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For All the Saints

When I became Anglican, my eyes were opened to the cloud of witnesses the Church has recorded and honored over time.  I want my children to know about the lives of the men and women who have gone before them, about the saints officially recognized by the Church and those not (I’m talking to you, Mr. Clive Staples Lewis). Saints in the truest definition of the word, these people led imperfect lives in the pursuit of holiness and we now believe are in the presence of Jesus himself in heaven.   I need the examples of Teresa, Francis, and Catherine and want my children’s minds to be filled with the stories, sacrifices, miracles, and trials of these precious people.

To that end, I’ve been trying to celebrate a few saints’ days throughout the year.  We’ve celebrated St.  Francis of Assisi, St. Martin of Tours, St. David of Wales, St. Theresa of Lisieux, and Saint Patrick of Ireland.  The last is the easiest, as stories and ideas abound.

If you’re new to observing Saints days, here are some tips and ideas to get you started:

  • Imaginations: Familiarize yourself with the history of the saint. Online Catholic resources are great places to start.  I have really appreciated the book, Folk Like Me, which cycles through hundreds of saints over a two year period. The bios are brief and written to be capture the attention of the young readers.  Read a short bio to your kids (or read it yourself and relay the information to your children story-telling fashion).
  • If you can, find a story book on your particular saint.  You can find a list of picture books and other kid-approved tomes here.
  • Stomachs:  Enjoy something around the table that connects to that saint:  clover leaf rolls for Saint Patrick, animal crackers and hot cocoa for Saint Francis, Welsh cakes for Saint David.  Food and stories are a perfect pair.
  • Hands: Incorporate some handcrafts, games, songs, or activities connected to the saint.  Make St. Brigid’s crosses, decorate a tree outside for the birds to remember St. Francis,  donate winter clothing to honor St. Martin, etc.
  • Hearts: Pray a special prayer of thanksgiving to God for the example of that particular saint.  I have compiled a list of prayers we’ve used here.
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Making Room for Less

Today marks the first day of Lent, a period of 40 days in which many Christians intentionally engage in spiritual practices such as fasting, almsgiving, devotion, and prayer as a way to further seek to walk in the ways of Christ.  Growing up Baptist, I only knew Lent as that time of year when my Catholic friends quit eating chocolate. And while fasting from a particular food or meal is certainly part of what can constitute a Lenten practice, it’s oh so much more.

Our priest has often encouraged us to take away something (TV, facebook, dessert, etc) but also to add something (morning prayer, meditation on Scripture, service, etc).  Thus, as we feel the empty ache that is left when we abstain from eating chocolate/checking pinterest/staying up past 10, we can fill ourselves with the sweeter, more-lasting fruit of nearness to Christ.

Over the past several months I have been increasingly uncomfortable with the quantity of my possessions. I’ve been physically uncomfortable, because the “stuff” of my home continues to take up more and more of our living space and our time.  And I’ve been spiritually uncomfortable, convicted that there are things I own which could be better used by someone else and that my reasons for acquiring and keeping many of my things come out of a fear or pride.  All of this leads to my personal discipline for this Lent:

Over the next 40 days I am committing to donating 1,000 items.  Though I will undoubtedly determine many items to be unusable and therefore, trash, I will only count towards my goal things that are in good condition.  I may sell a few larger items and will set aside those monies for a good cause.  In addition, I am going to fast from purchasing things.  I will continue to buy food and things like toilet paper (I’m not totally crazy) for my family, but I will not buy anything else.  This addresses the “taking away” portion of my Lenten commitment.  I will “add” time to sit in the quiet with Jesus.  I want to experience the peace that comes from being in his presence and pray he will reveal the underlying motivations for my attachment to things.

So here goes.