Today we welcome a new contributor, Christine Mooney, to the CatholicMom.com family! Chris’ first column was submitted during the Christmas season, but has themes relevant year round for faith-filled families! We are so happy to welcome Christine and to share her writing on a monthly basis.
“Me too.” Words simply stated by my nine year old and its response by his seven year old brother as we prepare for any of our family centered Advent/Christmas rituals. These may be as simple as the lighting of our now stubby pink and lavender wreath candles, wherein my oldest gets to read from the Gospel of St Luke for our prayer time. Or the daily sharing of one of the warm, inspiring titles featured in Cay Gibson’s Christmas Mosaic, An Illustrated Book Study for Advent and Christmas. Or these words may be heard during the tumble out the door to Sunday Mass, where my oldest will be serving, or possibly during the planning, painting, crafting, baking and wrapping of handmade ornaments and other goodies for those special to them.
Heartwarming thought? Definitely. A little daunting as to how to keep up the momentum and enthusiasm though. Maintain the daily Bible reading. Put “Religion” on the school schedule right up there next to Math, English and Geography. Keep up involvement in parish activities. Infuse faith, Church history and saints’ biographies into our history reading.
How wonderful it is then, when the rituals of Catholicism become so familiar to our kids that they are practiced unrealizing? Excitement about committing daily prayers to memory in Latin, fingering their rosary beads most mornings, or requesting a trip to the religious goods store to buy a special birthday gift for a friend……… These all become common practice when we daily, ride the wave of Christianity and literally practice our faith.
Additionally, as parents and teachers, we are all aware of the influence with which God has entrusted us. This becomes even more glaringly evident when, for example, our kids ask, “What are you reading?” as they stumble into the bedroom for their nightly story time, and spot an unrecognizable book perched open on the bed amid the laundry and other family effects that have yet to be dealt with that evening. The response, Immaculee Ilibagiza’s Left to Tell: Discovering God Amidst the Rwandan Holocaust, leads to a deep discussion and research on the horrors of the Rwandan holocaust and the Blessed Mother’s apparitions in Kibeho. For more information and enlightenment, please visit www.immaculee.com.
The ways in which to connect our faith to our families’ daily lives during any liturgical season are plentiful…and often brought to light by our children, who at times, infer the obvious, with an ease that we, as parents, can miss, in our zeal for planning “just the right” lesson or connecting “the most perfect” piece of literature with a holy day or a specific study we are undertaking.
How many books do we partake of whose theme our kids “see” often before we do? C.S. Lewis’s classic jewel, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe is doubtless, the quintessential allegorical portrayal of Christ’s valor and divinity. The stirring parallels between the tenets of our faith and the characterization and setting in the tale foster deep study for every age. Isn’t it exciting when, on a surface level, our kids immediately connect the four children to the four writers of the Gospel? The deeper levels of discussion are, of course, boundless. (It’s also exciting to brainstorm what Turkish delight really is and whip up a batch!) For a wealth of information on the author as well as study guides related to his works, please visit the C.S. Lewis Foundation at www.cslewis.org.
In Eve Bunting’s Night Tree, a family traditionally travels to the woods at the edge of town each Christmas Eve to see “their” tree and in doing so, lovingly leave it decorated with fruits, nuts and scattered goodies for the forest animals. Our kids will not surprisingly, see the connection between these deeds and St Francis’s humility and his love for his animal brothers and sisters. For more on St Francis, enjoy Tomie de Paola’s Francis: The Poor Man of Assisi and Anne Eileen Heffernhan’s 57 Stories of Saints. For activities around Night Tree, see www.litplans.com/titles/Night_Tree_Eve_Bunting.html.
And what kid wouldn’t find the untamed Herdmanns running amok in Barbara Robinson’s gem The Best Christmas Pageant Ever an absolute scream? What’s better than your seven year old ruminating on Imogene’s bold questioning? (“You know, she makes good points Mom!”) ….. And brings him to add Herod to your running timeline of world leaders and events, after doing some reading up on this “bad guy,” wondering, “Yeah, who he was anyway?” For related literature activities on this title, see www.teachervision.fen.com. For blank world timelines as well as wipe off Bible lands maps, you might like to peruse www.geomatters.com.
How about the happy, selfless acts of the jolly old elf himself, who is forever connected with one of our faith’s best loved saints, good St Nicholas? When our boys want to leave him handmade gifts and thank you notes under the tree on Christmas Eve, it exemplifies their excitement and confirms not only their appreciation of this mythic character’s devotion to children the world over, but their connection with him to the most blessed night of our liturgical year. When my children heard just the ending snippets of F. P. Church’s 1897 Sun editorial toward the end of the Christmas movie, “Prancer,” they immediately assumed that this was a reference to Jesus: “Thank God he lives and he lives forever. A thousand years from now, Virginia, nay, ten times ten thousand years from now he will continue to make glad the heart of childhood.” What else would a Catholic child infer around this quote in isolation? (For enjoyment of the entire text, please see www.newseum.org/yesvirginia.)
When asked just why he likes “being Catholic” there isn’t one specific thing my son can isolate. “I just do,” he says. “It’s just everything that our religion stands for.”
Copyright 2010 Christine Mooney