Monday, December 9, 2019

Our Lady of Loreto Digital Scavenger Hunt

December 10th is the Feast Day of Our Lady of Loreto which Pope Francis has added to the Universal Calendar of the Roman Church, and yesterday opened a Jubilee Year of Loreto. The patronages of our Lady of Loreto are interesting: pilots, astronauts, and air travelers. These devotions arose because of a legend that says this house of Mary was "flown" by angels from the Holy Land to its current location in Italy. History actually connects the movement with a family named Angeli, meaning angels. ;)  You can read more about the Lauretan Year in this article

If you 'd like to keep your students up on current Catholic events or learn interesting facts about Our Lady of Loreto and the shrine, I've created a digital scavenger hunt using two articles, including a Vatican  press release. Based on the level of the text, I'd recommend it for 6th grade and up. When you click here, the scavenger hunt will open as a new copy, meaning you can make edits to the questions and see the responses. (However, make sure you don't send that link to your students- it will make another copy and you won't be able to see there results! If you aren't super familiar with Google Forms, there are lots of great how-tos here that can help you with ways to share depending on the tools you have available.)

I pray that the newly-universal feast and Jubilee year are an occasion to allow Mary to bring us closer to her Son, and hope this devotion offers that same opportunity to your students.

Monday, November 25, 2019

Katie Reads {20} New Book Gift Guide

Someone recently asked me what was on my Christmas list and I responded, ", books?"
Books have literally been the cornerstone of every set of birthday and Christmas requests since I was in about first grade, so it's probably not a surprise that books are at the top of my gift giving list as well. I love picking out just the right book or finding something that is perfect for my family and friends. Whether you are almost done with your Christmas shopping or just getting started, here's a big stack of books I've acquired recently that might be just right for someone you love. I broke them into categories and have tons of recommendations for both kids and adults.

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.
^^^Tan Books provided me with a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
+++Education in Virtue provided me with a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
===Our Sunday Visitor  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. :)

Advent Journals for Kids and Adults

I've used the Blessed is She Liturgical journals several times over the years, and I was super excited to see the structure and themes of this one. It's my favorite art and journal design they've created so far, and as someone whose faith has been formed and strengthened by a love of the Old Testament, the topic of "Genesis to You" is intriguing. I've flipped through it but haven't started (exercising self control until the first Sunday of Advent!) and really like the structure and think it will enhance my prayer during this season. Each day features a reading (moving from Genesis into the New Testament), a reflection (each written by a different Blessed is She devotion writer), and a couple of response questions to pray with and journal on. There is plenty of room to write and also some white space if you like to add lettering, doodles, or other art during your time of prayer and study. The book is organized by each day and week of Advent, but is undated, so it cane be used year after year if desired. I'm excited to get started!

Rejoice! Advent Meditations with Joseph, Fr. Mark Toups, Ascension Press
I used the companion journal (Advent Meditations with Mary) last year and was excited to see Ascension Press come out with this companion from the perspective of St. Joseph. The journals are affordably priced and a set of four video talks are offered as great support to use with a parish Bible Study or small group. The art in both journals is really stunning, warm and full of light and simple enough to allow you to ponder the events each depicts. The journal has daily reflections (organized by day of the week, but undated), things to pray about, and room to journal.

+++The Jesse Tree Advent Journal, Lumen Ecclesiae Press

This is the journal I'll be using with my students. From Disciple of Christ Education in Virtue, which is the creator of our school wide virtue program, I'm so excited to see this Jesse Tree devotional that has flexibility to use with a wide variety of ages, not just young students. It incorporates the virtues that fit well in Advent, an explanation of Lectio Divina, and a schedule of Jesse Tree symbols, events, and Bible passages to read for December 1st-24th. Then for each day the journal shares the assigned Scripture passage, one or two pieces of related art, and a set of questions helping the students reflect using the Lectio Divina method of prayer. Ideally each student would have their own journal, but I certainly think that it would make a great read aloud/group prayer resource to guide students through getting to know the ancestors of Jesus.

Christmas Books for Kids and Adults

^^^Sisters of the Last Straw #5: The Case of the Christmas Tree Capers, Karen Kelly Boyce
This is the cutest little chapter book with a fun Christmas mystery plot line. The characters are a group of Sisters that are, well..., characters! The Sisters of the Last Straw is a religious community made up of sisters who are all working hard, with God's grace, to overcome their bad habits. In the latest book in the series the Sisters of the Last Straw are faced with a pile of Christmas trees and some unexpected problems as Christmas approaches. I think your 2nd-4th grader will laugh right along with them as they work together to solve the mystery.

^^^Santa's Priority, Tom Peterson
You might recognize the words and images from this new Christmas picture book from the popular Catholics Come Home Christmas commercial featuring Santa finding his way to Mass and the Nativity on Christmas Eve. The illustrations are a bright cartoon version of the evangomercial, and the poem was written by the founder of Catholics Come Home. You can "read along" with the book watching the video here  and remind kids of where our focus should lie during the Christmas Season. It would be a great addition to an Advent Book Basket, or to pull out when keeping Jesus a the center of the Season seems to be a struggle.

^^^Christmas Around the Fire, Ryan N. S. Topping
This beautiful collection is the perfect book to sit on your coffee table during the Advent and Christmas season. Filled with short stories of all styles, it can be read a little at a time to help your heart and mind enter into the message and meaning of Christmas. Broken into two sections of stories and then essays and poems, the almost 40 selections come from the writings of many well known authors. From Pope St. John Paul II to Oscar Wilde, G.K. Chesterton to St. Augustine, the variety of widely published authors, Saints, and holy leaders of the Church offer a diverse collection of inspiration. During the busy month of December, I think that many households could benefit by using the gift of storytelling to help keep our focus where it should be. Perfect for individuals or even as a family read aloud for older kids, I also think that the loveliness of the publication with its cloth bound cover and gilded pages would make a great gift book as well.

Saint Books for Adults

Saint Gianna is always a personal fave- her devotion to her profession, her holy love for her husband in their "late" in life marriage, her supreme model of motherhood, and her living witness and commitment to her faith make her an example for any woman. I really like the book St. Gianna Molla, Wife, Mother, Doctor, which was coauthored by her husband Pietro Molla, as well as the publications their letters called The Journey of Our Love. This book by Pelucchi was only recently translated into English, but the author wrote the biography based on interviews with Pietro and experience with the family. Dr. Gianna Emmanuela Molla, St. Gianna's daughter, wrote the forward and said that it is her favorite book about her mom. It is such a gift to have so many sources to learn about the modern Saints that give us a relateable example to follow.

***Ex Libris G. K Chesterton, compiled by Dale Ahlquist
***Ex Libris John Henry Newman, compiled by Ryan Marr
While I honestly haven't read these two yet, I was thrilled to find them in my mailbox. G.K. Chesterton and and the newly Canonized St. John Henry Newman are two holy men that have been on my short list to learn more about, and I know that these new additions to Pauline Books and Media's Ex Libris collection will be awesome. The Ex Libris Collection (I've reviewed their book on Fulton Sheen as well) is a brilliant solution to the faithful's desire to get to know the prolific writers of our faith. It can be intimidating to figure out what to pick up and read or time consuming to examine the breadth of their authorship. The Ex Libris series gives you a taste of their style and the concepts they wrote on. Each book is organized by topic and the editors have compiled a highlight reel of their best writing. I'd highly recommend the series both for gift giving and to build up your own Saint library!

Saint Books for Kids

I have been eagerly awaiting this book! I've long been a fan of Adalee's work, which I find refreshingly bright and modern while also reminding me of the classic boldness of stained glass windows and the style of the Art Deco movement. You can check out the Brightly Hude Shop here for her gorgeous cards, stickers, and even free coloring pages! I am thrilled with quality and style of the book with its full page Saint illustrations side by side with a short description of the Saint, a Latin word that represents them, their Feast Days, and a symbolic drop cap. I had already preordered my own copy and received a review copy, so I am excited to gift one to my niece and share the other in my classroom. I think that this book is a perfect example of how a Saint book can do a good job appealing to and catechizing a wide range of ages.

And the Light of Heaven book has a companion coloring book! Perfect to continue growing in devotion to the over twenty Saints featured in the book. The coloring pages are printed on nice heavy paper and are single sided, so perfect for creating art and then tearing it out to display. Adalee was brilliant in creating her coloring pages with varying weight lines, helping them be attractive for kids of all ages (and adults too!). The bold lines give shape to the picture and can be followed even by little colorers, while older kids and adults will like the detail lines that add depth and complexity. 

This cute series from Pauline Books and Media is an awesome addition to a young Catholic child's collection of traditional Saint stories. I've previously reviewed books on St. Helen finding the True Cross, St. Martin giving his Cape to Jesus, and St. Simon and the first Easter Eggs. These new books tell the legends of the first valentine and the invention of the pretzel as a tool for prayer. Each tells enough to help a young child begin to understand the stories behind common traditions and how the legends of early Saints can inspire us to live boldly for Christ.

This cute little pocket Gospel is such a nice edition of the Gospels and Acts. It has a lovely black cover with gold debossed title and Crucifix. I love that it includes the Acts of the Apostles, which you don't often see. Right now, Education in Virtue is offering these as a free bonus with the Lectio Divina journal reviewed below!

***Jesus, Savior of the World, Marlyn Evangelina Monge
This adorable board book completes the series on the Holy Family (I've previously shared the matching books on Mary and Joseph.) I love the warm, toddler appealing illustrations, which show even the Crucifixion in a very age appropriate way. The short lines on each page are a good length for toddler/preschoolers and the sturdy board book is made to last. Perfect for a Mass bag or bedtime story shelf, I love that this is a great alternative to a bulky collection of Bible Stories (which are great, of course) and instead allow you to focus just on helping your child get to know Jesus. 

Devotionals for Adults

***Jesus Speaking; Heart to Heart with King, Gabrielle Bossis
Daily devotionals are a great spiritual tool to add to your daily prayer practices. Whether you read them while getting ready in the morning or just before bed, a book like Jesus Speaking can help jump start your prayer and give you small meaningful snippets to meditate on. A 365 day devotional with a lovely hardback cover and ribbon bookmark, this book is based on He and I, a publication of the diary of Gabrielle Bossis which records the inner dialogue she experienced with Jesus. Each day features a Bible verse, a short selection from her diary, and a challenge to think and pray on. The warm tone and first person perspective makes the passages uniquely personal. I'm enjoying using this book myself, and think that it would make a wonderful gift book in so many situations.

***Memento Mori Devotional, Theresa Aletheia Noble FSP
Partly in thanks to Sr. Theresa Aletheia Noble, our modern Catholic culture is again finding the importance in praying about the Four Last Things- Death, Judgement, Heaven, and Hell. Her widely popular Lenten devotional and journal last year helped repopularize "Memento Mori," the act of remembering your death. Not morbid or dark, this idea should be a wide Christian practice as we look to the end of our time on earth and live accordingly today. This Memento Mori prayer book is the best resource yet, with page after page of prayers and devotional practices to help us live with the end in mind. The book is organized into four sections with prayers related to each of the four last things. Familiar devotions like the Stations of the Cross and the Rosary are included, as well as dozens and dozens of prayers, Saint and Catechism quotes, and verses from the Bible. It is beautifully bound in a black leatherette with a ribbon bookmark in a great handheld size. I really think that this is an invaluable resource to encourage everyone to seek the eternal, but might be particularly meaningful for someone facing difficult suffering or the loss of a loved one.

***Holy Angels Prayer Book, Mary Mark Wickenhiser FSP
Angels fascinate us. From the few mention of the Archangels in the Bible to the theology surrounding our Guardian Angels, there isn't a lot that the average Catholic actually knows about Angels. This sweet little Holy Angels Prayer Book is a great tool to help grow in devotion and understanding of these heavenly protectors and messengers. It matches the Eucharistic Adoration Prayer Book and Mary, Mother of God Prayer Book, which together make a lovely set with their leatherette covers, gilt edges, and ribbon bookmarks.

^^^A Year with the Mystics, Kathryn Jean Lopez
This is just a gorgeous book. A little larger in size than a typical devotional book, it has a lovely two-tone cover, glossy pages, and images of the Saints faded into the background of every page. Mystics like John of the Cross, Catherine of Siena, Padre Pio are not Saints that I often read the writings of, but this book brings their wisdom into a daily, accessible format. With a substantial reading from a variety of mystics each day, each page also has a question to consider and a closing prayer.

I wrote here a couple of years ago about my love for my Every Sacred Sunday journal, and nothing has changed. These incredibly high quality, beautiful, well planned journals have changed the way I attend Sunday Mass. With the full text of the Mass readings and room to journal and pray each Sunday and at the beginning of Liturgical Seasons, the makers of these journals desire to create a Catholic culture that revolves around Sundays. With lovely original art and prayers printed on the inside covers, both the beautiful and practical are considered. This is my third journal, and I can tell you that the first two, despite being carried all around for a year, are in nearly perfect condition. Bringing us a tool and a desire to study the Sunday Readings, I believe that these journals are worth every penny. I received mine this year from the creators to review and share, but I love them so much that I bought three more to give as gifts! ;)

Devotionals and Journals for Kids

Rise Up; Shining with Virtue, Blessed is She

I've had many people recommend the Rise Up journal from Blessed is She and just added it to my classroom library. With our school wide focus on the virtues, I'm looking for resources to continue to make the virtues relevant and attainable for kids and this book does both. With eye catching, bright design and fun fonts it's an attractive devotional format that covers fifteen virtues (including the seven theological and cardinal virtues). It has a lose daily format (undated or labeled), but that would work great for family or classroom reflections for the week as you work alongside God's grace to grow in a particular virtue. The devotions are east to relate to and each also end with a prayer to use together. Blessed is She continues to churn our well made, faithful products and I hope to see them create more resources for kids and families. 

+++Life of Christ Lectio Divina Journal, Education in Virtue, Lumen Ecclesiae Press
I completely love this journal- I was sent a copy to review and try from the creator of the virtue program we use at our school, loved it, got excited, and then realized that we had a whole class set of them in a storage room from a former teacher. I got permission to put them to use, and my 7th graders have been able to dive in to getting to know Christ better using this beautiful tool. Truly a journal and not a text book, the book immerses the user (I'd recommend 6th-12th grade, or adult) in the Lectio Divina method of praying with Scripture and also incorporates Visio Divina with classic art for each section. In chronological order of Christ's life, each Scripture passage has a dedicated four pages with Scripture, reflection questions, art, connection to virtue, and room to journal. It is a perfect fit for your curriculum and helps create much more of a prayer mentality by using this beautiful keepsake book. I also think it would be a great fit for an individual kid's prayer time. I love that I can skip around and choose passages that fit best in the Liturgical Year, Mass Readings, or school virtue. I highly encourage any teachers, catechists, or home schoolers to check out the available resources from Lumen Ecclesiae Press, some of which are free or very inexpensive and could be implemented with any age.

Speaking of virtue and prayer, this new journal from Ginny Kochis is an awesome resource to help kids see the great work that God has done in the lives of the Saints and will do for them as well. Growth mindset, the idea that challenges and obstacles help us to grow, is a big (and good) trend in education right now, and I love how Ginny has show that growth mindset is directly tied to a life of virtue. Each section of the book, which covers the seven theological and cardinal virtues, has Scripture, Saint stories, prayers, challenges, and discussion starters. I love the water color art within and the flexible structure that could be worked through or read in chunks over time or as a daily devotional. Depending on the child and if they are working through it more independently or with an adult, I think the best age range would be for 4th-7th graders.

Gift Books

***Love Your Cross, Therese M. Williams
Love Your Cross is the autobiography of a young woman who has known her own struggles, but has allowed them to unite her more fully to Christ and to love those around her in a unique and profound way. After contracting spinal meningitis and becoming paralyzed as a toddler, Therese has lived for over 40 years as a quadriplegic. Her dependence on others for her care, her lack of freedom, and her physical discomfort could have driven her to despair, but instead have become a source of joy and spiritual consolation. While this autobiography chronicles her life, its focus is more on what she has leaned about Christ and His Cross. Her words will bring hope to many in the midst of their own trials and suffering. 

^^^Theology of Home: Finding the Eternal in the Everyday, Carrie Gress, Noelle Mering, and Megan Schrieber

The lovely photos and composition of this book intrigued me from the start, and after opening it you see they are complimented by gorgeous binding, glossy heavy weight paper, and the most beautiful end papers.  All of those visuals lend themselves perfectly to draw you in to reading more about the authors' understanding of what home is and why it matters so much. There is plenty of inspiration for the taking, whether you live alone or have a houseful of people under your roof, but it's not typical diy advice like how to hang a gallery wall or the perfect cocktail recipe for a party. Instead this book shares the WHY behind it all- how home forms us, welcomes us, and allows us to bring others together. You can read my full review in the latest edition of The Catholic Post here.

So what's on your Christmas list? What books are you planning to give?

Saturday, November 23, 2019

Advent, Christmas, and Epiphany Ideas!

The Solemnity of Christ the King and the end of the Liturgical Year is this weekend! But every end also means a new beginning, and this beginning brings Advent.  I LOVE Advent.  The preparing, the waiting, the hope, the peaceful promise.

Here are some ideas for you to use with your kiddos to keep and celebrate the season of Advent.  Click on any of the images to take you to the resource or post:

Looking for music to keep you in the season?  Check out this Advent Song Playlist:

And videos are always a great addition in the classroom:

Learn about the New Liturgical Year with this Liturgical Year Coloring Book:

Or just use the What Advent Looks Like printable:

And this is my favorite Liturgical Year Calendar: (you can see this year's collection in the Telos Art & Design shop here)

Check out the Advent section in this book recommendations post:

I'm using this Advent "Count Up" at school this year:
I was sent the bundle from Catholic All Year to review, and it is awesome! There are medallions for all the Sundays, Saint feast days, special family days, and regular days in the seasons of Advent and Christmas. I used it to create a calendar, but it also can be used by adding one medallion each day leading up to Christmas. There is a great booklet with short explanations of the feast days to share each day as you hang them up, and it also comes with a set of quotes, signs for the display, and a "straw for Baby Jesus" activity. One download gets you both black and white and color version, and Kendra has it on sale for $10 (vs. $25) right now!

Make plans for decorating for the Liturgical Year:

Use these resources for Advent:

Use the stamps and printable stickers in my Etsy Shop:
(Digital printables are available now, Advent Wreath and Nativity stamps will be back the weekend after Thanksgiving with special sales!)

Try some new Advent Traditions: (with printable info sheets)

Printable Advent Candles for an Advent Wreath:
Also available in Spanish:

Wandering Wise Men: 
An alternate activity to Elf on the Shelf, I used the Wise Men from our classroom Nativity to emphasize the waiting and preparing and seeking that is required of us during Advent.  Click on the images to go to the posts with 15 different ideas.


Pray and color the O Antiphons:

Seeking our Savior: An Advent Detective Journey based on Scripture, showing how Old Testament prophecies were fulfilled in Christ.  Printable coloring book, Scripture cards, mini craft projects, and a leaders guide.

Make a Peg Doll Nativity:

 Advent Jeopardy Trivia games here and here.

 Party Like a Saint- A December-Saint-Themed Advent Party with crafts and games.

What if they had email?  Youth Group Advent lesson idea putting the Christmas story in a new perspective.

 A Stocking For Jesus: Activities to go along with the book, including some Advent printables.

Nativity Photo Booth, putting all of those Nativity play costumes and props to good use!

Advent Prayer Ring- Great for Youth Groups or Bible Studies:

My Gift- An Epiphany Readers' Theater:

Make these Epiphany Home Blessing Kits: (updated for 2020)

How will you be keeping Advent this year?