We are now on our Lenten journey. This is a special time of waiting and preparation.
Ash Wednesday took place on February 22nd this year. Ash Wednesday marks the start of Lent and is a day of repentance. It falls on a different day every year as it depends when Easter falls. The earliest it can begin is February 4th, and the latest is March 10th.
On Ash Wednesday many Christians go to the church for mass. The priest will put ashes on their forehead. He makes the sign of the cross with the ashes. The cross reminds people what happened to Jesus. The ashes are made from burnt palm leaves and are blessed with holy water. The priest says ‘Repent and proclaim the Gospel’.
Lent lasts for 40 days. It starts on Ash Wednesday and ends on Easter Sunday. However, if you look at a calendar and count the days, there are more than 40 days. Lent is actually 46 days, however, the six Sundays are excluded because there is no obligation to fast on Sundays in Lent.
What have you decided to do for Lent this year? Have you made a Lenten promise? Perhaps you have given up sweets or treats? Maybe you have taken you saying a special prayer each day with your family? I would love to hear from you about what you have decided to give up or take up this Lent.
The 1st of February is a special day when we celebrate the feast of St Brigid. St Brigid is the patroness of Ireland. This year for the first time we will have a bank holiday to honour St Brigid.
St Brigid was born c. 453 in Dundalk, Co. Louth and died c.524 in Kildare when she was 70 years old. She became an abbess and she set up one of the most successful monasteries in history, in Kildare and her convents were scattered all over Ireland. At one stage she was in charge of 13,000 nuns. Lots of churches, holy wells and parish halls are named after her. We have such names as Toberbride, Brides, Kilbride and Brideswell to mention just a few.
Some of you may make St Brigid’s crosses at school. Making a Saint Brigid´s day cross out of reeds is an ancient tradition in Ireland. Traditionally a St Brigid’s cross was hung over the front door to protect a home from danger. Legend has it thatBrigid was called to the bedside of a dying pagan chieftain. She sat by him to keep watch over him in his final hours. While sitting by the dying man, Brigid picked up some rushes from the floor and began to weave them into a cross. When he asked what she was doing, she told him the story of Jesus, and he converted before he died.
You might also learn about the story of St Brigid and her cloak or you might learn the song about St Brigid bringing the Spring. She was a very important lady!
St Brigid is the patron saint of newborn babies, farm animals, nuns, brewers, midwives, poets and scholars.
This month we are celebrating the season of Advent. Advent is a time of waiting. Advent is a good time for us all to slow down, to pause and reflect on what is going on for us. We remember the times we felt happy and the times we felt sad. We know that God is always with us. Now during the season of Advent, we are preparing our hearts and our minds. We prepare in different ways. The shops are full of Christmas decorations and we listen to Christmas carols. You might be preparing for a Christmas show or carol service in school.
In the church we will see some changes during the season of Advent. The priest will wear purple vestments. It is the start of a new liturgical (church) year, we are now in Year A. There will be an Advent wreath on the altar. Each Sunday in Advent a candle is lit. The first candle is purple and it is a symbol of hope. The second candle is also purple and represents faith. The third candle is pink and is a symbol of joy. The third Sunday of Advent is called Gaudete Sunday and reminds us that we have reached the midpoint of Advent. The fourth Sunday of Advent is when the final purple candle is lit as we mark the final week of prayer as we wait for the birth of our Saviour. On Christmas Eve a white candle which is in the middle of the wreath is lit. This is called the ‘Christ Candle’ and represents the life of Christ. Enjoy your Advent celebrations.
I wish you and your families and friends a very happy Christmas and I look forward to journeying with you again in 2023.
November is a special month. We celebrate two special feast days at the start of the month.
The 1st of November is the Feast of All Saints. Saints are people just like us who have died and are now with God in heaven. They lived good lives. They cared for others. They prayed and tried to make the world a better place. You will know the names of some saints like St. Patrick and St. Brigid already. We go to Mass on this day and remember that all these holy people are happy with God.
The 2nd of November is the Feast of All Souls and on this day, we remember family and friends who have returned home to heaven. It is a time to remember those we love that have died; it may be a member of our family, a friend or even a pet. It can be very hard for us when someone we love dies. We might feel confused, sad, lonely or angry sometimes. We miss our loved ones. We remember the happy times we spent together. You might like to draw a picture or write a prayer for someone you would like to remember during this special month. In school you might have a remembrance tree or book or box. Jesus promises that all who believe in him will return home to him in heaven when they die. Those we love who have died are now in heaven with Jesus and we can pray for them and to them.
In many parishes there will be a Novena for the Holy Souls. Novena comes from the Latin word ‘novem’ meaning nine. A novena is an ancient tradition of devotional prayers. Some people will go to mass every day for the nine days. You can make a list of people that you would like everyone to pray for during the novena.
In this edition, we are learning about two missionaries. A missionary is a person who goes out to spread the Gospel, which means the Good News.
St Brendan was born in Annagh, Co. Kerry in the year 484. He set up a lot of monasteries in Ireland. One was set up at Ardfert, at the foot of Mount Brandon in Co. Kerry. However, the most famous one was at Clonfert in Co. Galway in 560. Today, there is a big cathedral in Clonfert where he is buried.
Brendan loved travelling on the sea and was very skilled in a sailing in a coracle, which is a small boat. St Brendan undertook many sea voyages around Ireland, Wales and western Scotland. A 9th century manuscript called the Voyage of St Brendan the Abbot tells the story of a voyage which lasted for seven years. He probably travelled to Iceland, Greenland and maybe even America. The manuscript is full of the adventures of his journey. One story even tells how St. Brendan landed on an island that was actually a great big sea monster! St. Brendan died in 578. He is known as the patron saint of seafarers and travellers.
You might like to listen to some music which was based on his life. The piece is called The Brendan Voyage: https://shaundaveymusic.com/the-brendan-voyage
Blessed Carlo Acutis was born in London on 3 May 1991 to a wealthy Italian family. He moved to Milan in Italy as a child. Carlo lived a life of holiness and shared his experience of God with his friends. He went to daily Mass and received the Eucharist every day. During his 15 years on earth, he lived like any young person: going to school, playing soccer, eating at the pizzeria with his friends. He enjoyed video games, computer programming and making home movies with his cats and dogs.
Carlo used the internet to bring the word of God to others. Using his computer skills, he designed an online Eucharistic Miracles Exhibition that is now translated into 17 languages and has been displayed across the world. Carlo died of leukaemia in 2006. He is a positive role model for young people and he was beatified on 10 October 2020. This is why he is now given the title Blessed.
You and I can also be missionaries today. Let’s go and spread the Good News to our friends and family. Have fun!
Activity Draw a picture while listening to the music The Brendan Voyage or write a fact file on a missionary about whom you have learned something.
You are welcome to share this with me by sending a photo of your picture or fact file to email@example.com
I hope you enjoyed your summer holidays. I’m sure you have been very happy to see all of your friends and share your holiday memories and play together. It is important for us to remember to pause sometimes to remember our many happy moments and thank God for all of the blessings we have experienced. September is a time we often start new routines as you all return to school and I hope that you will have lots of fun this school year. I am going to share one of my favourite prayers for school with you now. You might like to share this with your teacher and classmates.
September is also a month where we see changes all around us in nature. We thank God for all of the crops that have been harvested. Some of you may be able to attend a Harvest Thanksgiving Mass this month in your local church.
Did you know? The months of August, September, October and November are part of the harvest season. For us as Christians we recall God’s constant protection and presence in our lives and we give thanks for the year’s harvest. The September Ember Days (after September 14, the feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross) were three days (Wednesday, Friday and Saturday) to celebrate the end of the harvest season and focus on thanksgiving to God for the season.
May we be blessed with a spirit of wonder and gratitude for the beauty all around us and a sense of responsibility for it. Have a super September!
We are going to learn about Our Lady of Knock this month.
The story of Knock began on the 21st of August 1879 when a heavenly apparition appeared on a gable wall of the parish church when Our Lady appeared in the company of St Joseph and St John the Evangelist, the Eucharistic Lamb on a cross standing on an altar surrounded by angels. The apparition lasted for 2 hours and there were 15 official witnesses.
The Marian Shrine of Knock is a well-known place of Catholic pilgrimage in County Mayo in the west of Ireland.
Knock is a traditional annual pilgrimage for thousands: visiting the shrine is a tradition passed down through generations of families. Lots of parishes in Ireland have an annual parish pilgrimage to Knock. People spend a day in prayer, taking part in the Stations of the Cross or joining in candlelit vigils. They carry away Blessed Holy Water to share with family and friends. Many say they find Knock a place of peace.
You can ask your parents or grandparents if they have ever been to Knock and some of you may even have visited Knock yourselves.
Our Lady of Knock is also known as the Queen of Ireland and there is a lovely hymn that tells this story really well.
Golden Rose, Queen of Ireland
All my cares and troubles cease
As I kneel with love before you
Lady of Knock, my Queen of Peace.
In 1979, Pope John Paul II visited Knock.
Mother Teresa of Calcutta visited the shrine in June 1993.
In August 2018 Pope Francis visited the shrine at Knock.
I hope you are enjoying your summer holidays. Be sun-smart, stay safe and have fun!
We are going to learn about two saints that are connected with the environment. Their names are St Kateri Tekakwitha and St Benedict.
We use St as an abbreviation (shorter word) for the word SAINT.
Let’s all do our part to look after our common home and show we care about the environment.
Name: St Kateri Tekakwitha
Feast day: 14 July
Patron saint of Native Americans, ecology and the environment.
Life story: St Kateri Tekakwitha was 20 when she was baptised. Her life lights the way for everyone who wants to live in harmony with creation. Kateri Tekakwitha was the first Indigenous person of North America canonised as a saint in the Roman Catholic Church. She devoted her life to God. She came to be known as the Lily of the Mohawks during her life because of her kindness, prayer, faith and heroic suffering.
Name: St Benedict
Feast day: 11 July
Patron Saint of Europe.
Life story: St Benedict is known as the father of Western monasticism. Many monastic men and women belong to a Christian religious order named in his honour, the Order of Saint Benedict. He wrote the Rule of St. Benedict that these people follow. The Rule can be summed up by pax (peace) and ora et labora (pray and work). St. Benedict’s love for creation has spread throughout the world since his death more than 1,400 years ago.
Design a poster showing ways we can care for our environment.
You are welcome to share this with me by sending a photo of your poster to toby @salesiansireland.ie
Each year we celebrate many special feast days throughout the year. One special feast day that we celebrate is called Corpus Christi. That is Latin for the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ. We celebrate Corpus Christi on the Second Sunday after Pentecost, this year that will be June 16th.
History of Corpus Christi
Corpus Christi as a Christian feast didn’t happen until the second half of the thirteenth century. It is thanks to the efforts of a nun called Juliana of Liège. Since childhood, Juliana had claimed that God had been telling her that there should be a feast day for the Eucharist so she petitioned the Bishop of Liège. Back then bishops could order feasts in their local dioceses. The bishop agreed to the feast and convened a synod in 1246 and ordered that a celebration of Corpus Christi should be held annually.
Corpus Christi has been celebrated by the Catholic Church in Poland since 1247, and the first mentions of a procession come from records in the Diocese of Kraków from 1320.
How we celebrate the feast
The festival of Corpus Christi is celebrated in many places with a procession, during which the priest carries the Eucharist, on display in a special receptacle called a “monstrance”. The Blessed Sacrament is sheltered under a canopy.
In many parishes and dioceses across Ireland there will be processions to celebrate the feast of Corpus Christi. People will walk a route following the priest or bishop and the Eucharist while praying and singing. In some places the children who recently celebrated their First Holy Communion will be invited to take part in the procession and the girls will wear their white dresses again to show this is a special occasion.
The month of May is a special month in the Catholic Church’s liturgical calendar. The practice of special devotion during the month of May dates back to the 17th Century.
Why is May the month of Mary?
Traditionally, Catholics devote the whole month of May to honouring and celebrating Mary, the mother of Jesus. Mary is sometimes known as the ‘Queen of May’.
You may see a ‘May altar’ in your classroom, school, local church or at home. The May altar is usually a table covered in a blue or white cloth, with pictures or statues of Mary, candles, flowers, and rosary beads.
We sing special hymns to Mary during the month of May and sometimes we have a May procession and place a crown of flowers on the statue of Mary.
Here is a verse from one of these special hymns:
Bring flowers of the rarest bring blossoms the fairest, from garden and woodland and hillside and dale; our full hearts are swelling, our glad voices telling the praise of the loveliest flower of the vale!
Refrain: O Mary! we crown thee with blossoms today, Queen of the Angels, Queen of the May, O Mary! we crown thee with blossoms today, Queen of the Angels, Queen of the May.
Mary is known as the mother of the Church. We, the people, are the Church so Mary is our mother. We know that we can turn to Mary in our times of need. Mary is our heavenly mother and she is an inspiration to us as we try to follow her example. You can say this prayer to Mary.
A special prayer to Mary
Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee; blessed art thou among women and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus. Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death. Amen.
As we are preparing for our Easter celebrations this year let me take you on a journey through Holy Week.
Palm Sunday commemorates the entrance of Christ into Jerusalem when palm branches were placed in his path.
Spy Wednesday: Jesus was with his disciples in Bethany. Judas was a spy and Wednesday was the day he chose to betray Christ.
Holy Thursday (also called Maundy Thursday) Maundy comes from the Latin word ‘Mandatum’ meaning instruction. Jesus told his disciples ‘Do this in memory of me’. Jesus washed their feet. He blessed the bread and wine and shared this meal, called the Last Supper, with his friends, which was also a traditional sacrifice of Jewish people. Now we know it as a Holy Mass.
Good Friday: Jesus died on the cross in Calvary. The Latin word for skull is calvaria. Along the way he met Mary, his mother, and some women of Jerusalem. Veronica stepped out from the crowd and wiped his face. Simon of Cyrene helped Jesus to carry the cross. And at the end Jesus was crucified at a spot outside Jerusalem called Golgotha which in Aramaic means “place of the skull.”
Easter Sunday: Jesus rose from the dead. He appears at the empty tomb to Mary Magdalene, then to the disciples minus Thomas and then to all the disciples including Thomas (known as “doubting Thomas”). Today the site is called the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.
Easter blessing:May Christ, Our Risen Saviour, always be there by your side to bless you and your family and be your loving guide. Amen
I hope you all enjoyed learning some facts about the events of Holy Week.