Catholic Kids, Easter and Holy Week

Did you wear pink or rose colored clothing to Mass for Laetare Sunday?

I did!

Okay, I have to confess, it was totally by accident, haha! When the kids were little, I was much more on top of the liturgical colors and the upcoming liturgical seasons.

Why?

Well, because I made it part of my curriculum. Just like we teach our children the seasons of the year, as a Catholic mom, I taught the Liturgical seasons. These seasons guided the rhythm of our daily lives including what I taught. Not only that, but I have seven kiddos and there are just so many hours in the day to get in everything!

Incorporating lessons pertaining to our liturgical seasons and faith make it possible to involve everyone in the family!

BUT, it was hard to find meaningful and faithful items each year…

That’s why I put together my favorite, family-tested ideas into packets around the Catholic seasons and feast days and used them as our school work.

I absolutely love the build up of Holy Week as we journey towards Easter.

Holy Week

To share this love, I want to firstly foster a sense of reverence for this most Holy Season. and do so together, family style.  Hands-on projects, such as the Jonah Project, Resurrection eggs, and Pascal Candle do just that. They connect Scripture, God’s Word, with physical activities the kids create. We dive into the story of Christ’s Passion, Death, and Resurrection as they unfold throughout Holy Week. We add another lesson each day!

I promise to write soon about the benefits of making mini-books, which is such a powerful method of creating sustained learning!

But I will tell you that my kiddos benefitted greatly from making mini-books! So I made them templates to use for Easter and Holy Week. For example, we made mini-books to learn what are the real symbols and true colors of Easter. If it involved some writing, I had the older siblings help spell words for the younger guys. Sometimes they just made them together. My little ones practiced handwriting skills making these mini-books. My older ones used beautiful Easter notebook pages for journaling and taking notes during the week.

The art of letter writing and handwriting!

I didn’t get around to sending Christmas cards this year! How about you?

I found if I added Easter Cards as our school work this week, it was actually easier than during do so in the Christmas season. It brought back the art of letter writing to my kids. I made printable cards with blank inside for my kids to write personalized messages. I also made some with lines, to make it easier for the little ones. This definitely counts as handwriting practice!

It is always such a delight to see the Easter cards we made each year, not to mention the awesome THANK-YOU’s from our neighbors, friends, and family! Easter cards remind our loved ones of the awesomeness of Christ’s victory over Death, especially those family members who have fallen away from the faith, or need a gentle reminder that you are praying for them!

A few days ago I bought the same Easter Egg dye kit we use every year. I also picked up bags of grass, the paper version, as we have a dog who eats everything, haha! But as always, it is virtually impossible for me to find beautiful faith-filled Easter stickers to decorate our dyed Easter eggs.

So I made Easter sticker sheets too, featuring the real symbols and true colors of Easter (see them in the group photo above). I researched the symbolism and made up info sheets for reference. The kiddos use them to learn, take notes, or add to a mini-book!

With Holy Week and Easter just around the corner, I better start printing up these activities for this year, as I do every year! Better make two sets, to share some of these traditions with my grandchildren!

Visit my Easter Pinterest Board I put together with a bunch of ideas too!

My hope is that I can also save you some mom prep time and inspire you to add these type of activities in lieu of your regular schooling.

It truly is my all-time favorite time of the year! Do take time as a family to contemplate this most glorious season!

Please share, comment your favorite Easter traditions, and “count it as school.”

St. Patrick’s Day – It’s not about Leprechauns, it’s about Prayer!

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Come to find out, thanks to my mom’s steady and relentless genealogy research, there were many Irish grandmas on my husband’s side of the family.

Who knew, with such a Slovakian name as Ciskanik, there would be Dooleys, Fitzgeralds, and English relatives who married Irish women!

So this Italian girl resolved to find out all about  St. Patrick to infuse Irish history into our family homeschool. In my quest, however, I was dismayed at how far from the real story our culture had strayed, especially in our St. Patrick’s Day celebrations.  

St. Patrick was amazing, he was all about prayer! 

I became overwhelmed at the sheer number of prayers attributed to this holy man, not only ones he wrote, but also many that were inspired by him.  

Prayer is central to our relationship with God. 

It is a comfort to me to know that even when St. Patrick strayed and forgot his early faith formation, when the real moment of truth came in his life, he turned to prayer.  

I really think that this was okay by God. We usually forget Him, but when we really need Him, we begin our conversation of prayer.  St. Patrick must have learned how to be quiet and listen to God too!  He most definitely had a two way conversation with God! He heard Him, obeyed Him, and prayed for the many souls he longed to send to Christ! Just read his “Confessio.” We made a Family Read Aloud Version in our St. Patrick’s Religion Lessons and Craft Packet. 

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An oldie but a goody. Watch as “Veggietales” explains the life and teachings of St. Patrick and how he used the power of prayer to bring the people of Ireland out of paganism and into relationship with the one true God!

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St. Patrick’s Prayers

How many of these prayers have you heard or prayed?

We are going to learn a new one this Saint Patrick’s Day and in the process grow closer to God. We are going to dig deeper into our Irish heritage, learn about the Hedge schools, learn about the colors and the symbolism attributed to the Irish and make Irish Soda Bread!

How are you going to spend St. Patrick’s Day? Please comment below, so I can add more Irish heritage and traditions into my family!!

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PRAYER TO CHRIST CRUCIFIED
Keep us in peace, O Christ our God,
under the protection of Thy holy and venerable Cross:
save us from enemies visible and invisible
and account us worthy to glorify Thee with thanksgiving,
together with the Father,
and the Holy Ghost,
now and ever and world without end.
Amen.
[THE LITURGY OF THE ARMENIANS]

Have Faith Love Will Find You
Dear God, Committed love is a sacred treasure I long to find the one who is mine.
I trust you will grant my desires for love – to love of myself, and to find love with my true soul mate.
I trust you will bring this to me gently and sweetly, in a way that is completely right for me and my true love.
I give thanks for your presence, your guidance and your love. And so it is.

High Cross

Prayer to St. Patrick, Patron of Ireland
Dear St. Patrick,
in your humility you called yourself a sinner,
but you became a most successful missionary
and prompted countless pagans
to follow the Saviour.
Many of their descendents in turn
spread the Good News in numerous foreign lands.
Through your powerful intercession with God,
obtain the missionaries we need
to continue the work you began.
Amen.

Prayer about St. Patrick
God our Father,
you sent Saint Patrick to preach your glory to the people of Ireland.
By the help of his prayers,
may all Christians proclaim your love to all men.
Grant this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever.

Thanks for St. Patrick
O God, Who didst vouchsafe to send Thy Confessor and Bishop, Blessed Patrick, to preach Thy glory to the nations, grant, through his merits and intercession, that what Thou dost command us to do, we may, by Thy mercy, be enabled to perform. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, Thy Son, Who liveth and reigneth with Thee in the unity of the Holy Ghost, God, world without end. Amen.

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Prayer for the Faithful by Saint Patrick
May the Strength of God guide us.
May the Power of God preserve us.
May the Wisdom of God instruct us.
May the Hand of God protect us.
May the Way of God direct us.
May the Shield of God defend us.
May the Angels of God guard us.
– Against the snares of the evil one.
May Christ be with us!
May Christ be before us!
May Christ be in us,
Christ be over all!
May Thy Grace, Lord,
Always be ours,
This day, O Lord, and forevermore. Amen.

An Irish prayer
As I arise today,
may the strength of God pilot me,
the power of God uphold me,
the wisdom of God guide me.
May the eye of God look before me,
the ear of God hear me,
the word of God speak for me.
May the hand of God protect me,
the way of God lie before me,
the shield of God defend me,
the host of God save me.
May Christ shield me today.
Christ with me, Christ before me,
Christ behind me,
Christ in me, Christ beneath me,
Christ above me,
Christ on my right, Christ on my left,
Christ when I lie down, Christ when I sit,
Christ when I stand,
Christ in the heart of everyone who thinks of me,
Christ in the mouth of everyone who speaks of me,
Christ in every eye that sees me,
Christ in every ear that hears me. Amen

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St. Patrick’s Breastplate (ca. 389-461 AD.)
I bind unto myself today the power of God to hold and lead, His eye to watch, His might to stay, His ear to hearken to my need: the wisdom of my God to teach, His hand to guide, His shield to ward; the Word of God to give me speech, His heavenly host to be my guard.
Christ be with me, Christ within me, Christ behind me,
Christ before me, Christ beside me, Christ to win me,
Christ to comfort me and restore me, Christ beneath me,
Christ above me, Christ in the hearts of all that love me,
Christ in the mouth of friend and stranger.
I bind unto myself the Name, the strong Name of the Trinity, by invocation of the same, the Three in One, and One in Three, of Whom all nature hath creation; Eternal Father, Spirit, Word: praise to the Lord of my salvation, salvation is of Christ the Lord. Amen.
I bind myself to God’s power to guide me, God’s might to uphold me, God’s wisdom to teach me, God’s Eye to watch over me, God’s Ear to hear me, God’s way to lie before me, God’s shield to shelter me, God’s host to secure me…Against the snares of demons, against the seductions of vices, against the lusts of nature, against everyone who meditates injury to me, whether far or near, few or many.
source: http://www.catholic.org/prayers

Lenten Reading Program

Wow!  It always seems that Lent arrives just when I need it most! 

We are now in our second semester and here, in Delaware, the temperature is hovering in forties with brilliant sunshine!  

It always happens that I feel so dry right about now; I feel overwhelmed. Then, by the grace of God, in comes the season of Lent.  God is so good to us. He gave us an entire season to ready our hearts for the most glorious of all times: Easter, Jesus’ Resurrection.

Being the great bibliophile that I am, my knee jerk reaction to preparation is to line up a reading program!

The following is my humble attempt to offer some suggestions to help you and your family ready their hearts this Lent.

One of my favorite sources for ideas is the fabulous book, Around the Year with the Von Trapp Family by Maria Augusta von Trapp. A dear customer lovingly gave me a copy over ten years ago when it was long out of print and I treasure it.  Now it’s back in print!

Maria offers this in her book: A Lenten Reading Program for yourself and the children. 

This idea is echoed in the booklet Celebrating the Faith in the Home – The Forty Days of Lent, by Teresa Zepeda and Laurie Gill. Sadly, this is out of print. But I have an old copy so I share marvelous ideas gleaned from this book along with other out of print treasures. I also add ideas from my own family (or domestic church).

“Divide our reading into three parts: something for the mind, something for the heart, something for the soul.”

Maria Augusta Trapp

Something for the MIND:

Something about Church History, or the sacraments, ethics, dogma, scholarly life of Jesus, or encyclicals.

This category is easy to fit into your daily school time as part of your religion class. Just pick any books from your religion curriculum or read a chapter each day of Lent from one of the following books:

For Children:

Angel Food for Boys and Girls by  Fr. Gerald T. Brennan

St. Patrick’s Summer A Children’s Adventure Catechism byMarigold Hunt

St. Joseph Picture Books Series by Father Lovasik (Catholic Book Publishing)

For Teens and Adults

Pick a favorite Pope and read several of his encyclicals (just go to www.vativan.va)

The Revolution Against Christendom by Warren Carroll, or any of his other titles

Ten Dates Every Catholic Should Know by Diane Moczar

What Jesus Saw From the Cross by A. G. Sertillanges

Something for the HEART:

I truly believe the saints call us! Pick out two or three favorite family saints from any saint collection you have handy at home and read a chapter each night! These saints then can be your family patron saints for the liturgical year.

For Children:

Vision Books – Wonderful series of Saint Stories written by well-know and beloved authors

Encounter the Saints Series by the Daughters of St. Paul

Twenty Tales of Irish Saints by Alice Curtayne

For Teens and Adults:

St. Gianna Molla by Pietro Molla (Yes, written by her husband, lovely!)

Edmund Campion: A Life by Evelyn Waugh

Any of the Louis de Wohl titles, my favorite one is about Catherine of Sienna titled Lay Siege to Heaven.

Something for the SOUL:

This requires spiritual reading of a high order from works of the saints or saintly writers, prayer books, religious poetry, or picture books of the life of our Lord.

For Children:

My Path to Heaven by Caryll Houselander ( This is actually an mini retreat for kids!)

Speak Lord I am Listening By Christine Haapala

Program for Achieving Character Education– Faith is the best way to teach virtuous behavior

Follow Me (Stations of the Cross meditations with companion Saints that exemplify the virtues portrayed along the via delarosa)

For Teens and Adults:

The Story of a Soul :The Autobiography of the Little Flower

The Weight of Glory by C.S. Lewis

Handbook of Prayers: Student Edition compiled by James Socias

…and specifically for Lenten meals, try:

Twelve Months of Monastery Soups by Brother Victor-Antoine d’Avila-Latourrette

A Continual Feast: A Cookbook to Celebrate the Joys of Family &Faith throughout the Christian Year by Evelyn Vitz

What will you be reading this Lenten season? Please leave a comment!

Catholic kids and the REAL St. Valentine

Image of St. Valentine

Necessity is truly the mother of invention!

Here is my story!

In an attempt to spice things up a bit in our family homeschooling I was planning on doing all things St. Valentine! So off to the library I went. Only to find that practically EVERYTHING I found was about the cute (sometimes creepy looking) cupids with love arrows, hearts, flowers, chocolate BUT nothing about the real saint!

Just to paint the picture , here is a small sampling of titles you will find if you do a library or book search: Hugs and kisses for the Grouchy Ladybug by famed author Eric Carle, Groggle Monster’s Valentine (yes, that is a real book recommended on a popular teacher website), Valentine’s Day Jokes for Kids, The Secret Life of Squirrels – a Love Story, Little Ant’s Valentine, do I need to go on???

Needless to say I was dismayed and horrified at the same time!!

Who is the saint that causes us to be wild about hearts ♥, the color red and send friends and family messages of love every February 14?

The secular world is CLUELESS.

So I made it my mission to learn the real story behind this Catholic feast day!

Step 1:

I began our little evangelization journey/project towards reclaiming the REAL St. Valentine from the jaws of the secular world by first learning several prayers attributed to the saint, to ask him to intercede for our family and friends.

Step 2:

Next I went back to the library and scoured the shelves and on-line catalog, I took out a bunch of books that looked promising and eventually found a few good books to use for our nightly read aloud time. There are not many I would recommend but these definitely passed the mustard! Each one added different facts and historic details.

  • The Story of Valentine’s Day by Clyde Robert Bulla
  • Saint Valentine by Robert Sabuda
  • Saint Valentine by Ann Tompert
  • Hearts, Cupids and Red Roses by Edna Barth

Step 3:

The next thing you knew I was immersing myself in the transition from the pagan rituals and the symbolism of the symbols and colors surrounding this feast day! Naturally that then brought me to the history of the feast day and story of how a Pope helped to Christianize this day, his name is Pope Gelasius. So cool right?

In true form it was the Catholic Church elevating a pagan feast day and its symbols by celebrating the feast day of an early martyr of the Church, St. Valentine. 

Thus became our family tradition, to make cards that included sacred and beautiful images of the real St. Valentine, the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the Immaculate Heart of Mary! We use Scripture verses that speak of REAL love.

Step 4:

I designed it to counts as school work, by adding notebooking sheets for our narrations, mini-book templates of various shapes and designs to have the kids write about all they learned from the history I had written for them on several reference sheets. We also added the mini-books to lapbooks too!

Handwriting practice lessons for the week included Scripture verses I had collected with God’s unending love for His children! Coloring sheets of St. Valentine, were super handy for my little ones during nightly rosary or quiet time.

And I also had holy cards designed so we could print/color and share. This collection has something for everyone in the family!

My talented daughters helped me put all of this together in a 50 page printable packet ! It is well loved by family and friends who use it year after year, as their family tradition and more importantly as an evangelization tool to tell the REAL story of St. Valentine.

For that we are grateful!

Leave a comment on your family’s journey towards evangelizing the culture by reclaiming the saints!!

You too can invite a family you know from your homeschool community or from your parish and make beautiful St. Valentine Cards or postcards to exchange or bring to neighbors! Immerse yourselves in all thing St. Valentine!

Santa Lucia Day ~ Celebrating the Feast of St. Lucy (December 13)

The Feast of St. Lucy 

We are praying for all of you as we await the Light of the World.

The feast of St. Lucy or better known in my Italian family as Santa Lucia is the day our family traditionally sets up our outdoor Christmas lights display. It is one of the events we look forward to as we build towards Christmas.

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Growing up in my Italian family this is the day each year we would light our Christmas tree too! We had an artificial tree (real ones were just too pricey for this New York City family, no balsam growing in Brooklyn and Queens). It didn’t matter that it was not real, the minute the lights went on we held our breath in awe and wonder!

In our family we have celebrated the Swedish tradition, (I had a Swedish uncle too) whereby the oldest daughter, in our case it was always our Anne  (pictured above), who woke early to make breakfast treats and hot cocoa. She would don her battery-operated, candle wreath (no real candles for this momma) and served the entire family in bed. The honor has passed down through the years to the next daughter in line, only to fall back to Anne again, now graduated from college!

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Here are some terrific ideas for St. Lucy celebrations with your family!

Firstly, find out together who St. Lucy is and what does she have to do with light. Hint, Lucy means “light.” As she was an early Christian martyr there are several versions of the story. Here’s a spoiler, her eyes have something to do with the story. A miracle ensued and for her martyrdom she now wears a heavenly crown.

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Watch this lovely video explaining the traditions surrounding this feast day and its association with Advent.

St. Lucy Fast Facts and Activities

  • Here is an ENTIRE Pinterest board dedicated to St. Lucia with tons of resources including recipes, and free downloads:

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Catholic Advent homeschool

The book, A Continual Feast by Evelyn Birge Vitz is my go to source for family traditions.It not only is my best source to live the liturgical year it has recipes that simply do not disappoint! Starting on page 107, there is St. Lucy’s story and a great recipe for St. Lucy’s crown (we have made it many times- yum!). On page 109 you will find the recipe for Swedish St. Lucy ginger snaps (trying it this year) and lest we forget the adults, on page 110 one can find the recipe for Swedish mulled wine.

Don’t have a copy? Not a problem, with this instant download, no shipping….Here is the link: A Continual Feast

A fruitful and blessed Advent to all of you!!
The Ciskanik Family

Why Talk of Such Sadness? The Feast of All Souls

This past year we attended quite a few funerals, more than I can ever remember. I suppose in part it is due to my “getting on in years” as I am now in my late 50’s, in part though, it was because some very dear ones died way too soon.

I am especially missing some very dear soul sisters in Christ who were real heroes with unshakeable courage and a deep love of our Lord. 

But why am I talking of such sadness?

Call me crazy but I think it is not sad talk. As a Catholic I have come to understand suffering and death in its proper perspective.


Remembering that I belong to a very huge family of God comforts, heals and has sanctified my life.  I pray every day for those souls and their families. I ask them to intercede for my family and I have hope that perhaps some day we may all be united in the Beatific Vision.

November is the month dedicated to the Holy Souls in Purgatory, where we are asked by Holy Mother Church to remember all those who have died. We are asked to remember those poor souls in prayer in hope that they will rejoice in the glory of God.  We rejoice with the saints who the Church tells us have arrived at His heavenly kingdom and bask in His Glory. In fact the month is ushered in with All Saints Day, which we just celebrated yesterday.


After watching the movie Love is a Choice, the story of St. Gianna Molla, with my family, we were all moved deeply by the testimony of her husband, Pietro, who told the story of their son, only five at the time, who had seen his father crying several days after his wife’s funeral. He asked his father why he was crying.  Pietro told his son that he missed his wife so very much.  His son’s answer to this was simple and beautiful, “But Papa she is in heaven now.”


A beloved pastor of ours had once told us in an All Souls Mass homily, that his mom would call him about this time every year. It was to remind him to add the names of family members who died over the past year onto “the list.”

You see he keeps a list of everyone (and I mean everyone) in his family who has ever died since he was born! He keeps this list as a reminder to pray for them and remember them. This practice is much like our ancestors practice of lighting  blessed candles on the Feast of All Souls, one for each family member who died that year.   

The candles and Father’s “list” are visible signs that there is hope, peace, an eternal reward and that we are called to remember and pray.


Several years ago, at the Mass for All Souls, Larry and I were asked to each hold a small wooden cross with the name of a parishioner who had died that year. They asked us because no family member was present at that Mass to remember them. As we carried each cross to the altar, taking our our turns as each name was called, we were most grateful and honored by this small gesture of remembrance. 

It really hit home that Larry and I are members of a much bigger family than those who reside in our own home. We are members of the family of God. We belong to Christ Jesus, who laid down his innocent life so that we can have the hope in an eternity with God.

That’s really something to rejoice in.

A blessed All Souls’s Day….there is family waiting for your prayers!

“If we knew what may be obtained from God by the intercession of the Poor Souls, they would not be so much abandoned. Let us pray a great deal for them; they will pray for us.” –St. John Vianney

Praying for Departed Souls and Gaining Indulgences: Here’s how

Do you have a cemetery attached to your local parish or one close by?

Did you know you can gain indulgences during the first days of November?

Here’s how…pass it on…

Indulgenced Acts for the Poor Souls:
A partial indulgence can be obtained by devoutly visiting a cemetery and praying for the departed, even if the prayer is only mental. One can gain aCemeteries-IMG_1975-620 plenary indulgence visiting a cemetery each day between November 1 and November 8. These indulgences are applicable only to the Souls in Purgatory.

A plenary indulgence, again applicable only the Souls in Purgatory, is also granted when the faithful piously visit a church or a public oratory on November 2. In visiting the church or oratory, it is required, that one Our Father and the Creed be recited.

A partial indulgence, applicable only to the Souls in Purgatory, can be obtained when the Eternal Rest (Requiem aeternam) is prayed.

Here is Mozart’s beautiful version:

This is especially beautiful to play during this month of All Souls…and to recite the following prayer with our families at family rosary time or at grace each day this month.

In Latin: Requiem aeternam dona ei (eis), Domine, et lux perpetua luceat ei (eis). Requiescat (-ant) in pace Amen.

In English: Eternal rest grant to them, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon them. May the souls of the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace. Amen.

Here is the prayer added to the “Prayer before Meals”

Bless us, O Lord, and these thy gifts, Which we are about to receive, from Thy bounty, through Christ, our Lord, Amen. And may the souls of the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace. Amen. 

You just might find this lovely addition to your family prayer life will be a blessing all year long….it is a constant reminder of our own goal…to get to heaven…to see God face to face…we cannot forget these poor souls who need our prayers…and once they get to heaven, they will undoubtedly remember us!

(source material:CatholicCulture.org)

St. Andrew Christmas Novena Holy Card

St. Andrew Christmas Novena Holy Card

We’d like to offer you this St. Andrew Christmas Novena holy card, at no charge, as a token of our appreciation for you to help get ready for our Lord’s birth as we enter the season of St. Andrew novenaAdvent! This two-sided holy card features classical artwork on the front side and the Christmas Anticipation Prayer on the reverse.  Just save,  print and pray!

… And have a blessed Advent this year!

Christmas Anticipation Prayer, also known as the St. Andrew Christmas prayer starts November 30, the feast of St. Andrew and continues through Christmas Eve, December 24th!

This meditative prayer is traditionally said 15 times each day to help us reflect on the TRUE meaning of Christmas, the birth of our Savior Jesus Christ!

 Click on the picture….to get your free download!


Cor Unum! One Heart & The Sacred Heart

The von Trapp family, of the Sound of Music fame, called their home in Vermont “Cor Unum” – Latin for: One Heart. They dedicated it to the Sacred Heart of Jesus and in so doing, called their family to be of one heart for our Lord.

image from: www.stowetoday.com
image from: www.stowetoday.com

Theirs was a touching and beautiful gesture that we repeated when we purchased our building to run our family business Emmanuel Books in 2001.  We dedicated the building and had it blessed on the Feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus and even made a heart shaped cake to celebrate.
We continue to consecrate our works to the Sacred Heart.  It is with much gratitude and love that we offer to you our latest in the “Reclaim the Saints” series for Living the Liturgical Year, Sacred Heart of Jesus! In it you will make your very own Sacred Heart Shrines, Holy Cards, a 10-page Prayer book, learn the history of this devotion and so much more!
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Join us for the month of June and the devotion to the Sacred Heart!