Thursday, March 29, 2018

Sweeter Than Honey Coloring Pages {April}

The big idea of our Sweeter than Honey CCD theme this year is to encourage the kids to know and memorize Scripture, specifically the Psalms, so that they know that God's promises are so sweet.

Each month, I'll share a set of coloring pages, one for each Sunday, featuring the Psalm from Sunday Mass.  Using special fonts and simple decorations, they are meant to be a quick addition to your weekly class as an aide to memorizing the Responsorial Psalm.  Add it to your opening and closing prayer, give the students a few minutes to color it during class, and send it home to be hung up on the fridge or bathroom mirror.

Here are the coloring pages for the five Sundays of April:

Click here for the full size Psalm coloring pages for April:

Click here for the half page size Psalm coloring pages for April:
(These fit perfectly inside the Scripture Book cover from this post)

I'll post coloring pages of the Psalms once a month, so stay tuned!  You can find the other resources at these links:

Saturday, March 24, 2018

Paschal Candle Craft for Kids

We're one week away from the most special-est and beautiful-est and wonderful-est Mass of the year... The Easter Vigil.  All of the waiting of Lent and the suffering of Holy Week and the quiet of the Triduum is exalted in the joy and wonder of celebrating Christ's Resurrection.

To help prepare my students to soak up the signs at symbols as they attend Mass and services with their families in the coming week, we are going to be creating lots of projects during our last few days together before the Triduum and Spring Break.

Some I already have posted about up under the Liturgical Year tab, but we'll be creating a few new ones too!  Yesterday, my students designed their own Paschal Candles like the new candles that will be blessed at each Easter Vigil.

A few basics I wanted my students to know:
-The candle represents Christ being the light of the world, and is the first light that enters the dark church on Easter Vigil
-The candle is lit from the blessed Easter fire
-It is then often used to light the candles of the participants at the Vigil during the time the rest of the candles in the Sanctuary are lit, lights turned on, music sung, etc.
-The candle is made from 100% beeswax, representing the purity of Christ
-A new Paschal Candle is used by each church each year, helping the parish enter into the Easter Mystery each new year
-The candle is burned at liturgical services throughout all 50 days of Easter.  Following that season, it is lit at Baptisms and Funerals, connecting our lives to the death and Resurrection of Christ
You can read more about the Paschal Candle here and here.

We also discussed all of the symbols that the candles are decorated with:
-The Chi Rho (PX symbol), the first two letters of Christ in Greek
-The Alpha & Omega, the first and last letters of the Greek alphabet, symbolizing that Christ is the beginning and the end
-The current year, often with 20 and 18 spread out vertically
-Five wax nails that hold five grains of incense, representing the five wounds of Christ and the burial spices used to embalm His Body

We switched up this project a bit by letting the students use the Chi Rho stamp I offer in my Etsy Shop, stamping the center of their Paschal Candles and then using a pen cap to stamp small circles for the five nails.  They loved getting to stamp the design and it was good to let them try another medium.  (The base of the candle is 3" x 12" heavy white cardstock, but you could make them larger to match the candles in the church or smaller for a more manageable project).  I think we might use the same stamp this week to make cards for our parish's RCIA candidates!

(I don't always keep stamps stocked in my Etsy shop- if you'd like to still have the Chi Rho for your candles, here it is as a pdf printable.)

After the above decorations, the kids added symbols of their choice, including:
-chalice and host
-grapes and wheat
-Good Shepherd
-Sacred Heart

When they were happy with all of their symbols, we "lit" the candles with some cool holographic orange paper (suddenly becoming the coolest part of the project, of course).

The kids seemed super happy with how they turned out, and I hope they pay close attention to the new Paschal Candle next weekend!  We hung them in the hallway with our Sunset & Shadow Stations of the Cross for just a few more days- and then we'll take everything down and send it home for them to use with their own families' celebrations!

This would also make a great project when learning about the Sacrament of Baptism or to celebrate a Baptismal Anniversary!  We might just add it to our Baptismal Unit next year and then review in time for Holy Week.  Have you ever done a Paschal Candle craft like this with kids?  Or do you paint your own candles for your home or classroom?

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Katie Reads {10} Ideas for Lent and Holy Week

Where did Lent go?  On one hand, this might have felt like the longest couple of months ever, but on the other, I'm not sure where all of the time I had set aside for my Lenten resolutions has gone.  We find ourselves nearing Palm Sunday, and fortunately for those of us who feel like our Lent slipped away, the Church has a built in retreat coming up in the form of Holy Week.

Holy Week gifts us the opportunity to enter into the most beautiful and profound liturgies, and also naturally sets us up with a little more silence and contemplation.  I know that my schedule looks different, and one of the things I hope to do is to spend some time reading good, formative books.  I thought you might be considering the same thing, so I've pulled together some books that will be great for the remainder of Lent, Holy Week, and take you into the rest of the Church year.  They are divided into a few categories and I've got books for both kids and adults.  If you order them now, you'll have them in time for the Triduum!

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.
***Pauline Books & Media 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.
I only recommend things I use and love and want to share with you.  All opinions are my own. :)

The Stations of the Cross

Praying the Stations is one of my very favorite parts of Lent, and I love that we are offered such variety in the types of reflections we can pray as we follow the Way of the Cross.

The Stations of the Cross for Children, by Jerry Windley-Daoust, illustrations by Vicki Shuck ###

  • This brand new book would be a perfect companion for children, especially little ones, during Holy Week.  Each Station shares a full page illustration, and a very short set of readings and prayers (each only a sentence or two) helping little ears listen and giving quiet time for reflection. 
  • The Stations contained in the book are from the "New Way of the Cross," which includes slightly different events from the traditional Stations, including the Last Supper, The Good Thief, Mary and John at the Foot of the Cross, etc.  I love that the book helps tie those important stories into the Passion of Jesus and the collective memory of the children who will pray with it, but it would be good to note that it would change the way you would use the book if praying with the physical Stations in a Church.
  • The illustrations by Vicki Shuck are beautiful.  Detailed and vibrant, they convey the emotions and sacrifice without being gory or scary.  There is a warmth in the images that makes these the best illustrations I've seen in any children's Way of the Cross I've used.  (They also have the illustrations available as posters!)
  • The book also contains a list of ideas for ways to use it, especially with young children, and they offer a companion journal as well.  You can preview all of the resources and purchase either physical copies or digital versions (perfect to have everything ready for Holy Week!) at Gracewatch Media.
  • "Jesus, we want to be with you, too, both now and in heaven, along with our family and friends.  Help us to be like the Good Thief.  Help us say sorry for our sins, and turn back to you."

The Way of the Cross, by Archbishop Fulton Sheen

  • This little book has made my Lent.  For years, I've reread Sheen's The Life of Christ during Lent and Holy Week, but this year... I haven't.  I've supplemented with some other things, but this little Way of the Cross booklet has been a powerful addition to my prayer.
  • You can read most of the text here, but I decided to finally order the booklet so it was a bit easier to carry around and pray with.  Originally written by Sheen in 1932, long before his TV Show or ordination as a Bishop, I think that it contains some of his most beautiful and profound words.
  • "Oh Lord, the day I was born anew of water and the Holy Spirit, the image of your Cross was engraved upon my heart. Today you ask me: 'Whose inscription is written thereon?' If it be yours, then let me render to God the things that are God's. Grant that, like Veronica, I may brave all human respect to carry your image about with me, not on a veil but on the tablet of my heart. Bestow on me the grace to be so much like you that others among whom I live may see something of you in me, as the maidservant saw something of you in Peter. If they do not see in me that marks of your passion, let them at least see the sparks of your love."
  • Thanks to a Hobo for Christ Podcast Saints Stories for Kids, my students have been fascinated with St. Longinus.  Tradition says that he is the soldier that pierced Christ's side, but his story doesn't end there.
  • This black and white booklet shares the Stations of the Cross, but told from the perspective of St. Longinus as he participated in Christ's Crucifixion.  It is a unique point of view, but the more you read and pray, the more you see that it could be you that is telling the story, you the one that led Christ to His Death. 
  • The reflections in this booklet are a bit longer, so it would work really well for personal reading and contemplation as well as group prayer.  I liked how peppered throughout the fictional reflection of Longinus are lots of Scriptural quotes and their references, giving you even more to read and think about.
  • "I stood at the tomb beside the Mother of Jesus.  Never taking her eyes off the tomb, she reached for my hand and simply said: 'Love is stronger than death.'"
Time with Jesus

  • This sweet but solid book about Christ is a perfect companion to Our Blessed Mother, reviewed in my last Katie Reads post. Jesus our Savior is beautifully illustrated and filled with the story of Christ's life, from the Annunciation to Pentecost.  Organized in chapters and almost sixty pages long, this brand new book fills a need for easy chapter books about the faith designed for older elementary students.  
  • As I described in my last post, many picture books are written at a lower level and have smaller snippets of information.  I love that this book has more substantial information while still being illustrated and attainable.  The short chapters and frequent illustrations are joined with detailed stories and longer chunks of text.  I think this series would be perfect for 3rd-5th graders and am glad to add it to my classroom library.
Divine Mercy in My Pocket, by Marianne Lorraine Trouve, FSP ***
  • This cute little companion book is a perfect to give kids this Lent or Easter.  With info about Jesus, the Image of Divine Mercy, St. Faustina, Divine Mercy Sunday, and how to pray the Divine Mercy Chaplet, I think that this little book would be great for students preparing for Confession (their first or any time) or during the quiet prayer time of the Triduum.
  • It would also be a perfect inexpensive addition to an Easter basket to help prepare kiddos for Divine Mercy Sunday!

Time with the Saints

Saints by Our Side: Thomas Aquinas, by Marianne Lorraine Trouve, FSP ***
Saints by Our Side: John of the Cross,  by Fr. George P. Evans***
  • During these last days of Lent (or throughout the Easter Season), we have a perfect time to get to know a new-to-you heavenly friend and learn from their examples.
  • This Saints by Our Side Series is intended to help bring the stories of Saints- their lives, teachings, and impact on the world- in a short and attainable text that is still packed with content.  I love the length of these books (just a little over 100 pages) which makes them easy to pick up and get to know a new Saint.  Each book shares a thorough biography, a chronology, an original prayer, and reflection questions, and detailed bibliography. Neither Thomas Aquinas or John of the Cross are Saints that I previously knew a lot about, so these books were a great introduction.  I'm excited to see how this collection from Pauline Books and Media grows!

Ex Libris: Fulton Sheen, by Alexis Walkenstein ***
  • I (not surprisingly) was super excited for this book to arrive in my mailbox.  Sheen and I are BFFs, after all.  This author has pulled together some favorite, powerfully themed writings from several of Sheen's books and then organized them topically in this compact 120 page book.  
  • If you've never read Sheen, this would be a great place to start.  With the smaller chunks of writing, you can choose a topic (in any order) and read the 2-3 page chapter.  If you love it, the chapters are organized by themes, so you can read the section.  And if that really speaks to you, you can find the original sources of Sheen's writings and dive into one of his full length books.
  • If you have read Sheen, this little book is a nice companion.  Sometimes he packs so much content and thought into his text that a meaningful passage can get lost in a 400 page book.  Here, you won't miss the message and can reread as your heart desires.  I've been carrying this book around in my purse during Lent.  When I need to fill five minutes here and there I can pull it out have found it easy to pick up and put down while still gathering great spiritual fruit.

Mother Teresa: The Story of the Saint of Calcutta, by Marlyn Evangelina Monge, FSP ***
  • Part of the already mentioned series of picture books for older Catholic kids, beginning with Jesus and Mary, this biography of St. Teresa of Calcutta is just lovely.  Still organized by chapters but containing full page illustrations, this would be a great beginning biography book for 2nd or 3rd graders, or a perfect quick read for my 5th graders.  I love the photographic/sketch style of the illustrations which often are from a unique perspective point and really capture the emotion of Mother Teresa's prayer and work.  There are a few two page spreads with no text, moving the story along with pictures.  Little details like page borders that match the sisters' saris are thoughtful and eye catching. I'm grateful for the variety this book adds to my classroom Saint book collection.

  • Speaking of my classroom Saint book collection, the Encounter the Saints series will always be my favorite and most recommended Saint books for upper elementary kids.  The compact chapter books are novelized biographies, making it easy for kids to read and relate to the Saints.  Often including info about the Saints childhood also helps children imagine themselves follow in the Saints footsteps.
  • As much as I love the Sacred Heart, I didn't know much about St. Margaret Mary or her friend St. Claude de la Colombiere, so I thoroughly enjoyed reading this short story of their lives and the devotion that they shared with the Church.

Growth & Development

  • Habits shape us.  This book is a practical how to (and why to!) guide for anyone looking to make changes that matter and have deep, abiding impact in the Christian life.  I found the topics practical and relevant, but also appropriately challenging.  Fr. Landry's advice moves from basics to deeper spiritual practices.  We all have room to grow in virtue and root out vice, and this book is a perfect guide- almost like a spiritual director you can carry around with you. :)

  • Minimalism, decluttering, organizing, tiny houses, intentional buying... sound familiar?  It's currently trendy to get your life organized, but this author connects that trend with spiritual truth.  Speaking from personal experience (including struggles and triumphs) she shares tips and ideas for simplifying our physical surroundings while connecting them to our spiritual selves.  Part memoir, part how-to, and part theological reflection, this book reminds us that the body and soul are both good and cannot be separated.  Therefore how we create and fill our homes for the needs of our bodies is intertwined with the needs of our souls.  Whether you are a pack rat or a neat freak, everyone has something to learn from this book because it's about more than the state of your created stuff; its about your soul and its relationship with the Creator.

So what will you be reading during Holy Week?  Do you have any old favorites or new books waiting to walk with you during this holy season?

Monday, March 5, 2018

Celebrating St. Joseph {Feast Day Ideas}

March is dedicated to my dear St. Joseph, husband of Mary and guardian of our Redeemer.  St. Joseph important in the life of every believer, but as he is the patron Saint of my school, we try to make his feast day special.  I've got a collection of posts that share some of the ways we've celebrated in case you'd like to learn and pray with St. Joseph this month and especially on his feast day March 19th.   However, many of these ideas would be applicable with any Saint that you are trying to celebrate- especially a patron Saint of your parish, school, or home.

In the round up of ideas below, click on any title with a *** to take you to a more detailed post or printable.

Easy St. Joseph Shrines ***

Holy Family Coloring Page***

A few years ago while visiting the Philippines, Pope Francis wove his love for St. Joseph into an address on prayer and family.  Specifically, he spoke about a statue he has on his desk of the Sleeping St. Joseph.  From the Gospels, we know that St. Joseph listened to God in his dreams and then rose to act on His will.  Pope Francis shared with his audience that he asks St. Joseph to pray for his intentions by writing them down and slipping the paper under the statue of St. Joseph.

This sweet devotion has been spreading slowly across the world.  A dear friend was the first to introduce it to me, and I just love this new connection with one of my very favorite Saints.  How comforting to think of St. Joseph caring for the Church, for us and our concerns, while resting in God.  Go check out this post for all kinds of ideas and activities about the devotion to the Sleeping St. Joseph.

Here are a few Murals/Posters we've created to display on St. Joseph Day:
This one was made of wooden popsicle sticks representing Joseph's work as a carpenter.  Each student took one and wrote a title or role of St. Joseph and we assembled them into this mural.

St. Joseph's Day Bread:
Our school has a tradition that fresh bread is blessed on his feast day and passed out to everyone.  Each class shares a loaf while thanking St. Joseph for his provision and protection, and each student takes a small loaf home to share with their families.

I usually read this book called St. Joseph's Story from Word Among Us Press (affiliate link):
It has beautiful pictures:

Novenas are powerful- well, they are powerful if you are seeking God's will and are prepared for his answer.  You can read this post about the most obvious answer to a novena I have received, when I started praying this novena to St. Joseph the Worker, which resulted in my current job at St. Joseph School.  It was kind of crazy amazing at the time, and looking back, I can see God's hand in it even more clearly.

If you  would like to join in praying the St. Joseph novena leading up to his March 19th Solemnity, you could use this color-a-novena printable.  There's one lily to color in for each day you pray.  If you would like to finish the nine days on his actual feast, you should start on March 11th.  Or you can begin this novena any time and for any length to increase your devotion to St. Joseph and ask his powerful intercession.

St. Joseph also has a feast day on May 1st, celebrating his work and provision and protection for the Holy Family and for the Church.  This quote from St. John Paul II has long been one of my favorites, and I lettered it as a reminder to pray for the work of the leaders in our lives and homes.

"St. Joseph was a just man, a tireless worker, the upright guardian of those entrusted to his care.  May he always guard, protect, and enlighten families." ~St. John Paul II

St. Joseph Holy Saturday Coloring Page***
Click here for some resources for Holy Saturday and a couple of printables with a line about St. Joseph from a favorite poem:

St. Joseph Memorare Prayer Cards***
Similar in wording to the original Memorare, this one asks for the intercession of St. Joseph.

St. Joseph Traveling Shrine or Statue
One year we sent a small St. Joseph statue to visit each classroom in the school for a day in March leading up to St. Joseph's Feast.  It traveled with a couple of books and a prayer journal that each class wrote in.  The Shrine was then displayed in the school office for the rest of the month.

I hope you have a blessed March and St. Joseph Day!  I'd love to hear how you celebrate Saint's Feast Days with your groups of kiddos!