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How is your garden growing? This week’s Scriptures focus on how God’s “garden”—the Kingdom of heaven—grows. Plus, we’ve got six saints, a resource for trying Morning Prayer with your kids, a Bubble Prayer for younger kids, practicing patience for the sake of the good, talking about the refugee crisis, and three lists of the best Catholic movies to catch this summer.
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The Week at a Glance
Younger kids: Act out, paraphrase, or read a kids’ version of one of Sunday’s readings. Find a small seed (one from an apple or strawberry will do) and take it outside; look at a large tree or another large plant. How does the small seed become a large plant? Explain that God’s kingdom works in the same way: We plant “small seeds” through small acts of kindness and generosity and sacrifice, and God makes them grow into “great trees” like the cedar or the mustard bush.
Older kids: Have your kids read the Sunday Scriptures before Mass (Saturday evening works well). Then explore the Scriptures with these activities:
- Ask: What line or image from these readings stood out for you? Why?
- Ask: Did you notice a common theme or connection between the readings? Notice the echo of Ezekiel in the Gospel reading: just as the birds of the air come to nest in the cedar, so too they come to nest in the mustard bush. But why does Jesus prefer to use the image of the mustard bush rather than the cedar? What do these images tell us about the nature of the Kingdom of God?
- Study: Read the Scriptures in their original context and check out scholarly notes in the New American Bible Revised Edition. The links at the top of this article will take you to the Scripture text in the NABRE.
- Advanced Bible study: Explore the readings in greater depth at The Sunday Website.
- Ask: How do these readings call us to live as a family? What small seeds of the kingdom do we sow in our daily life together? What will God make these small seeds become over the course of a season? A year? A lifetime?
It’s summer and maybe you don’t have quite such a rush in the morning to get kids off to school. If so, that makes it a fine time to introduce older kids and teens to the Liturgy of the Hours, beginning with Morning Prayer. Head over to DivineOffice.org and click on the Morning Prayer tab. From there, you can follow along with an audio recording of Morning Prayer for the day, perfect for beginners. You’ll also find the complete text of Morning Prayer for the day.
Try it for a few weeks, or during a family vacation. If you decide to continue the practice, consider buying a book of the Liturgy of the Hours, or subscribe to a good daily missal, such as Give Us This Day, which includes a shortened version of Morning Prayer and Evening Prayer.
The Bubble Prayer
Here is a prayer that young children like; we call it “Bubble Prayer” because of the last step. Here’s what to do:
- Ask your child to name intentions, as well as “gifts for God”—good things she did throughout the day, or things that she is thankful for.
- When everyone has spoken their intentions and gifts, use words and hand gestures to wrap your prayer up in a bubble and lift it up to God:
- “Let’s put all our prayers in a box!” Make hand gestures like you’re putting objects in a box.
- “Let’s wrap the box in wrapping paper and put a bow on it.” Make wrapping and bow-tying gestures.
- “Let’s put it in a bubble and lift it up to God!” Put the “gift box” in an imaginary bubble and lift it up to God with raised hands.
Practice lectio divina
Read one of this week’s Scripture readings (or a few verses) slowly and prayerfully with your kids a few times. For more about how to do lectio divina with kids of all ages, see Lectio Divina for Kids: Praying with Sacred Texts.
Summer of virtues: Patience
Practice the virtues with your kids this summer, one each week; this week, focus on patience.
According to the Modern Catholic Dictionary, the three grades of patience are “to bear difficulties without interior complaint, to use hardships to make progress in virtue, and even to desire the cross and afflictions out of love for God and accept them with spiritual joy.” Augustine calls patience “that by which we tolerate evil things with an even mind, that we may not with a mind uneven desert good things, through which we may arrive at better” (“On Patience“).
We’ve boiled those definitions down into a kid-friendly definition: Bearing difficulty or evil calmly for the sake of the good. This brings out an important aspect of patience that can be found in both of the definitions above: Patience means bearing difficulties, or even tolerating evil things, not just to “be nice,” but for the sake of some larger good.
There are times to be patient; for example, when your teen leaves a wet towel on the floor for the hundredth time, you might choose to patiently make her come pick it up rather than yelling at her or punishing her, because you judge that action to be the best way to achieve the good. At other times, we must act to confront evil. Dr. Martin Luther King was counseled to be patient by numerous religious and civic leaders who wanted him to be less confrontational. In his judgment, however, patient tolerance of evil would not have been the best course of action.
- Make a chart or some other way of keeping track of your kids’ progress (coins in jars, tokens, clothespins on a string, Good Deed Beads, etc.).
- Talk about the virtue of patience with your kids. Have them brainstorm what it might look like—what are some examples?
- All throughout the week, everyone in the family works at practicing the virtue—and “catching” others practicing the virtue of patience. Whenever someone is “caught,” they earn a mark or a token.
- If you find it impractical to “catch” people throughout the day, then review the day at dinnertime or bedtime to look for instances of the virtue.
- At the end of the week, count up all the marks or tokens, and enjoy some sort of reward as a family. For example, each token might be worth ten cents or a dollar to be spent on a fun family activity, or a meal out.
- Young children might enjoy wearing a badge marking their accomplishment. You can make a badge using plain old paper, or get fancy with aluminum foil, ribbons, glitter glue, felt, or other items.
You might also be interested in:
- VirtueGame, a card game that teaches ten virtues in a fun and silly way. It doesn’t, unfortunately, include the virtue of patience, but it might be worth getting anyway to help teach your kids some of the other virtues; it gets high marks on Amazon.
What do you know about the refugee crisis?
Saturday is the World Day of Refugees; the plight of refugees has been of special concern to Pope Francis. This year, the U.S. Catholic bishops are highlighting two of the many refugee crises around the world: the refugee crisis in Syria, and the plight of unaccompanied children migrating to the U.S. from Latin America.
You can go to the USCCB page for the World Day of Refugees to learn more about these crises with your kids, and then read Pope Francis’s Message for the 2015 World Day of Migrants and Refugees. Here are some questions to get you started:
- Who is a refugee? (One who “owing to a well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion, is outside the country of his nationality, and is unable to, or owing to such fear, is unwilling to avail himself of the protection of that country.”)
- What is the cause of the refugee crisis in Syria? (The Syrian civil war.)
- How many unaccompanied children were estimated to enter the United States from Latin America in 2014? (60,000)
- What is the cause of the crisis of unaccompanied children entering the United States from Latin America? (The causes are complex and multifaceted, but the main cause is drug-related violence.)
- What is the Church’s attitude toward the refugee crisis? (The Church advocates greater cooperation on the international level; the encouragement of a “culture of encounter” with those who are different from us, as opposed to just a culture of tolerance; and the willingness of Christians to give up some of their rights and wealth in order to help refugees.)
Watch a (Catholic) summer blockbuster
Summer is movie blockbuster season (our family recently enjoyed Tomorrowland) and movies on rainy days.
This week, rather than reaching for the latest Disney animated movie or heading out to yet another special-effects laden non-stop action movie (ahem, Jurassic Park, ahem), mix things up a little by watching a really great Catholic movie.
You can find a plethora of lists of the “best” or “top fifty” Catholic movies of all time. The best of these lists recognize that a movie doesn’t need to be explicitly about the Catholic Church or Catholic characters in order to have a through-and-through Catholic character. Check out some of these lists…you might be surprised at what they suggest!
- The Fifty Best Catholic Movies of All Time at Catholic Culture. This list includes The Age of Innocence (1993), Ikiru (1952), and North by Northwest, among some of the more obviously Catholic movies.
- The Vatican’s List of Films at Wikipedia. This list, compiled on the 100th anniversary of the birth of cinema in 1995, includes Ghandi (1982), The Wizard of Oz (1939), and The Flowers of St. Francis (1950).
- Top 100 Proudly Catholic Movies. The Gregorian Institute at Benedictine College surveyed 6,500 online readers to vote on their favorite “Proudly Catholic Movies” in order to come up with this 2012 list. Not all of the films on the list are family friendly (which would be true of the other two lists as well), but you will find some gems in there, including Of Gods and Men (2010), The Mission (1988), and Les Miserables (2012).