5 MUST-HAVE School Supplies to Keep Kids on the Path to Heaven

latest chalk 2

It’s that time again when moms and dads across this great land finish checking off a mile-long list of obscure, annoyingly specific school supplies. We scour the internet, traipse through aisle after aisle of every big box store and office supply emporium around, trying to find the correct color, brand, and amount, at the right price. But there’s always one item at the bottom of the page that is nowhere to be found—that elusive pre-sharpened number 2 red Ticonderoga training marking-pencil with a white eraser fashioned out of rare unicorn dust and angel feathers…?

We’ve come a long way from my school days (way back in 19—ahem, never mind!) when the list consisted of at most four or five items—pencil, scissors, crayons, glue, and paper. This gets me thinking about what kids actually need to get across the finish line of school and ultimately life. Here’s a hint: you can’t get it at Walmart. What spiritual tools can I provide my children to help them navigate the more arduous path to heaven? A couple years ago, I compiled my first list: The Top 5 Must-Have School Supply Items for Every Catholic Kid. In the spirit of growing lists, I’ve added to it. For a refresher on what is at the top of my list, check it out here. Now for my 2019 new & improved edition of the essential spiritual school supply list:

5. St. Benedict Medal

Sadly, there’s no way to shield our kids from all of the evil that lurks in this world. But we can prepare them to combat it. Why not arm them with one of the strongest sacramentals out there? This medal is not only a reminder for kids to make good choices throughout their day, but it is also a powerful spiritual weapon. On the face of the medal is an image of St. Benedict, known as the father of western monasticism and the patron saint of students. As a young man, he saw his fellow pupils squandering their God-given gifts on pleasure rather than the pursuit of truth. Hmmm. Sound vaguely familiar to our modern educational system? Benedict is a potent intercessor for spiritual protection, helping to fight temptation and angst. On the back of the medal are the initials of an exorcism prayer that relates to an event in Benedict’s own life:

Begone, Satan,

Do not suggest to me thy vanities!

Evil are the things thou offerest,

Drink thou thy own poison!

There is a lot more behind the medal which you can read about here. You can purchase them at any Catholic gift shop. Get your medal blessed by a priest. Then remind little Janie or Johnny to stick it in a pocket or on a necklace and use it. St. Benedict, pray for our youth!

4. Holy Water

We wouldn’t dare send precious Buffy or Biff to school without a water bottle. They might have to use the water fountain. Gasp! Instead of making germ-free hydration our top priority, maybe we should be focused on leading kids to the Living Water. Keep a container of holy water on hand near the door. Before the kids leave, hit them with a few sprinkles to remind them of their baptism as new creations in Christ. When it’s a particularly harried morning, you can have some fun with it. “Ow! Mom, you got me right in the eye!” “Oops. Don’t know how that happened.” Consider offering them a quick blessing too. I like to say, “Provide Jesus a warm and loving home in your heart today,” or “God never tires of loving or forgiving you. Now be Christ to everyone you encounter.” These special moments of connection can be one of those traditions they pass on to their own children someday.

3.The New Saint Joseph Baltimore Catechism

This book series is the spiritual equivalent of an at-home electric pencil sharpener. When things get a little dull, this book will keep kids on point. It’s got everything they need to know about church teaching, written in an easy-to-follow question and answer format. It’s meant for kids in about the third grade, but in my opinion, is helpful through at least 8th grade. I didn’t discover it until the third decade of my life. It could have prevented a lot of turmoil by answering some basic existential questions. Get this book! Keep it somewhere in the house that gets a lot of traffic. It’s a great source for discussion and can lead kids to deeper faith if they get some of the whys behind what we do and what we believe.

2. Inspirational Bible Verses

I know a lot of parents who put notes in their kids’ lunches which is super sweet. “Buford, eat your veggies! Love, Mom” Why not add a quick Bible passage? You could also put it on a post-it note and stick it to the seat in front of them for the commute to school. We can all stand to learn more scripture. Choosing a Bible passage means we adults have to put down our devices for a moment and crack open the Sacred Word while offering some inspiration to our kids. Win-win! If you have a child who is experiencing a particular struggle, cater the Bible verse to offer support and guidance for that issue. The verse could be a good entry point for some hearty discussion at the dinner table. When a kid is well-formed in scripture, they will have the benefit of wisdom to safely lead them through life’s fires. Wondering where to start? Open any of St. Paul’s epistles.

Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

-Romans 12:21

1. My Identity as a Son/Daughter of God Prayer

Wow, these prayers hit the mark! If you’re not familiar, allow me to be the first person to put them on your spiritual radar. They are poetic, yet powerful reminders of our noble purpose here on Earth.

Identity prayer PP2

Written by Father Ignatius Mazanowski of the Franciscan Friars of the Holy Spirit, the Identity prayer arms a tween or teenager with the knowledge of who he/she is, a son or daughter of the King. Look no further than the staggering news accounts of mass shootings, bullying, and depression to understand the depth of confusion and isolation in young people. Praying is an effective way to combat all the negativity, hate, and competition that is rampant in schools and on social media. It is too easy for an adolescent to lose sight of his true identity as a child of God. We can easily fall into the culture trap of finding our worth in what we do, or the labels other people give us. Reciting this prayer regularly can help build a kid’s self-esteem on a solid Christian foundation. Print a bunch of these. Post it on the bathroom mirror. Slip it in a backpack or the glove box. Use them as bookmarks in textbooks. Tack it to the fridge. Recite it as a family in the evening. Kids need to get hit with messages multiple times before they stick. Seize all the opportunities available. Stand back and marvel at the transformation!

Making saints is tough work, but take heart, it’s also a heck of a lot more rewarding than buying the perfect protractor. While graduation is certainly a noble goal, let’s lead our kids safely across the eternal finish line. May God grant all parents the strength and zeal to bring His children home. A holy and happy school year to all of you!

Universal Weirdos

cami-talpone-ej5vXdz3jRI-unsplash

This is the second chapter of my short memoir, “Chasing Normal.” It details the acute period of grief right after my mom died. I posted the first installment earlier.

I felt surrounded by the grave. The last time I had been to my grandparents’ Florida home, I had accompanied my mother. Back then, I was a carefree teenager. A lot had changed. My grandmother had courageously fought mouth cancer, enduring a significant part of her palette being removed. She did not survive. I could not have conceived at the time that her firstborn, my mother, would follow just two years later from lung cancer. It was strange being in that home with two crucial people missing.

The home was completely different. My grandmother’s soft, feminine touch was nowhere to be found. Instead, every available space had been covered in a swashbuckling nautical theme. My grandfather had hung paintings of ships and seascapes, sadly erasing almost every trace of his deceased wife. It was unsettling, but not completely surprising. While hey had eked out forty-nine years of marriage, I suspect it was not always the happiest of unions. They used to bicker—a lot. His hearing was going, so she would raise her voice. “John!” was often punctuated with heavy sighs and exasperated eye-rolls. It never erupted into a full-blown argument, but there was always an undercurrent of seething.

I liked my maternal grandma. Although, I sometimes sensed that there was a time limit or expiration date on our welcome. Past that window of time, we grandkids were interlopers. It was understandable; She had raised seven children, almost single-handedly. As a typical husband of the 1940s and ’50s, my grandfather dutifully provided for his family. He was away a lot while serving in the Navy, and later, as a U.S. postal worker, who moonlit as a musician. Grandma had finally retired from the business of child-rearing. This was in contrast to my dad’s mom, my Italian Grandma Pippa. She couldn’t get enough of my brothers and me, as if her happiness depended on breathing the same air as ours. As different as they were, both were as good as gold and surprisingly linked through their deaths. Grandma Pip had died about one year after my maternal grandma, and precisely one year before my mom. Three years, three deaths. The matriarchs of my family were dropping like flies.

Continue reading “Universal Weirdos”

Beloved Children

robert-collins-333411-unsplash

Bear with me. I’m about to brag about my kids. Proud mama alert! Go ahead. Look away and grumble, but there’s no putting this exuberant lioness back in her cage.

And I’m not embarrassed to admit that you will probably be quite underwhelmed by the source of all this maternal delight. It’s neither a virtuoso violin performance nor a  prize-winning science project. In fact, none of my kids even plays an instrument, (excluding kazoo) or cares a whole lot about making scientific breakthroughs. (Sadly, there’s no fighting genetics.) I am fully aware the rest of the world will consider the source of my pride as something banal and utterly unexceptional.

Nonetheless, it causes me to light up like a roman candle in a cloudless, dark country sky.

Continue reading “Beloved Children”

Boasts & Pot Roasts: New Year / Old Me!

gaelle-marcel-8992-unsplash

Is it only me, or is it getting harder and harder to focus?! Since the inauspicious purchase of my so-called smartphone, I’m beginning to feel dumber and dumberer. I used to read a whole lot more—not just those vacuous fashion/entertainment magazines that seem to secretly breed like rabbits in my dentist’s waiting room. I used to read actual books… regularly for Pete’s sake! My hope for the new year is not New Year/ New Me. Nope. My plan rather is New Year/ Old Me. I plan to put the devices down and pick up books, just like I did in the olden days of yore. Yee-haw! I’mana get me edu-ma-cated in 2019! (And in case my first born spelling/grammar drill sergeant should read this, the mistakes are intentional!)

As we all know, transitions take time. So, before diving too deeply into those heavily word-laden dusty old books, how about some other suggestions to whet your intellectual appetite? After all, the libraries of Rome were not built in a day. They had libraries, right? Oh boy. Note to self: sprinkle some Roman history into the reading list. Before I get to my recommended reading Boasts for you, I’ll share some leads that may act as a springboard towards more book-learnin’.

Continue reading “Boasts & Pot Roasts: New Year / Old Me!”

Into the Deep of Advent

julian-dufort-712923-unsplash

We are in the home stretch of Advent. Christmas is so close we can all nearly taste it. But resist!

I took part in a cookie swap earlier this week and all those mouth-watering varieties are calling my name. Ok, I’ve sampled a few. But I’m done. I’m holding out for the big event. They will taste all the sweeter on Christmas Eve. The waiting makes the celebration that much more dramatic, reverent and thrilling. It’s almost party time, folks—one of the biggest feast days of our Church. If you’ve ever wondered why we collectively bow our heads during the recitation of the Nicene Creed, it’s because we are recognizing our belief in the most fundamental mystery of Christianity: That in Jesus Christ, God actually became man, born of a woman by the power of the Holy Spirit. This is the Incarnation, the most sacred moment in all of human history. That is why we require some serious prep time.

There is no more dangerous or disgusting habit than that of celebrating Christmas before it comes, as I am doing in this article. It is the very essence of a festival that it breaks upon one brilliantly and abruptly, that at one moment the great day is not and the next moment the great day is. -GK Chesterton

Continue reading “Into the Deep of Advent”

A Case for Daily Mass in Catholic Schools

adult-black-and-white-body-of-christ-161081

My kids are officially back in the swing of school. I know what you’re thinking: WooHoo! Carline drop-off must be the most absolutely magical part of the day! I must admit, watching my kids exit through the automatic sliding minivan doors with the exchange of a kiss, is pretty awesome. (What stay-at-home mom doesn’t crave a few hours of solitude to accomplish the endless household chores before they all frantically pile back in taking their seats in the constant carousel ride of family chaos?) But, believe it or not, the drop-off is not my absolute favorite part of the day. There’s another much more special moment that wins by a long shot!

It comes shortly after morning carline, and quite frankly, its significance kind of snuck up on me. Over time I’ve come to cherish it as the treasured gift from God that I know it to be.

Continue reading “A Case for Daily Mass in Catholic Schools”

Filth & Faith Part 2: Weathering the Storm in the Church

A couple of weeks ago, a huge fall thunderstorm erupted in the middle of the otherwise quiet night.  It startled me from a dead sleep. I tried my absolute best to disregard the racket and the flashing light in order to remain blissfully slumbering.

layne-lawson-101816-unsplash.jpg

I was in that foggy quasi-sleep state in the midst of trying to self-soothe back to a deep unconsciousness, when one of my sons snuck into our room and boldly announced, “What is going on out there?!” If you’ve ever had a kiddo swoop in while you’re trying to rest, you’ll understand when I say my hair was now standing on end. Children are like nighttime ninja. You never hear their stealthy approach but are made frighteningly aware when they are hovering mere inches from your face. It’s straight out of a horror film.

Continue reading “Filth & Faith Part 2: Weathering the Storm in the Church”