Friday, May 22, 2009

Sunday, May 24, 2009 ~ Ascension of the Lord

Note: These Sunday & Holy Day Gospel Reflections are written so that mothers may prepare for Holy Mass in advance either as a small group or individually (especially since we are so often necessarily distracted during Mass itself).

Mark 16:15-20

Jesus said to his disciples:
"Go into the whole world
and proclaim the gospel to every creature.
Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved;
whoever does not believe will be condemned.
These signs will accompany those who believe:
in my name they will drive out demons,
they will speak new languages.
They will pick up serpents with their hands,
and if they drink any deadly thing, it will not harm them.
They will lay hands on the sick, and they will recover."

So then the Lord Jesus, after he spoke to them,
was taken up into heaven
and took his seat at the right hand of God.
But they went forth and preached everywhere,
while the Lord worked with them
and confirmed the word through accompanying signs.


"Mom, I don't get it. Why did Jesus have to be baptized when He was already holy?"

"Excellent question! You know that we are baptized to remove original sin, and Jesus had no original sin. Well, Jesus did it to show us what we are supposed to do, to be an example to us."

My daughter posed this question yesterday during the first luminous mystery of the Rosary. The answer I gave has had me thinking about how many things Jesus did that he did not have to do, merely to show us that we should do these things. In fact, His entire life and everything He did was carefully chosen to instruct us.

Often in the Gospels, Jesus teaches with stories, but more often He teaches with His own actions. In this Sunday's Gospel, He does something rare; He directly instructs his disciples. These are His last words before His Ascension. I wrote before (but I can't find the post right now) about Jesus giving us Mary on the Cross before He died with some of His last words. Last words are important, so let us listen carefully.

We are to proclaim the Gospel to every creature whether they believe or not. Do we? Some will believe. Some will not. Do we really witness our faith to those in line at the coffee shop, the grocery store, the baseball game?

For those who believe, great signs will be permitted, signs to confirm their faith and evangelize others. Today, we still receive signs. I know every one of us can point to some unexplained moment that encouraged our feeble faith. We must have confidence that this is God working.

In fact, Jesus went up to Heaven, but "the Lord worked with them" as the disciples preached the Gospel throughout the world. He is no longer physically on the earth, but this enables Him to be present with his followers throughout the world. He is working with us, not against us as it can sometimes feel. We cannot forget this.

Jesus, your life taught us so much about how to live as a Christian in our world. Please help us to believe, to help others to believe, and to know that you are with us through your signs and comforting presence.

The Big O - Obedience

These ideas were developed by me for my local group and are not a part of the official Little Flowers Girls Club ® created by Rachel Watkins. To purchase the excellent materials and begin your own local group, please visit

I am a bit behind on finishing a bunch of in-the-works posts, so I am sorry that this is so late.

We had another meeting on Friday, which was great! The girls continue to inspire me with their enthusiasm for God and willingness to learn. This meeting was a big one, because we began the virtue of Obedience. Much anticipation has led to this virtue study (at least from the mothers)!

It rained in the morning, but fortunately, it cleared up just long enough for us to meet in the park pavilion again. We're doing that just one more time this month, and then we will switch to our indoor, and air-conditioned, parish hall for the summer!

Beginning our meetings in prayer always sets the tone...for me and the girls. I noted this week how the opening prayers are always very informal and done with a little chatting on the sides by girls and/or mothers but are also always very sincere. It made me smile, since this is the type of atmosphere I try to create in our homeschool.

So, after prayer, I jumped right into talking about obedience. I asked a few girls if they knew what virtue we would be studying and what saint goes with the virtue, and some knew. This prompted one mother to ask me after the meeting what she was missing and whether or not her daughter was expected to know this before the meeting. She is not missing anything and is not expected to know that, but I do send that information out in the email to the mothers the week of each meeting, in case they want to do any preparatory discussions.

Most of the girls knew the basic story of Joan of Arc. I listened to their comments and input and then told this summary of her life:

Joan was born to a peasant family in France in 1412. She often helped on the farm and frequently went to a nearby chapel to pray to Jesus. From age 12 to 17 she heard the voice of God through the voices of St. Michael, St. Catherine, and St. Margaret. At first, she dismissed the voices, but they became more insistent. Even so, she never told people any specifics about them except when specifically asked. When she was 17, she obeyed the voices by going to King Charles VII to ask to drive France’s enemies, the British, out of France. She was given a small army, because the king believed God sent her. With a banner which said Jesus and Mary, she led many victories for the French against her enemies as a brave soldier until she was captured in battle and sold to the British after two years of fighting. When she was 19, she was burned to death at the stake by the British as a heretic, someone who goes against the Church. As she died, her eyes were on a crucifix, and she cried out, “Jesus, Jesus!” She was later cleared of this accusation when a full investigation was done.

I asked the girls how Joan of Arc obeyed. Then, I admitted that, like for Joan of Arc, obedience is difficult. In fact, I said this over and over in different ways for the rest of the presentation. Obedience is hard work!

I asked the girls who they obey - parents, teachers, etc... I asked the girls who I obey - the laws, my parents, etc... It was my intention to mention that I obey my husband, as well, just so they hear that concept, but the girls distracted me with a tangent, which often happens, so I will have to throw that in next time.

I asked the girls how old they are and how old the people they are supposed to obey are. The difference is why we obey; those people have more years of experience and thus deserve more respect for that reason alone.

I told a silly story I read about St. Francis to explain to the girls that we must obey even if we think it is silly (or dumb): St. Francis of Assisi was evaluating some men who wanted to join the order. He instructed them to plant some cabbages…upside down. One man did as he was told and nothing grew. The other man realized how silly the instruction was and planted his right side up, so it grew. As soon as St. Francis saw the cabbage that grew, he approached the man who disobeyed and told him that the lesson was about obedience, not about planting cabbages.

Then, I did a visual, which was harder to explain than I originally thought. The point is to demonstrate how only if our heart is soft and willing to bend and obey will we remain obedient and avoid Satan's grasp. Some of the girls got it, but I will revisit it next time to explain in a simpler way.

I brought a hard-boiled egg and a raw egg to the meeting, but I did not tell the girls this at first. We named the eggs with some names of girls that are not in Little Flowers (I forget what names they chose). On a cookie sheet, I had some volunteers try to spin each egg like a top. One egg (hard-boiled) spun easily; the other did not. Then, for drama, one at a time, I threw down each egg hard on the cookie sheet, so they would break, demonstrating that one was hard-boiled and the other was raw.

The hard-boiled egg was easy to spin; this is the person with a hardened heart. The devil can make people with hardened hearts do things they know are wrong. The raw egg was not easy to spin; this is how we should be, with a soft heart, obedient to the Word of God. This came from, by the way!

Next, we decorated shields in honor of St. Joan of Arc, to remind us to be on guard against the devil and disobedience. I found the cardboard shields at Oriental Trading Company! Each girl's was unique and special. (I bought some extras and sent them home with the girls for their brothers that were there, too!)

While they were decorating shields, I passed out the Joan of Arc coloring pages and obedience patch project sheets. We have a patch ceremony at our next meeting, so some of them will be speedy and get their obedience projects done; some will take their time and get them later in the summer.

Snack was next, followed by our game. We played, what I know as "Jenny's Game." I told the girls the point of the game was to see if they can obey my instructions, even when it is silly like St. Francis and the cabbages.

I divided the girls into four mixed-age groups just by numbering them off. Each group chose one shoe to use as the "hot potato." When the music was on (which we couldn't hear very well; I need a new CD player), they passed the shoe around. When the music stopped, whoever had the shoe was given something to do every time they got the shoe in the future. The first girl had to stand up, raise the shoe in the air, and declare loudly, "I am the Statue of Liberty!"

So, with the music back on, the girls are passing the shoe, and each time one of the girls who has a task to do gets it, she does her task. The other tasks were moo like a cow, twirl like a ballerina, give me a high five (I kept moving around to make this more interesting), recite your ABCs, and hop like a frog. The result is a constant state of silliness with girls mooing, statue-ing, twirling, hopping, ABC-ing, and running around to find me for a high five.

Point made. They can obey. Now, they just have to do it outside of our meetings! We practiced our new Scripture song for Obedience and closed in prayer, as usual. I read the intentions the girls had written during snack time, and we asked for each of our Little Flowers saint friends to pray for us!

Then, as usual, I had the typical swarm of - "Do you know what my dog did last week?" and "We're going on a vacation next time to the mountains with my grandparents and..." It is so sweet to hear their stories; I do my best to listen to and recognize each one (even when they interrupt my presentations!).

I have been trying to get organized for the summer, planning our meetings and ordering craft supplies. Out of our 47 girls, 29 will join us for the summer meetings, so I have collected money and scheduled our parish hall for that. I am looking forward to being indoors and in the morning with a smaller group, just for a change of pace and environment!

As always, if you have any questions about what we did or plan to do, feel free to email me! I write these posts for the mothers of girls who miss our meetings (to allow them to catch up) and other Little Flowers Girls Club leaders, in hopes of sharing what we are doing, what is working and what is not. I am willing to share my project sheets or any other files in these posts if anyone needs them.

Per the request of the official Little Flowers Girls Club ® I have removed the downloadable patch project sheets and practice pages. If you are interested in learning about how I used these documents in my group, please contact me directly.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Keeping It Real

This is the part in blogging where I start to wonder how transparent I should really be with my readers. I do not blog very much about schooling or my children (yet), merely because I feel pretty incompetent when it comes to such things. I try to write about the things that I see as a gift to me that I want to pass on to others.

Don't get me wrong. I absolutely LOVE homeschooling my children (I can even see myself getting better at it day by day), AND I really do treasure and adore my children for the precious gifts they are to me, especially how they call me to a deeper faith and sanctity whether I like it or not. BUT...

Have you ever had one of those days where your throat is actually sore from screaming at your children so much? Monday, and most of Tuesday, were simply fabulous. How did I spiral so far away from balance in just one day?

Lord, I cannot get back up on my own. Help me today. Let me be a new person tomorrow.

And, now I ask you for a favor - if I ever again mention doing anything significant as a surprise for my children, specifically Therese, please, please, please talk me out of it! My highly sensitive child does not cope well with surprises. I know that. I apparently forgot for a few days. The zoo was great, a very special time together with some precious memories made, but the before and after left a lot to be desired!

***If you, too, have challenges with anger management, try reading She's Gonna Blow!: Real Help for Moms Dealing with Anger by Julie Ann Barnhill. I loved this book! Maybe I need to revisit sections of it to better cope with days like today.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Rediscovered Wedding Present Idea

Oh! I was cleaning up files on my computer late, late, late last night and discovered a file I had forgotten. When I was newly married and many of our friends were getting married, I would give a unique wedding present.

I researched and compiled a listing of Bible verses on marriage. Then, I print them out, cut them into strips, folded them in half (or quarters), and filled something from the couple's registry with them, like a vase or pitcher or cooler or basket. I would include instructions explaining that the quotes were to be read, one a day or one a week, and discussed by the couple as a way to increase intimacy and understanding of the Sacrament of Matrimony in early marriage.

With two dear friends getting married this summer, I am dusting off this idea and sending it off, so I thought I would share it with you. The Microsoft Word file is here and at the end of this post. Feel free to print it and distribute it, as you wish. The verses are from the Revised Standard Version - Catholic Edition Bible, my translation of choice.

If we are truly to value marriage as a sacrament with unique graces, shouldn't our gift reflect that, as well?

Marriage Bible Quotes

Year of the Priest Begins June 19

I have posted before on my love for and spiritual motherhood of priests. As mothers, we have a tremendous opportunity, responsibility, and power to pray and offer sacrifices for the sanctification of priests. Recently, I learned that Pope Benedict has declared that the Year of St. Paul will be followed by a Year of the Priest. This is indeed confirmation of the need for everyone to pray for our priests, bishops, and especially Pope Benedict XVI.

Pope declares year of the priest to inspire spiritual perfection

By Carol Glatz
Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Pope Benedict XVI declared a year of the priest in an effort to encourage "spiritual perfection" in priests.The pope will open the special year with a vespers service at the Vatican June 19 -- the feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the day for the sanctification of priests. He will close the celebrations during a World Meeting of Priests in St. Peter's Square June 19, 2010.

read the rest of the article here

One of my favorite prayers is St. Therese of Lisieux's Prayer for Priests. I pray it daily. Please consider adding it to your personal and/or family prayers, especially during the Year of the Priest! I am sure I will be adding more ideas in the future, since this prayer focus is so close to my mother's heart.

Jesus, Eternal High Priest, preserve Thy priests in the protection of Thy Most Holy Heart, where none can harm them. Preserve without blemish their consecrated hands, which touch daily Thy Holy Body.

Keep pure their lips, which are reddened from Thy Precious Blood.

Keep pure and holy their heart, which is sealed with the noble sign of Thy Glorious Priesthood. Let them grow in love and fidelity to Thee and protect them from the infection of the world.

Give them with the power of transubstantiation over bread and wine the power of transformation over hearts. Bless their work with bountiful fruit and give them some day the crown of eternal life. Amen.