for the food bank
24. fast from TV
25. fast from dessert
26. fast from candy
27. fast from a bad habit
28. fast from sweet drinks
29. fast from meat
30. fast from junk food
31. praise God for who He is
32. spend a few minutes talking to God
33. thank God for your favorite people
34. pray for someone who is sick
35. sing a song of praise to God
36. kneel before God and pray
37. pray for babies
38. pray for someone who needs to know Jesus
39. pray for your parish family
40. read a Bible story together