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A Little Help With Your Preparation

February 19, 2017

Thanks to Fr. Mike for his guidance on preparing for Lent

Lesson Notes: Lenten Activity Packet

February 18, 2017


Yes, we know it’s not Lent yet (and gosh, are we regretting the omission of a date on the lesson cover!), but we hope you’ll take time this week to get ready for your family to have the holiest Lent ever.



Spotted at Epiphany in Coon Rapids


For this week (Feb. 19) we want to allot some time for your family to prepare for Lent. Next week’s lesson is on the why and what of Ash Wednesday, but this week we hope your family will spend some time preparing things for your ongoing task of growing in holiness throughout all 6 weeks of Lent. We have several ways for you to do that, but you’ll want to plan ahead a bit so you have materials on hand.

  • Bury the Alleluia is a Family Formation favorite highlighting the custom that the Alleluia is not spoken or sung at all during all of Lent. The instructions say to color your Alleluia banner, seal it in a Ziploc bag and bury it in the biggest snowdrift you can find. That is a great activity for the typical Minnesota February, but keep in mind that the weather is fickle this time of year and what is buried in February may well be blown away in an April wind. Be sure to bury it someplace secure, where you’ll be able to find it later. (Under a rock in your garden or some other noteworthy place.) In my family, we got burned on this a couple times before we finally started simply “burying” our alleluia under the purple cloth on our prayer table. Not nearly as much fun, but no disappointment in the spring. Also, it’s not uncommon to hear of FF kids being slightly scandalized when they hear someone saying “the A word” during Lent. (And that’s a win!)
  • Stations of the Cross is one of those uniquely Catholic things that pretty much every parish offers throughout Lent. (7 p.m. on Fridays at COSP) Even if you can’t get your whole family out on a Friday evening in the middle of winter, this is a powerful prayer experience that you can recreate at home. We’ve given you two copies of a booklet with meditations that are the right length and language for children to enter in and experience Christ’s great sacrifice. There are a number of ways you can use them:
    • The packet suggests a variation of a liturgical service called Tenebrae which involves candles (always a kid favorite!). You can follow the directions to build your own candelabrum, or you can simply buy some votives or tea lights at the dollar store. Either way, you start with all the candles lit and extinguish one after each of the Stations. By the end, you’re in a dark room which is a powerful illustration of that day when the Light of Christ left the world.
    • If you think the length of this prayer is beyond your children’s attention span, you may want to just cover one or two of the stations each day and then continue to cycle through it throughout Lent.
  • The Nun Calendar is just a very simple way for younger kids to keep track of the weeks until Easter by taping a heart on the string each week. As they do so, there should be some simple family discussion about what they’ve done for Jesus that week.
  • The Holy Week Banner is another great activity for the youngest kids, fostering discussion of the unique character of each of the days of Holy Week. The instructions say to make it out of felt – and that would certainly make it a more durable manipulative that could be handled by a little one throughout the week – but it could also easily be made of paper.
  • The Crown of Thorns is something that the whole family could use throughout Lent as a visual reminder of Christ’s suffering and how their extra prayers and sacrifices, in union with His, benefit the entire body of Christ. You start with a simple clay recipe and lots of toothpicks. (The kind with two pointed ends are a little better illustration of suffering, but any kind works.) Form the clay into a circle, poke in lots of toothpicks, and bake according to the directions. Once Lent starts, each time a family member does a good deed or makes a sacrifice, he or she should remove a toothpick, and by the end of Lent, they should have a good illustration of their spiritual progress.
  • The Caterpillar to Butterfly activity simply uses an example from nature to illustrate Christ’s time in the tomb and His glorious resurrection! Again, this is a picture that younger kids particularly like.

Art for March Prayer Tables

February 16, 2017


This piece is a diptych entitled Christ and the Mater Dolorosa.  Let’s start with just a little vocabulary.  A diptych (diptik/) is a piece of art that is in two pieces, typically hinged so it can open and close.  This one was created by Hans Holbein the Younger (his father was also a famous artist), about 500 years ago.

The subjects are, obviously, Jesus and his mother, and the setting is Pilate’s palace.  Jesus has been whipped (although not graphically here) and crowned with the painful thorns but has not yet started the terrible walk to His crucifixion.

Imagine all the hate and mockery and suffering that is still to come this day.  Now can you imagine what it would be like to know all of that is still ahead of you?  No wonder Jesus looks so very exhausted and sad!

Now imagine you are Mary.  She also has a good idea of what is ahead for her beloved Son and she cannot do anything to stop it.   In fact, the arrangement of this piece, with her on a completely different panel, just highlights her separation from Jesus on this day.  “Mater Dolorosa” means Mother of Sorrows; a perfect description of a mother who is helpless to stop the unfair death of her beloved child.

For those who use this piece on a prayer table, I recommend folding it so it stands up (in the spirit of the diptych design), and possibly passing it around so all the children can spend a moment or two gazing into the tortured face of Someone who loves them so dearly.

Image Credit: Web Gallery of Art

Lesson Notes: Evangelization

February 11, 2017


I used to think that evangelization meant the specific act of telling someone about Jesus.  And while that is obviously a piece of the pie, my definition was way too narrow.  There are countless ways to do it, based on your circumstances, your vocation, and your openness to what God places in front of you each day.

You are parents or grandparents and may have a spouse. That is where God is calling you to put forth your best efforts right now:

  • •You bring your children to Mass
  • You work on some kind of family prayer time
  • You had them baptized
  • You do Family Formation lessons and other faith-based things with them

The bottom line is that evangelization is active – it’s something you DO and there are lots of activities for you to do in this lesson to help illustrate different aspects of the topic.

img_2783Building the Church: God’s Church is made up of all His people and no matter how many choose to be part of it now, there is ALWAYS room for more! Start with a bunch of popsicle sticks and write the name of every Christian you know on a stick (one per stick). Next, use the sticks to make some kind of church. Here’s the trick though: while you’re building, be sure to include plenty of blank sticks. The point is that no matter how many people are currently part of the Church, there is always room for more. In fact, it’s incomplete without them and it’s our job to invite them!

Make an Andrew List: For this activity, start with reading John 1:40. Saint Andrew was so excited to have found the Messiah, that the first thing he did was to tell the exciting news to his brother, Peter! Think about how you can follow his example and who you can tell. Then spend some time in prayer asking the Holy Spirit to give you the opportunity and words to use. Just an aside, but this is a great place to keep the My Growing In Holiness activity from last month going. Simply think of someone and make your prayers for them your February or March resolution.

Go Fish: This game teaches that every act of evangelization includes four players: the person hearing the message, the person delivering the message, Jesus who is always the subject of the message, and the Holy Spirit who is the mover and inspiration behind every act of evangelization, no matter how big or small. The game plays like Go Fish with the object being to collect one of each of these four cards in a particular color.

img_7100Each One Bring One: The craft part of this activity is to create one of those zig-zag, linked sets of paper dolls (do those have a particular name?), but the idea behind it is so much deeper! Going as far back as possible in your family history (even if that just means you start with yourself), talk about the Christian influences that have influenced you today. Was it a Grandma who always brought you to Mass, or a neighbor who was so kind, or the parent who prayed with you at bedtime? Everyone has stories and sometimes it’s the most ordinary influence which has had the greatest effect. Take some time to prepare by thinking about those people and then share the stories with your kids. At some point be sure to remind your kids that you are currently passing the Faith on to them and someday (maybe someday soon) they will be passing it on to someone else. Not only is it exciting to consider, but you want to make sure they catch the vision. You’ll want to be sure to do this one!

Consecration Day Prayer

February 11, 2017



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Family Formation Consecration Novena, Day 9

February 10, 2017

For Family Formation’s future growth and direction; curriculum development, workshops, marketing, Spanish translation, and new products

Novena, day 9

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Family Formation Consecration Novena, Day 8

February 9, 2017

For all of our business partners; all print, audio, video, and web production:

Novena, day 8

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