Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Momento Mori {Activities for Halloween, All Souls, and All Saints}

My new students are chomping at the bit for the end of October to get here, but it is not actually (entirely) because of costumes and candy.  During our current units about the life and mission of Jesus, we have talked about the Four Last Things, the role of Jesus as Savior, and the presence of evil in the world.  I have promised them long sessions discussing these topics further as well as open Q & A about their remaining questions on good/evil, scary movies, demonic possession, youtube gamers faking scary things, how to become a Saint, why relics aren't weird and more.  They've been storing up some tough questions (pray for me!) and I know that we are going to have great discussions.

I'm so glad that I have a wealth of info and truth to pull on from the Catholic Church as I prepare for these conversations, and that my previous experience led me to create some Halloween, All Saints, and All Souls Day resources.  I've linked my favorites at the end of this post for you to use too! Don't pass this season by without using the opportunity to teach about deep truths of the faith found in the Liturgical Year.

To take it up a notch and to connect to our current unit, I'm going to incorporate the ancient teaching of Momento Mori- "Remember Your Death."  This idea is not dark or depressing, it is a call as Christians to remember that this life is a mere drop in the bucket compared to eternity.  The way we live now should always be with our death and heaven in mind.  Many (including 2000 years of Saints) have already written about Momento Mori, so check out these articles for more info:
Momento Mori- Five Benefits to Remembering Your Death
Momento Mori- How Religious Orders Remember Death
Momento Mori- How a Skull on Your Desk will Change Your Life

To bring a little Momento Mori into my classroom, as we study this topic and through the month of November (the Liturgical month to remember the Poor Souls in Purgatory), we'll keep this skull, momento mori sign, prayer for the faithful departed, and a book to record the names of the dead in the prayer corner of our classroom. If you'd like to create your own sign and book for the names of the faithful departed, you can click on the image below to get the printables. 

And now here's a repost of my top 12 activities for Halloween, All Saints Day, and All Souls Day, which are some of my favorite celebrations of the year!

1. Tying All Hallows Eve in with All Saints and All Souls Day has been a part of my curriculum for several years.  This post has a mini coloring book and many coloring pages about those topics. Click on the image to go to the post:

In that post, there is an All Saints Day page with a list of great Saints who can be intercessors in kids lives.  I love to introduce them to new Saints and give them some heavenly heroes to look up to and be inspired by. They also love using the Saints Name Generator to learn about new Saints and chose patrons.  Click on the image to go to the post:

2. Litany of the Saints and All Souls prayer cards:
My students loved these.  I took the general opening/closing for most litanies and put it on one side of the prayer cards.  On the other side they get to create their own "All Star" cast. Oh, and we'll be listening to this song as well.

We will also use these prayer cards with the Eternal Rest prayer on one side and a place to list specific people on the back.  We plan to use this prayer card for the rest of the month as November is dedicated to praying for all souls in purgatory.  It would also be a great resource any time of the year to teach about the Spiritual Works of Mercy, or for kids who are experiencing a death and working through grief.  (You may be interested in my post on Helping Kids Grieve.)

3. We love this All Saints Day art project. Click on the image to go to a post with step-by-step instructions and ideas:

4. If a whole art project won't be in the works during your celebration, I have several Saints coloring pages you can use instead. The growing list of coloring pages can be found under this tab and then under the Saints heading.

 5. You could quickly make these easy Saint shrines.  This one features St. Joseph, but you could have each student pick a different Saint and then display them all together.  Click on the image for the post with details:

 6. Practice some writing skills and intercessory prayer with these All Saints and All Souls Day Letters.  Click on either image to go to the post:

 7. You could play this Beatitude and Modern Saints game, which is modeled after the idea of Old Maid, but introduces kids to facts about eight modern Saints and the Beatitude they exemplified.  And instead of the "Old Maid" card, there is a "Bad-Attitude" card in the mix.  (Get it? Be-attitude, bad-attitude...I know, groan.)  Click on the image to go to the post:

8. Here's a whole playlist of videos on YouTube about Saints or the Canonization process.  Click on the image to go to the post:

9. Here's a Happy All Saints Day coloring page: (Click on image for the file)

10. An easy and cool art project is to make giant Saint medal using tin foil and a coloring page of a Saint (or student drawing).  I always have the kids make Miraculous Medals like this during our St. Maximilian Kolbe unit, but I had several early finishers ask if they could make a Saint medal too.  Here we have St. Max:

Sts. George, Elizabeth Ann Seton, Hubert, and Christopher:

And St. John Paul II. Click on any of those images to read about our Miraculous Medals and you can use the same technique for Saints.

11. This post gives you seven ideas for celebrating a Patron Saint Day (ours is St. Joseph) but many of the ideas would transfer to All Saints Day as well.  Click on the image to go to the post:

12.  We aren't actually doing this on All Saints Day, but my class has made it a point to celebrate the specific patron Saints of each class with them throughout the school year.  So on St. Vincent de Paul's feast day, we sent 2nd Grade a card, and on St. John Paul II's feast day we sent one to 3rd grade, etc.  You wouldn't have to wait all year though- using a list of classroom Saints, have your class send each of them a card on All Saints Day.  You could also do this for name Saints or patron Saints of your friends and family members.

So there you have it!  Tons of options, so don't let this great Solemnity pass you by! :)
How will you be celebrating All the Saints with the kids in your life?  I'd love to hear from you in the comments!

Wednesday, October 3, 2018

Mass Reflection Sheet Graphic Organizer

You all responded so enthusiastically to the Lectio Divina Graphic Organizer I posted last week, so it encouraged me to update or create some of the other graphic organizers I've been meaning to share.  Here's a new one to aid kids with paying attention and reflecting on the Mass.

This graphic organizer is general and can be used for any Sunday or weekday Mass.  I also kept the info boxes vague, so they could be used for a variety of types reflections for kids of different ages/interests/abilities.

A few ideas for how you could use these pages with your children or students:
-Use to prepare before Mass.  Read the Scripture readings and write about each, preparing to later hear them at Mass.
-Plan a personal intention to offer that Mass for
-Bring a copy to Mass (could have several blank copies in a binder, 3-prong folder, or clipboard) and take notes during Mass
-Use as a post Mass reflection.  After attending Mass, reread the Scripture readings, taking notes about what stood out.  Jot down a few things from the homily, and come up with an action item for the week.

***Just a note after some feedback about this tool- you have to know your kids/students and what resources will be a help and what will be a hindrance.  Some kids need the prep before Mass, some can do the follow up after.  I think that using a Mass journal when the kids are with their families on Sundays could be a great option (I know I love my Every Sacred Sunday Journal!).  But I also understand how we'd never want to remove the reverence from the Mass and attention to the beauty of the liturgy.  This is not meant to be treated like an assignment that is completed during the Mass.  You have to decide how you encourage rapt attention during and application after attending a weekday or Sunday Mass- and it is our privilege and responsibility as parents/teachers to determine the best way to do this.***

 A few ideas for things to write in the boxes for the readings:
(You could start by requiring students follow one way of recording thoughts, then introduce another option, and eventually let them choose what fits them and the particular Mass best)
-Write a favorite verse from the reading
-Create a summary of the reading
-List questions you still have about the reading
-Describe what this reading helps you understand about God
-Write a connecting topic you want to research
-Jot down any words or ideas you still want help understanding
-Connect the reading to your own life
-Name something different you will do this week because of this reading
-Draw a picture of what happened in the reading
-Summarize the message of the reading in one phrase
-Reflect on what theme connects all of the readings

I'm sure you'll think of lots of ways this graphic organizer could be useful in your classroom or home!

Click here to download the pdf of the Mass Reflection Page:
(If you have a specific idea or wording that you think would work better for your students, email me at looktohimandberadiant (at) gmail (dot) com and I'll send you an editable version!
P.S. I offered my Mass this morning for Look to Him and Be Radiant readers, their students, and their families.  Then, we got to the Communion Antiphon, and guess what it was... "Look toward the Lord and be radiant!" God is good, and be assured of my prayers for you!

Friday, September 28, 2018

Saint Cards- Check Out This New Game! (and how to win a set for yourself!)

If you've been around the blog for very long, you know that I LOVE Saint cards- I love collecting them, sharing them with people, and even had a classroom management system built around Saint cards.  I think they are an incredible way to tangibly teach about our heavenly heroes and inspire virtue.

So when I heard about this new Saint Cards game set, I checked them out, and was super excited with what I saw.  I backed them on Kickstarter, and my game set arrived a couple of weeks ago.  I am so impressed with the thought and detail that went into this family-created game.  The set includes 147 cards, storage box and bag, jewels (for keeping score), and full color detailed instructions.

The cards themselves pack in a HUGE amount of info about each featured Saint, amounting to an entire biography in symbols and colors.  I love that there is so much to be learned while playing any version of the game.

The set comes with references and detailed instructions for group play (as well as solitaire) but there could be tons of variations.  (You can see the rules and even watch videos of standard play here.) Already a set of my students were playing and adapted the rules to play more like Uno.  I also used them for an out-of-your-seat large group activity where the students drew a random card and then were challenged to find another person in the room with the most common characteristics.  They then had to introduce their Saints and explain all the connections for them to count.  I also think the cards would make a great discussion starter for families to pull out one Saint at a time and talk about the attributes of the that virtuous person.  The possibilities are really limitless and could be adapted to be used with preschoolers all the way through adults.  It's so nice to come across a faithful, well made, flexible game, so I wanted to share it with you!

And, Saint Cards was excited to share as well, so they sent me two extra sets to give to you! Along with Jared Dees' new book Christ in the Classroom (reviewed in my last Katie Reads Post) and two Wee Believers Vocations Doll, two people will win a whole set of catechetical goodies over on my Instagram account.  Click here to enter before Sunday, September 30th at midnight!

(Just a note- this isn't a sponsored post- I purchased my own set of Saint Cards, but love them so much I wanted to share them with you too!)

Wednesday, September 26, 2018

Lectio Divina Graphic Organizer

I've written before about using the Lectio Divina method of praying with Scripture, and it remains my favorite way to read the Bible both with adults and with my students. In my new job teaching jr. high religion, we have a Lectio Divina task once a week and I've noticed that especially the 6th graders, who are new to this method, need a little support. Rather than continue to repeat the answers to the same questions, I decided to make graphic organizer they can put in their prayer journals. You can get your own copy at the end of the post.

And to make an easy reference tool, I also made it into a poster version to hang in the classroom. If you follow me on Instagram, you might have seen how I made this- I projected the graphic organizer onto my smart board, and with the touch sensitivity turned off, traced it onto a piece of chart paper. I don't usually go to that much work when I am making an anchor chart, but since this is one I anticipate leaving up for a long time, it is nice to have it neat and easy to read.  I also think that it is a strength that the chart matches the student version, helping them recognize and retain the information.

If you'd like to use this graphic organizer but have different prompts or questions for your students, I also made a blank version you could have them fill in themselves. Or you also could use it as a guideline for Lectio Divina notes on a particular Scripture passage.  How ever you use it, Lectio Divina a beautiful way to help your students, small group, or yourself to engage with the Bible!

Check out this post for printable Lectio Divina Bookmarks and a seven part Way of Light Bible Study for teens or adults.

Click here for the graphic organizer:

Click here for the blank graphic organizer:

Thursday, September 20, 2018

Katie Reads {13} What I Read This Summer

Summer may have flown by, but one thing I made sure to do a lot of this summer was read.  A few weeks ago I shared a few new kids' books, and now here are the books I read for me. :)  Forgive the very long post- I'm overdue to share these with you, and the stack of books (literally and figuratively) needs to be shelved so I can move on to the next pile!

-This post contains Amazon Affiliate links. That means that if you click through and purchase something, I will receive a small commission at no cost to you.
-Some of the books were sent to me for consideration by the publisher or author, as denoted below. I only recommend things I use and love and want to share with you. All opinions are my own. :)
***Pauline Books & Media provided me with a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
+++Ave Maria Press provided me with a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
###Author provided me with a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

First up, a few fiction selections, and then on to a bunch of non fiction.

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows
  • This. Book.  I can't get enough.  Just this summer, I read it twice and also listened to the audio book twice.  I absolutely loved it, and just looking at the cover makes me want to start it all over again.
  • First, I have to admit that I was suppose to read this book ten years ago.  It was a book club pick, but when I had the borrowed copy, I didn't make it a priority and ended up passing it back without reading it.  I went to the book club, but don't remember a thing about the conversation relating to the book (it was one of those book clubs).  Fast forward to earlier this summer and I'd heard that it had been made into a movie in England and it was coming to Netflix. That same week I had seen a copy at a thrift store and snatched it up.  A couple friends and I talked about it, and I ended up starting it that night at bedtime and proceeded to read it from cover to cover. We later watched the movie, and while very different (I could do a whole post just on that) I loved it too.
  • So after hopefully convincing you that it is now one of my favorite books, I'll fill you in that it is a story set in post WWII England and takes place entirely in the form of letters. (Much like my beloved Dear Mr. Knightley and Daddy Long Legs).  ALL of the characters contribute so much to the development of the story and it is much more than just the romance (which is the focus of the movie).  If you are into audiobooks, which are not usually my favorite, this one has a whole cast of characters reading this different parts, and their voices and expression had me laughing and crying.  I highly recommend it!
Darcy's Story by Janet Aylmer

  • If you've read many of my other Katie Reads post you know I've got a thing for Jane Austen.  I'll sometimes pick up an adaptation to try and since this was another thrift store find, it was worth the risk.  This book is retelling of Pride and Prejudice but entirely from Darcy's perspective, so the reader learns things which piece together his background and decisions, but it also "left out" of some of Elizabeth's point of view from the original, so it definitely will be better enjoyed by those who know the original story well.  
  • There are a lot of adaptations out there and I've tried quite a few, but sometimes I decide to pass after the first few chapters.  This one kept me reading because the author really captured Jane Austen's language and storytelling, but without being cumbersome and wordy.  A retelling doesn't need to be 300 pages long.  I also enjoyed the similar subtle wit woven into the characters and her take on the behind the scenes of Darcy's motives and thoughts.  It was a fun, light summer read and I think any Austen fan would enjoy it.
The Martian by Andy Weir
  • Not my typical first choice of book, but while staying at my sister and brother-in-law's over the summer I got teased per usual about the stack of reading I had brought on vacation and how quickly I was going through them.  Somehow watching the movie the Martian came up, and I mentioned that I had been wanting to see it.  My brother-in-law Luke directly pulled the book off the shelf, handed it to me, and insisted I read it first.  I started flipping through it to appease him, but quickly was engrossed in the fast paced plot line.  Later that night, my other sister and brother-in-law arrived, and Steven also insisted that I read it.  Neither of those guys are big readers, especially of novels, so I figured that there must be something too it.  
  • Needless to say, a couple of days later I finished up this book and really enjoyed the humor, the intelligence (not to say that I think all the science is legit yet, just enjoyed the smart dialogue and problem solving) and the fast paced suspenseful plot.  We also rented the movie while we were together, and I, engrossed in the plot of the book, was appalled at how much they cut out.  Be aware that Matt Damon's survival in the movie is a cinch compared to the real drama of the book.
Major Pettigrew's Last Stand by Helen Simonson
  • Last fall when I traveled to Georgia for a speaking engagement, I got to meet and spend time with a sweet reader (Hi, C!) who upon my arrival gifted me with this book because she thought I might enjoy it based on previous Katie Reads posts.  Isn't that just the nicest?  Unfortunately, I didn't get around to reading it until this summer, but am glad I picked it back up. 
  • While honestly a little slow at the beginning, this book weaves a compelling tale of flawed characters, the decisions they make, and the meaning and purpose of their lives.  It made me reflect on the very real people surrounding me and the things they hoped for, the things they regret, the things they don't feel like anyone else understands.  By the end of the book, I just wanted to pull up a cozy chair next to Major Pettigrew and drink a cup of tea (from Mrs. Ali's shop, of course) and listen to his stories.  If you liked The Awakening of Miss Prim, you'll like this one too.
Granite Mountain by Brendan McDonough
  • This was another book I wouldn't normally have picked up, but my dad handed it to me and told me that I should read it.  Written by the lone survivor of a team of Hotshot firefighters from Arizona, McDonough shares how becoming one of the prestigious and tough Hotshots literally saved him from a life of crime and drugs.  He served alongside a group of men who were willing to risk it all, an in a tragic series of events were all killed while battling the 2013 Yarnell Hill Fire. Brendan was scouting nearby but made it to safety, and the book includes how he dealt with surviving and his call to action to improve firefighter safety.  
  • Bringing to the forefront the sacrifices some are willing to make for the protection of others, this book reminded me of the fervent prayers and support needed by our first responders and military.  It also reminded me that no one is too far gone to be saved.  Everyone deserves to have someone who invests in them, challenges them, and calls them to be better. 

Mary, Mother of the Apostles by Giuseppe Forlai ***
  • Featuring just over 100 pages, this little book packs in some serious doctrine and helps define and defend the importance of Marian devotion.  I mistook it's size for a quick read, and while it has been, it is also theologically rich and presents a multitude of Scripture references and selected readings from other Marian theologians like St. John Paul II, Bl. James Alberione, and St. Louis de Montfort.  I'm leading a Marian Consecration group later this fall, so this was the perfect refresher to get me excited about helping others (and myself) better know and love the Mother of the Apostles.
Hidden Figures by Margot Lee Shetterly
  • I completely enjoyed the movie based on this book that came out a couple of years ago, so when I found this copy of the book at a thrift store I picked it up for a road trip read.  I really liked how it gave so much more background on the women and their families and told the story of many more than the three main characters in the movie.  
  • Naturally, the movie had to "Hollywood" the topic and make a more linear plot, but the book gives all the background insight into their lives as well as the unique story behind the author and the book's creation.
Jesus of Nazareth and Jesus of Nazareth, the Infancy Narratives by Pope Benedict XVI
  • Well, the short version is to say that these books are blowing me away.  After having Pope Benedict's series on Jesus recommended in two different books I was reading, I abandoned the other books and ordered myself some nice (used) hardback copies of what I hoped would be a fruitful study, but one that I could understand and soak in without having to reread each page three times. I have not been disappointed.  
  • Pope Benedict's wisdom and teaching style has given me new insights into the Gospels, the person of Christ, and God's plan for salvation.  I am rereading some pages three times, not for lack of understanding, but because I'm underlining and taking notes in the margins and cross referencing in my Bible.  
  • While I can't say the scholarly approach of this series replaces my first love for Fulton Sheen's Life of Christ, Pope Benedict's collection definitely makes it into the top ten of books that have most formed my faith.  I have the third book,  Jesus of Nazareth, Holy Week on my bedside table, and I haven't decided if I should just start it now or read it during Lent.  If you've read it, what would you do?

The Catholic Hipster Handbook by Tommy Tighe
  • This is a fun one I've had on my coffee table for a while, but read through it this summer and thought I would share with you.  Each chapter features a "Hipster" (or unknown/unique/cool) thing about being Catholic, some funny and modern, some special and traditional, some even weird and forgotten.  Those varied chapters also come with varied authors, featuring some of the Whos Who of the Catholic Social Sphere (including Jeannie Gaffigan).
  • A fun book to have around and read a little at a time, this one would also make an entertaining gift for your favorite hard to buy for Catholic.
Every Sacred Sunday Mass Journal
  • I can't say enough good about the Every Sacred Sunday Mass Journal.  I funded this new project last year on Kickstarter, and absolutely love it as an addition to my weekly prayer.  The hardbound journal contains all the readings from Sunday and Solemnity Masses for the entire Liturgical Year, as well as a page for each Mass with spots for homily notes, prayer intentions, etc. There are also special pages to help you prepare for the Liturgical Seasons.
  • This and the Catholic Journaling Bible have been the greatest additions to my spiritual development this year. I know that by consistently taking notes during Mass and by rereading the lectionary I am getting more and more out of my Sunday prayer.  
  • I also am so impressed by the quality of the book and how it is holding up- I literally have hauled it everywhere since December, sometimes bringing it along for a few days at a time bouncing around in my purse.  But the corners are solid, there isn't a scratch on the cover, and it looks as good as new.  I think it will make a pretty neat keepsake for the year and a way to reflect back on growth and challenges.  I can't wait to order my new copy for this coming Advent!
Christ in the Classroom by Jared Dees +++
  • Jared Dees, maybe better known to you as The Religion Teacher, has written another practical and inspiring book about Catholic education.  Christ in the Classroom is a compact but thorough handbook for anyone who passes the faith down to kids- most especially catechists and youth ministers, but even those with a background in education and working in Catholic schools could greatly benefit.  I also think that parents could garner a lot of wisdom and apply concepts in the "classroom" of their home. 
  • You maybe have seen a sign in schools/religious ed departments before that reads, "Christ is the reason for this school.  He is the unseen but ever present teacher in its classes. He is the model of its faculty and the inspiration of its students."  While completely true, I will also be the first to admit that sometimes we forget that Christ, the Living One, is the center of our classrooms.  We are so caught up in lesson plans, and activities, and schedules, and we forget about the true focus. Jared's book helps bring Christ back to the center while also providing solid educational strategies to help increase engagement and improve the catechist's confidence in sharing the faith with their students.
  • The ideas in the book are structured using the Lectio Divina model of praying with Scripture as the outline for planning, setting up, and teaching in the classroom, which I think is a brilliant way to look at catechesis. It is a practical structure not only for prayer or a specific class session, but really a perfect way to look at your goals and purpose for the entire curriculum we are sharing with kids, remembering the end goal of helping them fall in love with Jesus.
  • Pssst- I loved this book so much, it will be featured in a giveaway on my Instagram next week.  I'll be giving away two copies as well as some other great catechetical goodies!
Don't Forget to Say Thank You, and Other Parenting Lessons that Brought Me Closer to God by Lindsay Schlegel +++
  • While I might not be a mom, I do frequently find myself saying variations of, "How many times have I told you this?," and "That's not how we behave here," and "Don't forget to say thank you!"  In Lindsay's new book on raising up Catholic kids, she creatively ties in those common phrases to lessons she has learned about parenting and growing closer to God.  Each chapter takes the words parents have repeated hundreds of times and shows how those saying point directly to truths of the faith.  For example, "I'm Sorry," points to Confession.  "Eat your dinner," teaches us about the care and dignity of our bodies.  And "No one said it would be fair," models for us the necessity of accepting our crosses.
  • Each chapter contains not only the reflection, but a few questions for consideration or discussion, a prayer, and a connecting Saint.  I think the book would be great to read and discuss in a mom's group, but really is a great reminder to us all that our daily words and actions, especially the ones we repeat the most, often take on a sacramental quality and can point us to our Creator and His Church.
Gaze Upon Jesus, Experiencing Christ's Childhood Through the Eyes of Women by Kelly M. Wahlquist +++
  • This book is out now and could be read any time of year, but was designed to be used as a walk through the Christmas and Advent Season. Almost a dozen authors contribute to unique and varied reflections surrounding six events from Jesus' Childhood.  Each section contains a Scripture reflection, connection to real life, a fictional narrative of the event (reminds me of the use of the imagination in Ignatian prayer), a challenge to live out virtue, discussion questions, and more.  
  • There is enough packed into one chapter that it easily could be used as a personal retreat or would lend itself perfectly to group study.  I also love that one of the tenets of the book is the use of Visio Divina ("Divine Seeing") and full color images are provided for each section, along with guided prayer to use with the lovely artwork.  Tying the senses into prayer is a strength of the Catholic faith, and this book makes it possible to bring the art of the masters right into your study.
  • I liked this book so much that I made myself put it down- I only read the first section and then decided it would be worth saving for Advent.  Maybe I'll even be able to pull together a group of ladies to read it with! You'll have to let me know if you do the same.
So what have you been reading?  What from this list would you add to your to-be-read list?

Wednesday, August 29, 2018

We Love Our Church!

(One part printables for our new CCD year, one part brief commentary on the current Church scandals.)

This year, my parish is celebrating the 150th year since the dedication of our church building- isn't that awesome?! Our parish is a bit older and there were two other churches for short times in the 1840's-1850's, but construction began on the new Immaculate Conception Church in 1866 and was completed in 1869. We are planning a whole year of celebrations leading up to a special Mass on the dedication date next year. Because the entire parish is focusing on this, I've been working on ways to incorporate the importance into our Religious Education Program.

So our theme this year will focus on the Sesquicentennial. For those of your that have used the room signs and folder covers, etc. that I post here each year, unfortunately, our theme materials won't really fit any program but ours. I'll suggest that you check out the other themes that I have printables and decor posts for here:
Divine Mercy Theme
Built on the Rock Theme

We'll be using lots of Marian themed items, especially this Mother of the Church craft I created with the coming anniversary year in mind (the church that Mary is holding is a drawing of our church!). We'll also be tying in St. Maximilian Kolbe as a patron Saint because of his deep devotion to Mary, founding of the Militia Immaculata, and connection to other parish activities during the year.

So one thing I knew I wanted the kids to create at the beginning of the year was some kind of display to show what they loved about the church- THEIR church.  I wanted them to feel ownership of this celebration as the group that will carry our parish into its next 150 years.  So I made up these cute sheets for the kids to write and draw about what they love- it might be the nice lady who smiles at them every Sunday, or receiving the Eucharist, or a certain song the choir sings... or let's be honest, coffee and donut Sunday. :) I gave these different versions of the "I Love My Church" pages to my catechists to use as they want in their classrooms, and then hope to display them together in our CCD hallway and feature snippets and pictures in our parish newsletter.

I'm excited to see what the kids come up with, and tried to give some flexibility in style to fit the different ages.  I've got three styles of printables:
-large illustration, short caption (could be teacher written)
-medium illustration, longer caption
-"newspaper" set up- longer article, small illustration, room for a topic list
You can use these printable with your students by clicking on any of the images of the We Love Our Church page above.

I planned this project long before the current scandal(s) broke to the media, detailing devastating and disgusting crimes against the innocent by those who should have been the first to protect them.  I'm still reeling from the blow this has been to believers, the pain I feel for the victims, and the very necessary call for justice and change.  My heart aches for the good and holy priests and my blood boils for the shepherds who did irreparable damage to their flock.  

So this cutesy little activity might seem insensitive or wrong or something that needs tossed in the garbage.  I considered that for a bit.  But instead I now see that this is the very perfect time to look to the Church, the capital C Church, whom the gates of hell shall never prevail against.  We do not put our faith in a particular priest or bishop or parish or diocese.  We trust and follow Christ.  Period.  We are part of the Body of Christ.  And we have a responsibility to go to battle against a very real and ancient enemy.

As catechists returning to the classroom, our utmost responsibility (after rooting out evil and protecting the innocent) is to raise up the next generation of young Catholics who love Christ and the Church.  Future Saints who cultivate virtue and desire a world free of vice.  Warriors ready to fight the good fight.  A generation that someday, those looking back will say, "Yes.  That was a terrible time for the Church.  So much brokenness and rebuilding.  But look at the Saints that arose in their midst."

Finally, if you haven't already been, go back and read the Sunday and Daily Readings from the past couple of weeks.  A Scripture scholar could not have better handpicked passages from the Bible to illustrate our lament, God's call for justice, and the solid foundation in Christ that remains.  I highly recommend Bonnie's most recent post which is reflection of these events woven amidst the recent Mass readings.  

There are no better words to close with than those from this Sunday's Gospel:

As a result of this, many of his disciples returned to their former way of life and no longer accompanied him. Jesus then said to the Twelve, "Do you also want to leave?" Simon Peter answered him, "Master, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and are convinced that you are the Holy One of God." ~John 6:66-69

Sacred Heart of Jesus, have mercy on us.
Immaculate Heart of Mary, guide us.
Pure Heart of St. Joseph, pray for us.