Saturday, June 20, 2009

Sunday, June 21, 2009 ~ Twelfth Sunday in Ordinary Time

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 4:35-41

On that day, as evening drew on, Jesus said to his disciples:
"Let us cross to the other side."
Leaving the crowd, they took Jesus with them in the boat just as he was.
And other boats were with him.
A violent squall came up and waves were breaking over the boat,
so that it was already filling up.
Jesus was in the stern, asleep on a cushion.
They woke him and said to him,
"Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?"
He woke up,
rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, "Quiet! Be still!"
The wind ceased and there was great calm.
Then he asked them, "Why are you terrified?
Do you not yet have faith?"
They were filled with great awe and said to one another,
"Who then is this whom even wind and sea obey?"


Once again, I am with the disciples on this one. The level of faith that Jesus expects of his disciples, and us, is phenomenal and terrifying all at the same time. These high expectations knock me right down whenever I start getting proud thinking my faith is strong. Don't get me wrong; I know high expectations work. They work with children, and I guess, God knows they work with adults, too.

God does expect us to have incredible faith, even as everything is falling down around us, that He will do what is best for us. A friend recently commented to me about the number of tragedies in Catholic families she has known over the past several years (mostly sad deaths of young mothers, strong fathers, and innocent children). She expressed concern that we are under attack in these ways. I agreed with her that these strong Catholic families are being attacked, but was perplexed that God allowed such misery to His most faithful.

After reflecting on it for a while, though, I see things in a new light. Yes, we are under attack, but we are also blessed. When the Lord sends challenges, He sends them in order to strengthen our faith, to help us to grow in holiness towards a deeper union with Him. These truly horrible situations are opportunities (many saints called them gifts) for us to rise above the worldly despair and seek only that which is eternal. In the boat, the disciples were questioned for not putting their complete trust in Jesus as the waves were crashing on deck.

It is pride to believe that should such a tragedy hit me that I would not be bitterly heartbroken and intensely sad, and I pray daily to subdue my pride. But, I hope against hope that my faith would be strong enough to allow God to bring good out of such evil, to allow Him to mold my soul into something beautiful for His kingdom. For, only He knows best, and even when the storms of life are threatening to capsize our boat, His peace is everlasting.

Lord, help us to believe, to truly believe, that you will do what is best for us. Give us the grace of some suffering in our lives, so we might unite it to your suffering at Calvary. Should you allow a serious cross to be set before us, may we embrace it, carry it, and abandon all things of this world, so we might more intimately know your glory.


If you are like me and cannot concentrate on prayer in the morning unless you have a guide to follow (or any time of the day, really), you should consider subscribing to Magnificat if you do not already get it. It will help you, not only in the morning, but also throughout the day to focus on the Lord and remember to pray. I subscribed to it years ago, but trying out the June 2009 issue has renewed my appreciation for this gem!

Many, many Catholics now subscribe to this monthly publication, which includes a prayer for the morning and prayer for the evening based on the Church's Liturgy of the Hours, Mass readings, meditations, and saint biographies and quotes for each day of the month. There is also the Order of the Mass and some additional prayers and articles. The publication is completely faithful to the Church and bringing her people to a deeper spiritual life.

Now, let me be honest and tell you that I am not planning to subscribe again to Magnificat. The reason is that I use the Liturgy of the Hours for Morning Prayer and Night Prayer already. The Magnificat shortens the Morning Prayer, and since I am already used to praying the longer form, I found that in praying the shorter form, I felt I was missing some quality time with God, since all I can manage in the mornings is to reflect on what I am reading.

The opposite is true for me for Night Prayer. I do not pray the longer form of Evening Prayer in the Liturgy of the Hours; instead, I pray the shorter Night Prayer. Magnificat does not have Night Prayer, only Evening Prayer. So, those prayers, for me, are too long, when I am exhausted at the end of the day and falling asleep while reading them. I hope that was not too confusing.

Regardless of my personal experience, if you do not already pray the Liturgy of the Hours or read the daily Mass readings, Magnificat is a fabulous resource to add these things into your day in the simplest way possible. (The Liturgy of the Hours books involve a lot of colored ribbons to mark various pages of liturgical seasons and feasts, so it can be pretty complicated to a beginner.) Try out a subscription and see. You will not regret how it will remind you to spend time in prayer!

This review was written as part of the Catholic Company Reviewer Program. Visit The Catholic Company to find more information on Magnificat.

The Catholic Company

Little Flowers - Piety Part I

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

A week ago Friday, we did have a Little Flowers meeting. Sorry to those of you who wanted to see this post earlier. I am trying to find a balance in the use of my online time, but it is still a work-in-progress.

We met inside at our parish this time, as we will for the rest of the summer, and we moved the meetings to the mornings, since most families are not schooling full-time in the summer. Plus, due to the before-lunch meeting time, we are not doing snack during the meeting, so we have shortened the meeting from two hours to one and a half hours. With these changes, this past Friday's meeting seemed to fly a very good way! I was not nearly as exhausted as I usually am at the end of our afternoon meetings.

First, I thought we needed a new opening song to enjoy during the summer, so I came up with this little number:

(Tune: Mary Had a Little Lamb)

I want to grow in virtue,
Virtue, virtue.
I want to grow in virtue,
Because I love you, God.

I love you, Lord, with all my heart,
All my soul, all my mind.
I love my neighbor as myself.
And obey my mom and dad.

I want to grow in virtue,
Virtue, virtue.
I want to grow in virtue,
Because I love you, God.

I modified a song I found in a book that was given to me a few years ago called Teach It - Early Childhood . It was verse two from "Law of Love" in that book that got me started. As usual, I prayed an offering and spontaneous prayer, followed by a group Hail Mary and the new song.

I was determined to keep the girls moving, since we were indoors. We began standing around our prayer table at one end of the rectangular classroom and then moved to sitting in chairs at the other end of the classroom for my teaching presentation. Piety was the new virtue with St. Cecelia as the saint and Forget-Me-Nots as the flower.

To begin, I wrote Piety on the white board (so glad to have a board!) and drew a lousy picture of a pie. I know it was lousy, because no one else knew what it was until I underlined the Pie in Piety. The rest of the family can draw anything; I can only copy pretty well. Anyway, I proceeded to act really giddy and say, "Great! We get to talk about pie today! Do you think we will eat any? What is your favorite kind of pie? Mine is chocolate meringue!" They looked at me very oddly, but my point was made.

Some of the girls tried to give me an explanation of piety, and they did a pretty good job. Here is the definition I gave them - "Piety is being obedient to your role in life; it is the fidelity or devotion to natural duties." We talked about how some people think piety means praying all the time, and I asked them if they thought I would be pious if I read my Bible all day long, ignoring my children completely and not doing laundry or cooking meals or anything. Of course, they were appalled I would even consider such a thing, especially my daughter, whose expression here was priceless!

We talked about all the different devotions and prayers our families practice and some that we have heard of but do not know much about - Rosary, Sacred Heart, scapulars, prayer cards, holy water, Mass, etc... I stressed that these things are all important but that being prayerful is more important than saying prayers. Piety means doing everything you have to do as a service done to God and practice our devotions with a heart of love within. (Here I reminded them of the hardened heart and the gentle heart, like in obedience with the cooked and raw eggs.)

I explained that since piety is something that encompasses our whole lives and every moment of the day, the Forget Me Not flower is appropriate, so that we are reminded constantly not to forget God in everything that we do! Then, I read to them a story about St. Cecelia from
Sixty Saints for Girls by Joan Windham. The story was longer when I read it aloud compared to when I read it at home, but it was the best living story about St. Cecelia I could find that was appropriate for all ages, although it does mention briefly that they tried to chop her head off three times and failed (I rushed through that part but still saw some cringes.).

If you do not know, Cecelia took a vow of virginity but was obligated to be married. On her wedding night, she told her husband that her angel was a constant guardian over her body, so she could not consummate the marriage. He was so angry, being an atheist, that he was determined to become a Christian, just so he could see the angel. He became a Christian, and they worked together to convert others. But, you can see this story would be difficult to tell to young children. The Windham version of the story simply talks about the angel that her husband cannot see and wants to see, skipping the references to her virginity and body.

After that long tale, which is quite hilarious at parts, I quickly moved the girls into their rose groups to begin the craft. For the summer, I did decide to adjust the groups based on birthdays. In January, groups were set up based on the age each girl would be by May 31. This time I did it based on September 30, since we will start a new wreath in October. A few girls were moved up to the next group, which balanced the groups nicely. (Aimee Vibert roses are 4 & 5. Duchesse de Montebello roses are 6 & 7. Salet roses are 8 & 9. Louis Philippe roses are 10 & 11.)

This was the craft, thanks to Oriental Trading Company! Who would have thought they had a Catholic craft? It was simple, and the girls enjoyed it! I brought printed pictures of St. Cecelia for them to put inside the boxes, as well, to remind them to say their Rosaries piously.

For the activity, in honor of St. Cecelia, I taught the girls a song. I had actually printed out song sheets previously for several songs, so we could choose a couple, but the time was so tight, we just did one. This is the song I taught them, which they enjoyed. It is meant to be sung faster and faster as you repeat it over and over. I do not sing well, nor play an instrument, so this worked well, although I had brought CD accompaniment for the other three songs on the sheet.
I am a C
I am a C
I am a C-H
I am a C-H-R-I-S-T-I-A-N
And I have C-H-R-I-S-T in my H-E-A-R-T
And I will L-I-V-E E-T-E-R-N-A-L-L-Y
Finally, we learned the new scripture song for piety from the Little Flowers CD. I always print out the words in size 60+ font and tape them to a colored posterboard and hold it up for the girls to follow as they sing. Only the littlest ones cannot read.
Our closing prayers are always the St. Therese prayer, reading the intention list the girls write on before and during the meeting, and reciting a short litany of all of the saints we have met in this wreath, so far. Then, we passed out the St. Cecelia coloring page and the project sheet for piety. This is what the project sheet looks like.

This particular meeting was simple and fun, which worked well to get the summer started. We had a few new families join us, as well, so I wanted them to feel included right away. I gave those girls their folders and bags and passed out the St. Therese medals for them to pin on their sashes just before closing prayers.

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.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Please come see me online in July!

It is official! Yikes! In early July, I am presenting two free webinars through Homeschool Connections! Go here to register now! Invite lots of friends to join us! And, please begin praying immediately that these sessions lead mothers to a more deeply Christ-centered homeschooling way of life.

When I first posted here at Heart of a Mother about our homeschooling group's very successful Day of Reflection for Homeschooling Mothers, I was contacted by Maureen Wittmann, co-owner of Homeschool Connections and Catholic homeschooling mother and author, asking if I might be interested in presenting a webinar on this topic. (It helped that I knew the other owner, Walter Crawford, from college.) It took us about a month to discern this use of my time, see if my computer could handle the technology, finalize the topic, and choose dates (one webinar somehow became a two-part series!), but we are finally ready to roll these out.

Both sessions will include my live presentation and a simultaneous group discussion through live chat. All you need is a computer with Internet connection (I'm the only one who needs a webcam and headset). And, if you miss it (or don't get in because space is limited), the recording is also free, usually posted within a few days of the webinar. Check out their awesome, amazing previously recorded webinars free! The topics range from homeschool organization to family relationships to living books.

During these webinars, using the process our local group began with our Day of Reflection, we will focus on ensuring God is at the center of all of our homeschooling choices and planning, prayerfully evaluating last year and getting ready for next year. Here are the detailed descriptions for official publication...

Prayerfully Reflecting on Last Year ~ Tuesday, July 7, 2009, 8:30-10:00PM Eastern

Here is a chance to really step back from the busy-ness of family life and pause to reflect on the previous academic year's highs and lows. The focus will be to take some time to ponder our personal spiritual growth and our successes and challenges from the past year of homeschooling with a goal to prayerfully discern what, if anything, needs to change for next year. Participants will be provided with a thorough self-evaluation survey at the close of the webinar to complete on their own time, which has been an inspiring process for all who have done it, so far! This webinar is part one of a two part series, continuing with Prayerfully Planning for Next Year on July 15, but one can be attended without the other, if desired.

Prayerfully Preparing for Next Year ~ Tuesday, July 14, 2009, 8:30-10:00PM Eastern

Regardless of what stage of planning for next year moms have completed, this will be an opportunity to consider our plans in light of God's will through prayerful discernment. Having evaluated the previous academic year in the webinar Prayerfully Reflecting on Last Year on July 7, our goals for this discussion will be asking the Lord for guidance in choosing materials and preparing lessons for next year and setting some goals for ourselves, our family, and each individual child that truly reflect our priorities. This webinar is part two of a two part series but one can be attended without the other, if desired.

So, please come sign up! I will feel less anxious if I have some familiar names on the list, and I would absolutely love to virtually meet so many of my readers whom I do not yet know personally. Thank you for supporting this great company, trying to bring excellent information to homeschooling mothers AT HOME! If you have not yet attended one of their previous webinars, you will soon learn what a blessing it is to have your own homeschooling conference online at anytime!

And, last but not least, please pray for me as I prepare for these. I am extremely humbled to be included in a list of such presenters as John Jansen, Maureen Wittman, Fr. Mitch Pacwa, Alicia Van Hecke, Michele Quigley, Kris Correira, Dr. Mary Kay Clark, Deacon Gene McGuirk, Danielle Bean, and others. Okay, seriously, putting my name in with these people is ridiculous! They have SO much more experience and talent than me! But, since I am a firm believer in sharing what I have been blessed to receive, I guess I have to step out in faith on this and trust the Holy Spirit to do the rest. Thank you for your Hail Marys on my behalf!

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

The Reading-4-Levels-Above-Grade-Level Book List

Note - Oh, dear! I just found this post that never got published from last June! I was about to prepare one for second grade to respond to a friend's request for ideas. So, I thought I'd better get this one out first.

As previously mentioned, my sweet daughter is reading books at a sixth grade level. She has just finished first grade and is almost seven. Thus, finding books for her to read that are both challenging and appropriate for her maturity level is a constant challenge.

Thank you to readers and friends who have sent me endless lists of titles. They have been extremely helpful sources! To pass on the benefits we gained from your input, below is a list of the chapter books my daughter has read in first grade that she enjoyed and I approved (every family has different standards, of course). Let me know if you have titles to add!

Cobble Street Cousins Series by Cynthia Rylant
In Aunt Lucy's Kitchen
A Little Shopping
Special Gifts
Some Good News
Summer Party
Wedding Flowers

Strawberry Shortcake Friendship Club Series by Megan Bryant
Join the Club
Secrets and Surprises (she did not read this one, only because our library doesn't have it, even though they have one and three)
The Friendship Trip
***I did not let her read Book 4 - Halloween Hideout

Angelina's Diary Series by Katharine Holabird & Helen Craig
The Best Sleepover Ever
***There are no more books in this "series," which began in 2006.

The Best Loved Doll by Rebecca Caudill and Elliot Gilbert

26 Fairmount Avenue Series by Tomie de Paola
26 Fairmount Avenue
Here We All Are
On My Way
What a Year
Things Will Never Be the Same
I'm Still SCARED

Why? (she did not read this one, only because our library doesn't have it)
For the Duration (coming July 30, 2009)

After reading the original Peter Pan aloud to both children, she read the DK Michael Johnstone version and Disney's version by Todd Strasser.

Jenny the Cat Series by Esther Averill
Jenny and the Cat Club
Jenny's Moonlight Adventure
The School for Cats
Jenny Goes to Sea

Mary Fabyan Windeatt Books
St. Catherine of Siena
St. Rose of Lima
Patron Saint of First Communicants

Two Girls in Sister Dresses by Jean Van Leeuwen

Waltur Buys a Pig in a Poke by Barbara Gregorich

Vision Books
St. Catherine Laboure by Power-Waters
Kateri Tekakwitha by Brown
St. Therese and the Roses by Homan
St. Elizabeth's Three Crowns by Thompson

Drinking Gourd by F.N. Monjo

American Girl Kaya Series by Janet Shaw
Meet Kaya
Kaya's Escape
Kaya's Hero
Kaya and Lone Dog
Kaya Shows the Way
Changes for Kaya

American Girl Addy Series by Connie Porter
Meet Addy
Addy Learns a Lesson
Addy's Surprise
Happy Birthday, Addy
Addy Saves the Day
Changes for Addy

American Girl Josefina Series by Valerie Tripp
Meet Josefina
Josefina Learns a Lesson
Josefina's Surprise
Happy Birthday, Josefina
Josefina Saves the Day
Changes for Josefina

American Girl Felicity Series by Valerie Tripp
Meet Felicity
Felicity's Surprise
Felicity Learns a Lesson
Happy Birthday, Felicity
Felicity Saves the Day
Changes for Felicity

American Girl Kirsten Series by Shaw
Meet Kirsten
Kirsten's Surprise
Kirsten Learns a Lesson
Happy Birthday, Kirsten
Kirsten Saves the Day
Changes for Kirsten

American Girl Kit Series by Valerie Tripp
Meet Kit
Kit's Surprise
Kit Learns a Lesson
Happy Birthday, Kit
Kit Saves the Day
Changes for Kit

American Girl Samantha Series by Susan Adler
Meet Samantha
Samantha's Surprise
Samantha Learns a Lesson
Happy Birthday, Samantha
Samantha Saves the Day
Changes for Samantha

American Girl Molly Series by Valerie Tripp
Meet Samantha
Samantha's Surprise
Samantha Learns a Lesson
Happy Birthday, Samantha
Samantha Saves the Day
Changes for Samantha

(I avoided allowing her to read the Julie series, because the 70s in San Francisco sound precarious to me. Admittedly, I have not read the series myself to see if anything is objectionable.)

Royal Champions by Catherine Hapka

Richard Scarry's Best Storybook Ever

Who's That Stepping on Plymouth Rock? by Jean Fritz

A Lion to Guard Us by Clyde Robert Bulla

And Then What Happened, Paul Revere? by Jean Fritz

Beauty and the Beast by Max Eilenberg

Pheobe and the General by Judith Griffin

Secret Soldier by Ann McGovern

George Washington's Breakfast by Jean Fritz

Ben and Me by Robert Lawson

Betsy-Tacy Series by Maud Hart Lovelace
Betsy-Tacy & Tib
Betsy and Tacy Go Over Big Hill
Betsy and Tacy Go Downtown

Maybelle Goes to Tea by Katie Speck

Those Funny Flamingoes by Jan Lee Wicker

Betsy Series by Carolyn Haywood
B is for Betsy
Betsy and Billy
Penny and Peter
Betsy and the Boys
Back to School with Betsy
Here's a Penny
Two and Two Are Four
Primrose Day

The Fairy Necklaces by Cicely Mary Barker

A World of Flower Fairies by Cicely Mary Barker

Lumber Camp Library by Natalie Kinsey-Warnock

A Llama in the Family by Johanna Hurwitz

Little House Series by Laura Ingalls Wilder
Little House in the Big Woods
Little House on the Prairie
Farmer Boy
On the Banks of Plum Creek
On the Shores of Silver Lake
The Long Winter
Little Town on the Prairie
These Happy Golden Years
The First Four Years

All of a Kind Family Series by Sydney Taylor
All of a Kind Family
All of a Kind Family Downtown
All of a Kind Family Uptown
Ella's All of a Kind Family

Jesus's Chore Chart

Therese (6.5) --- Mom, Jesus had to do all the chores on the chore chart in their house, because He didn't have any brothers and sisters.


Monday, June 15, 2009

Sunday, June 14, 2009 ~ Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ

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).

*sorry this didn't get posted before yesterday; not sure what happened

Mark 14:12-16, 22-26

On the first day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread,
when they sacrificed the Passover lamb,
Jesus' disciples said to him,
"Where do you want us to go
and prepare for you to eat the Passover?"
He sent two of his disciples and said to them,
"Go into the city and a man will meet you,
carrying a jar of water.
Follow him.
Wherever he enters, say to the master of the house,
'The Teacher says, "Where is my guest room
where I may eat the Passover with my disciples?"'
Then he will show you a large upper room furnished and ready.
Make the preparations for us there."
The disciples then went off, entered the city,
and found it just as he had told them;
and they prepared the Passover.
While they were eating,
he took bread, said the blessing,
broke it, gave it to them, and said,
"Take it; this is my body."
Then he took a cup, gave thanks, and gave it to them,
and they all drank from it.
He said to them,
"This is my blood of the covenant,
which will be shed for many.
Amen, I say to you,
I shall not drink again the fruit of the vine
until the day when I drink it new in the kingdom of God."
Then, after singing a hymn,
they went out to the Mount of Olives.


What a sacred, holy day! What a blessed gift! The Lord comes to us in the Eucharist. He knows we are weak. He knows we need Him. He allows us to take His Body and Blood into our very bodies, so we will receive His grace and know He is with us always.

The (optional) sequence for this solemnity to be read or sung in Mass before the Gospel is pure beauty! I pray it was/will be read in your liturgy, because such gifts from the Church to her people are so essential to holding the Eucharist dear and sacred. It was written by St. Thomas Aquinas, and his eloquence is unparalleled.

Unfortunately, much of what should be sacred these days has become ordinary. I am in awe at the opportunity, we as Catholics have, to retain the sacred nature of the Mass through the Real Presence. This Sunday should be a day to thoughtfully recommit ourselves to preserving the holy worth of the Eucharist.

Do we attend Sunday Mass in a spirit of awe? Do we allow daily Mass to become mere habit? Do we remind our children the importance of the Eucharist and teach them at a very young age to recognize Jesus in the Eucharist at Mass and in the tabernacle? Do we remember that the Real Presence is one of the defining beliefs of our Catholic faith and not shy away from telling others of our great devotion to this awesome gift?

Lord, help us to hold sacred the Mass and the Eucharist. Let us never stop by our parish without stopping in to see you. Let us always go out of our way to be with you in the Eucharist. Bless us with the grace of true devotion to Your Most Holy Body and Blood this day and always.