Catholic Family Fun (TLL Blog Tour Finale)

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It’s the last day of my blog tour, and guess what? I’m going to do something different! If you’ve been around my blog for a while, you have seen several reviews of books by Sarah Reinhard. Sarah and I are both write-at-home Catholic moms writing resources to help parents raise kids with a vibrant faith.

CathFamFunThe difference is (well, okay, it’s not the only difference), Sarah is a whole lot funnier than I am. 🙂 Which makes this book, Catholic Family Fun, entirely appropriate.

Sarah doesn’t think religion has to be so darned serious all the time. Everybody needs to blow off steam sometimes, so from chapter one–“Silly Things to Do Together”–she makes it clear that families need to enjoy their time together, and the faith formation should be tied to what’s taking place in real life.

The first three parts of the book offer lots of ideas for basic fun activities both at home and “abroad.” The vast majority of these activities are not actually religious activities. Rather, they’re things you would do at story time at the library. The “faith angle”–blocked out in boxes after every section–suggests ways to tweak the activities or talk about them afterward to connect them with faith concepts.

Some of my favorite ideas:

  • Silly stories (think mad lib)
  • “Opposite season”–a living room beach party in February, for example
  • An unbirthday party–so if your February birthday girl loves the pool, have a pool party in July
  • Fun with saint feast days: a scavenger hunt to honor St. Anthony, a nail driving contest for St. Joseph
  • Christmas ornaments made from canning lids

Part four is more specifically focused on matters of faith, and Catholic faith in particular. These are more in-depth–having the whole family pitch in to build a Mary garden, for instance, or sorting clothes at the crisis pregnancy center. She also challenges parents to take the kids along for adoration and stations of the cross, and honestly? That makes sense; if it’s important to take your kids to Mass even though they aren’t “getting” it yet, then the same is true of the other opportunities for prayer that enrich Catholic life.

I think the hardest part for me is making the leap from “fun” to the religious lesson. Faith matters need to be tied into what is passing in an ordinary day, but even when we recognize the connection, it often feels forced if we draw the lines out loud. But guess what, folks? We’re the parents, and if we don’t draw the lines between ordinary life and faith lessons, the kids will never hear it. We’ve got to get over ourselves.

giveaway-triooCatholicbooksI’m going to leave you with this little gem of a quote, which I highlighted thinking of myself, and only in retrospect realized was probably intended to be about the kids themselves:

“Sometimes, ‘fun’ is something you don’t realize you’re having until you look back on something, especially if you’re in a certain age range.”

So why exactly am I touting someone else’s book on the last day of my blog tour? Because Sarah’s giving away not one, not two, but three books for Catholic families: This Little Light of Mine: Living The Beatitudes, Catholic Family Fun, and Vinny Flynn’s 21 Ways to Worship. Look at that: in one giveaway package, you’ve got faith in action, faith in fun, and faith in prayer. I think we’ve got you covered. Head on over to Sarah’s place to enter the giveaway!

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Guest Post: Blessed are they who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness (This Little Light of Mine Blog Tour, Week 8)

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There are people who, when you first meet them, remind you of people who are very dear to you already. In those cases, you learn to love the new acquaintance on the spot. That was my experience with today’s guest, Dr. Tom Papreck, who with his wife Tammy teach NFP in our diocese. I hope his perspective on this topic inspires you.

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Praying Hands (Dürer)Halfway through my second marriage, the five year mark to be precise, I had a sudden change in direction in my faith life.  I had been a little more than a pew potato.  While I had been a Lector and had been involved in the periphery of parish governance I found myself searching for more involvement in the life of the church and something that I could commit to after my retirement which was but five years hence.  The two immediate triggers were a new truck with satellite radio and an invitation from one of our deacons to consider service in the ordained ministry.

For Lent that year I chose to give up listening to all books on tape (with their jarring four letter words) or any news programs and instead promised to invite Mother Angelica and EWTN into my life for all my trips each week to rural health clinics.  It soon became apparent what a slackdog Catholic I had become! The thought gave impetus to the deed and through what seems a divinely inspired restructuring of my medical practice I was able to begin inquiry and discernment into the diaconate. Ultimately my wife and I devoted 5 years of time, talent, treasure and prayer seeking ordination.

ThisLittleLight_Beatitudes_CoverAlong the way, and separate from the diaconate formation, our diocese recognized that I as a physician and my wife as a former OB nurse would be ideal candidates for training as NFP instructors.  We spent a year of Sunday nights, several hours each of those nights, taking the online course and ultimately becoming certified.  December 2012 as our final classes in the diaconate ended and ordination loomed four months away I was informed that because of an article discussing our new NFP ministry in the diocesan newspaper, a letter objecting to my ordination was received by the bishop…

The good news is that we continue to serve the Church, the Diocese of Jefferson City, our parish, and the Couple to Couple League, but not as an ordained minister and wife.  We have 18 new deacons and their wives to count as our lifelong friends and my very active role as an instituted acolyte here at home.

Did I feel persecuted?  YESSSS! Did I feel angry? YESSS! At first, but mostly sad for me and my “accuser”. This would seem to be a perfect example of the maxim “no good deed goes unpunished” but I prefer to look at it as a major contribution to reducing the temporal punishment for my many sins and as a result as the beatitude says “the Kingdom of Heaven shall be mine” perhaps a little sooner than later.

Dr. Tom Papreck practices family medicine in rural Missouri. He and his wife are highly involved in prolife work, including as teachers of natural family planning for the Couple to Couple League.

Guest Post: Blessed Are the Peacemakers (This Little Light of Mine Blog Tour, week 7)

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Today’s guest post comes from Barb Mecker. Barb is my sister-in-law’s mother and a woman I respect tremendously for her love, faith, and passion for life. I hope you will enjoy her thoughts on making peace in this decidedly unpeaceful world.

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Barb Mecker Hammond photoWhen I hear the Beatitude, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they are the children of God,” I often flash back to my days as a peace activist in the late 60s and early 70s. I participated in anti-war marches, volunteered at the Syracuse Peace Council, and managed the local War Tax Resistance Fund.  We certainly had “saints” to whom we looked for inspiration:  Jesuit priest and poet Dan Berrigan and his brother Phil, Trappist monk Thomas Merton, Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh, and especially for me, Loretto sisters Mary Luke Tobin, Cecily Jones, and many others. We had secular saints who inspired us as well: singers such as Bob Dylan, Pete Seeger, Joan Baez, and so many others; movie stars such as Jane Fonda, Martin Sheen and Paul Newman. These folks created lots of energy and enthusiasm for the peace movement, probably much like the energy and enthusiasm of children.

Over the years, I have participated at various levels in the anti-nuclear movement, the women’s movement, the protests against the Iraqi War, and the protests to close the School of the Americas (SOA). Mostly though, I had to figure out how to be peaceful in my own life, amidst the stresses of being a wife, mother, teacher, daughter, sister, etc. That to me seemed much more immediate and far more challenging! I really felt far less successful at establishing peace in these personal realms than I did at working for peace on a global level.

Thankfully, I am now retired, my children are grown, and I face far fewer personal challenges to living a somewhat peaceful life than I used to. When I look at issues of peace in the larger world, however, they seem more challenging than ever, both within our own country and within the world, and even within the universe. We don’t really seem to have the inspiring saints that we had during the Civil Rights movement, the anti-Vietnam war days, or even the days of the women’s movement. How do we work for peace in the current age?

ThisLittleLight_Beatitudes_CoverMany of us in the Loretto Community have been reading a book by James O’Dea entitled Cultivating Peace:  Becoming a 21st-Century Peace Ambassador. He believes that we must go beyond the traditional ways we have worked for peace—with protests, marches, demonstrations, and even conflict resolution. He is not disheartened by the apparent lack of charismatic leaders because he believes that at this time, each of us is capable of being a global leader. Like Jesus says in the Beatitudes, we must cultivate peace in our own lives first, but with advances in our understanding of culture, psychology, spirituality, mental and physical health, we perhaps have better tools with which to accomplish this. He is also convinced that our own interactions with ourselves and others have an influence on the rest of the world, much like the flapping of butterfly wings can affect the weather in a far off location. Although O’Dea’s work has a bit of a New Age sound to it, it seems to me that this is actually quite similar to our belief about prayer. It turns out that my struggles to figure out how to be peaceful amidst the daily stresses of life may have been more important than my direct work for peace! Certainly this makes it possible for each of us to help create a more peaceful world—and perhaps each of us has a chance to become a saint!

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Barb Mecker and her husband Brian Hammond are co-members of the Loretto Community (Sisters of Loretto and co-members). Barb coordinated the Loretto Volunteer Program for eight years after retiring from a teaching career. She and Brian have four children and nine grandchildren.

Blessed Are the Clean of Heart (TLL Review and Excerpt )

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ThisLittleLight_Beatitudes_CoverThis Little Light of Mine: Living the Beatitudes is written not only for use with children, but to help form the faith of the adults who work with them. Today’s excerpt, from Chapter 6: Blessed are the clean of heart, for they will see God (Sacraments and Private Devotion), comes from the section for adults.

Most of us spend our whole lives searching for the meaning of life. Every time we think we get close to an answer, something knocks us off course again. We hunger and thirst for–what? All we really know is we’re incomplete, and nothing we pursue quite fills the emptiness, because it’s God we ache for, God we need. But God can feel far away at times; and the journey to reach him long and uncertain. Along that road, we need sustenance: tangible, physical touch points to strengthen us on the way. We find that sustenance in the sacraments and in a rich heritage of private devotions.

Just Live It:

Try celebrating a Passover meal with your family. Look up the traditional foods online, or keep it simple, with lamb and a loaf of unleavened bread…

During the meal, ask all in attendance to think about what it is they need Jesus to deliver them from. What is the habitual sin that you can’t overcome on your own? As you pass the bread around the table, have all people break off a piece to eat, and if they feel comfortable, share their thoughts aloud. But don’t force it. Conversion happens inside and manifests outside in different ways for different people. It would be easy for an exercise like this to turn into an opportunity to be self-righteous, which defeats the whole purpose. (From This Little Light of Mine, chapter 6)

Hop on over to Alicia’s place for this week’s review and giveaway!

Guest Post: Blessed Are The Clean of Heart (This Little Light of Mine Blog Tour, Week 6)

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Dan Quinn was the youth minister, and thus my “boss,” the year I led music for our local Life Teen program. Today, in the context of the Beatitude calling us to be “clean of heart,” he reminds us about an old practice many of us don’t give much thought.

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If you would ask your Catholic grandparents and especially great-grandparents about sacramentals and devotions you would hear about their affection for rosaries, medals, saints, saint feast days, etc. Today’s Catholics do not seem to have the same affection for sacramentals. How can the Catholic traditions of so many years ago apply to us and our society? Maybe our grandparents and great-grandparents are out of touch with our society? That was a different time – a different morality.

Truth be told, the past generation is out of touch with today’s society. Just look at the difference between the forms of entertainment then and now. They watched TV shows like Leave it to Beaver and The Andy Griffith Show while we watch sexually charged shows like Friends and Two and Half Men. For movies they watched Gone with the Wind while we watch Magic Mike. The elderly think that Fifty Shades of Gray must have something to do with the color palate. Maybe we should join our elderly and become out of touch with today’s society.

It appears to me that the gradual decrease of the devotion to sacramentals coincided with the increase of immorality in our society. Whether or not you accept this analogy between immorality and sacramentals, let us first understand how sacramentals help protect us against immorality.

The lack of devotion shown to sacramentals by today’s Catholics may be due to a lack of education.  Sacramentals are blessed objects like rosaries, medals, crucifixes, scapulars or sacred signs such as the sign of the cross, sprinkling holy water, bowing, pilgrimages, etc. The major importance of sacramentals is they “prepare you to receive grace” and direct us to “sanctification of men and the praise of God.” [CCC 1670]

Some Christians and even some Catholics do not understand why we should utilize sacraments when you can go straight to Jesus. It is important to note that sacramentals are not to replace our relationship with Jesus, sacraments or the liturgy, all of which are far superior. [CCC 1675]. The fact that they “prepare us to receive grace” flows from the Paschal mystery of the Passion, Death, and Resurrection of Christ. [1670] Sacramentals have always been an important part of Christian and biblical faith. Here is just one biblical example:

ThisLittleLight_Beatitudes_Cover“So extraordinary were the mighty deeds God accomplished at the hand of Paul that when face cloths or aprons [sacramentals] that touched his skin were applied to the sick, their diseases left them and the evil spirits came out of them.” (Acts 19:11-12).

It is said that we should learn from our past and our past was devoted to sacramentals. Maybe it’s time our society places less importance on the latest iPhone and place more importance on sacramentals such as the miraculous Medal. Sacramentals help us by preparing us to live a sanctified or holy life. A sanctified life spiritually puts us in a better position to receive the fruits of the Holy Spirit. Our immoral society would see more joy, peace, charity, patience, kindness, goodness, generosity, gentleness, faithfulness, modesty, self-control, and chastity. I am confident that we all could use more of all of these.

My favorite sacramental is the Miraculous Medal and the Immaculate Conception of Mary. I know this has deepened my relationship with Jesus and I encourage you to find your devotion to a sacramental. Pray this Prayer of the Immaculate Heart of Mary and ask for help finding your sacramental devotion.

O God, who by the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary, didst prepare a worthy dwelling place for thy Son, we beseech thee that, as by the foreseen death of this, thy Son, thou didst preserve her from all stain, so too thou wouldst permit us, purified through her intercession, to come unto thee. Through the same Lord Jesus Christ, thy Son, who livest and reignest with thee in the unity of the Holy Ghost, God, world without end. Amen.

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Dan Quinn and his twin brother, John, are the authors of the Marion Amazon best seller The Ultimate Saint Guide to the Immaculate Conception. He is administrator of the Immaculate Conception of Mary Facebook page.

Blessed Are The Merciful (TLL Review and Excerpt)

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ThisLittleLight_Beatitudes_CoverChapter 5 of This Little Light of Mine: Living the Beatitudes ties together the idea of mercy with the 4th through 10th commandments–as I like to call them, the “rubber-meets-the-road” commandments. Today’s excerpt comes from the section for children.

Have you ever heard that old saying, “What goes around, comes around?” That’s kind of what Jesus is getting at here. God is good to everyone all the time, but people have trouble being nice to those who are mean to them.

The last seven of the Ten Commandments tell us how we should treat other people. Here are some things to think about:

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“You shall not kill.”

Most of us are never going to kill anyone, but that doesn’t mean this commandment is an easy one to follow. There are people we just don’t like, and sometimes we say mean things to or about them. “I don’t like playing with you.” “You’re not very good at sports.” “I’m a better reader than you.”

The way we talk to other people and what we say about them when they aren’t around can make them feel that they are important and loved, or it can make them feel like they are worthless. When we hurt other people’s feelings, we are “killing” their spirit. God wants us to talk about other people with respect and not trash their reputation.

Just live it

How can you tell people they hurt you without doing the same thing to them?

(Excerpt from This Little Light of Mine: Living the Beatitudes, chapter 5)

Today I have TWO reviews to share! Here is Ellen Gable Hrkach’s review at Amazing Catechists, and Carol at Simple Catholic Living has both a review and a giveaway in process! Hop on over!

Guest Post: Blessed Are The Merciful (This Little Light Blog Tour, Week 5)

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Today I welcome blogger, columnist and author Sarah Reinhard to the blog. Her charm and humor shines through everything she writes, and today’s offering, in which she really digs down to the heart of a lived faith, is no exception!

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The Rubber Meets the Road with the Merciful

reinhard sarah 402x401So often, I love the thinking, theory parts of my faith life. I like to think about how things work and go all deep and thinkoretical. I’ve always been this way.

I was all set to live my life this way until right after I became Catholic. It was at that point, with the sun streaming in through our little parish church, when the director of religious education found me and turned her big brown eyes on me.

“You’d be great as a catechist,” she said, so sincerely, so charmingly, so humbly.

Yeah, you know the drill. I said yes. And life has never been the same.

You see, there’s nothing like a class full of younger people—in my introductory case, 3rd graders—to make all that theory into just a bunch of marshmallows. They don’t care what it’s supposed to look like. They want to know how it is. They want to know why. They want to know how.

And the thing about kids, whether they’re in 3rd grade or 5th grade or Confirmation-aged, is that they’ll ask. They’ll demand (if you’re lucky) or they’ll tune you out (if you’re not).

Over the years, I’ve learned that parents—and, really, all adults—aren’t so different. Give them, for example, a tangible way to apply the commandments and live the beatitudes, and, while they might wiggle their eyebrows (their kids got it naturally), they will also think about it. They will probably try them. With God at work, they may even start to make them their own.

There is a longing in the Catholics all around us for Truth and, even more, for ways to apply Truth. We’re at odds with the world around us, but we’re also so very conditioned and immersed in life…where’s the line? How do we know?

That’s where the last six commandments come in. And, if you stop for a minute, it’s also where the beatitude about mercy—”Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy”—comes in.

On the surface, it seems too easy to even mention. At first, you almost wonder if it’s not a cutesy way of saying the same thing twice.

ThisLittleLight_Beatitudes_CoverBut when you try to live mercy, when you try to refrain from strangling a small person or yanking the hair out of a rude operator, when you attempt to swallow the sharp retort or eat the entire foot you just had shoved down your throat—well, then it becomes clear that mercy isn’t so easy to live. At. All.

This year, our religious education program focused on the corporal and spiritual works of mercy each week. The students earned a cut-out hand to hang on the wall for each work of mercy they performed. In my class, I had one student who really focused on bearing wrongs patiently, especially with his younger sisters.

By the end of the year, a couple of the other students in my class were also citing that work of mercy. They were sharing how they helped someone with homework, how they prayed for a friend, how they did something so inconsequential they giggled as they told me.

And that’s what mercy is, isn’t it? It’s bearing wrongs patiently in our homes so that we’re ready to do it in the Great Big Out There. It’s feeding the hungry who clamor and rudely demand so that we are reflexively gracious and generous with the stranger and poor. It’s a thousand small moments not ignored, but made habit. It’s a way of being that mirrors how Jesus himself taught us to live.

Sarah Reinhard is a Catholic wife, mother, author, and farm girl who writes at SnoringScholar.com.