7 Quick Takes Christi Feast Days Mary

Seven Quick Takes: Images of the Holy Family

In honor of the feast day of the Holy family which until 1969, was celebrated the first Sunday after Epiphany, and is now celebrated the first Sunday after Christmas, I bring to you – seven beautiful images of the Holy family. Some well known and others, not so well known. Enjoy and may the Holy family reside with you and  yours this New Year of 2015.

Quick Take one:


By Bartolome Esteban Murillo The Holy Family

Quick Take two:

Christ with John the Baptist

The Holy Family with the Infant St. John the Baptist, 1660-70 · Bartolome Esteban Murillo

Quick Take three:

Simeon and Anna Recognize the Lord

Simeon and Anna Recognize the Lord in Jesus by  Rembrandt

Quick Take Four: 

The Family

The family by John D. Batten

Quick Take Five:

The Family from Nazareth

Quick Take Six: 

The Holy Family

Holy Family by Juan Simon Gutierrez

Quick Take Seven:

The Flight into Egypt  The Flight into Egypt – Bartolome Esteban Murillo

I hope you felt inspired by all these lovely images of the Holy family. There are so many online that it was breath taking to search through all of the available images. Try it some day – you will get lost in a sea of love and beauty.

From my heart to yours – I wish you the very happiest and blessed New Year, and God Bless! (Don’t forget to mosey on over to the new Seven Quick Takes  and see what is happening over there!)

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Ten Liturgical Activities for Advent

This article would actually apply for any Catholic family, not just home educators as it deals with liturgical activities for Advent.  

Today in the United States of America we celebrate Thanksgiving.  As I thought and thought about what I could possibly write about without boring you (and really, who is online on Thanksgiving?), I thought the one thing I am most thankful for is being Roman Catholic. With that came to mind the thought that we are beginning a brand new Liturgical Year!  This time of year is SO BUSY and our lives seem to go on overdrive.  It is rather exhausting at times and reminds me of when we used to do “vacations” to theme parks- wake up, go, go, go, crazy, repeat!

A couple of years ago we decided to END the craziness in our lives during Advent and refocus on the birth of Christ. For starters, we don’t decorate for Christmas until the 24th.  It is rather convenient that my family lives in Florida and my husband’s lives in Virginia, so we do not need to leave the house for anything on the 24th and love it!  One of the things I did was create activities which were meaningful for my small children.  I think at the time they were 12, 6, 5, 3, and 1 when I made this.  This little kit is free and available to anyone with this link. I hope it will bring peace and calm to your Advent! Please make sure that you share this Catholic Sistas link if you want to share the files with others (versus sharing the files directly with them).  Thank you.

LOGO Advent

Here is what is included in this printable liturgical kit:

1. REFLECT: A form letter to Baby Jesus, listing things the child will be thankful for and what they plan on working on during Advent:


2. WORKS OF MERCY. This page is a Christkindl activity, they get to do random acts of kindness (anonymously) for someone else in the family:


3.  ENJOYMENT: Some fun coloring pages. One of the Holy Family and one to learn about the Advent Wreath.



4. CRAFT & SHARE the FAITH: Here is a craft activity to share the faith by making big Advent candles that get “lit” when they weeks continue.


5. PRAYER. Make an Advent Prayer chain to pray for a different person or thing each day of Advent.


6. CALENDAR: Learn about the Advent season by creating your own calendar.


7.  VOCABULARY: Have the children learn some Advent vocabulary words.


8.  PUZZLES. Help the Holy Family get to Bethlehem.


9. RANDOM ACTS OF KINDNESS:  When “caught being good”, your child adds more “hay” into the manger for Baby Jesus.


10. MATH PUZZLES.  In addition to vocabulary, why not add some Math into the activities?  Here the children make “puzzles” out of the pictures of the Blessed Mother, Saint Joseph, and the Holy Family then glue them down on the right order or sequence to remake the picture.



To access the entire file, please click on this link:

Advent – Liturgical Activities for Catholic Children

Christi Ink Slingers Marriage Vocations

A Day in the Life of the Holy Family

Now when they had departed, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, “Rise, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there till I tell you, for Herod is about to search for the child, to destroy him.” And he rose and took the child and his mother by night and departed to Egypt…”  Matthew 2:13-14

With the decline of the family becoming very evident already in the late 1800’s, Pope Leo 13th endeavored to promote the feast day of the Holy Family in hopes that the Holy family would be an inspiration to the world.  But long, long before our modern day popes were concerned with the breakdown of today’s family life – St John Chrysostom (344 – 407 AD) was urging families to look to the Holy family for inspiration as how to make the family a domestic church.

But in order to be inspired by someone, or something , one must come to know it. So with that in mind – let’s take a moment and in our minds eye take a little time to imagine what life must have been like for the Holy Family the morning St. Joseph woke from that second incredible dream.


Joseph rolled over onto his back and stared up at the roof of the cave – smudged in places from the soot of the small fire kept burning near the front. Rubbing the sleep from his eyes, he resisted the urge to shake his head in hopes of clearing of his mind. The roughness of the stone that was his pillow would not be softened any by this action. He pushed himself up on one arm and stared at the tiny baby wrapped in Mary’s arm and winced. What would she think when he woke her to tell her that they must, on the basis of a dream, pack their meager belongings once more and this time head out, not towards an ancestral home, but for a land unknown to either of them? Egypt! The angel had been very clear on that.

Well, nothing to do but to get moving he decided. Wasting time lingering in the heavy large shawl he had slept in would not serve anyone. Still, he mused, no need to wake Mary and the babe just yet. This was not going to be an easy journey.  The caravan they had traveled with to Bethlehem had long ago reassembled and returned to Nazareth. But with Mary recovering from birth and such an arduous journey to Bethlehem, Joseph had opted to remain in Bethlehem for a while. He had earned a few coins doing the odd carpentry job here and there, though not enough to cover the foodstuffs they would need to procure in order to eat on such a long walk to … Egypt!  Thankfully they had not needed to spend any of the gold the three men had brought with them to give to the baby Jesus.

Joseph deftly rolled up the shawl, tucked it away and then added fuel to the smoking coals left in the small fire pit. He grabbed a gourd and headed to the community well where he quickly filled it with fresh water. Once back in the cave he rested the water near the folded shawl and knelt to wake Mary.  Gently he touched her shoulder and smiled as her eyelids fluttered and then opened. Mary’s smile was brief as she noted the look of concern deeply etched on Joseph’s face. Trying to avoid waking the baby – she gingerly wiggled out from under the wraps covering her. 

“What is it Joseph?” she whispered. Her deep brown eyes searched his face as he sat there puzzling how to tell her of his dream. 

He sat back and absently picked up a stone and quietly rolled it about in his hand. For not the first time Mary studied the strong fingers as they deftly moved the pebble in and out. Carpenters hands studded with scars from chisel hits. She patiently waited. She knew he would speak when he was ready. 

“Remember the dream I had, after our betrothal, Mary?”

Startled by this remembrance, Mary nodded somberly and waited. Her dark hair slid forward as she shifted, trying to find a more comfortable position on the hard stone. 

“I’ve had another… it was a most fearsome dream, Mary. The angel warned me that Herod is looking… looking our baby. Our dear sweet Jesus!”

Mary started, and protectively placed her hand on the sleeping child.  “What do you mean Joseph, looking for Jesus? To take him away from us?”

“No, much worse Mary. He is deathly afraid of the child growing into a man and taking his kingdom from him!” 

“Why that’s just ridiculous Joseph, we both know -“

“Shh, yes Mary – we both know… but Herod obviously doesn’t. “

“So what does the angel want us to do, are we supposed to hide him somehow – how will we hide him until he’s grown?” 

Joseph hesitated for a moment and then taking Mary’s other hand he held it tight. “Mary, the angel has told me that we must escape to Egypt.”


Her fingers tightened around his and she sat there absorbing the news.

Then she straightened her shoulders, caressed the baby’s round cheek gently before whispering “We had better begin to prepare, I guess.”

Painting by Bartolomé Esteban Murillo
Painting by Bartolomé Esteban Murillo

Joseph helped her up and bent to help her collect the heavy wraps from where they had fallen. The baby stirred and Mary gathered him up.  She turned worried eyes to Joseph; “How long do we have to get ready. It took several days to gather all we needed when we left Nazareth… ” her voice trailed off.  

Joseph rolled the wraps up and tied them with some leather thongs and placed them with the shawl he’d folded earlier.  “I don’t think there is much time. I want to be on the road by late afternoon if at all possible. “

Seeing the worried surprise in her eyes he pulled her near him and hugged her and the baby close. “It will be ok, Mary. The lord will provide. He always has, right?”

Mary smiled her agreement. “Yes he has. Actually I guess that might be why those men left the gold. Our lord must have guided them to us for that very reason. Those gold pieces will make it much easier to get the food we need for –  actually, how long do you think it will take us to get there, Joseph? “

“It’s over 400 miles just to reach the outer parts of Egypt, so I think we will be at least three weeks on the road, maybe four. There are some settlements and villages on the way so we can freshen our supplies as we go, though there is no guarantee of fresh rain water so I will see if I can buy a an extra wine skin or two in the market today. We are down to only a cupful of cleansing water as it is. Let’s cleanse our hands now, say our morning prayers Mary, and have a bite to eat before we start our preparations. I will try to find a caravan. The road we will take to Egypt will be less treacherous than it was to reach Bethlehem, but I would feel better if we traveled with at least one other family. 

Mary cuddled baby Jesus close to her heart and smiled at Joseph before tenderly kissing the sweet baby’s forehead. She sat and patted the rock beside her. “Come Joseph, sit and tell me a little more of the angel who came to you last night? Was he as fearful as Gabriel?”

She stirred the embers and Joseph reached for the flat rock they would bake their flat bread on. Knowing their Lord would provide, our Holy family  broke their nightly fast together, and planed for the long journey ahead. 




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Family Time!

For the past nine years, the Brothers of St. John have held a family retreat in Buda, TX at the Onion Creek Ranch.  My family has attended all these retreats except for the first one.  We have enjoyed them so much that last year we accepted an offer to organize it.
As a Catholic father, I am always looking for ways to pass on the Faith to my children.  Religious Education and a systematic program of education in the central tenets of our faith is an important component of the faith formation of a child, I would propose that equally important is a lived experience of the faith.  We can accomplish that through Sunday Mass and activities at our local parish, but there are times when we also need to leave our normal routines and retreat for a period of time to strengthen us for ministry within our communities.
The annual Brothers of St. John family retreat, which will be held on the weekend of October 4-6th, offers such a opportunity to immerse your family into a lived experience of the Catholic Faith by escaping from the world for a few days and surrounding yourselves with other people who share your faith.  What is unique about this retreat is that it is not for the individual or the couple, it is for the whole family.  The Christian family is under attack, the very foundation of our society is being questioned.  Some voices in the public square have said that the family is an irrelevant entity that may even being causing harm to our modern society.  As John Paul II said, “The future of the world and of the church passes through the family.” – Familiaris Consortio
We as parents have a sacred duty to pass on the Faith to our children and we can only do that with the help of our heavenly Father.  The task is too large, the opposition too strong for us to be successful on our own.  We need to educate ourselves about the challenges we face within our society, the tools we have at our disposal to raise holy children and work with other families who are striving to raise holy families.  There is also the added benefit of having the brothers and sister of St. John conducting the retreat.  The Prior of the Laredo monastery, Fr. Nathan Cromley, has an impressive list of accomplishments and he is a favorite among the adult attendees as well as the youth. In addition to Fr. Nathan, there will be other priests, brothers and apostolic sisters in attendance.
The benefits of spending time as a family are many, but spending time as a family praying with the Congregation of St. John, playing with each other at a beautiful Central Texas ranch, and learning about God’s Plan for family life from an outstanding priest make such a weekend even more extraordinary.  Please consider joining my wife and I and our nine children for this amazing retreat.  If you are not the outdoor type, consider coming out for just the day on Saturday.

All retreat talks will take place on Saturday and the day will include daily Mass, adoration, family games, a catered dinner, and a family talent show featuring Brother Bear (back by popular demand) on the banjo as Master of Ceremonies.  This retreat always sells out, so talk with your spouse and be ready to register on September 1st at  Also be sure to like our Facebook Page.
Allen Domestic Church Perspective from the Head Raising Saints

How to Win the Culture War…

… One Family at a Time
A Typical Photo from a Gay Pride Parade

I believe that the cultural battles today are a direct result of a lack of joy-filled families.  The scourge of abortion, declining birth rates, increasing divorce rates, and a pervasive hedonistic lifestyle can all be traced to a breakdown of the family.  According to Blessed John Paul II in Familiaris Consortio, “the mission of of the family is to guard, reveal and communicate love.”  Today there is a dearth of examples of authentic love within families.  It used to be a given that a young man and woman would meet, get married and welcome children with joy, but this Christian worldview is questioned in just about every way in our society.  The predominate cultural thought is that the idea of Christian marriage and family life has been tried and has failed, now let’s try something else – it certainly couldn’t turn out any worse.

When we look at the societal ills of today it may seem that there is nothing we can do to stop the cultural winds of change.  I would suggest that very little can be accomplished by complaining about the culture’s departure from Christian morality.  As the saying goes, “you can catch more flies with honey than with vinegar.”  Families need to go against the grain, and embrace a radical approach to family life.

The Beauty of God’s Plan for your Family

God has a beautiful plan for our us. His plan often includes the gift of a spouse and children. Sometimes we are tempted to view our family as a burden, but that was not how it was in the beginning. If we get rid of the obstacles in our way (work, possessions, pride, selfishness), we can see how beautiful the gift of our spouse and our children really are from the perspective of our Heavenly Father.  Our spouse is our helpmate (cf. Gen 2:5), and our closest companion in the journey of life. Our spouse is the person with whom we share our life mission.  If we are fortunate enough to be able to have children, we not only participate in God’s creation of new life, but that new life is half taken from you and your spouse and if we ponder eternity, our children are the only thing we have in this life that we can take with us to heaven.  God will provide for all our needs, and love us with a love that we can hardly fathom, and bless us with companions on our journey back home to perfect union with Him in heaven.

The Value of Perseverance
St. Gregory the Great

So, why is it that many times we don’t view our family as that great gift?  If you are like me, there are times when your family can be a source of stress and can be the cause of a lot of extra work.  Many times, we don’t view family life as a blessing, but we must ask God to help us see our family as He sees it.  The struggles will come and go and we will be better because of it.  St. Gregory the Great wrote, “There are some who wish to be humble, but without being despised, who wish to be happy with their lot, but without being needy, who wish to be chaste, without mortifying the body, to be patient without suffering. They want both to acquire virtues and to avoid the sacrifices those virtues involve: they are like soldiers who flee the battlefield and try to win the war from the comfort of the city.”

Don’t Hide your Light Under a Bushel

People were attracted to Christianity in the first century, not because the first Christians preached against all that was wrong with society, but by their steadfast faith and their love.  Conversions were made because of the faithful witness of Christian families and we are called to do the same.  We know where road of selfishness and self-love will lead our culture and we have a responsibility to raise our families to be light in the darkness so that when our society has tried their solutions to the problems and failed, they will notice the joy that exists in our families and perhaps some will ask us how we did it.  St. Peter provided some great advice for us in his first apostolic letter, “Always be ready to give an explanation to anyone who asks you for a reason for your hope, but do it with gentleness and reverence.”  We have been given the great gift of faith by a loving Father, as Christian parents, we must hand on that faith with loving patience, the world is in desperate need of not only hearing, but seeing the good news of the Gospel in action within our families.