Monday, April 25, 2011

First Communion Menu Ideas

My daughter is making her First Communion this Saturday, so I'm in the midst of planning the at-home celebration after the big event at church.  I want to keep it simple (so the focus remains on the church) but I still need to plan a nice meal since we have grandparents and godparents coming from out of town for the weekend.

I'm sure there are other moms also planning an after-the-event brunch, luncheon or dinner, so thought I'd share some of the meal-planning ideas and links I found while searching the Internet:

Frugal Catholic Mommy
Love her idea of serving hot sides like taco bites ("Scoops" tortilla chips filled with taco meat, salsa, etc.)
She also shares a recipe for pepperoni rolls.

Food Network:  Pretty Butterfly Sandwich
Perhaps shape bread dough to look like a chalice instead of a butterfly?

That article reminds me of the Sicilian custom of serving breads sculpted into the shape of chalices and other religious symbols for St. Joseph's Day. You can read about the tradition on Evann's Virtual St. Joseph blogSaveur has an article on shaping St. Joseph's bread. Jennifer shares a photo of bread shaped like a chalice and grapes on her blog Family in Feast and Feria.

The GardenWeb forum has some great ideas for simple, nice meals that can quickly be prepared after you arrive home from church. Many of the post-ers on that forum recommended making a variety of salads and sandwiches ahead of time, then just pulling them out of the refrigerator when you come home. This really appeals to me, since I won't feel like spending the rest of the day in the kitchen cooking!

Angie's menu on her Many Little Blessings blog sounds delicious and just perfect for a spring day.

On her Catholic Icing blog, Lacy shares an idea for a "Wine Cup O Jello."   Basically, red jello is poured into plastic wine cups. When it is firm, add a slice of marshmallow on the top to resemble the white host.  I know the young guests at the dinner will love this, so we will definitely be doing it!

Lacy has other First Communion food and cake ideas here.

This ThriftyFun forum has some good meal and party ideas.

Catholic Cuisine has some ideas for decorating a sheet cake. It has more ideas here.

It is a bit challenging to find ideas for a simple yet meaningful First Communion luncheon or dinner. I'll try to take photos of our meal and cake and do a follow up post to help other moms who might be looking for ideas.

Divine Mercy Novena and Chaplet

The Divine Mercy devotion is based on the writings of a young Polish nun, Sister Maria Faustina Kowalska, who received a series of messages from Jesus in the 1930s.  The devotion's practice is growing as more and more Catholic churches celebrate Divine Mercy Sunday on the Sunday following Easter (which is next Sunday).

You can find out more about the Divine Mercy devotion on the EWTN website here. 

There is a novena and chaplet associated with this devotion. Since I will be teaching it to my kids this year, I decided to make up another prayer ring with directions on how to pray the chaplet on a regular rosary, along with the actual prayers used.  Here's a photo of the Divine Mercy prayer ring:

If you would like a copy, you can download it for free from here.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Simplifying the Triduum

I was listening to the local Catholic radio station while driving my son to school this morning.  The station, Relevant Radio, has a program called "Morning Air" hosted by Sean Herriott. This morning Sean was discussing keeping the Triduum holy with guest and AOL ParentDish blogger Rachel Campos Duffy.  One of Rachel's suggestions was to take your children out of school on Thursday (and Friday, if they don't have that off) and do some activities with them to reinforce the holiness and specialness of those days. In other words, we might need to isolate ourselves from the secular world to make the Triduum meaningful.

I've been struggling with myself for the last week, wondering how I could make these holy days stand out and be meaningful to my family and I. As much as I yearn to isolate my family, it won't work for us this year. In fact, the older the kids get, the more difficult it is. They have commitments that can't just be dropped. (Although part of me wonders if it is just the devil making life difficult for us!)

Although I have more flexibility with my daughter, whom I homeschool, I'm stuck a bit with my son's schedule. My son will be missing three days of school next week so I really shouldn't take him out this week. Our schedule is pretty full with sports activities for the next few days. As much as I wish we could skip them, it isn't realistic since my husband is the coach for one of the teams.  In addition, we both have the philosophy that if a person commits to a sports team, he has a responsibility to his team and coach to attend practices and games as much as possible.

In addition, I'm a bit overwhelmed with cleaning the house and baking not only for Easter, but also for my daughter's First Communion (which is a week from Saturday).  Next Monday is the anniversary of the day our adopted daughter officially became part of our family, so we always try to do something special on that day, which I still need to plan. (Yes, I'm suffering from a bit of the "Martha" syndrome.)

Needless to say, I regretfully can't isolate my family this year. So for the last week, I've been asking myself "what are some simple things I can do to make the days stand out?"  Here are some of my plans. Maybe some of these ideas can help other moms who are also feeling overwhelmed right now:

1) Attend Eucharistic Adoration on Friday morning
The church near us has Perpetual Adoration Chapel. It's a very special place for us. My son and I were regular adorers when he was in kindergarten, but unfortunately we haven't been able to do this for several years. On Friday morning, instead of sleeping in on this "no school" day, I'll get the kids up and we will spend some time with Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament during a time that I know there are no other adorers. We will pray the rosary together, spend time in silent prayer and I'll just encourage them to "talk with Jesus."

2) Read a book about Jesus' Passion, Death and Resurrection out loud each day
We are slowly building up a library of beautiful picture books related to the Triduum and Easter. I'll allow each kid to pick out a book and we will cuddle up and read them each night.

Some of our favorite books include.

The Jesus Garden: An Easter Legend by Antoniette Bosco
A gentle portrayal of Jesus' death and resurrection, as told from the point of view of the animals in the garden.

Benjamin's Box: The Story of the Resurrection Eggs by Melody Carson
(Sometimes we read this without using the resurrection egg set)

The Very First Easter by Paul L. Maier
Beautiful full-color illustrations in this book!

The Easter Cave by Carol Wedevan

The Legend of the Sand Dollar: An Inspirational Story of Hope for Easter by Chris Auer
This book also has beautiful illustrations.  In it, a girl learns how a sand dollar illustrates the story of Jesus death and resurrection.

3) Attend as many Triduum services as possible. 
When we have conflicting activities that we can't get out of, I will use Mass Times to find the times of various services at other Catholic churches in the area.  (Easter Sunday is a "no outside conflicts" allowed day!)

4) Watch religious movies instead of secular ones
I do have control over what goes on in the house, so we're going to "fast" from secular TV and movies.  Instead, we will dig out our favorite religious VHS tapes and DVDs:

For Holy Thursday, we like to watch a movie called The Last Supper by Mirkam Productions.  Filmed in the Holy Land, it explains the origins of The Last Supper and how a Jewish family would prepare a Seder meal. 

The Miracle Maker: The Story of Jesus by Family Home Entertainment

The Easter Promise by Tommy Nelson/Christian Broadcasting Network

Greatest Heroes and Legends of the Bible: The Last Supper, Crucifixion and Resurrection by Good Times Home Video (hosted by Charlton Heston)

The Miracles of Jesus  produced by William Hanna and Joseph Barbera, Turner Home Entertainment

Jesus:  A Kingdom Without Frontiers: Temptations in the Desert by CCC of America

The Easter Story Keepers   by Zondervan Publishing and Porchlight Entertainment

The Beginner's Bible: The Story of Easter by Sony Wonder  and Time Life Kids

There you have it, my scaled-down plans for this year's Triduum.  If our plans change (i.e., sports and other activities are canceled!) I'll add a few other activities.  I will try not to feel guilty because I can't fill our days  with meaningful religious activities. Instead, I'll just try to grab a moment here and there to remember and thank Jesus for what He did for us.

And I'll try to remember that despite what's happening in our lives, I can always turn my attention toward God by silently praying The Jesus Prayer*.  I love the fact that the prayer can be said unceasingly while I clean, bake or do other necessary chores in preparation for Easter!

"Lord Jesus Christ, Son of the Living God,
Have mercy on me, a sinner"

*About the Jesus Prayer, from The Catechism of the Catholic Church, paragraphs 2667-2668:

2667 This simple invocation of faith developed in the tradition of prayer under many forms in East and West. The most usual formulation, transmitted by the spiritual writers of the Sinai, Syria, and Mt. Athos, is the invocation, "Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on us sinners." It combines the Christological hymn of Philippians 2:6-11 with the cry of the publican and the blind men begging for light.18 By it the heart is opened to human wretchedness and the Savior's mercy. 
2668 The invocation of the holy name of Jesus is the simplest way of praying always. When the holy name is repeated often by a humbly attentive heart, the prayer is not lost by heaping up empty phrases,19 but holds fast to the word and "brings forth fruit with patience."20 This prayer is possible "at all times" because it is not one occupation among others but the only occupation: that of loving God, which animates and transfigures every action in Christ Jesus.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Find of the Month: First Communion Cookie Cutter Set

I was shopping online for my daughter's first communion dress and veil and was so excited to discover the First Communion Cookie Cutter Set available from The Catholic Supply Company of St. Louis! This set of six plastic cookie cutters includes a host and chalice (together), a church, a dove, a cross, an angel and a lamb. I plan to use the chalice and host to cut out a fondant decoration that I will be using on her First Communion Cake, in addition to using it to make cookies.

Actually, I think this set will be used for alot more than First Communion. The lamb will be used to make shaped sandwiches or cookies for our Liturgy of the Light brunch (which we hold in the atrium after our kid-friendly Liturgy of the Light service).  I bet I could make gelatin jigglers with it, too!

I'll try to post some photos of the finished creations.  In the meantime, if you want to check out the cookie cutter set (which only costs $4.95!) go to the link here. 

A Link-Up: Ideas for Holy Week

Looking for ideas for Holy Week?  Check out the Link-Up at Catholic Icing.  There are so many good ideas to make the week memorable for your family!  Click on the cupcake below to reach the Catholic Icing website:

Catholic Icing

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Learning about the Garden of Gethsemane

In the atrium tomorrow, I will read the four Gospel passages of Jesus' agony in the Garden of Gethsemane. The kids and I will then meditate and discuss these four different versions of the story. Since several of the kids are rather energetic cherubs who don't like to sit still and just listen, I usually try to find an activity they can do along with the Bible reading.  Thought I would share some of the resources I found on the internet.

Photos of the Garden of Gethsemane
To make the story more real for the kids, I like to show them photos of the Garden and the surrounding area. Our atrium has some older map books that show pictures of Jerusalem in the 1960s; I supplement these with newer photos that I've printed off the internet.  They love discussing how things have changed, and trying to envision what the garden might have looked like in Jesus' time when there wasn't as much development in the area. They are also fascinated with the fact that some of the trees in the garden are very old and may have been around when Jesus was in the garden!  Here are a few photos I found while doing an image search:

Jerusalm Shots: Ancient Olive Tree

Fotosearch: Garden of Gethsemane

Fotosearch: Gethsemane Gardens

TripAdvisor: Mount of Olives and Church of All Nations

Mount of Olives and Garden of Gethsemane

Garden of Gethsemane and Mount of Olives

Coloring Pages
I find that even the older kids enjoy doing coloring pages, especially if I can find pages with more detailed drawings.  Here are some of the pages I will be offering them:

Calvary Kids: Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane

Calvary Kids: More detailed image of Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane

Bible Printables:  Garden of Gethsemane
(this one reinforces the fact that the garden still exists today "in memory of Jesus' life on earth.")

Sermons4Kids: Jesus Praying in the Garden

Make a Miniature Garden
Ann Voskamp, in her blog Holy Experience, suggests creating a miniature Easter garden, complete with stone tomb, out of a clay dish. I think this idea could be adapted to create a miniature Garden of Gethsemane, complete with artificial olive trees and sand pathways. Hmmm, I think I'm going to brainstorm a bit more about this idea; perhaps a project I'll take on during Holy Week!

Faith and Family's "Agony in the Garden" diorama
Garden of Gethsemane Diorama
I love the hands on activity of making a miniature garden with the kids, but it might be a bit messy for the atrium. However, a diorama might be the perfect indoor project! The Faith and Family Connections blog has a downloadable .pdf file with complete instructions and artwork for making a "Agony in the Garden" diorama. Can't wait to try this project with my kids and also the students in the atrium!  (Thank you, Jon and Jennifer, for sharing this idea on your blog!)

Craft Project: Stations of the Cross Prayer Gems

I was brainstorming an interactive way to pray the Stations of the Cross with my very antsy 8-year-old daughter.  I love the Stations of the Cross boxes described by Lacy on her Catholic Icing blog but I was also looking for something my daughter could quietly use at the Stations of the Cross devotion at my church on Friday nights. 

While pondering this, I saw the bag of clear glass gems sitting on my desk, waiting to be used for a yet-unknown craft project.  I wondered:  could I decoupage small stations of the cross pictures to the back of the stones?  I quickly googled some images, pasted them into Microsoft Publisher and sized them to fit behind the glass stones and printed them out. I cut them out in circular shapes then placed them behind the glass stones.  I loved the dimensional effect that the glass gives the pictures!

A few hints, if you would like to make these yourself:

1) You can purchase a bag of clear glass gems at many dollar stores. Look for larger, round shaped gems.

2) Use brightly colored, crisp images.  I experimented with several different drawing types and found that the duller colors did not pop as much. You can use black and white images but they aren't as impressive. The traditional images on this page worked best for me.

3) If you are printing the images from an inkjet printer, allow the images to dry completely and then seal them with a light coating of hair spray. Inkjet images tend to run when exposed to Mod Podge and other decoupage mediums. The hair spray (sprayed on front and back of image) seems to prevent image bleeding.

4) I attached the image to the glass gem by applying a light layer of Mod Podge to the back (flat side) of the gem, then gently pressing the image side into the Mod Podge. Rub your finger along the back to remove any air bubbles.

5) After the image has dried to the glass gem, apply 2-3 additional coats of Mod Podge to the back of the image to seal it to the gem.

6) I printed the station's number on the back of each gem with a permanent marker. (If you have sealed it well with Mod Podge, the permanent marker does not bleed through to the image.)

7) I printed out some small Stations of the Cross cards that my daughter can use with these prayer gems. I found the cards at Kathryn's The Bookworm blog here. (Thank you, Kathryn!)

8) You will probably want some sort of simple carrying case for the prayer gems and cards. I originally planned to store the gems in a small black bag that I already had, but instead purchased some canvas pouches that my daughter and I dyed purple. (I'll try to post photos of the completed bags later.)

Here's a larger view of the completed gems: