Perhaps taking a peek at how my children and I enjoyed an Our Lady of Lourdes Poet-Tea with friends last year might help.
All you really need for a tea are some symbolic eats and a copy of
the Lourdes Poem - A Holy Place. However, since my children are a part of an AMP club we run at our home, we did things up a bit more.
"AMP"ing Up the Liturgical Year
As background, let me explain that 2015-2016 school year brought a new initiative to our family and some friends: We decided to begin an A.M.P. It Up club to "amp up" our regular focus on art, music, and poetry in our lives, which we have continued through this year.
For "AMP", as we have come to call our club, three families gather at my home once or twice each month so the children can:
- recite (and sometimes write verses of) poetry
- be introduced to famous composers and their compositions
- and experiment with different styles of artwork, sometimes after completing quick picture studies.
Since all of the families in our AMP club share our Catholic faith, together, we decided that we'd tie our club activities to the liturgical year on occasion. This means that, sometimes, we based entire meetings on a specific liturgical celebration (such as what we did for our Our Lady of Sorrows and Candlemas Poet-Teas), while, at other times, we dedicate only a portion of our gathering to directly honoring a particular saint or liturgical season.
Our Poet-Tea for Our Lady of Lourdes was in the latter style. We started with full focus on the story of Our Lady of Lourdes and, then, only loosely tied back to it as our gathering progressed.
As friends arrived, they found the table set with:
- a lacy, white tablecloth (white to remind us of Our Lady's purity and lace to make us think of French lace since Lourdes is in France)
- white and blue candles for Our Lady of Lourdes colors
- a Mary statue with a Rosary in honor of Our Lady
- a globe (so we could could find France, where Our Lady appeared and, Germany, where our composer-of-the-gathering was from)
- Prayers to My Favorite Saints (which have sold used at Amazon for just a penny before!)
- Prayers to the Saints (which sells used at Amazon for just 15 cents right now!)
- apple cider juice wigglers to remind us of the mud that became a spring
- and some molasses candy the kids made on fresh snow that they wanted to put out as "a muddy spring/river"
Friends also brought vanilla yogurt (again to remind us of Our Lady and her purity) and granola and one other dish, which, unfortunately, I cannot recall and do not have clearly pictured
An Our Lady of Lourdes Poet-Tea
To begin our Poet-Tea, we prayed grace and the prayers in Prayers to My Favorite Saints and Prayers to the Saints. Then, we used the food on our table as symbols for chatting about what the children already knew about St. Bernadette and Our Lady of Lourdes.
As the children ate the symbolic food items and drank water (for the spring at Lourdes) or tea, I read them the Lourdes Poem - A Holy Place.
After I read the poem, I asked the children how it differed from other poems that we had read and recited at prior meetings. Of course, they mentioned the length of the Lourdes Poem and how it tells a story. With that lead in, I explained that the poem is a narrative poem and asked if the children could name any other narrative poems.
Then, the children offered poetry recitations on self-selected poems about such topics as snow, rain, Our Lady, and sorrow.
Composer Study and Music Appreciation with a Loose Tie-In to Our Lady of Lourdes
Once the children had finished eating and we had cleared the table, the music portion or our meeting commenced.
Using the globe on the table, the children found France, where Lourdes is. Then, they found Germany, where our composer of the meeting - Wagner - was from.
Together, we recalled that in our music "spine", The Story of the Orchestra, we had previously been introduced to the ornate, full Baroque era of music and the simpler, more thoughtful Classical era and chatted about how we were moving on to the Romantic era, which we actually touched on during our first meet up and, again, when we focused on Tchaikovsky during Advent.
We talked about how the Romantic era was filled with passion and drama and how music was composed to overwhelm listeners with emotion, immerse them in magical fantasies, or sweep them away with pieces about love and heartbreak. We reiterate that during the Romantic period, composers became popular celebrities of sorts.
Then, I handed out notebooking sheets and asked the children to draw or write notes while I played a Richard Wagner medley in the background and introduced Richard Wagner by reading 24-25 of The Story of he Orchestra.
As I read, I pointed out that Wagner was a troubled person of questionable character – and is, perhaps, now one of those suffering souls that Our Lady asks us to pray for – but that, despite his personal flaws, he had made a huge mark on culture with his music. I pointed out how Wagner was led to make his mark when passion for one thing opened a door to a passion for another and asked how God gifts and guides us through our own passions.
I also played a clip of the Bridal Chorus and one of Ride of the Valkyries and had the children get up to “march” to the first and to “strong arm” to the latter as a movement break.
As we often do at the end of the music portion of our club gatherings, the children then were given a few minutes to share one fact they thought was interesting or one thing they took notes about.
Some of the children's notes included:
loud music with horns and the opera with dwarfs that steal gold...
more about the opera...
castles, loud music, and a disturbed composer...
plus, a fantastic quick portrait sketches...
As is typical with our group, more children sketched their notes than wrote them in words, but some did write a word here and there.
The youngest participating child, though, just went to town with doodled notes!
As the music portion of our meeting concluded, I asked the children to recall, once more, the story of Our Lady of Lourdes and how she appeared more than once, offering more details each time she came. We also recalled how the music we had just heard seemed to get more complex as it went at times. We, then, connected these thoughts to art.
Artists often use outline shapes and, put together, those shapes create more complex images. As an example, we studied the art work by Edgar Degas on p. 25 of Artistic Pursuits, which is one of our group's art "spines".
After studying the Degas artwork, we recalled how we'd made orange art for a prior gathering focused on Our Lady of Altagracia by, first, drawing outlines or oranges, and, then, mixing oil pastels to color in our oranges and give them depth and shape. Connected to this, I explained that our goal for the day was to explore how to do similarly with chalk/soft pastels.
Since the pastels are so soft, mixing colors requires only layering them and you have to be careful about inadvertently smudging your work while completing it. Thus, backgrounds should be colored last.
We, then, continued on with the project: You Use Soft Pastels from Artistic Pursuits by using pictures of Our Lady of Lourdes and/or photographs of animals as inspiration to create art works on colored paper, which we meant to “set” pastels with hair spray, but, never did as none of us remembered to purchase cheap hairspray. (Ooops.)
I did get photos of most of the artworks created in case they smudged later:
As you can see, most of the crowd went rogue from Our Lady of Lourdes art, and even from animal art. We were okay with that, though, as exploring soft pastels in conjunction with pencil, if desired, was our main goal for the art portion.
During discussions and teas, the children had already focused a lot on Our Lady of Lourdes.
Final Thoughts with More Poet-Teas and Our Lady of Lourdes
As you can see, Our Lady of Lourdes Poet-Tea was not 100% focused on the honoring the feast day. Rather, like life itself, the Poet-tea became combination of focus on the miraculous and on the mundane, with faith woven into everything in one way or another.
As I mentioned previously, other Poet-Teas we have hosted have been more directly related to particular feast days straight from the tea through the poetry, music, and art. Howe we proceed all depends on how life and lessons are flowing in a given month and how the Spirit leads me as I plan.
Of course, we have also learned about celebrated other Our Lady of Lourdes at other times, including with a quick white-and-blue breakfast with stories before heading out for an Eco-Science animal tracking walk on the day of this AMP meeting, making candles after Adoration, meeting engineering challenges at parties and having a just-us tea in the middle of a snow storm.
Tracy, at A Slice of Smith Life, who often inspires me with wonderful examples of how to live the liturgical year with children, has some great Our Lady of Lourdes ideas, too.
St. Bernadette and Our Lady, pray for us.