"The whole trouble is that -- literally -- we do not know what is good for us; and what makes the trouble still worse is that we think we do. We have our own plans for our happiness, and too often we merely regard God as somebody who will help us to accomplish them. The true state of affairs is just the opposite. God has His plans for our happiness, and He is waiting for us to help Him to accomplish them. And let us be quite clear about it: We cannot improve on God's plans." This Tremendous Lover, M. Eugene Boylan, O.C.R.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Christ is Risen!

Praying for a blessed Pascha for you and your families!

Tuesday, April 19, 2011


The rest of this most Holy Week will be busy for me, so I wanted to share one activity that I'll be doing with my girls at home. I LOVE Catholic Icing!! It is my favorite crafty, Catholic blog. She has a beautiful Resurrection set that you can make with free printables. I used her set, but added John the Beloved and another woman. I also wrote on Mary's halo "MP" and "OY," just like she has in all the icons. You can see my printable here.

Be sure to go check out the original post here. We made a set like this for the Nativity of Christ as well. My five year old in particular plays with the set a lot, even now. I can't wait to show her this one!

Friday, April 15, 2011

Holy Week!

To start off Holy Week, I love this craft from The Diary of a Sower. I think this is such a simple, beautiful way to remind our children all week long that this week, of all weeks, is a time to unite ourselves to Christ again and to re-focus on our commitments to prayer, alms-giving and fasting. The Church provides us with beautiful reflections every day during Holy Week, so I adjusted some of the pieces she used and wanted to share my finished product! I can't wait to do it with the children...Here is the lesson, along with all the pieces and instructions that you'll need!

The craft is designed to be an interactive teaching tool. We will go through all of Holy Week as a class. Then, the children will take home their craft, and add one piece on to the ribbon (with velcro) each day. I will send home a family worksheet so that the parents can re-read all the stories to their children. For class, I am going to divide the room into nine stations, so we will travel as a class from station to station. Each station will be a different day of Holy Week.

Station One
I will introduce the children to Holy Week: the importance, the focus on prayer, fasting, and almsgiving. Children will use sparkle mod podge to finish off their top pieces. I made these by buying inexpensive wooden squares at the local craft store. They are similar to this, but only 3 inches by 3 inches. I spray painted the wood gray, then used mod podge to glue these squares to the wood. The children will use the glitter mod podge to put the final layer on top.

On the back of the squares, I hot glued the wide, purple ribbon as well as a small white ribbon to use to hang the piece up. (Hopefully this holds up...perhaps I could have secured the ribbon with something better?) The purple ribbon was 36 inches long. Starting at the bottom of the ribbon, I placed small squares of velcro 4 inches apart. I attached 8 pieces of velcro.

Station Two
Palm Sunday: On this day, we remember Jesus’ entrance into Jerusalem and will read John 12: 12-15 to the children from the Bible. Children receive their Palm Branches which have a very thin piece of velcro on the back of the stem to secure them to the ribbon. I found silk palm branches at the local craft store and cut them into small pieces to make these items.

Station Three
Great and Holy Monday: On this day we focus on the story of Joseph. Joseph is a Christ-type figure, given over to his enemies, only to later save many. Children will receive the colorful coat and hear the story of Joseph from a book. The piece was made by cutting out a coat from colorful fabric. I used Fray Block (found at the craft store) on the edges to prevent the fabric from shredding and avoid having to sew anything. On the back of the coat was a small piece of velcro again to secure it to the ribbon.

Station Four
Great and Holy Tuesday: On this day we focus on the parable of the 10 virgins. Children will receive their lamp, just print the page and laminate it. Then, “light” the lamp by punching a hole in the flame of the printable. Then, slide through a piece of red felt and hot glue the fire together on either side. Read the story to the children from the Bible, Matthew 25: 1-13.

Station Five: Great and Holy Wednesday: On this day we remember the story of Mary Magdela anointing Jesus’ feet with perfume and oil. Children receive their oil bottle which I made by cutting the shape out of firm felt. This piece did not need its own velcro on the back, it stuck to the ribbon's velcro without any problem.I will read to the children from the Bible, John 12: 1-8.

Station Six
Great and Holy Thursday: On this day we remember the Last Supper. The children receive a laminated chalice, they can decorate it with sticker gems. Read from the Bible Matthew 26: 26-30.

Station Seven
Great and Holy Friday: On this day we remember the crucifixion and the children receive the cross. I found these at the local craft store again. They had twine through the top to hang them, so I wrapped it around the top to resemble the crown of thorns. A plain wooden cross would be fine as well. Read John 19: 17-30 from the Bible.

Station Eight
Great and Holy Saturday: We remember Jesus in the tomb, his descent into Hades to open the gates to Heaven, and the restful waiting for the resurrection. Children receive a tomb cut from firm felt. I cut the gray and the black together. Then, I cut the "door" out of the gray, revealing the black behind. From the left-over gray felt, I cut it into a circle to resemble the stone in front of the door. We will read John 19: 38-42 from the Bible.

Station Nine
Pascha...He is risen! Truly He is risen! Our greatest Feast day of the year! The gates of Heaven are opened! Read Luke 24: 1-9 from the Bible and the children receive the icon for the Feast. Just print this page and laminate them. The icon shows the risen Christ pulling Adam and Eve up from the grave.

For more information about the Melkite traditions surround Holy Week, visit this website. There are beautiful pictures and a brief description for each day of Holy Week.

Palm Sunday

I can't believe that Palm Sunday is already here and Holy Week is beginning! In our church, Palm Sunday is a pretty big day! All the families come dressed up extra-nice (very similar to Easter Sunday) and bring decorated candles. During the Liturgy, the entire parish will process with our palms and candles, singing the songs of the day. It is a beautiful, exciting start to the week.

I wanted to share with you the candles that the girls and I made for the procession. They are very simple, so it is easy and inexpensive enough for you to put together in time for Liturgy this week.

I started with simple supplies:
tall, white candle
silk flowers
decorative Easter eggs
colorful ribbon

I pulled apart the silk flowers so that I just had the buds. Then, I arranged them with the eggs so that they laid nicely together against the candle. I hot glued the arrangements together. (It is hard to hot glue to the candle directly, it just melts the wax!) Then, I tied the arrangements to the candles with the ribbon.

I also added a round piece to the bottom of the candle to protect the girls' hands from dripping wax during the procession. This was easy to do. I simply cut out a large circle from a sturdy paper plate. Then, I poked a hole through the center with scissors, then pushed the candle up through the center of the plate. This way, their little hands won't be burned!

There you have it! Have a blessed Palm Sunday!

Monday, April 4, 2011

The Mystery of the Holy Eucharist, a lesson on Communion for the Great Fast

During the Great Fast, we are taking an opportunity to review with the children two of the sacraments, Confession and Communion. Following is my lesson plan to discuss with the children the Holy Eucharist, along with a craft from Catholic Icing that I love and fits in perfectly to prepare us for Holy Week.

First, we'll begin by discussing the sacrament itself, with my summary from the Primer of Melkite worship.

The Holy Eucharist looks like bread and wine, but it is the true Body and Blood of our Lord, Jesus Christ. The bread and wine are sacred gifts that the priest prepares and carries in the procession of the Great Entrance.

The bread and wine are placed on the altar, where the priest offers them to God on behalf of all the faithful people. The priest uses words from the last supper and the day when Jesus died on the cross in his prayers. He asks God to come down from Heaven to the gifts of bread and wine and make them the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ. The bread and wine are changed by the power of the Holy Spirit.

Once this mystery has taken place, we offer the prayers of thanksgiving and petition. Do you remember when we sing “Grant this Oh Lord?” These are the prayers that we say at this time. Then we are asked to approach the Eucharist “with the fear of God, with faith, and with love.” Do you think this means we should be afraid of God?

“Fear of God” means great respect and reverence for God’s Presence here with us. We are so grateful and awed that He is willing to allow us to receive Him in this special way. We also are asked to approach with faith, meaning that we come up truly believing that this IS the Body and Blood of Jesus.

If we have any very serious sins, or if we have a big fight with a friend or family member, we should go to Confession before we receive the Eucharist. We should be at peace with God and with each other. This is what it means to approach with love.

How should we approach the Eucharist? Allow for answers.
1. When in line, wait patiently and quietly. No talking or pushing.
2. Before receiving, make a bow, then cross your arms across your chest and place your chin above the cloth that the altar servers are holding.
3. Tip your chin up and open your mouth wide for the priest to place the Eucharist in your mouth. Do not stick out your tongue.
4. Step aside and bow before the icon of Jesus. Say a quiet prayer thanking God for this gift.
5. Return to your place, standing and praying quietly until everyone has received communion. Thank God for the gift He has given us!

A small piece of the Body and Blood that we receive are left on the altar in the tabernacle. This is why we always bow when we enter the church or pass in front of the altar. We are bowing to God, present in the Holy Eucharist, there on our altar. Even when you pass by a Catholic church in your car, you should make the sign of the cross to acknowledge that Jesus is there inside.

Since it is such a privilege to receive Christ in this way, we should act and dress accordingly! When our parents take us to a fancy restaurant, we wear special clothes and act “on our best behavior.” It is the same for us at the Liturgy. We are here to RECEIVE the KING OF KINGS! We should dress up, dress modestly, and be on our best behavior. We should participate to the best of our ability in worshiping our Lord.

Now, we will read from the Bible Matthew 26: 21-29 and 47-56. Listen for some of the same words that we hear in the Liturgy. You will get to make a craft today to depict the scenes that we are reading about now.

At this point, we'll transition into our craft, seen above. The instructions can be found at Catholic Icing. It is one of my very favorite blogs! I had the children do all of their coloring last week and this week, we will just be doing the crafting in an effort to make sure that there is enough time for everything. We are always short on time!

Sunday, April 3, 2011

A lesson on the Mystery of Repentance, Confession

Today, I was out sick, so this is the lesson plan I sent in for my other teachers to complete on my behalf. I've included the entire script that I used for your benefit below. Most of the information was taken from the "God with Us, Celebrating Forgiveness" booklet as well as A booklet from "St. Anne Atrium of the Little Flower, Catechesis of the Good Shepherd" booklet

Lesson Script:

There are two sacraments that the Church encourages us to receive very frequently. Can you tell me what they are? (allow children to answer) That’s right, Confession and Holy Communion. In our church, we call Sacraments “Mysteries.” In the next two weeks we will be talking about the Mystery of Repentance, or confession, and the Mystery of the Holy Eucharist, or communion. Especially during the Great Fast, we need to remind ourselves of the importance of these two sacraments.

Today, we are talking about the Mystery of Repentance. God made us because He loves us. God sent His Son Jesus into our world and His Holy Spirit to guide us because he loves us so much. God wants us to love Him in return, and God asks us to love others as God loves us. We are to love everyone, including those people that we do not like.

How do we show God that we love Him? (allow for children’s answers)
1. Pray
2. Worship on Sundays at the Liturgy, and by receiving the Eucharist
3. Learn more about Him by coming to CRE and reading books
4. Follow his commandments (use some examples of the 10 commandments)

How do we show that we love others? (allow for children’s answers)
1. Give money and service to the poor
2. Be kind and patient, treating others as you would like to be treated
3. Serve/Help others

To sin is to hurt others either by what we do or what we fail to do. When we sin, we are not loving God or others. We are acting selfishly. Sin separates us from God and keeps us away from Him. But, God wants us to be close to Him! God never stops loving us, even when we sin, but we need to ask God for forgiveness. God always forgives us when we are sorry for our sins.

God always waits for us to become aware of His love. Repentance means recognizing the evil we have done and humbly retuning to God our Father. We must admit our failings and ask for forgiveness. We must value God above all else. We can seek God’s forgiveness through Confession, the Mystery of Repentance.
Let me show you an example of this: (here we used THIS visual aide for the children)

Confession re-unites us with God and with our community. It is a beautiful gift! Our church expects us to go to confession at least once a year, typically during the Great Fast. All the older children will have an opportunity to go to Confession before Pascha. Those who have not been to confession before, you will be learning more about this sacrament next year and many of you will have your first confession this time next year!

Now, lets look at the steps of what happens during confession: (Hand out confession instructions, print here for older children, and one for the younger children (picture cards).) You can also use this examination of conscience for children that I like.

Review the steps with the children:

First, we do an examination of conscience. This means that we think about our sins…what we have done and what we have not done to love God. These are the things that we will confess to the priest.

Second, we begin our confession. We will talk to the priest during this time, imagining that we are talking directly to God. We will tell him our sins and how sorry we are.

Third, the priest will absolve us. God frees us from our sins and weaknesses with the Holy Spirit and we are reunited to God and to each other.

Fourth, we quietly pray, thanking God for his forgiveness and completing our penance, whatever the priest has asked us to do.

Answer any questions with the children. Confession is a beautiful gift to re-unite us with God and with each other. Use the tools that we have given you today to familiarize yourself with the sacrament. We encourage you to go to Confession with Father whenever you have committed a serious sin, but at a minimum, once a year. We will give you the opportunity to do this during class in the next two weeks.

We are going to be doing a very big craft next week and talking about the Eucharist. We need to get started on that craft today, so I have a few coloring pages for you to color. Color all the people and cut out the squares, then place all your pieces in a ziplock bag with your name on them. We will collect them and save them for next week. (Here's what's coming: HERE)

A couple extra activities if you have extra time:

Word puzzle is provided and game: Print it here

Also a game to get the kids up and moving:The Righteous vs. the Wicked, a spin on "Red light, green light" scroll down to the very bottom