Liturgical Living for Kids: A Review of the Lent 2018 Activity Pack

I’m not a mom yet, but it’s obvious to me that it’s tough to raise your kids as faithful Catholics. It’s even more difficult in our secular society to keep them Catholic once they venture into the world. While there’s no shortage of negative media vying for your child(ren)’s attention, thankfully, there are many wholesome (and fun!) resources to introduce your child to the Catholic faith.

As we approach the middle of February, Catholics anticipate a season of penance 40 days before Easter called Lent. Lent is often a confusing time for kids: there’s ashes on foreheads, a sudden giving up of favorite treats or activities, and no meat on Fridays. For younger children, and even pre-teens, Lent may seem more like a drag than a time of spiritual growth. An online friend, Aleesa Bansmer McCarthy, is a creative soul who is dedicated to helping your child understand the ins-and-outs of our beautiful faith through interactive activities. This year, Aleesa has introduced the Lent 2018 Activity Pack, designed especially for your little ones!

A Review of the Lent 2018 Activity Pack

Calendar Countdown

The first aspect of the activity pack I love is that it stays true to the penitential and sacrificial nature of Lent, while still engaging small children. Aleesa maintains the color scheme of purple, the liturgical color for Lent, into all of the pages of the pack. This is a great way for kid to connect the colors they see at Mass to the activities in the pack.

 

Lent Countdown
A “calendar” sample

One of my favorite activities is a “calendar” with 40 boxes. In each box, depending on the day,  there is an outline of a fish (a day for fasting) or the name of the day (Palm Sunday, Holy Saturday). Throughout Lent, kids can mark off the days, and count down to Easter. Along the way, they are reminded to fast and pray for others.

Be My Lenten Valentine

valentine
Sample Valentine’s Card

Children can also start off Lent (which begins on February 14th!) by giving away custom Valentines included in the pack. Featuring an drawn image of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, Aleesa’s valentines are a perfect way to counter a society that has largely secularized an originally Catholic holiday. What better way to evangelize friends and family than with the Sacred Heart? The design above is one of two designs available in the Lent Pack.

A Chain of Giving

Finally, an aspect of Lent that is often overlooked is the giving of alms to the poor and needy. Too often, we focus on our own personal fasts from chocolate, technology, or gossip instead of what we can do for others. With the Alms Chain activity, kids are given strips of card stock. Each time a child completes an act of mercy for the poor, she can link her chains together, creating a ribbon of mercy. It’s a great way to show your children that little acts of kindness add up!

Worth it?

At only $5 on Aleesa’s Etsy shop, SaongJai, the 2018 Lent Pack is a highly recommended purchase. If you want your children to know why Lent is important for holy living, this pack is a great resource to help make the season “real” for your little ones. While I only reviewed three of the features of the Lent Pack, there are so many more: Lunch reminders not to eat meat, coloring pages of holy images, the Stations of the Cross worksheet, and a spot for your child to record her prayer intentions. The pack is a great way to introduce the joy of liturgical living in a fun and educational format.

To learn more about Aleesa’s creative work, visit her on Facebook and on Etsy.

saongjai
https://www.facebook.com/SaongJai/

May God bless you as you prepare for Lent!

Liturgical Living for Kids
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Three Tips for a Better Prayer Life

Candles, Church, Light, Lights, Prayer
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If you’re involved with fellow Christians and you frequent social media, you’ve probably run into this familiar scene: a well-cropped photo with an alluring filter, an open Bible’s pages gently opened to an inspiring message, a highlighted line, a appropriately worn journal angled to the side, and a cup of coffee in the top corner. Yes, the Bible study picture. We’ve all witnessed it. Most of us have probably posted it. The likes and hearts validate us and our pursuit of faith.

Outside of the picture, though, how deliberate are our prayer lives? Do we spend more time curating the picture of the Bible and coffee than we do actually studying and praying? For the past month, I have taken steps to become more intentional in my prayer life. By intentional, I mean making prayer a priority, not just a passing breath as I roll out of bed or ready myself for sleep. But rather solid, uninterrupted time talking to the Lord.

Here are a few tips to help you cultivate your prayer life from passive to intentional:

1. Find a Companion Book. One of the best tools for prayer you can use is a book (or ebook). Personally, I prefer to use the daily Mass readings as a prayer support. I receive a dose of the Old Testament, the Psalms, a second reading from the New Testament (most days), and a message from the Gospels each day. While I highly recommend Abide in My Word for daily Bible readings, you can use any translation you’d like. I will read, and then pray for the needs on my heart based on the passages.

As of yesterday, I began reading the daily meditations in Rediscover Jesus by Matthew Kelly of the Dynamic Catholic Institute. It’s a 40-day devotional series designed for Lent, but it appropriate for anytime of the year. It’s already challenging how much I thought I knew about Christ and the Faith.

2. Timing is Everything. I’ve heard an old saying that says “People have money for the things they want.” I believe this phrase is appropriate for our time: We have time for the things we want time for. We have time for the gym, to go out with our friends, and to watch our favorite television shows. But when it comes to intentional prayer, it’s “Sorry Lord, I just don’t have the time!”

How can we beat this trend? Simple: Find a time and stick to it. What works best for you? For me, it’s the morning. I set my alarm a few minutes early so I can pray and read without feeling rushed. Often, once I’m in the thick of prayer, I don’t miss those few minutes of sleep. I keep this timing consistent each day, even if it’s a day when I sleep in.

For you, mornings may not be the best timing. You may work nights, so the afternoon may be more applicable. Yet, I would still argue for the benefits of morning prayer time. You’ll find that when you start your mornings talking to the King of the Universe, the day flows with much more grace.

3. Use Technology. You thought I would tell you to hide your phone during prayer time, right? Partially. Technology can be a distraction during prayer time, but it can also be a great help to enriching your intentional time with God. Thankfully, there are many apps that can help you find your way to better prayer.

First, Catholics often get a bad rap for “vain repetitions” and scripted prayers as if we don’t pray from the heart (Spoiler alert: The book of Psalms is written prayers). I have found that the use of written prayers has helped me tremendously, and I am able to voice praises and concerns I wouldn’t have thought of on my own. With that in mind, my favorite app is Laudate. You can find it in the Apple Store and Google Play. One of my favorite prayers to pray using the app is the Litany to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. What a great way to pray and meditate on the heart and love of Our Lord!

Other apps I enjoy are Relevant Radio and Echo. Each of these apps connect me to audio prayer, interactive prayers, and prayer reminders.

If you’re looking to boost your prayer life, don’t wait. Start today! Jesus is waiting for you to talk to Him, and when you choose to be deliberate in His presence, you won’t find disappointment. May God bless you as you begin (or recharge) your routine.

You Don’t Have To

This afternoon I visited St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York City. I hadn’t been since June 2001, and even then, it was a brief visit. Today,  I ducked into the Cathedral after crossing the street and fighting tight throngs of tourists. It was nice to sit in the church and take in all of the images and sights I ignored as an 11-year-old: The high ceilings, the shrines, the beautiful altar, and of course, the stained glass windows.

Twitter, Facebook, Together
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Around us, hundreds of tourists (many traveling in from outside of the United States), took pictures. The time spent of the photographs was often detailed, even with a high quality camera. As I knelt at my pew, I felt the urge creep up in the back of my mind.

“If you snapped a picture of the altar right now, it would look great on Instagram. Especially with the right filter. Think of the ‘likes’ you’ll get!”

As I live and breathe, the very thought crossed my mind. I don’t hide my love for social media. Through Facebook and Twitter, I’ve connected with old friends and friends I’ve never met in person. I enjoy posting photos of my travels, and I enjoy that other people enjoy the posts, too. Likes and hearts are nice.

However, I often find myself under pressure. Pressure to find a perfect Instagram filter, pressure to word a caption just right, pressure to share every event.

But, as I sat in the pew this afternoon, I mentally sat on my hands, thinking,  “You don’t have to document every single event, every single moment. It’s okay to let life fly ‘under’ the radar.”

As difficult as it was (and I struggled), I kept my phone in my purse. I didn’t take any photos at St. Patrick’s today. And the result is clear: I still feel as fulfilled and satisfied as if I had taken a photo, doctored it up with filters, and posted it on Facebook. More the same, while eating dinner at a kitschy new Korean restaurant in Manhattan Koreatown, I sat on my hands. I can eat galbi and bibimbap without posting a picture of it on Twitter. It tastes the same, and I enjoyed it without all of the pressure of “Is this lighting good enough for this picture?”

In conclusion, has this moment of clarity “cured” me? No. I have a picture of a flower and chocolate box window display in Rockefeller Plaza I’d like to post. I may, I may not. We will see. Only time and Instagram will tell.

But…

Next time, when you feel hurried or pressured to post an update or photograph of an event, remember: It’s okay. You can live life in peace, without the worry of likes and external validation.