5 fun ideas for a covid friendly Catholic Schools Week

For several years I’ve shared on the blog some of the ideas my students and I come up with for the celebration of Catholic Schools Week (CSW). This will be my sixth year in charge of all the planning, and I am glad that I have a few years under my belt as I head into a year of no all school prayer services, assemblies or masses. Because our school is about 350 students, there isn’t a way to safely gather everyone together the way that we used to. Add in the fact that we are in person and online simultaneously, and there was a huge need for creativity. Here are five of my favorite ideas for this year’s unique CSW.

Please note: our school is online and in person at the same time. These activities are geared towards in person schooling, but could certainly be adapted for online or hybrid schedules.

This post uses affiliate links. This means that if you use my link to purchase these items, I receive a small commission at no cost to you.

  1. Create a mask that represents your class. Each class will be given a plain white cotton mask and tasked with designing and decorating it in a way that represents their class. We will then display these masks on a bulletin board during the month of February and most likely save them as a time capsule of this crazy time in our school.
  2. Mask decorating contest. Similar to the previous idea, on the day celebrating community, students will decorate personal masks reflecting our school values and their own gifts and talents. We will use the same white cotton masks and I am scouring the internet for cheap decorating tools. So far these permanent markers and stick on jewels are front runners. *
  3. School wide Kahoot game. If you’re new to Kahoot, it’s amazing for virtual teaching. You create quizzes about anything, and you can host from your computer while students log in with their own pin. After each question there’s a leaderboard and it’s a really fun way to review. Because our theme for students day this year is Disney day, we created a Disney quiz and each classroom will login as one player while we host from my room. If you don’t want to build your own quiz, there are plenty of other quizzes you can use on the site. You can even find some great religious ones- for Christmas my class played some about Our Lady of Guadalupe and St. Nicholas.
  4. Unlock your vocation escape room. This is by far our most ambitious plan, and initially I wasn’t sure how it would work, but my 8th graders convinced me that it could work and it would be really cool. On the day of the week celebrating vocations, each class will get a kit to play a short escape room based on the vocations. The puzzles will be preset for them in the boxes, and the goal of the escape room will be to highlight the four vocations and that the “secret” to unlocking your vocation is prayer. Once we have the kits put together I will post a picture here on the blog.
  5. Introduce the year of St. Joseph. Your school may have already talked about the year of St. Joseph, but mine hasn’t done much about it yet, and he is our patron. In our research about how to celebrate this year, the 8th graders and I learned about consecration to St. Joseph. I’ve taken part in Marian consecrations before, but never a St. Joseph one. The basic idea is that you pray for 33 days, and then ask Joseph to be your special patron. And here’s the part where the Holy Spirit is really cool. On our school calendar, from February 1 (start of CSW) to March 19 (Feast of St. Joseph) is EXACTLY 33 SCHOOL DAYS. We developed a kid friendly St. Joseph Prayer, and we will consecrate our whole school to St. Joseph on his feast day in March!

I know Catholic Schools Week will look different this year, but I am really excited about this plans and very proud of my students and their creativity. What will your CSW celebrations look like this year? Share your ideas in the comments!

* the link for the markers and for the jewels is an affiliate link. This means if you use the link to purchase the items I receive a small commission at no cost to you.

Advent is almost here!

Even before I knew a whole lot about liturgical living, Advent was one of my favorite times of year to be Catholic. I love the music, the signs and symbols, and the beautiful scripture readings that we experience throughout this short season leading up to Christmas. And this year, because of the fact that Christmas falls on a Friday, we get almost four complete weeks of Advent. I am super stoked.

To get ready for this great season, I wanted to reshare some resources I’ve posted before, and then in the next week I will highlight some new and exciting resources I plan to use this year, both at home and in school.

This post contains affiliate links, which are indicated by an asterisk *. If you use my link to purchase something, I receive a small commission at no cost to you. All other links are to my original content.

This year I will be using weekly graphic organizers to help students pray with the themes of hope, love, joy and peace. You can find these and resources for teaching the O Antiphons in my Teachers Pay Teachers Store.

For some great music to get you in the festive Advent spirit without jumping straight to Christmas, checkout 10 (ish) great songs for Advent. I hadn’t listened to it before last year, but Matt Maher’s album The Advent of Christmas * is wonderful too. There’s even a book * that goes along with the album.

For some craft ideas to celebrate the weekly Advent themes of hope, love, joy and peace, check out the Advent Party Poppers and Advent Bookmarks.

For families with smaller Catholics, here’s how I celebrate Advent at home with my toddler and infant sons.

For ideas on how to use the tradition of the Jesse Tree in your classroom check out these posts: How I Advent: Classroom Edition, O Jesse Tree, and O Jesse Tree 2.0

What are your plans to have a holy advent for yourself, your students, and your family?

JP 2, We Love You!

As I wrote the title for this post, I was immediately transported to a rainy morning in Toronto, Canada. I am 15 years old, and I have been waiting at the barricades since dawn, in the pouring rain, knowing that HE would be driving by soon. Because I am small, and despite several language barriers, as the time draws near I am hefted up onto a German man’s shoulders and immediately handed at least ten cameras. (We didn’t really do cell phone cameras yet.) By the time John Paul the Second drives through the crowd I am soaked, excited and screaming along with everyone around me, “JP 2, We Love You!” to which the now saint replied, “JP 2, he loves you!”

John Paul the Second is one of my favorite saints for many reasons, but getting to see him at World Youth Day is certainly in the top five. John Paul the Second was a pope of so many firsts: first non-Italian pope in centuries, first pope to travel extensively, first pope to add to the mysteries of the rosary, first pope to rally the youth of the Church and so many more. I think it’s super important that our students get to meet this groundbreaking man, and since his feast day is next week, this is the perfect time to teach about John Paul II.

In honor of his feast day on the 22nd, I wanted to share a project I have used for many years to help students learn more about John Paul II. We focus on learning about his life and then three specific things he did during his papacy: start World Youth Day, add the luminous mysteries to the rosary, and canonize 483 saints, more than any other pope before him. As we learn more about him, students get a chance to take one of these three accomplishments and create a project based around it.

Project 1: The Luminous Mysteries. When students choose this project, they research the history of the luminous mysteries and why the Holy Father added them to the Rosary. They then go through the gospels and create a new set of 5 mysteries of the rosary, using the life of Jesus and the gospels. Some of my favorites in the past have been The Mysterious Mysteries of the Rosary, which focused on tricky stories like the cursing of the fig tree and the calling of Bartholomew, and The Mysteries of Exorcism, which are exactly what they sound like.

Project 2: Design a World Youth Day. When students choose this project, they research the history of World Youth Day and why the Holy Father decided that meeting the youth of his church was so important. Then they research the city where the next WYD will be held and create their own design for the stage and events for each day. They also create a World Youth Day symbol for the stage. Some of my favorites include the year a group made a 3D stage/altar, and the group that had themselves as a headlining band.

Project 3: Modern Saints. When students choose this project, they each research a saint canonized by the Holy Father and write a brief biography describing why this person is a good role model for Catholics today. Then they write the story of how they became saints and create a book mixing the saints with their own “saint” stories. This project tends to be picked the most, probably because saints are so relatable. I also think my own enthusiasm for the lives of the saints leads students in this direction.

Want to do this project with your students? Here are the handouts I use in my class:

And here are a few student friendly bios of John Paul the Second:
John Paul the Second Shrine
Loyola Press

Check back for pictures of student projects soon, or put pictures of the projects your students complete in the comments! When I am back from maternity leave I will add some student work to the post. Happy feast day JP II!

Happy Feast Day St. Therese!

For those of you who have been with my for a while, you know that I have been completely changed by my experience reading Therese of Lisieux’s Story of a Soul. In honor of her feast day, here are a few resources to help you teach about this amazing Doctor of the Church: a talk I gave to my middle schoolers last year, some reviews of books about St. Therese and a link to some resources in my TPT store. Happy Feast Day, Therese!

Book reviews:
Summer Spirituality Series: Story of a Soul
Summer Spirituality Series: The Way of Trust and Love
Summer Spirituality Series: Praying with Therese of Lisieux

TPT links:
Living the Beatitudes: features Therese and 7 other saints with multiple worksheets and activities
Oh When the Saints: multiple saint research activities and games for All Saints and beyond

And the talk from our back to school retreat last year:

The Little Way of Holiness

There’s a quote from Mother Teresa that I’ve seen many times and in many places.  “I cannot do great things,” Mother Teresa said. “I can only do small things with great love.”  While I find this quote super inspiring, I also struggle a little bit with it. If you know anything about Mother Teresa, you know that she did do great things.  She completely changed the world. But Mother Teresa’s words are still true, and they are a great illustration of the topic I am going to be speaking about, which is the little way of holiness that St. Therese of Lisieux lived and taught. 

We’ve already heard about who St. Therese was and how she lived, first in a tight knit family of sisters, then in a convent of sisters for the last 9 years of her life.  Aside from her trip to Rome, Therese in many ways lived a very small life- literally, she only lived until 24 and she never left the convent grounds once she entered them at 15.  It was on her trip to Rome that she saw something that would inspire her teachings of the “little way”. Here’s what she wrote in her autobiography, Story of a Soul.

Instead of being discouraged, I concluded that God would not inspire desires which could not be realised, and that I may aspire to sanctity in spite of my littleness. For me to become great is impossible. I must bear with myself and my many imperfections; but I will seek out a means of getting to Heaven by a little way—very short and very straight, a little way that is wholly new. We live in an age of inventions; nowadays the rich need not trouble to climb the stairs, they have lifts instead. Well, I mean to try and find a lift by which I may be raised unto God, for I am too tiny to climb the steep stairway of perfection. I have sought to find in Holy Scripture some suggestion as to what this lift might be which I so much desired, and I read these words uttered by the Eternal Wisdom Itself: “Whosoever is a little one, let him come to Me.”[4] Then I drew near to God, feeling sure that I had discovered what I sought.

Already I find it encouraging that Therese’s spirituality is inspired by such an ordinary thing: an elevator! She and her sister saw these for the first time on their trip to Rome and thought they were the coolest thing. It seems so relatable to me to think of the elevator as a way of skipping the hard ways to perfection: heroic martyrdom or great deeds. Therese wasn’t afraid to ask God for a different way to reach her goal.

The first step to Therese’s little way is this: think small.  Instead of worrying about all the big things you can’t do, instead find the small things that you can do. Therese tells a story of her first years in the convent.  She was very young and had been very spoiled in her life before becoming a sister. One of her first jobs was to sweep, and she received a lot of criticism from the other sisters for her lack of ability in what were pretty normal chores.  Instead of worrying about it, Therese made sweeping a way that she could show her love to the people criticizing her.

The next step to the little way is the one that gives me the most hope: know that you can’t be perfect.  In middle school, you have a lot of pressure on you. Our school is an academically challenging school. Some of you are facing big pressure from family and friends to get certain grades, do well in certain sports or have certain friends and attitudes.  The good news from St. Therese is: you can’t be perfect. Even the people you look at and think, “Oh, they’re perfect, they have it so easy,” aren’t perfect. In some ways, letting go of trying to be perfect can feel like giving up, but it’s not. Letting go of being perfect is being free to let God do big things in your life. 

Another way Therese lived her little way of holiness was to never let people know that she found them irritating.  Living in close quarters with a small community of women for nine years wasn’t easy for her, and there was one sister who Therese really struggled to get along with.  She found everything about this nun annoying, so she made a special effort to be extra nice to her. After Therese died, the nuns were talking about her, and the super annoying nun said that of course it was hard for everyone, but Therese had been especially close to her, so of course it was harder.  Therese had hidden her irritation and been so kind that the sister had no idea that Therese struggled so much. 

 Part of the little way of holiness is to not draw attention to the small ways you are trying to spread love.  This is hard for me. It was hard for Therese. It’s natural to want to be acknowledged for doing the right thing and for being extra kind, but that’s not why we need to do the right thing.  We need to do the right thing because it’s the right thing, and I promise people will notice. Therese became a saint in record time because people read her book and did notice.

Holiness is hard.  When you are trying your best to be holy, people often misunderstand you or judge you.  I was 12 years old when I had an experience that completely changed my life. My class was praying in front of the blessed sacrament when all of the sudden, I knew- really knew- that Jesus was there.  Jesus loved me! It was something I had always been told and always known, but in that moment I had a powerful experience of God’s love. I started to sob, which as you can probably guess is super embarrassing in a quiet church filled with all your friends.  When I tried to describe what was happening to my teachers, they thought I was crazy, all except for one. My friends thought that I was making the whole thing up to get attention. But that day in front of the Eucharist was real, and it’s part of the reason why I want you all to have a chance to meet Jesus in the Eucharist.  

Therese’s small community couldn’t always understand what God was doing in her life, but the ones who could saw that it was something big.  In your walk towards holiness, expect that others won’t always understand what God is doing in your life.

This last part of the little way is the part that isn’t super fun to think about.  Holiness is often accompanied by suffering. Therese suffered in many different ways.  She was lonely being the youngest nun in the order. Her father suffered from a really intense physical and  mental illness before he died, and this was incredibly painful for Therese and her sisters. Therese also died a drawn out and painful death from tuberculosis.  When you are trying to be holy, God knows what you can handle and you often have to handle some pretty difficult things.

But to end on a more positive note, even when holiness seems too hard or out of reach, you can always start small.  I know it can be a little scary, but I really want you to try to close your eyes and listen to this song. Use this as a time of prayer and reflection on the Little Way of Holiness.

Play “Dream Small” by Josh Wilson. *

So, to wrap up, remember the parts of the Little Way of Holiness:
Think Small.
Remember that you can’t be perfect.
Do kind acts in a way where you won’t receive attention.
Holiness is hard and often accompanied by suffering.

If you are already on the road to holiness, that’s awesome- recommit to that path today.  If holiness is a new endeavor for you, remember that you can do small things with great love every single day.

*The song link and the link to Story of a Soul are affiliate links. This means that if you purchase this song or the book, I receive a small commission at no cost to you.

Resources for the month of the Rosary

October is the month of the rosary, and while I am still home on maternity leave, I wanted to take the time to share some of my favorite resources for celebrating the rosary with my students and also with my family. In pre-covid times, our entire school would gather to say the rosary together, and I loved seeing the creativity that different classes would use to lead us through the mysteries. Some of my favorites were the glow in the dark luminous mysteries where students created a rosary out of glow sticks while we prayed the prayers, the outdoor rosary where the students sat in the parking lot around a chalked out rosary filled with student prayer leaders, and any time students acted out a story or the mysteries themselves.

Here are some ideas I’ve shared in the past:
Five ways to celebrate the month of the rosary
5 ways to celebrate the month of the Rosary
Our Lady of Fatima Rosary
Mary Infographic Project

I also have some favorite books to help students and teachers learn more about the rosary and pray it more consistently. This section of the post contains affiliate links. This means that if you click on any of the links and purchase the books, I receive a small commission at no cost to you.

This year I am going to use The Mysteries of the Rosary: A Catholic Coloring Devotional to help me pray my way through October. This beautiful resource is not expensive at all- only 7 dollars, and features reflections and beautiful coloring pages for each of the 20 mysteries of the Rosary.

In the past I’ve used The Mysteries of the Rosary Coloring Book for myself and students, and the details in it are truly beautiful. However, the art is pretty small and so it’s definitely better for older kids with colored pencils or super fine tip markers.

A few summers ago I used the book Ponder for my summer spirituality series. (You can read about that here.) I loved the layout and style of the book, which takes you through the twenty mysteries of the rosary in a four week study- this would be perfect for the month of October. The devotional has scripture, guided lectio divina journaling and a color and pray rosary for each day. I really loved it. There’s also a Ponder For Kids version which I haven’t used yet but want to.

I also have a wonderful resource in my Teachers Pay Teachers store that focuses on the four words of Mary in the scriptures and the four Marian dogmas of the Catholic Church. While not strictly a rosary resource, the four words would fit well with any Bible study on the mysteries of the rosary. You can find that resource here.

What are your favorite ways to celebrate the month of the rosary? Let me know in the comments!

Celebrate a Feast Day

I originally published this post before our school’s feast day (St. Joseph Day), but yesterday as my family celebrated my baptism day, I thought this might be a good resource for starting to celebrate baptism days and feast days in your classroom. My family has always celebrated our baptism days with all the special things people do for birthdays- cake, parties, presents and special treats. Because we also celebrate birthdays, this meant two special days that were all about you, which in a family of nine, felt pretty darn special. This year in my class I want to celebrate the baptism days of my students with a small treat or extra recess. For my students who aren’t baptized, I want to celebrate a saint’s day, so that every student has a special faith celebration day.

I’ve always loved a good feast day. I remember the year our son was born, I was sooooo excited to take him to mass on his feast day. We were going to bring his icon of Saint Maximilian and his icon of Saint Jude, along with some medals and rosaries to be blessed. I dressed him in his cutest panda onesie and we were out the door and on to noon mass. It wasn’t until the end of mass, when Father pointed out that it was Max’s feast day that I realized the entire back of his onesie was black and white striped. If you are familiar with the story of Maximilian Kolbe, you can see why I was suddenly horrified that the entire church was now looking at my baby, who appeared to be dressed as a prisoner. (Maximilian Kolbe heroically died in the place of another prisoner at Auschwitz.) After mass Father told me he had in fact thought that I dressed Max as his patron saint, and we laughed about it before he blessed our various religious icons and medals.

Celebrating feast days is another way to connect students to the joy of faith. Often times in religious education we get so focused on what we want students to know that we forget who we want them to know. Our end goal should be a personal relationship with Jesus. While prayers and facts can certainly help strengthen that relationship and even help begin the process of forming the relationship, the experiences of joyfully lived faith are going to last a lot longer in our students’ memories than the exact wording of Exodus 20 and the 10 Commandments.

Faith is a family. In a family you celebrate birthdays, achievements, and anniversaries, both happy and sad. Feast days are a great way to introduce your students to their family of faith.

If you’re new to the feast day game, here are some ideas to help you get started. First, start with your school’s patron saint. Our school is Saint Joseph’s, and luckily, this was a feast my family celebrated in style growing up. Because I grew up in North Jersey with an Italian godmother, I learned to celebrate this feast the way the Italian American community does: with lots of food. For Saint Joseph’s day you have spaghetti and meatballs, homemade bread, and zeppole for dessert. Last year our school had a marvelous procession in honor of our patron saint, which you can read about here, and I brought zeppole in for my students, even though I had to get up at 4 am to fry them all. So if your school has a patron, research their feast day. Maybe there are fun foods and traditions for your saint.

If your school doesn’t have a specific saint of obvious feast day, you could pick a feast that is special for the Church. Any of the Holy Days of Obligation would be an easy and obvious choice. For Immaculate Conception you could have a Mary crowning or do a special mass or living rosary. I’ve written a lot about All Saints Day on the blog because it’s my favorite, and the internet is full of great ideas for how to celebrate All Saints with students.

I think the formula I would use to start a feast day is this: prayer + food + fun. Students will remember the food and fun, which will hopefully bring them back to the prayer and the meaning of the feast day.

Wish us luck- for this year’s celebration of our feast day, my students are already scheming about how to get donuts out to the whole school. If you have a favorite feast day celebration or food, I’d love to hear about it! Let me know in the comments!

5 ideas for building faith at home during distance learning

This year’s back to school plans are looking very different for teachers, students and families all over the country, and while the plan at my school is to go back face to face in a few weeks, many schools are looking at beginning the year online. Catholic schools are scrambling to make plans to remain viable in this new normal, and after weeks of worrying about my job for next year and the future of my Catholic school community, I decided to set my sights on the things I can do to continue to offer the best religious education I can for my students, no matter where they are learning. Here are five ideas I came up with for ways to help families build their families’ faith in their homes.

*This post contains Amazon affiliate links. This means if you click on the links followed by an asterisk and purchase an item, I receive a small commission at no cost to you. Italicized links will take you to website with more resources, like my Teachers Pay Teachers store.

  1. Create a Build a Prayer Table Kit to send to families.
    If students are coming in to pick up books etc, you could build these kits ahead of time and have them set up with religion textbooks for students to take home. If life will be completely digital, you could mail them. (Maybe the school or local parish could help with shipping.) The idea behind this is that with a few pieces of religious art and sacramentals, students can create a small space in their homes for prayer and reflection during the week. My family’s prayer table is right in our living room and usually features some religious books and saint prints.
    Here are some ideas for what to include in the kit:
    ~ A picture of Mary. I often have people donate old calendars with religious art, and this would be a great place to source these for free.
    ~ Two to three holy cards.* I love this set of cards from Amazon. There are 54 cards a variety of saints and prayers for only 6 dollars. There’s another set * available which is specifically saints, which could be nice for older students preparing for confirmation.
    ~Rosaries*, medals*, small statues. I’ve also been able to source rosaries and small religious articles from local friends and parishioners, but I also love sending my students home with the St. Benedict Medal* because I love the symbolism in it. It would also make a great mini lesson.
    ~Coloring sheets. (Age depending, but I’ve found that older students enjoy coloring as well.) There are many great websites that have these for free online. A few of my favorites are Catholic Family Crate and Tiny Saints
  2. Have students give a tour of the prayer area they set up.
    Some of my favorite distance learning moments in the spring were when we met students’ little siblings and pets. We also had one class meeting where students shared their musical abilities on guitar and piano. Once students set up a small family prayer area, it would be really fun to have them give their classmates a tour. I would probably start by showing them my family’s prayer table and giving ideas of things they might have at home to use. (Candles, pretty cloths etc.)
  3. Start each digital class with a prayer.
    This was an area I really failed last year. The transition into distance learning was so abrupt that a lot of my procedural set up was haphazard at best. If we are learning digitally this year, my plan is to start with a prayer of the week, then transition into having students lead the class prayer for a week at a time. They can choose whatever kind of prayer they want.
  4. Create regular opportunities for prayer journaling and reflection.
    One of the biggest downsides to not being in school in person will be the lack of the sacraments. Depending on where your school and students are, some of these children have not had access to the sacraments for months. While I am super impressed with the ways parishes have embraced the challenges of outdoor and live streamed masses, the truth is that these options have not worked for my family with a small child and one on the way. I would assume that many of my students are in the same boat. Because of this, my plan for digital learning is to build in time for personal prayer and group sharing each week. In my Teachers Pay Teachers store I have many resources for this, including these prayer journal templates. My plan is to set aside at least twenty minutes a week for students to reflect on scriptures and share in small groups. Even if we are face to face, we still won’t have our weekly masses, so this will be crucial for keeping us connected to the liturgical life of the Church.
  5. Go on a virtual tour of some of the world’s most beautiful churches.
    I’ve always wanted to do this in my religion class and never quite made the time, but our new religion curriculum includes Church history and architecture, so this is the year for me! Thankfully this idea will work just as well in person or over a digital meeting. The National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception is one of my favorite churches to visit in person, and the Marian Chapels in the basement would tie in nicely with an Advent or Rosary unit. You can also see The Sistine Chapel on the Vatican website. A quick Google search will give you lots of great options.

These are just a few ways to build the faith of your students when you can’t be with them in person. All of these would also easily adapt to hybrid or in person models too. I would love to hear ideas and questions you have about starting the year in person or online. Let me know your brilliant ideas!

*Links followed by an asterisk are affiliate links. This means that if you click through and purchase the item I receive a small commission at no cost to you.

Summer Spirituality Series: Hildegard of Bingen, a Spiritual Reader

The links in this post are affiliate links. This means if you purchase a book using my link I make a small commission at no cost to you.

I’m a little ashamed to admit that before last summer I had no idea who Hildegard of Bingen even was. I was organizing a saint peg doll swap focused on the Doctors of the Church, and in my research came across the fact that there are only four female doctors of the Church. Three I was familiar with: Catherine of Siena, Teresa of Avila, and Therese of Lisieux. The fourth was Hildegard, a ground breaking writer, leader, naturalist, musician, artist and more. She was born in 1098 in Germany and she lived for 81 years. She founded monasteries, advised kings and Popes and is an incredible example of a woman with power for any feminist, Catholic or not.

Hildegard of Bingen: A Spiritual Reader* by Carmen Acevedo Butcher is a great introduction to this spiritual giant. The book gives a brief biography of Hildegard, followed by selections from her songs, Scivias, Play of the Virtues, letters, Physica, The Book of Life’s Merits, and The Book of Divine Works. At times when reading the plays and naturalist papers she wrote I felt a bit like a college student again- and I will admit, my Medieval literature class was not my favorite part of being an English majoy. But I loved the songs so very much. Butcher’s translations are beautiful and the poetry is amazing.

I enjoyed that no section of this book was terribly long. Even the parts that were denser in terms of prose style moved quickly into the next set of writings. And Hildegard was so good at writing so many different things that there is something for everyone in this book. Her writing is inspiring to pray with, interesting to read and breaks many of the “rules” of literature at her time.

This book would be great for anyone who likes poetry or drama. The plays are fun to read in terms of the history and style. They show a lot about what plays were like in Medieval times. It’s also a great book for people who want to read about strong women. Hildegard’s spirituality and feminism seem way ahead of her time. I love her vision of women in the Church.

Popcorn Rating: 3. Depending on what you like to read, different parts of this book will be easier or harder to get through. I flew through the songs because I loved the poetry and found it uplifting and inspiring. The naturalist papers and the letters were a little slower for me, but a history buff would probably really enjoy those parts.

Stars: 5. I loved that this book helped me grow spiritually and also helped me learn more about history and literature. I really enjoyed reading literature in the midst of all the YA fiction I read for school.

*This is an affiliate link. This means if you purchase the book, I receive a small commission at no cost to you.

Summer Spirituality Series: Praying with Therese of Lisieux

Some of the links in this post are affiliate links. This means that if you use my link to purchase a book I receive a small commission at no cost to you.

It was the ultimate Goodwill find: in one trip, Praying with Therese of Lisieux, collected writings of Hildegard of Bingen, and a book about Our Lady of Fatima*, one of my favorite Marian apparitions. I brought all three home, ready to start my quest to learn more about Mary and the female Doctors of the Church. So far I’ve worked my way through the two about Therese and Hildegard, and I’ve just started the one about Fatima.

Praying with Therese of Lisieux by Joseph F. Schmidt was published as part of the Companions for the Journey Series by the Word Among Us. Unfortunately most of the rest of the series is out of print, which was disappointing, because I would have liked to try out the books featuring the other female Doctors of the Church that the series had. But the book on Therese is still available online, as are several other books by Joseph F. Schmidt, FSC. I am looking forward to checking these out.

The book is set up with a little bit of background on St. Therese at the beginning, followed by 15 meditations from her writings. Each meditation is set up with a theme, opening prayer, story from Therese’s life, some of Therese’s words from her writings, a small reflection, numerous ideas for personal prayer, then a scripture and closing prayer. This sounds like a lot and it is. I normally do my prayer and reflection in the mornings before my household is up, and there were several times I had to spread this all throughout the day in order to do it. I did really like all the prayer suggestions, especially because I am a journaler. I felt like there were many ideas I could think about and write about as part of my prayer.

Because there are fifteen meditations and because of their length, this book would make a great retreat for a group or an individual. I used this book during our school’s winter break, which gave me an uninterrupted two weeks to do one meditation per day without all the extra things I would be doing during work. I could see this book being a nice resource on a vacation when the pace of life is a little slower.

This book would make a great gift for someone going through RCIA or about to be confirmed. It would be an excellent resource for a spirituality group or provide a structure for a retreat based on St. Therese.

Popcorn Rating: 3. Because the lengths and topics vary from meditation to meditation, some days of using this book were easier than others. I got a lot out of all the meditations regardless of ease.

Stars: 4. The only reason I didn’t give this book 5 stars is that sometimes the meditations were too long and detailed to fit my daily life. But the content and organization were great, and the author clearly knows a lot about St. Therese and loves her. I am looking forward to reading his other books.

*The links to books in this post are affiliate links. This means that if you purchase a book using my link, I receive a small commission at no cost to you.

Summer Spirituality Series: The Way of Trust and Love

Some of the links in this post are affiliate links. That means that if you use my link to purchase a book, I receive a small commission at no cost to you.

I first encountered the writings of Father Jacques Philippe a few summers ago, when I read a copy of Interior Freedom * that my Dad had given me. (You can read my review of that book here.) I’ve told this story before, but it’s such a good one that parts of it bear repeating. Father Philippe is very open about the fact that his spirituality is greatly influenced by St. Therese of Lisieux, and for years I had a weird spiritual block about Therese. As I finished Interior Freedom in my parish’s adoration chapel, I felt a tug on my heart. Okay God I thought, I’ll read Story of a Soul *if you want me to. As I walked out the door, I ran into Fr. Peter, one of our priests. “I’m looking to put together a group of people interested in reading St. Therese’s Story of a Soul,” he told me. “Would you be interested in joining us?” I love the way God works.

The Way of Trust and Love * is a small book based on a retreat that Father Philippe gave in Spain about 10 years ago. It is based on the writings of St. Therese of Lisieux, who called her “little way” a way of trust and love. He suggests that if possible, the book still be used as a retreat, with the reader using one of the six chapters each day for a week and then ending with a day of prayer and reflection. Reading the book was not feasible for me during the school year, but I did have time every Thursday afternoon when I would bring my class to adoration at the parish. Reading this book in the presence of the Eucharist was an incredible gift. Each week I found a gem of insight and spirituality that was exactly what I needed to hear.

Because this book is mostly the transcripts of talks, the writing style is a little different from Philippe’s other books, but I liked that. At times I found his conversational style easier to understand than his more polished works. There were also some great quotes throughout the book that gave me the spiritual kick in the pants I needed. Here are some of my favorites:
“The most important task of all is to save mankind, and mankind will be saved by prayer…not everyone can spend hours in church, but each of us must do the little that he or she can. If there were a little less television and a little more prayer in our lives, we would be more at peace.”
“Worrying never solved any problem. What solves problems are trust and faith.”
“If trust disappears when we do wrong, it shows that our trust was based on ourselves and our deeds.”

I want to read this book again sometime soon with a spirituality group. I would recommend it to anyone, but especially people who want to learn more about themselves and St. Therese.

Popcorn Rating: 2. Father Philippe’s work always makes you think, reread and try harder.

Stars: 5+. There aren’t a lot of spirituality books that I reread, but this one I’m already planning to see if I can form a women’s group to read it again. It’s just that good. I also read this during a year when I was coming out of a very tough time of depression and anxiety and during the loss of a pregnancy. This book helped remind me that trust in God is not based on my circumstances and that God (and many others) love me so very much.

*the links for books in this post are affiliate links. This means that if you use my link to purchase a book, I receive a small commission at no cost to you.