This week we’re all about the healing ministry of Jesus, and how it continues in the Church today; plus, it’s the Feast of Our Lady of Lourdes, and we’ve got three simple yet powerful ways to celebrate Valentine’s Day with your kids.
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COMING UP THIS WEEK
This week is National Marriage Week.
Sunday, February 8
Job 7:1-4, 6-7
Job spoke, saying:
Is not man’s life on earth a drudgery?
Are not his days those of hirelings?
He is a slave who longs for the shade,
a hireling who waits for his wages.
1 Corinthians 9:16-19, 22-23
Brothers and sisters:
If I preach the gospel, this is no reason for me to boast,
for an obligation has been imposed on me,
and woe to me if I do not preach it!
When it was evening, after sunset,
they brought to him all who were ill or possessed by demons.
Monday, February 9
In 1858, Bernadette Soubirous, a 14-year-old peasant girl, reported seeing a miraculous lady in white while gathering firewood with her sisters. The lady appeared to Bernadette over a period of months, revealing herself as “the Immaculate Conception.” She instructed Bernadette to dig in the ground, revealing a natural spring, and requested that a chapel be built at the site. At first ridiculed, questioned, and belittled by Church officials and other contemporaries, Bernadette insisted on her vision. Eventually the Church believed her and she was canonized by Pope Pius XI in 1933. Today, Lourdes is a major pilgrimage site.
Tuesday, February 10
Together with her twin brother, Saint Scholastica helped establish western monasticism and founded the Benedictine order.
Saturday, February 14
According to the Fish Eaters website: “St. Valentine (Valentino) was a Roman priest who performed marriages in spite of Claudius II’s law against such (Claudius believed that marriage was distracting to his soldiers, so outlawed it to them for a time). He was martyred in A.D. 270 on the Flammian way. . . . Other than this, little is known. Because two other St. Valentines share this Feast day (“Valentine” was an extremely common name for Christians as it has the same root as the word “valor”), often their stories are confused, but it is the Roman priest-martyr whom we honor during the liturgy.” Not surprisingly given his marriage ministry, St. Valentine became associated with lovers.
Born in the 9th century, these two saints were brothers. Because their father was an officer in a part of Greece inhabited by many Slavs, both brothers ultimately became missionaries, teachers and patrons of the Slavic peoples. Cyril’s first work was to invent an alphabet, still used in some Eastern liturgies. His followers probably formed the Cyrillic alphabet (for example, modern Russian) from Greek capital letters. Together they translated the Gospels, the psalter, Paul’s letters and the liturgical books into Slavonic, and composed a Slavonic liturgy.
Methodius was papal legate for all the Slavic peoples, and consecrated a bishop. Legend has it that in a feverish period of activity, Methodius translated the whole Bible into Slavonic in eight months.
Here are seven ways to welcome Christ into your family life this week.
1. Read and reflect on Sunday’s reading [ages 3+]
What’s going on in this Sunday’s readings? First, we have Job (pronounced with a long “o”), the man who lost everything, giving a speech about the drudgery and misery of life; he finds no rest from life’s misery even in the night: “The night drags on; I am filled with restlessness until the dawn.” The Gospel affirms the truth of pain, illness, suffering, and even “the night” (“when it was evening, after sunset”), but this particular night is relieved by a new kind of light—Jesus, whose healing presence makes things right again.
This is a wonderful Gospel to act out, especially the first part in which Jesus heals Peter’s mother-in-law. Young children will readily identify with someone stuck in bed sick! Alternatively, paraphrase the Gospel in your own words, or using a children’s Bible.
Questions to consider
Use some of these questions to spark a discussion about this Sunday’s readings:
- What is the common theme linking the reading from the Book of Job and the Gospel? (Jesus entered our night to offer us healing, and to free us from the influence of evil. Point out that the psalm reinforces this common theme.)
- What line or image stood out for you, or seemed significant? (Allow a few moments for kids to think this over, then offer your own ideas to get things rolling.)
- How does Jesus’ healing ministry continue in the Church today? (Through the sacrament of anointing, as well as through the charitable works of the Church.)
- Why didn’t Jesus heal everyone? (A complicated question, but one that reveals the purpose of Jesus’ mission. For a deeper discussion, see “The Healing Power of Jesus’ Word” at Integrated Catholic Life.)
- Re-read the words of Job. Do you think his assessment of the human condition is on target, at least sometimes? Why would the Bible include this passage? (Explain that the passage is part of a longer work, and that it helps to know the whole story to understand the point of the passage. You can read more about the Book of Job in the Introduction to the book in the New American Bible, Revised Edition.)
2. Teach your kids about the sacrament of anointing [ages 7+]
Given this week’s Sunday readings, it might be appropriate to introduce older kids and teens to the Sacrament of Anointing. This often behind-the-scenes sacrament is one of the primary ways the Church continues Jesus’ healing ministry in the world today. Get started with the brief explanation and links to resources in “Celebrate the Sacrament of Anointing” at pbgrace.com.
3. Minister to the sick [ages 3+]
Help your kids live out the Church’s ministry to the sick by putting together a “care box” for people who get sick in your household. Include whatever you think might be comforting: tissues, special blankets, tea, and most importantly, some items to help you pray for the person who is sick. These might include special candles, holy water, and a copy of the Order for the Blessing of the Sick (available online; scroll halfway down to get to the version for children).
Alternatively, make up a care package for someone you know who is sick (hey, February is the height of flu and cold season…you or your kids probably know someone who is sick). Work with your kids to make chicken noodle soup or fresh bread, or buy some tea or Popsicles and run them over on your way home from the store. Be sure to explicitly make a connection to this week’s Gospel!
4. Celebrate St. Valentine’s Day [ages 3+]
Here are three super-simple ways to celebrate St. Valentine’s Day with your kids…and then we’ll send you off to a great resource for some more involved celebration ideas:
- Be sure to emphasize the “saint” part of St. Valentine’s Day. Explain who the saint was, and what he did (see the summary above). St. Valentine was someone who risked his life (and was ultimately martyred) for the sake of marriage. (Those red hearts don’t just stand for love…they are also a symbol of martyrdom.) That’s amazing stuff!
- Set aside some time in the coming week (perhaps on Sunday) for everyone (including moms and dads) to write love letters to other members of the family. These love letters can be simple, to or three line affairs, or more involved. You can provide stickers and craft materials for decorating them. The important thing is to help your kids practice saying “I love you”–and recognizing what they love about the people closest to them. Help them along by brainstorming with them some positive traits about other people in the family. Save the love letters to be exchanged on Valentine’s Day.
- Decorate the house with quotes about love from the Scriptures and from the saints, putting them on cut-out hearts or colored construction paper. Better yet, have your older kids and teens find quotes and make the decorations.
5. Observe National Marriage Week by taking a virtual marriage retreat
What better way to celebrate Valentine’s Day than by observing National Marriage Week? Get over to For Your Marriage and check out the wealth of practical ideas and resources they have for strengthening your marriage. Or sign up for their virtualmarriage retreat on Facebook: www.facebook.com/foryourmarriage. The theme of this year’s retreat is Pope Francis’ words of wisdom to married couples.
At first glance, this might not seem to have anything to do with teaching your kids about God and the faith, but in reality, maintaining a strong relationship with your spouse is probably one of the most powerful ways of teaching your kids about what it takes to make a marriage work.
6. Observe the World Day for Consecrated Life [ages 5+]
Do your kids know a religious brother or sister? Do they even know what it means to be consecrated as a religious brother or sister? Take time this weekend to reach out to religious brothers and sisters attached to your parish, school, or community, and educate your kids about consecrated life.
The USCCB is helping families observe the day by offering a free printable prayer card; you can download the PDF here.
7. Observe the International Day of Prayer and Awareness against Human Trafficking [ages 9+]
Human trafficking is an issue that affects kids all over the world; 5.5 million children around the world are estimated to be victims of human trafficking, with some 100,000 kids believed to be victims of sex trafficking in the United States alone. You can educate yourself and your older kids about this issue at websites such as the Polaris Project. Then participate in some of the activities sponsored by the Church to mark the day. Here is the USCCB’s press release describing some of those opportunities:
The Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace and the International Union of Superiors General has designated February 8 as an annual day of prayer and awareness against human trafficking. February 8 is the feast day of St. Josephine Bakhita, who was kidnapped as a child and sold into slavery in Sudan and Italy. Once Josephine was freed, she became a Canossian nun and dedicated her life to sharing her testament of deliverance from slavery and comforting the poor and suffering. She was declared a Saint in 2000.
On February 8, Catholics all over the world are encouraged to host or attend prayer services to create greater awareness about this phenomenon. Through prayer, we not only reflect on the experiences of those that have suffered through this affront to human dignity, but also comfort, strengthen, and help empower survivors.
If you are in the Washington, DC area please join us on Sunday, February 8, 2015 for a Special Mass at Noon in the Upper Church of the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception. Or use this flyer to promote the day and visit our Become a SHEPHERD page to help you host an awareness raising event locally. In the words of the committee chairman for migration, Bishop Eusebio Elizondo, M.Sp.S.: “If just one person realizes from this day that they or someone they know is being trafficked, we will have made a difference.”
WHAT THE CHURCH IS SAYING…
The Pope’s Prayer Intention for February
The general prayer intention of the Holy Father Pope Francis, for the month of February, is for prisoners, especially the young, that they may be able to rebuild lives of dignity.
Families need to know that the Church is making every effort to protect their children. They should also know that they have every right to turn to the Church with full confidence, for it is a safe and secure home. Consequently, priority must not be given to any other kind of concern, whatever its nature, such as the desire to avoid scandal, since there is absolutely no place in ministry for those who abuse minors.
This is the mission of the Church: the Church that heals, that cares [for people]. I sometimes describe the Church as a field hospital. True, there are many wounded, how many wounded! How many people who need their wounds to be healed! This is the mission of the Church: to heal the wounded hearts, to open doors, to free [people], to say that God is good, God forgives all, that God is our Father, God is tender, that God is always waiting for us …
—Pope Francis, in a homily on Thursday
it is good to pray the Rosary every day” and to talk with the Lord, contemplative prayer is just as important and can only be done “with the Gospel in hand.” He recommended that we “take up the Gospel, read and imagine the scene, imagine what happens and talk to Jesus, from the heart.
—Pope Francis, in a homily last week