This week we celebrate the Solemnity of the Ascension of the Lord with a hilltop picnic and a look at the meaning of the Ascension. Plus: 9 tips for a successful family prayer time, another fun mealtime game, two amazing twentieth-century martyrs, a movie suggestion, and a cool way to promote the words “thank you” in your home.
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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. How does your family “proclaim the gospel to every creature”?
Older kids: Have your kids read the Sunday Scriptures before Mass (Saturday evening works well). Then explore the Scriptures with these activities:
- Ask: Which reading struck you the most? Why?
- Ask: Did you notice a common theme or connection between the different readings? (On most Sundays, the readings do share a common theme or connection; finding that connection can deepen your understanding.)
- Study: Read the Scriptures in their original context and check out scholarly notes at the New American Bible Revised Edition.
- Study: Explore the readings in greater depth at The Sunday Website.
- Ask: What do you think the readings imply for the way we live together as a family? How is the Holy Spirit speaking to us in these readings? (The Holy Spirit not only inspires the sacred authors, but those who read the Scriptures prayerfully.)
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.
Get started with family prayer time
Do you set aside a particular time to pray as a family? Do you struggle with praying together as a family? Stick with it, even when family prayer time doesn’t seem fruitful. Keep experimenting with different styles and types of prayer to see what works with your family at this stage in its life.
Find more tips for getting started with family prayer time at Peanut Butter & Grace: 9 Tips for a Successful Family Prayer Time.
Practice courtesy by writing thank you notes to one another
This week, encourage your family to practice saying “thank you” to one another. One way to boost the practice is to encourage everybody to actually write short thank you notes to family members. Purchase an inexpensive set of thank you notes (check your local dollar store) and set them out on your family prayer table or on the dinner table. When someone sees a family member doing something that deserves thanks, they can write that person a note and leave it at his or her place at the table (or on his or her bed).
At the end of the week, collect all of the thank you notes and do a little debriefing. Who did the best job of recognizing thank you moments? What did it feel like to be thanked? How did saying thank you change the mood of the family?
Post the notes on a door or another prominent place for another week as a reminder to continue the practice.
Talk about the Ascension
Do your younger kids know the story of the Ascension? Do your older kids know what it means? Set aside time this Sunday to talk about the Ascension—maybe during your Ascension picnic (see Celebrate the Ascension, below).
The Compendium of the Catechism of the Catholic Church describes the Ascension in this way:
After forty days during which Jesus showed himself to the apostles with ordinary human features which veiled his glory as the Risen One, Christ ascended into heaven and was seated at the right hand of the Father. He is the Lord who now in his humanity reigns in the everlasting glory of the Son of God and constantly intercedes for us before the Father. He sends us his Spirit and he gives us the hope of one day reaching the place he has prepared for us.
You can dig deeper into the fascinating theology of the ascension at the Catechism of the Catholic Church, #659-667.
Dinner question: What good is a martyr?
Dig into the stories of this week’s modern martyrs. Franz Jägerstätter refused to enlist in the German army (against the advice of his pastor and bishop) because he believed the Nazi movement was satanic. Fr. Christian de Chergé and his companions chose to stand up to violence by being witnesses of solidarity. “I could not desire such a death,” he wrote. And yet, the letter he wrote before his death is full of joy and gratitude.
At a family meal this week, ask your older kids and teens: What good do you think these men’s deaths accomplished? Are there any beliefs or values that you would die for rather than compromise?
Celebrate the Ascension
Catholic Cuisine says it was traditional in some places to picnic on a hilltop for the Feast of the Ascension; you can find a suggested menu and blessing at their website.
Meal game: Different drummers
Here’s another fun meal game from the Family Dinner Project: “Pick one person to be the leader. The Leader begins tapping a beat on the table (or clapping). The others around the table begin tapping or clapping along with the Leader. The Leader can change the beat whenever they choose, and everyone else must follow suit. Then, without warning, the Leader stops drumming. The last person to stop drumming is out.”
Celebrate a story of forgiveness
The movie Of Gods and Men (2000, PG-13) tells the true story of the Trappists of the Monastery Notre-Dame de l’Atlas of Tibhirine, located in the Algerian desert. As civil war erupted in Algeria in 1996, the monks were encouraged to leave due to the threat from Islamic extremists. They chose to stay in order to continue serving the poor community near the monastery. Eventually, rebels invaded the monastery, kidnapped seven of the monks, and marched them into the mountains, where they were martyred. In a letter discovered after their deaths, Fr. Christian de Chergé, prior of the monastery, forgave his “last-minute friend, you who know not what you do.” You can read his stunning letter in its entirety at First Things and watch a trailer for the movie at its website.