What started out as a fun picture to join the #AshTag movement quickly turned into a game of "Who can make who laugh harder with the most ridiculous face?"
All funny business aside, I'm really moved by how much my son understands about the Mass.
Tonight (we went to a late Mass), the lector got up for the first reading and Vincent said, "Now we're gonna hear the Holy Spirit!"
As we got into line for Ashes, Vincent mistakenly thought it was time for Communion. He kept asking, "Mommy, you gonna eat Jesus? Jesus is in the cracker, Mommy, and that's how He gets into you heart beat."
He said this as he trailed his finger from my mouth to my heart. Then he asked, "I get bigger, I can eat Jesus, too?"
I said, "That's right, Vincent. When you're bigger."
He said, "I four years old. I is bigger now?"
I said, "No, honey. Not yet."
He said, "That's okay. I still His best friend. He loves me. He in my heart beat, too. We all His friends (the congregation)!"
Ha ha. The people waiting in line were all smiling at him and pointing him out to the folks around them. I was so proud then, because I realized if he can understand the Presence of Christ in the Eucharist, there's hope for the rest of us, right?
Such a necessary reminder for me. It really was.
I had the pleasure of receiving a copy of Walking With Jesus to Calvary: Stations of the Cross for Children. I got it in the mail early this year and have been waiting for Lent to roll around given the nature of the book.
Here we are!
The book is written by Angela M. Burrin and illustrated by Maria Cristina Lo Cascio. Truthfully, the illustrations are what drew me in to the story. Colorful, fluid and expressive, they told the story of the Stations in beautiful detail.
The writing ended up surprising me. At first, I was very put off by the "lengthy" paragraphs. Truthfully, I think this is because my expectation was that I'd be able to read it to Vincent. This book is not meant for toddlers. It's meant for older children - at least 1st grade and up. Once I made peace with that, I found the narrative grew on me.
I especially love how Burrin pays close attention to the Blessed Mother throughout the stations. Never is she far from her Son. She, too, is an active participant in His Passion, and Burrin does a wonderful job keeping this in focus for us. There are some passages that solicited heart-wrenching sadness for her. For this fact alone, this book has become my favorite Stations book for children.
Now for the content:
There is a brief Forward that explains what the Stations of the Cross are and why we keep this form of prayer alive. There is also a page explaining how to pray the stations, offering suggestions for first-timers (It's okay to choose one or two Stations at a time and really focus on them. You don't have to pray them all at once!).
There is no Table of Contents (I assume with 14 stations, it's hard to get lost). However, given the Stations are listed where the Table of Contents usually go, I'm not sure why they opted to leave out page numbers. That could be helpful to veterans who are looking to focus on one or two for a specific prayer intention.
Just before the Stations begin, Burrin wisely decided to explain a little about Holy Thursday, and how Jesus came to be in Pilate's courtyard. Thus, with the kiss of Judas Iscariot, we begin our journey with the Stations.
At each Station, Biblical quotes are interlaced with imagination as Burrin tells the story of Jesus' Passion in a child-friendly manner. At the end of each Station, there is a small reflection / prayer kids can offer that brings that footstep of Christ in sync with their own. One, in particular, calls out to the Holy Spirit. I loved that, because normally the reflection prayers tend to focus solely on Jesus.
Of course, each Station is beautifully illustrated by Lo Casio. Some of the images have left me staring at them for many minutes before I realize I've lost myself in their mysteries. I mean, just look at these two examples. I apologize, I snapped them with my phone, but even through the grainy iPhone shutter, the powerful emotions pours through:
Oh, that last one of Our Lady cradling Jesus - it is perfect. The tree in the background is barren and lifeless (which is poignant given how lively the background trees were in previous Stations). The atmosphere is grey, foggy and ominous. Joseph of Arimethea is hunched over them like an old bough weighed down by weather, protective. Mary's mantle is unfurled to encompass Jesus' Body... an exaggerated drawing, but similar to Michelangelo's Pieta. The effect is a brutal, gut-wrenching beauty - a mother cradling Her Baby Boy one last time as the entire world mourns with her.
Can you guess where I keep catching myself getting lost?
Finally, the Stations end with the Resurrection (since not all books contain a 15th!). Burrin includes Mary Magdalene's joyous meeting of her Resurrected Savior, which I always appreciate.
This book then gifts you a few surprise pages that I think are incredible resources for school-aged children.
The first is a 2 page spread on Prayer Intentions. After all, when you pray the Stations, you should have some intentions in mind, right? This useful list suggests everything from family and friends to doctors, politicians and the souls in Purgatory. I LOVED this, and I thought it was very wise to add this section.
Finally, there was a four-page spread of traditional prayers used while praying the Stations of the Cross. These pages, just as the Stations, themselves, are beautiful illustrated. These latter pages reminded me of those gorgeous illuminated manuscripts monks would create as they copied the Bible over and over and over again.
Verdict: This hard-cover book is a winner, all 45 pages of it. I am so glad The Word Among Us Press sent it my way for review.
As a thanks, I'll be giving one away to one of you fine readers! Enter via Rafflecopter below.
I teach an 8th grade Confirmation class. This class is comprised of students who typically don't attend Mass, go to public school, and have about as much interest in Catholicism as they do in Algebra.
However, I do everything I can to impart the Faith in an engaging, relatable manner.
Prayer is one of those areas that never quite "took" for them. It pains me that their communication with God is so infrequent that even a simple Our Father is said with no inflection. Student-led prayers are lackluster and careless. It kills me. They are curious about tradition and history, but that is something they see as separate from a personal relationship with Christ. It's as if they want to learn "facts" but don't understand that those facts exist only because of the living Presence of God still active within their lives. Those facts are the small bits of "family history" we share as children of God.
So imagine my surprise tonight when they all prayed. Really, truly prayed. With their hearts... not just with robotic recitation.
You see, at the beginning of class (as I do every week), I asked for their intentions. They ranged for "help on a spelling test" to "my neighbor's cat is missing." Great! We added them to our intentions list.
However, I then offered this intention:
I told them about a little boy named Ben. For those of you unaware, Ben Sauer is a beautiful 4 year old boy with a twin brother named Jack and a little sister named Megan. Up until about a month ago, Ben was a seemingly healthy little boy who enjoyed playing with his siblings and was looking forward to preschool.
A few weeks ago, he was diagnosed with an incredibly rare and terribly aggressive form of cancer. My heart is breaking even as I write this. His parents were told that there is no form of treatment available, and their beautiful, happy, gentle son only has a few weeks to live.
How do you process such a thing? A vibrant little boy - your heart and soul - will likely be taken away to Heaven after only 4 brief years in your arms.
Oh dear Lord... mercy. Please. Mercy!
As I relayed this intention to my students, they all sat - silent. There was no side-chatter, no doodling, no requests for the bathroom. There was only silence and an aching plea for this intention to reach the Ears of God.
And so, with this intention fresh on their hearts, my class made the Sign of the Cross. They said a Memorare with so much tenderness... so much pleading... that I actually stumbled over the words as I fought to contain my own emotions. They followed their Memorares with the Prayer to Saint Michael. This we offered through the intercession of Blessed Chiara Badano at the suggestion of a friend from Theotokos.
As we closed with another Sign of the Cross, I looked out at my class and I thanked them. I knew hearing Ben's story made them feel terribly sad, but in joining their prayers for a miracle, his comfort, and the comfort of his family, I think they understood, for the first time, prayer can be a powerful weapon. Sometimes, it is our only weapon, but that does not lessen its strength.
We prayed again for this intention at the close of class. Instead of chattering busily out the door after the bell, my class silently walked into the hall. I really think they were still contemplating this very special intention. I asked them to hold it in their hearts throughout Lent.
Actually, I'd like to ask that all of you do so. Please keep his family entrenched in prayers. Also, be sure to reach out to those you love. None of us are guaranteed a tomorrow. That is why we must always love in the moment. Always.
Six years ago today, he was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes. According to his mom, Jennifer, he has had more than 26,000 finger pokes, over 4,000 shots, almost 800 site changes, and 2 hypoglycemic seizures.
Yet through it all, he keeps smiling.
And so does Mom.
In fact, it's his little smile that solicited this reflection to begin with.
Jennifer asked our online Catholic Mom group, Theotokos, for prayers. However, she wasn't asking them for her son. Instead, she was asking them for the EMT (and his nurse-wife) who saved little Phil's life that day.
Phil's doctor had brushed off concerns voiced by Jennifer and her husband that he might have diabetes. In fact, without testing him, he suggested that Phil be force-fed juices to keep him hydrated. As a result, they were unable to wake Phil the next morning. Urgent care could not help them, so an ambulance was called to take them to the Emergency Room. A very wise EMT recognized diabetes and immediately inserted a central line inside the ambulance (something he could have lost his job for, I'm told). He then called his wife, a nurse who worked at the ER they were taking Phil to, and asked her to be ready at the door for them.
The central line saved his life. Otherwise, his sugar-rich blood would have been too thick to pump through his heart.
So Jennifer asked for prayers for the EMT and his wife, because she recognized they were vital in saving the life of her baby boy that day.
I was so struck by this prayer request, especially because Jennifer seemed as if she felt silly for posting it. Actually, the exact wording was "strange." However, I responded that it wasn't strange at all. In fact, she was the perfect example of how we SHOULD offer prayers not only of supplication, bu of thanksgiving.
I was reminded of the story of the Cleansing of the Ten Lepers (Luke 17:11-19). Jesus heals 10 lepers, and all 10 run off to the temple priests to be welcomed back into the community. However, only one leper returns to give thanks to Jesus who healed him.
One in ten.
How often are we like the lepers who enjoy the blessings God grants, forgetting to give thanks for those blessings?
I dunno about you folks, but I'm one of the 9 way more often than I am offering thanks like the one who returned.
So for Lent, I think one of my reflections will be on this particular reading. I've been trying to figure out what would help me on my Lenten journey, and Jennifer's intention was like a beacon of light.
Please keep Phil, his family, and his two special angels in your prayers. Keep also in your prayers those blessings you're most thankful for, not only today, but all of your days. <3
This will be me... with (hopefully) less facial hair.
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