Monday, November 29, 2010

Free Advent Adventure from Holy Heroes

Looking for a fun, simple way to teach your kids more about Advent and the Jesse Tree?  The wonderful people at Holy Heroes are offering a free Advent retreat.  Every day, you will get a link to an online video lesson about Advent and a second lesson about the Jesse Tree.  My 8 year old daughter and I have been following it; she is really enjoying it because kids narrate both video lessons.  The website also a variety of helpful free downloads, including a sacrifice list, the words to "O Come, O Come Emmanuel," coloring sheets, word searches and more.
To enroll in the free retreat, visit the Holy Heroes website here.

While you're at the website, why not order the free Glory Stories CD?  Glory Stories are high quality audio shows about saints that were originally broadcast on Ave Maria Radio and EWTN Global Radio Network from 2003-2006. Production was discontinued on the series and the CDs were getting hard to find, until Holy Heroes recently purchased the rights to them.  This would make a great stocking stuffer.  Normally these CDs cost $14.75 but for a limited time you can own one for the price of shipping only.  Find out more here.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Presents for Jesus

A couple of years ago, I developed a "virtue cross" for my catechism class to use during Lent.  I created the activity to help the children learn appropriate behavior in our atrium.  We selected a few behaviors we wanted to reinforce, like reverence, kindness or respect of property.  Whenever one of the catechists "caught" a child doing one of these behaviors, that child was given a colorful sticker to add to a blank cross on the wall.

At the end of the year, the plain white cross was transformed into a beautiful creation because of the colorful stickers.  We complimented the children and pointed out how their virtuous actions had created something beautiful in our atrium.

Since that time, I've toyed with the idea of creating a similar work for Advent.  Today I finally sat down and created our new activity, which I've titled "Presents for Jesus."  Using my desktop publishing program, I drew two boxes on a page.  I divided the main section of each box into 1/2" x 3/4" rectangles, which are the same size as Avery's All Purpose Labels (available at most office supply stores).  Using markers, I colored one sheet of labels purple and another sheet pink.

 Tomorrow I will explain to the children that the best gift we can give to Jesus is our good behavior.  I will ask them to select four different virtues they would like to work on during Advent.  Whenever they are caught doing the virtue, they will be given an appropriate sticker and can use it to fill a space on one of Jesus' gift boxes.
Our goal will be to fill all four
gift boxes by Epiphany.  We will work together to create the beautiful packages for Jesus, rather than competing to see who puts the most stickers on the package.

This activity could easily be adapted to a home environment, either as a family activity or homeschool activity. I've uploaded the "Presents for Jesus" pdf  here if you would like to try it at home.  If you do, please post a comment and tell us about it!

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Planning for Advent

Advent begins tomorrow --Sunday, November 28, 2010.  How will you be spending your Advent?  I find that unless I sit down and plan some Advent-focused activities, December is quickly over-run with Christmas preparations. My focus shifts to the many "to do" items on my work list -- the Christmas cards, the baking, the gift buying and the house decorating. I have to make a concerted effort to build prayer and contemplation into my family's daily schedule.

Yesterday night I sat down and read a helpful little booklet called What Am I Doing for Advent This Year? Written by Father Paul Turner, the pastor of St. Munchin parish in Cameron, Missouri, it is only 32 pages, yet provides quick questions and exercises to help you prioritize your holiday preparations while still allowing time for the quiet meditation and prayer that truly makes Advent and Christmas meaningful.  It helps you survey your secular activities and suggests spiritual ones--like using a Jesse tree--to enhance the season.

It also offers a meaningful explanation into the liturgical colors of the season and the Sunday readings.  Finally, the back of the book includes a blank chart that you can use to plan your Advent.

This little gem is only $1.  It can be purchased from Liturgy Training Publications.  It would make a nice Advent gift for friends and family who are also searching for a more meaningful holiday.