Monday, October 19, 2009

Mercy ~ Our First Wreath II Meeting!

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

What a joy it was to begin a new year of our Little Flowers Girls Club last Friday with so many enthusiastic girls! We are doing several things differently this year to give things a fresh start and make them more manageable for me. Most significantly, we are only meeting once a month instead of twice a month. This means our meetings are longer and more packed, since we only get to learn about each virtue at one meeting.

Friday's meeting was on the virtue of Mercy. This year I have 26 girls registered, which is delightfully different than the 47 I had last year. Part of this is due to a group being formed of girls who used to drive quite a distance to attend our meetings; they will start this week with seven girls. We are meeting at one of the local parishes which is especially supportive of our homeschooling group, 1-4PM.

Our meeting began with lots of buzz as the girls arrived and received their nametags. We only had one new girl at this meeting, and several families were sick. I believe 8 girls were missing. I had a lot of supplies to organize for this meeting, so I was busy with that! Finally, though, we began in prayer. To demonstrate some consistency from last year, I began with the same daily offering as before, added a few spontaneous words applicable to our meeting topic, and we all prayed a Haily Mary. Then, we sang the Little Flower song that is on the Little Flowers CD, having learned it at our end-of-wreath-one party a few weeks ago; I had handouts with the words.

The offering is:

Mary, holy Mother of God, our dear guardian angels, blessed saints of God, and especially you, St. Therese, take us under your protection this day, pray for us, and defend us from all dangers. Through Jesus Christ Our Lord. Amen.

Then, I invited the girls to get excited that our meetings are going to be longer this year (although less frequent) and reminded them it will be extra important to participate fully and give me their attention from the beginning all the way to the end of the meeting. With slightly skeptical faces, they assured me they would. I retaught our chant, which is what I use to get their attention when they are otherwise occupied. I say, "God is good!" They respond, "All the time!" I say, "All the time!" They respond, "God is good!" The key to this is that as soon as the chant ends, their mouths are closed, and their eyes and ears are on me.

I told them that is basically our only real rule for our meetings besides some other things we might want to practice, like loving our neighbor, humility, industry, etc... We went through all nine virtues from last year, and I told them I expected them to practice these virtues at our meetings, starting with love of neighbor. So, to get the girls moving, we played the popular game from last year - Do You Love Your Neighbor?

This is where the girls all sit in a circle (we had chairs this time) with one less chair than there are girls. One girl is in the center. She says, "Hi, my name is N." Everyone responds, "Hi, N. Do you love your neighbor?" She responds, "Yes, especially those..." and inserts a descriptive phrase about something some of the girls are wearing or how they look (i.e. wearing sandals, with brown hair). Everyone who fits that description must get up and find a different chair, including the girl in the middle. Usually, a new girl ends up in the center, and we start all over again. I like this game, because no one loses and we learn names.

Then, we sat down and talked about mercy. I kept my presentation relatively short, knowing we had a lot to do. First, we talked about God's mercy, how He showed us mercy in the Bible, and how He shows us mercy in our lives, and in Confession (although thinking back, I may have been distracted and forgotten to mention Confession, oops). Then, I explained how our practice of mercy is imitation of God's mercy, and that mercy is more than just forgiveness. It is generosity and compassion, too, overflowing and given when not expected. The girls kept focusing on forgiveness, so I hope they will remember mercy goes deeper than "I forgive you."

I asked them to whom we should show mercy. We decided we must show mercy to our family, our friends, our extended family, and sometimes even strangers. At that, I reminded them briefly of the Spiritual and Corporal Works of Mercy we discussed last year for Love of Neighbor. I pulled out my booklet and read through some of them to help them remember, and most of them seemed to remember at least a few works of mercy. Hooray!

Next, I made an impulsive move to do our hardest craft first instead of last. Good change! I shared with them that the Lily is the flower for mercy, because we usually see lilies at Easter, when God showed us the greatest act of mercy by dying and rising for us. Lilies are often cream-colored, so I told them cream is the color for mercy today (but that we were going to make white lilies).

Our craft was to make handprint lilies based on this craft idea from Enchanted Learning. Instead of paper, though, we used craft foam to make them a bit sturdier. We also added a yellow pipe cleaner cut in half and folded in half for the stamen. So, here were our steps:
  1. Trace your hand on a half sheet of white foam with a pencil.

  2. Cut out the handprint.

  3. Fold a half of a yellow pipe cleaner in half and twist it around the end of a green pipe cleaner.

  4. With a big glob of glue, glue the pipe cleaners where they meet to the bottom edge of the hand. Affix with a paperclip if needed until dry.

  5. Roll the hand like a cone, so the pinky finger and thumb overlap. Glue them together. Affix with a paperclip if needed until dry.

The most amusing part of this craft was how different the four-year-olds' lilies looked compared to the nine-year-olds'! So sweet! Pictured are mine, my 7 year-old's, and my 4-year old's. Ours took overnight to dry, so I was glad we did them first. It allowed them some time to sit before they were transported home. Our littlest girls really needed help tracing their hands and cutting out the fingers. I was grateful one of the mothers donated plastic tablecloths to cover the tables and protect them from glue; we will reuse them at each meeting this year!

Next, I had the girls go into small groups to discuss mercy a bit more. Last year, we did this activity using M&Ms; this year, Skittles were on sale! Each small group went to a different corner of the room with a mom. Each girl started with two Skittles and answered the questions according to which colors she had. Once the girls answered their questions, they got to eat their Skittles. Here were the "questions" I used:
Purple – Name one of the spiritual or corporal works of mercy.

Green – Name a way you can show mercy to strangers.

Yellow – Name a way you can show mercy to friends.

Orange – Name a way you can show mercy in your home.

Red – Name a way God has shown us mercy in the Bible or in our lives.
As I wandered the room, these discussions were precious. I love hearing the girls come up with their own ideas, and the mothers do such a great job of letting the Holy Spirit guide the conversation! When they were done, we took a snack break, having teased their appetites with only a few Skittles each. Our moms take turns signing up to bring drinks or snacks each time, and this is a great time for the girls to relax, chat, and play.

Next, we gathered back in our circle to discuss our next activity. This year, I am having the girls make virtue pages like Jessica's at Shower of Roses. I used most of her content but changed fonts and colors a bit to save on color ink. Once I explained the plan, I sent the girls to the craft tables. This day, we made a cover sheet and the Mercy page. The girls absolutely need glue sticks for this. Many of them only had white glue, and it got pretty messy.

Anyway, the cover sheet was a pastel color of their choice with the words Little Flowers Girls Club in fancy font, a picture of St. Therese, and their names. Some decorated with markers, too. The Mercy page was on cream construction paper cut to standard paper size with a picture of St. Faustina receiving the Divine Mercy image and a lily in color. All the text was in black. The older girls cut their items fancy or decorated, while the little ones kept it simple. They are all beautiful!

I gave the girls a plastic report cover, with the sliding binding, in which to put the two pages when they were finished. I had originally thought about going with something sturdier, but most other options cost too much. Plus, I have a huge box of these in case any get damaged, lost, or broken. Then, I passed out their Member's Guides to color St. Faustina. I had the idea to let them listen to the St. Faustina Glory Story while doing this, but even though they were obedient in working quietly, the general noise of cutting and gluing in a large room made it hard to hear. We reviewed the whole story afterwards, since some of the girls had heard it before.

I wanted to do one more game that specifically referred to mercy in some way at the end. I think the game made its point but wasn't one of our most fun. From here we played the Goodness and Mercy Will Follow Me game (scroll way down) as we recited Psalm 23:6. Because of limited time and space, I had the girls take turns and not everyone got a turn. I need to find a way for us to go outside without interacting with the schoolchildren there (that's why we're supposed to stay inside). Oh, and I mistakenly only gave the girls two footprints each, so it was harder. Regardless, it was another way to drive mercy into their minds!

Finally, we gathered to sing our Scripture song. I print the words out in advance and tape them to a big poster, so we can all sing with the CD. The little ones can't read, but surprisingly, many of them pick it up. Then, I had the girls sit and listen to my explanation of the two handouts we are using this year. The first is the Patch Project Sheet, just like last year. I feel like the activities in the member's guide are limiting, so I try to include an additional page of ideas for the girls. The girls were very excited to hear that I would be passing out patches at the end of each meeting this year. I reminded them that they do not have to get their project done by the next meeting; that is up to each girl and her parents. With such busy lives, I do not feel deadlines help the girls or their families. Additionally, there are some virtues which take longer to understand or practice. If one of the girls wants to do a big project that takes longer, she should have the time.

Also, this year I am giving the girls a second sheet each month. It is the Virtue Practice Sheet. This one has a few limited ideas on how to practice mercy on a daily basis in simple ways and a picture of a bare bush. The idea is the girls will hang this in their home and for the next month will add a flower to the bush every time they practice mercy. They can draw the flowers or use stickers. I hope this will reinforce the lesson throughout the month, since we will not discuss mercy again as a group for an entire meeting.

Our closing prayer was like last year. This time, I printed and taped the words to the St. Therese Prayer from the Member's Guide on a poster, so we could all say it. Many of the girls know it just from saying it at each meeting. Then, I read the intention list the girls where the girls wrote their intentions throughout the meeting. During the Skittles game, I took the clipboard to each small group to remind them to do this. Their intentions are always so precious! We always close by asking our friends St. Therese and the saints for this wreath, St. Faustina, to pray for us!
Next month is Courage!

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.