Why have you done this to us?

Right now, this third word of Mary in the Gospels is resonating strongly with me. After spending time in Jerusalem for the feast of the Passover, Mary and Joseph head back to Nazareth, only to realize that 12 year old Jesus is not with the travelling group. They make their way back to the temple, and by the time they find Jesus, he has been missing for three days. In Luke Chapter 2 verse 48, Mary asks Jesus, “Son, why have you done this to us? Your father and I have been looking for you with great anxiety.”

During this time of quarantine, I feel like Mary and Joseph. I am desperately searching for God’s plan for me in a time of great anxiety and I want to ask him “why have you done this to us?” For the first time ever, I did not make my Lenten obligation of confession or my Easter obligation to receive communion. I know these are most likely dispensed, but the disquiet in my heart continues. But Jesus is still here, waiting for me. “Why were you looking for me?” He must be here, in my house.

Here are some ideas for a week based on “Why have you done this to us?”:

Read the Finding in the Temple in the Bible. Students could read the scripture and study it using the Lectio Divina scripture study method. I have a pre-made version in my Teachers Pay Teachers store, but you could easily do as a whole class bible study or prayer journal activity.

Compare the Story of the Finding in the Temple to the Story of the Crucifixion. You can find the story of Jesus’s passion in all four gospels, but this exercise would be especially powerful using John’s gospel because Mary is so present in his retelling of the crucifxion. (John’s passion is in chapters 18 and 19.) Some points of similarity between the two stories to find with your students: Jesus comforting Mary, although probably not in the way she would like, the timing of the events (Passover), the three days in the tomb vs. the three days in the Temple, and I’m sure there are even more.

Prayer Journal. I think it’s important for young people to know that feeling disappointed in God is a normal struggle of faith. I’ve always had a hard time with speakers and writers who claim that God never disappoints. However, like Mary in the story, our disappointment in God stems from our lack of understanding of his plan for our lives. Sometimes journalling after a painful and disappointing experience can give us insight into God’s plan or closure about what happened.
Here are some questions that could help students prayer journal using the story of Mary finding Jesus in the Temple. Have you ever wanted to ask Jesus how could you do this about something that is happening in your life? If so, when? Looking back on a time when you felt disappointed in God, can you see anything good that came out of the situation? Did you learning anything? What causes you anxiety? Have you asked Jesus to help you find peace? Could you ask him now?

Do a Guided Meditation about Anxiety. You could find a script online or create your own if you want to lead the class. I really like the ones by Mindful Christian on Youtube. I’ve used them in my class for several years and the students get a kick out of the leader’s accent.

Go “Find Jesus” in the Blessed Sacrament. I’ve written before about the power of Eucharistic Adoration in the lives of middle schoolers, and I really believe that the more we can expose students to this type of prayer, the better. Obviously right now, Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament is not available to many Catholics, but my hope is that by the next school year it will be.

Mary’s fourth word and more Mary ideas coming soon!

Holy Week Series: I am the Bread of Life

“I am the bread of life.” John 6:35

Happy Palm Sunday! Like me, many of you are probably spending this Palm Sunday in semi-isolation, away from your worship family. In our town, this will be our fourth Sunday without the ability to go to mass in person, our fourth Sunday without the gift of the Eucharist. And while this is difficult, and I appreciate the sentiments of loss and grief I see in the Catholic online community, this time away from the physical presence of the Eucharist, the bread of life, has given be some new perspective on the gifts Jesus gives us each and every day.

in Therese of Lisieux’s Story of a Soul she talks about the day of her first communion as one of the most important in her life. She also writes of looking forward with eager anticipation to her second communion, which she alo remembers in detail. Throughout the book she talks about the occasions when she was able to receive communion. Being able to receive communion weekly, or even better yet, daily, is a very recent privilege. For Therese, she was only allowed to receive communion when granted permission by a priest or spiritual director.

We are so lucky that in normal, non pandemic circumstances, we can receive Jesus physically every single day! But even when we can’t, Jesus is STILL the bread of life. In the Lord’s prayer we ask God to give us this day our daily bread, and Jesus the bread of life is just that- our daily bread. Jesus is here to feed us, to fill us, to nourish us, every single time that we ask.

The image of Jesus as bread of life reminds me that bread brings people together. Almost every culture and feast that I know of has some type of special bread to it. In my community, I’ve been blessed to share pan dulce and fry bread with people very different from me. I’ve gotten to break bread with friends as a part of their Sukkot Shabat celebration. I’ve made bread and pastries for the feast of St. Joseph and shared them with students and coworkers. Jesus, the bread of life, wants to bring people together. In this time apart from others, I find a lot of comfort in that.

For today: I will pray for all those who are suffering from hunger and isolation in my community. If I can, I will make bread for someone. If that won’t work, I will donate to local food banks to help my neighbors who are struggling in this difficult time.

The link for Story of a Soul is an affiliate link- this means if you click through and buy the book using my link, I receive a small commission at no cost to you.

Plan a Procession

Happy Feast of Christ the King!

Last year our school got a brand new priest, Father Peter.  For the first time in my life, I am older than one of my pastors. (Only by a year, but still.)  I know this will eventually become more common, but it’s been really fun to have a priest who is also a friend to me and to our family.  My parents had priest friends, but I never have.

One of my favorite things about Father Peter is his ability to go with the flow and help me tackle some of my crazy ideas.  In one conversation, I mentioned that the summer camp I went to almost always included a procession of some sort.  Sometimes it was a Eucharistic procession with the Chaplet of Divine Mercy, often it was a Marian procession to celebrate Our Lady on the feast of the Assumption.  He asked me if we had ever done one at the school, to which I said I didn’t think so.  “Let’s do it,” he said, and the plan was officially hatched.

We settled on the feast of Christ the King for our procession.  My class had just learned the story of Blessed Miguel Pro, a Jesuit priest who died in Mexico in 1927.  A martyr, his last words as he faced his executioners were, Viva Cristo Rey!  or Long live Christ the King!  We used his words on banners and on the canopy that sheltered the Eucharist on our way around the block.  While some of the teachers initially seemed taken aback by the weird idea, it was such a cool experience for our students, who had never done anything like it.

We met in the Church for the Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament and then the seventh graders were the candle and cross bearers as well as the makers and carriers of the canopy that we held over the monstrance as Father processed with it around the block.  While it certainly wasn’t the fanciest or most traditional, I think God probably appreciated our homemade touch.  The students had made the canopy our of red butcher paper with a meticulously cut yellow paper fringe.  One side held the words Long life Christ the King! and the other Viva Cristo Rey!  We held it over the monstrance with yardsticks.

The elementary classes made signs and we marched around the block singing Father I Adore You.  When we made it around the block we gathered in front of the steps to the building, sang another song and then Father gave the entire school a Eucharistic blessing.  He then visited each classroom with the monstrance and led the class in a short time of prayer.

All in all, it was definitely a very Catholic day at our school, and one that made the students feel proud of their faith.  It also was a strong witness to our neighborhood, which isn’t really the best.  If you haven’t tried a Eucharistic Procession at your school or Church, I strongly encourage you to try.  At first we thought it would  be too crazy, but it turned out to be a really easy and cool experience for everyone.  We liked it so much that we did another one the next year for Saint Joseph day.  (I’ll tell you more about that another time.)

Here are some videos from that amazing day from our school Facebook page: