This week, we’re marking the feast of St. Ignatius with three ways to pray the Ignatian exercises with kids, and we’re celebrating the feast of St. Martha with a story from her dragon-slaying days (really!). Plus, a family check-in, the #WalkwithFrancis phenomenon, how to save those leftovers, and reflections on left over food from this week’s Sunday Scripture. It’s all in The Bread, the official sponsor of this Sunday’s Gospel reading.
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The Week at a Glance
The Gospel of John does not include the traditional institution of the Eucharist in his description of the Last Supper; instead, he focuses on Jesus’ discourse on love and friendship, and on the example he set by washing the disciples’ feet. But that doesn’t mean that the Gospel of John lacks an institution narrative; we find it here, in today’s reading from John, chapter 6. Be sure to point out to your kids that we will be listening to Jesus’ great Bread of Life discourse from John 6 for the next several Sundays.
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?
- Jesus tells his disciples to pick up the left over food so that none of it will be wasted. Similarly, the Church teaches that wasting food is like stealing from the poor. Do we waste food in our family? What can we do to be more respectful of God’s gift of food?
- This Gospel passage outlines the basic form of the Mass. Which parts of the Gospel reading correspond to the parts of the Mass? What does it imply about the Eucharist to say that there is “more than they could eat” and leftovers aplenty?
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).
3 Ways of Praying the Ignatian Exercises with Kids
This week marks the feast of St. Ignatius of Loyola, who had a huge impact on Christian prayer. Former Jesuit Andy Otto offers three ways of praying Ignatius’s exercises with kids in his article, “Ignatian Spirituality for Kids.” The three ways he suggests are:
- Finding God in all things. (Hint: Send your kids outside to find one thing that God made.)
- Imaginative prayer.
- A simplified version of the Examen. (We suggest trying Highs and Lows at your dinner table.)
Find the full article, complete with excellent examples, at God in All Things.
What about those leftovers?
In today’s reading, Jesus tells the apostles to collect the leftover scraps of food, “so that nothing will be wasted.” Similarly, Pope Francis has said that wasting food is like stealing from the poor, and that all the food we throw away could feed all the world’s hungry people. Moreover, Catholics regard food as a gift of the creator, which is why we bless it before we eat.
Worldwide, about 1.43 billion tons of food, or about a third of what is produced for people to eat, is thrown away. In the industrialized world, most of that waste comes from consumers, who often put more on their plate than they can actually eat.
So what can you do as a family?
- Bless your food. If you don’t already bless your food, do so. If a meal blessing is already part of your practice, slow it down and change it up—make it reverent.
- Grow your own food. If possible, have your kids grow some food, so they can develop an appreciation of how much work is involved in bringing food to their plates. Alternatively, watch a video about how food gets from farm to plate.
- Audit how much you throw out. Spend a week (or a day) auditing all the food that gets thrown out in your home. You can do this by placing all of your food waste in a gallon ice cream bucket, then weighing it at the end of each day before tossing it. (This is a great project for older kids.)
- Purchase only what you need. Make grocery lists, plan meals, and avoid buying too much. Try not to worry so much about running out of food . . . and if you do, turn the inconvenience into a prayer. Offer it up as a sacrifice to the Lord, and say a prayer for the millions of people worldwide who don’t get enough to eat.
- Offer small portions. Give everyone small portions . . . they can always come back for seconds. You can encourage kids to take small portions by keeping small plates, bowls, and cups on hand.
- Store leftovers properly and put them front and center. Make sure the leftovers are stored in clear containers, and kept in a place where they can be easily seen and accessed. Keep a small bin in your fridge for keeping containers of leftovers. When nothing more will fit, you know it’s time for leftover night.
In advance of the pope’s visit to the U.S. this fall, some Catholics are participating in a social media campaign in which people go on social media to pledge an act of charity using the hashtag #WalkwithFrancis, then challenge friends to do the same. The movement is catching on with some big names . . . read the whole story at CNA.
Dinner conversation starter: Family check-in
Now is a good time to check in with one another as a family with this simple question: What can we change or improve in our family to make our life together better?
Try having a pad of paper on hand to write down your kids’ thoughts and comments, to communicate that their ideas are being taken seriously. Consider giving them a few hours’ heads up, so they can mull over their ideas. Lay down a few ground rules:
- Kids go first. (Avoid using this time for a parental lecture . . . your goal is to get kids’ input, and buy-in.)
- Avoid personal attacks. If kids get personal, help them re-state their comment in a more neutral way.
- No “shooting down” thoughts or suggestions. If overly critical reactions are a problem, institute a sixty-second no-comment rule.
When everyone has shared, sum up the various ideas and suggestions and lead a discussion about which ones to implement, and how.
Celebrate the Feast of St. Martha
You know that St. Martha and her sister Mary and her brother Lazarus were good friends of Jesus; you know that Jesus chided her for being overly concerned about the work of hospitality; and you know that St. martha confessed that Jesus was the Messiah, the Son of God, at the time of Lazarus’s death.
But did you know she went on to slay a dragon?
According to the Golden Legend, she did. You can read an excerpt of the legend to your kids over at Fish Eaters (scroll halfway down the page). You might want to emphasize to your kids that this is a pious legend, not regarded as historical fact by the Church. But we can enjoy these stories today and appreciate their significance for the original story tellers.
You can also celebrate the Feast of St. Martha by giving the main cook in the family the day off, or otherwise honoring her (or him, as the case may be!).