Make a timeline of Mary’s apparitions and teach your family about Marian theology, geography, and history.
by Heidi Indahl
If you have been following my column for long, you probably know that I have a thing about timelines. They are a quick way to share a lot of information with a group and an easy discussion starter. My kids and I recently created a timeline of Marian apparitions, which gave us an opportunity to study a little geography, a little history, and a lot of Marian theology all at once!
Before starting our timeline, we had a quick mini-lesson (also called a chit-chat session) about who Mary is and what a Marian apparition is. I had the kids name the ones they knew, which turned out to be Lourdes, Fatima and Guadalupe.
There are many Marian apparitions, some formally approved by the Church and others not. I found the Mary Pages website to be a wealth of information (including to external links), but be sure to do your research up front if you have concerns. For older children and parents, Catholic Answers apologist, Jimmy Akin, discusses ecclesiastical approval of apparitions in this short clip.
Once I made sure that all of the kids had an age-appropriate basis for what we were investigating, we made a timeline using a black line, placing the birth of Jesus and Mary at the very beginning. By using the pieces from our nativity set, we kept the toddler’s hands busy for a few minutes at least! Then we placed our own family photograph at the end and left the middle blank for apparitions.
Starting with the apparitions they knew, we did some quick searches in books and online to find the dates and locations of each apparition and placed those on the timeline. Since I was doing the activity with younger children, we left the dates off and focused on sequence, worrying less about the specific spacing. With older children you would probably want to be more detailed.
I planned ahead with a list of other lesser-known apparitions to reflect a wider sampling and preprinted the images along with a name, date, location tag. (The great thing about this particular lesson is that it can be done with as much or as little background prep as you have time for). As we added each apparition to our timeline, we checked a map to see just where each apparition took place (See Also: Catechize by Country).
You also could add illustrations to your timeline and/or map using child art or images printed off of the internet or clipped from religious magazines. (I highly recommend the Monastery Icons catalog for this purpose!).
Interested in learning more about Marian apparitions? I did my master’s degree capstone project on teaching this very topic. You can access the Marian Apparition Instructional Unit I designed for family and group-based catechesis in my Teacher’s Pay Teachers store. If you are interested in learning more without a formal unit, you can also purchase display friendly apparition overview cards and a ready-to-go (some assembly required) Marian apparition timeline.
I love catechizing with timelines because they are quick to prepare, easy to implement, and offer endless opportunities for the child to drive conversation and further investigations. If your family enjoys timeline catechesis, you may also enjoy Make Your Own Circle of the Church Year and Make A Stations of the Cross Story Timeline With Your Kids.