Thursday, June 30, 2016

Turning Our Homes into Places of Prayer: Easy Family Prayer Habits (4 Keys Downloadable Worksheets)

This is number eleven in a series of downloadable worksheets to use at home, in small groups, or during break-out sessions with our Catholic marriage advice book, The Four Keys to Everlasting LoveTO DOWNLOAD AND PRINT, CLICK HERE.


Chapter 11


Turning Our Homes into Places of Prayer:
The Eternal Consequences of Everyday Family Life


In the day-to-day grind of life, it can be easy to forget that what we do now has consequences for eternity. This is especially true in family life, where we live out our vocation to sacramental marriage and, God willing, as parents to the next generation. Our families are "domestic churches," where we share God's divine love with each other and strengthen each other's faith. A rich family prayer life can bring great peace to our homes. 

As Manny and Karee say in Chapter 11 of The Four Keys, "When family members spend time together nurturing their friendship with God, they form a nearly unbreakable bond. In becoming closer to God, they become closer to each other. Evenings become filled with prayer instead of electronic entertainment, and Sundays become filled with praising God instead of hopping in separate minivans to drive different kids in different directions to various extracurricular activities."

In addition to explaining how spouses can deepen their prayer lives as individuals and as a couple, Chapter Eleven also shares easy prayer habits for families, including:

  • morning prayer (even in the car on the way to work or school!)
  • bedtime prayers (more than just rote recitation)
  • reading Bible stories (for adults, it's called lectio divina)
  • grace before meals (a wonderful way to incorporate multiple faith traditions)


Conversation Starters


You can use the following conversation starters to get a discussion going between yourselves or in a small group. If it helps, think it over on your own time, take it to prayer, and jot down your answers before talking about them.


1.  Do you have a favorite prayer? What is it, and what makes it your favorite?





2.  Do you feel comfortable speaking to God in front of each other? Why or why not?





3. What prayers would you most like your children to learn?





4.  Does your parish church appeal to you? Do other parishes in your area appeal to you more?





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Monday, June 27, 2016

Turning Children into Adults: Catholic Parenting Strategies (4 Keys Downloadable Worksheet)

This is number ten in a series of downloadable worksheets to use at home, in small groups, or during break-out sessions with our Catholic marriage advice book, The Four Keys to Everlasting LoveTO DOWNLOAD AND PRINT, CLICK HERE.


Chapter 10


Turning Children into Adults:
Forming Your Children's Bodies, Minds, and Souls in Christ


There is no greater responsibility than parenting well. Our children are God's gifts to us, and they will shape the world of the future. We are called to nurture our children's bodies, minds, and souls, forming them in Christ. "If we are like pencils in the hands of God, as Mother Teresa said, then each of our children is a sketch destined to become a masterpiece," say Manny and Karee say in Chapter Ten of The Four Keys.

Parenting requires courage, commitment, thorough preparation, and often sacrifice. In the early years, we help our children learn to eat, walk, talk, and even go to the bathroom, In the school years, we help our children discover their unique talents and discern the path that God wants them to follow in adulthood. And for their whole lives, they can still turn to us for advice on choosing between right and wrong. In the process, our children often inspire us to improve ourselves for their sake and become better than we are.

In addition to discussing children's physical, intellectual, and moral formation, Chapter Ten also gives tips on:

  • developing a unified parenting style even if it's not what every other parent on the playground picks
  • avoiding the trap of emphasizing intellectual development at the expense of moral development
  • educating your children in the virtues of anti-materialism and modesty
  • protecting your children from the possibility of abuse


Conversation Starters


You can use the following conversation starters to get a discussion going between yourselves or in a small group. If it helps, think it over on your own time, take it to prayer, and jot down your answers before talking about them.


1.  Thinking back to how your parents raised you, what would you like to imitate? What would you like to do differently?





2.  How do you plan to educate your children (public school, Catholic school, or homeschool)?






3. Who are your favorite parent models -- people whose approach to parenting you most admire and would most like to imitate?





4.  What are the biggest goals or dreams you have for your children?








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Thursday, June 23, 2016

Summer Book Club Fun: Divine Mercy for Moms ONLINE!

This summer, I’m teaming with up with mom of twins and recent convert Amanda Torres to venture into new digital territory. In a first time for both for us, we’ll be administering a book club on Facebook to delve into Divine Mercy for Moms, by fellow Ave Maria Press authors Michele Faehnle and Emily Jaminet. The discussions will begin on July 9 and end on August 20. We would love for you to kick back and join in the summer-long fun of growing in faith with like-minded moms!
Divine Mercy for Moms is the perfect way to learn why so many people are devoted to the 20th century Polish nun and visionary, St. Faustina Kowalska, who brought the Divine Mercy image and chaplet to the world. As it says in the book’s description on Amazon: “With heartwarming stories and practical advice, this book reveals that mercy is not just a gift to be received in the confessional but a spiritual resource that strengthens those who extend themselves in word, deed, and prayer. Designed for personal or group study, Divine Mercy for Moms celebrates the infinite mercy of God and the role of Mary, the Mother of Mercy, in the lives of all believers.”

Daily Reflections

Author Michele Faehnle has graciously agreed to take part in the party, hosting a daily series of mini-reflections from the book. Each mini-reflection starts with a quotation from St. Faustina’s famous diary where she recorded her deep inner relationship with Jesus as well as the messages that Jesus revealed privately to her. This mini-reflection from Day 6 really speaks to me!
Day 6 — Love of God
“I burn with the desire to love Him ever more and more.” (525)
How can you deepen your desire to love Christ more? What can you do to keep your eyes fixed on him and not yourself?
Share your answers to these questions on the daily Facebook thread and watch how it helps you to clarify your thoughts, become more accountable, and make greater spiritual progress!

Weekly Discussions

We’ll keep the pace slow and aim at reading one chapter per week. Every Saturday, co-admin Amanda and I will moderate discussions based on the chapter of the week. On our start date of July 9 we’ll begin by chatting about the introduction.
The Saturday discussions will be based on the Divine Mercy for Moms study guide (included at the end of the book). The study guide has a series of chapter-by-chapter questions to help focus our thoughts and motivate us to practice the spiritual and corporal works of mercy. Amanda and I will prime the conversational pump, telling you our answers and encouraging you to chime in with your own reactions.
The Facebook group is “closed,” which means that members of the group are the only ones who can see the comments you write. So no worries about too-personal musings showing up in the newsfeed of friends and relatives!

How to Join the Fun

The Facebook group is called (simply enough) Divine for Mercy for Moms Online Book Club. Just click here and submit a request to join the group. Or, you can send me a Facebook friend request here, then message me and I’ll add you. Last but not least, you can email me at santoskaree at gmail dot com if you have questions or need help. Looking forward to great conversations and closer friendships with you this summer!

Image courtesy of Ave Maria Press.

Monday, June 20, 2016

Sisters of Life Celebrate 25 Years of Pro-Life Ministry

As a reporter for news site Aleteia.org, I sometimes get to witness Catholic events that I'd love to attend even on my own time. The Sisters of Life 25th anniversary Mass at St. Patrick's Cathedral in Manhattan and their block party afterward was one of those times. I saw many familiar faces, including Kathryn Jean Lopez of National Review and Brian Caulfield of the Knights of Columbus initiative Fathers for Good, plus priests, homeschooling moms, and volunteers. In short, a good time was had by all!

Under the soaring roof of St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York City, Cardinal Timothy Dolan praised the “fresh and young religious institute” of the Sisters of Life in a Mass of Thanksgiving for the order’s 25th anniversary on June 1. And the cardinal also passed on a message from the Dominicans, who just celebrated their 800th anniversary: “Tell those kids congratulations!”

In his homily, Cardinal Dolan described the Sisters of Life as a “breath of hope” for consecrated religious life.  “A quarter century ago, we worried – we worried that consecrated religious life was in trouble,” mused the Cardinal. But flourishing new orders like the Sisters of Life are “a booster shot for all of us,” he said.

Since their founding by Cardinal John O’Connor in 1991, the Sisters of Life have grown from eight members to nearly a hundred. In addition to numerous convents and retreat centers in the greater New York area, the Sisters have also expanded to other locations in the western United States and abroad to Canada.

Going above and beyond the three traditional vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience, the Sisters of Life take a fourth vow to protect and embrace the sacredness of human life. The sisters assist women in crisis pregnancies by inviting them to live with the sisters in their convents, and they also provide healing retreats for those suffering from post-abortion grief. In the past 25 years, they have witnessed many “miracles of courage and love, miracles of healing,” said Mother Agnes Mary Donovan, the superior general of the order, in her remarks at the end of the anniversary Mass.

The Mass attracted men, women, and children of all ages. Rather appropriately, the noise of babies echoed throughout the hour and a half. The presence of at least nine red or scarlet skull caps indicated attendance by “more … bishops than a Notre Dame football game,” joked Cardinal Dolan.

Five of the Sisters of Life from the mission in Toronto, Canada, drove down for the event. A whole block of pews was filled by the Sisters of Life in their dark blue and white habits, and men and women from many other orders mingled throughout the congregation, including the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal in their distinctive gray, hooded habits.

One man, who had attended the Mass for the institution of the order 25 years ago in St. Patrick’s Cathedral, was here again for their 25th anniversary. “I can’t believe how fast the time has gone!” he exclaimed.

The Mass was accompanied by exquisite music, thanks to the choir of the Sisters of Life, joined by several guest singers including men, women, and children. They sang Franz Schubert’s German Mass and several pieces of a cappella polyphony by master composers Tomas Luis de Victoria and Ludovico de Viadana.

At the end of Mass, Cardinal Dolan invited everyone to a four-hour block party on 51st Street between Ninth and Tenth Avenues, near the Sisters’ Sacred Heart of Jesus Convent. The generosity of sponsors let the sisters provide free boxed lunches, pizza, hotdogs, popcorn, ice cream, and drinks. “Feeding people is important to us,” commented one of the sisters, saying they were all “secretly Italian grandmothers.” She added, “You’ll never leave one of our events hungry.”

Vicar General Sr. Mary Elizabeth described the block party as “an occasion to celebrate what God has done over these 25 years” and a thank-you to all the co-workers and volunteers who helped “to provide for the pregnant women we serve.” The sisters didn’t want to have the event in a hotel, she added, since they would rather be “on the street, out with the people.”

There were lots of fun kids’ activities with a unique apostolic bent. Kids were encouraged to write love notes to Mary and tack them onto a large bulletin board or to pose for a picture of a mock holy card as an incentive to become the saint they were meant to be.

In the nearby Sacred Heart of Jesus Church, the Blessed Sacrament was exposed for adoration behind banks of shimmering candles while long lines of people waited for confession. The block party ended with outdoor Eucharistic procession and benediction.

When asked how they met the Sisters, most people at the block party responded with variations on “I’ve always known” and “always loved” them -- hardly surprising, since the Sisters have become a well-entrenched fixture of Catholic life in New York City.

Dolan was even boldly invited everyone to the 50th anniversary of the Sisters of Life to be held, he said, at Yankee Stadium “jam packed with hundreds” of Sisters of Life and the women and children helped by them. Superior General Mother Agnes Mary Donovan hardly batted an eye when she responded, grinning, “We look forward to Yankee Stadium.”

This article first appeared on Aleteia.org.

Image By Farragutful (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Turning Challenges into Channels of Grace: Special Needs, Adoption & More (4 Keys Downloadable Worksheet)

This is number nine in a series of downloadable worksheets to use at home, in small groups, or during break-out sessions with our Catholic marriage advice book, The Four Keys to Everlasting LoveTO DOWNLOAD AND PRINT, CLICK HERE.


Chapter 9


Turning Challenges into Channels of Grace:
Big Families, Special-Needs Kids, Adopting, Fostering & Stepparenting


One of God's favorite ways to expand our capacity to love is through our families. No matter how big our hearts are at the start, they can always grow bigger. Many special family circumstances challenge parents to do more than they think they ever possibly could. Challenges like big families, special-needs children, adopting, fostering, and stepparenting can all be transformed into channels of God's all-powerful grace.

As Manny and Karee say in Chapter Nine of The Four Keys, they feel surrounded by everyday heroes called to be extraordinary parents. "Whereas we have six kids, many of our friends have more -- into the double digits. Several of our friends have children with a range of special needs, including autism, Down syndrome, and muscular dystrophy. We have watched other friends struggle with the cross of infertility and then turn that cross into a blessing by adopting or fostering children in need .... Still other people we know have turned stepparenting into an act of selfless love," they say.

Chapter Nine talks about all these special family circumstances, explaining how:

  • large families are a sign of God's blessing and the parents' generosity
  • every human life, even if weak and suffering, is a splendid gift
  • adopting or fostering a child is an expression of spiritual fruitfulness
  • stepparenting shows great openness of heart


Conversation Starters


You can use the following conversation starters to get a discussion going between yourselves or in a small group. If it helps, think it over on your own time, take it to prayer, and jot down your answers before talking about them.


1.  What particular challenges do you think large families or blended families face? What families do you know who have managed such challenges successfully?





2.  Do you have friends whose children have special needs? What strikes you about the role the child plays in the family?






3. Do you have friends who have chosen to adopt or foster a child? What have you learned from them about what it means to be a family?





4.  Have you considered adopting or fostering children? What about special-needs children? Do you feel called to have a large family, or a larger one than you have now?









Want more tips and news about our Catholic marriage advice book? Sign up here for The Four Keys to Everlasting Love newsletter and get your downloadable thank-you gift.