Saturday, February 28, 2009

Hoping I Can Explain Hope...

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

Our Little Flowers met again yesterday to begin a new virtue --- hope. I was really praying that I could explain hope as a virtue to the girls, and I think it was pretty successful, thanks to some great tips.

We had a funny beginning to the meeting. I try to arrive early to scout which of the two pavilions we will use, but I was running a bit late. When I arrived, I noted that both were occupied, one by a single man using a laptop and one by two couples eating lunch. With the encouragement of another mom, I opted to approach the single man and ask if we could set up there. As we walked up to the pavilion, though, he actually left and moved to a nearby picnic table. So far, so good...until I noticed why he had moved. A park employee had driven up and was just beginning to spray down all of the picnic tables, ledges, and flooring with a hose. Wet!

So, instead, we loaded back up and drove to the other pavilion. I was walking up to ask those people if they were almost done eating when I noticed that one of the couples had left and the other couple was an elderly couple sharing a bottle of wine. I just did not have the hear to ask them to move, so I decided to drive to a further pavilion, even though it would be out of sight of the playground. As I drove, I saw a pavilion hiding just beyond the couple's picnic spot behind the soccer fields. It was down a long sidewalk, but at least you could still see the playground. We met there.

As usual, we opened the meeting with our prayers. I read an offering prayer from the Leader's Guide and say a few spontaneous words. Then, we pray a Hail Mary and sing our Mother Mary song together.

Before jumping into my presentation this week, I wanted to address the third commandment (although I had accidentally written down fourth and started with that), because one of the moms came to me that her daughter was very upset that she heard some of the girls declaring, "Oh, my God!" at a meeting. I had heard it, as well, so I encouraged the girls to refrain from using the name of God unless they were praying to Him or talking specifically about Him. It was brief, but I think most of them got the point.

Then, I began talking about hope as our next virtue. I asked the girls what hope is, and they gave me a few good answers. Next, I read the definition of hope from the Catechism of the Catholic Church, knowing it was above most of their heads. I acknowledged that it was tough to understand and asked them to look up at the posterboard I had taped to a pillar. This idea I got off the Little Flowers Leaders yahoo group.

In the bottom left corner of the poster, I drew stick figures representing Little Flowers (with sashes and all!). In the upper right corner I drew a cloud. I asked the girls to name some places, trips, or special outings they might enjoy and wrote those in the cloud. Then, I asked them what kind of things they would have to do to prepare to go those places. I wrote these on lines between the stick figures and the cloud and ended up drawing six lines, one in each color of the rainbow (to create a rainbow in the end).

We talked about whether or not the things we had to do to get ready were easy or difficult, fun or boring. Then, I asked them where all of us wants to ultimately go at the end of our lives...Heaven! They shared some of the things they have to do to prepare to get to Heaven, and we discussed if they were easy or difficult, fun or boring. I told them that is hope, knowing that you can get to Heaven if you do these things.

Then, we talked about the rainbow in the Bible being a sign of hope in God's promise that He will never again send a flood like in Noah's story. I reminded them that God is always good, so we can always have faith in His promises. I also pointed out that this is a different kind of hope than "I hope you feel better" or "I hope I pass my test." We hope for Heaven, not for earthly things.

I held up a silk ivy branch next and asked them what they know about ivy. We talked about how it clings to walls and such and climbs upward towards Heaven. Thus, it can remind us of hope. We must cling to hope like the ivy clings to the wall, so we will not forget that we are trying to reach Heaven.

Another comparison I made was to picking a rose. If you reach into a rose bush and grab the loveliest rose, you might get pricked by the thorns, but you will still get to enjoy the beauty and fragrance of that rose. You have to endure the struggles in order to gain the reward, and that requires patience.

Then, I began the story of St. Monica as an example of amazing patience and hope. Here is my version:
St. Monica was raised in a Christian family in Africa but then married a pagan man who did not believe in God and was cruel to her. His mother was also very cruel to her, but she was so patient and loving that in time they converted to Christianity, as well. Monica went to daily Mass, served the poor, and did everything for the glory of God. She is best known for her undying hope in the salvation of her son. Her son, Augustine, was a scholar who rejected Christianity and lived a very sinful life. Monica prayed and sacrificed endlessly for her son, but he ignored her attempts to lead him to God.
When he travelled to Europe to enjoy an even more lavish and sinful life, she followed him and continued to pray for him without giving up hope. After many years, Augustine eventually studied Christianity and was baptized in the faith. Soon after his baptism, St. Monica died, the desire of her heart being fulfilled. St. Augustine became one of the Church’s greatest saints, known for his great defense of the Catholic Church. St. Monica is the patroness of married women and mothers, because of her devotion to the conversion of her husband and son. So, she is a model for us of living in hope.

Next, it was craft time! This idea was found in the Little Flowers Craft Companion. I purchased red and pink foam sheets to make hearts and green foam to make ivy. For the littlest ones, I bought foam leaf stickers, since I did not expect they could cut out their own leaves. In the middle of the heart they could glue a picture of St. Monica, a picture of Mary, or a cross from brown foam. These turned out great, thanks to the moms who helped some of the younger girls cut out all of their leaves.
For my samples, I just used construction paper. My daughter's foam one is below them.

Snacks were next. After snack, I gathered the girls in the open space near the pavilion to have them play Amoeba Tag, also known as the Blob. I told them the game was to remind them to cling to hope just like they cling to each other in the game. Basically, two people are it. They hold hands and chase people. Any person they catch joins the chain by linking hands. I added the rule that they can only divide their chain if I specifically tag them to do so. My goal was to get four girls left in the end.

I did have to stop the girls at one point and get them into a smaller space to finish the job. I gave them some pointers on two chains going after the same girl, etc... When we had four girls left, or maybe it ended up just being three, I gathered the girls around and gave those remaining girls a wrapped box and told them they could open the box, helping each other, as long as they were careful not to rip the wrapping paper too much, small tears were okay.

I had wrapped this box four times to make it more challenging, and while they were unwrapping it, I made comments like, "I hope there is something nice inside." As they realized it was wrapped in multiple layers and was taking a long time, I said, "This is taking too long. I cannot wait. Let's give up." They, of course, argued to continue. I kept making similar comments until they were able to open the box. Inside I had put a medal of St. Therese on a safety pin with a ribbon tied onto the pin for them to pin on their sashes.

We closed the meeting by singing the Scripture song for Hope from the Little Flowers CD. I had the words printed in big letters and taped to a posterboard. Then, we prayed by saying the St. Therese prayer, reading the prayer intentions they had written on our clipboard, and reciting the simple Act of Hope from the book, which I also had put on a posterboard. As they left, we passed out their St. Monica coloring pages and Hope Project Page Sheets.

Next Friday, we will be meeting again to discuss hope a little more. The following Friday, many of the mothers will be going on a retreat, so I decided to meet twice in a row to avoid that day. At the end of the meeting, I will be giving out patches for whoever has completed their Faith projects. I will also give the Hope patch to any girl who has speedily completed that project.

It seems to still be going really well, and I thank the Holy Spirit for sending me such great inspirations and ideas! This week was a bit crazy for me with my husband out of town, so I did not feel as prepared for the meeting as I had hoped (and I did not sleep much the night before). But, thanks be to God, we had another meeting of fun and growth!

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.

Sunday, March 1 ~ First Sunday of Lent

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 1:12-15

The Spirit drove Jesus out into the desert,
and he remained in the desert for forty days,
tempted by Satan.
He was among wild beasts,
and the angels ministered to him.

After John had been arrested,
Jesus came to Galilee proclaiming the gospel of God:
"This is the time of fulfillment.
The kingdom of God is at hand.
Repent, and believe in the gospel."


Before His ministry in proclaiming the Gospel, Jesus went into the desert for 40 days of prayer and fasting. During that time he had angels on one side of him and the devil on the other side, with wild beasts all around. This sounds very much like my daily struggles to listen to the whispers of the Holy Spirit and the angels amid the dryness and temptation of this fallen world.

All of us are called to proclaim the Gospel daily. As mothers, every day we teach our children about Christ and how to attain salvation. Many of us are in contact with others throughout our days to whom we share the Gospel by our very lives. We are all surrounded by evil, but there are also angels everywhere to guide us.

So, each day, like Jesus, we must first turn to the Lord in prayer. It takes two minutes to kneel by my bedside and pray a morning offering, even if it is more like stumbling or falling to my knees with a thud! I am not a morning person, so I have printed out an offering prayer and have it in a page protector on my nightstand. Otherwise, I cannot find the words in my groggy brain, or honestly just do not make the effort.

We must make fasting a part of our daily life, too, of course, as Our Holy Father so eloquently explained in his Lenten message. Fasting will help us to overcome the temptations in the dryness of our ordinary lives, which I imagine to be like a desert sometimes. This season of Lent is a vivid reminder for us all to continue the spirit of Lent throughout the year, because for me, Ordinary Time is full of greater temptations than Lent just because it is so ordinary. It is simply easier for me to give up chocolate for six weeks than to give up my pride for one single day.

Marie Bellet, Catholic mother, songwriter, and musician, sings beautifully of these ordinary times. Click on this link to watch the music video for her song "Ordinary Time." She admits that "I'm just an ordinary woman here in ordinary time" and prays to "finally learn to be happy and have patience with the constant changing rhythm of this ordinary time."

May we always remember that Christ was in our shoes while He was in the desert. He was faced with similar temptations and evil that we face in this modern world every day. Fortunately, He has taught us how to overcome our sinful tendencies by His example of beginning with prayer and fasting. We cannot wait until the end of the day or when we are in the midst of temptation to go to God. We must make an effort at the start of each new day and each new thing.