Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Sunday, March 15, 2009 ~ Third 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).

John 2:13-25

Since the Passover of the Jews was near,
Jesus went up to Jerusalem.
He found in the temple area those who sold oxen, sheep, and doves,
as well as the money changers seated there.
He made a whip out of cords
and drove them all out of the temple area, with the sheep and oxen,
and spilled the coins of the money changers
and overturned their tables,
and to those who sold doves he said,
"Take these out of here,
and stop making my Father's house a marketplace."
His disciples recalled the words of Scripture,
Zeal for your house will consume me.
At this the Jews answered and said to him,
"What sign can you show us for doing this?"
Jesus answered and said to them,
"Destroy this temple and in three days I will raise it up."
The Jews said,
"This temple has been under construction for forty-six years,
and you will raise it up in three days?"
But he was speaking about the temple of his body.
Therefore, when he was raised from the dead,
his disciples remembered that he had said this,
and they came to believe the Scripture
and the word Jesus had spoken.

While he was in Jerusalem for the feast of Passover,
many began to believe in his name
when they saw the signs he was doing.
But Jesus would not trust himself to them because he knew them all,
and did not need anyone to testify about human nature.
He himself understood it well.


Since my personal theme this Lent is "gentleness," this scene is difficult for me to grasp. (and no, that's not going as well as I had imagined!) What is notable is that Jesus saves His righteous anger for those disturbing the sacredness of the temple. In the rest of the Gospel stories, he is gentle with the tax collectors and prostitutes. He is gentle with the sinners and pharisees. He is even gentle with Judas, His betrayer. Yet, here, He displays passion and purpose, overturning tables and cracking a whip.

Think about Holy Mother Church, especially in our country. The scandals that have recently rocked the faith of so many seem to drag on and on and have endless consequences. Even my own diocese has recently committed to withdrawing all financial support for all parishes due to financial woes from legal settlements and the like (which, by the way, might result in the closure of some of the poorest parishes, including my own, if we cannot raise our own funds to cover the gap left by the diocese; please pray!). All over the world, the sins of men present in the Church have defaced her holiness.

Think about your church building before, during, and after Mass. So few enter the House of God in humble silence and adoration, rather waving to friends and chatting with neighbors. I even saw a woman take a cell phone call during Mass a few weeks ago (yes, while sitting in a pew)! Announcements during Mass and countless tables in the narthex promoting some cause or fund can take away from Holy Mass (but do not always). Some even promote sinful behaviors or "social justice" issues that are contrary to Church teaching. Most simply do not behave as if they are walking on holy ground and approaching the altar of God.

Think about the temple that is the body, a temple of the Holy Spirit, where He resides in a physical way when we receive the Eucharist. In this Gospel, Jesus even refers to His body as the temple that will be rebuilt in three days. It is difficult to care for ourselves when caring for our families --- eating right, exercising, sleeping enough. Many struggle with sins of the flesh and/or tongue --- dressing immodestly, sexual immorality, gossip and slander. Our bodies are holy ground, just like our parish church, just like Holy Mother Church, just like the temple in Jerusalem.

Clearly, there is no sin that disturbs our Lord more than to profane what is sacred. For these sins, we must seek continual forgiveness and conversion, for ourselves and for others. We must pray for our Church, our priests, our parish, our bodies, that we may all be witness to the glory of God and not cause the Lord any further anguish.

Jesus, remind us of your righteous anger when we witness or experience someone or something that takes away from all things sacred. Help us to act, in gentleness where appropriate and with passion where appropriate, to bring reverence and awe to this world of sin.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Rainbows of 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

We had another great Little Flowers meeting on Friday. The weather was perfect, just a bit breezy, and we had no pavilion struggles. I brought lunch for my children and I and arrived early, which worked very well! Three more girls joined us for the first time.

We said our usual opening prayers, although I told them I will be teaching them a new song at our next meeting. After opening prayers, I asked them to tell me a little about hope. This seemed difficult for them, but maybe I was not asking the right questions. They were able to tell me about St. Monica and that our ultimate hope is Heaven.

Then, I explained how God will always do what is best for us, because His mercy is in all things. My focus was on God's merciful love in tough situations. I asked one of the girls to tell the story of Joseph and his brothers, which she explained in a very detailed way! We talked about how Joseph had to hope in the Lord that things would turn out okay and they did. God made good from a horrible situation.

I reminded them about the rainbow being a sign of God's promise to always take care of us and showed the poster we made last week. We concluded that we must have hope even when we sin, and I quoted St. Augustine who, when he thought of his horrible sins, said, "O Lord, Thou art the Life through which I live, the Hope to which I cling, the Glory to which I ardently desire to possess forever." From this, I asked the girls to remind me about our flower for this virtue and how the ivy clings to the wall like we cling to Hope in God.

Finally, I reminded them that God does not always give us what we want, but He will always do what is best for us. When we pray for something and the prayer is not answered as we hope, we should not give up hope. For example, perhaps we want to be rich and have a lot of money, but God knows that will lead us to sin and maybe hell. So, God will not make us rich if He knows it is not good for us. I asked them about other times their prayers go unanswered, and only a few of them had examples. They simply were not very talkative this time.

We sang our Scripture verse a few times to remind us of how important it is to hope. Then, I showed them the craft we were going to make. We made rainbow magnets that turned out SO cute! It was hard for me to find a rainbow craft that I liked and was simple enough for all the girls to do, but this worked out wonderfully. The idea was actually to put beads on the pipe cleaners, but when I tried that, it did not work very well. So, this is just pipe cleaners stuck in a Styrofoam block with cotton balls glued on as clouds.

As the girls finished their rainbows, I had them complete a worksheet on their own hopes and dreams for their lives. The youngest two rose groups had only five questions and could draw or write their answers. The oldest two groups were asked to write more detail and finish their work at home. I advised them to put at least two answers for each question. This seemed to go well. They were all told to take the pages home to share with their parents, but we did not share them as a group. Here are images of the two handouts:

After snack, we played a running game. This went really well! I had two moms stand about 15-20 yards apart and the girls stand in the middle. Then, I went through the following statements and assigned one of each pair to one of the moms and the other to the other mom. When I said "go" the girls ran to whichever mom was the statement that fit them best. This helped them think about their hopes and dreams worksheets and have a lot of fun running off some energy. Here are the pairs of questions:

I would like to go to Heaven./I would like to go to Hell. (warm-up)
I would like to visit Africa./I would like to visit Australia.
I would like to visit Rome./I would like to visit the North Pole.
I would like to be better at singing./I would like to be better at dancing.
I would like to be better at the virtue of faith./I would like to be better at the virtue of hope.
I would like to be a mommy./I would like to be a nun.
I would like to be a teacher./I would like to be a doctor.
I had pondered doing another activity that was more reflective, but since we had patches to pass out, I skipped that and got set up for the patch ceremony. We did have someone go get the moms on the playground, so they could be there and take pictures.
The patch ceremony went pretty well, although I forgot how hard it would be to hear the girls reading prayers and verses outdoors with the wind. So, I will take some of that out next time and have us recite them all together instead. We stood in a circle and lit one candle for each virtue we have completed (faith and hope). I had girls read the Scripture verses for each, Acts of Faith and Hope, and stories of St. Monica and St. Catherine and then passed out the patches.

The words I used were: "The following girls have demonstrated their understanding of the virtues of faith and/or hope and are now encouraged to wear these patches as a reminder to continue to grow in these virtues for the rest of their lives." I thought long and hard about how to say this in such a way that the girls were not earning or winning a patch and am pleased with this.

I called each girl's name and gave them whichever patch(es) they had earned. Most of the girls received their faith patches; about 5 girls received their hope patches. I did not call the girls separately for faith and hope, so they were not comparing who received both and who did not. This worked well, since I had some concerns before the meeting about this. I also gave out the St. Therese medals to anyone who was not there last week; this made the new girls feel very included.
I am keeping track of who has completed a patch project and who has received the patch for that project with a spreadsheet. It was the only way I could think to keep all the girls straight, since they will be earning the patches at different times as they finish their projects. The printout of the spreadsheet is stapled to a file folder with all the girls' completed patch project sheets in it. Our next patch ceremony will not be for three more meetings, so that will be more than enough time for each girl to get at least one patch now that they know how it works (we will cover Love of God completely, plus there is more time to work on Hope and Faith).

We took a photo for the yearbook of all of the girls with their sashes on and patches pinned to them sitting on the picnic tables. This was nice. Then, we closed in prayer with our Act of Hope. That was it! The meeting went smoothly and was pretty simple, praise be to God! I am so grateful to the many moms who jump in to help during our meetings and those who watch the little ones and boys on the playground. The playground moms are even organizing snacks and stories now!

Our next meeting is in two weeks. We will start the virtue of Love of God. I am ordering the materials for the crafts now (and for the virtue of Love of Neighbor, too), as I spent way too much time last week running around town trying to buy the right color pipe cleaners (and beads before I scrapped that part of the project). With 46 girls on my roster, it is difficult to find enough supplies for that many girls at one store. Now, Oriental Trading Company and Discount School Supply will provide our craft supplies!

For the record, no one in this city sells orange or purple pipe cleaners by themselves in a pack. I had to buy multi-colored packs just for those colors, and my Michael's ran out of those the day before our meeting. Since I was only short a few orange pipe cleaners (5), because the purple ones were cut shorter, I emailed a few moms to see if they had any orange pipe cleaners at home. Two did and brought them, which saved me from running across the city again in search of a Michael's with the multi-packs in stock. Thank goodness for those moms! Things will go much more smoothly in the supply shopping area now that I am planning ahead!

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.