Archive for Fostering Spirituality – Page 2

Pope Leo XIII’s Encyclical on The Devotion to the Holy Rosary

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Pope Leo XIII has been called “The Rosary Pope” because he issued eleven encyclicals on the Rosary.  For the next 11 days I’ll post a quote from each of these encyclicals, with the links to the full text.

Here is a quote from his first Rosary encyclical, published in 1883:

It has always been the habit of Catholics in danger and in troublous times to fly for refuge to Mary, and to seek for peace in her maternal goodness; showing that the Catholic Church has always, and with justice, put all her hope and trust in the  Mother of God.  And truly the Immaculate Virgin, chosen to be the Mother of God and thereby associated with Him in the work of man’s salvation, has a favor and power with her Son greater than any human or angelic creature has ever obtained, or ever can gain. And, as it is her greatest pleasure to grant her help and comfort to those who seek her, it cannot be doubted that she would deign, and even be anxious, to receive the aspirations of the universal Church.

Pope Leo XIII’s emphasizes the power of Mary to intervene for on any matter and that our hope in her is well-placed.  Link to Pope Leo XIII’s The Devotion to the Holy Rosary

The Rosary Box

rosary buttonFour years ago, when I had four children aged 10, 7, 5 and 2, I realized we didn’t have a good handle on the mysteries of the Rosary.  My husband, having grown up in a Catholic family and having attended Catholic schools, was quite proficient on knowing the mysteries.

I felt our practice of praying the rosary could be improved.  When we had one child, we could pray a whole rosary as a family in the evening.  The one quiet daughter would happily sit on our laps or hold a rosary near us during prayer time.  When we had two and three children, we switched to praying just a decade as a family in the evening.  Twenty minutes of quiet before bed seemed so difficult to impose by this mother.  Our prayer time would collapse in mother’s disappointment.  Most often it was mother’s disappointment in her lack of patience.

Fast forward to four kids.  There had to be a way to help them focus for 20 minutes!  I began to look for simple images to convey the mysteries.  There are lots of resources on the internet.   Some very beautiful.  Some very traditional American.  Some very basic.  I purchased this durable book-Mysteries of the Rosary for Children by Cy Speltz.

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Images only work great for those that can visualize and sit still!  So I began to think developmentally for my 5 year old and 2 year old.  What could help them?  What things did I already have around the house?  What things could I find simply, inexpensively?  What could represent the mysteries as a small manipulative?

At a local crafting store, I found four small cardboard boxes (about 3×3 each) which could fit into a larger box (about 8×8).

I collected five small images and 5 small manipulatives for each of four boxes.   Putting this work together for the child forced me to think through and be more familiar with the mysteries myself!

I covered each box in what I thought was appropriate themed paper.  For the Joyful mysteries, a happy floral paper.  For the Luminous, a shining paper.  For the Glorious, a gold paper.  For the Sorrowful, a sad blue paper.  The larger box that houses all our items, I covered in a red paper.  Each box has a label.  I also added a few handmade rosaries and a couple of simple booklets for children about the rosary.

rosary box

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There isn’t a magic item for the boxes.  Any object that creates a memory device for you or your child works.  In our Joyful mysteries box, we have a small dove for the mystery of the Annunciation, a spring for the Visitation, a small wooden baby for the Nativity, two small birds for the Presentation in the temple and a scroll for the Finding in the temple.  If you were creating this for a younger than 3 year old child, you might wish to increase the size of the items and the boxes to prevent choking hazards.

In our house, these boxes appeal to the 3-7 year old age children.  I encourage the children to remove one box at a time. During a child’s own quiet prayer time, I observe them using this box.  When we pray as a family, the younger children remove the objects and images.  It is a great memory game to return all 20 mystery items to their correct boxes.

Using this rosary box, does not promise peacefully well-behaved children during the family rosary.  It does mean that there might be more participation from the younger crowd in your home.  And you just might be inspired to pray as a family more often.

31 Days to Discovering the Richness of the Rosary

The Tierneys' Rosary shelf!

The Tierneys’ Rosary shelf!

The rosary.  It’s been described as a wreath of roses and a powerful weapon.  It grants us the grace of the intercession of a woman who cares for the world with gentleness and humility but crushes the head of the devil with unrelenting perseverance.  It’s beautiful design engages our bodies, minds, and souls in formulaic prayer, meditation, and praise.  It can protect us from sin and bring peace to the world.

Celebrate the gift of the rosary by increasing your devotion through knowledge.  Print this list and have your children help you cut the facts, quotes, and inspirations apart.  Create a chain with the strips of paper and tear one off to read each day of this month of the rosary.  Fan the flame of devotion to our Blessed Mother and she will reward you with her prayers and protection.  As your family increases in understanding of this beautiful prayer, you will be filled with a desire to emphasize its importance in your home.  Place a statue or picture of Mary and your family’s rosaries in a prominent place and start a tradition of praying together.  Begin with one decade once a week with small children and work up from there.  Our family is just beginning to reap the benefits of this powerful prayer, and we trust Mary will continue to lead us on our rosary journey.  Run into the arms of your heavenly Mother and entrust your children to her, and she will never abandon you until she has placed you and your family at the feet of Jesus Himself!

“The faults of children are not always imputed to the parents, especially when they have instructed them and given good example. Our Lord, in His wondrous Providence, allows children to break the hearts of devout fathers and mothers. Thus the decisions your children have made don’t make you a failure as a parent in God’s eyes. You are entitled to feel sorrow, but not necessarily guilt. Do not cease praying for your children; God’s grace can touch a hardened heart. Commend your children to the Immaculate Heart of Mary. When parents pray the rosary, at the end of each decade they should hold the rosary aloft and say to her,”With these beads bind my children to your Immaculate Heart”, she will attend to their souls.”

— St. Louise de Marillac

 

October is THE MONTH OF THE HOLY ROSARY

Say the Rosary every day…
Pray, pray a lot and offer sacrifices for sinners…
I’m Our Lady of the Rosary.
Only I will be able to help you . . .
In the end My Immaculate Heart will triumph.”

Our Lady at Fatima

 

It’s October 1st!  Can you believe it?  Time to change out the cheery spring welcome sign on my front door for a more reserved (though hopefully no less welcoming) fall wreath.

rosary buttonThe Church devotes October to the Rosary – yep a WHOLE MONTH.  The Feast of the Holy Rosary is on October 7th.  Well this month on CAPC we’re gonna try to help you folks bring this great Church devotion into your homes, the domestic church.  We’ll be bringing you great essays, links to websites and books, and daily quotes all about the Rosary and how to make it matter more and work better in your family.

Perhaps you’re skeptical.

Perhaps you’ve tried praying the Rosary with your kids and they’ve either whipped the beads around their necks like a hula-hoop or asked incessantly, “Why are we doing this?”

Let’s be honest.  Perhaps you’ve even asked yourself while praying the Rosary, Why are we doing this? . . . What am I making for dinner? . . . I hope the phone rings . . . Why is that sock under the t.v.? . . . Is that the phone? . . . I think I have an eye infection . . . Um, why are we doing this?  (Trust me, I know these wandering wonderings from personal experience . . . )

Well, we don’t promise to be the answer to all your Rosary praying problems and party poopers, but hopefully we can shed some light on why this devotion is by far the most popular among the faithful.  In fact, it was John Paul II’s favorite prayer. If you’ve never prayed the Rosary, why not start on October 7th, the official feast of the devotion?

The Basics

First, for those of you who are new to the Church or who didn’t grow up with the Rosary, it is a series of prayers (primarily the Our Father and the Hail Mary) using prayer beads.  After each prayer, we move on to the next bead and the next prayer. Kids seem to like the Rosary because they know most of the prayers and they like feeling the prayer beads.

There are 4 sets of prayers called Mysteries which focus on some aspect of Christ’s life, death, resurrection, and glory.  So the point isn’t just to say the prayers; we also meditate on these moments in salvation history.  This is why John Paul II said, “The Rosary, though clearly Marian in character, is at heart a Christocentric prayer. In the sobriety of its elements, it has all the depth of the Gospel message in its entirety.”

Second, if you want to try praying the Rosary with your family, just start.  You don’t have to do it perfectly or resemble a gathering of monks.  Just grab a Rosary and gather your kiddlies.  If you don’t know the prayers or the format there are tons of books and resources.  The Rosary Center has a good on-line tutorial on how to pray the Rosary.  Here are some of my family’s favorite Rosary books:

I Pray the Rosary by Margaret Rose Scarfi.  For littlies.

A Child’s Guide to the Rosary by Elizabeth Fiocelle.  For middlies.

Amazing Love:  Rosary Meditations for Teens by Mari Seaburg.  For biggies.

The Essential Rosary by Caryll Houselander.  For biggies.  This is the Rosary companion I purchased in a tiny book store in Oxford when I first returned to the Church and it’s still my favorite guide!

Dealing with Little Ones

What if you have a bunch of itty bitty kids who can’t pray the whole Rosary, which consists of five decades of prayers?  You can pray one decade if that works best for your situation.  Announce the Mystery, begin with the Our Father, pray your 10 Hail Mary’s, end with the Glory Be and O My Jesus.  At this age, just focus on the spirit of the prayer and give the kids lots of visual and tactile aids (and tender, patient love).  Check out this awesome “Rosary Board” from Lacy at Catholic Icing.

Rosary Board by Lacy at catholicicing.com

Rosary Board by Lacy at catholicicing.com

 

A friend of mine made Lacy’s board with her daughter and it turned out beautifully.  Giving small kids large wooden or plastic Rosaries is also a great idea.  My small kids tend to break the delicate Rosaries I purchase at our Catholic book store.  Be reasonable with expectations with small children: make Rosary prayer time enjoyable; stop when they’ve have enough.  Ensure they have positive associations about praying with the family.

If your family loves praying the Rosary, please consider sharing your ideas with the rest of us in a comment or a guest post!  We’d love to hear from you!

Living Epiphany

epiphany4Catholics are lucky ducks: Christmas doesn’t last only a day for us, it lasts 40 whole days, until Candlemas on February 2!  Before then, though, we observe the Feast of the Epiphany.

Epiphany signifies the night on which The Three Kings were led by a star to Bethlehem to the crib side of the Christ Child, where they presented gifts to him of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. It’s called the “Epiphany” because it marks the night when Christ’s birth was revealed to the Gentiles, while December 25th marks its revelation to Israel. Many European families exchange gifts on Epiphany, not Christmas Day.  Traditionally, Epiphany is the 12th night after the birth of the Messiah: January 6th. That’s where the whole “12 Days of Christmas, partridge in a pear tree” thing comes from.

I’m kinda bummed that in the States we’ve moved The Feast of the Epiphany to the Sunday in between January 2 and January 8, so it’s not always exactly 12 days after Christmas, but this year Epiphany happens to fall on the 12th day, or January 6th.

Epiphany has really become overshadowed by Christmas Day, but it’s worth pondering its significance for our families. Both Christmas and Epiphany fall during the dark time, when the earth seems to sleep and creatures are huddled away from the cold. Both Feasts bring light to the darkness: Christ’s light glimmered on Christmas Day, as his divinity was revealed to the Chosen People of Israel. His light continues to shine in our homes on Christmas Day, as we exchange gifts and gather with family and friends.  On Epiphany, we are reminded that the light of God’s love illuminates a path for the entire world, Jews and Gentiles alike.  That light is no faint flicker: it’s hot and blazing like a mountain of sunbeams.  All are invited to look upon it; all can see the light if they open their eyes and hearts to the simple truth before them. Jesus may seem a world away to some people because his love seems too distant to them. They cannot comprehend that God loves them so completely, that he wants to be their intimate friend, that he invites them into his own family. The love seen in our families may be the only witness for some people of that adoring love God has for them. As our children feel loved and cherished, hopefully they will emerge into the world shining that light for whomever they encounter.

What can we do to bring Epiphany into our homes? Especially for smaller children, I think visible, tangible gestures are very effective in helping them feel connected to the day. Here are a few ideas.

Our Epiphany Tea

I’ve tried to emphasize and communicate the message of Epiphany increasingly more in our home the last few years.  We now leave up our Christmas tree and décor until Epiphany, then together we take them down and pack them away. But we leave our Nativity Set for last, because The Magi join us for a simple family Epiphany Tea, along with Baby Jesus snuggled in his manger.

Our Wise Men with Baby Jesus

Our Wise Men with Baby Jesus

I love to include candles and twinkly lights as part of Epiphany, because it becomes an effective way to explain the light of Christ to the children and how his light lives in all of us as love for others. Our string lights on our dining room sideboard will remain up until after our celebration and I bring out some easy to make hand-rolled beeswax candles my children made for Candlemas last year:

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I’ll do a post on making these candles before Candlemas, but if you’re eager to make them for Epiphany, Magic Cabin sells kits with instructions.  They’re super easy — much easier and safer to make than dipped candles and small children can even join in.  We’ve been enjoying the children’s homemade candles all year.

There’s a special French cake associated with Epiphany: The King’s Cake or Galette de Rois. it’s made from almond paste and looks scrumptious.  Here’s a recipe.  The traditional cake is intriguing, and perhaps I’ll give it a try some day, but we  just bake an ordinary ol’ cake. Last year it was a yellow cake with chocolate frosting. I let the kids decide what kind of cake we make.  We decorate the cake with gumdrops to represent the jewels in a king’s crown.

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Whatever cake you make, the special touch is to bake a bean into the cake (wrapped in foil). The person who finds the bean is king (or queen) for the day and gets some special privileges! If you do “Christmas crackers” – little tubes that pop open when two people pull on loose foil on each end of the tube – you’ll notice there are usually paper crowns in them. We save one of these crowns to use on Epiphany for our King or Queen. This year I’m hoping to find some pretty Christmas crackers for the children to pop on Epiphany as part of our celebration. Last year, our little Lydia found the bean in our cake and she was our queen:

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Last year we made “Lambs Wool” for our Epiphany tea: it’s a warm cider with frothed apples. You bake the apples first with the skin on, then poor your hot cider over the apples.

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We had a blast making Lamb’s Wool, but the taste was just like ordinary cider with apple bits in it. Perhaps we’ll reevaluate our beverage offerings this year. Any kind of spiced tea, perhaps cinnamon, would be perfect for the day.

Family Story Hour

Reading the account of The Magi in the Gospels is a nice way to begin or end your Epiphany celebration. We have a few favorite storybook selections that we enjoy together on Epiphany:

The Last Straw (Thury): The journey of the 3 wise men told from the perspective a camel who is supposed to guide them to their destination. Beautiful illustrations.

The Story of the Three Wise Kings (DePaola): My children love the illustrations in all of DePaola’s books, and this one is no exception.

My way of celebrating Epiphany may be more elaborate than appeals to you or is practical for your family. More important than these outward gestures is the spirit of love that Christ gave to the world through his gift of himself.  Just that one little message sums up the day. If we can all remember to love our children, our spouses, other Christians, and especially non-Christians in a way that reflects that light within us, we will live Epiphany.

God bless you all and your families!

Five Ways to Build Your Family’s Faith!

Faith is a living, breathing, ever growing entity:  it changes as we move through different liturgical seasons, periods of spiritual dryness, and different phases of our lives.  The Year of Faith gives us the opportunity to consider how we can help our family grow in grace by embracing our relationship with God.  The following are a few ideas that have helped my family’s spiritual life to thrive.

1)   Make a written prayer and sacraments schedule.

This is the single most important thing I have done recently to keep our entire family’s spiritual life on track.  Inspired by the book A Mother’s Rule of Life by Holly Pierlot, I wrote down a detailed daily, weekly, and monthly prayer and sacraments schedule for myself and our children.  This includes a few different times of daily prayer, individually and as a family, daily scripture study, monthly set times to receive the sacrament of confession, monthly set times for my husband and I to enjoy Adoration, and Sunday and daily Mass times.  You can discern what practices are most needed by your family and when you can fit them in.  Write them down, commit them to God, and start today!  When my interior life is in order, my exterior life follows.

2)   Create a Catholic home.

I heard somewhere recently that if a total stranger were to enter your home, he or she should realize fairly quickly that a Catholic family lives there.  We can do this not only by the way we treat each other when we are at home, but by displaying sacred art, figurines, and anything else that reminds us at a glance where our priorities should be as we go through our busy days.  Our homes are not meant to resemble a church or a monastery, of course, but I find that a saint figurine placed on the dinner table can inspire all sorts of questions and discussions, a portrait of Mary reminds me to call on her aid in the difficult moments of parenting, and a holy water font by the door encourages frequent blessings and short prayers to abound as we come and go.

3)   Give your children hands on lessons in faith. 

I’ve always loved doing craft projects with my children.  I also believe that the lessons I want to convey to them have more impact when they can associate them with something they helped make themselves.  We’ve made Mary mobiles to represent her Assumption, kites for the Ascension of Our Lord, and during Advent, I like to let my kids make and color their own Jesse Tree ornaments.  A resource I enjoy consulting for ideas is A Treasure Chest of Traditions For Catholic Families by Monica McConkey.  There are also numerous resources available online.

Cooking with your children is another wonderful hands on activity.  Building the Family Cookbook by Suzanne Fowler has wonderful saint stories to go along with each recipe.  More than once I’ve heard the question, “Is this a saint meal?” as we sit down to dinner.

4)   Be a living example. 

Practice what you preach!  Envision who you think God is calling your children to be and work on being that person right now.  What virtues do your children need to work on?  Make it a point to uphold those virtues yourself.  Children are so perceptive of even the slightest indication that a hypocrite could be in their midst.  Do you want honest children?  Be honest yourself in every word and deed.  Do you want chaste children?  Live a chaste marriage.  Take a Natural Family Planning class and learn more about the Theology of the Body.  Do you want obedient children?  Be obedient to God’s will for your life.  So much of our faith is passed on to our children when the fewest words are spoken.  Live what you want them to learn!

5)   Build family rapport.

Our children will want to please us when they have a solid and loving relationship with us.  Our lessons in faith will mean more to them if they fully believe in our steadfast desire to work for their good.  Schedule family game nights, incorporate parent/child “date nights” with each of your children, and find time to simply have fun as a family.  As Greg and Lisa Popcak convey in their wonderful book, Parenting With Grace, make your family time so appealing that your children wouldn’t dream of choosing anywhere else to be in those moments.  Your house is the place that they should always want to come home to.

I still get overwhelmed by the number of ideas I would love to incorporate into our family’s faith life.  I’ve found that I simply have to choose to make a small change and God provides the grace I need to move forward from there.  Many blessings to you and your family during this Year of Faith!

Strengthening Our Families This Summer

Families today are buffeted on all sides by the gale forces of modern culture.  We face innumerable distractions — some benign, some far from it — and if we don’t guard our hearths, our homes can be consumed by relatively frivolous activities and amusements.  This seems to be a particular problem for my family during the summer.  I’ve heard the theme song to Star Trek way too many times this week, thanks to Netflix instant streaming.  There’s nothing wrong with entertainment, but I don’t want to find out how many hours of Star Trek it takes before my kids’ brains start oozing out of their ears.

I’ve been reading Marge Fenelon’s lovely book Strengthening Your Family: A Catholic Approach to Holiness at Home and she’s inspired me to think about how I can deepen my family’s faith and prayer life this summer.  I truly love the rhythms of the Church calendar.  Each year I’ve been adding new customs and traditions at Advent/Christmas and Lent/Easter to deepen our family’s Catholic identity and shared faith.  During this summer Ordinary Season I hope to show the children that “Ordinary” means anything but “boring”.   Ordinary Time can be a time to explore our Faith in ways that are best suited to our situations and the specific spiritual needs of our families.  We might create a Scripture reading plan, learn to pray the Rosary together, or explore some summer saints.   Where are we on our spiritual path as a family?  Which areas need a little TLC?

In June our Little Flowers Catholic Girls Club discussed the virtue of hope.  We possess hope by believing and trusting in God’s promises to us, especially his promise that we’ll find happiness in Heaven if we follow him faithfully.  That desire for happiness is of Divine origin, placed in our hearts in order to draw us to the only One who can fulfill it.  CCC 1718.   The Beatitudes, which mark the opening of Christ’s Sermon on the Mount, are very clear promises to us about the happiness we will enjoy if we endure all things in faith and love, sustained by God’s mercy:

Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Blessed are the meek: for they shall possess the land.

Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted.

Blessed are they that hunger and thirst after justice: for they shall have their fill.

Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy.

Blessed are the clean of heart: for they shall see God.

Blesses are the peacemakers: for they shall be called children of God.

Blessed are they that suffer persecution for justice’ sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

We don’t have to wait until we get to Heaven to enjoy the fulfillment of these promises.  If we conform our lives to Christ’s example, we receive these blessings now.  How’s that for real immediate gratification?  And way better than a Wii game.

As there are Eight Beatitudes, I think focusing on one Beatitude each week will be a perfect summer spiritual exercise for my family.  I put together a few resources to get us started:  Beatitudes for Children by Rosemarie Gortler and Childrens Guide to the Beatitudes by Kathy Della Torre O’Keefe.  Gortler’s book is great for younger children but older children may prefer O’Keefe’s.  I can’t wait to share them with the children.  Our Sunday Visitor has free discussion questions available for download to accompany Gortler’s book.  In between swimming, wandering in our local nature reserve, and yes probably more episodes of Star Trek, we can spend time together thinking about each of Christ’s promises.

Of course, I don’t want my children to have only an abstract theological understanding of the Beatitudes:  I want to instruct their minds but I mostly want to change their hearts.  The Beatitudes are really about transformation.  I hope my family can come to understand together how we can live the Beatitudes every day.  Fenelon writes in chapter 9 of her book about how each family has a unique call to holiness.   How is my family called to live the Beatitudes both within and outside our home? What might that look like?  I want to explore this question with my family this summer.  I honestly don’t know the answer yet, but I know my family will be blessed as we press on it, think about it, pray about it.  I’ll keep you updated!

During my book search I came across two other books I couldn’t resist:  Hooray I’m Catholic! by Hana Cole is a celebration of all things Catholic for young children.  I’m a revert to the Church and I’m very on fire for the Faith so I’m always drawn to beautiful and fun books that show my kids how awesome it is to be Catholic!  The Monk Who Grew Prayer by  Claire Brandenburg is about a monk who becomes holy by praying while doing ordinary things like gardening and chopping wood.  What a beautiful lesson for us all.

Fostering Spirituality: Observing Palm Sunday

This article was posted on my family blog yesterday.  It’s appropriate for this space, too, as fostering our children’s love for the faith is a central parenting goal on CAPC!

This Sunday is Palm Sunday, the last Sunday of Lent before Easter and the first day of Holy Week, the most important week on the Christian calendar.

It’s called Palm Sunday because we remember on this day the entrance of Christ into Jerusalem when palm branches were laid out in the path before him – only days before his arrest on Holy Thursday and his passion and death on Good Friday.

Blessed palms: Blessed palm fronds will be distributed at Mass on Palm Sunday. You can take them home and display them behind your crucifix or tuck them into the family Bible. I often see kids at church twisting their palm fronds into crosses and I never quite knew how to do it. I discovered there’s a whole art surrounding palm weaving! Here are instructions for making a very pretty palm cross and here are instructions for making a palm crown of thorns.

You can save some of your palms to be burned for ashes for Ash Wednesday next year. I read on fisheaters.com that some people break off a piece of a frond during times of natural disasters or bad storms. They burn the piece and pray this prayer to Saint Barbara for relief:

Saint Barbara, your courage is much stronger than the forces of hurricanes and the power of lightening. Be always by our side so that we, like you, may face all storms, wars, trials and tribulations with the same fortitude with which you faced yours. O Beautiful Maiden once imprisoned in a high tower, protect us from the lightning and fire that rages in the sky and the discord of war. Keep us alert and protect us from the dangers that surround us. Holy Mary Mother of Jesus intercessor for us all; we pray to assure receiving of the Sacraments of Penance and Holy Eucharist at the hour of our death.  Through Jesus Christ Our Lord, Amen.

Figs: Figs are also associated with Palm Sunday because after his entry into Jerusalem, Jesus went to get figs from a tree. Finding only leaves, Jesus cursed the tree: “May no man hereafter eat fruit of thee any more for ever.” Matthew 21:19. (Jesus would be very disappointed if he looked in my refrigerator fruit drawer right now!)

Figs. I don’t think I’ve ever had a fig.  At least not knowingly.  Or willingly.  I think I’ve seen them and they looked a little like prunes to me so I’ve never been interested. Or maybe I’m thinking of dates.

Anyway, I’m adding one new element for Palm Sunday this year and it’s gonna be figs.  That’s right, figs, even though they’re a mystery to me.  I found this intriguing recipe for fig ice cream and I’m going to give it a try:

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Fresh Fig Ice Cream from David Lebovitz’s The Perfect Scoop

2 lbs fresh figs (about 20)
1/2 cup of water 1 lemon
3/4 cup of sugar
1 cup of heavy cream
1/2 teaspoon of freshly squeezed, lemon juice, or more to taste

Remove the hard stem ends from the figs, then cut each fig into 8 pieces. Put the figs in a medium, nonreactive saucepan with the water, and zest the lemon directly into the saucepan. Cover and cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, for about 8-10 minutes until the figs are tender.

Remove the lid, add the sugar and continue to cook until it reaches a jam-like consistency. Remove from the heat and let cool to room temperature. Blend together with cream and lemon juice, chill in the fridge and then put in your ice cream maker per the manufacturer’s instructions.

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Have a blessed Palm Sunday with your babies!

Fostering Initiative and Spirituality: Little Acts of Stewardship

Lisa Stack with daughter Clare

Every morning after breakfast, my daughter Clare takes a long look out the window and announces that it is time to refill the bird feeder.  “The birds are hungry, Mom-mom”, she says with great concern.  Caring for our feathered friends has become a cherished daily task for her – – and she takes it very, very seriously. 

As I take down the feeder, she comments on how much her friends have eaten in the past day, recalls the various species that she observed, and scans the yard for her favorite family of dark-eyed juncos.  As she carefully scoops out just enough seed to fill the feeder she notes that any spills are okay, because Chippy (our resident chipmunk) will eat them. Most days, Chippy is very well-fed. 

Watching her care for her world with such conviction, I’m amazed that she has taken on such an important task of stewardship, completely by herself.  Although this great ritual does sometimes take a bit longer than I’d like, and it can be challenging on days when we have appointments, I’ve learned to restructure my day to accommodate one of her first expressions of taking the initiative with a cause that she feels great passion for.  By giving her the space and opportunity to nurture this great love that she has, I hope that this will translate into future convictions in both faith and values.

As she grows and ventures out into the world beyond bird feeders and the calls of dark-eyed juncos, her faith will be tested, questioned, and possibly ridiculed.  I hope that the world isn’t too hard on her, but I know that she must face these questions.  One day, she will wonder why we believe, why we feel so strongly about our values, and why we defend them daily.  She will also reach a point where she has to make an educated decision to choose to continue on this path of faith for herself, and then defend that decision daily.  Our job as her parents is to make sure that she feels confident enough to apply the great initiative that she is just now exploring to her own self-discovery of faith, and also normalize the outward existence of faith within our home.  She has a long journey of discernment ahead, and she has already started down the road of independent exploration.

We can’t choose her faith for her.  Of course I hope that she one day finds the same love for Catholicism that we have, but she will have to choose this faith for herself.  What we can do, however, is weave faith into our everyday conversations.  We normalize questioning and theology in our home.  We also encourage challenges to our family’s faith, as we feel they push us to further define our beliefs.  We live our faith, actively.  This can be seen in very outward expressions like attending Mass, discussing grief, and praying together; however, we also have many subtle moments of alms giving, stewardship, and pure love for our family unit.  We cannot expect her to follow in our footsteps and create her own faithful expressions if she doesn’t feel the permission and confidence to do so.

Whether she is feeding her dear friends, digging holes in the garden, or creating special artwork as a gift for someone else, she’s pursuing her own natural desires.  We do our best to encourage these ‘jobs’ (as she calls them), because we want her to know that her values and beliefs are important, whatever they may be. 

Her faith will continue to evolve slowly and quietly. In this safe and nonjudgmental environment, we hope that she will one day feel confident to take the initiative to ask those challenging questions, defend her beliefs, and preserve her values.  As her faith slowly evolves, we will be there waiting to listen and share.