Our Spiritual Mother and the Communion of Saints
“In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David; and the virgin’s name was Mary. And he came to her and said, “Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with you!” But she was greatly troubled at the saying, and considered in her mind what sort of greeting this might be. And the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid Mary, for you have found favor with God. And behold you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call His name Jesus.”
And Mary said, “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord; let it be done to me according to your word.”
-Luke 1:26-31, 38
The first week of Advent is a great week to learn about the Blessed Virgin Mary our spiritual Mother of our Church and the Communion of Saints. After Jesus the Blessed Virgin Mary is the holiest person who ever lived. We call her the Queen of All Saints. She was the first and best Disciple. Being Jesus’ mother she was constantly at his side learning and growing along with Him. Her suffering gives her another name, Mother of Sorrows. When we need help we and turn to Mary and she will pray for us. (Luke 1:26-56, John 2:1-12)
May and October are the two months where we honor the Blessed Virgin Mary. May is devoted to the Blessed Virgin Mary and October is devoted to the Holy Rosary. The feast day for Our Lady of Fatima is on May 13 (https://www.franciscanmedia.org/our-lady-of-fatima/) and provides inspiration for learning more about Mary. The month of October is devoted to the Holy Rosary. If you remember we worked on some rosary related activities. During the month of December we are fully aware of the wonder and perfect love the Blessed Mother has for God. She said “yes” to be the mother of God taking on great risk for herself. Mary is our model. She had faith, love for God, obedient and did what God asked of her. As we are set to prepare for Christmas let’s make this Advent season one to enjoy.
Dates of note for the Blessed Virgin Mary:
- Mary of Mother of God January 1st
- Annunciation of the Lord March 25th
- Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary May 31st
- Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary August 15th
- Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary September 8th (Mary’s Birthday)
- Immaculate Conception December 8th
- Our Lady of Guadalupe December 12th
For our lesson about the Blessed Virgin Mary I tend to focus on reading stories to the children. One of my favorite books that covers the life of the Blessed Virgin Mary is Tomie DePaola’s Mary The Mother of Jesus. Here’s a preview from Google Books: https://www.google.com/books/edition/Mary_the_Mother_of_Jesus/e-O-KGRMpnwC?hl=en&gbpv=1&printsec=frontcover Tomie DePaola has written another beautiful book The Lady of Guadalupe. I read this book to the children in December to coincide with the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe. It’s a lovely book and I highly recommend it. His website https://www.tomie.com is a great way to learn about the various other saints written by him. A little digression here but if you want to read a really beautiful story I highly recommend (often and always!) the book: The Clown of God. It is a retelling of a French legend of a Christmas miracle. It is one of the most beautiful children’s stories I have ever read.
Hallmark has a sweet book called Mary and Her Faithful Heart by Korynn Freels that is very good for our littlest friends. They have a plush Mary with infant Jesus doll that is supposed to go with the book. A cute idea if you need some gift suggestions for family or friends. For the past few years I have been using Hallmark’s My Friend Jesus plush doll in class as a source of positive motivation for practicing the first penance. The Jesus doll has been a class favorite for about three years now and has been a constant companion at the First Penance ceremonies. It was such a great way to help the students practice confession by having the sweet smiling face of plush Jesus greeting them. The My Friend Jesus doll was such a big hit with our youngest daughter that she decided that He was hers because she said that she “loves Jesus so much” that the doll became more likely in her room than in my teaching bag. After Jesus came back to my bag one day, He had secretly been taken to pre-school where He had a great day learning and lunching with all the kids, covered with chocolate milk that doll became hers permanently and I purchased a new one just for classroom use. The delight has been that Jesus is a part of our little daughter’s daily life even if it is “just a doll” because she has Him in her mind and at her fingertips. As you can imagine the fate of our Mary doll has been the same. We have all just accepted the fact that as she told us “Mary has to be with her Son, Jesus, so she’s going to be in my room too” that if we need to use Mary we know where to find her. By sharing this family story with you we are highlighting how simple things like saint dolls can be a very meaningful way for our children to learn to love their Catholic faith.
Keith had mentioned one of the activities we did as a family during Advent 6 years ago. December 2014 the National Museum of Women in the Arts had an exhibition of art of the Blessed Mother: Picturing Mary: Woman, Mother, Idea https://nmwa.org/exhibitions/picturing-mary-woman-mother-idea/ As a family activity for Advent that year we took our children to see the exhibition. The collection was remarkable. While we may not be able to go and do an activity like that this Advent season the NMWA has a short three minute video highlighting that exhibition. You can watch it here: https://nmwa.org/whats-on/exhibitions/online/global-icon/ One idea for a family activity is to visit the Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, DC. There are countless statues of Mary and it would be a great way to see some beautiful pieces of art.
Vocabulary words to discuss with your child: Rosary, Saints, Intercession, Dogma, Church Militant, Church Suffering, Church Triumphant.
Prayer of the Week: Hail Mary, Angelus
Saint of the Week: St. Nicholas of Myra has his feast day on Sunday, December 6. Here is a website that has some great ideas on how to celebrate at home. https://www.stnicholascenter.org/how-to-celebrate/celebrate-at-home There are a lot of good ideas on that website and they have a page specifically for children that includes coloring sheets and games.
Homework First Year Sacramental Prep: Read from the St. Joseph First Communion Catechism: Lesson 4, pages 21-22. Also look at page 61 and see when we celebrate the feast days of Mary. Pray the Joyful Mysteries of the Rosary. Use slide #11 to look at the pictures of each mystery. Read the story of the Annunciation (Luke 1:26-38) with your child. You can use a children’s Bible. Talk about how the angel Gabriel addressed Mary, and how Mary answered yes to God. Talk about ways we can say yes to God in our everyday lives and how it brings us closer to Him. Watch The Rosary: A Special Way to Pray with your child. Do the Mary craft provided for Week 9. By now your child should know the Glory Be, the Sign of the Cross, the Angel of God prayer and the Hail Mary. Continue to work on the Our Father.
Homework Second Year Sacramental Prep: Read from the St. Joseph First Communion Catechism: Lesson 4, pages 21-22. Also look at page 61 and see when we celebrate the feast days of Mary. Complete Spirit of Truth (pages 43-45). All of these pages will be handed in at the end of the month. Practice the Sign of the Cross, the Angel of God prayer, the Glory Be, the Hail Mary, 10 Commandments, and the Act of Contrition.
Homework Years 3-6th Grades: Read from The New St. Joseph Baltimore Catechism: Lesson 5, pages 35-37. Look at slide #8 about the Hail Mary. This is a painting of the Annunciation. Talk about various aspects of the picture. Look at Mary’s posture. How would you describe her demeanor? Discuss how the artist pictured the angel Gabriel. Choose one of the Luminous Mysteries, and read the Bible passage associated with it: Baptism of Jesus – Matthew 3:13-17, Wedding Feast of Cana– John 2:1-11, Proclamation of the Kingdom- Matthew 4:17 – 5:16, Transfiguration- Luke 9:28-36, Institution of the Eucharist- 1 Corinthians 11:23-29
Activity Ideas: In years past when my classes learned about the Blessed Virgin Mary we would work on one of these little projects to celebrate: Mary garden, Mary shrine, or Mary diorama. All great ideas to do at home. I have attached a Hail Mary vase label if you would like to color and tape to a vase of flowers. That would be a wonderful thing to do to celebrate the Immaculate Conception on December 8, buy some fresh flowers and place them in a vase with the vase label colored by your children. There is also a Mary May crowning coloring sheet to work on. It has crowns to cut and paste so that your children can crown Mary.
I know we are just getting on with winter and gardening is not on our minds but Mary gardens are a beautiful tradition that can be easy to do. A very good place to learn the historical significance about a Mary Garden can be found at the University of Dayton’s website. https://udayton.edu/imri/mary/a/annuals-mary-gardens.php
For children this example of a Mary Garden from Catholic Sprouts is a very easy and portable way to make a garden at home. By using a small potted flower and rather than using a statue of Mary adding a paper printout makes it very easy for kids to do, and a great idea for gifting! The small size is perfect for a windowsill which means you can have a Mary garden all year round. https://catholicsprouts.com/a-childs-mary-garden-with-free-printable-statues/
Here is another miniature version of a Mary Garden using a small statue: https://www.catholicsistas.com/miniature-marian-garden/
Maybe plants and gardens are not quite the thing for your family. Well, then, how about making a Mary Shrine? There are many elaborate and unbelievably beautiful shrines all over the world. Having one in your own home can be as easy as finding a few popsicle sticks or a shoebox. A quick option is to make a Mary Shrine with popsicle sticks: https://catholicsprouts.com/shrines-for-our-lady/ A beautiful Mary Diorama using a shoebox has been a class favorite. Simply print the template, color, and glue/tape inside a shoebox: http://www.doodlela.com/2013/05/may-is-month-of-mary.html (Pro tip save all those shoe boxes from Christmas and make a Mary diorama after Christmas.)
An Our Lady of Fatima diorama from Catholic Icing https://www.catholicicing.com/our-lady-of-fatima-craft/ is not a free option but is one of the best I have seen for this Feast Day.