This week’s Sunday readings inspired us to think about practicing the virtue of listening, and we’ve got ideas for doing that with your kids; plus, marking the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, a kid-friendly video on fetal development, and Francis de Sales.
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COMING UP THIS WEEK
Saturday, January 17
Sunday, January 18
1 Samuel 3:3b-10, 19
The LORD called to Samuel, who answered, “Here I am.”
1 Corinthians 6:13c-15a, 17-20
Therefore glorify God in your body.
Jesus turned and saw them following him and said to them,
“What are you looking for?”
They said to him, “Rabbi” — which translated means Teacher —,
“where are you staying?”
He said to them, “Come, and you will see.”
Monday, January 19
Tuesday, January 20
Optional Memorial of Sts. Sebastian and Fabian
Saint Sebastian (died c. 288) was an early Christian saint and martyr. He was killed during the Roman emperor Diocletian’s persecution of Christians. He is commonly depicted in art and literature tied to a post or tree and shot with arrows. Despite this being the most common artistic depiction of Sebastian, he was, according to legend, rescued and healed by Irene of Rome. Shortly afterwards he criticized Diocletian in person and as a result was clubbed to death.
St. Fabian (c. 200 – 20 January 250) was the pope from 10 January 236 to his death in 250. He is famous for the miraculous nature of his election, in which a dove is said to have descended on his head to mark him as the Holy Spirit’s unexpected choice to become the next pope. He died a martyr’s death during the persecution of Christians under the emperor Decius.
Wednesday, January 21
Memorial of Saint Agnes, virgin and martyr
St. Agnes (c. 291 – c. 304) is one of seven women who, along with the Blessed Virgin Mary, are commemorated by name in the Canon of the Mass. Agnes, whose name means “chaste” in Greek, was a beautiful young girl from a wealthy family and therefore had many suitors of high rank. According to legend, the young men, slighted by Agnes’s resolute devotion to religious purity, submitted her name to the authorities as a follower of Christianity. Saint Ambrose wrote an early account of Agnes’s death, stressing her young age, steadfastness, and virginity.
Thursday, January 22
Day of Prayer for the Legal Protection of Unborn Children
Anniversary of Roe v. Wade
Saturday, January 24
Memorial of Saint Francis de Sales, Bishop and Doctor of the Church
Francis de Sales (21 August 1567 – 28 December 1622) was a Bishop of Geneva who became noted for his deep faith and for his zeal and effectiveness as an evangelist. As a young man, Francis de Sales was engulfed by despair after being convinced that he was predestined to hell; his great despair left him bedridden for a year, until he prayed the “Memorare” before a statue of Our Lady of Good Deliverance and consecrated himself to the Blessed Virgin Mary. He ultimately overcame his despair by entrusting himself to the God of love.
As a priest and bishop, Francis was a zealous evangelizer of those who had fallen away from the Church. Despite several attempts on his life, he persevered in his efforts with gentle persistence, ultimately winning the respect of the local Calvinist population and persuading many of them to return to the Catholic Church.
His most famous book, Introduction to the Devout Life, was written especially for laypeople; in it, he counseled charity over penance as a means of progressing in the spiritual life. His writings on the perfections of the heart of Mary as the model of love for God influenced Jean Eudes to develop the devotion to the Hearts of Jesus and Mary.
Francis de Sales was canonized in 1664 and declared a Doctor of the Church in 1877.
Here are seven ways to welcome Christ into your family life this week.
1. Read and reflect on this Sunday’s Scripture readings
This week’s readings are about listening for God’s call, and responding appropriately. Read and explore this Sunday’s readings with your kids before Sunday Mass.
Re-tell the basics of the story in your own words. Young children will love the element of humor in the First Reading. Ask:
- Who did Samuel think was calling him? Who was really calling him?
- Do you know God is calling you?
- Explain about listening for God’s call in your heart.
Older kids and teens
Have your older kids and teens read the readings aloud, then discuss them. Some possible questions:
- What themes connect the First Reading and the Gospel? (Both are about recognizing God and responding appropriately.)
- Why was Samuel so confused? (Find the answer in the reading—the Lord had not revealed himself to Samuel yet.)
- What was Samuel’s response to the Lord? (“Speak, your servant is listening.”) What does his answer mean?
- Jesus asks the two disciples, “What are you looking for?” How would you respond to Jesus’ question? (Point out that, through the Scripture, Jesus’ question is addressed to each of us.)
Extra credit: What does John mean when he calls Jesus “the Lamb of God”? See the note on verse 1:29 in the NABRE.
2. Mark Poverty Awareness Month
The U.S. Catholic Church has designated January as Poverty Awareness month. Here’s what you can do:
- Check out the prayer and action resources at the USCCB Poverty USA web page.
- What does poverty look like in your area? With older kids and teens, go online to research the poverty rates in your county and state.
- Let younger children “go shopping” through your pantry for food to donate to your local food shelf. Encourage them to choose food they would want to give to Jesus, remembering that he said, “I was hungry and you gave me food” (Matthew 25:36).
3. Mark the anniversary of the legalization of abortion
The U.S. Catholic Church is marking the January 22 anniversary of the legalization of abortion with nine days of prayer, penance, and pilgrimage from January 17-25. The event has a wider pro-life focus than just abortion; see the 9DaysForLife novena page for prayers and activities for each of the nine days.
- How do you talk about abortion with young children? In our house, we don’t broach the full reality of the practice until they are in upper elementary grades, if possible. Instead, we do general education about fetal development; we pull out the DVD of the kids’ sonograms, their baby books, and educational materials depicting fetal development, such as this video: Nine Months in the Womb.
4. Pray for Christian unity
This week, the Catholic Church in the U.S. joins other Christian denominations in praying for Christian unity. Here are some ideas:
- Attend the local ecumenical prayer service for Christian unity in your area. (Listen for the announcement in your parish.)
- If there is no ecumenical service in your area, make your own. Invite neighbors or family friends over for an impromptu prayer service using some of the prayer resources provided by the World Council of Churches.
- Read about the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity at the Vatican website.
- Ask your kids what questions they have about the faith traditions of their friends, and then explore answers together.
- Familiarize yourself (and your teens) with the importance of ecumenical dialogue by reading the Catechism of the Catholic Church 813-822 and 830-856.
5. Try praying the Examen as a family
A Daily Examen (or an Examen of Consciousness) is a prayerful method of “checking in” on how well we are living out our Christian faith on a daily basis. Developed by St. Ignatius of Loyola more than four hundred years ago, the Examen invites us to reflect on how God has been present in our day, how we have responded to that presence, and how we might grow in holiness.
If you’d like to introduce your kids to the Examen, check out A Daily Examen for Children and Teens at pbgrace.com.
Find this and many other ideas for family prayer in 77 Ways to Pray with your Kids. Purchase the paperback on Amazon and get the ebook for free.
6. Practice the virtue of listening
This Sunday’s Scripture readings highlight the virtue of listening, making this week the perfect time to practice the virtue of listening. Here’s how:
- Have a short conversation (five minutes will do) about the importance of listening. How does listening (or not) affect relationships in the family? How does it affect our relationship with God? The word listen occurs nearly four hundred times in the Bible; can you think of examples of people listening or not listening to God?
- Talk about what it means to listen. What does it look like? What does it look like in your family? In your prayer life?
- Commit to practicing the virtue of listening for a week. Every family member should be on the lookout for instances when other family members really listen, and point them out when they occur.
- If you have young children, keep some stickers with you, and give your children a sticker (to place on their shirt) every time they exhibit the virtue of listening.
- Model what it means to listen by practicing listening to your kids. Read this article on listening to your kids at PBS Parents.
- Work thirty seconds of silence into your prayer time—e.g., before your meal prayer. Tell your kids to listen to God with their hearts during this time.
7. Read about St. Francis de Sales
- Read about Francis de Sales at the entry above, or follow the link to the full Wikipedia article.
- Read a more kid-friendly version of his life at Loyola Press.
- Teens and parents might be interested in a twenty-minute video biography of St. Francis de Sales produced by the Institute of Salesian Spirituality.
- Francis de Sales used a simple style of writing to speak to the laity, and as a result, his work continues to be widely read even today. Get your teen an introductory volume of his writing, such as The Art of Loving God: Simple Virtues for the Christian Life.
Pope Francis in Sri Lanka:
At Vatican Council II, the Catholic Church declared her deep and abiding respect for other religions. She stated that she ‘rejects nothing of what is true and holy in these religions. She has a high regard for their manner of life and conduct, their precepts and doctrines.’ For my part, I wish to reaffirm the Church’s sincere respect for you, your traditions and beliefs. It is in this spirit of respect that the Catholic Church desires to cooperate with you, and with all people of good will, in seeking the welfare of all Sri Lankans. I hope that my visit will help to encourage and deepen the various forms of interreligious and ecumenical cooperation which have been undertaken in recent years.
Pope Francis, on canonizing Junipero Serra:
In September, God willing, I will canonize Junipero Serra in the United States. He was the evangelizer of the west in the United States.
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