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Archive for Radiant Faith

Skeletons, Pumpkins, and Judgment, OH MY

Every year on Halloween night, one of my neighbors puts a sign in her window: “NO CANDY. We are Christians. We do not celebrate Halloween.” So far none of my kids has remarked on this sign that I can recall. In particular, they have never asked, “But aren’t we Christians? . . . Is it wrong to trick-or-treat?” I’m glad. But I admit this neighbor’s sign has left me feeling slightly guilty every year, as if I should slink away with my jacket over head.

I know that many of us Catholic parents are torn about Halloween.  Should we participate? Is Halloween intrinsically evil? What’s with the ghosts and witches? Where does all this stuff come from? Frankly, throughout my mothering, I’ve experienced very mixed feelings about Halloween. I love the harvest atmosphere of many Halloween parties and events, but the whole sub-culture around Halloween seems to become increasingly dark each year.  A few years ago I want into a Halloween costume shop to get my daughter a Wizard of Oz Dorothy costume, and I saw mechanical zombie babies with blood oozing from their eyes. Not funny or interesting; just creepy and disturbing. Young people are becoming increasingly drawn to anything related to the “undead” – zombies, vampires, etc. It’s weird.

Kim's dog in her Halloween costume

Kim’s dog in her Halloween costume

Yet, every year, I am at this place again where my kids are excited about Halloween, and the draw me into their wonder.  They begin planning and talking about their Halloween costumes in early September, sometimes earlier. They even plan costumes for our dog and take her out trick or treating. There is nothing scary or disturbing about a Labradoodle in a bumble bee costume! (At least not to  humans . . . other Labradoodles probably think it’s pretty scary.)

I love it that my children bring all their creative energy to their costumes. This year, my thirteen-year-old daughter Claire is make a German Shepherd costume (out of several yards of very fluffy fake fur that seems to be wafting through my house). Last year, my oldest son Aidan (now eighteen) went as “a knight who says NI” from Monty Python’s Holy Grail. He spent a great deal of time putting his costume together from bits and pieces he found at our local craft store. He walks around with us on Halloween night, never assuming he will get candy because he’s a little old, but last year a homeowner asked him what his costume was. When Aidan told him, the homeowner’s face lit up with hope, and he said, “You’re a teenager who likes the Holy Grail? Here, take it all” and he gave Aidan his entire bucket of candy!

Five years ago or so, I nearly eliminated Halloween from our home. I have Catholic friends who, like my neighbor, believe it’s evil and to be avoided entirely. But I just couldn’t cancel Halloween, though. If I had done so, I would have missed many wonderful family memories.

So, yes, my family “celebrates” Halloween. I’m sorry my neighbor shuts her blinds and doesn’t want to say hello to my children on October 31. I wish that she knew that, in fact, Halloween  has its roots in Christianity. That’s right. Contrary to the popular belief that Halloween is rooted in paganism, it’s historically quite simply the vigil of All Saints Day, or “All Hallows Eve.” Here is a superb explanation by Scott Richert:

Pagan Origins of Halloween

Despite concerns among some Catholics and other Christians in recent years about the “pagan origins” of Halloween, there really are none. The first attempts to show some connection between the vigil of All Saints and the Celtic harvest festival of Samhain came over a thousand years after All Saints Day became a universal feast, and there’s no evidence whatsoever that Gregory III or Gregory IV was even aware of Samhain.

In Celtic peasant culture, however, elements of the harvest festival survived, even among Christians, just as the Christmas tree owes its origins to pre-Christian Germanic traditions without being a pagan ritual.

Combining the Celtic and the Christian

The Celtic elements included lighting bonfires, carving turnips (and, in America, pumpkins), and going from house to house, collecting treats, as carolers do at Christmas. But the “occult” aspects of Halloween—ghosts and demons—actually have their roots in Catholic belief. Christians believed that, at certain times of the year (Christmas is another), the veil separating earth from Purgatory, Heaven, and even Hell becomes more thin, and the souls in Purgatory (ghosts) and demons can be more readily seen. Thus the tradition of Halloween costumes owes as much, if not more, to Christian belief as to Celtic tradition.

Did you catch that? Not only is Halloween a Christian observance, but even some of the scary stuff that freaks me out – specifically ghosts and demons –  has some link to Christianity. Sometimes I judge my Christian friends who spook out their houses on Halloween, and I feel quite satisfied with myself that I “only” decorate with pumpkins and cute felt fall leaves. Just as my neighbor made me feel judged, I have harbored judgment toward others, and these judgments have been unfair.

So, if you have skeleton decorations on your front door, I’m sorry I judged you. Being a Christian in the modern world is hard enough. It would be a lot easier if we loved one another better, if we approached one another with generosity rather than folded arms and a raised brow. I’m going to work on it, with God’s grace and assistance.

I think my observation about American culture around Halloween still holds: why are Americans so obsessed with vampires, zombies, and the undead?  It’s one thing to recognize the inevitability of death and to remember the dead, and quite another to idolize demons and evil creatures, to think they are even sexy. I think on some level young people who are caught up in these things know that there is something more beyond this life, that it is only one short chapter in a journey and a sliver of some greater truth. It’s  unfortunate they are not given the freedom to surrender to the whole truth and promise of salvation and God’s love. Now that’s really scary.

Back-to-School Traditions for Your Catholic Family

back to school2

Family traditions give our kids a little lifejacket in the often unsteady waters of childhood. As we approach the beginning of a new school year, it’s a great time to think of ways to honor our child’s big step in starting a new grade and offer a nod to the enormous blessings and graces of education – of books, numbers, maps, bugs, play dough, or whatever else may occupy our minds this year.

As some of you know, my family homeschools. The very first year we homeschooled, my oldest child, Aidan, was entering kindergarten. Our family was embarking on a life-changing adventure and Aidan was very proud that he was officially starting school. So, in recognition of the momentous occasion, our first day of school began not with practicing writing the letter “A” or learning about birds; it started with a celebration. We had balloons, games, and a pretty tablecloth, and we baked a cake together. Then we cracked open our perfect, crisp, new books, imagined together what the year would bring us, and talked about our hopes and fears.  

That first day of our first year of homeschooling was many years ago. This year Aidan is a high school senior, and I have three more “students” in the 8th, 4th, and 1st grades.  I’ve added a few things to our annual back-to-school celebration, but to this day we still bake a cake, play games, look at our books, and we preview and talk about our year. 

As I look back on those celebrations, I can see clearly that we weren’t just making a party, which bored and wayward frat boys do regularly. We also weren’t engaging in mere routine, like brushing our teeth or putting our shoes in the closet, as important as those habits are for my kids to learn. Our annual back-to-school tradition grounds my children, gives them a sense of shared history and identity, and perhaps alleviates some of their anxiety about facing new challenges in the coming year. Because we give it “A Moment,” my kids know that the start of the school year is no ordinary day and that no matter what the year brings, we are in it together.

Whether your kids attend traditional school or home school, starting some kind of back-to-school tradition is a great way to signal the transition from summer days to school time. Your tradition won’t look like mine. Perhaps your family will enjoy dinner out at a favorite restaurant, make a trip to a bowling alley, or stargaze on the evening before school starts. Your traditions should reflect your family’s unique identity and interests. 

If baking cakes and having parties aren’t your thing, here’s a super easy idea that might work for you, and your kids will love it. This year I’m planning to surprise my kids on our first day of school with a traditional German “Schultute” – a school cone filled with school supplies, treats, and trinkets.  This is a tradition dating back to the 1800s, and it continues to this day in Germany and Austria.  

As Lydia is entering the first grade, this is an especially significant school year because, traditionally, only children entering first grade received a Schultute in Germany, though nowadays siblings are included, too.  I’m glad I didn’t miss Lydia’s first grade Schultute and I plan to make her feel extra special on Monday morning when our new school year begins and she officially becomes a first grader. But I will definitely make cones for her siblings, too, including the high school senior! I’m sure these fun cones will become part of our annual ritual.  

Barbara at Praying for Grace has a super easy tutorial for making a Schultute out of poster board and tissue paper. 

barbara's schultute

Image courtesy of Praying for Grace

You can also just let your kids decorate the poster board like Becky did here. As we are Catholic, along with the school supplies and sweets, I’ll fill our Schultute with patron saint cards, some religious stickers for the younger kids, and a prayer book for the two older kids. You could also follow Becky’s example and make the Schultute for your child’s teacher as an act of love. Your child can practice the virtues on her very first day of school!

Whatever we choose to do to honor the Big Day, as a family we can pray for our students as they rise to a new grade and for their teachers (even if that means mom and dad). In this spirit, this weekend I will make a printable of this prayer for the beginning of the school year and I will tuck it into the Schultute:

Prayer to Begin the School Year

Blessed are you Lord God, Creator of body and mind and heart; you have sent the Spirit of wisdom and knowledge to guide your people in all their ways.

At the beginning of this new school year, we implore your mercy: bless the students, teachers and staff of [NAME OF SCHOOL], that together we may grow in faith, hope, and love as we learn from you and each other how to follow your Son Jesus.

Expand the horizons of our minds, that we grow in wisdom, understanding, and knowledge; deepen our commitment to see the truth of your ways; and enliven our faith to reach out to those in need. 

Glory and praise to you, Lord God, in the Church in in Christ Jesus forever and ever. Amen.

Celebrating Your Child’s “Name Day”

My Lydia celebrating her very first name day.

My Lydia celebrating her very first name day.

August is “name day month” in my home, because all of my children have patron saints whose feast days fall in the month of August: Lydia (August 3), Dominic (August 8), Claire (August 11), and Aidan (August 31). Years ago, when I began researching ways to bring Catholic culture into my home, celebrating name days was one of the first things we did together. Until then, I was completely clueless that all my children had the same name day month!

If you’re not sure of the date of your child’s name day, American Catholic has a great calendar that you can search. But, hold on. If your child’s has a name day, it means you actually went to the trouble of naming him or her after a saint. Thank you! Naming children after saints or biblical figures is like naming them after our parents or revered ancestors: it honors the saint and gives our child a link to his heritage. Even more, a patron saint has a special connection with our child; I think patron saints help us raise our children. Finally, giving our a child a saint’s name affirms our belief in the communion of saints.

So, what’s not to celebrate?!

Creating a tradition of celebrating a child’s patron saint not only provides an opportunity to teach our kids a thing or two about a great soul, but we also show them the delight of our Faith. And, of course, as we gather together for these celebrations, we are strengthening our family bonds and the Catholic identity of our family.

Here are a few tips for celebrating your child’s name day:

Start with Simple and Symbolic

You don’t have to create a replica of your child’s name saint out of a cake and garden flowers in order to do something special on her name day!  Keep it simple and realistic.

Every saint has a story and particular symbols associated with them. You can draw on those symbols and use them in your celebration. For example, St. Lydia was a seller of purple cloth, so we always use a purple table cloth in Lydia’s name day celebration. She is also known for her hospitality to the early Christians, so we have a tea party and practice our best hospitality.  St. Dominic is credited with spreading the practice of praying the rosary, so we try to incorporate the rosary into our observance. St. Dominic is also associated with oranges because he planted the first orange tree at Santa Sabine (where an orange tree still grows which descends from Dominic’s tree), so we always have breakfast with orange juice in honor of St. Dominic. Incorporating these details into our name day celebrations gives them some depth and helps my kids remember little details about their patron saint.

Start with one symbol, and the ideas will flow. In fact, if you do a Pinterest search on your child’s saint and you will be flooded with ideas! Depending on your child’s age and interests, you can incorporate crafts, hikes, pilgrimages, etc. The important thing is be realistic about what you can do every year, because you are creating a family tradition that your children can count on and grow up with.

If you can, get a prayer card of the saint and pray the saint’s prayer at your celebration. If you don’t have a special prayer card for your child’s saint, you can do what I do for St. Lydia: I just print out an image of her icon and we pray this general name saint prayer which I found in Catholic Household Blessings and Prayers:

God of glory, whom we name in many ways, when we brought this child to your Church we were asked, “What name do you give this child?” We answered, “[child’s name].” May St. [saint’s name] ever pray for him/her, may he/she guard him/her so that [child’s name] may overcome evil and come at last to that place where his/her name is written in the book of life. We ask this through Christ our Lord, Amen.

You can also read a story about the saint from an age-appropriate book so your child begins to know the story of her special saint. I display the child’s saint’s image on our family altar and near the child’s plate at our celebration and/or at dinner.

Saint Lydia

Saint Lydia

After you get going, you might end up creating the cake replica of the saint after all.

Name Days for Big Kids

When kids are little, name days feel like little birthdays to them. They love the attention, goodies, and fun. This is okay and entirely normal. But as kids mature, we can remind them of the deeper significance of their name day. Giving our child a biography of her saint can give her insights into the saint’s whole story, particular gifts, and holiness so  that she has somebody to look up to as she grows up. Attending Mass together as a family and asking for our priest’s blessing over the child would be wonderful.

In the teen years, perhaps we can inspire or lead our kids to do kind acts for others on their name day, so that we transition away from the “what do I get today” toward a “how can I serve you God” mentality. This can be done even in the context of our name day celebration. The child can help prepare food or create special favors for his siblings or guests.

When Your Child Doesn’t Have a Name Saint

If your child isn’t named after a saint, you aren’t a negligent crumb! You can always adopt a patron saint for your child. Perhaps you can choose a saint with a name close to your child’s name or whose story especially inspires her or you. And don’t forget that your child will choose a saint’s name at Confirmation. You can begin talking to her about that wonderful tradition very early. There’s no St. Kim, but I took the Confirmation name “Therese” after the Little Flower.

I’m off to make pancakes and fresh orange juice for the Feast of St. Dominic!

Candlemas 101 (Intentional Links)

Decorated candles made by Kim's children for Candlemas 2015

Decorated candles made by Kim’s children for Candlemas 2015

On February 2, the Church celebrates the Feast of the Presentation of the Lord (or the Feast of the Purification of Mary or, popularly, Candlemas because this is the day Catholics traditionally had their candles blessed). If you don’t know much about this feast day and you’re looking for practical ways to observe it in your home,  here are some links to get you started:

Basic Background

No (or Little) Fuss Candlemas Ideas by me over on my little family blog, First Heralds. A basic explanation of the feast day with some simple ideas I use in my own home on Candlemas.

Three Things to Remember about Candlemas by Marge Fenelon. Theological insights about Candlemas.

The Churching of Women. Well this is fascinating. Did you know there is a Church tradition, inspired by Mary’s purification, of allowing women to remain home with their infants for 40 days after birth? When you return to Mass, you are making a pilgrimage of thanksgiving for a healthy baby and then you receive a blessing. (This is done for health reasons and not because women are considered impure by the Church.)

Celebration Ideas

Prayers for Candlemas. Use at the dinner table, at bedtime, beside the fireplace, or before a special Candlemas tea party?

Easy Candles: If I could pick three symbols of Candlemas, they would be the dove (for the doves Mary and Joseph would have brought to the Temple), water (purification), and candles (as Jesus entered the temple, Simeon identified him as the Light to the Gentiles).  In addition to the candle making ideas I present in my blog post linked above, I like this simple votive candle holder. The  holder is baby food jar covered with tissue paper. The linked post is for a 4th of July theme, but use any colored tissue paper. Use Modge Podge to add a little cross or image of Mary and you have a Candlemas craft. Even the smallest hands can manage to make something special.

Marcia’s candle: Marcia Mattern (one of our staff writers at Catholic Attachment Parenting Corner) created a special Candlemas candle by handwriting a portion of Simeon’s announcement (“A light for revelation to the Gentiles and glory to your people Israel”) onto a band of paper, decorating it, then wrapping the band around a pillar candle.

Free Printable Paper Puppets. So cute! Let your kids act out the Presentation as you are reading Luke 2:22-38 to them.

Amazing tea party ideas by Jessica over at Shower of Roses.  How does she think of this stuff?  Her food is very symbolic of the Feast and beautifully presented. I think I might try her edible candles this year! Using even one or two ideas for your table would be special.

Intentional Links: 12 Days of Christmas for Your Family!

raphael mary and jospehDid you know Christmas doesn’t end on December 25? We’re just getting started! For Catholics, the Christmas Season lasts for 40 whole days until Candlemas on February 2!  Before then, we have The Solemnity of Mary on January 1st (the Octave – 8th day- of Christmas) and the Feast of the Epiphany on January 6 (exactly 12 days after Christmas, though in many countries the celebration is moved to the nearest Sunday – this year this would be January 3).

Here are some links to keep your family in the Christmas spirit for the 12 Days of Christmas!

Solemnity of Mary

An explanation of the solemnity from EWTN.

Prayers for the Solemnity of Mary  from Churchyear.net. Use to enrich your family prayer time.

Fleur-de-Lis Brownies from Catholic Cuisine. Easy and lovely way to make your Solemnity special!

Free solemnity coloring page from Faith-Filled Freebies

Feast of the Epiphany

Living Epiphany.  I wrote this article a few years ago, sharing how we observe Epiphany in our home. Basic explanation with story and tea party ideas.

Paper Bag Crown from artbarblog. This could be a super easy Epiphany crown – you probably have everything on hand already!

Star sun catcher to remind us of the journey of the Magi.

Altar display: I love the way this mom arranged her table with the spices and flowering bulb. This would be a great addition to the family altar.

Wednesday Links

A few links to articles that can help us love more intentionally with our children!

Love

10 Signs of Love by Darcia Narvaez.  An exquisite but brief exploration into the nature of real love.  “Love is … not a choice, or a dream, or a romantic novel. It’s a fact: an empirical fact about our biological existence. We are born into relationships with people and with places. We are born with the ability to create new relationships and tend to them. And we are born with a powerful longing for these relations. That complex connectedness nourishes and shapes us and gives us joy and purpose.”

Balance

Does Pregnancy Make You More Stupider?  Yup, it seems we lose some cognitive ability when pregnant and that our brains might actually . . . shrink!  Aaagh!  In this article, Gwen Dewar tries to explain why that may be the case and she offers some suggestions for boosting brain power during pregnancy.  Take care of yourselves, mommies!

Radiant Faith

Should Catholics Celebrate Halloween?  Here’s a great, balanced article on Halloween. “Every year, a debate rages among Catholics and other Christians: Is Halloween a satanic holiday or merely a secular one? Should Catholic children dress up like ghosts and goblins? Is it good for children to be scared? Lost in the debate is the history of Halloween, which, far from being a pagan religious event, is actually a Christian celebration that’s almost 1,300 years old.”

All Hallows Eve by Mary Reed Newland.  This is an excerpt from Newland’s classic family faith book The Year and Our Children.  “One of the nicest surprises of living around the year with the Church is to find that Halloween is part of it.  Not that the Mass of the day has mention of black cats, or the Divine Office of witches, but for so long Halloween meant nothing but parties and vandalism that when someone first proposed that it came out of the liturgy, I asked: ‘Are you sure?'”

All Saints Day Scavenger Hunt:  Jessica over at Shower of Roses has a fun All Saints scavenger hunt!

Wednesday Links

Love

Love Starts with Babies by Darcia Narvaez, PhD.  “The way that caregivers love baby is the way baby will learn deep in their heart to love others. A supported, kept-calm baby will develop a sense of confidence and trust toward others.”  Yes!

Gentle Discipline

Parenting with Presence on-line summit FREE.  This is a free series of seminars presented by several experts. Not all of them are my cup of tea, but there are several speakers worth checking out, including Harville Hendrix (marriage counselor), Daniel Siegel (author of The Whole Brain Child), and Barbara Nicholson (founder of Attachment Parenting International).

When Kids Won’t Cooperate by Kim Cameron-Smith.  Understand the real nature of the “cooperative” child.

Radiant Faith

Lent ideas: Jessica at Shower of Roses offers this overview of what her family does for Lent — lots of great activities and links to inspire you.

Lent reading ideas:  Elizabeth Foss shares her Lenten “book basket” suggestions.

Wednesday Links

Love

Weak attachment to parents inhibits brains ability to fully experience pleasure.  How secure in your love your child feels in childhood predicts how hard he’ll have to work as an adult to feel good, to flourish emotionally.  “Early neurological pairing of threat and love creates an ambivalent attachment that inhibits healthy brain development.   Early stress (spanking, yelling, neglecting) creates neurological ambivalence in the child that endures throughout life.What does this mean?  It means that the mitigating influence of the parent is much more of a potential source of threat (as well as comfort) than any other source in the environment.  As parents, we are the emotional and neurological buffer to our children that promotes their future relational happiness.  Even a little hostility can hurt.”

Play

Why “Pretend Play” Is Important.  Pretend play is stimulating and fun, and that’s reason enough to do it. But might it also bring out the best in kids?

Radiant Faith

Here are some links to resources to make your Valentines Day Catholic-centric!

The Roots of Valentines Day

Printable Catholic Valentines

Valentines Day FEAST Ideas!

Gentle Discipline

The Importance of Routines:  Week 6 in Jane Nelsen’s 52 weeks of positive discipline tools.

Wednesday Links

Each week (or so) I will publish links to resources and articles that might helpful in living out the 7 Building Blocks to a Joyful Catholic Home.  Here are some links for this week:

Love, Empathy, Gentle Discipline

Bedtime for Toddlers:  Timing Is Everything.  Bedtime can be a real struggle for parents, especially with toddlers.  I found this study interesting, because my eldest son, according to my hubby, has a “late body clock.”  I always thought that sounded strange, but here’s a study to support Philip’s opinion!  If you have a toddler who fights bedtime, and you’re wondering whether he’s just not tired, this study might give you some food for thought.

10 Things Everyone Should Know About Babies:  an article by Notre Dame professor Darcia Narvaez about the unique needs and capacities of infants.

Radiant Faith

Salt Dough Baby Jesus.  I couldn’t resist sharing this one on CAPC’s FB page!  Super cute and easy hands on activity to do with your littles this week.

Creating a Yes Environment by Charisse Tierney. Charisse reflects on how we can say yes more often in our homes and our spiritual lives.

 

Wednesday Links

Balance

Depression During Pregnancy: How It May Impact Baby Brain Development.  “Children of depressed parents are at an increased risk of developing depression themselves, a combination of both genetic and environmental factors. These children also display alterations in the amygdala, a brain structure important for the regulation of emotion and stress.”  Self-care is always important, and especially during pregnancy.  Having a strong support system and being honest with our obstetrician about emotional suffering can help us deal better with prenatal depression.

Radiant Faith

An idea for a hands-on activity during Advent:  A Jesse Box.  Love this!  Inspired by “Jesse Trees”, this box is”a new and exciting way to teach your children salvation history through an interactive diorama that lets them act out the story.”  This is definitely going on my “must have” list!  Available on Amazon.

Jesse Box

Jesse Box

Christmas Is More Than a Temporal Celebration, an article exploring Pope Francis’s homily on the first Monday of Advent.  The Pope encourages us to encounter Christ during Advent with the heart, with life, to encounter him alive.

Helping Our Children Encounter Christ During Advent:  In this CAPC article, I responded to Pope Francis’s invitation to Christians to encounter Christ during Advent by asking what we can do to help our children encounter Christ.  I suggest children do this through love, play, and prayer.

Keeping Christ in Christmas.  Another CAPC essay.  Christina Kolb considers ways to keep her family Christ-centered amid all the trappings of the Christmas season, both in how we celebrate and in how we prepare our hearts.