Monday, April 28, 2014

Heaven IS for Real (and so are miracles)

Like many of you, I read Todd Burpo's book, "Heaven is for Real" a few years back and then had the pleasure of seeing the movie this weekend. If you aren't familiar with the story (spoiler alert), it's the true story of a boy who nearly died during an operation. During his operation he had an experience (we'll discuss what sort of experience later) where he visited heaven. Over the course of several months, he shares the story with his father about what he saw, learned, and experienced.

The story is very moving, but several things really struck me today (more so than when I read the book a few years back). These things relate to children, their spiritual lives, and how we respond to their spiritual experiences. I'll be revealing bits and pieces of the book and movie as I go, so please don't continue reading if it's important to you to be surprised. I won't be posting "spoiler alert" each and every time I mention the book/film.

Colton Burpo is a typical, 4 year-old boy living in Nebraska with his parents and older sister. His father is pastor of the Wesleyan church the family attends. The father's profession figures greatly into this story. Colton suffers a ruptured appendix and undergoes lifesaving surgery. Naturally, his parents are distraught and call many parishioners to pray during the surgery. There are agonizing hours where they are unsure if their little boy will survive or not.

Colton Burpo survives, but that is not the true miracle of this story. In the weeks following, Colton and his dad take a vacation to celebrate his recovery. On the trip, they visit a park. Colton tells his dad he has been there before. His dad assures him they have not. Colton says he was there "when the angels sang to him". At his dad's prompting, Colton reveals more. During the operation, Colton says he left his body. He witnessed his dad praying and shouting with God in the chapel while his mom called parishioners in another part of the hospital. These things happened, but Todd knows Colton would have no way of knowing that.

In the days to come, Colton reveals many things to his father: what Jesus looks like, stories about his deceased great-grandfather, and many more. Todd Burpo struggles. He wants to believe his son, but this doesn't make sense. He didn't die. It wasn't a near-death experience.

Here's where I struggle. Colton's mom does not believe her son. She and many others dismiss him. It's as though they do not believe it's possible for a young child to have a profound, religious experience. It wouldn't bother me so  much if we weren't discussing a pastor's wife and devout parishioners. It made me sad for Colton. Neither the movie or book seemed to show that the unbelievers told Colton directly they didn't believe him.

Children are capable of deep, real, and profound religious experiences.  That's one of the reasons I love Catechesis of the Good Shepherd.We allow children to grow deeply in their relationship with Christ, the Good Shepherd. We never dismiss the child's profound interactions with the mysterious. Rather, we acknowledge and validate it. The video below shows a catechist's plea to bring CGS to her parish and describes the program perfectly.

This weekend, Catholics worldwide celebrated the joyous canonizations of Popes John XXIII and John Paul II. We know that part of the canonization process involves the validation of miracles. This made me reflect further on the film. I'm inclined to believe that if Colton Burpo was Catholic, he would have had a more positive experience and more believers, initially. As Catholics, we look for miracles and know they are everywhere. We witness a miracle each and every time we attend Mass. I think one of the (many) beauties of our faith is our willingness to honor and acknowledge that the bridge between heaven and earth is short and knows no bounds.

Saint John Paul II visiting Sofia Cavalletti in her Rome atria.

Did Colton Burpo visit heaven? I don't know. I do know that something miraculous took place. This miraculous event allowed him to see and experience things that do not seem to be of this world. In my opinion, Colton probably didn't visit heaven. Why do I think that? I think that Colton and those who have near-death experiences do not fully experience heaven. I think heaven is truly beyond description. I think that Colton and those with near-death experiences have miraculous encounters with God, Jesus, angels, and/or deceased loved ones. I do, however, believe these experiences are true and real. And maybe I'm wrong. Maybe they did visit heaven. Either way, it doesn't really matter.  What matters is that someone experienced a miracle and chose to share that miracle with us.

Eventually, Colton Burpo's mother comes to believe him. She learns that Colton met a sister in heaven, the unborn child she had lost in the womb a few years before. It was beautiful to see her come to accept her child's experience as real. I just felt sad that it took her so long to get there.

I hope you leave this post wanting to honor the religious experiences of those children most near and dear to you. You might be humbled, surprised, and inspired by doing so. Do you have stories of your child's miraculous or profound encounter with God? I hope you'll share it in the comments!

Friday, April 25, 2014

(Un) veiled

In an earlier post, I mentioned the need to step up your Catholic game when expecting a child. This is something we should all do now and again: take stock of our spiritual life and add in new practices that we find helpful.

Especially for those readers who don't know me, I thought I should share on a way I stepped up my Catholicism lately and how I discerned it. This is not a post about me being holy, pious, reverent, or a better person/Catholic than anyone. In fact, it's about how I'm a fairly lousy Catholic despite my best efforts and a rotten sinner in need of Christ's mercy on a daily basis. While this doesn't relate directly to Catholic parenting, I hope it will help you see how we all need to regroup our prayer lives now and again and help our children do this as well. Doing this can make us better spouses and parents. In my case, it makes me better at serving others and the Church.

So, how did I step up my game? I recently returned to the ancient practice of veiling at Mass or in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament. It's one of the most difficult things I've ever done for my spiritual life, but it is so very helpful that I find the sacrifices that come with it totally pay off. Unlike other spiritual practices, this is a very public choice. This makes the discernment process a bit more involved than just deciding to say a rosary each night before bed or attend Eucharistic Adoration once a week.

About 2 years ago, my oldest and dearest friend, Amy, announced that she was veiling at Mass and in Adoration. I was intrigued, but it wasn't for me (or so I thought). I asked her about it, did some reading on it, and forgot about it. I saw her in a chapel veil on a few visits, but didn't see how it was relevant to me. I knew another friend, Amanda, veiled but I didn't think it was noteworthy that two holy, inspirational women in my life were veiling. How sad is that? Last Lent, my (then) coworker announced that she was going to veil during Lent. It made me take pause. I did some more reading on veiling and decided to give it a try.

There are many wonderful reasons different women give for veiling and others who struggle with it or don't get as much out of it. I respect a woman's choice in regards to veiling and do not think it is helpful for all. Many Catholic men find it very respectful and value it too, which came as a surprise to me. Here are links to some opinions and personal witnesses which I found helpful in discerning, even if I didn't fully agree with/relate to each of them:

I'm not what some would call a "rad trad". I receive Eucharist in the hand. I attend a Novus Ordo parish and (likely) always will since I don't feel particularly called to the Tridentine Mass. I do enjoy a good Byzantine Liturgy now and then, but that's a whole separate post! Veiling is not for a specific type of person or type of Catholic. I am confident this is the biggest misconception in veiling.

The first time I veiled, I was downright petrified. After a while, I forgot about it and found I liked how it felt on my head. It was like Catholic blinders. I'd start to get sidetracked at Mass, see that piece of lace out of the corner of my eye, and return my focus to the Blessed Sacrament. I veiled for about 2 months and then grew weary of it. It was too much work to remember a veil and bobby pins. It drew too much attention to me. I felt odd if I dressed more casually for Mass and still veiled. And I was being judged by coworkers at the parish where I worked. Notice how all of these reasons are about me, not my relationship with Christ. Hmmm...

Fast forward to the Thursday prior to Palm Sunday. I was at daily Mass and something just struck me during the Eucharistic Prayer. I knew I needed to start veiling again. I went home and texted Amy, asking prayer for the courage to start wearing my veil. Amy promised to pray and then informed me she had stopped veiling as her toddler son was pulling it off and it had become too much of a challenge. That did it for me. I assured her I would begin veiling again for not just myself, but for her as well.

Having moved a few months ago, things are not always easily located. Palm Sunday came and went and I still hadn't located my veils. (Yes. Plural. Veils. I have many. More on that in a minute.) I finally found them and decided I would wear a traditional, black mantilla the rest of Holy Week.For the first few days, I was doing it more for Amy than myself. Somewhere during the Mass of the Lord's Supper, it hit me like a bolt of lightening. God reminded me of a few sins I have been particularly struggling with lately. I felt in my heart that by the humble act of veiling, God was going to help me. I needed to do this to remind myself of submitting to  God, not myself. I won't say anymore, but let's just say I had the feeling of, "Through veiling, God will show me how to stay on a better path."
Getting dressed up for all the special Masses and prayer services, veiling was easy. God was going to help me and life was great. At the Easter Vigil, I was so eager to bust out my beautiful, white mantilla with a lovely cross on the back. My mom's friend approached and introduced herself before Mass and complimented me on the practice of veiling. It was something she had pondered doing but hadn't make a regular habit of it. It validated my decision to veil. Maybe other people needed me to set the example so they could find the courage to veil too. Woo hoo! Veiling felt awesome!

Amy was in town visiting. I caught up with her briefly after Mass. She said, "You look so beautiful." I knew she didn't mean my hair, make up, or dress. I knew she didn't mean I had a beautiful face. I knew she meant I looked humble and prayerful. God's light was shining through me in a different way because I was veiling. (At least, I think this is what she meant.) It warmed my heart and I felt beautiful in the core of my soul. Sure, my soul is stained with sin, but I am showing God, myself, and others that I want to keep trying to do better.

I had trouble sleeping all week and didn't get up for Mass Monday-Thursday, even though my alarm is set each morning. This morning, I awoke 10 minutes before my alarm went off. I thanked God for helping me to wake refreshed and ready for Mass. Then, my stomach dropped. I haven't veiled at daily Mass yet. Shoot. My students will be there. They will all see me. What will my co-workers think? I wavered back and forth about going to Mass or, if I did go, wearing my veil.

"God, help me to do this. I know I need to go to Mass and I know I need to veil. Give me the courage." And God did. I went to Mass, sat in the front pew (I'm like a 5 year-old. I need to see EVERYTHING.) with my veil on. And you know what? I didn't burst into flames. I didn't die of embarrassment. The priest didn't point and say, "Take that off you silly girl." What did happen was I got more out of the Eucharist. I felt more reverent. It also encourages delightful conversations with people about veiling after Mass. That is always worth it.

The Communion hymn at Mass was Twila Paris' "How Beautiful". During the verse:
And as He laid down His life
We offer this sacrifice
That we will live just as he died
Willing to pay the price
Willing to pay the price

 it hit me that it was important for me to make this simple sacrifice of veiling. It was a way to show God my gratitude.

There are plenty of pros and cons each person will face with choosing to veil.  Right now, my reasons for veiling are this:
  • It helps me focus more on the Holy Eucharist.
  • Taking an extra step of reverence when entering Mass or approaching the Blessed Sacrament makes me feel like I'm giving something small back to God.
  • It helps unite me to our Holy Mother who would have always warn a head covering.
  • It makes me less vain about my hair and make-up at Mass.
  • I feel confident God will help me with some struggles in my life as I continue to do this.
  • I veil for those who cannot or will not (but want to) veil right now.
  • It makes me so very humble when I enter church.
I have terrific arguments in my head against it:
  • It's old fashioned.
  • People might stare, laugh, judge, etc.
  • People will think I am trying to be super pious. 
  • I will embarrass my parents, siblings, and niece when we go to Mass.
  • The priest will think I am trying too hard.
Notice the pros are all about my spiritual life and the cons are all about others. I need to put my spiritual life first and take this little step, even if it causes some unnecessary attention at times. I do try to make veiling fun. Traditionally, single women wore white and married women wore black. I wear veils of all different styles and colors. Some are ones I have made and others are ones I have purchased. I've seen some really cool crocheted ones I like. I hope to learn crocheting soon so I can make even more.  I try to match the veils to my outfit and/or the liturgical season.Veiling can be awkward enough for me at times, so having a little fun with it helps get me excited over it.

I am not saying veiling is for everyone. It helps me, but it may not benefit you (or your wife, daughter, etc.). You need to experiment with prayer and Catholicism to find something new and different that helps you. If you have older children (ages 10+), help them experiment with their faith through praying the rosary, saying a novena, memorizing a new prayer, or attending Eucharistic Adoration... whatever it might be that is new to them. Whether it's a chapel veil, saying a rosary, attending daily Mass, or going to Confession more often, take time to discern how an extra step in your spiritual life can help you and your family members. Like me, I am sure you'll be pleasantly surprised.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Infants, Toddlers, and Mass Attendance

Parents know it's a crazy adventure taking a young child anywhere. There's the diaper bag, the bottles or snacks, the blanket, the toys, the car seat, the stroller, and then some. How parents of even 1 survive with a vehicle smaller than a minibus, I'll never know. Taking children to Mass to requires no less organization and planning, but it can require less gear than you might be thinking you need or are currently bringing.

It's important you start bringing your child to Mass each time you go as soon as possible. For most infants, this means within the first few weeks of life. Obviously, there are extenuating circumstances (premature infants or those with health problems who can't risk public exposure, etc.), but especially once your child is baptized you should really try to get him/her to Mass each week. This might seem difficult and stressful but with some simple tips, you should be able to make it easier on your family.

  • Take your child's schedule into consideration. Attend Mass at a time when he/she is most likely to be already rested and fed. This is tougher with an infant, but will become more doable over time. It's also harder with several children on different schedules, but do your best. Flexibility is a huge part of being a parent and Mass attendance requires this flexibility. 
  • Once your child begins potty training, hit the bathrooms before you leave the  house and as you enter the church. This will establish the habit that we don't leave the sanctuary during Mass (if at all possible).
  • Sit up front. I know this is stressful for some folks and we know Catholics don't like the front pew, but this will be helpful for many reasons. As your child grows, he/she will want to see what's going on. Sometimes, I think children fuss because they cannot see or experience what is happening. Sitting in the first 5 pews or so allows your child to be close to the action. Feel free to sit near an aisle so you can escape quickly, if need be.
  • Use cry rooms sparingly, if at all. Cry rooms are great and have their place. You never know when a child is going to start screaming uncontrollably and need a quiet place to regroup. Don't make the cry room a habit because then your child will have a much tougher time sitting through Mass as he/she grows. Go to the cry room when you cannot quickly/easily quiet your child. Return to Mass as soon as your child is ready.
  • Narrate the Mass. At some point (I am guessing between the ages of 1-2), most parents start narrating things to teach their child and increase vocabulary. "We are walking past the blue house."  "Mom is making chicken for supper." We need to make this a part of Mass with our infant and toddler children. "We are hearing the First Reading." "Father Bill is giving the homily." "Mom and Dad are receiving Jesus in the Eucharist." Your child is likely to be less fussy and antsy if he/she knows what's going on as he/she grows. Plus, quiet whispering in the ear should keep them feeling engaged even if they don't understand what's happening. When you enter church, walk around, point things out, and teach them. 
  • Participate. Your child will struggle to learn the prayers, responses, and songs if you never say them. Instead of singing/saying them aloud, whisper them to your child if you're holding him/her. I am confident children struggle to learn prayers because when we say them all together, they cannot discern the different words. If you whisper the prayers to them, they will focus more on your voice and begin learning the individual words. Case in point: until I was old enough to read, I was sure the words to the hymn "Glory and Praise to Our God" sang about "and alone gives thy do-or-days." This never made sense until I was old enough to use a hymnal and learned it was "and alone gives light to our days." 
  • Pack light. Stick to one blanket or cuddly toy and a bottle (or breast-feeding cover). For infants, I recommend the doll be the Baptism Bear or the Loving Jesus Doll rather than just their normal teddy. For a toddler, consider finding their patron saint from Soft Saints. The more you pack when your child is young, the more they will expect snacks, toys, and distractions as they grow. Plus, having this special toy just for church will make it a relaxing, pleasant time. Of course, bring the diaper bag if you're expecting to have to change the little one and don't forget spit up rags and other essentials. Just leave out the rattles, books, and other things.
        Lest you think I'm crazy about how important Mass attendance is for these little ones, I'd like to point out that our own Holy Father agrees with me. I feel for those of you who have pastors who discourage little ones in the sanctuary during Mass. However, I think if you take these or similar steps, encourage your friends and family to do the same, we can show priests how these littlest parishioners do belong in Mass.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014


Happy Easter! Alleluia! Christos voskrese! Voistinu voskrese! (Christ is risen! He is risen indeed!)

Parson my absence from this site. I really took some great time this Holy Week to attend many Masses and Church services (Chrism Mass, Mass of the Lord's Supper, Tenebrae, Easter Vigil, etc.) to help me immerse in the Triduum and spiritually prepare for a glorious Easter Season. Now, it's back to work for this blogger and educator.

This  post has been rolling around in my head for the past week and a half. I finally have the courage (and proper words) to share it. I have an 8 year-old niece who is preparing to make her First Communion on Sunday. I couldn't be more excited for her, but I had a really sad moment with her in the car about 10 days ago.

We were driving to her mom's house and used the 40 minute drive to blare some music. She was using my tablet and put on some country music she knew. I had to burst out laughing when she started singing about "drinking cheap wine". When I told her I was laughing at her singing about drinking, she said, "What? I'll be drinking it in two weeks!" I chuckled, turned down the radio, and decided to take advantage of this catechetical moment.

"Well, J, you know it isn't really wine. It's Jesus' Blood."- Aunt Kathy

"No, it's not."- J

"Yes, honey. It is. A miracle  happens every time we go to Mass. We don't know how it happens, but we know the bread changes to Jesus' Body and the wine becomes his Blood." -Aunt Kathy

"It does not." -J

"It looks like bread and wine. It tastes the same, but it's very different." Aunt Kathy

At this point, I decide to drop it. J is giving me annoyed looks and shaking her head. She has had a long, exhausting weekend. She is tired and cranky. She has to get up for school in 12 hours. Now is not the time to argue about transubstantiation.

I wait a few days and bring this to my mother's attention. Mom has been J's primary catechist (more on that later). Mom is a high school theology teacher with an M.A. in theology. She is floored when I tell her this. "We've had conversations about it, not just what's in her book. I was sure she understood it." Mom is used to working with older kids. I reassure her that this is very normal and she shouldn't feel bad. I just reiterate the importance to talk with her some more in the next week or two.

My brother has been in and out of the Catholic faith since he was a teen. Right now, he attends Mass but doesn't receive Communion or practice much beyond that. He is an amazing father who support J 100% on her faith journey. She was baptized as an infant, but only one of her godparents was Catholic. My sister doesn't attend Mass right now, so that leaves my parents and I to help J on her faith journey. My brother has always left it up to her: if she wants to keep studying the faith, she can. He will not force her to receive the sacraments.

J spends 5 days/week living in a very small town that's predominantly Amish and Mennonite. The nearest Catholic Church is about 20 miles from where she is. No one on her mom's side of the family practices any religion (to my knowledge). On the weekends, she is at my brother's and often spends about half that visit with my parents. There, she leads us in grace and attends Mass. Starting around the age of 5, she would point to the altar during the consecration and say, "When can I do that?"

We talked about waiting until 2nd grade. We showed her the photos of my siblings and I receiving First Communion. Since RE classes didn't fit with her visitation schedule, my mom began home schooling her for religious instruction beginning in 1st grade. She seemed to enjoy her studies.

This year was the big year. She received Reconciliation a couple of months ago. Last weekend she attended a retreat where she baked bread, make a craft depicting Real Presence, and practiced receiving Communion. All that, combined with her studies and regular Mass attendance and she's still fighting me on Real Presence. Sigh. My mom and I have failed her and the Church... or have we?

A few days before this discussion with J, I read this amazing blog post. I thought of my dad- a Byzantine Catholic who switched to the Roman Rite around age 7 or 8 when his parents made the decision to switch. He received all 3 Sacraments of Initiation as a child. I thought of those 3 years of J asking for when she could receive the Eucharist. Would she have ever doubted if we had just been able to say, "That's Jesus. Would you like to receive Him next weekend?"

I could go on for pages, but I won't. J is a little girl who loves going to Mass. When she received her Rice  Bowl, she emptied all 3 of her piggy banks (spend, save, and share- her tithing bank) into her Rice Bowl. Every time she earned money this Lent, she put all of it into her Rice Bowl. When the parish did a survey and wanted feedback from teens through adults, she spent nearly an hour trying to understand the survey and filling it out even though she's just a kid. She brought it to the pastor who agreed to take her feedback into account along with the adults of the parish because she cared so much. On Easter morning, she hustled everyone to the car in hopes of getting there in time to bring up the gifts. Her favorite song at Mass is the Alleluia. On Easter Sunday, when the opening chords of the organ rang out before the gospel, she leapt to her feet with a grin on her face, touched her hand to her heart, and sighed with contentment. So, do I have any doubt J is ready to receive Jesus in the Eucharist? No, I don't.

It took me a few days to get past this. I didn't fail J. My mom didn't fail J. The parish DRE didn't fail J. The Catholic faith failed her. Using traditional means of catechesis don't help children connect with Christ and the Sacraments. We teach to the head and not the heart. So, when I tried to speak to J's heart about the Eucharist, she just wasn't there. I think her head gets it. I don't want to insist on holding her back from the sacrament. I am sure she is not the only one who will be there next week who doesn't fully understand that Jesus is the Eucharist. I can only stand back and pray that she feels it. I can trust the sacramental graces to do their work and bring J closer to Christ.

So, what does this have to do with the purpose of First Catechists? I'm trying to show how tough it is to raise a child in the faith. J attends Mass flocked by two theologians and even we couldn't fully help her prepare for First Communion. She is only being exposed to the faith 2 days/week. She needs to live it and breathe it on a daily basis. We do our best with the time and resources we have. I am  proud that she wants to stay Catholic and wants to make First Communion. Our family will continue to do the best we can for J. I'll trust J.C. to do the rest.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Preparing to be a Catechist

Congratulations! You're expecting your 1st, 3rd, or 10th (this is a Catholic blog, after all) child. Chances are there is a lot to be done in 9 months time:

  • Find a pediatrician
  • Ready the nursery
  • Wash the baby clothes in Dreft
  • Take a childbirth class
  • Take a baptismal prep class
  • Start a college fund
  • Start looking at day cares/child care providers (if you'll need them)
And many other countless tasks and purchases you'll need to make to get ready for the newest addition to your family.

When my friends or family members are pregnant there is lots of talking about hoping for a happy,  healthy child. Sometimes there are preferences (usually by siblings of the soon-to-be-newborn) about gender. Rarely, if ever, have I had someone say, "I hope my child is a good Catholic" or "I hope my child will be a saint". And, yet, isn't that our primary goal? To help our loved ones become a saint?

To clarify, let's step back and remember that we are all called to sainthood. You heard that right. You, myself, that annoying friend who always needs a favor, and Adolf Hitler are all called to be saints. Our primary goal in life is to achieve sainthood. Now, I don't necessarily mean canonization. (Though I would make a phenomenal patron saint of nappers.) We must remember that in the Church, anyone who gets to heaven is a saint. We hope and pray that at the end of times we will find ourselves reunited with everyone who ever walked the earth. We pray for the souls in purgatory that they can make peace and earn their way to heaven as well.

How much will you do to prepare your child for a good education and success in sports or hobbies? You are probably planning on investing much time, effort, and money into these areas. That's wonderful. You should since it's important your child get a solid education and have chances to participate in extracurricular activities. But what are you going to do in those early months and years to prepare your child for sainthood? Shouldn't even more time and effort be spent in this area? And here's the great thing- faith is free. No down payment required.

Expecting parents should take the time to pray daily for their child. Take a few moments, preferably as a couple, to thank God at the beginning and end of each day for this gift of life. Ask God to show you how to raise your child to be strong in his/her faith. If you're a single parent, do this on your own or ask friends and extended family to pray with you. Prayer is the first step to becoming your child's first catechist.

Now, you need to take some time to reflect on how your practice your Catholic faith. Are you a Christmas and Easter (C & E) Catholic who goes to Mass twice a  year at best? Do you go to Mass once or twice a month but not make it a priority? Do you go weekly? Or even daily? Do you pray before meal times? Do you say a rosary once a week as a family? It doesn't matter where you are in your faith journey. You need to look at it, take stock, and discern how you will integrate this new child into that practice. You also need to discern if your practice will meet his/her spiritual needs to grow close to God and prepare for sainthood.

If you don't go to Mass very often or struggle with your prayer life, parents can use these 9 months to practice discipline in their spiritual life. Your schedule is about to be turned upside down once your new addition comes into this world, so building habits now will make it easier for you to keep them up later. Even if you struggle to keep them up after the child is born, you'll at least miss them enough to try integrating them back into your life.

My advice here is simple. If you go to Mass twice a year, don't commit to going once/week right away. You'll likely fail. Build this habit slowly. Try to make it to Mass once/month. If/when you desire to go more, please do. Take stock of how you feel after Mass and how it helps you throughout the week. Much like with exercise or eating healthy, you need to see the benefits before you'll desire to continue making this a habit. See if by the 3rd trimester you can work yourself up to going 2 or 3 times/month. Likewise, if you go to Mass every week, see about adding a daily Mass once or twice a month. If you are a daily Mass goer, see about saying a decade of the rosary before or after Mass. Or attend Eucharistic adoration once/week. Look up new novenas or prayers to learn. Find little ways to "step up" your spiritual game plan.

You are helping yourself and your spouse grow closer to God. You are preparing one another for sainthood. You are praying for your unborn child which benefits him/her. You are familiarizing (or re-familiarizing) yourself with the Catholic faith. Learning what fuels you, spiritually, will help you fuel your child's spiritual life in the years to come.

The great thing about this is that these baby steps will benefit you, your spouse, and your growing family. In future posts, I'll discuss how to take your infant, toddler, and older child to Mass. 

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Samples and Help Request

Yesterday I encountered an awful glitch with my First Catechist project. I am writing a series of children's worship aids to help Catholic kids connect the liturgy to their lives. To my knowledge, no program of this nature exists. Worship bulletins teach the kids the readings and, perhaps, what they mean but do not aid in that intimate encounter with Christ. I am striving to change that.

Unfortunately, my laptop (it was bought refurbished 5 years ago) decided to die. I have some tremendous folks willing to loan me older laptops to get by, for which I am VERY grateful. Unfortunately, to make this project a success I really need to purchase a good laptop and updated software ASAP. Here's where I am asking your help.

First, check out some samples of my work (below) so you can see what this project entails and get an idea for how it will help kids ages 3-12 better connect with the liturgy. These are the only samples I had saved in Google docs. Everything else is saved in MS Publisher and I cannot access it at this time. If you like what you see, please consider giving $5-10 towards my Go Fund Me link. In gratitude, you will receive copies of my first 12 weeks of Liturgical Reflections for kids. Each reflection will be emailed in a .pdf and you will receive all three versions for 12 weeks (ages 3-6, 6-9, and 9-12). Dates of subscription TBD based on how soon I can get a loaner laptop with Publisher.

The idea is to print and use the reflections before Mass to help the child understand what is being discussed. If parents struggle to keep children focused, you could have them use these during the homily. It's not ideal, but better than playing with toys or doing activities not helping them understand Mass.

Liturgical Reflections (working title):
Holy Thursday, ages 3-6 Unfortunately, the conversion process messed up formatting and changed one of the fonts (it was a dashed letter that kids could trace). You can still get the gist of it.
Holy Thursday, ages 6-9
Holy Thursday, ages 9-12

These are designed to be printed, front-to-back, on 8 1/2 by 14 paper and folded into a booklet. Parents can use a binder or scrapbook to keep and organize weekly bulletins. By participating in this program, your child will have a weekly journal of his/her relationship with Christ and understanding of the Mass. There is NO GREATER GIFT than that.

Thanks and God bless!!

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Volunteers Needed!

Parents, do your children often sit through Mass entirely unengaged? How many of you have to bribe/entertain your young children with toys, coloring books, or snacks? Are you a frequent visitor of cry rooms, nurseries, and/or Sunday School classes for your little ones instead of having them in Mass with you? Do you struggle with whether or not your child is getting ANYTHING out of Mass until he/she is old enough to receive the Blessed Sacrament?

This is far from unusual nor is it anything you should feel badly about. The Church has been slow to provide spiritual materials to help your children understand and apply liturgy to their daily life. We ask parents to attend baptismal prep classes, send them on their own for 7 years, and expect their children to be engaged come 2nd grade when it's time for First Communion.

What can and should we be doing during those 7 years and in the years to follow? A lot! Have you ever seen a children's worship bulletin? I won't badmouth other companies here, but these are companies that use the Lectionary readings to make little puzzles and activities. Parishes often use these during Children's Liturgy of the Word and/or hand them out before Mass. The theory behind them is EXCELLENT. The little puzzles and games help the kids remember what the readings were and/or learn what Jesus says. Unfortunately, they do not help the children apply the readings to their faith or their life nor do they help the children unpack the meaning behind these readings.

I want to help. I am presently working on a children's bulletin series that helps your children understand the liturgical calendar, what the readings mean, and/or reflect on how to apply the meetings to their young lives. The bulletins will be for ages 3-6, 6-9 and 9-12. Ideally, children can use these before Mass to help them understand the readings. If your children are too antsy during the homily, that would be a time to utilize these though I highly recommend helping your kids sit through the homily. (More on that at a later date.)

I am rolling out samples for all of Holy Week: Palm Sunday, Holy Thursday, Good Friday, Easter Vigil, and Easter Sunday. If you have kids in the age ranges given (or grandkids, nieces, nephews, neighbors, etc.), get in touch with me via FB, or email. If you aren't a personal friend, I have a generic email you can use: I will send you either hard copies or .pdf copies to print and check out for your feedback. It is my hope to spend the next 3 years writing this series and then being able to offer subscriptions to both parishes and individuals after it gets off the ground.