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Be watchful! Be alert! • Family Time

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December 3-9: First Week of Advent

First Sunday of Advent + St. Francis Xavier + St. Nicholas + St. Ambrose + Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception + St. Juan Diego




If our books are on your shopping list, here are a few tips to keep in mind:

  • For free shipping, order no later than December 14.
  • For priority mail shipping, order no later than December 19.
  • For the hardcover Illuminated Rosary set, order by Wednesday, December 6.
  • Almost all of our titles are available on Amazon.com and BN.com. If you’re ordering past our “delivery by Christmas” deadlines, consider ordering from these companies instead. You’ll find a link to the Amazon page on most of our titles’ catalog pages.
  • Don’t forget to use GRACE15 at checkout to get 15% off the retail price.



1. Hey, wake up! That’s the centerpiece of this Sunday’s readings: Wake up, and be prepared, because you never know when God might make a big appearance. Jen Schlameuss-Perry helps you preview the Scriptures with your kids in Breaking Open the Word at Home.

2. Break out the Advent wreath and sing O Come, O Come, Emmanuel. It’s the first week of Advent…which means it’s time to break out the Advent wreath (or make one from scratch) and start singing that Advent classic, O Come, O Come, Emmanuel. This year, we have lyrics and a song sheet you can print out for the whole family.

3. Party like it’s Year B. Celebrate the new Church year this Sunday. We’re entering Year B for our Sunday readings, which means we’ll be hearing a lot from the Gospel of Luke. Our weekday readings will follow Cycle II. (Fun fact: Ever wonder why sometimes the daily reading repeats the Gospel you just heard on Sunday? Sometimes it’s intentional, but a lot of times it’s the way the daily and Sunday readings just happen to mesh up.) Take a few minutes with your kids to read the introduction to the Gospel of Luke; you can find more Cycle A resources, including activities, at Loyola Press.

Do you have a prayer table or home oratory? Have your kids switch up the linens and other prayer objects on it to mark the new season.

4. Shelf the elf; get an Advent Angel instead. Consider taking a break from the mischievous Elf on the Shelf and try an Advent Angel to encourage acts of kindness and to welcome messages from Scripture into your home. Cindy Coleman shares why an Advent Angel is a great Catholic alternative to the Elf on the Shelf.

5. Celebrate the feast of St. Nicholas with Melomakarona. Spicy, orange-flavored, honey-sauced Greek Christmas cookies called Melomakarona are the perfect way to kick off Advent, celebrate St. Nicholas, and talk about the spirit of waiting. Ryan Langr gives us the recipe with points to ponder in this edition of Cooking with Catholic Kids.

6. Celebrate the feast of St. Nicholas with a story, a coloring sheet, prayers, and fun activities. Check out our Feast of St. Nicholas round-up article for ideas for recipes, prayers, books, and other activities to celebrate the day. Then head over to Saints for Kids for a kid-friendly introduction to the saint, plus a free coloring sheet.


7. Meet St. Juan Diego. It’s his feast day on Saturday, December 9, and we have a story and a coloring sheet to celebrate in our Saints for Kids feature.

8. Make an Advent calendar focusing on the Corporal Works of Mercy. This Advent, give your kids an Advent calendar that encourages daily acts of love and kindness. Brian Smith explains just what to do. Also, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops has a neat interactive calendar that you can access online here.

9. Go to Mass on Friday…and explain what the Immaculate Conception isn’t. It’s the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception on Friday, December 8—a holy day of obligation, and also one of the more confusing high feast days on the calendar. Do your kids think it’s about Mary’s conception of Jesus? Don’t worry…we’ve got talking points to explain the doctrine, and activities to celebrate, plus a link to the readings.

10. Shop Catholic this Christmas and knock the girls and guys off your list. In this week’s installation of our series highlighting Catholic artisans and vendors, Jeanie Egolf shares even more great gift ideas.

Miss out on some of our wall-to-wall Advent coverage? Get it all at Peanut Butter & Grace. And pick up lots of nifty resources from the USCCB Advent page.



We’re brainstorming ways to celebrate Advent separately from Christmas in the PB & Grace Parents Facebook group. Head over to the group and share your ideas. It’s a closed group, so you will need to request to be added.



Sunday, Dec. 3

First Sunday of Advent

St. Francis Xavier (1506-1552)

One of the founding members of the Society of Jesus (Jesuits). He was sent on missions all over Asia, including India, Japan and Malaysia. Wherever he went, he lived with the poor and tried to learn the local language and customs; he even adopted Japanese dress to better evangelize the people. Overwhelmed by the need of the people he met, he begged for more missionaries to be sent; in the meantime, he trained the children of one village to visit the sick, reciting the creed and assuring them that if they believed, they would be healed. According to his testimony, many were. He baptized thousands into the faith, leaving flourishing churches wherever he went.


Monday, Dec. 4

St. John of Damascus (c. 676 -749)

A writer, poet, priest and defender of the faith, St. John was one of the last fathers of the Eastern Church. He lived among Arab conquerors and was able to gain their esteem and was given high rank. He wrote three treatises on aspects of Christianity that were very popular. He wrote poetry and songs for the comfort of others—a man had lost his brother, and St. John wrote a hymn for him that eased his grief. He defended the use of icons and images in the Church fiercely, which earned him the title, “The Doctor of Christian Art.”


Tuesday, Dec 5

St. Sabas (c. 439)

St. Sabas was born in Palestine in the 5th century. He was abused as a small child and ran away from home to a monastery, where he was taken in and cared for. He loved the monk’s life, and decided to become one himself. When he was 18 years old, he went to Jerusalem which eventually lead him to a desert near Jericho where he went to live as a hermit in a cave. He survived mostly on wild herbs, but sometimes people would bring him food. His holiness attracted others and a community formed around him, but all he wanted was to be alone to pray, so he would wander off periodically. He often traveled around Palestine, and through conversations with them, brought many people back to the Church. “We must resist the devils, but yield to men for the sake of peace.”


Wednesday, Dec. 6

St. Nicholas (270-343)

The saint everyone thinks they know, but probably don’t. The bishop of Myra was one tough cookie, hanging out with sailors and soldiers, getting imprisoned for his faith at least twice—once during the Roman persecution, and again later by the Council of Nicea for slapping the heretic Arius across the face for, well, being heretical. Then there’s the time he grabbed the sword out of the executioner’s hands in order to save the lives of three innocent men, whom he marched back to the shocked governor’s palace to demand their exoneration. When said governor begged forgiveness, the hot-headed Nicholas initially refused to forgive him, but later relented. Ho, ho, ho, indeed! “I am Nicholas, a sinner, servant of God, and bishop of Myra.”


Thursday, Dec. 7

St. Ambrose (340-397)

The Roman governor whose election as bishop makes the U.S. election process look sane by comparison. Another no-nonsense bishop, Ambrose not only composed many new liturgical hymns, but also refused to allow the emperor to attend Mass after the emperor massacred thousands of innocent people. Another time, he holed up in a basilica from Palm Sunday until Easter with a crowd of Catholics to prevent the empress from taking it over for the Arians. “To occupy their time, Ambrose taught them hymns composed by himself, which they sang under his direction, divided into choirs singing alternate stanzas,” according to EWTN. No more complaining about the length of those Holy Week services, kids! “I will never betray the church of Christ. . . I will die at the foot of the altar rather than desert it.”


Friday, Dec. 8

Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception

On the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception, we celebrate the immaculate (“stainless”) conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary. That means that Mary was free of original sin from the moment Mary’s mother, Anne, became pregnant with her, (This day is not about Mary’s miraculous conception of Jesus!) That made her the perfect mother for Jesus, the holy son of God, who came to take away all sin.


Saturday, Dec. 9

St. Juan Diego (1474-1548)

The humble Mexican Indian to whom the Virgin of Guadalupe appeared on this date in 1531. She spoke to him in Nahuatl, his native language, saying, “Juanito, my son, where are you going?” His feast day falls three days before the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe.



  • Second Sunday of Advent (Dec. 10)
  • Our Lady of Guadalupe (Dec. 12)
  • St. Lucy (Dec. 13)
  • St. John of the Cross (Dec. 14)



…are seeing The Star, an animated version of the Christmas story told from the perspective of some of the animals present in the manger. “Director Timothy Reckart and screenwriter Carlos Kotkin skillfully balance religious themes such as the importance of prayer and the value of forgiveness with a more secular message about pursuing your dreams,” says Catholic News Service, while Aletia says that it highlights Mary in a positive way that Catholics will appreciate. Be aware, though, that it is getting mixed reviews from critics, many of whom call it uneven.



In response to recent FCC proposals that would weaken regulations to protect net neutrality, Bishop Christopher Coyne of Burlington, Vermont, chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on Communications, expressed the need for an open and fair internet.

“Strong net neutrality protections are critical to the faith community to function and connect with our members, essential to protect and enhance the ability of vulnerable communities to use advanced technology, and necessary for any organization that seeks to organize, advocate for justice or bear witness in the crowded and over-commercialized media environment,” he said in a statement. You can read it in full on the bishops’ conference website.



“We need to encounter the poor and learn how to share so that it becomes a way of life.”

—Pope Francis



Family Time! is edited by Regina Lordan and Jerry Windley-Daoust.



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Remember to grab 15% off your order at Gracewatch Media with coupon code GRACE15.

Here’s a list of most of our books, ordered by publication date (most recent first).

The Catholic Family Book of Prayers
Do you want to introduce your kids to the richness of the Christian prayer tradition? The best way to do that is to pray with them, and now there’s a beautiful collection of Catholic prayers and meditations designed just for that purpose: The Catholic Family Book of Prayers: A Treasury of Prayers and Meditations for Families to Pray Together. It’s packed with prayers, blessings, meditations, saintly wisdom, and artwork—all selected specifically for Catholic families to pray together. Available in digital, softcover, hardcover, and handcrafted editions.

MISSION:CHRISTIAN December-January includes a saint, Scripture reading, Christian mission, prayer prompt, and fun facts in every daily entry…plus, special features and activities for Christmas and Advent.

Lectio Divina for Teens: Reading God’s Messages to You
Lectio Divina for Teens: Reading God’s Messages to You introduces young people to the ancient prayer practice of lectio divina in a guided journal format. It features a brief, accessible introduction to lectio divina, walking readers through the method step by step, then turns them loose to try the method themselves in eight pre-selected readings. Seven additional blank journal entries provide space for readers to choose their own readings; a list of suggested texts is included. The colorful, beautifully designed interior provides a warm and welcome space for reflection and prayer. Lectio Divina for Teens has received an imprimatur from the Diocese of Winona.

The All Saints’ Day Party
Maggie and Max can’t wait for the All Saints’ Day party. There’s just one problem: they can’t decide which saint to dress up as…and the party is just a week away! Join Maggie and Max as their friends and family tell them about six holy men and women who offer living examples of what it means to be a saint…even if you’re a kid!

Turning Grief Inside Out: Surviving Pregnancy Loss with God’s Help
Drawing on her own personal experience of pregnancy loss, Christine Hendersen offers practical and spiritual advice—as well as a hopeful path forward—for grieving mothers and the people who love them.

Be Yourself! A Journal for Catholic Girls: “Be who God meant you to be, and you will set the world on fire!” Those words are at the heart of Be Yourself! A Journal for Catholic Girls, which is designed to help girls explore their identity and purpose in life in light of the wisdom of the Catholic Church, including half a dozen female saints. Ages 9 and up.

I Can Be Happy, Too: A Book about Attitudes uses simple rhyme accompanied by Scripture verses and sweet, expressive illustrations, to teach children that while we can’t control the bad things that happen to us, we can control how we respond to disappointment and adversity.

Blessed Is the Fruit of Thy Womb: Rosary Reflections on Miscarriage, Stillbirth, and Infant Loss invites grieving mothers to let the Blessed Mother accompany them on their journey of grief and healing. Mary not only understands their loss, but wishes to bring mothers to healing through the saving work of her son. For each mystery of the rosary, author Heidi Indahl compassionately shares her own experiences of miscarriage, stillbirth, and infant loss, offering insights about how those losses are connected to the experience of Jesus and Mary as revealed by the mysteries of the rosary.

MISSION:CHRISTIAN June-July 2017 includes features on Pentecost, the Solemnity of the Sacred Heart, St. Pierre Toussaint, St. Kateri Tekawitha, and more. A checklist of fun summer activities, plus “Christian missions,” Scripture readings, prayer prompts, and saint profiles for every day will keep your kids busy!

In the Realm of Mist and Mercy, our new YA fantasy/adventure novel with a Catholic heart and sensibility; it comes with an accompanying Lesson Plan book that helps parents and kids connect the story to teachings of the Catholic faith.

The Illuminated Rosary hardcover complete set. “I can lead the rosary now!” That’s what we hear kids saying when they have one of the Illuminated Rosary books in their laps. The words of the prayers are printed on every page, opposite a sacred artwork depicting the mystery of the rosary being said. Kids love these books, but so do adults and grandparents! Available in hardcover (allow extra time for shipping) or softcover sets.

The Stations of the Cross for Children. Here’s a downloadable PDF with sacred art depicting each of the Stations of the Cross, along with a simple reflection and prayer, geared for young children.

77 Ways to Pray with Your Kids, now in hardcover from Dynamic Catholic; to celebrate, we’re offering hardcover copies for $12, about 50% off the cover price, while supplies last. Whether you are just getting started with family prayer or wish to broaden your horizons, 77 Ways to Pray with Your Kids can help, offering practical, kid-friendly guides to Christian prayer practices both ancient and new. Features include: age-appropriate adaptations for young children, older kids, and teens; articles on a wide range of practices; Talking Points…explanations of prayer practices that kids might have questions about; cross-references to the Catechism, Scripture, and church documents; an appendix containing thirty-three common and useful Catholic prayers; a quick-find index makes it easy to find prayer ideas, and doubles as a checklist to track your progress.

Molly McBride and the Plaid Jumper. Kids love the spunky young Molly McBride and her feisty sidekick, the wolf-pet Francis. In this book, Molly faces off against the dreaded plaid jumper that she’s going to have to wear when she starts school in the fall. Along with her new friends, Dominic and Fr. Matt, she learns all about uniforms and our true identity in God.

Paddy and the Wolves. Young Paddy can’t sit still during morning prayers, but he’s more than happy to help the shepherd, Barra, watch sheep for the day! But who will watch Paddy when he wanders into the woods? As he explores the wilderness of coastal Britain, Paddy encounters many delights and dangers—and ultimately, the One who watches over him through it all. Available as a hardcover or softcover storybook, or a coloring book with complete text; also available is a downloadable board game. Features the art of Catholic folk artist Jen Norton.

The Children’s Little Advent BookThe Children’s Little Advent Book is designed to help parents with children ages 4-7 on a journey through Advent to Christmas. Each day’s entry includes a brief Scripture reading, a reflection, discussion questions, a brief prayer, and a simple coloring page for children to complete after praying with their families. With The Children’s Little Advent Book, parents have an Advent resource specifically designed for short family prayer services with young children.

Corporal Works of Mercy Cards. Teach a lesson about the Works of Mercy with these downloadable cards and teaching guide.

Little Lessons from St. Francis of Assisi. “Make me an instrument of your peace.”  The Peace Prayer of St. Francis, beloved by people of all faiths around the world, beautifully captures the spirit of “the poor little man” from Assisi, as well as the aspirations of our time: for hope, for reconciliation, for peace.

Flowers for Jesus: A Story of Thérèse of Lisieux as a Young Girl. Little Thérèse Martin could be a very stubborn young girl. All too often, if someone wanted her to say “yes,” she wanted to say “no”! But then, as she is preparing for her First Communion, Thérèse discovers a way to turn her everyday trials and tribulations into something beautiful for Jesus. Join Thérèse (and her family) as she learns to “gather roses from amid thorns.” Available in hardcover and softcover editions.

La Florecita de Jesús: Una Parábola de Santa Teresita Del Niño Jesús. This is the Spanish-language edition of The Little Flower. La autora Becky Arganbright ha adoptado las enseñanzas de las orecitas de santa Teresita en esta encantadora parábola para niños. La joven Teresita aprende que aunque es pequeña, con la ayuda de Dios, su pequeñez puede ser una manera de hacer grandes cosas para Dios.  La ilustradora Tracey Arvidson da vida a la joven Teresa Martín, y a sus ores en la parábola, con sus maravillosas ilustraciones.

Molly McBride and the Purple Habit. Meet Molly McBride! Molly loves her new purple habit — it’s just like the ones her friends, the Children of Mary Sisters, wear. She loves it so much, in fact, that she doesn’t want to take it off…not even for her sister’s big day! Join Molly and her wolf-pet Francis as they learn all about nuns, habits, and giving your heart to Jesus.

Living Sparks of God: Stories of Saints for Young Catholics to Color. Here are fourteen lively two-minute stories to introduce young Catholics to some of the Church’s most beloved saints. Each story is accompanied by two coloring pages: a gorgeously detailed portrait of the saint, and a scene of the saint in action.

The Gift of Birth: Discerning God’s Presence During Childbirth. Is the process of giving birth a medical problem to be solved, a hurdle to be overcome on the way to motherhood . . . or is it something more? Could it be, as Susan Windley-Daoust proposes, that giving birth is a gift from God, laden with signs that speak to women about their identity, their calling, and their destiny? If so, then learning to read those embodied signs during pregnancy and labor could transform the way women experience childbirth. These signs reveal that God is not only powerfully present in the whole birthing process, but desires to actively work with women to bring forth new life.

Little Lessons from St. Thérèse of Lisieux: An Introduction to Her Words and WisdomLittle Lessons from St. Thérèse of Lisieux presents brief excerpts from Story of a Soul as a way of introducing those unfamiliar with Thérèse to some of the essential themes of her spirituality. The words of St. Thérèse  are accompanied by the artwork of award-winning watercolorist Jeanine Crowe, a wonderful aid to prayerful meditation on the words and wisdom of St. Thérèse of Lisieux. Little Lessons from St. Thérèse of Lisieux includes twenty-one selections from the words of St. Thérèse, twenty artworks, and ten questions for reflection and discussion.

The Little Flower: A Parable of St. Thérèse of Liseux. Becky Arganbright has adapted St. Thérèse’s lesson of the little flowers into a delightful parable for children. The young Thérèse learns that even though she might be little, with God’s help, her littleness can be a way of doing great things for the Kingdom of God. Illustrator Tracey Arvidson brings the young Thérèse Martin (and the flowers of her parable) to life in gorgeous illustrations.

Sense of the Sacred: Illuminated Book of Catholic PrayersSense of the Sacred: Illuminated Book of Catholic Prayers contains thirty traditional Catholic prayers every child should have at hand, each accompanied by a beautiful, hand-drawn illustration to aid in prayerful meditation on the mysteries of the faith.

Sense of the Sacred: A Coloring Book for Young Illuminators. For centuries, the Catholic Church has used art to illuminate the sacred mysteries of the Faith. Now, your child can follow in that tradition by making sacred art with the help of Sense of the Sacred: Coloring Book for Young Illuminators. This book contains 30 hand-drawn illustrations and accompanying Bible verses, drawing on the rich legacy of statues and stained glass in our Catholic Faith.

Follow Jerry Windley-Daoust:

Publisher, Gracewatch Media

Jerry Windley-Daoust is a writer, editor, and father of five. He writes essays and stories at Windhovering and is the show-runner for Gracewatch Media, a small Catholic publisher. You can follow his latest publishing projects at gracewatch.org.

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