Sunday, August 2, 2015

Celebrate St. Ignatius through Food and Fun!

This past week, some of the children and adults from our local Catholic homeschool group enjoyed learning about St. Ignatius through food and fun!

sensing the saints st. ignatius playdate

Gathering Time

We gathered at a friend's home and, while the kids got re-acquainted with some free play, I set up in the shade of the back yard.

Once all was set up, we gathered on a blanket for opening greetings and prayers, which included the Sign of the Cross and two prayers from St. Ignatius' own words, the Suscipe or the Prayer of Generosity.  We learned, too, that our host family's close friend is a Jesuit priest, which was cool, and recalled that Pope Francis is also a Jesuit. 

Then, we chatted about what a saint is, in general, and who St. Ignatius was, specifically.   I invited the children to share anything they knew about St. Ignatius, and, in doing so, we segued into the next part of our gathering: snacks and drink!

Faith (Geography and Etymology) Through Food

One of the children shared that St. Ignatius has been a soldier who laid down his sword in order to follow Christ.  That led us to the snacks (which the children were eagerly awaiting!)

We gathered around each snack, chatting about how each related to St. Ignatius.

I told the children the story of how, after deciding to follow Christ, St. Iganatius saw a vision of the Virgin and Child Jesus.  Shortly thereafter, he laid down his sword at a shrine.  Blue (blueberries) is a color traditionally associated with Mary.  White (apple and pear slices) is often associated with purity.  Sword-shaped toothpicks remind us of the sword St. Ignatius laid down (and make for a fun way of eating that was a big hit!)

Next, we talked about nachos.  The chips the nachos were made from have three sides.  These reminded some of our children of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.  It reminded other children of the Holy Family.  I let them know it reminded me of the traditional hat of the Jesuits, which was triangular in shape.  Further, I asked of the children associated any part of the world with nachos.  of course, they did -- Latin America.  We talked about how Jesuit missions began in Europe but have since spread all over the world.  We also talked about the etymology of the word "nacho", which I first heard about on Catholic Cuisine.  In short, "Nacho" was a nickname for a man named "Ignacio" (or Ignatius) who is said to have created nachos.  (Whether he was named after St. Ignatius of Loyola, though, is unknown.)

We then talked about the gluten-free, casein-free pumpkin-corn bread, which a friend had adapted from a recipe at Lemons & Anchovies.  This recipe is authentic to the Basque region, where St. Ignatius was from

Likewise, we had cran-apple cider, which reminded us both of the region St. Ignatius was from, since there is a traditional Basque cider, and our own region, since cranberries are common here.  This connection, in turn, was to remind us that although St. Ignatius lived long ago in another part of the world, his impact affects us even today in our part of the world.

Stories and Sharing

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Once the children had served themselves snacks and cider, we gathered together to chat further.  Using small globe and  a cloth map of the world, we identified where St. Ignatius was from (the Basque region of Spain), where he traveled (the Holy Land), where he studied (France), and where he directed the Jesuits from (Rome).  I also read aloud to the children about St. Ignatius from the Loyola Kids Book of Saints, pausing the story there to add additional details and information that I'd gleaned from other sources.

As the children finished up their snacks, some chose to color, using markers and color sticks on images of St. Ignatius printed out from Coloring Saints and Herald Entertainment.

Child-Friendly Spiritual Exercises

Once our St. Ignatius story time was over, it was obvious the children needed "wiggles" time, so we gave the children a reason to run about the yard while practicing a child-friendly spiritual exercise.

We quickly chatted about how St. Ignatius had transformed from being a soldier who fought in battles to being a strong follower of Christ.  In doing so, I mentioned how both soldiers and followers of Christ can become stronger through disciplined training and how St. Ignatius developed Spiritual Exercises which are still used today in order to strengthen himself as a follower of Christ.  I asked the children if they'd like to learn some of these exercises, adapted to kids and, then got started on three activities that were inspired by Ignatian Spirituality for Kids.


For the first exercise, we talked about how St. Ignatius made a practice of finding God in all things and how we can, too.  I challenged children to spend five minutes inspecting the entire yard and treeline on their own, in pairs, or in trios, to find small, interesting things that their peers might not also find., which they should bring back to our gathering blankets.  (For the sake of our friend's gardens, I added the stipulation that said things must not be broken off the stems of anything else.)

The children then eagerly ran about collecting interesting rocks, pine cones, leaves, blades of grass, etc., which they brought back to the blankets when I called "time" and shared about.  As they did, we noticed how unique and special each object was and what it might remind us of.  We also connected a duct tape sword that one child was holding back to God:  God made people and natural things in the world.  People took the natural things and made the materials which they then made the sword with.

We thanked God for His wonderful creations and emphasized how EVERYTHING really does go back to God!

Then, we transitioned to our second spiritual exercise:  imaginative prayer.  We talked about how St. Ignatius recommended that  people read through gospel passages, placing themselves in the scene, letting it play out, interacting with the characters, and noticing senses and feelings.  We then tested this type of prayer out by having the children get comfy and close their eyes while I did a dramatic reading of Jesus Calms the Storm from A Child's First Bible, complete with added sound effects

Finally, we transitioned to our third spiritual exercise: children's daily examens, which we learned about by making a  5-Finger Daily Examen craft.

Life of St. Ignatius Obstacle Course

As the children finished up their 5-Finger Daily Examen crafts, they went off to a swing set to play.  Then, we called them back to introduce them to choice activities that included Gospel Dramatizations to remind us of St. Ignatius' imaginative prayer, Visions of Mary (or drawing Mary and the Child Jesus in chalk), and a Life of St. Ignatius Obstacle Course.

The children were most interested in the latter, so I proceeded to review key events in the life of St. Ignatius with the children as I drew quick sketches on white boards and had the kids help me set up whiteboards and props for an obstacle course.

As soon as the course was laid out, two children commenced racing through it, followed by more children and moms!  What fun we had.

At Station One, like St. Ignatius, we were "born in a castle" and, later, picked up swords to charge forth as soldiers.

At Station Two, we "were shot" and had to drag our leg to the next station, still holding our swords.

At Station Three, we tried to stretch our legs which had healed shorter than our other legs, by tying a "cannonball" to it.  As such, we went forth, sword still in hand.

At Station Four, as we convalesced, we picked up stories of saints and Jesus to read.  Then, carrying a copy of the Picture Book of Saints, while dragging our "cannon balls" and still carrying our swords, we went forth.

At Station Five, we finally we gave our lives to Christ, saw a vision of Mary, were healed and, then, went to a shrine before deciding to live in a cave for nearly a year to repent.  Thus, we laid down our swords, took off our canon balls, knelt by a small state of Mary to pray a Hail Mary before picking up a basket to carry forward calling out, "Alms for the poor!"

At Station Six, we went to the Holy Land to spread the Word, but did so with such enthusiasm, that we were asked to leave, for fellow Christians feared we would be kidnapped and sold for ransom or killed.  Moving forward with a cross or crucifix we enthusiastically called out, "Follow Jesus!"

At Station Seven, we joined boys in a Latin class in Paris and continued our studies for ten years, meeting the men who would form the Company of Jesus, or Jesuits.  Here, we prayed an Our Father.

At Station Eight, we saw the Jesuit order go from ten men to over a thousand spreading out in missions to Europe, India and Brazil.  We spun either a small globe or a globe ball around.

Then, after some years, sick and blind, we went to Station Nine, our death and onto Heaven.

What fun these races were and how they helped us remember highlights of St. Ignatius' life.

Wrapping Things Up

Upon the conclusion of the races, we cleaned up and the kids cooled off with free play in an air-conditioned basement.  Since then, my own children have been using their
5-Finger Daily Examen and referring to St. Ignatius and the Jesuits daily.  I hope the other children were impacted by our celebration, too, just as I pray you and yours might be if you hold a similar event!

I'd love to hear about your favorite resources and ideas for sharing about St. Ignatius and the Jesuits with children.  I'd also be delighted with anything you'd like to share in the way of food and fun as related to saints for upcoming feast days.  May we continue to bless one another and the children in our lives with enjoyable, yet meaningful study and celebration of the saints!

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Bring the Civil War Period to Life with A Favorite New Audiodrama CD-Set! {A With Lee in Virginia Review}

"Whoo hoo!" my children cheered when I surprised them with the fact that we would be reviewing another Heirloom Audio Productions audio, With Lee in VirginiaAs regular readers here know, our family loved both of Heirloom Audio Productions' earlier releases, Under Drake's Flag and In Freedom's Cause.

A Compelling Story of the Civil War

Heirloom Productions take classic G.A. Henty stories and adapt them to come to life in a radio drama style that keeps listeners thoroughly engaged while also imparting examples of Christian values -- and it does so with a top-of-the-line cast, composer and sound effects.
Image Credit

In With Lee in Virginia, the story of the Civil War unfolds as seen through the experiences of a spirited teenager from the south, Vincent, and his slave and friend, Dan.  From the beginning of the story, Vincent staunchly supports kindness to slavesYet, as many of his generation did, he joins Lee's cavalry to fight for the Confederacy and, henceforth, the drama and adventure truly begins.

As Vincent and Dan face death, betrayal, imprisonment, and, ultimately, loss of the war they are fighting for, they also
develop in their relationship to one another and to their understanding of essential life truths.  Growing in faith and fortitude, these boys become men, who though losers on the battlefield, are winners in the bigger picture of life 

Thus, With Lee in Virginia becomes a living history tale as well as a testimony to virtue
With realistic sound effects, a fabulous score, and a well-written script performed by acclaimed talent like Chris Anthony (Adventures in Odyssey), Sean Astin (Lord of the Rings), Kirk Cameron (Fireproof), Kelsey Lansdowne (Curious George), and  Jim Weiss (Greathall Productions), With Lee in Virginia is high-quality entertainment.  As my family does with all the Heirloom Audio Productions that we have been introduced to, we have found ourselves listening to this one over and over again!

More Than Just an Audio Theater Production

Folks can purchase different packages of With Lee in Virginia, which each contain their own bonuses.  In the package I received for review, there was a 2-CD set of the audio drama which brought 2 1/2 hours of riveting adventure to our CD player, which, as I already said, we listened to over and over again. 

There were also seven awesome bonuses.

Let me tell you a bit about each part of the package:

  • The physical CD-set, recommended for ages six and up, but enjoyed by our five-year-old, too, arrived packaged well and included information about how to download all of the extras that came with our review package.  The CD copy of With lee in Virginia features a tri-fold case with one blue and one gray disc.  (How clever.  My children noticed these colors, which reinforced the typical "blue vs. grey" colors of uniforms from the Civil War.)  Betwixt the CD's was a popular quote from  Robert E. Lee and an insert about Heirloom Audio Productions and the amazing talent that lent their voices to the audio theater production.

  •  The MP3 version of the audio drama was among the digital downloads I had access to.  It is the same as the audio CD and is something I am grateful for in case my children scratch the physical CD's when listening to them over and over again!

  • The With Lee in Virginia Study Guide is a 52 page pdf that contains: short bios of G.A. Henty, Robert E. Lee, and Stonewall Jackson; reproductions of historical photographs and images;  a map of the famous battlefields and cities contained within the story; suggestions for additional readings; a Bible study on Duty and another on Loving Your Enemy; and 30-pages of discussion questions based on each track of the CD.  These questions follow the pattern of Listening Well (basic comprehension questions), Thinking Further (questions that help listeners apply lessons within the story in various ways, encouraging critical thinking), and Defining Words (vocabulary pulled from the tracks).  It is designed for ease of use, whether used formally or informally. 

  •  The With Lee in Virginia e-book is a full-color, 386 page pdf of G.A. Henty's original story, which I will likely read with the children, or offer them to read by themselves, when they are a bit older.

  • An MP3 soundtrack contains all the original score by the Emmy-winning composer John Campbell.  It is about 1 1/2 hours long and contains38 tracks of various lengths that are filled with drama and emotion. These are fantastic to play in the background while doing other things.  (In fact, I listened to them while writing this review!) 

  • A printable inspirational quote from Robert E. Lee can drive home one of the messages of the story.  Simply print and hang!

  • A movie poster that is a professionally designed and 24 x 36 inch printable may thrill collectors.

  • Unlimited access to the Live The Adventure Letter E-Newsletter allows you to bring Christian history to life thorugh news, articles, and lessons aimed at both adults and children.

Another Fast Favorite!

No sooner did my children learn that we had received With Lee in Virginia than did they pop it into our CD player at home and listen to it in its entirety while doing laundry and playing with manipulatives, pausing to ask a few questions or offer comments.

Then, the CD-set found its way into our mini-van, where it stayed, being repeated until a belly bug hit our home and the kids asked me to bring it and their other Heirloom Audio Productions CD's back inside to listen to while resting.


This feverish child may look like he is sleeping.  He was not.  He was laying, miserably sick, yet happily listening to In Virginia with Lee - again!

Yep.  You could say With Lee in Virginia was a hit from the start with my kids (with the exception of my girl, who was a little offput by the intense scene where a slavemaster is mistreating a slave towards the beginning.  She, though, simply began to cover her ears or leave the room during this part and several of the more disturbing war scenes, and stayed riveted to the rest like her brothers!)
As my children have with past Heirloom Audio Productions, they often retold parts of the story, acted them out, asked about new words they heard in the audio drama and began using these words themselves.  Thus, I did not find a need to use the study guide formally.  However, I was impressed by how thorough and well-ordered the discussion questions in it were and  also found that my children were interested in the images in it when I pulled it up to read through.  I also liked the included map!


I appreciate the guide's design, which draws the attention of visual learners, allows parents and older children to access vocabulary lists and discussion questions with ease, and is flexible enough to use in both formal and informal studies.


Dramatic Living History for Auditory Learners  

Would I recommend, With Lee in Virginia?  You bet!  In fact, I'd recommend all three of the Heirloom Audio Productions CD-sets that have come out so far Honestly, we have loved, loved, LOVED each of them and continue to listen to them again and again.  The quality of the CD's and their study guides is exceptional and the fact that each not only emphasizes history, but also faith and character make them even better!  

In With Lee in Virginia, in particular, I was quite pleased to experience how the main characters face defeat in war, but not in life.  Their virtues of courage, faith, goodness and humility shine forth.  Even as they fall to defeat in battle, they stand as admirable men of honor -- men who this Christian parent is happy to introduce her children to.

As you can see from the questions in this study guide excerpt, faith concepts and the Bible play a significant role in the story.

Of course, that happiness would be curtailed if my children could not handle the jarring truths of the period in which the main characters of With Lee in Virginia lived in.  Due to the slavery and civil war contemporary to the main characters, their story inevitably contains some graphic scenesAs I already mentioned, these were not relished by my daughter, but, in my opinion, they were tastefully presented and more than balanced out by the adventure, history and values inherent in the script overall.  
Truly, Heirloom Audio Production's With Lee in Virginia transforms the quality literature of G.A. Henty into an exciting audio theater adventure that is worthy of listening to again and again My family did just that, and, in doing so, found that we learned and discussed a bit more about:

  • slavery
  • the Civil War
  • Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson
  • states rights
  • the idea that "good guys" and "bad guys" can be "from either team"
  • the charge that you should always "do your duty in all things.  You cannot do more, you should never wish to do less," as Robert E. Lee said.

...and more. 

Of course, my opinion is not the only one in my household. 

When I asked Jack, five, what he would like to share about With Lee in Virginia, he said:

It was great, because of the war.  I like when a cannon shell blasted right beside Vincent Wingfield.  I was glad he was safe. Everybody in the whole wide world should listen to it, because it is about history.

Nina, eight, liked:

that it was about black's rights.  I also liked the name of the horse, Wildfire.  (Picture her racing down the hallway like a soldier on the horse now.)... It was scary sometimes, but good at other times.  People who do not like death should not listen to this CD.  People who like war, history, or adventures should listen to it.

Luke, nine,  said:

It was awesome.  I liked how, in the end, even though Vincent lost the war, he didn't seem to mind.  He gave his slaves jobs as free men.  But, I did not like how almost all his friend's seemed to die.  It made me realize it was a really bad war. 

I used to think war was all fun and games when I was five.  Now, I think war is a horrible thing and that if there is a peaceful way, you should use that instead.  But I still like playing war games. 

(I think this story was trying to tell you) to do your duty and to do it well.  Everyone should listen to it, because it is a really good story -- really exciting.  I also like how they show a confederate point of view.
My husband was not available for comment as I wrote this review, however, I can attest, that, like the rest of us, he was swept up in the drama of With Lee in Virginia each time it played in our minivan.  More than once, we all sat in the minivan to hear the rest of an audio track out.  With cheers, gasps, biting lips, tears (from me), and occasional laughs, we came alive as listeners as With Lee in Virginia brought history alive in our CD player.

Learn More

With Lee in Virginia Audio Drama Review

With Lee in Virginia Audio Drama Review

Without question, Heirloom Audio Productions if one of our favorite vendors!  We are always wowed by the history, virtue, emotion and characterization included in their professional audio theater adventures.  We cannot wait for their next audio theater production The Dragon and the Raven to come out and will be checking out to stay abreast of all Heirloom Audio Productions happenings.  You might want to do the same.

What resources have your discovered that bring the Civil War to life?  Might In Lee with Virginia be a perfect complement to them?

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