Make this Leap Day extra special

Leap Day is almost like a free day – an unexpected day that comes only once every 4 years. What would you do if you had an absolutely free day with no responsibilities or expectations? What might you do to make it special?

We have a cousin in the family who was born today – so, while Zack is over 6’4″ and has been on the earth 29 years now, we joke that he has only celebrated his ‘real’ birthday only 7 times, so today is a really special for him and his family.

Also today we read of Namaan who hesitated to wash in the river Jordan as instructed by Elisha as it didn’t seem special enough. His servants call him out: “if the prophet had told you to do something extraordinary, would you not have done it? All the more now, since he said to you, ‘Wash and be clean,’ should you do as he said.”

Today is a great day to start something new, something you’ve been wanting to do but have been putting off – something that might seem to be so ordinary but can become extra-ordinary.

Some suggestions:

Read a chapter of the Bible every day starting today.

End each day saying prayers with your spouse – an Our Father, a Hail Mary, or just a “Thank You God for…..”. Praying with your marriage partner – you were sacramentally one at your marriage – might seem odd at the beginning but becomes truly transformative.

Make sure to physically touch your children and spouse – every day. We crave physical touch and do not get enough; just google it and you’ll see support for this lack, and its impact, everywhere from Psychology Today to the Huffington Post! A hug, a kiss, a cuddle on the couch or a simple holding of the hand.

Do an evening exam of conscience. Checking in with God by yourself, silently, before you fall asleep makes your next day start much better. Straight from St. Francis de Sales – Evening Exam

Make today worth something a bit more….

-Rachel Watkins

 

 

The Catholic Alternative to Girl Scouts

….that is, according to the Archdiocese of St. Louis website.

Little Flowers of VAThe Archbishop of St. Louis came out a week ago encouraging parishes to find alternatives to Girl Scouts. There are many reasons outlined on their website. But the great news is that the archdiocese recommends two alternatives: American Heritage Girls as a Christian alternative and Little Flowers Girls’ Club as the Catholic alternative. We are so humbled by this recommendation. When Little Flowers was created over 25 years ago in Rachel Watkin’s rowhouse in Baltimore, MD, we had no idea God would take it so far. Back then, we were just looking for a way for our Catholic girls and moms to get together and celebrate their beautiful Catholic Faith. It was much more “action” than “reaction” against the winds of change that were coming in Girl Scouts and society as a whole.
 We are entering a new phase of Little Flowers Girls’ Club, having added new depth and breadth to our program offering while keeping that same joyful Catholic world-view that makes the program so appealing to Catholic girls and moms alike. We now offer patron saint badges that allow youth to work on everything from woodworking to cooking, service to the poor to standing up for the right to life, from a uniquely Catholic world view. Our program has always had the Faith as its core, and will always. We have recently launched a non-profit corporation to serve our clubs, built a new website, added camps and retreats to the Little Flower experience and are currently working on a leadership rank program for girls to make the programs we offer a vital part of their maturity and formation.
We want to introduce you, your parish, your diocese, to the beautiful gift of Little Flowers Girls’ Club. Please contact us with any questions, comments, suggestions or donations. God bless you in your work for His work!

The Year of Mercy Logo

Year of Mercy Badge ContestIf you are like I am, you probably were not overly impressed with the abstract-looking Year of Mercy logo. I thought this kind of cubist-minimalist-inspired art was left in the 1970’s and 80’s, so what are we supposed to do with it in 2016? Well, as with pretty much everything in Holy Mother Church, she is wiser than I. Every item in the logo has a specific meaning, and, just as with stained glassed windows, icons, statuary, and the very church building itself, the Church uses all our senses to teach and guide us toward heaven.

Here are the some of the meanings of each item in the logo (for more info go to Catholic Link by clicking on the image):

The Almond Shape: An important figure in ancient iconography. It represents to union of two circles representing the two natures of Christ: Divine and Human.

The Colors: Red: blood, life and divinity; White: the light of Christ; Blue: represents man; Golden: Adam and each one of us is in a process of becoming like God through Jesus Christ.

The Concentric Ovals: The suggest the movement of Crist who carries humanity out of the night of sin and death.

The Motto: The motto of the Year of Mercy is taken from the Gospel of Luke: “Be merciful like the Father.”

The Gaze: Jesus and the man share one eye. This means that God communicates himself in such a way that man is able to see as He sees

The Good Shepherd: Jesus is the Good Shepherd who carries Adam and all of us, on is shoulders.

For more details on the symbolism in the logo go here: https://catholic-link.org/2016/01/11/6-things-you-didnt-see-the-year-of-mercy-logo-explained/

As you are putting your finishing touches on your own Year of Mercy Badge Contest entry, take into account how your images could have meaning and instruct others on Christ and his mercy.

Download your official Year of Mercy Badge Contest application here.

 

 

Looking for a comfortable seat?

antique padded armchair isolated on white background

Today is the Feast of the Chair of St. Peter. No, we are not celebrating furniture so much as honoring Peter’s declaration before the other apostles that Jesus was “the Christ, the Son of the living God.” (Mt. 16:3-20)

Many ideas come to my mind when I think of chairs. I think of Goldilock’s and her three chairs – one too hard, one too soft and one – not even really hers – that was ‘just right’.

I think of Mary Englebreit, one of my all-time favorite illustrators, who turns the phrase, “Life is just a bowl of cherries” into a delightful Life is just a chair of bowlies…

On a retreat once I was reminded that the Lord told us to ‘pick up our cross and follow Him’; not ‘pick up your beach chair’!

All very good, but today we honor Peter’s elevation above all the other apostles as the rock on which Christ would build His Church. Peter became the first pope and all the men who followed him sit in authority on “The Chair of St. Peter”, an image of the teaching authority of the Church. We can trust God and His Church not to lead us astray.

But, some days that isn’t so easy to believe. While we may not doubt the great big universal Church per se, we may doubt the rock of our small personal church.

This is the church that exists around the dinner table, and in bedrooms. Our church doesn’t meet polite, gift-bearing dignitaries or give interviews on airplanes but has to endure tough telephone calls in the middle of the night, rude neighbors and the mean friends of our children.

Days of struggle can shake our belief in the strength of our rock and the stability of our chair. We can wonder about God, Himself. How much does He expect us to endure?

When we have one, or two, or more of those days we can draw strength from the promise Jesus gave Simon when he became Peter: and the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it.

Does this mean we won’t have struggles? Does this promise mean we won’t face real temptations and problems. Of course, not! But, we know we will be given the strength to handle them – not perfectly, maybe not even easily – but we will endure.

Those are the days when we can take a moment to imagine just what our Chair of St. Peter might look like and then put God the Father in it. Picture Him there on the seat, ready to take us on His lap and assure us of His deep, abiding and protective love. Hear Him whisper in our ear, “I know what I am about.”

How about a slice of bread?

Sliced fresh bread on wooden background,vintage

I’ve been thinking of quite a bit about bread lately. With a few friends who themselves or their children have celiac disease and others who are throwing bread to the curb due to carb and gluten concerns, I think yesterday’s gospel has a certainly irony – Jesus reminding Satan, “one does not live on bread alone”.

As for myself, I’ve re-discovered my bread machine and have been able to give my family fresh rolls or bread almost every day for the past few weeks. This warm bread eaten on a cold winter’s day has made everyone quite happy. Last week, one of my children remarked, “Mom, I could only this every day and be just fine…”

Bread – both literally and metaphorically – is scattered throughout the Bible. Just in Genesis we have Melchizedek lifting bread and wine, Jacob and Esau’s birthright was decided with bread and soup, Joseph interrupted a dream involving a baker and a basket of bread and God gave the Israelites bread in the desert as manna. In Psalm 78: 17-20 we know,

“But they continued to sin against him,
rebelling in the wilderness against the Most High.
They willfully put God to the test by demanding the food they craved.
They spoke against God; they said,
“Can God really spread a table in the wilderness?
True, he struck the rock,
and water gushed out,
streams flowed abundantly,
but can he also give us bread?
Can he supply meat for his people?”

We know He did. He does.

God provides us bread and meat – both within the sacrifice of His Son. His flesh is real food (John 6:55) which we consume hidden in the wheat of a communion wafer.

So, what do my meanderings about bread mean?

I’m wondering if I am letting God through His Son satisfy me or am I looking outside of Christ and His Church?

The world seems to offer a banquet of opportunities to feed and be satisfied – through wealth, power, fashion, fitness, the right clothes, the right look, the right house, the right…..whatever.

If we only do…this…or that…we will feel satisfied – but are we?

Of course, this doesn’t mean we can’t be healthy, exercise, be wealthy, powerful, and on and on and on –

But is that all we want to the exclusion of Christ?

Or, if you are more like me, are we refusing to be content and accept God’s plan for our life even when that mean I live without those things?

If that is the case – either case – then, we are trying to live on bread alone.

Deuteronomy 8:3, the verse which Jesus is quoting, tells us we live not on bread alone, “but on every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord.”

And one of God’s words for our lives is from Hebrews 13:5, “be content with what you have, because God has said, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.”

So, should I be giving up bread for Lent or maybe giving up an inordinate attachment to or selfish desire for the bread of the world because I already have the bread of life (John 6:51) whenever I want it.

Just wondering……

5 Patron Saint Badges: Bringing Lent to Your Clubs

Lent is all over my Facebook feed, inbox, and tweeting madly. But what can Little Flowers and Blue Knights leaders do to bring Lent alive and relevant to their Catholic Clubs? Let’s ask our brothers and sisters in the faith–the Saints! These Patron Saint badges are great, simple ways to bring Lent alive to your Catholic Clubs, learn something new, change a life or two, and earn a cool new badge to add to their sash, vest or breastplate.

Each badge has five fairly simple tasks associated with it. The first item on the list is to learn about the saint and their connection with the subject of which they are patron. This first item is mandatory in earning the badge. Younger participants can then choose two more, so that three of the five items are required to earn the badge. Older children can do four or all five of the items to complete the badge. Of course, as with all the Behold Christ Clubs badges, the requirements are flexible and up to each individual parent or leader. The suggestions here are guidelines, rather than hard and fast rules on what must be done to earn the badge. Parents and leaders are also welcome to add other requirements they feel may be more effective in teaching the youth always in the context of a Catholic world view.

Check out these top five Patron Saint badges for Lent:

  1. stelizabethbadgeSt. Elizabeth of Hungary, patron saint of bakersSymbol: bread and rose1) Find out about this saint and why she was chosen as patron of bakers. Give a report—either verbal or written—of what you have learned to your parent or leader.2) Baking is different than cooking. Baking includes food that is baked in an oven. Breads are the most common food associated with baking. Find out what ingredients are used in several different kinds of bread. Research different types of grain and leavening agents used in different types of bread. Give a report—either verbal or written—of what you have learned to your parent or leader.

    3) Choose a bread recipe that uses yeast as a leavening agent and prepare it.

    4) Choose a bread recipe that uses another leavening agent besides yeast and prepare it.

    5) St. Elizabeth fed the poor with her baked goods. Make something special for someone in need and deliver it to them.

    Lenten bonus: Make homemade pretzels and research why they are a Lenten food!

  2. stvincentbadgeSt. Vincent de Paul, patron saint of charitySymbol: three coins1) Find out about this saint and why he was chosen the patron saint of charity. Give a report—either verbal or written—of what you have learned to your parent or leader.

    2) What religious orders did St. Vincent de Paul found or inspire? Make a list of at least three religious orders that include the word “charity” in their name. Also include the name of their founders and date of foundation in your list.

    3) Raise money for a charity of your choosing. Some examples of good charities are: your local crisis pregnancy center, a religious order, St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital, Food for the Poor, and many others. Make sure that you investigate charities before giving money to them to make sure the money won’t be used to support something that may be against our Catholic faith.

    4) Find at least three Bible verses where Jesus talks about serving the poor. Copy those verses on notecards you’ve decorated. Put them up in your room as a reminder.

    5) Clean out your dressers and toy box. Fill up a bag of usable items to give to the poor. Challenge yourself to not only give items that are of no use, but ones that have value. Remember that when you give something to the least among us, you give to Christ.  Lenten bonus: Research “almsgiving” and why we do it especially during Lent.

  3. stmarthabadgeSt. Martha, patron saint of cooks
  4. Symbol: spoon crossed with a fork
  5. 1) Find out about this saint and why she was chosen as the patron saint of cooks. Give a report—either verbal or written—of what you have learned to your parent or leader.2) Cooking involves meal planning, shopping, food prep, and food presentation. Locate a food pyramid and record your diet for a day. Compare your daily diet with the food pyramid. Did you eat a correctly balanced diet? If not, how can you change your diet in order to eat more balanced?

    3) With an adult, plan a meal, shop for it, and prepare it. Don’t forget to use your food pyramid for good nutrition. While shopping, make sure you read food labels and compare prices.

    4) Ask your mother, grandmother and others for their favorite recipes. Copy them and put them in your own cookbook.

    5) Find a prayer for cooks. Copy it into your notebook or on a notecard and memorize it. Teach it to your family and say it with your prayers before meals.

    Lenten bonus: Research “fasting” and why we do it during Lent.

  6. stcamillesbadgeSt. Camillus de Lellis, patron saint of first aid and health care workers
  7. Symbol: red cross
  8. 1) Find out about this saint and why he was chosen as patron saint of first aid and health care workers. Give a report—either verbal or written—of what you have learned to your parent or leader.2) Learn what needs to be in a basic first aid kit and make sure that you have one in your home and in each of your vehicles. Assemble your own first aid kits if you don’t already have them.

    3) Make sure you have emergency numbers posted near your phone. Practice with a parent what you should do in case of emergency.

    4) Learn basic first aid through a Red Cross course, Safe-Sitter course, or something similar.

    5) Find a prayer for those who are sick and suffering. Copy the prayer in your notebook or on a notecard and memorize it. Say it daily for at least a week.

     Lenten bonus: Research formula, meditative and contemplative prayer and why we concentrate on it during Lent.

  9. stgiannaroseSt. Gianna Molla – Pro-Life Work
  10. 1. Find out why this saint was chosen for thistopic. Share what you found out either verbally or in writing.2. Read one or more of these pro-life books and

    share how they show the dignity of every human life. Angel

    in the Waters by Regina Doman, On the Night You Were Born by Nancy Tillman, Horton Hears a Who by Dr. Seuss.

    3. Gather as many baby pictures of family members as you can find, especially of parents and grandparents. Gather pictures of how they look now. Bring the pictures to your Behold Christ Clubs meeting and see if others can match up baby pictures with their adult counterparts. Even though we grow and develop throughout our lives, we all started as babies. Share what you learned about the value of life through this game.

4. Visit a nursing home or elderly neighbor and spend some time with them. What can you learn about and from the elderly. Share what you learned either verbally or in writing.

5. Attend a pro-life or pro-family rally, March for Life, or prayer vigil for life.

Lenten bonus: 40-Days for Life is a pro-life prayer vigil held in major cities during Lent. Participate in prayer or in person at your local 40 Days for Life.

Order badges HERE

 

 

 

Are you ready for Lent? Time to clean house?

scene in an old cellar room

It is coming tomorrow – Ash Wednesday – no avoiding it.

At Mass today, Fr. Jim focused his homily on cleaning house. Using today’s gospel he reminded us that we all need to be careful we aren’t saying one thing with our words and another with our actions.

I have a few things in mind in regard to tidying my own interior house – cleaning out my own cups and jugs as it were.

What about you and your house? Is it all in order – don’t worry – Lent begins to tomorrow. So while you are getting ‘dirty’ with the ashes, let’s work to ensure our souls are as clean as they can be; a worthy place for Christ to dwell throughout Lent and into Easter.

 

Lent is almost here – time to clean house!

scene in an old cellar room

I awoke this morning and just knew I had to share this with all of you –

While we usually think of Easter being the time to clean house, I suggest use Lent and clean house on Ash Wednesday. And by house, I mean our interior home; our soul. From 1 Corinthians 6:19 and 2 Corinthians 6:16 we have: “Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own?”

This image of being a temple for Christ, letting my heart, my soul be a home in which He could dwell has been an important part of my relationship with Jesus.

A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away……way back in the 80’s when Star Wars was new and fresh, I was working hard on trying to both a good Catholic and a really cool college student. And by really cool, I mean actively drinking and more…..

Anyways – during this time I had two distinct circles of friends – those I partied with and those I prayed with – and I worked hard to make sure these circles never met or knew of each other’s existence. I was pretty good as this ruse until I was given a pamphlet that cut through my falseness and reminded me of who I really wanted to impress.

Long before WWJD (What Would Jesus Do) there was My Heart, Christ’s Home by Robert Munger, a Presbyterian minister who wrote this piece in 1951.

Upon receiving this pamphlet I began to work hard to make sure I only had 1 group of friends  (guess which one?). Eventually, to that end, I made arrangements to transfer to Franciscan University.

While I got my copy in 1980 to this day – though I have lost my original copy – I remember its powerful imagery. I regularly bring it to the forefront of my mind as an examination of conscience of sorts as to how my heart (and my home) would look to Jesus – and then to His Mother, Mary, His foster father Joseph and all the saints and angels from heaven.

Is my heart/my home a welcoming place for these amazing people who live in heaven or have I only outfitted myself for the company of those who only live for this world? Am I authentically one person before all people or do I still sometimes try to live separate lives? Is my faith a Jekyll and Hyde relationship with Jesus and those I work/play with?  Will those I encounter be able to see the Jesus Freak I want to be?

Over the years, I have shared this piece with my children when I thought they were old enough (teens) to appreciate its depth and now I share it with all of you.

Perhaps this Lent, you will use it as a way to clean your own house, or as a teaching tool for your older children, siblings, or the parents who help with your clubs.

P.S – Just so there is no confusion – we are and will always be Catholic to the Core but that does not prevent us from seeing the truth that exists in other Christian faiths and sharing it with you. And by that same measure, we will speak out against those Catholics who are like the Pharisees of today’s gospel who cleanse the cup but not their hearts. For example, C.S. Lewis is always good to read and Nancy Pelosi is not a good role model for our daughters!

 

 

Music Monday

music_1000006931-120613int

Four of my children went to Mount 2000 this past weekend. It is an amazing weekend for high school youth held at Mount St. Mary’s, a university and seminary, in Emmitsburg, MD. Close to the Shrine of Elizabeth Ann Seton, it is a pretty awesome place to visit should you ever be in the area…

In addition to good talks, powerful Adoration, confessions available almost the whole weekend, they came home singing the music of this man:

Ike Ndolo

Sit back and ‘wade in the water’ with him…..

Happy Feast of the Presentation!

Presentation_of_the_Lord
Or Candlemas or Pancake Day or or Groundhog Day or just Tuesday, Feb. 2, 2016.

Today in the gospel we read of Mary and Joseph presenting Jesus at the temple. They meet Simeon and Anna, both of whom had long awaited the arrival of the Messiah. I have wondered if their words only brought confusion to the new parents or a sense of affirmation.

Surely Mary and Joseph had put something together what with the greeting of Gabriel, the messages in dreams, Elizabeth’s welcome, shepherds and kings. Children lost when their child was born. Did hearing the warning of Simeon, “and you yourself a sword will pierce” and greeting of Anna who “gave thanks to God and spoke about the child to all who were awaiting the redemption of Jerusalem” give them assurance that what they were embarking on was indeed from God?

And then there’s the word itself – present, as a word, can be so many things – a noun, a verb and an adjective. Simeon spoke of verbs – piercing of a sword, the rise and fall of many. Anna gloried in the noun of it all – the child! And they were both ‘present’ at that wonderful ‘present’ moment; an adjective.

We, also, have a part to play in all of this. Today is our day to see how we can use the word. How about this –

Shall we ‘present’ ourselves before God, offering ourselves as ‘present’ to Him for His use, and His glory so that at any ‘present’ moment people can see Him acting in us?

Sounds pretty good!

As for the pancakes – it goes like this – one of the priests at my parish has been all over the world, currently the rectory’s head cook and is pretty old as well. Today he talked about the weird reality that the first pancake we make is usually a clunker. Is that as true in your house as well as my own? He happens to him as well.

It takes awhile to get the heat right on the pan/griddle. It takes one or sometimes two to know exactly when to flip them for the perfect pancake.

Well, Fr. Frank said that on this day as Candlemas was when Christmas was finally put away, was also a day for pancakes – perhaps the easiest meal on day when you are cleaning up piles of dead pine needles?

Anyways, they would make pancakes and put the first one aside in the cupboard to remember they were once hungry and God fed them – with pancakes and with the Messiah, “the glory of your people Israel”.

And the groundhog? Phil didn’t see his shadow so if you follow rodents for your weather, it should be an early spring! And, Groundhog Day, the movie with Bill Murray is on the Vatican’s list of 50 Greatest Movies, so there’s that!