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Advent Christi Feast Days

How Our Advent Tree Came To Life

 

HowOurAdventTreeCametoLife

In today’s world, we find Christmas decorations fighting with Halloween items for space on the store shelves. It is easy to succumb to the temptation of putting up the decorations and tree in time for Thanksgiving. Turkey day may or may not end up being the same weekend as the first Sunday in Advent. This year we have a week’s grace between Thanksgiving weekend and the first Sunday in Advent, but the pressure to get the festivities started now seems to grow every year.

Influenced by our faith journey over our thirty plus years of parenting, our choices of how and when to decorate for Christmas has undergone many changes. As we are originally from Canada, where Thanksgiving falls in October, it wasn’t part of the equation. Instead, we typically chose to put the tree up on our first child’s birthday in early December.  

In the early nineties, we became aware of of Advent as a time of preparing for the birth of Christ and wanted to be more mindful of that. Incorporating the changes this awareness brought about was initially difficult for our oldest children. They were used to a more secular means of preparing for Christmas. As much as I wanted to push the putting up of the actual Christmas tree as close to Christmas Eve as possible, my husband and I came to the conclusion that we needed to move slowly.

One of the first changes we made was to not put all our Christmas ornaments up at once. We still put the tree up early in the season of Advent, but staggered the decorations.  Each Sunday of Advent, we added more Christmas decor to the house. By the fourth Sunday we pretty much had the whole house decorated.

The next change was to make use of the Advent colors in our table settings. For our still very young family, this helped make the change of the church’s season very noticeable. We used either a purple tablecloth or runner for the first, second and fourth week of Advent and a pink one for the third week of Advent. On Christmas morning and St Nicholas’ day the children woke to either a red tablecloth or very festive one on the table. We also really emphasized the joy of the many feast days celebrated during the four to five weeks of Advent.

However, my biggest goal, which was to not decorate our tree until only days before Christmas Eve was not achieved until 2009: our 13th child’s first  Christmas.  


Back in 2002, my husband was laid off and we began our journey of running a family business . The following Christmas our second oldest, determined that all her younger siblings who were still at home should have Christmas memories like hers, showed up from college with a tree tied to the roof of her car and apple cider in the back seat.  Over the next six years, while my husband and I struggled with the challenges of self-employment and raising a growing and still rather young family, our daughter made annual trek home with a tree and cider. Always in early December.

All good things come to an end, and after our daughter married and started her own family I had the opportunity to create a new tradition of putting the tree up closer to Christmas Eve! Yet, after almost thirty years of putting it up during the first week of December, I was loathe to take that step and announce to the children the tree would not go up until December 22nd or 23rd.  

I shared my dilemma with our fifth child and between the two of us we came up with the idea of an Advent tree. We shared this plan with the other children and they were elated. After purchasing some inexpensive purple ornaments and white lights, we spent hours that first Sunday in Advent taking turns coloring the clear light bulbs with purple and pink permanent markers. Hilariously, only the purple-colored bulbs showed any color at all and they looked pink. We didn’t care – we were in love with our Advent tree: the first of many.

Over the past nine years, we have continued to grow our purple and pink ornament collection and have added homemade ones as well. Our first year, a fellow parishioner, gifted us her purple Halloween lights after hearing about our Advent tree. Since then, we have been inspired to watch for purple lights at the dollar stores. I think we still have one strand of the original lights we so painstakingly colored pink and purple.


We have varied from decorating both an Advent tree and a Christmas tree to converting the Advent tree into Christmas tree just a few days before Christmas. This year we will have two trees. The Advent tree will, of course, go up the first Sunday in Advent (December 2nd) and we will have hot cider and simple treats while enjoying family time. Sometime after our ninth child returns from Milan, in late December, we will put up a live tree and decorate it with our Christmas ornaments. Again we will have cider and maybe some eggnog along with Christmas cookies while we listen to Christmas carols and trip over strings and strings of colorful lights.


What are some of the things you do in your family to help your children focus on Advent while the rest of the world has been buying ornaments and stocking stuffers with their Halloween candy? Feel free to share them below in the comments.

Categories
Domestic Church Faith Formation Ink Slingers Kerri Lent Liturgical Year Mass Meatless Fridays Prayer Resources Spiritual Growth Your Handy-Dandy List

The 2018 Handy Dandy List of Lenten Sacrifices

 

Lent is coming up fast (in one week actually) so if you haven’t given any thought to your Lenten sacrifices for the upcoming season, now’s the time to start thinking. Since 2013 we have been doing several “Handy Dandy Lists” for Lent. Our 2013 list was super popular and included a ton of things from personal sacrifices to things you can add into your day to resources and books. In 2014 we used the same list and just made some edits (so if you look at the 2013 list many of the links were updated in 2014).

Not wanting to keep rehashing the same list each year, I made a new list in 2015 called Your {Second} Handy Dandy List to Lenten Sacrifices and tried to add some new things, including helpful phone apps, more books, meatless meal links, etc. In 2016 fellow writer Misty updated the previous year’s list with more resources to get The 2016 Handy Dandy List of Lenten Sacrifices.

Here we are one week away from Lent 2018 and I have yet another new list. Again, I don’t want to rehash what was on the old lists, you all are more than capable of following the links to see what is there. And please do!! So many good suggestions on those links. If you want to see the best versions, check out the 2013 list (the original) and the 2016 list. They complement each other well and have the best of all four lists in them.

So now what?? What more could I possibly add to this bounty of Lenten sacrifices and resources?

Well, for this year I decided to focus on family or group activities. Some of these suggestions are best used in a family, others would work well for a group (think a Moms group, Bible study, small prayer group, any group of friends, etc.), and some could be incorporated in either. I’ll let you be the judge. And I’m not promising that there won’t be any repeats from previous lists.

Simplify Meals

Obviously, meatless Fridays are a must during Lent. But what else can you do as a family to stress the simplicity of Lent? Here’s a couple of suggestions:

  • Soup every night. Yes, every night. Doesn’t have to be fancy, can just be from a can. Or a combination of canned and homemade.
  • Abstain from meat on both Wednesdays and Fridays. I believe this is still the tradition in many other Catholic Rites, but not typically practiced among the Western Rites. Lent would be a great time to try this out.
  • In addition to your meatless Fridays, pick another day to focus on a simple meal. Soup is one good suggestion, but I bet you could come up with others too. A couple I thought of in addition to soup are rice and beans or sandwiches with raw veggies on the side.
  • Try giving up one food item for the entire family. A good suggestion might be dairy (again, one of those things that used to be traditional and still is in some cultures) or meat.
  • For some meatless meal ideas (not necessarily simple), check out our Pinterest meatless recipe board

Daily Mass

This one often comes up on our lists for Lent. But what about making it a family thing? Moms of young kids are rolling your eyes at me right now! Yes, yes, I know. I have little ones too and the thought of bringing them to Mass every single day is overwhelming. But if you can swing it, what a great way to drive home the message of a sacrificial Lent with our kids, especially if Mass is at 6:30 in the morning!

Tracking Sacrifices Visually

Kids often need a visual, and really, don’t we all appreciate visual reminders? Make sacrifices more meaningful for your kids and for you by using some sort of visual reminder. Here are a few suggestions.

  • A bean jar for each person in the family (or mini craft pom poms or whatever other small things you want to put in a jar). You could also do one jar for the whole family. Each time you perform a good deed or make a sacrifice you put a bean in the jar. This is very flexible, so you can make it work however you want for your family. My family did this one year and the beans in the jar (we used some dry kidney beans) became jelly beans on Easter morning.
  • A friend shared with me that her family does an Easter tree during Lent. She makes a big tree with branches out of construction paper and puts it up on a wall. Then they use construction paper leaves to write down any sacrifices, habits they want to start, and/or a project, etc. Over the rest of Lent, they add more leaves for prayer requests and people or causes they want to support or encourage. They also invite anyone who enters their home to add a leaf to the tree with their prayer intentions or sacrifices. Then they use some time each day to pray for everything on the tree. By the end of Lent, they have a fully blossomed tree and they leave it up for the whole Easter season. I love this idea!!

Spiritual Reading

There are lots and lots and lots of books about Lent or books that help you pray through Lent or books for kids to get the most out of Lent. We have featured several in our past lists, check those out if you have time, plus I’m sure there are many more coming out every year (check websites for TAN Books, Magnificat, Ignatius, Ave Maria Press, and others). But what I want to encourage is any sort of spiritual reading. Here’s one idea I had:

As a Benedictine Oblate, I read a section of the Rule of St. Benedict every day. In it, St. Benedict discusses how the monks should observe Lent. One particular aspect has always intrigued me, and I remember one of the monks at my monastery talking about this as well. Each monk is given a spiritual book to read for Lent (Rule ch. 48:15-16). They don’t get to choose it, it is given to them. I like this idea for a group of people or a family with older kids (probably teenagers).

Have each person bring a book they own to the group, make sure it is a spiritual book and that each person appropriately labels their book with their name and number. Use some sort of blind exchange of the books. Pair people up by drawing names, or have all the books placed in a box so people can reach in and take one without looking, or maybe have the books wrapped. Whatever you decide, just make sure that people don’t walk away with the book they brought or one they have already read. I like the idea of a book being chosen for me for Lent, trust in the Holy Spirit to put the book in front of me I need to read. Maybe it’ll be something I wouldn’t have thought to read.

If you do this, I would encourage a group meeting again shortly after Easter. Let people return the books to the owners and discuss what benefits this exercise produced for everyone or share something you learned. Especially if it was a book you might not have otherwise read.

Another idea for spiritual reading as a family is to pick a Lenten read the whole family can enjoy together and read it out loud each day. Or, make it a practice that every family member has to spend 20 minutes (or whatever you decide) reading a spiritual book each day. [See yesterday’s post for great Lenten reading ideas.] 

Service Projects

This is a great idea for a family, group of families, or any large or small group. This is a great way to teach our children acts of charity during the Lenten season.

  • Organize a meal service at a local homeless shelter
  • Go shopping as a family for your church’s food pantry or St. Vincent de Paul group
  • Collect needed items for a charity in your city or town. Contact the organization first to see what their needs are. Suggested groups to look for: pregnancy help centers, soup kitchens, food pantries, Ronald McDonald House, nursing/assisted living homes, etc.
  • If there is a Habitat for Humanity build currently taking place in your area, see if your family can get involved. Even if you have little kids, it might be something older kids and one parent can do while the younger kids and the other parent put together lunch or other food for the workers that day.
  • Put together small care packages for the homeless to hand out. Things like small personal items (toothbrush, toothpaste, deodorant, etc.), a bottle of water, McDonald’s gift card, are some of the things you could include.
  • Get creative, there are lots of organizations out there that are happy to have volunteers or who need things you might be able to provide.

Grow New Family (or Group) Habits

I often look at Lent the way many people think of the New Year. It’s a great time to start something new! Why not use this time to start a new family habit that can carry over past Lent.

  • Don’t have a family prayer time yet? Make it a Lenten resolution to start. It can be something small like sharing intentions and then saying an Our Father together or doing a family rosary.
  • Review all activities of every family member and see if there are activities that can be cut. Don’t ever see your spouse or kids? Feeling like you are running a taxi service for your kids? Maybe this is a good time to re-evaluate and cut some things so that more of your family’s time can be spent as a family.
  • Start a family game night. Families should spend time together. Praying as a family is of primary importance, but if you’re already doing that and want to increase family quality time, how about a game night. Doesn’t sound very Lent-worthy, but if you are lacking family time, why can’t this be part of your Lent? Make sure everyone puts phones and other electronics away (see, sacrifice) and once a week get out some old-fashioned games or just a deck of cards.
  • Many parishes will have family events during Lent. Things like Fish Fries, soup nights, Family Stations of the Cross, etc. Why not make use of these activities to help start some family spiritual practices. Check with your parish (or surrounding parishes) to see what is available.
  • Related to the above, the Stations of the Cross can be done at home too. You can search online for coloring sheets of the stations to help keep little ones interested. Or have older kids color pictures of the stations to hang around the house. Find prayers online as well or buy a small booklet to use with your family or look for an app for the Stations. If you are a military family check out this Military Way of the Cross written specifically for military families. Please take a look and share with others you know in the military.

I hope this list inspires you to try something new with your family, or possibly resurrect an old practice. I hope everyone has a spiritually fulfilling Lent. Below are the links to our past lists as well as other Lenten links at Catholic Sistas. And please, if you have a family tradition you’d like to tell us about, leave a comment!! We’d love to hear from you.

Past lists and other CS Lent posts:

The original list from 2013, with updates in 2014: https://www.catholicsistas.com/2013/02/your-handy-dandy-list-to-lenten-sacrifices/

The {Second} Handy Dandy List of 2015: https://www.catholicsistas.com/2015/02/second-handy-dandy-list-lenten-sacrifices/

The updated 2016 list of Lenten resources: https://www.catholicsistas.com/2016/01/your-handy-dandy-list-of-lenten-resources/

All our Lent posts from our Archives: https://www.catholicsistas.com/category/liturgical-year/lent/

And finally, don’t forget our Annual Lenten Photo Challenge. More info coming soon!

Categories
4th Commandment Domestic Church Erika D Homeschool Motherhood Parenting Raising Saints Ten Commandments

Back to Basics in {Catholic} Homeschooling

Back to basics in Catholic HomeschoolingThis article comes to you almost exactly on the anniversary of when we first introduced this series on {Catholic} Homeschooling.  As we recap the year I would like to take a step back and share some basics which we have brushed upon in the other articles but are worthy of compiling and giving a focus to in this article.

In the Letter to the Ephesians 4:1-6, the Lord tells us, through Saint Paul, “I therefore, a prisoner in the Lord, beseech you that you walk worthy of the vocation in which you are called, with all humility and mildness, with patience, supporting one another in charity.  Careful to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.  One body and one Spirit; as you are called in one hope of your calling.  One Lord, one faith, one baptism.  One God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in us all.”  The vocation we have been called to by God, the vocation primarily being wife and secondarily being mother is one that requires much sacrifice and love of our part.  As we know that Holy Mother Church teaches, in her infinite wisdom, that the man is the head of the home but the mother is the heart of the home. Sadly, this world tells us otherwise; this world teaches that our focus should be on being successful outside of the home.  Even when you have the most lovely of professions (as I did instructing children for 15 years), our focus now is on instructing our own children within our home; the children the Lord has entrusted us with. Satan’s plan is to tear motherhood down, he hates our openness to life, he hates our love for our children, and our desire to raise them as God-fearing soldiers of Christ.  So he will do what he can to try to tear us down but we must arm ourselves with the necessary gifts the Lord has given us, through Holy Mother Church.

It takes time and practice to train children, it is the most exhausting job in the world but also the most rewarding! Alone we cannot do it, we need all the prayers and graces and intercessions available to raise God fearing children! We must fight for their soul because if we are not vigilant the evil one will snatch their innocence and corrupt their hearts. We must be strong in our own faith by being in a state of Grace, receiving the Sacraments, and setting an example always. I know it is not an easy task as children can be merciless and demanding of us day and night, but it is the right task. We must be completely selfless and devout ourselves 150% to this task at hand. God has entrusted each of us with those little souls to shepherd them to Him, please never give up on your children, ever. Pray for them always, ask for their Guardian Angel’s help with this task, when you cannot do it, turn to the Blessed Mother for guidance, and always keep your eyes on the Crucifix! After all, when God creates a soul the next human to love that child is his mother. Please friends, I beg you, pray for me and all mothers always.  As parents need to work together to raise the children, exalting our roles as mothers does not, in any way,  negate the important role of the father in the home.  It is just that mothers have the power and privilege of preparing the souls of their children.

So it is vital for mothers to train the child to keep order, be self disciplined, and to accept sacrifice. Mothers should wake up each morning and pray for the spirit of fortitude so that she can train her children well and by God’s laws and standards.  Ask yourself questions like: “Am I raising a Christian family? Are you raising priests? Bishops? or Religious in your families? If we want to change the world, we must raise up our children IN HOLINESS.  Saint John Vianney, over 150 years ago said, “The reason our times are so irreligious is on account of un-Christian families.”  The key to restoring order in this world is by raising Christian children by way of obedience and humility within our families.  Look to other families whom also were prime examples of these, maybe it is a family in your own parish or there are others like the family of Saint Therese of Lisieux.  The Holy Family is the perfect example of this and help us by their influence.

Am I saying we should be super woman or super mom? Not really.  See there is a huge difference between a woman who wants to show off and make herself better, bigger, and wiser than others…this is not the woman or kind of mother the Lord is calling us to be.  No, my dear sisters, the kind of woman the Lord wants us to be is valiant woman (which is why Catholic Sistas is starting the new Proverbs 31 Catholic Woman Series).  The Lord wants us to be a woman always looking to please God and not be a show off to others.  A woman that has her homeschool under control, knows what she wants from her homeschool and has a selected, well thought out curriculum and schedule so that there is order in the home.

“For by grace you are saved through faith, and that not of yourselves, for it is the gift of God; Not of works, that no man may glory.  For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus in good works, which God hath prepared that we should walk in them,” ~ Ephesians 2: 8-10.  

So we are to look for our peace in Christ through our works in our homes.  When we fail? Are we to be discouraged?  No, because we learn from failure and we are also reminded that God is always in control, not us.  We want our children to be Godly by setting an example to them; they will be good if they are being God-like. It is also important that not only do we teach our children but that we also spend quality time with them to establish relationship with our children. Lastly, the quality of events and activities we are involved in matters more than the quantity.  Do not over burden yourself or your children by running around all over town each afternoon.  We want peaceful families not busy families.

A Year in Recap: Articles on the How’s and Why’s of Homeschooling:

  1. 10 Steps to Start Catholic Homeschooling
  2. Goal Setting in the Catholic Homeschool
  3. Homeschooling Methods 101
  4. The {Catholic} Homeschooling Socialization Myth
  5. Order in{Catholic} Homeschooling
  6. Learning Styles in the {Catholic} Homeschool
  7. 10 Steps to Selecting a {Catholic} Homeschool Curriculum
  8. {Catholic} Homeschooling Beyond Academics
  9. Teaching Religion in {Catholic Homeschooling}
  10. Teaching the Love of Writing in the {Catholic} Homeschool
  11. Teaching Reading in the {Catholic} Homeschool
  12. 10 Steps to Teach Writing in the {Catholic} Homeschool

Sources for this article and suggested further reading/listening:

Categories
Alessandra Conversion Faith Formation Feast Days Ink Slingers Mary Novenas Parenting Prayer Sacramentals

Two Hearts Bond: The Sacred and the Immaculate

There exists an incredible bond between the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the Immaculate Heart of Mary, something that I had never really noticed until the day I was driving back from my first ultrasound of my firstborn son. As I kept remember the sound of his little heart beating (a sound that brings so much joy to an expecting mother’s heart), it also led me to think that he was comforted by the sound of my heart beating as well.  This led me to think of the Mary and baby Jesus.  When I think about the Sacred Heart of Jesus, I cannot help but also think of the Immaculate Heart of Mary. The very first sound that Jesus heard was the beating of His Mother’s Immaculate Heart.  Since Mary gave Jesus His human nature by her genetics, Mary quite literally gave to Jesus His Sacred Heart, born of the love of her own Immaculate Heart. And this all happened because of Jesus’ gratuitous love for Mary.  He gave to her her Immaculate character so that He might unite to humanity in a sinless vessel and receive the unrestrained and untainted love of His Mother.

Now think about why Jesus manifested His Sacred Heart to Saint Margaret Mary.  He did so  largely because of the neglect He suffered in the Blessed Sacrament in the tabernacle.  Mary, being the Tabernacle of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, necessarily shared His sorrows because of this integral bond.  If you have a special devotion to the Blessed Sacrament, you should have one to the Sacred Heart; and in turn you should have a special devotion to Mary’s Immaculate Heart, as the Tabernacle of the Most High.

Catholics have always believed that Mary was Immaculate and have always believed that Jesus’ Heart is Sacred.  However, these truths God saw fit to express more clearly after the Reformation through Saint Margaret Mary Alacoque and Saint Catherine Laboure.

It cannot be underestimated the effect on Mary caused by her Immaculate Conception. Unlike the rest of humanity born in sin, never was there a barrier between Mary’s soul and God.  Add to this that she was overshadowed by the Most High, bore God incarnate within her womb, nourished Him in growth, and then dwelt with Our Lord most of His life on Earth, day in and day out.

In having no barrier between her and her Son, Jesus brought to her a life of indescribable joy, always being given the grace of the Godhead in a personal, immediate way, but conversely, the Prophecy of Simeon had the dolorous consequence of His painful and anguishing Passion being equally united to her heart.  The bond is the bond.  Her Immaculate Heart feels all the joy of His Sacred Heart, and her Dolorous Heart suffers all the pains of His Impassioned Heart.

Devotion to Mary is Devotion to Jesus. Marian devotion, especially to her Immaculate Heart, has one purpose: to make our prayers a perfect and acceptable offering to her Son, and unite our lives and souls to her Son more perfectly. Always allow her Immaculate Heart to draw you ever closer to His Sacred Heart because they have been integrally bonded from the moment of His conception.

Listed below are the “12 Promises” of the Sacred Heart of Jesus to St. Margaret Mary to encourage all Catholics to know and understand the benefit of practicing the Devotion and to encourage all to take up its immediate practice.

  1. I will give them all the graces necessary in their state of life.
  2. I will give peace in their families and will unite families that are divided.
  3. I will console them in all their troubles.
  4. I will be their refuge during life and above all in death.
  5. I will bestow the blessings of Heaven on all their enterprises.
  6. Sinners shall find in my Heart the source and infinite ocean of mercy.
  7. Tepid souls shall become fervent.
  8. Fervent souls shall rise quickly to great perfection.
  9. I will bless those places wherein the image of My Heart shall be exposed and honored and will imprint My love on the hearts of those who would wear this image on their person. I will also destroy in them all disordered movements.
  10. I will give to priests who are animated by a tender devotion to my Divine Heart the gift of touching the most hardened hearts.
  11. Those who promote this devotion shall have their names written in my Heart, never to be effaced.
  12. I promise you in the excessive mercy of my Heart that my all-powerful love will grant to all those who communicate on the First Friday in nine consecutive months, the grace of final penitence: they will not die in my disgrace, nor without receiving their Sacraments. My Divine Heart shall be their safe refuge in this last moment.

(The Nine Fridays must be made in honor of His Sacred Heart, meaning, practicing the devotion and having a great love of His Sacred Heart. They must be on the first Friday of the month for nine consecutive months, and Communion must be received.)

The Feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus is a moveable feast, which means that it depends on the date of Easter Sunday. It is celebrated 19 days after Pentecost Sunday, which falls on the 50th day of Easter. This year, the Feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus falls on June 7, 2013, tomorrow.

Our family has a strong devotion to the Sacred Heart; even before my husband and I met we each had our own devotion, so when we found out we had this in common it was quite easy to talk about the Faith.  Naturally, one of the first things we did was to consecrate our home to the Sacred and Immaculate Hearts.  In this we enthroned and consecrated our home to the Sacred Heart as King and the Immaculate Heart as Queen of our family.  Along with this act, we commissioned an artist, Mary Henley, to paint an image of the Two Hearts to be placed over our mantle, or family altar.  Why would we want to make this act?  Well, simple, our families gain enormous additional graces and blessings at this, the time we need them most, if the installation of His image is accompanied by a formal ceremony done by a priest, and by a Consecration of the Family to the love of His Sacred Heart.

Have you Consecrated your Domestic Church to the Sacred and Immaculate Hearts?  Ask your parish priest today about enrolling your family and also order materials for the consecration at MyConsecration.org for FREE.

Order your free consecration materials to make the St. Louis de Montfort Consecration to Jesus through Mary