John Paul II Stories: a link-up

Are you getting excited yet? We are just days away from the canonization of two holy and amazing men, Blessed John XXII and Blessed John Paul II. I have a personal goal to learn about John XXIII on my own this year, but I have a special place in my heart for JPII. I’ve seen him up-close. (not as awesome as meeting him or shaking his hand, but still awesome!) Whenever I think about his canonization, I start to get that really excited feeling like I could squeal and clap and act like a school girl again. And sometimes I do act like it. My kids likely think I’m a bit nuts.

(I am nuts, by the way, so they’d be right).

But just think about it: for any of you reading this blog, JPII was pope for a good chunk of your life! He may have visited your hometown. He’s certainly visited your country, as he visited over 100 countries during his papacy. (For the US: Denver World Youth Day 1993! JPII even visited my alma mater, but that was long before I even knew it would be my alma mater.) Just think! What a great many ways Blessed John Paul II has influenced the lives of millions of people.

As you may know, the kids and I have been reading about JPII this month, to get ready for his canonization. I’m going to dig out my pictures from World Youth Day to show them how close I was to him, we’re going to look at all kinds of images online of him enjoying life, we’re going to learn even more about him from a list of awesome facts we probably don’t already know about him. We’re going to listen to stories, read quotes, memorize some of his impactful words.

“True happiness lies in giving ourselves in love to our brothers and sisters.” How’s that for impact on a large family? We are going to have this as a new motto, I’m pretty sure. 😉

I’m getting so excited!

So, join the excitement which is soon to bubble over. Share your stories with us! Link up all week with Mama Needs Coffee and through the weekend, and we’ll have ourselves an online canonization party. Don’t forget the perogies and Papal cream cake for Sunday!

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Celebrating a Soon-to-be Saint: JPII

I was 16 when I found myself in a hot, dusty, over-crowded arena outside Paris, surrounded by people from all over the world. On my way back to my group’s camping spot from using one of the 15 total potties (only a slight exaggeration), the large aisles were blocked off and people were no longer able to cross through the sections. I was not able to get back to my group. (in hind-sight, why was I not with a buddy? It probably would have helped me feel less lonely and would have been safer overall…but that was 17 years ago and I was a teen…what was I thinking?) I was hot. Tired. Dehydrated. All I wanted was to be back with my group, to settle in for the evening, and get something to eat.

But the aisles were blocked off.

I didn’t know why, so I was upset.

 

Funny thing about God, is that He makes things happen for the good. Even annoying things like not being able to rejoin a group at World Youth Day.

After some time passed, there was a bit of commotion from behind…and wouldn’t you know, I was trapped just before the Pope Mobile was about to come down the aisle.

Where there is a Pope Mobile, there is a Pope.

 

I was surrounded by a group of Lebanese pilgrims at World Youth Day 1997, in Paris, France…about to be less than 10 feet away from Pope John Paul II. Talk about not only good, but AMAZING.

I am a pretty short girl, so I was standing on tip-toes trying to see as the Pope Mobile slowly made its way down the aisle. A sweet, dear man who was in the group around me, from Lebanon, motioned to me that I could sit on his shoulders. I did. I was on top of the world, sitting on that man’s shoulders…and I saw Pope John Paul II for the first time that day. It was deeply moving; I was overcome with joy and emotion.

 (I wish I had pictures, but 1997 was before camera phones, ya’ll. It was before I owned a digital camera. And since I was on my way back from the bathroom break, I didn’t have my camera with me. Sorry for no images!)

Since then, I saw JPII in person, from less than 15 away, again, in St. Peter’s Square. It was another moving experience. He was a powerful, loving, joyful, wise man. His influence reached beyond the Catholic Church. JPII was loved by many, admired and respected by people of all faiths.

 

This month, he will be canonized an official saint in the Catholic Church! We are very excited about this, and will be spending this month reading about him and preparing to celebrate his canonization. As a special patron of our family, I think it will turn into an annual celebration! My husband asks for Blessed John Paul II’s intercession each night during our family prayers, and our children have grown to love him this year since we took up skiing as a family activity. JPII loved the mountains and used to ski!

I want to share our plans, so that if your family would also like to celebrate JPII this month, you can find inspiration in my ideas.

 

What we’re reading:

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“Blessed John Paul II: Be Not Afraid” by Susan Helen Wallace, FSP
“My Dear Young Friends”, a collection of words from Bl. JPII to teens on life, love, and courage
“For the Children: Words of Love and Inspiration from His Holiness Pope John Paul II”

Copywork of favorite quotes:
(will vary, depending on how much we choose, but this one taken from the “For the Children” book will definitely be done)
“True happiness lies in giving ourselves in love to our brothers and sisters.”

“Be not afraid.”

“If you follow Jesus’ advice and pray to God constantly, then you will learn to pray well. God himself will teach you.”

What we’re listening to:
The Glory Stories edition on Bl. John Paul II

What we’ll be eating:
Have you heard of Papal Cream Cake? It sounds amazingly delicious. Not originally called “Papal”, this cream cake was a favorite of Bl. John Paul II, and has been renamed because of his fondness for it! The cream custard filling between layers of flaky dough looks so tasty…

Also, apparently Bl. John Paul II enjoyed a certain risotto which was prepared for him, with spring vegetables. I’ll be making both dishes for our family to eat in his honor.

What’s on the “big screen”:

There are a few different movies to choose from about his life. Since we recently gave up Netflix, we’ll have to see which our library has available for borrowing.

 

For more about Bl. John Paul II, visit these sites:

EWTN on JPII

A miracle story is featured on Catholic Exchange

I am so excited about this month, and celebrating this soon-to-be saint! If you have ideas to share, please do! The more, the merrier!

We Love It: Saint Mail

A few months ago, I somehow learned about fun new monthly “box” kit for kids, called Saint Mail. My kids love getting mail, and I’ve tried a few of the popular monthly boxes, but didn’t love them (don’t get me wrong, they’re fun, but when you have 5 kids like I do, it’s not really practical or cost effective or fair to get these subscriptions. Some are just for babies, some are for young school ages…And all at $20+ each a month). But Saint Mail? We can always learn more about the saints, and what could it hurt to give it a try, just for one month?

Ladies. Gents. People who are reading this: I definitely recommend that you give Saint Mail a try! After our first month and learning about St. Blaise, my 4 hopeful saints couldn’t wait for the next package to arrive. As March was nearing, my girls kept asking, “Are we getting Saint Mail again soon?”

And we did! For March, we received a letter from St. Katherine Drexel. The letters are delightful; (and I personally love the detail of a wax seal on the letters!)

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written as if the saint is corresponding with the kids, telling them about the saint’s life and giving encouragement to love Jesus daily. Also included are prayers, a magnet with an illustration of the saint (not picture, because one of the kids ran off with it), an activity, and a treasure. This month, the craft was to make a flag of New Mexico, because St. Katherine served and taught there. The stature of Mary is for devotion to Mary. There was also a Lent calendar in this month’s package, which will be inspiring us as we journey towards Easter.

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The bag was part of the first month’s box, and we are keeping all our saint letters in the bag, with the prayers. We can’t wait for April to find out who our next new Saint friend will be!

(**note** I pay for our subscription to Saint Mail, happily, because it is so awesome. I am blogging about it so you know about it and can check it out for yourself, just because I think more people should enjoy the saints! I am not being paid or getting anything free, just so you know. Disclosure and all.)

Patron Saints for Kids, pt. 1

Catholics have a thing for saints. If you didn’t already know that, now you do. We loooooove the great big ol’ Communion of Saints, of which, we are all a part by baptism! Woot! And we really love the saints who have paved the way and finished the race as St. Paul says, who have made it to Heaven. Why do we love these dead folks so much? For so many reasons! Shall we take a quick tour of saints before I talk about my kids’ patrons? Ok.

Numero uno: They’re not dead. They have experienced physical death, but we believe in an immortal soul (CCC 366). The holy men and women and children who have gone before us are already in Heaven, living in perfect love and joy with God.

Numero dos: The saints have lived and loved in all walks of life, during all kinds of crazy periods of history, experiencing just about everything under the sun. Mothers? Check. Innocent children? Check. Soldiers? Check. Queens? Check. Atheists? Check. Sinners of all kinds? Check. Fathers? Check. Athletes? Check. Healthy? Yes. Sick? You bet. Any kind of person you can imagine, can be a saint. All that is required is a deep faith and trusting in God, turning one’s life over to Him, and loving Him as best as each can. That means that for every single one of us, there is likely to be a saint we can relate to in some way. The stories of the saints are also incredibly inspirational, showing us how simple it can be to follow Jesus, and how it is possible for anyone to experience the amazing love and mercy of God, and have their life completely transformed. The saints’ stories can help us on our own journeys.

Numero tres: Since they’re not dead, that means they can still intercede for us, just as our family and friends do here on earth. The bonus is that they are *right there* with God, and they are already made perfect (hence their residence in Heaven), so their prayers added to our prayers basically make super-charged prayers. If you ever wanted to have some prayer warriors on your side, the saints are the warriors to call.

Numero cuatro: Did I already mention their stories? (see #2) The saints’ stories can be inspirational even to children! As parents, sometimes we feel at a loss as to how to best show or explain or model Christ-like living to our children. Our culture is certainly not filled with heroes, when the headlines are plastered with young stars’ mug shots, stories of the latest school shooting, and when the people who *do* show us the best of humanity aren’t given much notice. Reading through the saint’s lives can not only bring our Church’s rich history alive for our young ones, but also show them people who (often as children themselves) grew in their relationship with Jesus. The saints can show us how to live. Sharing those stories with our kids gives us more (and better) examples than we find in the media of how to live as loving, faithful people.

In short, the saints are awesome because they’re able to add to our prayers and their stories can inspire us and give us courage to do great things.

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This year, my kids have patron saints. My plan is to read stories of their lives with them, listen to “Glory Stories” about them (if there is one for their chosen saint), and invoke their patron’s intercessions.

My oldest (9yo, Chickadee) has chosen St. Catherine of Sienna. Sweet Pea, age 7, chose St. Therese the Little Flower. There is a “Glory Story” audio story about her. Little Man, age 5, chose St. Michael the Archangel. The Comedian, age 4, chose St. Martin of Tours.

As we learn about each of them, I’ll post back with how and what we’re reading and doing. My hope is that through the year, these saints will become special friends, who pray for my children, and inspire them to a life of childlike faith and holiness, and that in turn, my little someday-saints will dream of great things and learn to use their gifts in great ways.

 

{joining the amazing bloggers with Jen for 7 Posts in 7 Days}

St. Thomas Aquinas, the Dumb Ox

I have to admit, I giggle like my kids when I hear St. Thomas Aquinas’ nickname. “The Dumb Ox”. Really.

If you know the saint, you probably also know why he was nicknamed such an awful thing…and if you don’t know why, I’ll tell ya. When he was a student, he was rather quiet in his classes, making his fellow students and professors think he must be not literally dumb, but rather close. They found him unintelligent and too quiet. St. Thomas was also slow and large, though not necessarily fat (at least in my reading). So, his peers called him “the dumb ox.” Poor Thomas. He apparently offered it up as a sacrifice, because he was a youth devoted to our Lord.

Turns out St. Thomas was no dummy. He was brilliant. He had fostered a strong relationship with Christ through prayer from a young age, knew he wanted to be a Dominican from a young age, and recognized his gift for memory and learning as one of his God-given talents. In fact, while he was kept under house-arrest by his family (who at the time resented his desire to be a Dominican), he managed to memorize nearly all of the Bible. Can you imagine?! I personally can barely even remember the words to songs, much less all the words found in Scripture. This gift for memorizing, and understanding, made him a talented scholar, preacher, and teacher.

Years ago, we chose St. Thomas Aquinas to be a patron for our year of home schooling. Actually, I asked my husband to do the picking, giving him a part in our home school journey. He chose St. Thomas because he is a patron of schools and students. What I knew about “The Dumb Ox” was little, except I knew he was brilliant and I was afraid he’s be an unapproachable saint for my children. I had no idea how, other than ending our morning prayers with “St. Thomas Aquinas, pray for us”, we’d become friends with this amazing man of God.

This year, I decided to find a biography about him, and use that as a teaching tool. Turns out there is a sweet little book written by Mary Fabyan Windeatt, which is a great narrative of St. Thomas Aquinas’ life, easy to understand for children.
January read-aloud
We have been reading it this month, one chapter every few days. At the end of each chapter, I highlight a few points of interest or importance, which I *hope* take root in my children’s hearts and minds. There are great themes, such as obedience, trust in God, prayerful devotion, listening to promptings of the Holy Spirit, doing our best in all things, holy friendship, vocations, and joy in doing God’s will. Our patron saint *is* becoming a friend, gradually.

Today is the great saint’s feast day. We have been asking his intercession almost daily, as we begin our studies, and today we added a simple, short prayer to our morning devotion. It is found at the end of the biography, and is inspired by, if not composed by, St. Thomas.

“O Merciful Go, grant that I may eagerly desire, carefully search out, truthfully acknowledge, and ever perfectly fulfill all things Thy Name. Amen.”

I hope that my kids will follow some examples from St. Thomas’ life, such as doing their best in their studies, praying often and building a relationship with Jesus, and being joyful about seeking and doing God’s will, whatever their particular vocation might be in life. We have only one chapter remaining in the book, but I plan to go back to the story and the prayers often to encourage my young ones.

St. Thomas Aquinas, pray for us!

We Ski

While this blog has been left sadly unattended, our little domestic church has been off playing in the mountains. I super-duper *love* so many things about home schooling, and one of the top 10 on my list is our freedom to take off on trips and explore and experience life in ways we couldn’t when public school was our life. This past week, we went skiing! It was perfect timing; most people had finished their Christmas vacations and were back to work and school. The prices for staying at the condos were low again. The weather cooperated, as well. (Thanks, God!) And so off we went for our second big ski trip!

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We all had a blast, with so many amazing experiences. I learned to ski, the kids constantly zoomed past me urging me to “hurry up, Mom!” and “if you want to go fast, you should tuck and make french-fries with your skis!” Sorry, kiddos, Mama does *not* want to go fast-yet. My girls would have loved to do more green runs, but since I was learning and we still have the baby with us (conveniently carried in a backpack–but not while skiing!), the girls and Daddy only managed to grab a few runs on the regular slopes. Still, they had a blast. Chickadee-our oldest- and Daddy even went night-skiing! It was an amazing trip.

On our ride down the mountain in the gondola at the end of our trip, I remembered that Bl. John Paul II used to ski, and that he urged athletes to thank God for the gift of sport. Taking advantage of the time together, the quiet, and the moments as we finished our trip, I told the kids about Bl. John Paul II.

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They were amused to know that a Pope used to ski. We talked about how awesome it is that God has given us good health and working bodies so that we can take advantage of the beauty of the mountains, that we can learn to ski, that we can enjoy winter sports. Since we came home, I found the text of one of Bl. John Paul II’s homilies, given during the Jubilee Year 2000, specifically about sports!

I will be using the words and wisdom of the soon-to-be saint in teaching my children about the gift of sport, as Bl. John Paul II has said, “It is a fitting occasion to give thanks to God for the gift of sport, in which the human person exercises his body, intellect and will, recognizing these abilities as so many gifts of his Creator. Playing sports has become very important today, since it can encourage young people to develop important values such as loyalty, perseverance, friendship, sharing and solidarity” (from the homily given on Oct. 29, 2000, section 2.) Our family enjoys sports, and being able to participate in sports and enjoy them together is certainly a gift! Bl. John Paul II is already a “patron saint” of sorts for our family; we ask him to pray with us each night. Knowing his love for sports, we can add one more special intention: that he will pray with us as we enjoy any sport we try, and that our children will be safe and do their best, keeping their bodies healthy and strong with athletics.