Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Fulton Sheen Novena

If you've visited this site much at all, you know that Venerable Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen is someone that I greatly admire and a person who has influenced and improved my teaching style.  I believe that he is a phenomenal model of virtue, prayer, Marian devotion, global service, quiet suffering, and evangelism.  

A court case which will be heard in New York on November 1st will determine if Venerable Fulton Sheen's Cause for Canonization can be reopened and move forward.  Because his Cause is so important to our Diocese and the students at my school, we will be praying a novena together leading up to this important decision. 

A novena is simply nine (or more) days of dedicated prayer for a specific intention.  If you want to pray for the nine days leading up to Nov. 1st, you can start praying Sheen's Prayer for Canonization on October 23rd.  We are going to adapt a little and pray the novena on nine school days, so we will begin on Thursday, October 20th. 

We would love for you and your children/students to join in prayer with us.  Here are a few options to guide you:

The Sheen Novena for his Canonization can be found here.
More info about Sheen's Cause for Canonization can be found here.

This coloring page contains the text of the main Prayer for Canonization as well as nine pictures about Fulton Sheen's life to color in each day you pray.
Click here for the Color-A-Novena coloring page:
Talking points about the images for each day of the novena:
Day 1: Fulton Sheen wrote 66 books all about Jesus, Mary, the Mass, prayer, and more!
Day 2: Fulton Sheen was an altar server and student at the Cathedral of St. Mary in Peoria, IL.  This is also where he was ordained a priest.
Day 3: Fulton Sheen was very pro-life and especially dedicated to helping unborn babies.  He wrote the Spiritual Adoption prayer that begins "Jesus, Mary and Joseph, I love you very much..."
Day 4: Fulton Sheen was the star of a popular television show called "Life is Worth Living." It was all about teaching the faith.  He even won an Emmy!
Day 5: Fulton Sheen had a devoted prayer life.  At his ordination, he promised to make a Holy Hour everyday and he kept that promise for the rest of his life.
Day 6: Fulton Sheen created the World Mission Rosary when he was the Director for the Society for the Propagation of the Faith.  It helps us to remember to pray for people everywhere in the world.
Day 7: Fulton Sheen loved Mary.  He dedicated each of his 66 books to her and often prayed a poem called "Lovely Lady Dressed in Blue."
Day 8: Fulton Sheen taught about the Gospels his entire life.  All of his books, radio and television shows, and retreats helped people know Jesus more.
Day 9: Fulton Sheen was ordained a Bishop and later an Archbishop.  He was a shepherd to and a powerful influence on people all around the world.

Another Diocese of Peoria Catholic teacher (who also is a friend of mine) created this slide show to project in her classroom as they prayed the full readings for the novena.  She graciously agreed to share it with us! Click here for the Google Slide Presentation with all of the Novena Prayers:

Thank you for joining with us in prayer!

"It does not take us much time to make us saints.  It only requires much love."
 ~Venerable Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Halloween, All Saints, and All Souls

Here's a repost of my 12 favorite activities for Halloween, All Saints Day, and All Souls Day, some of my favorite celebrations of the year!

1. Here's a Happy All Saints Day coloring page: (Click on image for the file)
2. Litany of the Saints and All Souls prayer cards:
My students loved these when we used them the first time last year.  I took the general opening/closing for most litanies and put it on one side of the prayer cards.  On the other side they get to create their own "All Star" cast. Oh, and we'll be listening to this song this week as well.

We will also use these prayer cards with the Eternal Rest prayer on one side and a place to list specific people on the back.  We plan to use this prayer card for the rest of the month as November is dedicated to praying for all souls in purgatory.  It would also be a great resource any time of the year to teach about the Spiritual Works of Mercy, or for kids who are experiencing a death and working through grief.  (You may be interested in my post on Helping Kids Grieve.)

3. We love this All Saints Day art project. Click on the image to go to a post with step-by-step instructions and ideas:

4. If a whole art project won't be in the works this week, I have several Saints coloring pages you can use instead. The growing list of coloring pages can be found under this tab and then under the Saints heading.

 5. You could quickly make these easy Saint shrines.  This one features St. Joseph, but you could have each student pick a different Saint and then display them all together.  Click on the image for the post with details:

 6. Practice some writing skills and intercessory prayer with these All Saints and All Souls Day Letters.  Click on either image to go to the post:

 7. You could play this Beatitude and Modern Saints game, which is modeled after the idea of Old Maid, but introduces kids to facts about eight modern Saints and the Beatitude they exemplified.  And instead of the "Old Maid" card, there is a "Bad-Attitude" card in the mix.  (Get it? Be-attitude, bad-attitude...I know, groan.)  Click on the image to go to the post:

8. Here's a whole playlist of videos on YouTube about Saints or the Canonization process.  Click on the image to go to the post:

9. Tying All Hallows Eve in with All Saints and All Souls Day has been a part of my curriculum for several years.  This post has a mini coloring book and many coloring pages about those topics. Click on the image to go to the post:

In that post, there is an All Saints Day page with a list of great Saints who can be intercessors in kids lives.  I love to introduce them to new Saints and give them some heavenly heroes to look up to and be inspired by. They also love using the Saints Name Generator to learn about new Saints and chose patrons.  Click on the image to go to the post:

10. An easy and cool art project is to make giant Saint medal using tin foil and a coloring page of a Saint (or student drawing).  I always have the kids make Miraculous Medals like this during our St. Maximilian Kolbe unit, but this year I had several early finishers ask if they could make a Saint medal too.  Here we have St. Max:

Sts. George, Elizabeth Ann Seton, Hubert, and Christopher:

And St. John Paul II. Click on any of those images to read about our Miraculous Medals and you can use the same technique for Saints.

11. This post gives you seven ideas for celebrating a Patron Saint Day (ours is St. Joseph) but many of the ideas would transfer to All Saints Day as well.  Click on the image to go to the post:

12.  We aren't actually doing this on All Saints Day, but this year my class is making a point to celebrate the specific patron Saints of each class with them throughout the school year.  So on St. Vincent de Paul's feast day, we sent 2nd Grade a card, and on St. John Paul II's feast day we sent one to 3rd grade, etc.  You wouldn't have to wait all year though- using a list of classroom Saints, have your class send each of them a card on All Saints Day.

So there you have it!  Tons of options, so don't let this great Solemnity pass you by! :)
How will you be celebrating All the Saints with the kids in your life?  I'd love to hear from you in the comments!

Friday, October 7, 2016

Finding the Seven Sacraments in My Church {scavenger hunt & technology project}

One of my favorite things to do with a class of kids is to take them on a "field trip" to our church.  We are there regularly for Mass, Confession, and Adoration, but there is something special about an unscheduled visit to the quiet church for time in prayer.  I also like to make sure we get in good church tours so that the students are familiar with the structure, decor, and items found in the church.

One way to go about a church tour that is more student directed is a "Sacred Scavenger Hunt."  Instead of the teacher being the expert, the students are able to show what they already know as well as discover new information.  (Hint- call it a Sacred Scavenger Hunt to set the tone- we are still in God's House, we walk, we whisper, etc.)

Because so much of my curriculum focuses on the Sacraments, we go on a Sacred Scavenger Hunt looking for signs and symbols relating to the seven Sacraments.

Here is one recording sheet that lists items the students can try and find, as well as space for them to record other items that relate to each Sacrament:  (Click on image for printable)
Or, you can challenge the students to discover their own connections with this blank record sheet. (Click on image for printable)
We always gather back together and share the symbols each student found.  They are welcome to "borrow" their classmates ideas and record them as well.  I am always amazed at the different things that each child finds, from the sacred vessels for Mass to the images in the stained glass windows.

I make sure as the students are working that I take pictures of all of the items they find. You can see and use some of the images from one of our scavenger hunts in this gallery:

And then, as a cross curricular project between religion and their technology class, the students create a presentation in Google Slides (or you could use Power Point) connecting their knowledge of the Sacraments with their experience in the church.

Click here to view a pdf version of a sample of student work:

And click here for the instructions for the technology project:

How do you incorporate and use technology to strengthen your religion instruction?  I'd love to hear your ideas!

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Little Prayer Books

A quick little organizational tool that has changed my classroom? $1 photo albums.

As we work on developing and memorizing standard prayers, I always make prayer cards for the kids to have on hand.  Not only can they use them to help as they are memorizing, but then they also have them as a resource for the future as they add to their arsenal of prayer.

But honestly, those prayer cards never stayed where they were suppose to be or could be found when needed.  Last school year, I finally solved the problem by purchasing an inexpensive "brag book" photo album for each student.  At a $1 a pop, they have saved my sanity and provided a personal prayer book that each student can keep and hopefully use in the future.

I purchased the photo albums from Dollar Tree (I ordered online- in store won't always have enough for a whole class).  These photo albums perfectly fit the prayer cards, which are one-fourth of an 8 x 11" sheet of paper.

I was even organized enough to print a bunch of the prayer cards on cardstock before school started, so now all I have to do is pull out the next set when I am ready to introduce a new prayer.

A super easy and practical way to help me foster an environment of prayer in my classroom, as well as give my students the tools they need as they grow in faith.

Interested in some of those prayer cards you see in our little prayer books above?  I organized all of my prayer cards and mini books, complete with original illustrations, into a free 90 page ebook.  You can print any or all of the prayer cards to use with the kiddos in your life and make their own little prayer books!

The free Prayer Card Collection ebook is a special gift for my subscribers- and it can be yours too!  Just enter your email over in the right column of my blog, and your ebook will be on its way!

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

St. Terese Novena for Vocations {Color-a-Novena}

I do love praying novenas, but find that I sometimes have a hard time keeping track of the days or holding myself accountable to the set of prayers.  Last year in preparation for St. Terese's Feast Day, I joined in this novena (she is the patroness of vocations in my Diocese) and wanted to try something different.  I wrote out the main prayer in my journal, and ended up doodling in a rose each day as I prayed.  I added in the date, theme for the day, and a brief quote from the reflection.  It kept me on track, and made the novena much more present in my mind and therefore more meaningful.

A novena is simply nine (or sometimes more) consecutive days of prayer for a specific intention often leading up to a Saint's Feast Day or other Liturgical celebration.  You can read more about what a novena is here and about the history of novenas here.  You can even sign up to have novena prayers and reminders sent straight to your inbox at Pray More Novenas.

I thought that this journaling strategy might be great for kids (or other adults) to use as they prayed a novena, so I started making Color-a-Novena sheets.  St. Terese is the first one I have to share with you!  This sheet features the main prayer for the vocations novena and a numbered rose to color for each day.

To finish the novena on October 1st, the Feast of St. Terese, you start the novena on September 23rd.  However, you can pray this novena for vocations any time of the year.  The full novena has themes, meditations, and prayer for each day. You can find the novena in its entirety here and print a pdf here.

Click on the image below to download the St. Terese Color-a-Novena:

Do you have any favorite novenas that you would like to see as a Color-a-Novena?  I'll happily take your suggestions in the comments, and then I'll get to work adding to the collection!

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Woodburned Peg Doll Nativity How-To

I know, I know... it's only September. But in my book, its never too early to start planning for Advent and Christmas and gift giving.  I'd rather do a little work early on so that I can enjoy the season.  Last Christmas, I made this peg doll nativity for my just-turned-one year old niece, and it was a big hit.  The peg dolls are just the right size for a little fist, they make satisfying banging noises, and are fun to chew on (and later will hopefully help her understand the true meaning of Christmas). We've added two new nephews to the family this year, so I wanted to make another nativity.  After watching my niece play with hers I was inspired to think a little differently about the next set.

When making toys for babies & toddlers, you have to consider that everything is going to end up in their mouths.  With that in mind, I still made Baby Jesus a tiny size, but as He is a choking hazard, my sister has Him stored away until the kiddos are bigger.  When I painted last time, I also made sure that my paint and sealer were non-toxic.  This time considering my nephew is even younger, I knew that there was an even higher likelihood that he would have these pieces in his mouth all the time.

After a friend gave me a woodburner this summer, I knew that it would be the perfect medium to make more baby-friendly peg dolls.  I woodburned the peg dolls, stained them with coffee, and sealed with mineral oil and beeswax- all non-toxic, food safe materials that a mama can feel a little better about her baby chewing on.  Not only that, but I l-o-v-e the style of the Nativity and how simple and beautiful it looks.  Plus, they smell delicious- a combo of the burned wood, coffee, and beeswax is like a campfire and incense all rolled into one. :)

If you want to try this technique, I've got a lot of pictures to help you along the way.  If you stumbled upon this and want to paint a set of nativity peg dolls, you could easily use the woodburned patterns below as outlines and you might want to check out this post.  Also, this post has ideas for painting animals for a peg doll nativity, and this post has a set of Saints, a cathedral, and a Mass set.  I think the kiddos in your life would love any of them!

Note: Many of the links to products in this post are affiliate links.  That means that if you click on that link and make a purchase through it, I receive a small percentage at no cost to you.  I only recommend things I already have used and have been happy with.  I appreciate your support!

Here are my supply recommendations based on what I used:
-Wood Doll Bodies Man 3 9/16" (Although I bought in bulk last time to save!)
-Wood Doll Bodies Woman 3 1/2" (Also bought in bulk)
-Wood Blocks 2"
-Wood Blocks 1/2"
-Wood Eggs 2 1/2"
-Woodburning Kit
-Mineral Oil
-Baby Jesus was from Hobby Lobby, but this wood doll is similar
-All of the boxes used (large stable for whole Nativity, small box for Holy Family, and tiny box for Baby Jesus) were from Hobby Lobby.  Unfortunately, I can't link right to the products I used, but I love these boxes.  They are sturdy and you can get them individually in store.  The medium one listed at that link is the one featured in this post.

(*Update- A reader asked about the total cost for this project. I based on amounts from buying the peg dolls in bulk from the links above and I used a 40% off coupon on the large wooden box from Hobby Lobby.  With those discounts, all of the items you see in the first picture cost me about $30.  This doesn't count the cost of the woodburner, wax, oil... or coffee :) It would be a bit more expensive if you purchased the peg dolls in smaller quantities, but you could always find someone to split a larger order with, do a peg exchange, etc.)

First up, sketch lightly in pencil.  Totally worth the time, because then you concentrate on small areas while wordburning without trying to figure out the big picture.  And there's no need to erase unless you miss some lines.  You can keep an eye out for any rough edges that might need some light sanding at this point.  All of the supplies I mentioned above have always been very well made and I haven't had to worry about sanding, except on the edges of the boxes.

The woodburning kit I used (listed above) came with a few standard tips.  I almost exclusively used the fine and round tips.  I did use the straight tip in some cases for hair and a couple of lines, and I used the shading tip to create the angels' wings.  I hadn't woodburned in many many years, but it actually was easier than I remembered.  I would recommend practicing with a scrap piece of wood to get a feel for the tips and to also be very careful with your fingers when you start working on the pegs. :)

As great as the woodburning looked, it needed a little contrast.  I decided to use a coffee stain.  I brewed double strength coffee and brushed it on with a paint brush.  I had planned on adding water to dilute it and make lighter shades, but actually ended up letting it dry and adding more coats to create darker shades.  The coffee obviously soaks into cut ends and smooth ends of the wood differently.

Here you can see what a difference the contrasting brown colors makes.  I let the stain dry completely before adding sealer.

Also, the wooden blocks, especially the 2" size, seemed to have very sharp corners.  Not only did this make me nervous if one of the kids fell onto it, but it also seemed more likely to wear down and splinter.  I could have sanded the corners, but again, thinking about preventing splinters I tried another technique.  I put one corner of the block on a steel plate I use for jewelry making (you could use any hard surface, like the bottom of a skillet) and then whacked the opposite diagonal corner with a hammer.  The result was a dented in corner on two of the eight corners that looks much more baby safe.  It only took a couple of minutes to do this on all of the blocks.

Next up, sealing the wood.  I used mineral oil and beeswax to create a food safe sealant for the natural wood.  Using a one part wax to four parts oil ratio, I warmed up the mineral oil in a double boiler and then added small pieces of the wax, stirring until melted.  I waited for it to cool a bit and then used a rag to rub into the wood while it was still warm.  As it cools, it gets too solid to work with, so I just put it in a hot water bath to warm it back up.  I let the sealant sit for about 20 minutes (basically the time for me to put it on every piece and then get back to the beginning) and then buffed off the excess with another clean rag.  I put two coats on some of the rougher piece of wood, including the box.

Ok, ready to get started?  Whether you decide to paint or woodburn, it can be nice to have a pattern to start with.  I always like to have one peg doll to look at, so I took pictures of the front, back and side of the various people and animals in the Nativity:

Here's the Holy Family:
The Wise Men:
Their Camels:
The Angels:
The Shepherds:
Their Sheep:
And the Cattle and Donkey:

And finally, I woodburned a big star and lots of little stars inside the lid of the box listed above.  It is the perfect size to function as a stable for play and also for storage.  Baby Jesus is lying in swaddling clothes in the bottom of a tiny wood box (from Hobby Lobby) for His manger.

If you don't want to start with the whole Nativity, you could make just the Holy Family in a small box like this.  I made these for some baby showers this fall.

Aren't they so cute?!? I just love how this turned out :)

If you are interested in more Catholic peg doll projects, check out these posts:

Peg Doll Nativity:

Wooden Animals for a Peg Doll Nativity:

Passion & Resurrection Peg Doll Set:

Saints, Cathedral, and Mass Set: