Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Keeping Love in Lent: Our Lenten Prayer Tree

"I’m participating in the Keeping LOVE in LENT Blog Link-Up 2013, hosted by
Raising (& Teaching) Little Saints, Truly Rich Mom and Arma Dei: Equipping Catholic Families. We'll be sharing different ways, tips, stories and real-life experiences that will help us focus on Lenten sacrifices, prayer and good deeds, and how to carry them out with LOVE instead of a GRUMBLE. Please scroll down to the end of the post to see the list of link-up entries.”

The title of this link-up intrigued and challenged me:  how could my family "keep the love in Lent?"  What could we do to make Lent 2013 more meaningful?  How could we use this time to better show our love for others?  The answer quickly popped into my head: through more prayer!

I feel called to put a special emphasis on family prayer this year. Sure, we pray before meals and at bedtime, and occasionally say a decade of the rosary or the Divine Mercy chaplet while driving to sports or dance.  But it isn't enough, especially during this liturgical season which calls us to a deeper connection with Jesus. 

I'm ashamed to admit that as our lives become busier ad busier, we have begun falling into a pattern of rote, mechanical prayers.  We say them quickly and without much thought.  We need to slow down and really contemplate what we are saying.  

To help us in this mission, I decided to transform our St. Valentine's Tree into a Lenten Prayer Tree. We will use the tree to keep track of our prayer intentions, while giving more meaning to the actual prayer process.

Jennifer, at Catholic Inspired, has some wonderful printables for Lent, which I decided to adapt for our tree.  I printed out her Lenten Prayer Chain and her Chain of People printables.  Jennifer's chain printable should help us move from rote prayer; it includes suggestions like "Say an extra Hail Mary for people with a disability"  or "Say an Our Father for children who don't have a mother and father." We will use it to help us focus on a group of people of people who need our prayers.  

We will use the Chain of People printable to focus our prayers on individuals--friends, family members and others who need special prayers, like an aunt who might be having health problems or a friend who is suffering financial difficulties. 

Each day, we will take a link from the chain and read the prayer intention on it.  We will also take a paper figure and draw details on it so it resembles the family member or friend for who we want to pray. We will place that figure on the tree. 

Here's a tray I've set up with materials to create our "people" each day:

I also asked each person in the family to write their Lenten prayer resolution on a purple card like this, which we have placed on the tree:

We will follow this "Change of Heart" Idea from Loyola Press to keep track of our progress on our Lenten resolutions.  We place a heart on the tree for each day that we have made progress toward our spiritual resolution.

Here are some photos of our Lenten Prayer Tree:

I'm hoping these simple activities will help us turn to prayer in a more meaningful way. 

What activities do you do during Lent to make your prayer more meaningful for yourself and your family?   Please share ideas in the combox!

 Check out the Lent reflections participating in the Keep LOVE in LENT Blog
Link-Up 2013! We'll be sharing different ways, tips, stories and real-life experiences that will help us focus on Lenten sacrifices, prayer and good deeds, and how to carry them out with LOVE instead of a GRUMBLE.
  Discover new Catholic Blogs to follow!


Friday, February 15, 2013

Prayer for a New Pope (plus a free printable!)

I was looking for a simple prayer that my family could say during the next month; a prayer that would ask the Holy Spirit to guide the College of Cardinals when selecting a new pope.
I love this Come Holy Spirit prayer, suggested by Relevant Radio's  from Father Rocky: 

Come Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your
faithful and kindle in them the fire of your love Send forth your
Spirit, and they shall be created And You shall renew the face of the
earth. Let us pray.
O, God, who by the light of the Holy
Spirit, did instruct the hearts of the faithful, grant that by the same
Holy Spirit we may be truly wise and ever enjoy His consolations.
Through Christ Our Lord. 

Decided to quick turn it into a table tent, to help us remember to pray it during the meals. Here are a couple of photos of it:

Would you like to use this table tent, too?  If so, I've uploaded it to Google docs; it's available for free.  Please go here to get it.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Book Review: Saint Valentine by Ann Tompert

Every year on St. Valentine's Day I give my children a "little something" about the saint who inspired this holiday, along with a few little heart-shaped treats. It's my small way of trying to put the "saint" back into this very secularized holiday.

Unfortunately, there aren't many "Saint Valentine" gift items available. One year, I gave them a prayer card.  Another year, a medal.  A few years ago, I stumbled upon a couple of books about the saint, including the one pictured above.  At the time, I hesitated to buy it.  There weren't many reviews about it and I wondered if the story would really tell us more about the saint or if it would fall back into describing the secular holiday. I took a chance and purchased the book.  Thought I would write a quick review about it for others who may  wonder if they should purchase it for their home library.

The book above is called Saint Valentine.  It is written by Ann Tompert and the illustrations are by Kestutis Kasparavicius.  It was published by Boyds Mill Press in 2004.

In this book Tompert weaves information about the various legends and traditions surrounding Saint Valentine over the centuries. We learn that he was a Christian priest in Rome during the reign of Emperor Claudius II. We discover that he probably offered Mass secretly in homes or in the caves surrounding Rome because Christians were usually persecuted during that time for not believing in the various Roman gods. We learn that he was willing to secretly perform marriage ceremonies for young Roman soldiers who were forbidden by the emperor to marry (which may be the reason he is associated with marital love). We learn that the first printed valentine greeting may have originated when Valentine wrote a short note to a blind young girl. We find out that he was probably beheaded around February 14. We also learn why sugared almonds (which have traditionally been given as wedding favors) are associated with love.

I like the way each legend and tradition is presented in a story format, keeping the book from becoming a list of dry facts. I also love the book's illustrations. Artist Kestutis Kasparavicius uses beautiful muted colors in his detailed drawings. The effect is calming and serene and softens the harshness of this martyr's story. I especially love the color and shading on the page with the almond tree. My daughter and I will be using that page to inspire us when we learn to draw trees in our spring art study.

I definitely recommend this book to anyone who is interested in learning more about the saint who inspired the holiday of love and affection.  

If you would like to add it to your library, it can be purchased at a variety of online book stores including Better World Books, Christianbooks, Barnes and Noble, Amazon, and many other places.

Do you have a favorite book you like to read on  Saint Valentine's Day?  Please share in the combox! 

For those of you who would like to do a Montessori type presentation about St. Valentine, hop over to Sheila's Explore and Express blog.  She describes a wonderful Godly Play presentation about Saint Valentine using a wooden peg figure.  It reminds me of the one I do with my children for St. Nicholas Day.  You can read about the presentation here. 

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Our Plans for Lent 2013

What will you be doing for Lent this year?  I'm trying to keep it very simple, since our schedule is  hectic and we're gone almost every night until 8 or 9 p.m.  I decided to "get back to the basics" and focus on prayer, fasting and almsgiving.  Here are our plans:


We will be using our Lenten Spiral again--it's become a family favorite as we move our wooden Jesus figure through the spiral and remember His suffering and unconditional love for us. sufferings and love for us. This year, we will use it at breakfast time while saying this  special prayer to the Holy Spirit, suggested by Father Rocky at Relevant Radio,  to guide the College of Cardinals during their conclave to decide the new spiritual leader of our universal church. 

After St. Valentine's Day, my daughter and I will transform our Valentine Tree (see here) into a Lent Tree.  We'll be using the paper prayer chain and paper prayer dolls (designed by Jennifer at Catholic Inspired) to help us remember to pray for others.   We'll also be doing this "Change of Heart" activity from Loyola Press. We'll place purple hearts on our tree to keep track of our success with our Lenten resolutions.  I'll post photos of our tree after St. Valentine's Day.

I finally broke down and purchased the "Jesus Tree" kit from Leaflet Missal.  Unfortunately, I didn't allow enough time to cut all the pieces out of felt! 

So instead, I made a photocopy of the patterns.  My daughter will color, cut and paste the appropriate ornament/symbol each day while we do our morning prayer based on the scripture recommendations in the kit.  We will then hang the ornaments on our Lent Tree.

We will also be using our Stations of the Cross prayer gems while we meditate on Jesus' sufferings.   I know that I will be sometimes using them in the car while waiting for my son at his soccer practice, so I may occasionally combine them with this iPhone app or this one, which appears to have images that match those on our prayer gems.    Or maybe I'll download a podcast; this one looks interesting.   


Do any of you know of a good Way of the Cross app with audio,  podcast or audio CD? 


This year, our family will try to eat "meatless" at least two days per week -- on Wednesdays and Fridays.  Fridays will be an easy meal, since our parish holds "Friday Soup and Stations/Taize Prayer" events throughout Lent.  I'll just need to plan the Wednesday meals. 

On a personal note: I started following the "Mediterranean Diet" in January, and discovered that many "Mediterranean" type menu plans and recipes would be perfect for Lent, since there is a bigger emphasis on fruits, vegetables and nuts, and meat (beef, chicken, pork, lamb) is only used as an optional "garnishment."  So if you are looking for nutritious meatless meal ideas, there is a free Mediterranean cookbook download here and a variety of recipes on the Oldways website.   For those of you who have a Kindle and are on Amazon Prime, the Lending Library has numerous free books about Mediterranean eating, including this one and this one.  Just do a search on your Kindle and you will find many others. 

For the past few years, I've been very concerned about the Christians living in the Holy Land, and especially in war-torn areas like Bethlehem.  This year, we will use Lent to learn about the Franciscan Foundation of the Holy Land's projects in the area.  We will then pick a project to donate to, and find various ways to raise money for the project -- whether it be by saving money on the food we buy (mom), selling some things we no longer need (mom/dad), donating some of our allowance (the kids), or doing extra chores to earn money  (the kids).   
Would love to hear about your plans; please share in the comment box! 

I'm participating in:

 Catholic Inspired's Lent Link-up.  Check it out!

Catholic Inspired

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Our Valentine Tree

At an after-Christmas sale, I was able to nab a six-foot potted artificial evergreen tree for just $12 (regularly $125!)  It is a rather odd tree;  too tall and narrow to work as our 'regular' Christmas tree, but I was thinking it would fit perfectly in the empty corner by our china cabinet, and could be used throughout the year for simple liturgical decorations. 

My daughter and I decided to decorate it for St. Valentine's Day.  We found some red and white fabric garland and red velvet hearts on sale at Michael's.  Last Sunday, we took a class on making Victorian valentines, and put our creations on the tree.  Then I printed some holy cards and pictures of St. Valentine from the Internet.  We tied them with ribbons and hung them from the tree. We still want to make a couple more Victorian valentines. 

Here are a few photos of our (almost) finished tree:

I'm thinking the tree would look pretty with blue lights and holy cards of Mary on Marian feast days; or images of saints and saint symbols for All Saints Day, or  pictures of St. Joseph with miniature tools for St. Joseph's day, or maybe photos/paintings of the various popes while we learn about papal  history?

We will keep these decorations up until Thursday night (which is St. Valentine's Day), then prepare the tree for Lent on Friday. I've brainstormed using the tree as a way to keep track of our intercessory prayers during Lent.  I'll share information about that tomorrow, along with photos later this week!

I'm participating in Catholic Inspired's Lent Link-up.  For inspiring ideas, check it out!

Catholic Inspired

Monday, February 11, 2013

The Pope's Announcement

I heard the news this morning about Pope Benedict's decision to resign his position. At first I was shocked. Then I felt sadness. Then I admit (guiltily) that I felt a bit of anger--how could he leave us when the world so desperately needs his spiritual leadership? But I think the Holy Spirit is guiding me toward understanding too. Pope Benedict is a quiet man, perhaps a bit of an introvert, who prefers to stay out of the limelight. Perhaps he prefers to quietly pray, study and share his gifts with the world in the written form. I can really understand and relate to those feelings. I'm basically an introvert too who is occasionally asked to step out of my comfortable place and take a leadership role or teach. I love those opportunities but deep inside they don't feel natural to me. Because of that, they are mentally and physically exhausting. At first I yearn for a quiet place to "recharge my battery." If I ignore that need too long, my brain feels jumbled and confused. I find I am more and more physically exhausted. The quiet place is not a luxury to me; it is a necessity.

This probably sounds strange, especially to extroverts who may be vitalized and rejuvenated by crowds of people. I used to think I was a bit strange because of my strong need for quiet in a world that's filled with noise and boisterous energy. But as I get older I've come to understand that it is the way God made me and its okay!

I wonder if this is how our pope feels now. This need for quiet and prayer so he can revitalize himself and rediscover himself and God's new mission for his life.

What do you think about the pope's announcement? Please share your thoughts in the comments section!

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