Sunday, January 27, 2019

Learn About 16 Amazing Saints & Their Awesome Animals

If you have children that enjoy love saints, animals, and visual feasts, then let me introduce you to a vibrant book and its companion coloring book.

{Disclosure: Some if the links which follow are affiliate ones. Should you click through them and make any purchase, we may receive compensation at no extra cost to you.}

In preparing to celebrate St. Verdiana's, St. Brigid's, and St. Blaise's feast days with my children on February 1 and 3, I pulled out my copies of Amazing Saints & their Awesome Animals and its companion, the Amazing Saints & their Awesome Animals Coloring Book. As soon as my daughter saw the books, she smiled, remembering how delightful these slim paperbacks are.

Heartwarming Stories about 16 Saints and Their Animal Friends

Amazing Saints & their Awesome Animals opens with brief commentary about the compassion, respect, and affection shared between holy people and animals through the ages.

The book then gets right into the stories of 16 saints and their animal friends.  Each story is told briefly, but well on a 2-page spread that holds much visual appeal.

Then, end pages include the Prayer of Saint Francis for Animals, information about the author Sherry Boas and illustrator Maria Boas, followed by quick blurbs about other books offered through 
Caritas Press.

Over the time I have had the book, I have found myself taking it off the shelves many times and recommend it as one that is happily revisited.

One of the only things I wish was different about Amazing Saints & their Awesome Animals is the order the saints are presented in.  As I use the book mostly on saint days, I would love for the saints to be in order by the month of their feast days.  Alternately, I would appreciate an index page in calendar order.  This is a large thing, though, and one I have "fixed" by making my own calendar order list:

  • February 1 - St. Verdiana and the Snakes
  • February 1 - St. Bridget and the Fox
  • February 3 - St. Blaise and the Wild Beasts 
  • February 13 - St. Modomnoc and the Bees
  • May 27 - Blessed Maria Bagnesia and the Cats
  • June 9 - St. Columba and the Horse
    June 13 - St. Anthony and the Donkey
  • July 11 - St. Benedict and the Raven
  • August 16 - St. Rocco and the Dog
  • September 1 - St. Giles and the Deer
  • September 18 - St. Joseph of Cupertino and the Lamb
  • September 30 - St. Jerome and the Lion
  • October 4 - St. Francis and the Wolf
  • October 16 - St. Gall and the Bear
  • November 3 - St. Martin de Porres and the Mice
  • November 17 - St. Hugh and the Swan

The companion Amazing Saints & their Awesome Animals Coloring Book is handy to have, too. It includes 2-page, hand drawn, original artwork of each saint-animal combination contained in the storybook.  Each line-drawing is presented on single-sided sheets, which can be colored or painted right in the book without concern for the colors bleeding through and ruining a coloring page on a reverse side.  I appreciate this feature of the coloring book.

I would appreciate even more if the coloring book came with perforated pages and a copyright clause that allowed for reprinting for family or classroom use, or if a printable e-book version were sold.  Perhaps 
Caritas Press will consider these suggestions for future printings.

My Children's Thoughts

My youngest, at eight, said:

I like how the books focus on saints and animals.  One of my favorite pictures is the one with Saint Francis and the Wolf.  I would recommend these books for younger listeners because they aren't very intense and there are animal stories.
My daughter, 11, said:

I like the book.  The stories are simple and short and tell about saints and animals. I like how the stories are laid out on the pages with an old-fashioned open book that has more cartoony animals and people illustrated inside and more realistic animals and backgrounds around the edges.

I also like the coloring book because it goes so well with the saint book.  While Mom reads about a saint, I can color a picture that goes along with it.  The coloring pages are illustrated with simple, but fun pictures and fancy, illuminated words.

My oldest, 13, appreciates the books, too.  He said:

The book has a good selection of stories in it with different saints and animals. Some of the saints are familiar, like St. Francis of Assisi and St. Martin de Porres, and some are not, like St. Rocco and S. Gall.  The saints also come from different time periods.
I think the coloring book art is pretty simple, but good for little kids and fun. I'd recommend these books to people who like animals.  
I would have liked them a lot when I was younger.  Now, we use them for saint days. 

I love that the succinct, yet engaging stories in
Amazing Saints & their Awesome Animals and the ready-to-go coloring pages in the companion Amazing Saints & their Awesome Animals Coloring Book make learning about and celebrating the saints super easy.

Whether you have young children, animal lovers, or are just looking for quick, easy-to-read saint stories for a class or morning time selection, Amazing Saints & their Awesome Animals is worth a look.

Learn More

Both Amazing Saints & their Awesome Animals and its companion Coloring Book, obviously, are helpful resources for living the liturgical year on particular saint days and will hold appeal for young children.  Some other times the books might be great to pull off your shelf are:

  • on St. Francis of Assisi's feast day as he is a patron to animals.
  • when seeking inspiration for art projects, because the anime-style line drawings in the coloring book show how saints can be depicted in modern styles while the page designs in the storybook can prompt the creation of vibrant collages.
  • when focusing on virtues, because many are apparent in the stories.
  • when planning a co-op class. You could consider making a class session based on each saint-animal combination.  Doing so would allow students to enjoy cross-curricula learning, learning science about the animal, geography and history related to the saints, virtues, etc.
  • doing unit studies on particular animals, saints, or locations.
  • when discussing illuminated manuscripts, since the lettering of each saint story title is reminiscent of this style.
  • when looking for saint reading for young readers.  For, although the font the stories are written in is on the largeer side, the length of the stories is just right for young readers.
  • when researching saints or writing reports on them, since the short stories are engaging and contain interesting facts that could make strong jumping off points.

Undoubtedly, there are plenty of other times that Amazing Saints & their Awesome Animals and its companion Coloring Book could be enjoyed as well. 

Caritas Press publishes a host of other wonderful faith-focused books, including:

 Saint John Bosco and His Big Gray Dog which I previously reviewed, and which would be perfect to read on January 31, the feast day of S. John Bosco

the fuEncyclopedia of Peg Saints which I previously reviewed

Jackie's Special Halloween which I previously reviewed

I encourage you to check out other fiction, non-fiction, rosary books, and children's books from Caritas Press at their website, or they have an expanding line of Catholic and pro-life books with a wonderful mission:
"...shedding light on things eternal in a culture that is becoming increasingly blind to the wonders of God’s works and numb to his boundless love. Making use of the subtle and the beautiful.. to play a part in igniting in children and adults a desire to know God more fully."

Caritas Press can also be found on Facebook and Instagram.

{Disclaimer: I received a FREE copy of these books along with a book I requested for review.  Pleased by the books, I decided to write an honest review of them.  I was not required to write a positive review, nor was I compensated in any other way.  All opinions expressed are my own of those of my family.  I am disclosing this in accordance with the FTC Regulations.}

Sunday, January 20, 2019

Why Do My Children Believe and Trust

Tonight, during a frightening moment, I directed my children, "Pray."

Then, I began praying a decade of the Rosary aloud with my children before lowering my voice and pausing to whisper, "Keep praying silently." 

We all did. 

The situation passed.

We all breathed and gave thanks.

My thanks was manifold.

I was grateful for our safety, for my trust in God, and for my children's faith, too.  I was also thankful that the children and I can lean into prayer.

As I thought about that, I wondered, What makes my children believe and trust?  Of all my efforts to teach my children our faith, what speaks most to them?

So, I asked them.

My youngest immediately said:

Going to Mass! 
Reading faith books! 
Eating meals on saint days! 
I learn through a lot, but these are my favorites.

My other children chimed in, mentioning other things, such as Holy Heroes, Saint Days, the books we read during Advent and Lent, and more.

Then, I realized that, really, there is one main way my children are learning: grace! 

Yep. God's grace. 

No matter what I do or don't do, it is through God's grace that my children (and I!) are growing in faith and trust.

To God be the glory!

Sunday, January 13, 2019

15 Ways to Celebrate Our Lady of Banneux's Day

Did you know that between January 15 and March 2, 1933, Our lady appeared to a young girl named Mariette Beco in Banneux, Belgium and said, "I come to relieve suffering," and "Believe in me and I will believe in you"?

I did not know any of this until I participated in a Marian Apparition peg doll exchange and read up on the Virgin or the Poor.  Since, then, I have been waiting for Our Lady of Banneux's feast day on January 15 to introduce this apparition to my children.

To do so, I am planning a simple "Celebri-tea" and some lesson activities, which I am sharing about here in case you'd like to borrow any ideas.

A Simple Celebri-Tea

When we celebrate faith through food, we typically set our table with special decorations, eat something connected to the "celebrity" we are celebrating, and enjoy related a read together or activity.  So, for Our Lady of Banneux's feast day, we'll:

1. Decorate with Blue, White, and a Marian Statue

Since Our Lady's traditional colors are blue and white and Belgium is famous for lace, I will place our table will be covered with a white lace tablecloth. We will also put out blue and white candles and, of course, our peg dolls of 
Our Lady of Banneux & Mariette Beco.

If you do not have a statue of Our Lady of Banneaux, you could use any Marian statue or simply print an image of Our Lady of the Poor out.

2. Enjoy Belgian-Inspired Food and Drink

It would make sense to have Belgian hot chocolate and Liege waffles for our tea or to enjoy another authentic and popular food from Belgium. 

However, since I am slowly moving myself to a wholly plant-based diet with little no added SOS (salt-oil-sugar), I am going to try making 2-Ingredient Waffles or Oatmeal waffles instead.

I will serve the waffles with mint tea as well as chocolate-mint green smoothies, which I will make in our Magic Bullet by grinding one tablespoon of flax seeds, then adding 1/2 cup of spinach, one tablespoon dried mint leaves and one cup of water.  After blending these together, I will add a medjool date, blending again until the mixture is smooth. Then, finally, I will add a banana and one tablespoon of cocoa powder.

3. Include Water

On January 18, 1933, the Virgin appeared a second time to Mariette and led her from her house to a spring which she said would bring healing to all nations.  Thus, it would be appropriate to either include Holy Water among the decorations or to put a pitcher of water on on the table as a beverage alternative.

Likewise, connections could be made to Baptism, the Baptism of the Lord (also celebrated this month), and verses of the Bible about the Living Water.

4. Pray for the Intercession of Our Lady

Before eating, of course, we will pray Grace.  We will also pray:

Prayer of the International Union of Prayer
Mary Virgin of the Poor,
You lead us to Jesus, source of grace, and you come to alleviate our suffering.
We implore you with confidence:
Help us follow your Son with generosity, and to belong to Him unreservedly.
Help us to welcome the Holy Spirit Who guides and sanctify us.
Obtain us the grace to look like Jesus everyday more, so that our life will glorify the Father and contribute to the salvation of our Brothers.

This prayer and other can be found on the Banneux Notre Dame site.

{Some links which follow may be affiliate links.}

5. Read about Our Lady of Banneux

Source: Amazon

We will read our copy of the Our Lady of Banneux Coloring Book
 If you do not have this book, you could read about Our Lady of the Poor and the apparitions online, although these sources are not in storybook form.

Lesson Ideas Inspired by Our Lady of Banneux

I am also planning gentle lessons connected to Our Lady of Banneux by doing some of the following

6. Draw Our Lady of Banneux

Using the description which follows from Our Lady on The Miracle Hunter, children can create their own drawn or painted images of Mary.

The Virgin was enveloped in a "great oval light" and wore a long white gown with a sash of "unforgettable blue" and a white, transparent veil covering her head and shoulders. Her right foot was visible and "crowned with a golden rose" between the toes. She had a rosary on her right arm with diamond-like beads and a golden chain and cross. She stood on a cloud with her head and shoulders bent slightly to the left.
7. Practice Writing

Our Lady of Banneux is quoted as saying the following things.  Any of these short statements could be used for copywork or studied dictation:

  • "This stream is reserved for me, Good evening."
  • "Push your hands into the water."
  • "I am the Virgin of the poor. "
  • "This spring is reserved for all the nations - to relieve the sick."
  • "I shall pray for you. Au Revoir."
  • "I come to relieve suffering."
  • "Believe in me, I will believe in you. Pray much. Au Revoir."
  • "My dear child, pray much. Au Revoir."
  • "I am the Mother of the Saviour, Mother of God, Pray much. Adieu."

8. Place the Apparition on a Map

Children can locate Belgium on both a map and a globe.  Then, the following excerpt can be read from Pierced Hearts, and children can draw a picture-map to go along with it.

Belgium is a small country in northern Europe between France and Germany. Banneux Notre-Dame is a poor farm village built around its church. It doesn't appear on maps. It is dependent on the people of Louveigne and is 25 km from Liege, the capital of the province. The town is found in a small plateau in the Belgian Ardennes at an altitude of 325 m. It is surrounded by beautiful valleys of Ambleve, Vesdre, and Hoëgne. On the highway between Louveigne and Pepinster, a kilometer from the church, the small Beco house can be found on the left with a small garden in the front. The area is humid and swampy, which is why it is called "La Fagne", which means 'mud'. On the other side of the highway, the great Eifel forests begin.
9. Discuss the Time Period of the Apparition(and Learn Fun Food Facts Related to Belgium)

Our Lady of Banneux appeared in 1933.  What was happening in the world at that time? What had happened previously and what was about to happen?  

Discuss this, and, if you have a Book of Centuries or Timeline Notebook, put the Apparition into it.

Also, consider that Our Lady appeared at Fatima during World War I and then, appeared at Banneux several years before World War II. A Fatima, she requested people pray the Rosary for peace in the world ad emphasized  devotion to her Immaculate Heart.  At Banneux, she spoke of healing. 

For fun, perhaps discuss the history of waffles, particularly Belgian waffles and/or if french fries really come from France.  You might even virtually explore the Fries Museum and make some homemade fries.

10. Distinguish Nuances in Language

Note that Our Lady said:

  • "I shall pray for you. Au Revoir."
  • "Believe in me, I will believe in you. Pray much. Au Revoir."
  • "My dear child, pray much. Au Revoir."
  • "I am the Mother of the Saviour, Mother of God, Pray much. Adieu."

Discuss the difference in the meaning of the French words Au Revoir and Adieu. Basically Adieu is not used much in today's vernacular, but is used when you are leaving someone for a long time and are unsure when you might see her or him again, and Au Revoir is used when you leave someone that you might probably see again and soon.

Also related to language (and history) is the fact that Belgium has three official languages: Dutch (spoken in the north), French (spoken in the south), and German (spoken in the east).  Many people also speak English.  It could be fun to look up words in these different languages and to compare them.

11. Review or Learn Catechism

Mariette's family was Catholic, but did not practice their faith diligently.  In fact, before seeing the apparition of Mary, Mariette had stopped practicing her catechism. 

After seeing Our Lady of Banneux, however, Mariette returned to Catechism class.  Now might be a good time to review or learn more of the Catechism.

12.  Focus on Virtues

At Banneux, calling herself the "Virgin of the Poor", Our Lady promised to intercede for the poor, the sick, and the suffering. Undoubtedly, God wants to use us to do similarly.  Reflect, What might we do today to help someone who is poor, sick, or suffering?  Then, do it!

13. Pray for Conversion

As explained at
Pierced Hearts:

After the first apparition, (Mariette) converted. Her father, who had been a powerful force of apathy and rebellion against the Church, experienced a change of heart. Not even in Lourdes, Fatima, or Beauraing did such conversions happen so quickly. The parents of Bernadette Soubirous and Lucia dos Santos did not accept the apparitions until long after they had ended. Nevertheless, here in Banneux, the power of Our Lady was felt and obeyed immediately.
Now might be a good time to pray for deeper conversion of ourselves and those around us, as well as for the whole world.

14. Solve Math Problems

The timelines of Banneux on Our Lady's Promise and The Miracle Hunter could be used for oral or written word problems.

If you have an hour to spare, you can listen to an audio of 
I am the Virgin of the Poor - the Story of Our Lady of Banneux.  (I hope to do this during a quiet handiwork time or at bedtime.)

I hope you found some inspiration in the ideas here and that your enjoy your Our Lady of Banneux day.

If you have other ideas or know of great for celebrating this day, please share them with me in a comment or on our Facebook page.  Thanks!

Our Lady of Banneux, pray for us.

Sunday, January 6, 2019

Did You Miss Any of Our Top 10 Faith Posts of 2018?

Happy 2019!  If you're planning ahead for ways to celebrate faith as a family this year, perhaps scrolling through our Top 10 Faith Posts from 2018 will inspire you.

Again this year, as we tallied our Top 20 most popular posts of the year, we noticed that there was an almost 50-50 split between faith-related posts review /giveaways ones.  Today, then, we share our Top 10 Faith Posts from 2018 so that if you've forgotten an old favorite, your memory might be jogged, and, if you missed a popular post, you might discover it now.

I pray that as you scroll through our Top 10 Faith Posts, you will find inspiration to continue to live and grow in faith with your family in 2019.  


The ideas I put together for a Holy Spirit-themed co-op class I was teaching became a blog post, which became a help to many, it seems.

I love sharing lesson ideas, inspiration, and plans, especially about our Catholic faith.  If you're ever looking for any specific ones, just contact me through a comment here, or, better yet, through our Facebook page, and I'd be happy to see if I can help!


training happy hearts
4 Things to Take Home from a Retreat

We were surprised to see that the quick reflection post I wrote after experiencing a wonderful retreat with Catholics Online was popular with others. We're not surprised, though, that the retreat was such a blessing.

Catholics Online is a helpful online resource and the speakers I enjoyed spending time with at the retreat are truly inspired people of faith.  If you're looking for great Catholic inspiration, content, products, and more, check out the Catholics Online directory.


Get a FREE Printable Holy Eucharistic Game Set!

Whether you have someone preparing for First Holy Communion or are simply studying the Eucharist, you might appreciate the free printable game set we created, used, and shared.

You might also enjoy our other First Holy Communion and game posts.


Enjoy FREE PRINTABLES for 2 Easter Nature Walks!

Nature study and themed-nature hunts are always a favorite for me, and it looks like others liked our free printable Stations of the Resurrection (or Via Lucis, Stations of Light, or The Way of Light) printables, too.  So glad!

You might enjoy our other free printables and Easter posts, too.


How We Plan Our Annual All Saints Day Party

All Saints Day is one of our favorite feast days to celebrate with friends, and we've become rather proficient at planning our annual local Catholic homeschoolers party.

So any people have asked how we do it, I finally wrote up a post to explain.  We also have loads of other All Saints Day posts filled with games and ideas.


3 Jars Can Help Your Children Remember to Pray, Fast, and Give

Our Pray, Fast, and Give jars have been a staple of our Lent and Easter celebrations for years, proving simple and meaningful.

We've also shared plenty of other Lenten traditions, ideas, and resources, so be sure to take a peek.


3 Ways to Celebrate the Assumption of Mary

The Assumption is always such a lovely Marian feast day to celebrate.  Find inspiration for celebrating it with your family and friends. 

You might also enjoy our other
 Mama Mary posts, too!


Get Ideas for 8 Marian Apparition Peg Doll Sets

Our Marian Apparition peg dolls have been finding regular spots on our liturgical shelf and at feast day celebrations.

We loved taking part in the swap, receiving beautiful dolls, and sharing oodles of related resources with you.

If you'd like to see our other peg doll collections, find them here


We love free printables, and, obviously, others do, too.

Our second most popular faith post of 2018 proves that. 

So, if you didn't catch this post, click on through and print out a copy of our nature hunt printable to use during Lent this year.  While you're at it, feel free to check out all our Lent posts.

We were surprised to find that so many people were interested in the prayer, links, and ideas that we shared along with a sneak peak at our September Liturgical Shelf. We are also grateful that, in seeing this was our top new faith post of 2018, we were reminded to get back to our initiative of creating liturgical shelf displays to help us recall each monthly dedication.

For, during Advent and the beginning of the Christmas season, we veered away from this initiative, choosing to display one of our nativity sets on our shelf instead of dedicating the space to the Immaculate Conception, but, now, this month, we may add something to remind us of the monthly dedication of the Holy Name of Jesus.

Creating these simple displays is a simple way for our family to stay focused on the liturgical year.  Perhaps you'd like to do similarly.

We'd love to hear which posts YOU liked best in 2018 and what you'd like to see us focus on sharing more of in 2018.  For, as always, there are always more ideas and things happening than we have time to write about, and we'd love to tailor what we share to what you'd like to read.  So, please don't be shy with requests and suggestions.  

May God bless you a your 2019 unfolds.


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