The Bread will be coming to you in an abbreviated format for the rest of the summer so that we can focus on the great resources we hope to roll out this fall.
This week, read and reflect on what it takes to recognize God’s prophets; pray during your next family road trip (we’ve got three easy options); and live the Gospel by talking about the virtue of charity and trying our Virtue Tickets game; talk about what miracle God wants to perform for you; and celebrate six saints, including the founder of western monasticism, St. Benedict. It’s all coming up this week in The Bread!
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The Week at a Glance
This week, we hear about how God’s own people (the Israelites of Ezekiel’s time, the Jews of Jesus’ time) often don’t listen to the prophets he sends to them. In Jesus’ case, the people of his home town won’t listen to him because they think they know him and his family. It’s easy for us to judge and condemn the hard-headed people of the Bible who didn’t listen to God’s message—but what about us? Do we listen to the prophets God has sent us in our own time?
The Word in a nutshell for little kids
God sent the prophet Ezekiel to tell God’s people how to be good and happy, even though the people didn’t always listen. God sent Jesus to show us how much God loves us, but the people still didn’t listen. Even when we don’t listen to God’s words, he never stops trying to show us his love.
Breaking open the Word with older kids and teens
- As you preview the readings, share with your kids which line “speaks” to you most vividly, and invite them to share the same.
- What implications do the readings have for how you live together as a family?
- Who are the prophets that God is sending to us today?
- If we are to live out our baptismal vocation to be prophets, what do today’s readings imply for what we might expect?
Raise Bible-literate kids!
- Paraphrase or act out this week’s Gospel story with younger children.
- Explore the readings more in depth using the commentary accompanying the New American Bible Revised Edition (links above) and the many resources of The Sunday Website.
- Get a really good family missal: Magnifikid! (for older kids ages 5 – 10); Give Us This Day (a wealth of daily resources from Liturgical Press); or Magnificat (another rich source for the daily readings, saints, prayers, and more).
Three simple ways to pray during your family road trip
Our family is on vacation this week…maybe yours is, too, or will be soon. We’ve got three simple ways to work prayer into your family road trip–and two of them don’t even involve getting out of the car!
- Pray for emergency vehicles (and talk about the power of prayer)
- Pray when you pass a church (and talk about why churches are special places)
- Go on a pilgrimage (there’s probably a pilgrimage site along your route)
Summer of virtues: Charity
Practice the virtues with your kids this summer, one each week. This week, focus on love–or more precisely, the virtue the church calls charity.
What is Christian love?
Kids (and adults, too) frequently confuse the meaning of charity and love. Today, the word charity is often used to refer to helping those in need–what Christians used to commonly call almsgiving. The word love, on the other hand, is used to mean many different things, including preference, romantic attraction, and feelings of affection.
But when Christians use the word love in a religious sense, they almost always refer to the virtue of charity, which, according to St. Thomas Aquinas, is “the theological virtue by which we love God above all things for his own sake, and our neighbor as ourselves for the love of God” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, #1822).
The virtue of love, then, is caught up in the love of God. This is why Jesus tells his disciples: “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you; abide in my love,” and: “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you” (John 15:9,12).
Charity has its source in God, who is love itself, and reflects that divine love to others.
You could spend a lot of time exploring this virtue—Aquinas wrote much more about it, as did many others, including Pope Benedict XVI (see Deus Caritas Est). But to start, focus on simply introducing kids to the idea that the Christian definition of love is very different from popular meanings of the word. Here are two definitions to try out with your kids:
- Aquinas, following Aristotle, defined love as willing the good of the other. And what is “the good of the other”? Nothing more than for the other to be what he/she/it is meant to be.
- A more organic definition might be: Christian love acts toward others as Jesus did.
Break it down
- Spend some time brainstorming with your older kids and teens what it means to “will the good of the other.” Run a few scenarios. By this definition, is it loving to go along with what a friend wants, even if what she wants is harmful to her?
- What does it mean to act toward others as Jesus would? Pull out a few Bible stories and look at Jesus’ actions. List some words that capture Christ-like love. If your kids don’t suggest it as an example themselves, be sure to point them towards Jesus’ unconditional self-sacrifice on the cross.
The Virtue Tickets Game: Charity
This week, focus on training your kids to recognize the virtue of charity, and to notice the difference from other types of love, by inviting them to issue virtue tickets whenever they see Christian love in action.
- Print out the sheet of Virtue Tickets for the virtue of charity (found here: PB+Grace virtue tickets – charity), or make your own.
- Have your kids cut out the individual tickets as you discuss the virtue of charity using the talking points above.
- Throughout the week, have your kids “issue tickets” by filling out a ticket with the appropriate details whenever they “catch” someone practicing the virtue of charity. You can play this game in one of three ways (or blend the three methods):
- Option 1: Invite your kids to actually issue the ticket to the person responsible for practicing the virtue. At the end of the week, family members can turn their tickets in for a prize that the whole family can enjoy—for instance, if everyone in the family manages to collect 25 tickets altogether, then the family will order pizza, and the kids can choose which type it will be. If the family collects 35 tickets altogether, the kids can choose ice cream to go with it, etc.
- Option 2: Whenever your kids spot an instance of charity anywhere—on television, at the mall, in the family—they fill out a ticket, which they keep. As with option 1, the tickets are counted at the end of the week for a family prize.
- Option 3: You’re the primary ticket-writer. When you write out the ticket for your youngster, write a “penalty” (really a reward) on the back, redeemable at the end of the week (for older kids) or immediately (children under age 7).
- Your kids might enjoy issuing tickets to friends, neighbors, store clerks, etc.
Meal question: What miracle does God want for you?
Reflecting on this Sunday’s Gospel, Fr. Paul Holmes wonders whether it is too easy for us to identify ourselves with Jesus and not with the skeptical townspeople who reject him because they think they know him. Yes, Fr. Holmes says, we identify with Jesus; but do we really? Do we really have faith in his healing power? Fr. Holmes poses this provocative question:
“What if the miracles we want God to perform isn’t the miracle God wants to perform? What if God wants to perform a holiness miracle—you know, somehow to get us to stop sinning, to stop gossipping, to be more generous, more patient, more loving? What if God wants to stir us into holy action—not to make our lives better, but so the lives of others will be better?” (quoted in Give Us This Day, July 2015, pages 60-61).
You can kick off this discussion by simply beginning with the question: What miracle does God want to perform for you?