This week’s Sunday Scriptures about new beginnings inspired a simple rainbow craft for teaching kids about covenants and liturgical colors; also, we continue our pray-fast-give Lenten journey with the Giving Jar, cool Lenten recipes (Ugali with Bean Soup, anyone?), and more.
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COMING UP THIS WEEK
Sunday, February 8
“This is the sign that I am giving for all ages to come,
of the covenant between me and you
and every living creature with you:
I set my bow in the clouds to serve as a sign
of the covenant between me and the earth….”
Christ suffered for sins once,
the righteous for the sake of the unrighteous,
that he might lead you to God.
The Spirit drove Jesus out into the desert,
and he remained in the desert for forty days,
Monday, February 23
Born in royalty, St. Milburga was the older sister to Sts. Mildred and Mildgytha. Very prayerful and holy, even animals and nature would obey her commands. She died in February 715.
Thursday, February 26
Isabel of France was the daughter of Louis VIII of France, but Princess Isabel rejected her royal title and married life in order to follow and promote the new movement recently begun by Sts. Francis and Clare. She served the poor and followed the Franciscan rule in her own home, and in 1256 founded the Poor Clare Monastery of Longchamp.
Here are seven ways to welcome Christ into your family life this week.
1. Read and reflect on Sunday’s reading [ages 3+]
This Sunday’s readings are all about new beginnings. In the Book of Genesis, we hear about the new beginning that God planned for the Earth following the devastation of the flood; this new beginning was marked by a covenant, and the sign of the covenant was to be the rainbow. (See Catechism 56-58.) In the Gospel reading, after spending forty days in the desert, Jesus begins his mission by calling his listeners to a new beginning: “Repent, and believe in the gospel.” Your kids may recall those words from when they received ashes on Ash Wednesday.
You might want to have older kids listen to Father Robert Barron’s homily on the first reading, in which he draws parallels between the ark and the Mass.
With younger kids
Find a good children’s Bible or storybook to help you tell your younger children about Noah, the flood, and the sign of the rainbow.
Questions to consider
Use some of these questions to spark a discussion about this Sunday’s readings:
- According to the first reading, what does the rainbow symbolize? (God’s covenant.)
- Who did God make the covenant with? (Noah, his children, and all the living creatures of the Earth.)
- Do you know what a covenant is? (A solemn agreement between human beings or between God and a human being involving mutual commitments or guarantees.) What does God say he will do in the covenant?
- The second reading (from 1 Peter) mentions Noah and the ark. What does Peter say Noah’s passage through the flood “prefigures”? (The saving waters of baptism.)
- What drove Jesus out to the desert? What happened to him there?
- What does this short passage suggest to you about what our own experience of the forty days of Lent might be like?
God’s Word for the Week
- Post this line from the second reading somewhere prominent in your home this week (e.g., on a dry erase board, in your home oratory, or on the refrigerator): ““This is the time of fulfillment. The kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the gospel.” (1 Corinthians 10:31)
2. Make a rainbow [ages 3-12]
Sunday’s reading about rainbows offers a lot of teaching possibilities for kids of all ages. Here’s what to do.
First, make a rainbow; you may want to use liturgical colors (e.g., the colors the Church uses in its worship throughout the year), which are white, gold, green, red, rose, and violet (and black, but you may not want to include that in your rainbow):
- Use window markers to make a rainbow on a window or mirror in your house.
- Purchase streamers to make a big rainbow in a hallway or room in your house.
- Draw a rainbow on a large piece of paper.
- Or make a rainbow craft that you find online (there are hundreds on Pinterest alone).
Next, help your kids dig into the religious symbolism of the rainbow in one or more of these ways:
- Baptism connection. As you make your rainbow, remind your kids of the connection that 1 Peter makes between the rainbow and baptism. What is needed for a rainbow? Water. What did the ark pass through to reach God’s new beginning for creation? Water. What do we need to make a new beginning in Christ? The water of baptism.
- Covenant colors. Explain to your kids that the rainbow is a sign of God’s covenant with us. (Younger kids: The rainbow is a sign of God’s love.) Brainstorm some ways that we live out our covenant with God, and then find words that capture those ideas and write one of the words on each color. You can make your list match the initial letters of the colors (for example, purple = prayer or praise; gold = giving; white = welcoming strangers).
- Liturgical colors. Alternatively, explore the meaning of the liturgical colors. Write on each stripe of the rainbow the season that the color is used in the Church. Explain that the Church is like the ark in that it delivers us safely through the waters of baptism; therefore it is fitting that it “wears a rainbow” in its liturgical colors.
- Name the covenants. Older kids can be encouraged to label each of the colors of the rainbow with one of the six major Biblical covenants, which you can find listed here.
3. Read Pope Francis’ Message to Youth [ages 12+]
The pope this week released his message to youth for this year’s World Youth Day, which is celebrated every year on Palm Sunday, and once every three years during a global gathering of Catholic youth. (The 2016 World Youth Day will be held in Krakow, Poland.)
The message is unique in that it is directed very specifically at young people. Share it with your teens (and tweens); you’ll find a link to the full text in the What the Church Is Saying section below, or you can check out the Vatican Radio summary of the text.
4. Get ready to give with a Giving Jar [ages 4-10]
A Giving Jar is a very simple way to motivate younger kids to practice “giving” during Lent:
- Find a jar or a coffee cup or a decorative bowl (you get the idea) and place it on your home prayer table (or in the middle of your meal table). We’re suggesting a jar here because a clear container helps motivate kids to fill it up. Whatever it is, christen it your “Lent Giving Jar.”
- Encourage kids to think about ways that they can go “above and beyond” to give to others throughout the day: complimenting one another, saying “Good morning!”, asking someone how their day was, doing extra chores, sharing, and so on.
- Tell your kids that every evening (as often as is convenient), you will have a “check in” about ways they might have been giving throughout the day. This brief activity can be tied to meal times or evening prayer times. (It’s also a very basic form of a daily examen.)
- Be prepared to coach and prompt the kids. Try to “catch them” being extra nice during the day so you can supply an example of something they did that was an example of being giving. Siblings can also be encouraged to report on one another’s acts of giving.
- Allow your kids to place a coin in the jar for every act of giving they performed throughout the day. The coins can come from your loose change or from your household coin jar.
- Tell your kids that at the end of Lent, you will donate the money in the jar to Catholic Relief Services to help those without shelter, water, food, medicine, or toilets.
- As an added incentive, tell your kids that on Easter, the jar will be filled with candy to whatever level the coins reach. The candy, which can be eaten throughout the Easter season, symbolizes the sweetness of giving.
5. Pray: Prepare for and go to Confession [ages 7+]
The beginning of Lent is a great time to think about how to get your family to Confession. If this is something your family struggles with, check out Celebrating Reconciliation with Kids: 9 Ways to Get Into the Habit, which also includes a section on overcoming common objections to the sacrament.
Be sure to also check out Confessing My Sins to a Priest, an essay by Jennifer Fulwiler at Conversion Diary about her first reconciliation as an adult convert. She had thought she had “taken care of” her sins through her private prayer life, but found a deeper sense of forgiveness in a powerful encounter with the sacrament of Penance and Reconciliation.
6. Fast: Make (and share!) a new Lenten recipe [ages 3+]
Catholic Relief Services has posted a global Lenten kitchen with meatless recipes from around the world. You can practice solidarity with people around the world and expand your horizons next Friday with Ugali with Bean Soup, West African Peanut Stew, or Fattet Laban. From the CRS Global Kitchen:
Fasting from meat on Fridays during Lent helps us “acquire a mastery over our instincts and freedom of heart.” (CCC 2043). Fasting is meant to free us. It helps us feel our physical hunger, and in turn, our spiritual hunger for the infinite love found only in God.
This Lent, eat in solidarity with families around the world with one of the CRS Rice Bowl meatless meals below. Join Fr. Leo Patalinghug of Grace Before Meals in the CRS Rice Bowl Global Kitchen to learn how to prepare each meal.
Here’s Fr. Leo’s first video in the series:
Combine this activity with the Lenten practice of giving by doubling your recipe and sharing it with a neighbor.
7. Give: Adopt a refugee family [ages 5+]
Care for refugees has been a special concern of the pope in recent weeks, especially with all of the upheaval around the world:
- Thousands of Syrian and Iraqi refugees have been braving rough seas in a desperate attempt to reach Italy, many of them perishing in the process.
- Syrian refugees have been battling winter weather in Lebanon.
- Thousands of Ukrainian refugees have been uprooted by the conflict there.
Check out the CRS Emergencies page with your kids to see who needs help, and to inspire them to fill up their CRS rice bowl during Lent.
WHAT THE CHURCH IS SAYING…
“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God”. Dear young men and women, as you see, this beatitude speaks directly to your lives and is a guarantee of your happiness. So once more I urge you: Have the courage to be happy!
Should the bond of fraternity which forms in the family between children arise in an educational atmosphere of openness to others, it is the great school of freedom and peace. In the family, among siblings, human coexistence is learned, how one must share in society. Perhaps we are not always aware of it, but the family itself introduces fraternity into the world! Beginning with this first experience of fraternity, nourished by affection and education at home, the style of fraternity radiates like a promise upon the whole of society and on its relations among peoples.