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They Shall Name Him Emmanuel • MISSION:CHRISTIAN Parents

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Reading Time: 6 minutes


Dec 18-24: Fourth Week of Advent

St. Peter Canisius + Blessed Jacopone da Todi + Celebrating Christmas with Your Toddler



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Help your toddler catch the Christmas spirit. Toddlers are really too young for formal catechesis about the true meaning of Christmas, but youth minister Ryan Langr—who has a toddler of his own—suggests that you can still lay the foundation for that understanding even with very young children, and he has five ideas for how to celebrate a Catholic Christmas with your toddler.

Count down to Christmas with an O Antiphons paper chain. Does your child ask how many days are left until Christmas every day? Take advantage of that anticipation with our super-simple O Antiphons paper chain craft. It will help your kids count down to Christmas, while at the same time gently reminding them of how the ancient Israelites longed for and anticipated the coming of the Messiah.

Look for signs of God-with-us. The word Emmanuel, which means God-is-with-us, shows up in both the Gospel and the Old Testament reading this Sunday. Where is God showing up in your life right now? To preview the Sunday readings with your kids, head over to Breaking Open the Word at Home,

Watch The Little Prince. If you’re looking for a family-friendly movie with positive values for the cold weekend ahead, check out The Little Prince. Jen Schlameuss-Perry appreciates its core message as well as its beautiful execution (the animation and music are both gorgeous). Check out her review for details, discussion questions, and the official trailer.

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.

Check out the Noel Sky. The phenomenon known as the Noel Sky occurs at about 8 p.m. on the 25th of December (and throughout the week of Christmas) when the Northern Cross stands upright on the western horizon, just about to set; directly opposite on the eastern horizon is Praesepe, the Manger, just rising.

Check out the lights. Walk (or drive) around town viewing holiday light displays; sing Christmas carols as you go.

Plan on going to Midnight Mass. Midnight Mass is the most elaborate celebration of Christmas, and many parishes pull out all the stops for it. At some point in the life of your family, your kids should get to experience it. While it may be later and longer than a typical Mass, it is often less crowded. If you bring little ones, bring a blanket so they can lay down in the pew.



Bambinelli Sunday: A Christmas Blessing is a children’s picture book about “Bambinelli Sunday,” the day when children in Rome gather in Saint Peter’s Square with their “bambinelli,” or the figures of the Christ Child from their Nativity sets, to have them blessed. The ritual is held on the third Sunday of Advent, but the book, which features beautiful watercolors and a boy named Alessandro, makes a great read anytime during the Advent or Christmas seasons. This is a text-heavy book, most appropriate for older children.



Blessed Pope Urban V (Monday), the humble Benedictine monk (1310-1370) 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.

St. Peter Canisius (Wednesday), 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.”

Blessed Jacopone da Todi (Thursday), 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.



  • Christmas Eve (Sat, Dec 24)
  • Solemnity of Mary, the Holy Mother of God (Jan 1)
  • World Day of Peace (Jan 1)
  • Poverty Awareness Month (January)



“Fight all false opinions, but
let your weapons be patience,
sweetness and love. Roughness
is bad for your own soul and
spoils the best cause.”

—St. John Kanty (Dec 23)


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Molly McBride and the Purple Habit (softcover, $10.99)
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.

You wanted the Illuminated Rosary in an affordable hardcover, and we listened . . . now you can purchase a hardcover set for just $80. That’s $20 per book, each of which runs about 130 pages and includes more than 60 works of sacred art. Get it exclusively from Gracewatch Media.

Flowers for Jesus: A Story of Thérèse of Lisieux as a Young Girl (softcover, $10.99)
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.” With vibrant watercolors and storytelling, Flowers for Jesus introduces kids to St. Thérèse of Lisieux’s spirituality of “the Little Way.”

The Little Flower: A Parable of St. Thérèse of Liseux (softcover, hardcover, or Spanish)
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.

Little Lessons from St. Francis of Assisi: A Prayer for Peace (softcover, $10.99)
“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. Join award-winning artist Jeanine Crowe as she meditates on this powerful prayer in words and watercolors.


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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