Press suit. Check. Shine black dress shoes. Check. Purchase white satin tie and arm band. Check. Cut hair, charge camera batteries. Check and check. Stock up on paper goods, plan menu, order cake, boutonniere and balloons. Check, check and check.
Plant, weed and generally beautify yard after a long and dormant winter. Check. (Okay, this one is still ongoing….)
‘Tis the season? No, not that season…the favored season among many, which generates lists, traditions and rich memories as well… The sacramental season: When grace and mercy are amply bestowed by our loving Father upon first communicants and confirmandi throughout dioceses across America. When photos will capture grace filled moments of the conferring of the sacrament, which will undoubtedly decorate shelves in lovely frames for posterity. When family members enjoy the camaraderie of the cooking, the baking, the decorating, the general preparing. And yes, the season when Moms and Dads of these blessed first communicants and confirmandi stress and generally place importance on the unimportant…..or the not-as-important.
As the Mom of a little one on the brink of receiving sacramental graces, I am certainly ‘guilty’ of, shall we say, overaccentuating the, well…… the fluff. Not that a little organization isn’t helpful when it comes to the shade of blue with which your little First Communicant’s gift is beribboned; the style of cutlery… (clear or white?) with which your guests enjoy the celebratory meal; the agonizingly oh-so-exact placement of your child’s photo on the invitation; the labeling of the coffee urns as ‘decaf’ and ‘caffeinated’ or the….. Wait; did I say ‘organized’? Hmm, what I really mean is …. well, overboard.
How about a revised “to do” list? One that is actually meaningful in the deeper context of the awe inspiring sacraments about to be received by our children and one which may inspire all of us as parents and catechists to a deeper understanding of the graces which we may be taking for granted? I’m thinking that I may need to focus just a little more on the spiritual – on the unleashed enthusiasm that my son is expressing as he revels in the newness of God’s mercy received in the Sacrament of Reconciliation and as he anticipates the awesomeness of the Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist
Lately, in our homeschool, I have chosen to pare down and subscribe to the ‘less is more’ ideology. Discussion around just a few literary jewels that truly speak to us; deep, thoughtful conversations, writing and projects around a few classic pieces of literature or a few aptly chosen parables from the Bible, work for us. Overextending to many resources with hope that marinating the kids in sheer volume tends to be counterproductive for them, as well as for me.
So, here goes. How about striving to:
1. Update the sacramental notebooks – I would love to be able to describe the beauty and depth of meaning that home made sacramental notebooks held for my sons as they prepared for their First Holy Communion and First Penance experiences. My older son, two years ago, and my youngest, currently. Sadly, I must admit that the notebook worked for neither of them. I had all sorts of grandiose scrapbook ideas pictured, lovely card stock at the ready, stickers and stencils handy. To no avail. Oh, we did get started. We have beautifully copied Bible verses, prayers, drawings interpreting Scripture. Some of these currently sit in their project binders or decorate the walls of their rooms. Did the boys gain a deeper understanding of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass as well as the lives of several saints? Absolutely. Have they made a wealth of Bible stories ‘their own’? Absolutely. Did they commit to memory many prayers in English as well as some in Latin? Absolutely. Not a failure of a project in that regard. But, do we have sacramental keepsakes for the ages? Absolutely not. Perhaps we’ll embark on this endeavor again in a year or so as my oldest begins preparation for the sacrament of confirmation. For those who would like to journey toward the sacraments with your children using the notebook as one of your tools, please look into the treasure trove at www.4real.thenetsmith.com , shared by the always creative Mom bloggers there. Enjoy the ideas with your children on your way to sacramental preparation, whatever the outcome.
2. Review the Baltimore Catechism – The quintessential study guide to Catholicism. I doubt that any of us does not have, among other images, that of the sacramental ladder, indelibly inscribed on our minds. A daily must-do.
3. Pray the Rosary……. again and again and again – Encouraged by countless saints as well as the Magsterium, we are all well aware that it is the source through which abundant graces are received. The colorful Rosary Comic Book, (www.Pauline.org) presents in a child friendly format a ‘how to’ guide, as well as the Biblical stories around the joyful, glorious, sorrowful and luminous mysteries. My boys are a fan club in themselves of our beloved John Paul the Great. Because he shepherded my generation into adulthood during his papacy, I have a particularly deep affinity for the late Pontiff. His addition of the luminous mysteries to the Rosary have peaked the curiosity and interest of my boys. My oldest, in particular, enjoys perusing www.how-to-pray-the-rosary-everyday.com for readings and history around this most powerful prayer.
‘Building’ can be an exciting avenue in preparation for little ones’ lifelong devotion to the Rosary….particularly with boys. Simply enough, creating your own Rosary develops a foundation and understanding of the flow of each prayer. And it’s just plain fun. Kits are widely available. I love the ones at www.emmanuel.com and www.rosary.com. Each of my boys has several Rosaries; but their favored beads are the ones that they created.
4. Revel in the beauty of the words penned by a few Catholic authors who unabashedly wear the faith on their sleeves. Their classics have taught, inspired and become go-to favorites for my family. Picture books are perfect vehicles for introducing and for reliving sacramental preparation. – Josephine Nobisso has woven several stories of devotion infused with characters that spring to life in children’s imaginations. In The Weight of a Mass, a poor, devout woman begs for just a scrap of bread from a wealthy, faithless baker as she promises to offer her Mass intentions for him. The baker scornfully attempts to determine the value of his bread and thus, the ‘weight of a Mass’ on his trusty scale. The outcome will peak interest and spark discussion among children of any age…as well as adults, as to the true weight of a Mass.
In Take it to the Queen: A Tale of Hope, the events of Jesus’s life as well as examples of virtuous behavior are presented in an inventive allegory. The symbolism is rich. The enjoyment gleaned by children of any age in uncovering the deeper layers of meaning is priceless. We are all blessed by Ms Nobisso’s gift with words.
Tomie dePaola’s writing has spoken to countless children of all ages. His original presentations of themes within Catholicism so beautifully depicted in Clown of God, Patrick: Patron Saint of Ireland and Francis: the Poor Man of Assisi have charmed my children, and taught them much. We are particularly loving Angels, Angels, Everywhere right now on our sacramental journey.
Just a reminder, too, about the beautiful collection of inspirational passages in For the Children, by His Holiness, John Paul the Great. Sigh. Just Beautiful.
So, yes, well within a Mother’s ‘job description’ is directing her family’s minutiae….the essential and the extraneous. I am blessed to be living this vocation of Motherhood and recognize that the immense requisite of micromanagement expertise is daily granted me by our Lord. While the preparation for The Big Day will remain paramount on my to-do list, I will say with conviction that what-does-not-get-done will be forgotten as my husband and I witness perfection in our son’s receiving of the Sacrament on That Day.
Copyright 2010 Christine Mooney