Saturday, December 31, 2011

Favorite Find: DIY Liturgical Year Calendar Bulletin Board

It's hard to believe it is already the last day of 2011!  I'm thinking "calendars" today, and checking to see if everyone in the family has a calendar for 2012.  While surfing, I ran across a wonderful DIY liturgical calendar on Sanctus Simplicitis.  It helps families know saint feast days, which mystery of the rosary should be prayed on each day, and much more.  Best of all, the files for the calendar can be downloaded for free!  (Click here to see the calendar and get the downloadable files.)  Thank you, Sanctus Simplicitis, for this wonderful New Year's gift!

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

After Christmas Deals

I've been doing a bit of after-Christmas shopping with a couple of gift cards I received.  Some of the deals are really great, so I thought I would pass them on to others!

If you are looking for deals on pretty religious statues, check out the Catholic Supply of St. Louis website.  I was able to pick up these beautiful statues for half off!  (Statues are usually so expensive, especially nice ones.)

Holy Family statue, regularly $59.95, now $29.97
Although it won't be here in time this year, I plan to use it this beautiful statue each year on our dinner table for the Feast of the Holy Family.  I love the way Baby Jesus is nestled in Mary's arms!

Here's another one I found:

Flight Into Egypt statue, regularly $49.95, now $24.97

 Both of these are created by Joseph's Studio.  I have their La Posada statue, so these will be a nice complement to that. I love the muted colors and the facial details are very nice.

Catholic Supply has a number of other statues on sale, too, including complete Nativity sets, if you are looking to pick up a nice set.  Their Heaven's Majesty statues (which include not only statues of the Holy Family, but also of  Our Lady of Fatima, Our Lady of Grace, St. Therese, Our Lady of Lourdes, St. Joseph and the Sacred Heart of Jesus, plus more.)

Or, if you have always wanted to do the "straw in the manger" activity with your family, they have a couple of Baby Jesus in wood cribs for sale.

The 5.75" removable Baby Jesus with straw was $12.95, now $3.95.  The 7.75" Baby Jesus was $19.95, now $6.95.

Their order form is a bit of a pain to use, since you must cut and copy then paste item numbers into the order form (you can't just click on an item to add it to your cart.)  I usually open two windows--one with the order form and one with the page with the item I want to order, then cut and paste.  But it's worth it to me, since it's not often you can find beautiful statues on sale!

These links are not affiliate links and I'm not receiving any compensation if you purchase something. I just wanted to pass on some exciting deals that I found!

Friday, December 23, 2011

This Christmas: Pray for Bethlehem

But you, Bethlehem-Ephrathah
least among the clans of Judah,
From you shall come forth for me
one who is to be ruler in Israel;
Whose origin is from of old,
from ancient times.

Every year as we near Christmas, I spend some time looking at Youtube videos about Bethlehem and its holy sites.  And every year, I feel sadness and helplessness when I read about the diminishing Christian population in this sacred town.  Phoebe Greenwood, a journalist with The Guardian newspaper out of Britain, has written an article about the situation. She quotes Father Ibrahim Shomali, pastor of Annunciation Church in Beit Jala (a hillside town adjacent to Bethlehem)

"If Jesus were to come this year, Bethlehem would be closed. He would either have to be born at a checkpoint or at the separation wall. Mary and Joseph would have needed Israeli permission – or to have been tourists."

You can read the whole article here

This article suggests that the problem is caused by the Israelis.  I've read other articles that say the problem is caused by the Palestinian leaders. Others say radical Muslims.   I don't know; it is a very complicated situation where everyone feels that this relatively small piece of land should be theirs.

This year, for some reason, Isaiah 11:6-9 popped into my mind while reading the article:

6* Then the wolf shall be a guest of the lamb,
and the leopard shall lie down with the young goat;
The calf and the young lion shall browse together,
with a little child to guide them.f
7The cow and the bear shall graze,
together their young shall lie down;
the lion shall eat hay like the ox.g
8The baby shall play by the viper’s den,
and the child lay his hand on the adder’s lair.
9They shall not harm or destroy on all my holy mountain;
for the earth shall be filled with knowledge of the LORD,
as water covers the sea.

And I pictured Edward Hick's painting Peaceable Kingdom: 

This year, when you are at Mass on Christmas Eve, will you join me in prayer, asking Our Lord to bring peace to the "little" town of Bethlehem?  

The Franciscan Foundation for the Holy Land sponsors a wide variety of projects and programs to help Christians living in Bethlehem.  Some of their projects include a Child Sponsorship Program, a job placement program, affordable housing options, a university scholarship program, a vocational school program and social service programs for the elderly living in the area.  You can find out more about the organization here. 

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Simple O Antiphons Project

This year, I really want to spend a bit more time praying (and teaching my kids to pray) the O Antiphons.   My goal is to help them recognize the Latin words and their English equivalents, in addition to better understand each of the prayers.

I planned to make a paper  O Antiphons house like the one suggested by Catholic Culture, or even better yet, the wooden house created by Alice, Elizabeth, Suzanne, Ruth, Kelly,  Kimberly, and Jessica.   But between teaching catechism at two churches and chauffeuring kids to basketball, soccer and dance practices, I found little time to craft.  I figured that if I was going to make the house, I wanted to take the time to make it beautifully.  So it didn't happen.  Perhaps next year.

Yet I still wanted to do something, so I came up with this quick magnet board display:

I found a  purple magnet board and wooden magnetic letters at Michael's craft store.  The picture and symbols below the picture are from Jennifer Gregory Miller's O Antiphon Prayer Companion.  It's a wonderful booklet filled with prayers, an explanation of the symbols associated with each Antiphon, and even some suggestions for corresponding food or meals that could be served on each day.

I put two electronic taper candles on each side of the display and lit them.  They will remain lit for the whole week.

Each day the kids will change the wooden letters and symbols. Here is our display for today (O Adonai):

We will also listen to O Antiphons chant on the Fisheaters website.

It's okay to be less than perfect

Here it is, the last Sunday in Advent.  Are you feeling tinges of guilt over all the projects and things you didn't get done during the season? Or is your list still rather long, hoping you can finish the baking, Christmas shopping, card writing, Christmas crafting and gift wrapping before next Saturday, Christmas Eve?

I know my list is too long, and I will need to rewrite it so it's more realistic and do-able.  Also, I really need to focus on what's important--attending Mass each day, getting to confession, spending more time reading the Bible and meditating over the wonderful gift God gave to us in Jesus. 

Check out Tsh Oxenreider's article: Plan Your Peaceful Christmas: Embrace Imperfection for inspiration on just letting go and being in the moment with Christ!

Friday, December 9, 2011

Favorite Free Find: Free Christmas Music Downloads

Did you know that Amazon is currently offering "25 Days of Free Holiday Music"?  Each day, they upload a new holiday song from a variety of popular Christmas albums.  You can download the MP3 file for free, to put on your smartphone or MP3 player. Some of the current free songs include Greensleeves by Mannheim Steamroller, Ave Maria by Celtic Women, O Holy Night by Leigh Nash and Adeste Fideles by Bing Crosby.

You can get the free downloads here

I think I'll surprise my husband by adding some holiday tunes to his Nano, which he listens to every day on the train as he commutes to work!

Monday, December 5, 2011

Advent Glass Block Decoration

I admit it--I'm on a mission to decorate my home for Advent this year!  Usually, my only Advent decorations are our purple table cloth, a rather plain ring that serves as our Advent wreath, our Nativity set and a few statues or figurines depicting St. Nicholas and St. Lucia.  I've felt the need to add more liturgical purple to our home.

So, after I made the Immaculate Conception glass block decoration described here,
I wondered how I could use the second glass block and the purple and pink mini lights to create a decoration for Advent.  So I went back to the internet, searching for some sort of Advent picture--perhaps an Advent candle? Maybe symbols from the Jesse tree?  No, nothing seemed quite right, until I found a silhouette image depicting Joseph and Mary's trip to Bethlehem.  The phrase "waiting in joyful hope" immediately popped into my head.  I copied the image into my desktop publishing program and played a bit with the text until I came up with an image that seemed to represent Advent to me.  I then printed two copies of the image and attached it to the glass block using Mod Podge, like I did for the Immaculate Conception glass block project. (You can see a quick photo tutorial here.)

After the Mod Podge dried, I threaded a string of purple lights and a string of pink lights through the pre-drilled opening in the glass block.  Since each string has its own "on" button, I'll turn on the purple lights on the first, second and fourth weeks of Advent, then turn on the pink lights for the third week of Advent.
Here are a couple of photos of the finished product. Unfortunately, my camera can't really capture the true purple color. But it will give you an idea of what the decoration looks like:

The "Waiting in Joyful Hope" image I created on my computer

Illuminated by the pink mini lights (unfortunately, the purple lights were too dark to photograph, although not too dark to illuminate the image.)

It really was a quick project; waiting for the Mod Podge to dry was the most time consuming part!

I still have one more set of pink and purple mini lights left.  Now I'm waiting for some heavenly inspiration on how to use them, perhaps incorporating the O Antiphons!

I'm participating in Skip to My Lou's "Made by You Mondays" blog hop.  There are tons of wonderful ideas over there; check it out if you have a moment:

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Simple Craft Project for the Feast of the Immaculate Conception

On one of my trips to Hobby Lobby, I picked up two of those narrow glass blocks that have become so popular for holiday decorations.  I planned to use them with some battery operated mini lights I had obtained at an after-Christmas clearance at Target.  (I was able to pick up a package of blue lights, and two packages each of pink and purple lights.)  I knew I wanted to make some sort of inspirational/Catholic decoration with them, but didn't know what.   I was secretly hoping our Lord would inspire me with some ideas, and He recently did!

I don't have any nice statues, prints or decorations for the Feast of the Immaculate Conception. I knew my daughter and I would be doing some special things to celebrate this year, so I was searching the internet for a nice picture/painting of the Immaculate Conception. I stumbled upon a   beautiful stained glass image of the Blessed Mother and immediately thought of my glass block and blue mini lights.

So I copied the image to my desktop publishing software, sized it to fit the glass block, printed two copies of it, and then decoupaged the copies to the two flat sides of the block with Mod Podge. Here are a few photos of the work in progress:

I brushed Mod Podge on to the glass block.

I placed the image over the Mod Podge, carefully using my fingers to remove any air bubbles.

After the Mod Podge dried on the back of the image,  I sealed the front of it with two coats of Mod Podge. It looks cloudy when wet, but Mod Podge dries clear.  I then repeated the process for the other side of the block so the image appears on both sides.

I threaded the blue mini lights through the pre-cut opening in the glass block, then turned on the lights.  Here is the result:

My camera couldn't quite capture the proper shade of blue that peeks through the image; its not quite as stark as this image.  It is so pretty!  Even my husband (who isn't too crazy about religious art) said it was beautiful.

I've seen these same blue mini lights at Target this year, so if you are interested in making a craft like this, check out the Christmas light section at the after-holiday sales.

I also made a similar decoration for Advent.  Will post about it tomorrow!

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Advent Meditation with Children: Isaiah 9:1 (plus a craft idea and template!)

Public domain photo courtesy of
I love sharing the meditation on Isaiah 9:2 (or Isaiah 9:1 in some Bibles) with the children in the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd atrium. It is the passage that says "The people who walked in darkness, have seen a great light."   This passage and its meditation have enthralled me since I first heard it in my Level I CGS training nine years ago.  I decided to share it with my catechism class this last week.  I'm never sure how the class will react, since they are so used to "workbook/textbook" religion and seem to do best when we are physically moving around.  We haven't done a meditation yet and I wasn't sure how they would react.  However, their rapt attention and responses showed me that this passage speaks deeply to all children!

Thought I would share some bits and pieces about the meditation, in case you would like to try it with your children or your catechism class.  This isn't quite the same presentation as I would give in the atrium because the classroom setup isn't as conducive to that presentation.  For example, I'm not allowed to light candles in our classroom, so I need to tailor the presentation a bit because of that.

For the meditation you will need a Bible, a painting of the prophet Isaiah and a handmade prayer card (8" x 14" or larger is good) that also says the verse (see my example below).  If you are doing this at home, you will also need a candle, snuffer, matches and place to put spent matches.

With my catechism class, I began the meditation by telling the kids we were going to do some "deep thinking and pondering" today.  I don't usually do this in the atrium since the kids (except the newest, youngest ones) are used to doing meditations.

We discuss darkness--what does the word "darkness" mean?  What does it mean to be "dark"?  We might turn off the lights and ask if it is dark.  (In our room, it wasn't because there was some light streaming in from the windows.)  I ask them to cover their eyes with their hands.  Is that dark, or do they see some light peeking in?  I ask them to close their eyes and then cover their eyes.  Is that dark, or do they still see some light?

I ask them to imagine darkness with no light at all.  How does that feel?  Scary?

We then discuss "light" -- what it means and what it is.  When I think the children have a good grasp of the concept of light, we compare "darkness" and "light" and I ask them how each situation makes them feel. 

I then pick up the picture of the prophet Isaiah while telling them that today we are going to read a Bible verse about darkness and light.  I explain to them that it was written by a man named Isaiah, who was a prophet. I show them the picture of Isaiah and we talk briefly about prophets and prophesies.

At this point in the atrium, I would light the candle and pick up my Bible.  I would then slowly read the passage once:

"The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light." 

I then sit quietly for a few moments to give it a chance to sink in.  I then tell them I also have a prayer card that has this Bible passage, and show them this prayer card:

I re-read it slowly and we discuss darkness and light again.  I follow the children's lead, asking questions based on their answers. For example, in Wednesday's catechism class they thought the "great light" might be the sun, or perhaps a bright star like the star of Bethlehem.  I sprinkle their responses with comments like "I wonder?"  Or I might say "what else could the prophet be saying?"   I never really mention Jesus but do emphasize that Isaiah's prophesies were inspired by God.

It was truly amazing to watch the Holy Spirit work in the kids.  All the sudden, one girl's face lit up with understanding and she said "THE LIGHT IS JESUS!!"  And a boy's face lit up as he said "AND THE PEOPLE ARE US!!!!"

I will usually then suggest what a wonderful gift that God gave us when he gave us this light Jesus so we never have to walk in the darkness again.

At this point, one of the kids asked if we could sing the song "Christ is Light."  Again, the Holy Spirit at work, since this is a song I just taught them a few weeks ago.  After we sang it, I taught them another song, "I Want to Walk as a Child of the Light."  But any song about Christ as the light of the world would be appropriate.

To finish reinforce the lesson, we did a very simple craft.  I gave the kids an electronic pillar candle (purchased for $1 at Dollar Tree) and a picture of Isaiah along with the Bible verse.  The kids removed the label on the pillar candle, trimmed down the verse to fit their candle, then taped it to their candle. After everyone was finished, they turned on their candles and we turned off the lights.  The effect of the light shining through the picture of Isaiah and the Bible passage was beautiful, and the room was filled with excited kids saying "cool!"  "awesome!"  (Much to my delight!)  We then sang our two "Light" songs again by candlelight.

Here are some photos of our electronic pillar candles with the Bible passage and Isaiah's picture on them:


If you would like to make this craft, you can upload the candle paper for free from here. 

If you try this with your kids, please share your results in the comments section.  I would love to hear about it!

Note:  If you have any problems with this upload, please send a note to me at caswrite at yahoo dot com.  When looking at the image created by Google docs, I can't tell if the original size was retained, or if Google docs reduced the size of the candle paper.