Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Living with and loving the Saints liturgically

We are reading the lives of the saints like never before. We are also reading about their lives in a liturgical sequence. Life has recently entered a ‘sweeter and more intimate’ level with our heavenly friends – the saints. In the same way we especially acknowledge our loved ones, friends and acquaintances on their birthday or name day, I feel the importance of trying to read about the lives of the saints on their equivalent – their feast day. Most of my inspirations have their first beginnings or stirrings from a discussion on 4Real and in this case a thread called, Feast Days & Plans for Next Year! Often I have taken in the discussion and apply it as is or I start to play with it in my mind to tweak things better to suit my own preferences. But I can say for sure, I would not be writing this if it weren’t for that thread.

We have enormous library of Catholic books for the children. We homeschool, we don’t pay Catholic school fees, it is something we love and see the value in for the formation of their souls – I STILL feel the resonance of the different picture books of the saints my parents bought for me (and my sister) – don’t I love Fr Lovasik! – which are well known books – then and now. What good work he did for young Catholics.

Our minds are very ‘open’ to this sort of thing because my parents bought nearly every book from
back in the early 80’s in one purchase and we had an instant library and I read children and adult books from this library alike and I think that is where I feel so at ease reading adult saint or Marian books to the children (in excerpts and often with my on-the-spot adjustments for easier understanding for the children – it’s an art I’ve got under my belt well – ‘improvising’ you might call it.)

These are special times of the day, in the morning we pull the two couches together, facing each other, snuggled together, creating our own world of enjoyment and fun, or we climb into our bed together for cozy night reading or we read in the car on the way to Mass which are often long drives for us and in a car, you are definitely in your own ‘bubble’ with no distractions. (Children buckled in, no running to toilets etc, etc, you’ve got ‘em!) I say, ‘enjoyment and fun’ because I love to take my reading seriously, taking on the voice and mannerisms of the character I’m reading about. I don’t do this always but often enough. I throw in the ‘theatrics’ and try to give the reading life and depth. They respond – their eyes shining, with giggles or gaping mouths, this is how their souls are knitted as one with their heavenly friends.

With their ears they listen, with their eyes they feast upon the artwork. I must be a very visual person, because I fell in love with the saints as a child through the illustrations I saw in Fr Lovasik’s books. Remember too, with the traditions of the saints in particular, ‘a picture tells a thousand words’ because they all have symbols that tell us something about that saint, children will really learn from those symbols! Once at an All Saints Party, I designed a musical chairs game but instead of chairs we had symbols of the saints, and as I started to read the saint’s story the children were very good at quickly guessing who was the poor unfortunate soul who happened to be standing near that saint’s symbols!!! (that was how the process of elimination took place..)

I have discovered, if you have many books, often it is hard to utilize your books to the fullest. Often I felt this, it was always a thing in the back of my mind, “If only....” Well my new inventory has changed all this. Now before you think, “WHAT and inventory on a large library?!?” It took me 3 days, with good chunks of those days committed to the task. (I did this over the Easter period – I wasn’t schooling and children were out playing.) But you have to remember, you only do this once! For the years to come you will reap the benefits of these few day’s efforts, you only need to add to the list as new books come in which is a very easy task. For those who do not have many books please keep reading there is a way to do the same even if you don't have many books..
So I started to list the books, picture books, single books on one saint are easy, it is the compilations that are hard. The Picture Book of Saints by Fr Lovasik contains many saints which I wrote up individually, writing the name of the saint and cut and pasting the name of the book which it came from next to it. I have a few compilations, so it was time consuming, then there were my favourite adult reading material that I read to the children, like, 400 Saints Who Raised the Dead. That book I had to go through each chapter and see the listing of the saints that were to be covered and write them down and then quickly check exactly what page that saint’s story started, because with this book a page can start with one saint, but by the bottom of the page you may have read about 3 saint’s stories of raising people back to life...that was a bit time consuming, but worth it, because my children love that book the best.

I also wanted to include other books such as, liturgical living books like
Cooking With The Saints, A Book of Feasts and Seasons or A Year With God and also colouring books that I may have on the saints or the beautiful Mother of God Coloring Book which we use often. I am at present ¾’s or more the way through this inventory and those remaining books to be added are more of the liturgical living books, the reading ones are pretty much done.

So the hard work has not quite finished yet....I then wrote the feast day next to each entry, some were easy, or I knew them off by heart, some I had to do an internet search on, but like all things, you get the knack after a while, of doing it as fast as you can. Once this was done I started to cut and paste all the books/individual stories into order of a yearly calendar, first isolating or grouping books into their months and their was one final group for “Lent, Advent and movable feasts...”. Once this was done, the individual sorting of each month from the 1st to the 31st ....I know a big job, but did I say that it was once off and well worth it? There could be a few ways to approach this job. You could set a goal of a couple of books per day and make it a task you complete over many months or use a holiday period where you know there is no other pressing commitments around...

Here is my list to date,
Saints for the Whole Liturgical Year, this is still a work in progress however. At present I open up the file each morning, scan down to the date of the day and cut and paste onto desktop the day’s list from which I start taking those books from the shelves...What I need to do next, is have a program where the books for the day will automatically appear on the desktop when the computer is started up each morning...

One thing I should mention, not everyone is in a position to buy a lot of books, or their priorities with education might have a different but very import focus. Like saving carefully to be able to put their children into really good, orthodox universities when the schooling at home is finish. Money might not be there for big spending on Catholic children’s books – there are other ways to do this!!!

The internet is a fabulous resource for this, an incredible wealth of information and pictures for our children. (If mummy has been the one looking for them.) You can still do an inventory on the websites you find, a particular site dedicated to a saint, or a liturgical cookbook that is available free on the net etc..So by doing an inventory on these things you can go back year after year and access these things effortlessly. I will do a posting just on this point and show some of the beautiful written narrations my children have done just from reading them internet stories and showing or printing up internet pictures for them to draw... if you haven't got lots of books the internet is an excellent alternative.

Also I will get back again soon, with another way for children to connect to their daily friends and it is very visual.


Anonymous said...

Your list is awesome! I only have the book title, author and illustrator name, and location in our house in my database.

I love your idea of listing out each Saint within each book -- I'm definitely borrowing and adding to your list!

Leonie said...

We, too, find the internet to be a valuable resource - find lots of interesting tid bits about the saints...