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

Paola’s Book Bites: Encounter the Saints Series

ENCOUNTER THE SAINTS SERIES

St John Paul II: Be Not Afraid
By Sr. Susan Helen Wallace, FSP

John Paul II, who served as Pope during the last 25 years of the 20th century and who led the Church with hope into the third Christian millennium, was beatified six short years after his death on May 1, 2011. Born in 1920 to a devout Catholic family, ordained a priest in 1946, ordained a bishop in 1958, and elected Pope on October 16, 1978; the first non-Italian Pope in 455 years. From that moment he took the Church and the world by storm. He traveled the world to proclaim Jesus Christ to all people, making a tremendous impact on hearts and minds and drawing large crowds everywhere he went. John Paul II never let oppression and tyranny spoil his dreams or dampen his faith. It is a message every child needs to hear as they try to be a true follower of Jesus. (Grade 4+, 111 pages, 4 ½” x 7”, PB, $)

St. Gianna Beretta Molla: The Gift of Life
By Susan Helen Wallace, FSP

This title in the series for younger readers tells the inspiring story of Saint Gianna from her awaited birth to her touching death. This book reveals the friendly and loving Gianna while we see her coping with the death of her siblings and later her parents, moving to different places throughout her childhood years, struggling with schoolwork, falling in love with her future husband, fulfilling her duties as a doctor and raising children. Gianna was impressed with the idea that we can prepare ourselves for heaven by the way we live on earth. Gianna studied medicine and became a doctor in 1949 specializing in pediatrics. Practicing medicine was not just her job, but the way she obeyed Jesus’ command to love one another and nurture both body and soul. It was not until she met Pietro, the brother of one of her dying patients, that Gianna realized that God was calling her to marry and be a good Christian wife, mother and doctor. (Grade 4+, 112 pages, 4 ½” x 7”, PB, $)

St. John Vianney: A Priest for All People
By Elizabeth Marie DeDomenico, FSP

Discover the life story of St. John Vianney—beloved patron saint of parish priests. From his youth during the tumultuous French Revolution, to his difficult years of study and amazing work to rebuild the parish of Ars, John Vianney is a model of love for God that spilled over into tireless care for others. Historical and cultural details make the story of this remarkable saint come alive for young readers. Also includes a glossary, features black and white illustrations by Ben Hake and a concluding prayer. (Grade 4+, 128 pages, 4 ½” x 7”, PB, $)

St. Damien of Molokai: Hero of Hawaii
By Virginia H. Richards

Canonized by Pope Benedict XVI on October 11th of 2009, Joseph De Veuster was an ordinary boy growing up in Belgium in the mid 1800’s, planning to take over the family farm as he grew older, until he was called to a new vocation-the life of a priest. Joseph became Father Damien and was sent as a missionary to Hawaii and, eventually, to volunteer to go to Molokai to become the priest for those suffering from leprosy. He ministered to those who were quarantined on this remote and desolate island. He brought dignity and more important, Jesus in the Eucharist to his new family, the lepers of Molokai. This truly is an amazing and inspiring life of service in the name of God. (Grade 4+, 102 pages, 4 ½” x 7”, PB, $)

St Bakhita of Sudan: Forever Free
By Susan Helen Wallace, FSP

Kidnapped into slavery at the age of seven and brought to Italy as a teenager, the indomitable Bakhita eventually became a Catholic nun and spent over fifty years joyously serving her Lord as a Canossian Sister. In 2000, Pope John Paul II canonized her. This African saint’s engrossing life story, heroic choices, and forgiving heart make her a wonderful role model! (Grade 4+, 102 pages, 4 ½” x 7”, PB, $)

St. Edith Stein: Blessed by the Cross
By Patricia Jablonski, FSP

Learn about a saint of our times…a brilliant Jewish philosopher born in Germany before WWI. After reading the biography of St. Teresa of Avila, she converted in 1922 and became a Carmelite nun! She was also martyred in Auschwitz during WWII and was canonized by John Paul II in 1998. (Grade 4+, 115 pages, 4 ½” x 7”, PB, $)

 

 

St. Maximilian Kolbe: Mary’s Knight
By Patricia Jablonski, FSP

Learn about another great saint of our times… born in Poland in 1894 to poor, but devout Catholic parents. At a young age, he asked Mary what would become of him…and when she appeared to him, she asked would he accept the crown of purity or of martyrdom. He accepted both! After becoming a Franciscan priest, he began Militia Immaculatae as well as a publication Knight of the Immaculate. In Nazi occupied Poland, he was sent to Auschwitz, where he asked to take the place of another prisoner (who was a father and husband) selected for starvation in reprisal for the escape of three prisoners! He was canonized by John Paul II in 1982. (Grade 4+, 115 pages, 4 ½” x 7”, PB, $)

St. Pio of Pietrelcina: Rich in Love
By Eileen Bertanzetti

Known to us first as Padre Pio, he was born of poor farmers in southern Italy in 1887. He had poor health, but through grace became a priest in 1910. Many were attracted to his confessional and saintly counsel, including an elderly, saintly Italian neighbor of ours. He became the first priest to bear the wounds of Christ stigmata in 1918. His life was one of austerity and suffering till he died in 1968. (Grade 4+, 112 pages, 4 ½” x 7”, PB, $)

 

Blessed Teresa of Calcutta: Missionary of Charity
By Mary Glavich, SND

The name Mother Teresa of Calcutta is known to all of us… get to know her life story! She followed her first calling to become a nun and her second calling to serve “the poorest of the poor”. Since 1950, when she began the Missionaries of Charity, her work knew no boundaries… the poor are “… Christ in distressing disguise.” She died in 1997 and was beatified in 2003. (Grade 4+, 132 pages, 4 ½” x 7”, PB, $)

Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati: Journey to the Summit
By Ana Maria Vazquez and Jennings Dean
Pier Giorgio Frassati, beatified by Pope John Paul II in 1990, lived only twenty-four years. But in that short time, he lived his life to the fullest. His student escapades, his athletic achievements, and his dedication to helping the poor all combined to make this amazing young man an “avalanche of life.” (Grade 4+, 142 pages, 4 ½” x 7”, PB, $)

Paola’s Book Bites: Heroes and Saints

Book of Heroes
By Amy Welborn
Publisher: Loyola University Press

What a breath of fresh air to read a book written for children about real HEROES.

Amy Welborn has an incredible gift of relating deep truths to children in an easy manner. Her description of “What a hero is” alone is worth getting this treasure of a book. By using the spiritual and moral virtues as a guide towards introducing REAL Heroes (Saints and Blesseds) she incorporates opportunities for the child to really think about their own relationship with God.

Meet well known, lesser known, modern, and ancient saints in stories that describe the saints lives and how they loved God above all, how God was the center of their lives and in ways that our children can find true heroes to imitate!!! This is a real find and one you will go to over and over again. This book would also work well with the PACE program in bringing home virtue to a child’s life. Great to read aloud. (Ages 8+, 175 pages, HC, $$)

Book of Saints
By Amy Welborn
Publisher: Loyola University Press

Perhaps you have read her Prove-it series, which is amazing see my review here! Well, she has done it again—this time for a younger set.

This gifted author has written a great compilation of the saints accessible for our children and it is truly inspiring. Who are the saints, why are they important, and what can today’s children learn from them? In Book of Saints, author Amy Welborn answers these questions with exciting and inspiring stories, real-life applications, and important information about these heroes of the Church.

This delightful collection of saints’ lives, written in a storybook style for children eight to twelve, explains how saints become saints, why we honor them, and how they help us even today. Divided thematically, the book features more than sixty saints from all over the world and from all across time, including our newest saints, such as Katharine Drexel; popular saints, such as St. Anthony of Padua; and Blesseds, such as Blessed Kateri Tekakwitha. Each story tells about a saint and encourages readers to consider how they might apply what they learn from the story to their everyday lives. (Ages 8+, 304 pages, HC, $$)

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!


Beauty surrounds the Feast of the Annunciation

Paolo_de_Matteis_-_The_AnnunciationThe Feast of the Annunciation is a beloved feast day for it is the day we rejoice in Mary’s YES!  It only stands to reason that we and the Church rejoice as it is the day that the “Word was made Flesh!”  There was a very dear priest in our diocese, one of those rare individuals who inspired countless people with his unwavering trust in Divine Providence…even in the most difficult and trying situations he reminded us to trust. He loved the Blessed Mother and like her was transformed by his YES to a life in service to God and in turn transformed all of us!  Everyone prayed that he would live to celebrate his 100th birthday, but he actually died just a few short hours of the day. However, nine months earlier he would cheerfully and enthusiastically remind all of us that indeed he was already 100 years old since he counted his age from the time of his conception in his mother’s womb. What a testimony to all of us as to the sanctity of life in the womb, the unborn! Today is no ordinary day but a great day to pause from our day to day routines and take time to celebrate this momentous event in all our lives!

“In families with young children, this feast would be a good time to begin teaching youngsters important lessons about the inestimable value God places on human life. 

Mary with baby JesusFirst, that He loved us so much that He chose to become one of us — to take on our humanity so completely that he “became flesh”, as utterly weak and dependent as any human infant is.   Second, God became “like us in all things except sin” at the moment of His conception in Mary’s womb, not at some later time.  The Feast of the Annunciation is a celebration of the actual Incarnation of Jesus Christ.

Children may, quite naturally, think that the birth of Jesus is the time when Our Savior first ‘became Man,’ especially since Christmas has become the Christian holiday in our culture.  We understand best what we can see, what is visible.  The invisible, the hidden is, no less real for our lack of seeing it.  (We think of the baby in its mother’s womb, known and felt, though unseen, only to her.)

Even very young children can know the truth about the growth of a baby inside its mother’s body, especially If the mother of the family (or an aunt, perhaps) happens to be pregnant on the holiday.  The exactly nine months’ wait from March 25th to December 25th for the Baby to be born would be interesting to most children.  (God made no special rules for His own bodily development!) What better way than reading the first chapter of Luke to gently begin teaching children about the beginning of each new human life?

Children should be told how important it is to every person that “the Word became flesh and dwelt among us” (John 1), and parents can find this feast a valuable teaching moment. 

teaching-youth-religious-values.jpg.crop_displayThe Catechism of the Catholic Church on Article 3 of the Creed, “He was conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit, and was born of the Virgin Mary” (#436-511), should be read by parents.  This will not only give adults a timely review of Catholic doctrine, but it can be a great help to us in transmitting important truths of the faith to our children.  The summary at the end can help formulate points we want to emphasize. Excerpts from the Catechism  could be read aloud to older children.” (http://www.ewtn.com/library/FAMILY/MARCH25.TXT)

In hope of inspiring you to pause from your regular curriculum may I suggest the following:

You can begin with the prayers associated with Mary and her Fiat, the Angelus, the Magnificat  and an Annunciation prayer too! (http://www.marypages.com/Annunciation.htm).  Over the centuries these same prayers inspired lovely Classical  pieces of music.  As I started to research them, I had no idea of the veritable wealth of music giving Glory to unborn Christ Child. Do plan on spending your quiet time today listening to this beautiful music and hear the joy!

William-Adolphe_Bouguereau_(1825-1905)_-_Song_of_the_Angels_(1881)_edit

The Magnificat, Canticle of Mary, Song of Mary, Latin Hymn, Daughters of Mary:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y9QtEb8XNr4

Bach – Magnificat in D major, BWV 243 : Harnoncourthttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5oL_qsKPeik

Antonio Vivaldi – Magnificat in G Minor RV  610:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xDQREd7Ahys

MOZART Vesperae de Dominica, KV 321 – [6] Magnificat KOOPMAN:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OuOT1LMFIQA

Franz Schubert – Magnificat in C major, D486:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=itQNbtXXhzE

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAYou can also see that this momentous event also inspired much artwork. Three years ago Larry and I found a gorgeous rendition of the Annunciation by the artist Jan Van Eyck on our 25th Wedding Anniversary, or should I say it found us, as a reminder of our YES to each other and to God. It is currently at the National Gallery of Art in Washington DC, a trip we will have to make soon to see the original! Today you can explore the work here where you can take a closer look and explore its symbolism: http://www.nga.gov/content/ngaweb/Collection/art-object-page.46.html?opensection=overview

And that is not the only image of the Annunciation, visit these sites to gaze at all the beauty. The following sites have a multitude of beautiful Classical artwork to share with your family:

http://www.abcgallery.com/L/leonardo/leonardo36.html (Leonardo Da Vinci The Annunciation.  Uffizi Gallery, Florence, Italy)

http://www.abcgallery.com/B/botticelli/botticelli34.html (Sandro Boticelli Cestello Annunciation Uffizi Gallery, Florence, Italy)

http://www.abcgallery.com/virgin.html#Annunciation (many other masterpieces)

For your younger set I found several coloring pages that you can print whereby they grant copyright permission  to print and use any original material or ideas for individual or classroom use.

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Coloring pages:

This site has about 10 different images to choose from different sources: http://printablecolouringpages.co.uk/?s=the+annunciation

This one comes to us compliments from the parish church in Front Royal Virginia St. John the Baptist Catholic Church where we just went last weekend! http://www.sjtb.org/images/Annunciation.pdf

Here is a simple outline coloring page for the littlest ones:http://www.sermons4kids.com/mary_angel_colorpg.htm

For a bit of fun here are pictures that the kids can color on-line, changing the colors and printing off the version they like best! : http://www.supercoloring.com/pages/annunciation

http://www.thecolor.com/Coloring/simone-martini-the-annunciation.aspx

Be certain to end the day with a delicious meal or special dessert.  My favorite cookbook, A Continual Feast has a Swedish Waffles recipe where the author explains that in Europe beginning around the twelfth century waffles were generally eaten on feast days and most certainly on the Feast of the Annunciation. You can use your own special recipe or this one:

Swedish Waffles (A Continual Feast by Evelyn Birge Vitz)

swedish waffles

1 3/4 cups heavy cream, well-chilled
1 1/3 cups flour
1-2 tablespoons sugar
Pinch of salt
1/2 cup cold water
3 tablespoons melted sweet butter

Whip the cream until stiff.  Mix the flour, sugar, and salt in a bowl. Stir in the water to make a smooth batter. Fold the whipped cream into the batter. Stir in the melted butter.

Heat the waffle iron. (If it is well seasoned, it will not need to be greased.) Fill the grid surface about two-thirds full of batter. Bake until golden brown.

Place on a rack to keep crisp while you make the rest of the waffles.

Yield: about 8 waffles

The Feast Days of Advent

In Advent, the season of preparation, it is not a coincidence that the Church gives us  some very special feast days …..beginning with our family favorite, the Feast of St. Andrew on November 30th…. we stand in thanksgiving for his “Yes” to follow Christ, to be a first disciple and bring in other disciples such as his own brother Peter… our very first Pope (we have our own Andrew & Peter, too!).
St Andrew Novena Holy cardTo help you prepare we have a a FREE download for your family of the St. Andrew Christmas Novena Holy Card!

On December 6th, next to arrive is the feast for the patron saint of children, St. Nicholas, the real “Santa Claus”… each year we layout all nine pairs of shoes by the fireplace. We  wake in the morning to treats and always chocolate coins in our shoes… and somehow miraculously, just for the children, it always seems to snow, even just a little bit here in the Mid-Atlantic .

We bake a lovely cake for the Blessed Mother’s feast of her Immaculate Conception on December 8th. When the kids were little we made our own play to celebrate both the feast of Juan Diego on the 9th ….and the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe, the patroness of the unborn, on the 12th. We pray for her intercession and protection for the most vulnerable in our world… (Our girls sleep with their Lady of Guadalupe dolls). Quickly arrives the 13th, the feast of St. Lucy….my Swedish uncle always had us remember this day and now our oldest Anne is carrying on the tradition and waking us with cocoa and muffins….we also put up our Christmas lights outside the house on this day as my family did every year on the Festa of Santa Lucia, when I was little…

The next week brings St. John of the Cross on the 14th …that great Carmelite reformer…on the 21st is the feast of yet another disciple…St. Thomas… heralding us unto the birth of Our Lord on the 25th, Christmas day. Yes, it is no coincidence that God has placed these saintly celebrations to help us prepare each day towards Christmas….enjoy your family traditions…add new ones this year and most importantly pray together, adore together and thank the prince of Peace…our Lord Jesus Christ, Emmanuel!

Who is St. Valentine?

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 has forgotten him but not Catholic families.  We know that the Church elevated a pagan feast day and its symbols by celebrating the feast day of an early martyr of the Church, St. Valentine. 

We have created an activity  packet in our “Reclaim the Saints Series”  that will help your family reclaim this feast as a celebration of God’s love for all of us. This year we added new designs and new activities and bio of the Pope who helped to Christianize this day.  Easily adaptable for a variety of ages and downloadable so you buy it once for your entire family to use each year!

We have included:

  • Ready-made cards with holy images of St. Valentine, the St Valentine Updated Version- email picImmaculate Heart of Mary and the Sacred Heart of Jesus with Scripture verses.
  • Templates to make your own cards with images to cut and color and add for your own inspired design
  • Also included are 15 Scripture verses to practice handwriting
  • Mini-book templates
  • Notebooking pages
  • A coloring page of St. Valentine
  • Holy cards to cut and color
  • A history of this feast day and its symbols
  • MUCH MORE!

Click Here for the Activity Packet

Our Holy Father, the Pope

Our Holy Father, the Pope:The Papacy from Saint Peter to the Present

by Don R. Caffery Illustrated by Emmanuel Beaudesson

After the historic visit of Pope Francis to America, it is fitting and fun to read together from this beautifully and richly, illustrated, hardcover book about the papacy.  The book takes the reader through the inception of the first pope, beginning at the Sea of Gallilee with Peter and Jesus as Jesus first calls Peter to be a “a fisher of men”,  to his giving Peter the “keys of the Kingdom.”

The language of the narrative is appropriate for even your young ones to listen along and engaging enough to keep everyone still while being inspirational and rich in the depth our our beliefs.   As we are lead to Peter’s life as the first pope we see the the connection today to our pope as well as the election of a pope.

The book journeys towards several notable popes to our present day Pope Francis.  It is complemented with a lovely prayer for the pope, as well as the official listing of all 266 popes throughout the history of the papacy. You can even extend the lessons taught in this inspiring book with the suggested Scripture readings listed in the back of the book. 48 pp. Hardcover. All ages.

Copies may be obtained here:

Ignatius Press - Catholic Books

Real Woman, Real Saints

9780867168587_p0_v1_s192x300By Gina Loehr 

“Heaven’s doors are wide open and God is doing everything he can to make us all into saints.” —from Chapter Eight.  We know a great book when our children show us one! Full of famous and not so famous woman saints, from every station of life, each with their own remarkable story. Sanctity will never fit into a formula, but the women in Real Women, Real Saints have one thing in common: their deep love for God and the determination to live life in harmony with his will. The brief biographies in this book will help you learn to abandon yourself to God, as these women did, and live a rich, full life in return. Chapters are divided by each of the virtues, faith, hope, charity, prudence, justice, fortitude, and temperance with fourteen examples of women saints who exemplify these virtues. Listed with each saint are their feast day, patronage and time period in which they lived.