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:
Biography.com
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.

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!

Celebrating Catholic Schools Week: Succeed

In planning Catholic Schools Week with my students, there’s a moment each year that warms my heart. Two years ago, when planning this day, one student suggested that the whole day be about saints, because they were the ultimate success story. I can’t really top that, so here are four ideas for the theme succeed.

  1. Pick a patron saint for the day. It could be fun to pick a variety of saints who had different types of “success” and then dramatically changed their lives to reflect the gospel. Ignatius Loyola, Francis of Assisi, Katharine Drexel, Rose of Lima and many more would make great choices for this day.
  2. Dress in college swag. While I am a firm believer that college isn’t the path for every student I teach, going to college is still a large marker of educational success. The local Catholic high school uses it as one of their main marketing tools. Also, this is a free dress option that most students and staff will be able to do without a whole lot of fuss.
  3. Dress as a favorite saint. The year we did this was probably my favorite ever. At our St. Blaise prayer service which coincided with our saint day, the entire gym was filled with saints blessing saints. It was amazing.
  4. Have students create a commercial about success. For this I would show a few inspirational commercials about unexpected “success” stories. I love Nike’s Iron Nun commercial and the Find your greatness series. After finding some inspiration, students can work in teams to act out their own commericials about what success looks like. If you want to be an overachiever, film the commericials and share with your school community.

How I Advent: Home Edition

Celebrating Advent with my family is a lot of fun. Although my son is still a little young to understand all the signs and symbols of Advent, he loves candles and he loves a good story, so both of those things play heavily into our family Advent traditions. It’s also super fun to have a little kid, because we get to decide as a family what our traditions will be and how we will do them.

The first thing we do is place our Advent wreath in the middle of the dining room table. As I mentioned in my post about my personal prayer during Advent, I try to light the Advent candles each morning when I am praying and each night at dinner. When Max is older maybe we will sing a song before we light the candles, but right now we are still working on the mastery of grace before meals.

Our nativity set is another Advent must have. When I was confirmed, my sister gave me a beautiful ceramic crèche set, and it used to be the focal point of our Advent and Christmas decorations until we had a toddler. I am not sure I am ready to put it out again yet. But I love the Fisher Price Nativity Set,* and so does Max. It’s also available as an Advent Calendar,* which is pretty cool. Because I love nativity sets so much, I also have a handmade peg doll set that a friend gave us last year and this year for Saint Nicholas Day we got a Melissa and Doug block nativity *for Max. We also have a set of magnets and the components of a building blocks nativity set from Almond Rod toys that we haven’t quite figured out yet.

Because my husband isn’t home most week night evenings, a lot of the family prayer time is just me and my son, so this year I am going to try to do our Jesse Tree with both of them in the morning before I go to work. Each day of Advent we read the Jesse tree story in one of Max’s children’s Bibles and put the corresponding ornament on the tree. Our favorite children’s Bibles for Max are My Story Bible,* The Children’s Picture Bible, * and Tomie dePaola’s Book of Bible Stories*. Between the three of these, we can usually find a workable version of the story for that day.

Our family Jesse Tree ornaments from a swap a few years ago

Our Jesse Tree also gets an ornament for each week’s theme: hope, peace, joy and love, which were made for me by a student a few years ago. During the last week of Advent we also add the O Antiphon for each day to the tree.

The last two things we do as a family during Advent are just pure fun. Every year that we have been married, my husband and I have gotten a Lego Advent Calendar. We now have a fun little collection of Christmas themed Legos that we add to every year. I also spend Advent weekends baking and freezing cookies for our celebration of Christmas.

As Advent progresses I’ll post some pictures of all this fun stuff on Instagram and Facebook, so be sure to follow me there @faiththatworksea

*links followed by an asterisk are affiliate links. That means that if you click my link to purchase any of those items I receive a small commission at no cost to you.

All other links go to content on the blog. Happy Advent!

How I Advent: Personal Edition

My personal prayer for Advent is usually pretty simple, as it has to be for a full-time working mom of a toddler. (An added complication is that my husband works nights, so we tend to parent in shifts.) Most years I use whatever devotional is given out at church to be my spiritual guide through Advent, but this year I am excited to have something more. A small group of young moms and I are going to be praying using All the Generations,* an Advent and Christmas devotional by Blessed is She. We are planning to meet Wednesdays to discuss and pray together, and I couldn’t be more excited. I am a person who always does better with accountability, and I have been craving a good women’s group to be a part of.

I also try to carve out some quiet alone time each morning during Advent to just sit and pray by the Advent wreath. That few minutes of calm before the chaos of a pre-holiday school day are so desperately needed. Sometimes I don’t get very much time because my son is also an early riser, but even just a few minutes in a dark house with just the light of my Advent wreath is enough.

The last two things I wanted to share are a mix of something I’ve always done and something I want to do. Something I’ve always done is chosen to listen to Advent songs during Advent. I make exceptions for certain days or occasions- Saint Nicholas day, baking cookies and decorating can have Christmas music, but other than that I try to stick with mainly Advent music during this season. Thankfully every year I find one or two more amazing songs to add to the playlist. The other thing I want to do this Advent is make a conscious effort to use my love of writing as a gift. I have a bunch of postcards and cards that have been sitting in our bedroom for a long time, and I want to fill them all the way out and send them to people in the mail. I know that I always treasure hand written notes from others, and I think that in a time of year where so much is professionally printed and done, a nice note might help someone else to slow down and enjoy a few moments to themselves.

That’s the whole list. For this Advent I want to slow down and enjoy the time of preparation, and one of the best ways I can think of to do that is to keep the to do list short and simple. How do you celebrate and pray during Advent? Let me know!

*the link for All the Generations is an affiliate link. This means that if you purchase the book using my link I receive a small commission at no cost to you.

All Saints Party Ideas

It’s always bugged me a little that so many classrooms at our school have Halloween parties instead of All Saints parties, and while I am known to be the grumpy staff member about this, I have conceded that I am not going to win that battle at my school. But my hope is that this post could convince a few readers to try their hand at throwing an All Saints Party in their class this year. It’s just as easy as a Halloween Party, and because it’s the day after, parents could use your party as a way to offload candy and treats from the day before. Here are some simple ways to celebrate the saints in your class this November 1st.

Decor: I have this one pretty easy. As part of my Pick a Patron Saint Project, students create Facebook pages for saints. We hang these around the room. My students also create icons as part of the 7th grade art curriculum, so sometimes if the students have finished that project we have extra fancy decorations. Here are some ideas for decorating your classroom if you don’t have student art:

  • Make tissue paper flowers. Many saints are connected with the idea of roses: Elizabeth of Hungary, Juan Diego, Therese of Lisieux, Rose of Lima and more.
  • Hang a decorative mirror. Write the words “This is what a future saint looks like” on the mirror.
  • Cut out a bunch of fun shapes. On each shape write a saint fact. For example, a cow could say “St. Brigid of Ireland is the patron saint of dairy farmers.” Or a sun could say “St. Francisco and St. Jacinta saw the sun dance in the sky in Fatima.”

Games: There are lots of ways to adapt fun party games for a specifically saint themed party. Obviously you may want to tailor your games to the ages of your students, but I’ve discovered that middle schoolers sometimes love the silly little kid games they played in elementary school. Here are a few of my favorite ideas:

  • All Saints Bingo. At the bottom of this post is a template I made for my class, but I’m sure there are other versions online. I give the students the saint biographies at the beginning of the week so that they are familiar with each of the saints by the time we play.
  • Pin the Halo on the Saint. In my class we will be using a poster of Saint Joseph, because he is the patron of our school. You can use any saint you like to play this version of pin the tail on the Donkey, You could also change what you are pinning depending on the saint. For example, pin the stars on the tilma, or pin the shamrocks on Patrick, etc.
  • Saints Musical Chairs. In this version of the game, there are enough chairs for all students, and each chair has a picture of the saint on it. When the music stops, pick a random Saint name, remove that chair, and that student is out.

Food: I’ve always been a fan of themed foods, so here are some ideas that could be a lot of fun:

  • St. Michael’s deviled eggs
  • Angel food cake
  • St. Lawrence’s grilled cheese
  • St. Margaret of Antioch’s dragonfruit
  • St. Lucy’s chocolate eye balls

I hope these ideas inspire some fun celebrations in your classroom!  Let me know your favorite ways to celebrate the saints in the comments.





Pick a Patron Saint Project

Saints are an important part of any Catholic religion program, and it always makes me sad that my students know so few.  A few years ago our art teacher as school started incorporating writing icons into her curriculum, and it seemed like a great opportunity to work more saint research into religion class.  So now every year, right at the beginning of October, the 7th graders start on the Pick a Patron Saint project.  Throughout the project they will do initial research on as many as 12 saints, and then eventually they will choose one potential patron saint and create a paper based Facebook page for the saint.

For the first step of the project, I gather as many old saint books as I can from around the school.  The library has a complete set of the old classic Butlers Lives of the Saints, and I really like the Picture Book of Saints as well.  Using the Pick A Patron Saint Project Library the students research the lives of saints whose feast day is on or near their birthdays, as well as saints with their name or a similar name.

The next step is the computer research phase.  Once students have completed the library research, they use the Pick A Patron Saint Project Computer worksheet to research the patron saints of things that relate to them, such as athletes, brothers, sisters, students etc.  Because each page has a spot for six different saints, and two per sheet that the student has researched more thoroughly, they now have a lot of information to sort through to pick the saint they want to have as their patron.

Once the students have picked a saint, they then create a “Saintsbook” page for the saint.  Here is my example one for Saint Gianna that I created in class last year with the students.

IMG_1690

Here is the SaintsBook Project assignment sheet that I used last year and the SaintsBook Rubric 2018 that I used to grade students.  I know that I normally attach files as a PDF, but because the websites change and you may want to tweak the requirements to meet your needs, I have left everything editable.

I hope these ideas help to make your class’s celebration of All Saints even more meaningful!

Summer Spirituality Series: Super Girls and Halos

This post contains affiliate links. That means that if you use my link to purchase one of the books I am reviewing I receive a small commission at no cost to you.

Last summer I wrote a post about My Badass Book of Saints by Maria Morera Johnson, which you can read here. Super Girls and Halos is Johnson’s second saint book, which is organized very much like the first one, but with a twist. In this book she matches up inspiring saints with strong fictional women from popular culture. There are four sections to the book, one for each of the cardinal virtues: temperance, fortitude, prudence and justice. Each section has two chapters featuring two women each.

I wanted to love this book, just like I wanted to love the one before, but there were a few things that I struggled with. For one, Johnson spends A LOT of time on her analysis of the characters in pop culture. It reminds me of friends who really want you to like D and D so they keep explaining and reexplaining how cool it is. Also, at times I felt like she loved the character but had struggled to find a saint to match. Some of her saint stories seemed flat compared to her character sketches. That being said, this book was super interesting to my students- two borrowed it and actually read it during the year, which is more than I can say about any other saint book I have in my classroom. And even if I felt there could be more about the saints, she picked some really great powerhouse women to highlight.

The saints and character match ups are as follows:
Justice: Wonder Woman and Katharine Drexel; Rey and Claire of Assisi
Prudence: Black Widow and Mary Magdalene; Dana Scully and Teresa Benedicta of the Cross
Fortitude: Storm and Cunegunde; Hermione Granger and Margaret d’Youville
Temperence: Katniss Everdeen and Mary MacKillop; Nyota Uhura and Kateri Tekakwitha

Popcorn Factor: 3. I got really bogged down in the Wonder Woman chapter.
Stars: 3.5 Again, the saint stories were great, but I felt the balance was slightly off.

Summer Spirituality Series: Saint Books for Kids and Classrooms

This post contains affiliate links. This means that if you click through and purchase a book using my link, I receive a small commission at no cost to you.

While most of my posts so far this summer have been about books that have been helpful to me in my own walk with God this year and at other times in my life, I thought I would take some time to talk about some books that have helped me to teach the faith to my son. Many of these books will seem very juvenile, but they do translate well to classroom use. I love using picture books in middle school. Students find it somewhat unexpected, and many beautiful children’s books can deal with topics that apply to our study of scripture and the moral life. The following books are all books I have read to my son and several I have also used in my classroom.

Saintly Rhymes for Modern Times by Meghan Bausch is a beautifully illustrated book with paper pages. Each page focuses on a single saint with a short rhyme describing a few of the things that make that saint special. I especially love the fact that this books highlights more recent saints, and many of the saints that I feature in my religion class. While I haven’t used this one in school yet, my son loves it and it has his patron saint in it. I will be using this book as I highlight our saint of the month in class this year though.

Probably one of the most classic saint books of my childhood was the Picture Book of Saints by Lawrence Lovasik. The update version has many of my favorite saints in it, with the same style I remember from when I was little. Each page features one saint, their feast day, patronage and a short story of the saint’s life. I have 10 copies of this book in my classroom and we use them often. Because they are designed for children, my students can use them as a quick reference when they need to select a saint for a project. The concise written story provides a launching point for further study.

While The Clown of God by Tomie De Paola is not strictly a saint book, I think it can fit into this category of books. A classic story retold with De Paola’s gorgeous illustrations, this book is a great one to use with the parable of the talents or to talk about stewardship. Giovanni is a gifted juggler who spends his life gaining fame and fortune through his fabulous juggling. At the end of his life, Giovanni is left with nothing and ends up in a Catholic Church on Christmas Eve, where he has only one gift to give the Christ child. It’s a truly beautiful book, and this is one I have used in school. De Paola has lots of other beautiful religious books too.

I also love The Song of Francis by Tomie De Paola. While not strictly based on Francis of Assisi’s Canticle of the Sun, this book takes the spirit of that beautiful prayer and puts it in a format for children. This book is beautiful and bright and is a great way to teach students about adoration and praise prayers. Often I will have students write their own “Song of (their name)” and illustrate is as a companion project. My son likes the pages with the birds.

All of these books are easy to read, so they all get a popcorn rating of 5. As for stars, I love illustrations and children’s books. I think that picture books are highly underused in a classroom setting, and I give each book 5 stars for spirituality and teachability.