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God Is the Joy of My Soul • Family Time

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December 17-23: Third Week of Advent

Third Sunday of Advent + O Antiphons + St. Flannan + Blessed Pope Urban V




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1. Rejoice! We call the third Sunday in Advent Gaudete Sunday because “gaudete” means rejoice. In the readings for Dec. 17, we’re given a reason to rejoice—because God’s justice is at hand. In this week’s Breaking Open the Word at Home, Jen Schlameuss-Perry offers her reflections on the readings, along with discussion questions for the whole family.

2. Celebrate Gaudate Sunday by lighting a rose candle, baking lemon-clove cookies, and watching the pope bless baby Jesus figurines. While those three candles burn brightly on your Advent wreath, try this relatively simple lemon-clove cookie recipe that symbolizes the light of summer in the darkness of winter, a reminder of Jesus’ impending birth as Advent draws to a close. And check out the Sunday noon Angelus in St. Peter’s Square, when the faithful gather with their baby Jesus figurines for a special papal blessing. You can read about this neat tradition in “Bambinelli Sunday: A Christmas Tradition,” a picture book by Amy Welborn and  watch the Vatican live on YouTube to view St. Peter’s Square in real time (check out that beautiful Christmas tree!).

3, Pray the third week of Advent with O Antiphons, Las Posadas, and a Christmas Novena—and find the quiet corner of Advent. Tap into some ancient ways of praying the last days of Advent with our article on these traditional practices for the third week of Advent. Plus, we offer suggestions for finding time for quiet anticipation. (Hey, this encore article from 2015 contains some feast days from this year’s second week of Advent—no worries, you can carry on without them!

4. Count down to Christmas with an “O Antiphons” paper chain and more. The “O Antiphons” are an ancient liturgical antiphon sung or recited during the last seven days of Advent (from Dec. 17 to Dec. 23) as part of the Liturgy of Hours. Here’s how you can pray with your family:


5. Play detective with St. Peter Canisius. St. Canisius (whose feast day is Thursday, Dec. 21) helped save the Council of Trent by carefully transferring top-secret documents across unfriendly territory. Read more about this smart Jesuit and learn how to play a simple and fun game requiring careful observation skills in this week’s Playing with the Saints!

6. Write a letter to JesusDo your kids write a letter to Santa? Encourage them to write a letter to Jesus, too. “What do you want me to do for you?” Jesus asks us in the Bible; make the letter your response, keeping it simple enough for your children to be able to imitate.

7. Use these five easy ways to celebrate Christmas with your toddlerChristmas is a magical, fun time for every child. Presents, snow, time off school, and crazy family members — what’s not to love about Christmastime for a child? But with everything being thrown at them, sometimes the real meaning of Christmas gets lost in the mix. Here are five easy ways to show toddler that Christmas is Jesus’ birthday.

8. Join the Advent Conspiracy. The “Advent Conspiracy” is the clever name for a global movement to reclaim Advent as a time of giving and loving. As the Advent Conspiracy website describes it: “In 2006 five pastors imagined a better Christmas practice for their own communities. Today, Advent Conspiracy is a global movement of people and churches resisting the cultural Christmas narrative of consumption by choosing a revolutionary Christmas through Worshipping Fully, Spending Less, Giving More and Loving All.” According to the group, American consumers will spend more than $600 billion on Christmas this year — enough to provide clean water to all the world’s people 60 times over. Check out the website for a fun video, plus ideas for celebrating Advent.

9. Pray the Canticle of Mary with your kids. The first prayer of the Church, this is a paradoxical prayer of triumph through humility that leads us to Christ. It is Mary’s own prayer, which Luke uses to frame the meaning of the entire Gospel. Here are four reasons why to give it a try.

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 talking about how Advent is going, particularly for those families who haven’t decorated their tree yet. And we’re brainstorming activity ideas for pre-teen girls in a church group. Join the discussion in the PB & Grace Parents Facebook group. It’s a closed group, so you will need to request to be added.

Speaking of girls, Catholic speaker Leah Darrow interviewed Amy Brooks, author of “Be Yourself! Journal for Catholic Girls,” on her podcast.



Sunday, Dec. 17

Third Sunday of Advent

O Antiphons begin

Pope Francis’s 81st birthday


Monday, Dec. 18

Blessed Anthony Grassi (1592-1671)

When he entered the Oratorian Fathers at the age of 17, he earned a reputation as a “walking dictionary” because he was such a good student. He eventually became a priest. At the age of 29, he was struck by lightning while he was praying at the Holy House at Loreto; the lightning cured him of a stomach ailment, and deepened his devotion to God. He gained a reputation as a fair and gentle leader and an excellent confessor who had the gift of reading souls, and sometimes foreseeing the future. “Antony was called ‘The Angel of Peace’ because of the gift he had of reconciling enemies. He was also called “The Father of the Poor,” because he continually gave away all his possessions, even his clothes, to those in need,” says the Birmingham Oratory. “He who hears Mass with devotion every morning cannot fail to be a friend of God.”


St. Flannan (7th century)

The Irish monk and bishop whose hands once lit up to help him keep doing his holy work at night.

Tuesday, Dec 19

Blessed Pope Urban V (1310-1370)
The humble Benedictine monk  and man of the people who, as pope, lived simply and pressed for reform. He worked to curb abuses among the clergy, forbade the harassment or forced conversion of Jews, founded several universities and colleges, and planted vineyards around Rome. Interestingly, he was elected pope only after the man elected by the cardinals as pope declined the job, and the cardinals turned to someone outside their number, according to Franciscan Media.


Wednesday, Dec. 20

St. Dominic of Silos (c. 1000-1073)
Dominic was born in about the year 1000 as a poor boy in Spain. His youth was spent farming, and he became a Benedictine priest in his adulthood. He founded a Beneditcine community where people used to come from far and wide for healing. After he died, a woman made a pilgrimage to his tomb where Dominic appeared to her and told her she would have a son. That son turned out to be St. Dominic who founded the Dominican Order.


Thursday, Dec. 21

St. Peter Canisius (1529-1597)
The great Jesuit theologian, Catholic reformer, preacher, and doctor of the Church who wrote the first Catholic catechism. His fellow Jesuits used to urge him to stop working so hard, to which he said: “If you have too much to do, with God’s help you will find time to do it all.”


Friday, Dec. 22

Blessed Jacopone da Todi (d. 1306)
The lawyer who lived a lavish lifestyle until the death of his holy wife. Her accidental death prompted him to give all his possessions to the poor and become a Franciscan penitent, doing penance for his sins in public. His old friends mocked him as “crazy Jim.” After many years, he joined a monastery and composed many hymns, including “Stabat Mater.”


Saturday, Dec. 23

St. John Kanty (1390-1473)

The Polish priest and theologian who served the poor and lived a humble, penitential life.



  • Fourth Sunday of Advent (Dec. 24)
  • Vigil of the Solemnity of the Nativity of the Lord (Dec. 24)
  • Solemnity of the Nativity of the Lord (Dec. 25)
  • Octave of Christmas (Dec. 25 – Jan. 1)
  • Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God (Jan. 1)
  • World Day of Prayer for Peace (Jan. 1)



…are downloading the Little Way to Pray from Equipping Catholic Families, a 14- page e-book with some thoughtful reflections and practical tips for personal prayer as well as printable Pocket Prayer Prompts. It’s a free download through Dec. 25. Equipping Catholic Families has lots and lots of great resources, and we’ll be featuring some of them in the coming weeks…but in the meantime, if you like Peanut Butter & Grace resources, you should check out Equipping Catholic Families, too.



In response to violence in the Middle East after President Donald Trump’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and to move the U.S. embassy there, Pope Francis has expressed “deep concern for the situation.” The Vatican has long maintained the need for a special status for Jerusalem, a sacred city for Christians, Jews and Muslims around the world. Listen to a report on the issue from Vatican Radio. And here is a link to the Vatican Press Office’s official statement in which the pope calls for “wisdom and prudence” regarding the situation.



Advent “is a time for recognizing the voids to fill in our life, to smooth out the roughness of pride and to make space for Jesus Who comes.”

—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 Regina Lordan:
Regina Lordan, a digital editor at Peanut Butter & Grace, is a mother of three with master’s degrees in education and political science. She currently reviews books for Catholic News Service and is a former assistant international editor of Catholic News Service.

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