This week, we have ideas for celebrating Divine Mercy Sunday, the feast days of Saint Bernadette and St. Martin I, and the memorial of Blessed Cesar de Bus, who is the patron of family catechesis. Plus: What does the peace of Jesus imply for your family?
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Sunday, April 12
Read and reflect on the Sunday Scriptures [ages 3+]
Read and discuss the Sunday Scriptures before going to Mass in order to deepen your experience, and to help your kids become more familiar with the readings. For younger kids, paraphrase the readings, act them out, or find a picture book version to share.
The community of believers was of one heart and mind,
and no one claimed that any of his possessions was his own,
but they had everything in common.
Who indeed is the victor over the world
but the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?
Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here and see my hands,
and bring your hand and put it into my side,
and do not be unbelieving, but believe.”
- Pray with these Scriptures using lectio divina; if you are unfamiliar with this practice, see Lectio Divina for Kids: Praying with Sacred Texts.
- Look again at Acts 4:32, which describes the early Christian community living together in a new spirit of mutual generosity. This way of living is also emphasized in the Gospel of Luke (see Luke 8:3). To some ears, the description of everyone sharing everything in common may sound like Marxist communism, but the sharing that Christians are called to practice flows out of the generosity of God’s gift; because they have been baptized in grace, spiritual wealth (love, compassion, kindness, solidarity) is more highly valued than material wealth.
- How closely does your life as a family reflect the life described in Acts 4? Do family members value one another’s welfare more than material possessions?
- In what ways does our society reflect the values of Acts 4? In what ways does it fall short?
- What does it mean to say that “The victory that conquers the world is our faith”? For some ideas, check out the footnotes to this reading in the New American Bible, Revised Edition.
- Three times in the Gospel, Jesus says to the apostles, “Peace be with you,” echoing his words in John 14:27: “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give it to you. Do not let your hearts be troubled or afraid.” Point out to your kids that in both appearances, the apostles were behind locked doors. Why were the apostles afraid? Why should they not be afraid? (Because Jesus “stands in their midst,” having defeated death; and if death is defeated, then there is nothing to fear.)
- What kind of “peace” does Jesus want for his followers? Do you feel this peace in your own life?
- Thomas gets singled out for not believing, but disbelief in the resurrection was not unique to Thomas; see, for instance, Mark 16:11, 13. Why didn’t the apostles believe accounts of the resurrection? If you had been in their place, would you have reacted differently?
- You can make a connection to Pentecost for your kids by pointing out that even after they had encountered the resurrected Christ, the apostles still hid behind locked doors, afraid. It would take the coming of the Holy Spirit to strengthen them to go out and continue Jesus’ mission in the world, which is why receiving the sacraments is so important for us today…we still need that grace.
The Word for This Week
Post a line from this Sunday’s readings on your refrigerator or in another prominent place. Our suggestion?
Jesus came and stood in their midst
and said to them, “Peace be with you.” (John 20:19)
Celebrate Divine Mercy Sunday
Monday, April 13
St. Martin I
St. Martin I (d. 655) was the last of the early popes to be martyred–in his case, by Constans II, emperor of the Byzantine Empire, over a doctrine of faith. The emperor and the patriarch of Constantinople insisted that Christ had no human will, only a divine will–a position the pope condemned. Read more about this saint, the controversial doctrine, and the true meaning of martyrdom at American Catholic.
The pope’s prayer intentions for April
This month, join in praying for these intentions of Pope Francis: “That people may learn to respect creation and care for it as a gift of God,” and “that persecuted Christians may feel the consoling presence of the Risen Lord and the solidarity of all the Church.”
Tuesday, April 14
Living as a community “of one heart and mind” [ages 8+]
Sunday’s first reading, from Acts 4, describes a community of Christians who place love of God and neighbor above love of material goods, with the consequence that “there was no needy person among them.” This new way of living is made possible by the resurrection of Christ, whose grace is poured out on the community through the power of the Holy Spirit.
We can catch glimpses of this way of living even today—for instance, in monastic communities, and in the selfless generosity that so often rises to the surface after natural disasters. But can we live this way every day, in our families and in our wider society?
You can explore this question with your older kids and teens by reading about the universal destination of goods in the Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church. The universal destination of goods is simply the principle that God intended the goods of the world to be used for the benefit of everyone, not just a select few; everyone should have what they need in order to become fully who God intended him or her to be.
You can read about the universal destination of goods in the Compendium, but here’s a breakdown for younger kids:
- God gave (“destined”) the earth and all it contains for all people, so that all created things would be shared fairly by all people, guided by justice and charity. God gave the earth to the whole human race, without favoring or excluding anyone. (Compendium #171).
- Each person must have access to what he or she needs in order to become all that God created him or her to be. This is a natural, God-given right that ought to shape laws governing property and trade, and takes priority over those man-made laws. (Compendium #172)
- This doesn’t mean that all the goods of the earth belong to each person, or that any object is equally useful or belongs to each person. Laws and regulations are necessary to help distribute goods in a fair and equitable way, so that each person gets what they need. (Compendium #173)
- Private property is also a human right, and necessary to human freedom. However, the right to private property is not absolute, but only a means of ensuring the universal destination of goods. The right to private property may be regulated in order to ensure the good of everyone. Moreover, the right to private property comes with the responsibility to use it not only for one’s own good, but for the good of the whole community. (Compendium #176 -178)
- Meeting the needs of the poor, the marginalized, and anyone who doesn’t have what they need for their full development, must be a priority as we decide how to share the goods of the earth. This is known as the preferential option for the poor. (Compendium #182 -184)
As you consider the text of Acts 4 and the Church’s teaching on the universal destination of goods, what implications do you see for the life of your family? What ideas do your children have about what it means to share things fairly?
Wednesday, April 15
Blessed Cesar de Bus, patron of family catechesis
Blessed Cesar de Bus (February 3, 1544 – April 15, 1607) was a soldier in the religious wars of the late 1500s, and “the life of the party,” according to one biographer, until he had a change of heart while on the way to a masked ball. He became a priest and devoted himself to catechizing (teaching about the faith) people in rural and out-of-the-way places. He is best known for developing a new method of family catechesis, Instructions for the Family on the Four Parts of the Roman Catechism, and founding a new religious order, the Fathers of Christian Doctrine.
You can read more about Blessed de Bus at American Catholic, or read a reflection about the implications of his work for family catechesis today at Catholic Distance University. The author’s main advice to families? Go out and buy a catechism (one for adults or for teens will do), and then use it to answer your kids’ questions about the faith.
Thursday, April 16
Saint Bernadette Soubirous
Marie Bernarde “Bernadette” Soubirous (January 6, 1844 – April 16, 1879) was the firstborn daughter of a miller from Lourdes, France. A poor, sickly girl considered slow-witted, Bernadette was fourteen years old when the Blessed Virgin Mary first appeared to her in a cave above the banks of the Gave River on February 11, 1858. Over the course of eighteen appearances, Mary identified herself as “the Immaculate Conception,” a term that had to be explained to Bernadette later. At the direction of the Virgin Mary, Bernadette dug a hole at the site of the appearances, and a spring appeared. The site of the appearances have been visited by millions of pilgrims ever since.
Eat a sweet treat for the feast of Saint Bernadette
Catholic Cuisine has a whole host of recipes for celebrating the feast day of St. Bernadette and Our Lady of Lourdes. Our favorite idea? A grotto of Lourdes made from Cocoa Crisps cereal (think Rice Krispie bars shaped into a grotto). The French Vanilla cocoa looks good, too.
What is the Immaculate Conception?
Our Lady of Lourdes identified herself to Bernadette as “the Immaculate Conception,” a doctrine widely held in the Church for centuries but not dogmatically defined until 1854. In a nutshell, the Immaculate Conception is the doctrine that Mary was conceived without original sin—not, as is commonly believed, the virginal conception of Jesus.
Friday, April 17
Bless your kids with holy water
All throughout the Easter season, the sprinkling of the assembly with holy water replaces the penitential rite—a reminder of our own death and rebirth with Christ in the waters of baptism.
A great way to celebrate the Easter season is to incorporate your own “sprinkling rite” into your family prayer time. First, get some holy water from your parish. Keep it in a glass jar or dish, or a homemade holy water font. Then, bless your kids with the holy water before saying your meal prayer, or before your family prayer time. Or have them bless themselves by dipping their hand in the holy water and signing themselves with the sign of the cross at the beginning of your prayer time.
Saturday, April 18
Make Easter story cookies with your kids [ages 3-10]
This week in The Grace:
Why We Tell Our Kids the Stories of the Martyrs by Jerry Windley-Daoust