Archive for May, 2006


Our Lady of Walsingham

"Wooden statue of the Mother of God with the Infant Christ at Walsingham. The statue, dating from the 19th century, was crowned with papal crowns in 1954, the year of the proclamation of the dogma of the Assumption. Shown here carried in procession traditionally led by the Arhcbishop of Westminster, the statue is surrounded by flowers traditionally associated with the Blessed Virgin Mary.

(Pictured in The Madonnas of Europe – Pilgrimates to the Great Marian Shrines of Europe – English edition 2002, Ignatius Press)"

I was perusing the net today and I came upon this picture of Our Lady.  I am so taken by the thought of Her being presented in various arts symbolically.  My children are so attracted to this symbolism too.  They are fond of icons, old tapestries, mosaics, stained glass and now, the symbolism we find in Mary Gardens.  It is as though the children are captivated by their unique "language" and are eager to decipher its meaning.

"Flowers are included in works of Christian art not only because they are pretty and decorative, but also because they had a particular meaning. ("Iconography" is the word used by art historians for the study of symbolism in works of art.) The symbolism of flowers was used especially in medieval and renaissance paintings and tapestries to reinforce the message of the main subject. Sometimes the background of a tapestry would be carpeted with symbolic flowers. In paintings, a bouquet in a vase might be included, or the Virgin or another person might hold flowers. Elaborately embroidered vestments often had floral decorations, and the borders of illuminated manuscripts were very often embellished with symbolic floral ornaments. The significance of the flowers was generally known at the time these works were originally produced for the decoration of churches or private dwellings (most are now in museums).

"Children are usually very interested in deciphering the message contained in these art works. And they may enjoy using this "code" themselves. A bouquet or wreath to honor Mary can be made of real or silk flowers, and could include those that traditionally symbolize Mary and her virtues and attributes."

Why is it that the children’s attractions in anything …most especially anything dealing with faith seem to capture my attention as well?  THEY are teaching ME?!  Yes!  They have a special way of listening and responding to God where God speaks to them "personally and with profound simplicity".  …and their JOY is contagious!  Leave it to God to catch our attention with a sense of awe and wonder just like that of a child.  I know from reading about The Catechesis of the Good Shepherd that God has a very special relationship with children.  I guess it is because of that special relationship that we have with our little ones that we also get a glimpse of that same awe and wonder that they have with Him. 

Listening to God With Children: The Montessori Method Applied to the Catechesis of Children by Gianna Gobbi, it talks about sharing religious experiences with children, a role which we are CALLED to live.  It also states "there is only one true Teacher, who is Christ Himself".   "Both our own joy to be living a religious experience with children, as well as our effectiveness as catechists, rests in our desire and commitment to listen to God with the children."  …once again God knits His seamless garment….

(The term “seamless garment of life” was developed by Cardinal Bernardin as an attempt to link together all human life as valuable. We can have a more modest goal as we think about a “seamless garment of love” for children, born and unborn, and the women who nurture them."  This quote came from a pro-life article that I read, but it struck my heart in a different kind of way….)

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We are doing many wonderful hands-on projects right now. I am reminded of a study I read once that I heard quoted by Archbishop Fulton Sheen…it went something like this:

" Association is a key to memory:

a. You remember approximately 10 percent of what you read.

b. You remember approximately 20 percent of what you hear.

c. You remember approximately 30 percent of what you see.

d. You remember approximately 50 percent of what you hear and see together.

e. You remember approximately 70 percent of what you say (if you think as you are saying it).

f. You remember approximately 90 percent of what you do."

I want my kids to "own" the Catechism.  I want them to bear Christ in their hearts and share Him with others!  I don’t want them JUST to memorize the Catechism, or JUST to fill in a workbook and close that book and leave the information on a shelf.  I want them to think and ponder…I want them to learn and re-tell this information to others.  I want them to realize that FAITH is real and must be kept alive!!  I want them to LIVE the Catechism and to LOVE this treasure that they have!  One way that we are doing this is to hit on as many of the senses as we possibly can so they learn and retain what they need.   We try to make many of our studies as multi-sensory and hands-on as possible.

Here is only one of many things we have used to make learning the Catechism a special work for the children….. Christopher’s Talks to Catholic Children    is a lovely re-telling of the Catechism in a story and examples form that is filled throughout with many stick figures that can be drawn when reading the story to children. 

We read this book together and the children copied the stick figures on different papers whichNeumannpress_1897_970543 they glued into a book they created for this purpose.  They dictated to me their narration of each chapter which I copied into a Word document.  (We selected an extra special font of the child’s choosing) We then printed and cut the text apart and pasted it in the book in the appropriate places.

What a keepsake this book is!  It is a great hands-on way to teach the Catechism. The beautiful thing about this is that it is THEIR work and they are soooo proud.  They whip out this book when ANYONE comes to the door…even our well beloved mailman and they proceed to retell this story to them.

The author,David Greenstock states: “This is your book. It started quite simply in the form of talks given to sick children, who were recovering from all kinds of illnesses, in a lovely open-air school by the sea. They were so pleased with the little drawings, and the talks interested them so much that I thought other children might like them too: so I wrote them all down in a book, and here they are. I have called myself Christopher because that name means “the Christ-bearer,” and that is what I am trying to do by means of this book––to bring Christ into your hearts and minds, and to teach you to love Him.”

Christopher’s Talks to Catholic Children is also available from Neumann Press.

I would love to share more information about making books with children as well as other fun ways of learning the Catechism.  I will elaborate more on that in the near future.

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Since so many of you Real Learning people have been sharing your great craft ideas for a Mary Altar…we came up with our own Mary craft for today!

In honor of Our Lady and the tulips, we created our very own tulip stained glass!

Here is how we did it!
First you need an image…like these:
simple tulip image
tulip image for older kids 
another tulip image

print out on shrink plastic  like that seen here:
shrink plastic 

color with bright colors and bake in a well ventilated room according to directions!  and voila!  you have a beautiful stained glass image of a tulip to honor Our Lady and place in your window!  If you want to hang it, make a small hole in the plastic before baking and put it on a beautiful ribbon!

(as a little aside…this shrink plastic has so many wonderful uses…like using it for a Jesse tree in Advent!  I can share more!  I have loads of ideas!!

We are keeping a special Marian notebooking project that we are adding to during this whole Marian month and continuing on until August 15th.  We are tying our whole project into our Mary garden.  On August 15th we have a custom in our parish of bringing flowers to church to be blessed which we then place in our homes.  These flowers will be placed around our indoor Mary altar!

The notebook project we are working on is one that I will write more about in future days.  One thing that we are doing for the tulip is utilizing special scrapbooking paper cut into a basic tulip shape and putting our tulip copywork on that paper using the prayer/poem from our other post today.  We will mount it into our Mary notebook/lapbook on some pretty paper and we will embellish it with tulip stickers and cut outs of tulip flowers from seed catalogs and gardening magazines (ask your library for discards!) as well as images from the net!

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There are so many beautiful flowers are blooming outside my home!! But I, not satisfied with just looking, decided to look a few things up…  It seems that the tulip is symbolic of Our Lady…"like an empty chalice that turns it’s face upwards to be fulled with the Grace of God"….how beautiful!!

"Mary’s Flowers" (1894) – the English translations of Father Louis
Gemminger’s 31 addresses on Our Lady’s Flowers, one for each day of
May, 1858, in Germany, and indeed find that that his address of May
7th was on the tulip.

"The Tulip.

"The bright-colored Tulip holds itself erect upon a straight firm
stem surrounded by somewhat oblong leaves. Its calix closes at
night but reopens, as soon as the sun rises. The only thing which
this flower lacks is perfume. Although it does not delight the
sense of smell, yet it rejoices the eye by its beautiful,
variegated dress. In a spiritual sense, the tulip may be compared
to prayer, and is therefore, taken as an emblem of this virtue.

THE TULIP REOPENS WHEN THE SUN RISES, whereas it is closed during
the night. Thus, the soul, which loves prayer, opens herself only
to God and heavenly things; esteems only these; perceives only
these; and, with great care, shuts herself up to the night of sin,
and to the world, which would deter her from prayer, or make it
distasteful to her by distractions.

tells us that prayer, although essentially one, has nevertheless
various methods.

. . .

"0 heavenly Tulip, – my most beloved Mother Mary!

In your heart
burned the love of prayer, and you practiced this virtue to an
exalted degree in every circumstance of your life! Obtain for us
also the grace, that we may every day comprehend more and more the
majesty of prayer, since there can be no greater honor for man than
to speak to his God.

Teach us yourself, 0 Blessed Virgin, bow to
pray, Tulip

"The Tulip’s crown, raised high in air,
Reminds us of the voice of prayer;
The humble prayer from earth ascends,
And God, assistance kindly lends.


Blessed Mary knew this holy art,
And from her sinless Virgin heart
The prayer of faith, of hope, of love,
Ascended to the Throne above

Through life, prayer was her loving task;
At Cana’s feast we hear her ask,
And tho’ it was before His time,
Her Son changed water into wine.


While now from Heaven she sees our needs,
E’er with that Son for us she pleads,
And prays that we from God ne’er roam,
That so we reach our destined home.

In all our trials may we find
Assistance in this Mother kind;
And when on earth our lives shall close,
May we in Heaven find sweet repose."

(taken from mgardens.org)

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A Garden that Prays

Oooh!  SPRING is in the air!  The windows are open…a special joy is abound and the month isGardenglorygn May…Mary’s month! The air is so very perfumed and it does my heart a world of good!!  All the fragrant blooms are symbols of life!  How good it all is!!  How right it is to re-dedicate this life back to it’s creator through Mary the ultimate garden of virtue! 

("Garden Glory"

by Cheryll Arnold)

I have every hope to plant a Mary Garden this year.  In many ways, even the reading and meditation of some of the beautiful flowers dedicated to Our Lady is as delicious as smelling and seeing their sweet blooms!  I want my garden to pray!

I came across this prayer today:

A Mary Garden Prayer

" Most Holy Trinity, Father, Son and Holy Spirit,

As our hearts are raised to you in love and thanksgiving through the
light, grace, fragrance and symbolism of these pure, blest,
transfigured flowers of Our Lady  –  your direct creations, showing
forth and sharing with us your divine goodness, beauty and truth  –
we commune with you in awe and rapture and pray that we and all our
brothers and sisters may be opened to the fullness of the divine
love of God and Neighbor, through which we are to transform the
fallen world into the culminating earthly Peaceable Kingdom and
Paradise, that all may be lifted up resplendent in the eternal New
Heaven and New Earth of our Crucified and Risen Lord and Savior,
Jesus Christ.

(see /www.mgardens.org)


Prayer Plant ~ The folding together of the leaves of this plant in
"prayer" each night reminds us that the plants of the Mary Garden
are themselves a prayer.

As Rev. James J. Galvin, C.SS.R. writes
in "My Garden Prays," Perpetual Help, February 1952:


"Gardens should pray! Gardens should remind children of their Mother. Gardens should be holy places that keep minds fresh and unsullied as Madonna lilies.  Gardens should chime with names that ring like the Litany of Loreto.  And gardens, if they are truly Mary Gardens, will naturally lead to Christ."


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Lately I have been re-reading  The Good Shepherd and the Child by Sofia Cavaletti.  I have been using the first few pages of this work for my copywork!  I love the copywork journals that my children have been amassing over the last year.  I thought that they should not be the only ones who should be doing this type of valuable schoolwork.  I remember reading once about Maria Montessori copying every word of a book to carefully measure the weight of its words so that she would not miss anything.  So here I am on my joyful journey of homeschool motherhood doing MY copywork.   

I love this book in its simplicity.  It reminds me of how I began a deeper journey into the faith as an adult when I heard Scott Hahn on EWTN talking about God’s covenant relationship with His people over the centuries.  And as I browsed through this Joyful Journey book and then went back over in greater detail over the pages of this book, I could see the unique covenant relationship that God has with young children, especially those children under the age of 6 years.  God’s LIVING covenant with them helps them to receive and respond to God’s unconditional and personal love for each of them whom He calls by name.   

The Good Shepherd parable satisfies a vital need in the child, one of nurturing and protection that allows the child to be fully and holistically who he was created to be.  When this occurs, the child is full of a special quality of JOY that resonates in the depths of his heart. 

“Many things make children happy, but there are different qualities of happiness.  There is a kind of happiness that makes children nervous, tense, and tired.  The happiness that they feel when they come close to God is a quality of joy that makes them peaceful, relaxed, as if something very deep has been struck in their heart and they go on listening to this sounding in the depths of their heart.  It is like the response of someone who has found a life-giving place and having found it, does not want to leave.”

I have found The Catechesis of the Good Shepherd to be just this kind of life giving catechesis.  It inspires a relationship that is so very natural to the child and is the gratifying satisfaction of a vital need.  This religious formation is not imposed on them.  The experience is so deep and peaceful and to live it with the child, it becomes an education for us as adults and we learn that as educators, we need to be the servants of this covenant relationship.  Children are radical in their simplicity in that they get to the root of things and this is seen also in their religious needs.  They are satisfied with the essentials and are free of the extra things that clutter our lives.

The young children are our guides.  They are so very creative in the first few years of their lives and they have a particular religious hunger that needs to be fed NOW…just like when they are physically hungry they need to be fed now without waiting till the morning.   

While living this special covental relationship, the children are full of a quality of love and joy and are in a sense His heralds of God’s living presence among us.

“If Jesus said we are to be like little children to enter the kingdom of God, then they must have something to teach us.”

Someone once told me that God is with us in the most natural of ways…. Leave it up to a child to “get it” in ways that many adults do not.

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Rose and Lily      

"Early legends tell that when Mary’s tomb was opened, it was empty. Mary was no longer there, but she left behind a harvest of roses and lilies. Roses and lilies became Mary’s flowers. The two flowers highlight Mary’s relation to God.  She is open and receptive to the word of God; she is pure and transparent to his presence (lily). But she is also fiercely loving and passionate in her attachment to God (rose). The lily was associated with the Annunciation, the Feast of Mary’s receptiveness, and lilies are often depicted in scenes of Gabriel’s visit to Mary. She is also the rose in which the divine word became flesh (Dante), enclosing heaven and earth in her loving womb. The rose symbolism has many facets and many legends. Roses sprang up as gifts for the Infant in the manger, and they blossomed where the Holy Family rested on the flight to Egypt. Considered the most perfect of flowers, the rose becomes the symbol of the Queen of Heaven. Mary is the mystical rose because of her ardent love of God. Mary is depicted sitting in a rose garden to signify that she is enclosed by the love of God. White roses symbolize Mary’s joys, red and yellow ones her sorrows and glories."

I love the symbolism of flowers dedicated to Our Lady!  I came across this site today.  We are  hoping to plant our own Mary Garden this spring.  There are so many wonderful flowers and herbs to choose from!  What a wonderful way to begin a month dedicated to Our Lady!

"The cloistered, enclosed garden, sometimes called a Paradise Garden, came to represent the purity of the Virgin Mary. We can honor Mary by planting her flowers in a garden dedicated to her. Gardens dedicated to Mary and containing flowers named after her are called Mary Gardens."

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