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Kay Winchester

Kay Winchester

Kay Winchester lives and works in the Roman Catholic Diocese of Albany, New York. Website URL:

'Pray with Me: Seven Simple Ways to Pray with Your Children'

"Pray with Me: Seven Simple Ways to Pray with Your Children"

By Grace Mazza Urbanski. Indiana: Ave Maria Press, 2015. 160 pages. $14.95 paperback, $11.99 Kindle, $10.49 Nook.

This beautiful little book should be among the items any new Catholic mother receives at her first baby shower. Urbanski, herself the mother of five children, outlines in gentle terms just how parents can convey a love of prayer to their children, even if those same parents start out feeling uncomfortable or inadequate to the task. As the author states in her introduction, "We think a prayerful person should also be a perfect person," an expectation which is precisely the opposite of what many parents feel on any given stressed-filled day. However, that is not a prerequisite for helping children form a prayerful relationship with God. Instead, she says, "Jesus invites us to focus on the beautiful hope he plants deep in our hearts, our fundamental desire for our children's good."

Urbanski approaches praying in seven different ways, some which may be familiar and others which may show a new way of relating to God. Her first chapter, Spontaneous Prayer, speaks of praying from the heart and from the "stuff" of everyday life. "Like an enthusiastic best friend, God loves to hear from us about even the most mundane details of our lives," she says. "Nothing is omitted. Spontaneous prayer invites God into the fullness of each day." In the second chapter, Praying from Memory, she explores the area most of us think of when we "say our prayers" – those beautiful words we learned so thoroughly and so long ago that they spring to our minds and lips almost without thinking. (The appendix of the book is, in fact, "A Treasury of Memorized Prayer"). In the face of differing thoughts (mostly in educational settings) about the value of memorization, she points out another way of looking at it: "Memorized prayer," she notes, "can become robotic, but consider another phrase we use to describe memorization: learning by heart." It is the heart which allows such prayer to nourish us.

In chapters three and four, Urbanski urges parents and children to pray both with Scripture and song. Chapter three essentially explores Lectio Divina on a child's level (with a good dose of St. Ignatius thrown in), while even the most "can't carry a tune in a bucket" parent may be amazed at the science behind the value of music for the human mind, heart and soul. "Biologically, singing releases chemicals in the brain that make us happier, more hopeful, and more trusting," Urbanski notes. "Spiritually, lifting our voices in sung prayer opens our hearts as well." And if the idea of singing seems intimidating, she reminds us that "like any activity that is a little new, singing together gets easier when we do it every day."

"Silence takes practice" the author tells us in the next chapter, but it is in silence that we most often hear the voice of God. In a world in which we are all – children included – bombarded by constant noise, cultivating the ability to find quiet time leads us to God, and then naturally to what Urbanski discusses in chapter six, Reflection. "Reflective prayer," she says, "invites us to see ourselves as we truly are: unique, beloved children of God." Finally, she talks about the Apostleship of Prayer, the Morning Offering, and praying with the Pope. "Faithfully remembering the pope's prayer intentions each month expands a child's worldview," she concludes. "By the end of a calendar year, children have considered 24 diverse groups of people and global issues."

This is an encouraging book, one that not only shows parents how to pray with their children, but how to pray better themselves. Highly recommended.

 
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Communion of Saints: St. Valentine, Feast day Feb. 14

Although his name is very well known (especially in the greeting card, candy and flower industries), the actual identity of St. Valentine is not as clearly defined. In fact, there are three Valentines associated with February 14th who are mentioned in the early martyrologies; however, some scholars believe that two of them, one described as a priest and another as a bishop, may actually have been one and the same person.

What we can say about this saint is that he was likely an Italian who suffered martyrdom in the second half of the third century. According to one account, he was arrested for providing aid to imprisoned Christians; it has also been said that he converted his jailor by restoring sight to that man's blind daughter.

How the feast of an early martyr became associated with love and lovers is unclear, but some have speculated that Valentine may have been martyred as part of the "entertainment" provided during the Roman celebration of Lupercalia, in which young men and women paired up to honor the fertility goddess, Februata Juno. However it happened, there is no question that Valentine's name has been associated with romantic love at least since the Middle Ages, a custom which continues down to the present day.

Sources for these articles include:

www.americancatholic.org

www.catholiconline.com

"Saint Valentine of Rome." CatholicSaints.Info. 1 July 2015.

"Saint Scholastica." CatholicSaints.Info. 2 July 2015.

Shreck, Alan. "Catholic Church History from A to Z." Ann Arbor, Michigan: Servant Publications, 2002.

Thurston, Herbert. "St. Valentine." The Catholic Encyclopedia, 15. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1912.

 

St. Scholastica: Feast Day Feb. 10

It is certainly not unusual for siblings to develop similar interests or to spend time, either together or apart, pursuing the same activities. This is particularly true when the siblings are twins; such was the case with St. Scholastica and her twin brother, St. Benedict. Between the two of them, they found the tradition of Western monasticism – he for men and she for women – that persists in the Church to this day.

Scholastica and Benedict were born into a wealthy Italian family in the town of Nursia in 480, and while twins are often close, the fact that their mother died in childbirth may have strengthened the bond between them even further. Little is known of the details of Scholastica's early life, but she and her brother were raised together in their father's house until Benedict left for Rome to pursue his studies.

In Scholastica's social class, young women often lived in their father's home until they either married or entered religious life. We do know, thanks to the writings of Pope St. Gregory the Great, that she was dedicated to God from an early age, and may even have gathered some like-minded young women around her while still living in Nursia. Whatever the circumstances, she remained in that house until her father's death.

When Benedict subsequently left the "worldliness" of Rome to live a more ascetic life at Monte Cassino (which is located between Rome and Naples), Scholastica relocated as well. Adhering to her brother's monastic Rule, she established what has become known as the first Benedictine convent either at Plumbariola, which is about five miles from Monte Cassio, or in a group of buildings at the foot of Monte Cassino itself.

Though brother and sister lived physically very close to one another, they only met in person once a year at a farmhouse near the monastery (the Benedictine Rule prevented Scholastica from entering the monastery building itself). During these rare meetings, they would spend the day praising God and discussing spiritual matters.

Very near the very end of her life, in 543, Scholastica and her brother were meeting as they usually did; when night drew on, however, she begged Benedict to stay with her until the next day, as she sensed that her own death was imminent. Because the Benedictine Rule stipulated that a monk must not spend a night away from his monastery, her brother at first refused. It is said that, at that point, Scholastica folded her hands on the table, lowered her head, and began to pray. Suddenly, a thunderstorm broke out that was so severe that neither Benedict nor the monks accompanying him could safely leave the convent.

Benedict then cried out, "God forgive you, Sister. What have you done?" Scholastica replied, "I asked a favor of you and you refused. I asked it of God and He granted it." Realizing that this was God's will, Benedict remained talking to his sister until the next morning, at which time they parted. It was the last time in this world that they saw each other; three days later, as he was praying, Benedict saw a dove rising to heaven and knew that it was his sister's soul returning to God. He announced her death to the other monks and instructed them to bring her body back to the monastery. There he laid her in a tomb that he had prepared for himself. He, in turn, died seven years later, in 550.

Scholastica, whose feast day is Feb. 10, is the patron saint of nuns; she is also invoked against severe storms and heavy rain.

Book review: 'Bringing Lent home with Pope Francis'


Book Review
Kay Winchester
'Bringing Lent Home with Pope Francis'

By Donna-Marie Cooper O'Boyle. Indiana: Ave Maria Press, 2015. 96 pages. Cost: $3.50 paperback, $3.32 Kindle, $3.49 Nook

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Donna-Marie Cooper O'Boyle is no stranger to anyone who tunes in regularly to EWTN. A wife and mother of five, she is the host of "Everyday Blessings for Catholic Moms" and "Catholic Mom's Café," as well as being a frequent guest on "EWTN Bookmark." "Faith and Family Live" (now incorporated into Catholic Digest) named her one of the Top Ten Most Fascinating Catholics in 2009.

O'Boyle is also a prolific author, having written some 20 books on faith and family, including "Rooted in Love" and "The Kiss of Jesus." Invited to the Vatican in 2008 to participate in an international congress for women, which marked the 20th anniversary of the Apostolic Letter Lulieris Dignitatem (On the Dignity and Vocation of Women), she has received an Apostolic blessing on her books from both St. John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI.

One of the things she treasures most is her friendship with Mother Teresa of Calcutta. They met more than a dozen times and shared a correspondence that spanned a period of 10 years, which inspired her to become a Lay Missionary of Charity. You can find out more about O'Boyle at her web site, www.donnacooperoboyle.com.

Donna-Marie Cooper O'Boyle has written a new book of Lenten reflections for families, and, like her other books in this series – "Bringing Lent Home with Mother Teresa," (Ave Maria Press), "Bringing Lent Home with St. Therese of Lisieux," (Ave Maria Press) and "Bringing Lent Home with St. John Paul II," (Ave Maria Press) this one also invites the reader to contemplate the season through daily "prayers, reflections and activities." Each of the day's meditations is based on the three traditional pillars of Lent – prayer, fasting and almsgiving – as well as the life and words of a particular spiritual guide; this year, that guide is, appropriately enough, Pope Francis.

The format of the book is designed to be easy for families to use; as O'Boyle says in her introduction, " … simply gather your family and move page-by-page, day-by-day, forging your way through Lent." She suggests gathering wherever people are comfortable, and then using her words as a springboard to what works best for each family's individual circumstances.

The basic structure remains the same each day; first, there is a quote from Pope Francis which sets the tone for all the rest. Each one is taken from such diverse sources as his homilies, remarks at his general audiences, and even his comments on Twitter. Although some are longer than others, they all bring one particular thought into focus and are incorporated into the opening prayer, which can be led by either a parent or an older child. Then there is a brief story from the pope's life (by the end of Lent, the reader is taken from the day he was born in 1936 until the present), followed by a suggestion for daily "fasting," which can be anything from "Today, fast from wanting things to go your way" to "Today, fast from too much busyness as well as technology." (In fact, one of the real strengths of this book is that most of the "fasting" suggested is often from attitudes or habits, although food is occasionally mentioned as well.)

The daily meditation ends with an idea for "almsgiving" which, like the fasting suggestion, moves beyond just material goods to things like "Make a point to place emphasis on others' good words and accomplishments" or "Show mercy and forgiveness today." The final prayer, which incorporates daily intentions as well as the familiar Our Father, Hail Mary and Glory Be, brings everything to a close. The fact that the rhythm of the book is simple and very adaptable to the circumstances of most families makes it a good resource for Lent.

The only caveat I would mention is that this book is probably best saved for families of school-aged children; even at that, some of the material will need some extra explanation on the part of the parent (there is a daily parent reflection to help with this, which O'Boyle suggests be read ahead of time.) I found this especially true in the telling of the pope's life; while adults might appreciate what is going on, very few little ones will understand the intricacies of things like "the solidarity campaign for the bicentenary of the independence of Argentina." (Some adults may want to do a little extra research on some of these things as well!) In fact, I found I identified more with O'Boyle's telling of Francis' life once he became pope; at that point her chronicling seems move from mostly facts to an emphasis on the pope's message.

This book can be used with any cycle of Lenten readings, and so can be revisited in another year as well. The last page, which is Francis' prayer to "Mary, Undoer of Knots," can be prayed any time.

Carrie Handy is the Respect Life Coordinator for the Roman Catholic Diocese of Burlington.

Project Rachel

Retreats 2016

Saturday, March 5, 2016

Day of Hope and Healing

(Burlington Area)

Friday-Sunday, April 8-10, 2016

Rachel's Vineyard Retreat Weekend

For more information about these retreats or to speak confidentially to a trained Project Rachel professional, please contact: (802) 658-4118 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

 
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