Thursday, 4 December 2008

Simple Advent Prayers

This Advent when we light our Advent wreath we are saying this simple prayer from Faith and Life 1. We used it for a few years when my older girls were small:
Thank you, dear Jesus,
for coming down from Heaven to save us.
Thank you for Christmas time.
Help us to get ready for your coming this year.
Here I found another prayer suitable for younger children:
O God,
as light comes from this candle,
may the blessing of Jesus Christ come to us,
warming our hearts and
brightening our way.
May Christ our Savior bring life
into the darkness of this world,
and to us, as we wait for his coming.

Thursday, 27 November 2008

Advent Boxes

Last year I put together an Advent Box for my Little Cherub, full of things that she could take out and explore.

This picture shows the contents of the box ...

  • Nativity figures - I have a set of squishy plastic figures for toddlers bought when my eldest daughter was tiny.
  • A wooden Santa figure that looks fairly St.Nicholas-ish.
  • Various small board books telling the Christmas story.
  • Pictures of the Five Joyful Mysteries of the Rosary
  • Pictures of St.Nicholas, St.Lucy, the journey to Bethlehem and the Immaculate Conception
  • Board book about Hannukah and a dreidl (I include these as my husband is Jewish)
Little Cherub loved her box, and played with it regularly throughout the Advent and Christmas seasons. Here she is enjoying herself with the Santa figure ...

This year, at two-and-a-half, I think she will enjoy it even more.

Advent Ideas

Advent is a wonderful season to focus on with toddlers as there are so many elements that appeal to little ones - advent calendars, candles, Nativity figures that they can handle, and so on. Whether you are starting to build family Advent traditions from scratch, or wanting to make some changes, you can find a great starting point in this series of posts by Karen Edmisten:
There are lots of ideas here, but as Karen says " do not -- I repeat, do not -- feel pressure to do it all. No one does it all. You might want to pick one or two new things on which to focus -- and then, have fun with them." And remember, nothing engages a toddler more than fun!

Monday, 11 August 2008

Visiting Our Lady Around the House

Our house is filled with images of Our Lady and our young ones particularly enjoy making a little walking litany around the house on the way up to bed. They take turns identifying the particular title of Our Lady and everyone responds in song "Ora Pro Nobis" (pray for us). Once in a great while, we do a longer form which includes a special intention and a related song at each spot. Some of these, by the way, are not the official names of the pictures, but titles of Our Lady that seemed appropriate to the image.

Our Lady of the Annuciation

We pray that more people will say yes to God.

Song: Gabriel's Message

Our Lady of Fatima

We pray for devotion to Our Lady and for the repentance of sinners. We pray in reparation for offenses committed against the Immaculate Heart of Mary.

Song: Immaculate Mary (Fatima version)

Our Lady of Good Counsel

We pray for teachers and parents.

Song: Alma Redemptoris Mater

Our Lady Seat of Wisdom

We pray for students and all who need truth.

Song: Hail Holy Queen

Our Lady of Lourdes

We pray for devotion to the Immaculate Conception and for all who are sick or disabled.

Song: Immaculate Mary

Our Lady of Guadalupe

We pray for the unborn, for refugees and immigrants and for all who are oppresed or in danger.

Song: Santa Maria del Camino

Mother Thrice Admirable

We pray for faith in young people.

We don't have this picture hanging anywhere in our home yet. The girls really wanted to include her because of their involvement in the Schoenstatt movement through some local girls' groups. They also know some special songs associated with her that I don't know yet.

Our Lady of Perpetual Help

We pray for the suffering and the dying, for soldiers, for those in prison and any who find themselves in difficult circumstances.

Song: Hail Queen of Heaven, the Ocean Star

Saturday, 31 May 2008


My father came to stay with us for three weeks, following the birth of my daughter. He was a great help as I recovered from my c-section and bonded with the new baby. He did some housework and kept me company after my husband returned to work. But most of all he helped with the care of my two-year old, Isabella. He slept in the guest bed in her room and got up with her in the mornings so that I could catch a little more sleep. He fed her breakfast-- and sometimes lunch as well-- got her dressed, changed her diaper, took her on walks, read her stories, put her down from her nap, and did much of the lifting that I could not do.

Recently he sent me this meditation about his experiences with her, written to share with others in his spiritual direction class. I'll reprint it here:

I begin to wake to the gentle whimper. She is awake and I am sure her diaper is very wet. I hope that she will go back to sleep. As she sees me get out of bed she begins to talk in happy tones and I begin to tell her it is night and she needs to go back to sleep after she has her diaper changed. She lies down quietly and I go back to bed. But not for long as she hears her Daddy getting ready for work. "Daddy go work. Daddy go work." So it is time to get up. I fix her some breakfast and she sits at her little table. She looks up at me and says, “full of grace”. I think for a second and realize that she wants to pray, to bless the food. So we make the sign of the cross and bless the food.

While she is eating I get my Liturgy of the Hours, sit on the couch, and begin to pray Morning Prayer. Very shortly here she comes into the room and I think that is the end of Morning Prayer. She walks up to where I am sitting and stares at me. I begin to read the psalms aloud and she climbs up beside me and sits motionless while I read the prayers.

We are going for a walk and she runs to the door, whining with anxiety, wanting her coat and the stroller. I dress her warmly and place her in the stroller. We start down the busy street with many cars passing. We hear a siren that is getting louder. She turns in the stroller and says, “full of grace”. We stop and say a prayer for the person in distress. We are going to the large Catholic cemetery about 10 blocks away. When we reach the cemetery I take her from the stroller so she can “run, run”. After about 30 minutes of walking in the cemetery, I hear a car approaching and yell to her that a car is approaching. She quickly moves from the street to the grass and patiently waits for the car to pass. Then I tell her the car is gone and we proceed on our walk. The car stops a short distance in front of us and a woman gets out and walks to a grave covered with a large mound of flowers. She is almost prostrate on the grave, obviously full of grief. As we approach close to that grave the little girl turns to me and says, “full of grace”. We stop and pray with the lady full of grief.

When we return to the house, I take her into her room to change her diaper. She looks at the crucifix on the wall and says, "Jesus." We go into the living room and she opens the drawer on the coffee table and takes out a number of prayer cards, and names each of them: John Paul, Mary, Jesus.

On Sunday we go to mass. On entering the church she puts her tiny hand into the holy water and with assistance makes the sign of the cross. At the elevation of the body of Christ she points and says, "Jesus Christ." As we leave the church, she points the statue and says, "Mary," after kneeling in front of the tabernacle. After we return home, I am sitting on the couch and she comes and stands in front of me. I reach down to pick her up and as I do I look into her face and see that she is full of grace, a little baptized child without sin. She is full of the Holy Spirit which she has repeatedly shown throughout each day.

“Unless you turn and become like children, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. And whoever receives one child such as this in my name receives me.”

I was surprised at how closely his experience mirrored my own. I've observed that once I have taught Isabella a particular prayer practice-- blessing herself with holy water, praying a Hail Mary when we hear a siren, kissing the crucifix that hangs over her bed-- she almost immediately begins to be the leader while I am the (all-too-often reluctant) follower. She reminds me to pray, and pushes even when I don't find it terribly convenient and even when I'm not feeling very prayerful.

I've just begun reading Sofia Cavaletti's The Religious Potential of the Child and find that Cavaletti's approach in developing the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd also mirrors my own experience. The belief underlying the method is that the child has his own relationship with God and that our function is to proclaim the Word and then listen with him to the unfolding of that Word. Cavaletti chooses what parables and images to present to the child on the basis of what the child himself has shown to be attractive, what fills his own inner need.

Although The Religious Potential of the Child does not take into consideration the child under three, I feel that the methodology of exploration with the child, allowing the child to lead us even as we proclaim the Word to the child, exactly matches my own methodology with Isabella.

Thursday, 1 May 2008

Little Cherub's May Basket

I ended up putting my Little Cherub's May Basket together out of things I made or already had at home. I lined the basket with blue paper and filled it with a set of laminated pictures of Our Lady (I sewed a little bag for them from a scrap of blue fabric), a Rosary in a box, a prayer book, a knitted Mary doll, and a pack of hair elastics.

I didn't manage to find everything on my list, which means I already have some ideas for next year!

Saturday, 26 April 2008

Around the World With Our Lady

I have now posted all thirty of the images of Our Lady from around the world I am putting in Little Cherub's May basket, together with snippets on simple information about each one. So that you can find them easily, here are links to all the posts:
  • Introduction
  • Part 1 (Africa, Argentina, Austria, Belgium, China)
  • Part 2 (Columbia, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, Egypt, England)
  • Part 3 (France, Germany, India, Ireland, Italy)
  • Part 4 (Japan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Lithuania, Mexico)
  • Part 5 (New Zealand, Philippines, Poland, Portugal, Russia)
  • Part 6 (Spain, Sri Lanka, United States, Vietnam, Wales)
If you would like to dig deeper, for older children or for yourself, check my Bookworm blog where I will be adding posts throughout May.

Our Lady Around the World: Part 6

26. Spain - Our Lady of the Pillar

After Jesus' resurrection Saint James went to Spain to tell people the Good News. It is said that at Saragossa Our Lady appeared to him, standing on a pillar. Afterwards a statue was placed on the pillar on which Our Lady stood, and a Church was built around it. The pillar is about six feet high and the little wooden statue on top is fifteen inches tall. It is dressed differently every day.

Our Lady of the Pillar, pray for us!

(Picture: Hispanic Online )

27. Sri Lanka - Our Lady of Madhu

The statue of Our Lady was first brought to Madhu over three hundred years ago. Catholics were being persecuted and they wanted to keep the statue safe. Madhu is in the jungle, so it was hard for people to get there. Today a war is being fought around Madhu. The statue has had to be taken away again to keep it safe, and in April 2008 the Shrine Church of Madhu was destroyed.

Our Lady of Madhu, pray for us!

(Picture: Shrine of Our Lady of Madhu)

28. United States of America - Our Lady of La Leche

The Shrine of Our Lady of La Leche was the first shrine dedicated to Mary in the United States. It was begun by Spanish settlers at St. Augustine in Florida nearly four hundred years ago. The original statue which was brought from Spain was destroyed, but it was replaced by another exactly the same.

Our Lady of La Leche, pray for us!

29. Vietnam - Our Lady of La Vang

Many years ago a group of Christians in Vietnam were hiding in the jungle because they were being persecuted for their faith. They were saying the Rosary when they saw a beautiful lady wearing a crown and surrounded by angels. She was holding a little child. The Lady comforted them, promised to protect them, and taught them how to make medicines. They built a little Church of leaves and straw. Later the emperor decided to get rid of all Christians from his country. Thirty Catholics at La Vang were killed and the little Church was burnt down, but it was soon rebuilt. Later another emperor fell ill and was cured after prayers were said for him at La Vang.

Our Lady of La Vang, pray for us!

30. Wales - Our Lady of Cardigan

A very long time ago a statue of Mary was found by the River Teifi in Wales. She had Jesus on her lap and a taper (a candle) in her hand. The statue was taken to the nearest Church, but kept going back to the place where it was found, so a Church was built there called St. Mary's. Many years later the statue was destroyed by the king, who didn't want people to go on pilgrimages any more. Fifty years ago a new shrine was built for Our Lady at Cardigan (or Aberteifi in Welsh), and twenty years ago this statue of Our Lady was made. Our Lady of Cardigan is also known as Our Lady of the Taper.

Our Lady of Cardigan, pray for us!

Our Lady Around the World: Part 5

21. New Zealand - Our Lady of Pukekaraka

This statue of Our Lady is at the shrine of Otaki in New Zealand. She is wearing a special Maori cloak of honour. The Maori people call her "Hine Nui O Te Ao Katoa" which means "Mary Great Mother of the Whole World". Pukekaraka means "the hill where the karaka trees grow".

Our Lady of Pukekaraka, pray for us!

Picture: The Mary Page

22. Philippines - Our Lady of La Naval

In 1643 the Philippines were attacked by the Dutch who wanted to make all the Catholics there Protestant. Five battles were fought at sea, and before each one the sailors asked Our Lady for help. Miraculously they won every time and only fifteen sailors were killed. Our Lady of La Naval is a special title for Our Lady, helper of Christian navies. She is the patroness of Manila, the capital city of the Philippines.

Our Lady of La Naval, pray for us!

23. Poland - Our Lady of Czestochowa

It is believed that this picture of Our Lady was painted by Saint Luke and taken to Europe by Saint Helena. In the middle ages it ended up at Czestochowa in Poland. The picture was stolen during a war, but the horses refused to pull the cart it was in. The thieves threw the painting out of the cart and it was damaged. If you look closely at the picture you can see the marks on Our Lady's face.

Our Lady of Czestochowa, pray for us!

24. Portugal - Our Lady of Fatima

In 1917 Our Lady appeared to three children at Fatima in Portugal. Lucia, Jacinta and Francisco saw her six times. She told them to pray hard for sinners and to say the Rosary. Mary promised them a miracle for her last visit. Seventy thousand people came to Fatima and saw the sun dance in the sky.

Our Lady of Fatima, pray for us!

25. Russia - Our Lady of Vladimir

This picture of Our Lady is a special type of painting called an icon. Many Christians use icons to help them to pray. The icon was kept in a place called Vladimir, but when the city of Moscow was attacked the icon was brought there to protect the city. Tamerlane, the leader of the attackers, dreamed that he saw a beautiful lady who told him to leave Russia. He realised it was Mary and took his army away. After that Our Lady of Vladimir was kept in Moscow. She saved the city twice more.

Our Lady of Vladimir, pray for us!

Friday, 25 April 2008

Holy Water Fonts: A Craft for May

Alice of Cottage Blessings has posted instructions for making holy water fonts. These are simple enough for little ones to manage, and small children usually enjoy blessing themselves with holy water. The fonts could be tied into the "Mary around the world" theme by adding one of the pictures of Our Lady I have been posting here.

Thursday, 24 April 2008

Our Lady Around the World: Part 4

16. Japan - Our Lady of Akita

In 1973 Sister Agnes Sasagawa was praying in front of this statue at Akita in Japan. A great light appeared around the statue and it spoke to her in a beautiful voice. Our Lady gave Sister Agnes three messages. Over the next few years many people saw the statue cry and sweat, and blood came from a wound on its right hand. Sister Agnes was deaf, but was cured by Our Lady.

Our Lady of Akita, pray for us!

17. Kuwait - Our Lady of Arabia

This special statue of Our Lady was made for a Church in Kuwait. Before it was taken there it was specially blessed by Pope Pius XII. Our Lady and Jesus wear crowns blessed by Pope John XXIII. They are made of gold, diamonds, rubies and other precious stones.

Our Lady of Arabia, pray for us!

18. Lebanon - Our Lady of Lebanon

The land that is now Lebanon is very near Mary's home in Nazareth. It is believed that Our Lady visited Lebanon with Jesus. This great statue of Our Lady of Lebanon was blessed exactly one hundred years ago. Since then visitors from all over the world have come to see the statue and honour Our Lady. To get to the statue you have to climb 104 steps. The statue is 28 feet tall and weighs 20 tons. It is made of bronze and painted white.

Our Lady of Lebanon, pray for us!

19. Lithuania - Our Lady of Siluva

Four hundred years ago some shepherd children at Siluva in Lithuania saw a vision of a young woman. She held a little child and was weeping. She told them she was crying because a Church that used to stand there had been destroyed. A very old man heard about this. He remembered that when he was young he had helped a priest to bury the treasures of the old Church to protect them. Men dug at the spot he showed them and found a treasure chest. One of the things in the chest was this picture of Our Lady. Many miracles have taken place at the shrine of Our Lady of Siluva.

Our Lady of Siluva, pray for us!

20. Mexico - Our Lady of Guadalupe

In 1531 Our Lady appeared to a Mexican peasant name Juan Diego and told him she wanted a Church built there. The bishop wanted proof that Juan had seen Mary. She told Juan to go and gather roses - even though it was the wrong time of year - and take them to the bishop. He found the roses where she said, and carried them in his tilma (a kind of cloak). When he showed them to the bishop they found a miraculous painting of Our Lady on his tilma underneath the roses.

Our Lady of Guadalupe, pray for us!

Wednesday, 23 April 2008

St. George's Day

Today, April 23, is the Memorial of St. George, soldier-martyr. He's one of the Fourteen Holy Helpers.

It's a perfect feast day for young boys who love knights, soldiers, swords, fighting dragons. Women for Faith and Family share an English way of celebrating this feast. Our Playmobil soldiers are getting an extra work-out today.

There's all sorts of ways to incorporate reminders at tonight's dinner about St. George -- dragons in various ways, spicy-hot foods, use of flames (flambe, grilling), skewers and toothpicks...

And since I was just speaking of coloring pages, St. George is a great one to add to the coloring book binder. There's a fabulous coloring page offered by CHC. There are many more listed in this 4Real thread.

Since St. George is the patron of England, I wish a happy feast day to Kathryn!

Tuesday, 22 April 2008

Mysteries of the Rosary Coloring Pages

I've always loved to color. I loved the whole experience of opening the box of Crayola Crayons, enjoying their distinctive scent, and then choosing the colors and coloring the pictures.

My son (age 4) isn't always very enthusiastic about the process of coloring. I do think it has to do with him being a boy, as my nieces could color for hours. But my son does enjoy the pictures. I print out many pages around the year and discuss them with him. If he decides to color the page, I let him use different mediums besides crayons, like paints, markers, colored pencils, glitter glue--he loves to experiment. Scissors and a single hole puncher also put a different spin on coloring pages -- cutting out portions of the colored picture.

But whether or not he colors the image, it still makes a lasting impression on him. I have made a simple little 3-hole-binder of different coloring pages for the Liturgical Year. Some pages he has colored, others we just punch and he thumbs through the binder. We look at past coloring, see the progression of skills, and discuss the religious images.

Years ago I found a wonderful rosary coloring book, dated from 1949. I've now scanned the images and shared the coloring pages from The Rosary Color Book on my blog. I find the drawings of the mysteries by Ettore Fattori are unique and quite beautiful. I hope you enjoy them as much as we have.

(Since the Luminous Mysteries are a newer addition, they are not included in the original booklet.)

Our Lady Around the World: Part 3

11. France - Our Lady of Lourdes

In 1852 Our Lady appeared to a fourteen year old French girl, Bernadette Soubirous. At first people did not believe Bernadette, but the words of Our Lady helped her to prove who she had really seen. She told Bernadette how to find a spring in the ground. The water that comes from the spring heals people who are sick. Millions of people go to Lourdes every year to bathe in the spring and pray there.

Our Lady of Lourdes, pray for us!

12. Germany - Our Lady of Altotting

Many hundreds of years ago a little Church was built at Altotting in Bavaria (now part of Germany) to mark the place where St. Rupert baptised the ruler of the Bavarians. Later a wooden statue of Our Lady was placed there and many pilgrims went to Altotting to see it. Many miracles and cures have taken place there. People light lamps to say "thank you" to Our Lady and the smoke from the lamps has turned the statue black. It is called the Black Madonna of Altotting.

Our Lady of Altotting, pray for us!

13. India - Our Lady of Vailankanni

At Vailankanni in India Our Lady performed three miracles. First she appeared to a shepherd boy who was carrying a pot of milk. She asked him for some of the milk for her child, and he gave it to her. The boy's master did not believe his story until until the pot was miraculously refilled with milk. Some years later Our Lady came again and asked a lame boy for a cup of buttermilk. She also told him to ask for a chapel to be built there. The boy's legs were healed and he did as she asked. The last miracle came when a ship was caught in a storm. The sailors prayed to Our Lady and promised to build a Church for her if she rescued them. The ship was saved and landed near Vailankanni on September 8th, Our Lady's birthday. The sailors kept their promise and replaced the small chapel there with a new stone church. Our Lady of Vailankanni is also called Our Lady of Good Health.

Our Lady of Vailankanni, pray for us!

14. Ireland - Our Lady of Knock

In 1879 fourteen people at Knock in Ireland saw Our Lady, St. Joseph and St. John appear in front of the Church. The youngest person to see the vision was only six years old. Our Lady wore white robes and a crown, with a golden rose on her forehead. After this many miracles took place at Knock.

Our Lady of Knock, pray for us!

15. Italy - Our Lady of Loreto

Seven hundred years ago the house where Mary lived in Nazareth was taken from the Holy Land by angels who carried it all the way to the village of Loreto in Italy. Inside the Holy House was a statue of Our Lady. The statue was stolen during a war but it still came back to Loreto. Eventually it was destroyed by accident and a new statue was made. Many people go to Loreto to see the house and imagine what it was like when Mary, Joseph and Jesus lived there. It is very small, only the size of a large room.

Our Lady of Loreto, pray for us!

Thursday, 17 April 2008

Our Lady Around the World: Part 2

6. Colombia - Our Lady of Chiquinquira

This picture of Our Lady with St. Andrew and St. Anthony of Padua was painted nearly 500 years ago. It was kept in a chapel with a leaky roof, where the picture got damaged so badly that the figures couldn't be seen any more. The painting was taken down and left in a room in the town of Chiquinquira. After eight years a woman called Maria found the painting, got it out again, and turned the room into a little chapel for it. Overnight the painting was miraculously mended. and the colours shone brightly once more. The people of Colombia call Our Lady of Chiquinquira 'La Chinita'.

Our Lady of Chiquinquira, pray for us!

7. Costa Rica - Our Lady of the Angels

Look at the picture and see if you can find the tiny dark statue of Our Lady of the Angels in the middle. It is only three inches high so you will have to look carefully. A poor woman called Juanita found this little statue in the woods and took it home with her. The statue disappeared and was found back in the same place. This happened again ... and again ... and again. Six times in all the statue vanished and went back to where it came from. In the end a shrine was built where the image of Our Lady of the Angels was found. When people visit the shrine they touch the stone on which the statue was found. So many people have visited that the stone is getting worn away.

Our Lady of the Angels, pray for us!

8. Dominican Republic - Our Lady of Altagracia

Five hundred years ago, two brothers travelled across the sea from Spain to the island of Santo Domingo. They took with them this painting of Our Lady. Today it is kept in a frame made of gold and precious stones. In 1979 it was crowned with a gold and silver tiara by Pope John Paul II.

Our Lady of Altagracia, pray for us!

9. Egypt - Our Lady of Zeitoun

In April 1968 two men in the town of Zeitoun, in Egypt, saw a lady in white floating on the roof of the Church. A crowd gathered and many people saw the lady, who seemed to glow with a white light. They realised that it must be Mary. She appeared many times over the next year. Thousands of people saw her, and were even able to take photographs like this one.

Our Lady of Zeitoun, pray for us!

[Note: Several internet sources mention that the apparitions at Zeitun were officially recognised by both the Coptic Church and the local Catholic patriarch. One said that they were also recognised by Pope Paul VI, but I have not been able to find confirmation of this. All Catholic sites I found referred to the apparitions as genuine.]

10. England - Our Lady of Walsingham

Nearly 1000 years ago an English noblewoman, Lady Richeldis, saw a vision of Our Lady. In the vision she told Richeldis to build a copy of the Holy Family's house at Nazareth on her land at Walsingham in England. Richeldis did as she was asked. Many pilgrims visited Walsingham, to see the house and a famous statue of Our Lady. Five hundred years later the king of England said that nobody was to make pilgrimages any more. He pulled down the shrine and destroyed the statue. But he couldn't keep the pilgrims away for ever. In time a new statue was made and given a home in a tiny, old chapel that had been used as a barn, and the Holy House was rebuilt. Our Lady had come back to Walsingham.

Our Lady of Walsingham, pray for us!

Our Lady Around the World: Part 1

1. Algeria - Our Lady of Africa

A bishop from Africa was on a ship with hundreds of other people when there was a great storm. The bishop prayed to Our Lady to save them. He promised that if she did he would build a shrine for her. The ship was saved, and he built a great cathedral where people could visit a special statue of Our Lady of Africa.

Our Lady of Africa, pray for us!

2. Argentina - Our Lady of Lujan

Four hundred years ago a man in Argentina bought two statues of Our Lady. During the long journey to his home the cart carrying one of the statues got stuck. The horses pulling it wouldn't move until the statue was taken off. He realised that Mary wanted her statue to stay there in Lujan, the place where the cart had stopped. Now there is a great basilica at Lujan, and many people visit to see the statue of Our Lady.

Our Lady of Lujan, pray for us!

3. Austria - Our Lady of Mariazell

Many centuries ago a monk named Magnus left his monastery and took with him a statue of Our Lady and Jesus. He got lost and asked Our Lady for help. A great black rock split in two, and he realised Mary wanted him to stay in that place. He put the little statue on the branch of a tree and built a little chapel there. The same statue is still there today. It is 22 inches tall and made of wood. The people of Austria and many other countries love Our Lady of Mariazell dearly.

Our Lady of Mariazell, pray for us!

4. Belgium - Our Lady of Banneux

In 1933 an eleven year old Belgian girl called Mariette saw Our Lady in the garden of her home. Our Lady visited Mariette eight times, and told her that she had come to help the poor and the sick. She was dressed in white, with a blue sash and a rosary over her arm.

Our Lady of Banneux, pray for us!

Picture: Mary Vitamin

5. China - Our Lady of China

In 1900 there was a war in China and the village of Tong Lu was attacked. A priest, Father Wu, prayed to Mary for help. A woman in white appeared in the sky, and a man on horseback frightened away the attackers. A special picture of Mary was painted and a Church was built. Many years later soldiers came and destroyed the picture ... or thought they had. They didn't know that the picture in the Church was just a copy and the real picture had been hidden to keep it safe. Even today Catholics are not safe in China so the picture is still hidden away.

Our Lady of China, pray for us!

Picture: Painting by John Lu Hung Nien, from The Mary Page

Our Lady Around the World

I am gradually putting together a collection of images of Our Lady from around the world to print out and add to Little Cherub's May Basket. As I get them organised I will be posting them here, along with a simple explanation of each image to use with small children. During May I aim to post the same images daily at my blog, The Bookworm, where I will be adding more extensive information and links.

This year I plan just to look at the cards with Little Cherub and give her a very brief explanation of each one - only one or two simple sentences to help her distinguish the different pictures. I think it will also work to say a litany using the cards: Our Lady of Africa, pray for us; Our Lady of Lourdes, pray for us, and so on. The repetition of a simple litany makes it a attractive form of prayer for toddlers and preschoolers. For a little one, just a few cards at a time may be enough.

A note on copyright
Religious images on the web rarely carry any indication of copyright restrictions, or attribution to any source. Often the same image, or very similar versions, will occur in multiple locations. I am assuming that such images are in the public domain, and have tried to use these where possible. A few images appear more individual, and for these I will add a link underneath to show the internet source. All the images I will be posting are readily available elsewhere on the internet, none are taken from commercial sites, and they are being collected here only for convenience and for personal use.

Tuesday, 15 April 2008

May Baskets

With May just round the corner I have been thinking about Marian activities I could do with my toddler. A Rosary box would be one option, but we have been using Lent and Easter boxes since February and I am ready for a change ... then I remembered these lovely ideas for May Baskets from Alice at Cottage Blessings.

I'm sure Little Cherub would adore a May Basket, and I can put things into it that we can use throughout the month. These are the ideas I have so far for the contents:
  • Rosary - a chunky wooden one if I can get it
  • This printable prayer card with the poem Lovely Lady Dressed in Blue
  • Pictures of Our Lady from around the world - I'm planning to share these here over the next week or so
  • Small, simple prayer book - I will probably just put in our old copy of My First Prayer Book. It will be new to Cherub!
  • Small statue
  • A blue candle
  • Holy water
  • Blue and white silk flowers
  • A small, knitted "Mary" doll, if I can find a suitable pattern
  • Chocolate
If you have older children, you could make May Baskets for them too. If that is too ambitious, then why not get them to help decorate and fill May Baskets for their small siblings?

Saturday, 5 April 2008

Rosary Boxes

The idea of a Rosary Box is to fill a box with small items representing the Mysteries of the Rosary. These can then be used by small children either to follow along with older members of the family praying the Rosary, or to introduce the Mysteries at the child's own level. Even quite young toddlers enjoy these boxes, which make the Biblical events tangible for them.
A commenter asked earlier what to put in a Rosary Box. You can find a list of suggested items here, along with a downloadable file for printing a set of Rosary cards.

Benjamin's Box

I ordered Benjamin's Box: The Story of the Resurrection Eggs (Melody Carlson and Jack Stockman) for Easter, but Amazon UK's supply was delayed and it didn't arrive until today. My little one is still enjoying her Resurrection Box, and the book is a little old for her, so although it is still Eastertide I'm going to put it away for next year.

Benjamin's Box was written to use alongside this set of Resurrection Eggs. Benjamin, a young boy living in Jerusalem, collects a number of items in his treasure box as he follows Jesus during his final days. The items in the eggs match the book, and give the child both a tactile way to explore the story and an aide-memoire to recall the events of the first Easter.

The text is fairly simple - fine for preschoolers, though too wordy for toddlers. If I had used it this year I would just have looked at the pictures with my Little Cherub and talked about the items rather than try to read the book to her. Great literature it is not, but it is readable enough. Here is a sample:
One bright spring morning, Benjamin sat outside in the sunshine. In his hands was a wooden box.
"Hi Benjamin," called his friend, Eli. "What's that you've got?"
"It's my treasure box," said Benjamin. "My grandfather gave it to me before he died last year. He said it was very,very special."
Eli opened it and looked in. "There's nothing in it except for some old straw. How can this be a treasure box?"
Benjamin shrugged. "I don't have any real treasures yet. But my grandfather said this straw came from the bed of a baby who was born in a stable. My grandfather was a shepherd then, and he said the baby would grow up to be a king."
The option to buy the resurrection eggs ready made make this a very simple way of setting up a hands-on Easter story activity ... one that can be repeated year after year. It would also be quite easy to fill one's own set of eggs, or to put the items into a treasure box filled with straw (shredded yellow tissue paper would do nicely). To make your own set you would need:
  1. Small toy donkey (or fake fur would also fit with the text)
  2. Coins
  3. Cup or goblet
  4. Praying hands (a printed picture would do, and a twig would work as an alternative - again, this fits with the text)
  5. Leather strip
  6. Crown of thorns (or points broken of cocktail sticks to represent thorns)
  7. Nails
  8. Dice
  9. Spear (I would use a Playmobil spear)
  10. Small piece of white cloth
  11. A stone
  12. Nothing! - the twelfth egg is empty to represent the empty tomb
The book is published by an evangelical Christian apostolate, with a "Ten Tips to Leading Children to Christ" included at the end. As an adult it is easy to see that the last page of the story has an evangelical slant, with the emphasis on forgiveness and telling others the good news, though I personally wouldn't have a problem reading it to my daughter. During the page about the Last Supper the book says "But what did Jesus mean when he said the wine was like his blood and would be spilled, and the bread was to be broken like his body. It made no sense." I would either tweak the wording or point out that of course, we know that it does make sense because the wine and bread really were His Body and Blood. These quibbles aside, I think the book can easily be used by Catholic families to help bring the Easter story alive for young children.

Monday, 31 March 2008

Toddler Prayers and Prayer Books

 My daughter, Isabella, is 22 months old. In the past year she's consistently surprised me by her love for saying prayers, going to church, of statues and holy cards and crucifixes. On my blog I've been chronicling her developing prayer life. This is my most recent update; not a complete picture of everything we do but a snapshot of the most recent developments.

Bella now says "Amen" at the end of prayers and regularly (though not always) folds her hands during the blessing before meals. Or at least during the first part, discipline often breaks down and she reaches for food before we get to the end of the prayer.

She has started to make some attempts to make the sign of the cross on her own. She either gets the horizontal movement or she manages to touch her forehead and belly. She frequently touches her chest and says "Son" (or is it "sign"?).

I see her moving her lips and listening intently during prayers. She's trying to get the words down. She refers to the Hail Mary as "Grace" and can fill in the blank when I drop a word in the first lines. If I say "Hail" she says "full of grace". I say "The Lord is" she replies "with you" and then says "Blessed". She repeats the words "fruit" and "womb" after I say them.

Dom has now taken over putting Bella to bed after bedtime prayers since (post c-section) I can't yet lift her into her crib. He says that most nights she wants prayers now rather than stories. She says "grace" to request a prayer. We have a prayer book that was given to us that neither Dom nor I like much. It's a Protestant prayer book, mostly treacly poems with "Amen" thrown on at the end. But Bella loves it. So Dom started flipping the pages while reciting Catholic prayers he wants Bella to learn. He says the Hail Mary in English, French and Latin, the Magnificat, the Memorare, Hail Holy Queen, Our Father, Glory Be, etc. He later found a book about Mary that he "reads" in the same way. It's become Bella's usual nightly request. At least for this week.

That's only a temporary solution, though. What we'd really like is a nice Catholic prayer book with beautiful Catholic art. I haven't seen anything in the stores or online that's exactly what I'm looking for. However, I think we have the answer: we're going to make our own prayer book, using pictures downloaded from the web and free book editing software, Book Smart from

We spent Saturday afternoon putting together the prayers and trawling the net looking for good art in a usable format. I'm quite proud of the result and wish I had a way to share it. Dom has done a great job with the layout and design. it isn't cheap; but it isn't really any more than I'd be willing to spend if I found this same book in the store. And this book is titled The Bettinelli Family Prayer Book , dedicated to our children, has hand-picked content, and even includes a photo of us from our honeymoon on the copyright page. What an age we live in when you can design and print your own book from the comfort of your own living room!

Prayers included: The Apostles' Creed, Our Father, Hail Mary, Glory Be (we did these three most common prayers in both English and Latin), Hail Holy Queen, Memorare, Act of Contrition, Anima Christi, Angelus, Magnificat, Psalm 23, St Michael Prayer, Alma Redemptoris Mater, Divine Praises, Act of Faith, Act of Hope, Act of Love.

Pictures included works by Raphael, Durer, Botticelli, Dali, Rublev, Rembrandt, Fra Angelico, Millet, George de la Tour, Giotto, as well as mosaic, icons, and manuscript illuminations by unknown artists.

I'll be sure to write about it's reception when we finally get it printed and start reading it with Bella. I am sure it will be a treasured family keepsake for years to come.

Sunday, 30 March 2008

Liturgical Year Boxes

Since Ash Wednesday my 21 month old Little Cherub has been having a wonderful time with liturgical year boxes. We started with a Stations of the Cross Box, and have now moved on to the Way of Light (Stations of the Resurrection) for Easter. Each box contains fourteen laminated picture cards and fourteen matching items. To give an idea of how we use the boxes, here is a description I posted on my blog ...

I mentioned at the beginning of Lent that I had put together a Stations of the Cross box for Little Cherub, using a set of laminated cards of the Stations that I made and the items listed here. It has been an enormous success. Cherub adores it! At least once or twice every day she rushes over to the drawer where the box lives pointing and repeating insistently "bo'! bo'!" Today it was three times.

We sit down with her "box", tip out the contents and set out the cards one by one, matching the items as we go.

The first station ... "look, Jesus is having his hands tied with rope. What do we need?" ... "ro'!" She finds the piece of string and puts it carefully on the picture.

The second station ... "look, Jesus had to carry a heavy cross. Can you find a cross?" ... some dithering between the small crucifix (The Twelfth Station) and the little wooden cross, then she puts the cross on the picture.

And so on. Every station now has its own point of interest to her. The fourth station ... "Ma'!" (Mary) as she points at the picture of Our Lady. The eighth ... "Baby!" ("Yes, that is the women of Jerusalem with their babies. They are sad. They are crying because Jesus is going to die"). The tenth ... tugs at her dress to show me that Jesus' clothes were taken away. The eleventh ... much demonstration with a plastic nail (useful find in a magic set belonging to her older sister!) poked at her hands and feet, my hands and feet, and any other hands and feet in the vicinity.

The pictures on their own would never have held her interest in the way these little objects do. They make the story real and tangible for her. Many thanks to Irene and her husband for sharing their idea. It has made one little girl (and her Mum) very happy.

Thursday, 27 March 2008

From their tenderest years

Are children ever too young to start learning about the faith? Not according to the Catechism of the Catholic Church. This is what it has to say about the duty of parents ...

Through the grace of the sacrament of marriage, parents receive the responsibility and privilege of evangelizing their children. Parents should initiate their children at an early age into the mysteries of the faith of which they are the "first heralds" for their children. They should associate them from their tenderest years with the life of the Church.34 A wholesome family life can foster interior dispositions that are a genuine preparation for a living faith and remain a support for it throughout one's life.

Education in the faith by the parents should begin in the child's earliest years. This already happens when family members help one another to grow in faith by the witness of a Christian life in keeping with the Gospel. Family catechesis precedes, accompanies, and enriches other forms of instruction in the faith. Parents have the mission of teaching their children to pray and to discover their vocation as children of God. (CCC, 2225-6)
The aim of this blog is to help you to be the "first heralds" for your toddlers and preschoolers. The contributors are all Catholic mothers with young children of their own, and we will be sharing ideas and experiences from our own families. We hope you will enjoy the journey with us.