Monday, December 13, 2010

Example of a wonderful local Little Flowers group!

Here's a great example of the possibilities of what you can do with your local Little Flowers group. This group, located in Ss. Cyril and Methodius Parish in Sterling Heights, MI, pushes the program to its full potential by including an online calender, registration, FAQ, and list of materials needed to participate. Perhaps the best bit of initiative they take, though, is the way they break the program down into different age groups that are each named after a flower. All-in-all, this is a great model for how a group can get the most out of the Little Flowers program! Check it out, and maybe glean some good ideas from it for your own group.

Interested in sharing with others how your group is run? Do you have a unique and/or creative twist that you have added to the LFGC program? Send your links, photos, and/or descriptions to us, or post them in the comment section of this blog and we will share them here, on our Facebook page, and wherever else other Little Flower groups can see them!

Friday, December 3, 2010

Little Flowers: Starting Early or Waiting?

In some recent emails from the Little Flower’s Leaders Loop (not a member yet? here’s how - ), there was some inquiry into the advantages, if any, of starting LF early. I wanted to take a quick moment to address that via the newsletter so that everyone, regardless of program, might know our view and reasoning.

Teaching our children about the faith is an obligation we have as parents. Our catechism begins to teach us about this as it discusses the Ten Commandments and “Honor Your Parents” (#2197 and following). The Church has spoken about this reality in numerous documents including Quadragesimo Anno, (1931, Pope Pius XI) and Rappresentatni in Terra by Pope Pius XI and Gravissimum Educationis, of Pope Paul VI and more recently the words of John Paul ll. The Church is clear - we are the parents and the responsibility relies on us. And those of us here have proven we take this responsibility very seriously.

However, the manner with which we pass along the faith need not always be so serious. I, myself, have strived to provide a proper balance between the real jubilation and fun our faith provides with the appropriate seriousness of the content. Piety and reverence are virtues we learn but everyone also knows of my love for eutrapelia and joy.

With all of that in mind, it is easy to jump right into teaching the faith as soon as possible. Teaching our children the faith can really be a good deal of fun for both us and ourselves. It is great being a Catholic so why hold back?

I am humbled and pleased families are eager to get started with any of the programs we have. I take it as an unexpected compliment some families with three and four year olds want to get started. They have a “Right Now!”, “I’m not waiting”, “Let’s jump right in!” mentality that is contagious BUT....

Of course, there is a ‘but’. Our Church wisely teaches about the ‘age of reason’ and this might need to be applied here. Our children are our greatest treasure and every treasure requires a level of protection. While there is nothing harmful within any of the programs; there does exist a real risk that too soon might really be ‘too soon’ and therefore not be beneficial.

Teaching the faith to your children is necessary but how you do it and with what programs, books and materials is vital. Not every program is well suited for a three year old or, on the other hand, with a fourteen year old. The progression of both intelligence and ability must be honored in our children. A fourteen year old will not learn much from a program designed for pre-schoolers and neither does a three year old learn from a program designed and written for a five year old (and older) child.

As I wrote in the Leader’s Loop:

“I will voice my concerns about starting LF too early. While introducing saint's lives, virtues and more is very important for all ages, we need to realize there are many concepts that are more challenging for younger children to handle and comprehend. Now, granted, there are children who are reading and writing at young ages but the spiritual aspects remaining challenging - even for us as adults! There is a cognitive and intellectual development of our children we need to respect and accept. Too much, too soon can result in frustration for both the child and the mom.

The other reality - faced by other groups - is the fact that by starting younger, some get tired of doing it (bored or a 'been there, done that attitude) by the time they can really begin to both understand it and appreciate it.

I am humbled by Moms such as yourself so eager to get their children started on the path of holiness but I feel that is best to take a small wait in introducing LF to such a young girl - this coming from a mom of 7 girls! Starting off on introducing your daughter to saint's stories and working on practicing the virtues appropriate for a 3 year old is a great foundation and LF will be a wonderful addition once she is older and better able to understand the concepts. Once she is older she is more fully able to really participate by both being able to read the materials on her own as well as do the activities more independently.

Each family will make their own decision but using other materials, developed with a preschooler in mind, would be my recommendation and waiting for LF until they are older.”

I hope this clarifies our position on this. I honor every parents right and obligation to teach the faith to their children and welcome each and every opportunity to have our programs be a part of this formation.

Finally, in the midst of this season of Thanksgiving I want to take a moment to say “Thank You” to all of you. Thank you for letting us into your homes, schools and home school groups. Thank you for letting us help you raise the next generation of saints, the next leaders who will both bring Christ’s Kingdom here on earth but celebrate it for all eternity in heaven.

This year has been a challenge for all us for many reasons even without the added challenge of the economy. The perseverance and dedication of many of the families of Behold the Child, Ecce Homo Press, Little Flowers, Blue Knights, the Hospitality families, Honor Guard and more is encouraging. When I remember all of you in my prayers the words that most often come to my heart as “well done, good and faithful servants!” Thank you!

Two recommended preschool materials might include:

The Catholic Children’s Treasure Box series published by the Maryknoll Sisters in the 1950’s now reprinted and available from many sources.

Rosemarie Gortler has written a lovely series of small books for preschoolers including “Little Acts of Grace”. These are perfect preschooler books and also available from many sources.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Join us on Facebook!

Do you love Little Flowers Girls' Club or any of the other great products offered by Behold Publications? Show your support for us on Facebook by clicking here!

Monday, November 15, 2010

Catholic Kids Christmas Dream Shop!

Catholic Kids Christmas Dream Shop! via #constantcontact

The Little Flowers characters in Virtue Stories, Wreath I come alive on Christmas morning for your Little Flower! Read about how sisters Mary Rose (brunette), Maggie (blonde) and Theresa (auburn), put into practice in everyday life what they learn as a Little Flower. Go to for special bundle prices that include books and dolls as well as a Christmas book bundle for boys!

Thursday, October 21, 2010

The Soul's Toolbox

Why we teach virtue in the first place OR rather, “What’s in it for me?”
There can be times in our lives when we scratch our heads and wonder aloud - Why are we even doing this?? The ‘this’ of the moment might be anything from doing laundry for the umpteenth time to homeschooling to even going to Sunday Mass.
Honestly, much of what we do is out of necessity. The laundry, housekeeping and cooking we do is necessary for our existence. We need good food, a clean house and clean clothes to be healthy. Happily, we have a good deal of latitude in how we do these tasks. For some families a good meal is around a table with fine china, cloth napkins and the finest of French cuisine. For other families it is with paper plates and napkins and the only French item on their table is the French dressing for the iceberg salad and French fries. But both meals begin with prayer, both meals include the parents listening, laughing and sharing in the stories and the family. Both are therefore healthy - if not from a dietary standpoint then surely from a spiritual and psychological one.
For other things we may have less latitude. While we may wonder why we go to Church or strive to be both holy ourselves and raise holy children, we know we do so to honor the God who made us. It is for Him alone we do all we do. We are responding to the call He has made since the beginning of time. We are restless until we rest in Him as St. Ignatius reminds us.
Virtue education is one aspect of loving God. In in our attempt to be holy as He is holy we can take His holiness apart as it were, piece by piece, and strive to be holy one piece, one virtue at a time. We learn about faith in order to be more faithful. We strive for obedience as we know being fully obedient is what Christ himself did - even unto death.
But there are times in our regular life of dinner and dishes, clothes and commutes we may wonder how virtues serve us. Why are we doing this in the first place? Sure, it makes us more polite and nicer to be around, but it is really necessary? And, if you are familiar with the movie, “Field of Dreams”, we can wonder as did the main character, Ray Kinsella (played by Kevin Costner), “What’s in it for me?”
In replacing his corn field with a baseball field, Ray witnesses ‘everyone else’ benefiting from his hard work but he is left feeling unappreciated and forgotten. He has put his family on the line, worked endlessly for a ‘crazy dream’ (according to mocking neighbors and family members) and he is thinking it was all for nothing. Or at least all for everyone else but him. “What’s in it for me”, he wonders out loud.
We can feel that way as parents and teachers of the faith. Why are we working so hard to teach our children; model holiness and live a virtuous life? What’s in it for me? Why am I working so hard with no obvious benefit for myself. This past summer into the fall, that often rhetorical question was answered, very literally, for me.
Over the past few months, we have had a few brushes with scary health issues. As a result, we endured the spiritual challenges that always accompany health problems. In addition, we had a frightening accident involving our youngest child. However, throughout all of them, though I felt tested and strained to my limit, I did not fall. Of course, I wondered about God’s plan and wisdom. I spent more than a few nights even arguing with Him and complaining about how strong He thought I was. But, I did not leave His side. I remained. Why? Honestly, it was because of the foundation of virtues I had within me.
I found myself - almost literally - pulling fortitude and perseverance from my soul’s toolbox. During the struggles of the summer, I relied on the faith and hope I knew so well to get me through the dark of night. I had learned the words of these virtues. However, over the past few months I have found myself, very literally, being forced to live what I learned.
I knew courage and now I was living it. What joy that brought to my life. What peace I had knowing friendships I had fostered were there to support me. A foundation in virtue gave me what I needed most to get through some really rough months.
This is why we do what we do. What is in it for us? In teaching our children the virtues, we are not only teaching them - piece by piece, bit by bit - how to be more like Christ we are giving them tools they will rely on their entire life. We are helping them not only face life’s challenges but come out the other side stronger. Virtue education now is, of course, helpful as our children do become more charitable, better friends and siblings. But, these virtues may come to best serve them when they have left your home and are living in their own.
In teaching them, we are also teaching ourselves. This hard work helps us as we find ourselves using what we have shared to be better friends and parents ourselves. And, more likely than not, life provides ample opportunities to put what we teach into practice.
In the fictional story and film, Ray built his field to see ballplayers ‘return’ to play, eventually his own estranged father. At the end of the movie, he sees ‘what’s in it for him’. In our real lives, we build a life of virtue for our children and ourselves awaiting Christ’s return. And in the process, I guarantee, you will find what you get is what you, yourself, need to make it until He does. Virtues are not just for our children but also (sometimes more so) for us.
So, you can stop wondering if teaching virtues matters. It does and you’ll either see it in your kids or rely on it yourself every day - I know from real life experiences. Now, if someone would like to convince me about a few household tasks I’ve been told are necessary (such as ironing sheets!), I’m waiting!
God Bless,
Rachel Watkins

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

September Newsletter

Here is the link to the September newsletter and discount coupons. Features include an inspiring message from the creator of Little Flowers Girls' Club, frequently asked questions, items shared by other Little Flowers groups and much more!

Friday, September 17, 2010

Happy September!

Happy September! Happy new school year and happiest of all we have new children, new meetings and new opportunities to share Christ and the Church. I love September. I love new pencils, empty notebooks needed to be filled and the cool air and leaves falling. I also will admit I love it because it is my birthday month!

In light of our commitment to help you be the best leaders you can be, we’ve decided to tackle the great outdoors for a few newsletters to help you get out and enjoy God’s creation - especially as the weather cools down but doesn’t get too cold.

Exploring the great outdoors is something all of us should do regardless of our love for dirt, trees and animals. This might be a struggle as we might feel more comfortable in our homes. Let’s be honest, we’re unlikely to get bitten by a bug, catch a rash from a simple plant or sweat and get dirty inside our clean and bugfree homes. But let’s also be honest while we don’t like the bites and the rashes; getting sweaty and dirty, especially with our children, is almost always more fun than sitting inside watching another movie.

We were born in a garden after all. Not us specifically but our first parents, Adam and Eve, were born in the garden designed by God himself. The first two chapter of the Bible are all about the great outdoors He was making for us to enjoy: “God looked at everything he had made, and he found it very good.” (Gen. 1:31).

For us though, we may have discovered is not all good - be it those aforementioned bugs and rashes or allergies and unfamiliarity. In addition to these issues comes the very real struggle we have in today’s culture to balance our enjoyment and celebration of the great outdoors with the increased worship of the environment. I do not dismiss this concern lightly. My own husband, whose expertise and work is in environmental policy, faces this balance every day. Our care for the earth - which God has commanded - is important but we must never value the earth and the environment more than every soul which inhabits it.

But, let’s not get worried about those complicated discussions and just plan on getting our children and ourselves outside a bit more. From nature we can witness and learn so many of the virtues we hope to teach. From the patience and diligence of a gardener striving for a good harvest to the joy and eutrapelia of just being outside in the fresh air and sunshine. With every Little Flower virtue comes a flower and how wonderful if, sometimes, the girls might be able to see some of these flowers growing naturally. For the other groups, be it Blue Knights, Hospitality, or Honor Badge, being outside is always good for them - body and soul.

Getting outside can be as easy as making use of your back deck for snack or your back yard for games. It can be done by the teaching of faith in a garden full of sunflowers or learning industry through the clearing of a yard for an elderly neighbor. It can be the exploration of the outdoors through a more social outing to a local park.

A few simple suggestions:
*Know your local parks - local, state and federally sponsored. Planning on having a meeting at one of these locations or plan a get together outside of meeting times. Letting the girls get a bit dirty and sweaty together will surely build some new memories that just can’t be made in a living room or church meeting room.

*Ask a parent to take charge of your ‘Head Outdoors’ plans. They could make plans for outings, see what programs might be available (hopefully free) at local parks, farmer’s markets, orchards, etc. Consider planning a field trip every other month or so as it might fit into your planned activities.

*Check out the Charlotte Mason approach to education. If one of your families is utilizing this method of home education you will probably discover a wealth of information on exploring the outdoors as it is seen as vital aspect in the Mason approach.

*Check the library for books to help you out. In light of the previous warning about the current rise in worshipping creation rather than the Creator, newer books are more likely to take this tone. Be wary as you read. If you see either overt or subtle suggestions in opposition to the Church’s teaching in regard to life consider finding another title.

Two books I’ve found helpful:
“Sharing Nature with Children” by Joseph Cornell. This is a classic nature awareness book and as such has undergone a resurgence in popularity. I have NOT read the new 20th Anniversary edition and expect it to have more political commentary regarding the environment. However, the 1979 edition which I have and use, does not contain anything I could fault. It is a collection of games and ideas for bringing nature to your children in an easy manner. One of my favorite games is the Micro-Hike. You need just a few lengths of string/yarn and a simple magnifying glass for each child. Stake out a circle with the string on the ground and let them investigate. They may find some insects or just explore the intricacies of how grass grows. A simple activity which gives glory to God for the detail with which He created the earth.
“The Kid’s Nature Book” by Susan Milford. It is a 365 indoor/outdoor nature exploration book with simple ideas for letting kids explore nature. With so many ideas you will surely find a dozen or so ideas that might be able to be included in your program. Some are a bit more complicated (yet tasty) such as making applesauce but others are as easy as watching the clouds overhead. The book is listed by months and days which make it very easy to take advantage of the change of seasons.

Both of these are available from Amazon used - the Milford book can be found for as little as .67, while the Campell book (an 1989 version) is $3.50.

*Finally, explore creation through Scripture and the Saints. From the Book of Job we have God’s reply beginning with chapter 38 wherein God speaks to Job of sea, the snow, the mountain goats and the great leviathan. We also have the Psalms. Walking through a local park while reciting Psalm 23 or a reading of Psalm 104 “Praise of God the Creator” reminds us that earth is God’s creation after all. While from St. Francis of Assisi (adopted by many including non-Catholics as patron saint of the environment) we have his powerful Canticle of Creation.

While it may seem the secular world has commandeered the very earth from our grasp we must let that occur. The earth was created for us by God - for our use and our enjoyment. Do not feel you must hide inside for fear of being seen as a Gaia (earth) worshipper but head outside and see God in all you see. Enjoy your local environment a bit more this year and celebrate what God made for you. Granted this earth is merely our temporary home, but as our home we should our best to both know it and understand it. You - and your children - will be glad you did.

God Bless,

Rachel Watkins

Saturday, September 4, 2010

New Parish Group?

Are you thinking about starting a Little Flowers Girls Club at your parish? Would you like to present it to your pastor or religious education coordinator? We have a FREE CD just for parish presentations you can request by sending an email to: Please include your parish name, your name and address you wish to have the CD sent.

The CD includes samples of all our products including pages of the Little Flowers, Blue Knights, Hospitality and Honor Guard programs. It includes a copy of our catalog, brochures and a powerpoint to present to the parish, with an overview of the programs and how to get them started in your parish. All this is FREE and you don't have to order a thing before seeing the material. Get yours today!

Monday, August 16, 2010

September...Ready or Not, Here it Comes!

As summer is winding down, vacations all but over; we are looking at our calendars and realizing September is coming - wether we like it or not! I, myself, had resisted putting September on my wall calendar in my kitchen. It is a wipe-on/wipe-off calendar that holds four months. Over the past four months I have wiped off May, June and July until August is all that remains. The other three months remained blank. I could not bring myself to put on September. September means a return to homeschooling, schedules and work I was not yet ready to face. I wanted to remain on vacation, sitting poolside and relaxing.

My lovely husband, Matthew, was finally able to convince me to place September on by reminding me my birthday is in September and he would provide no gifts unless I placed the month - and my birthday - on the calendar. Selfishly motivated, I quickly placed September, October and November (which is Matt’s birthday month) on the wall calendar. Seeing November up, I realized his motivation was probably more for himself than for me. He was ensuring we remember his day, but it was done. September was coming though I had tried to prevent it. Much like the Grinch and Christmas, the new school year was approaching with or without my participation. Fine, let it come but I don’t have to be happy about it!

Then comes the General Audience of Pope Benedict at Castel Gondalfo (8/10/10). The CNS article relates this:

“While most people today will not be called to be martyrs, he (Pope Benedict) said, "none of us is excluded from the divine call to holiness," which requires taking up one's own personal cross and following Christ every day.

In a world that seems driven by selfishness and individualism, Christians have as their top priority the task of letting their love for God and their neighbors grow greater every day, he said. This will transform not only one's own life, but will also transform the whole world.

"Let us ask God to set our hearts on fire so we can be capable of loving just like he loved every one of us," the pope said.”

The Pope, on vacation himself, was reminding me what I wanted to forget - I am called to pick up my cross, follow Christ and strive for holiness. Much as I wanted to avoid September, I realized I wanted to avoid my cross, the obligations and responsibilities of my life, even more. But to what end? Am I the Catholic I claim to be, the child of God I profess?

Then, while the summer has been good and setting aside the school books and school work wonderful, I cannot take a complete vacation from life. I have baptismal promises to fulfill, a Father in heaven looking down on me, Jesus Christ himself by my side within the sacraments to strengthen me and the Holy Spirit to guide me. For me, that includes facing September and homeschooling. With God’s everlasting presence, the holiness the Pope reminds of us is possible.

The Little Flowers Girls Club has that as its goal: helping us all towards holiness. It is meant to be a small way (as St. Therese herself said) towards the holiness we are called.

Holiness is not easy, acknowledged by the Holy Father as he related it to the martyrdom of St. Maximillian Kolbe and St. Therese of the Cross, in his general audience. Yet, it remains, our mission, holiness for ourselves, our families and our children.

I am humbled you have allowed us be a part of your desire for holiness. We hope our little way eases your way. We hope we are helping carry your cross throughout the school year.

Knowing all of you are out there striving for the same holiness I am, while also cooking meals, balancing carpools and finding date nights with our spouses makes it easier. We can feel lonely in our holiness but being a part of a group of others with either Little Flowers, Blue Knights, Little Women Hospitality, or the Honor Guard eases that loneliness. We have each other to rely on, to pray with and pray for.

All that we do here is a small attempt to be Simon of Cyrene - helping you carry your cross. With that in mind, we have got some great ideas for the new year. A new Wreath Four for Little Flowers is already in the works reflecting the reality some dioceses are having Confirmation for children younger than the 7-9th grade or higher the Wreath was initially written for. The new Wreath Four will present the awesome sacrament in a more age-appropriate manner in regard to both content and activities.

Our newsletter will be highlighting some ideas about introducing the great outdoors to our groups with outing suggestions, games and other ‘get out and get dirty’ ideas. This wonderful idea came from a LF leader, Lisa. Many thanks to her for the great idea (feel free to send your own to us, as well). In addition, we are editing the first of our “Princesses to You Can Believe In” series which will bring the story of St. Margaret of Scotland to life in a new way.

So, wether you are in a huge group balancing three levels or a mom at home with only your own children under your care, let us help you be holier. All we do here at Behold Publications has only one goal - bring Christ. Our purpose is, as the Pope reminded us while on his own vacation, to help “transform not only one's own life, but will also transform the whole world.”

I will be praying this new year in the words the Holy Father used, "Let us ask God to set our hearts on fire so we can be capable of loving just like he loved every one of us.”

If you’d like to hear the Holy Father’s address:

The Catholic News Service article:
God bless, Rachel Watkins

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Where everyone knows your name!

One of my many flaws is my inability to remember names. I am very good at faces and will brighten when a familiar one comes into view but then I am hit by the reality that I cannot - for the life of me - remember their name!

This occurs at the grocery stores when I encounter people I see every Sunday at Mass and at conventions when I see people I have met once or twice in the past. In both places, I am rendered embarrassed.

The comic, Brian Regan, ( has a wonderful routine when he reveals this same flaw. He makes light of our habit of then resorting to nicknames - "Hey, Buck-A-R00!" It is one of those routines that you laugh at; not only because your recognize yourself in it but you realize others have done the same with you.

Memory experts will tell you to use imagery to help you remember someone's name (upon meeting me, for example, you might want to picture a sheep as 'Rachel' means 'ewe), or to use the new acquaintance's name repeatedly in the conversation. This latter technique can lead to an odd conversation as you keep dropping the name as often as you can in a conversation about the rising price of groceries. "So, Lucinda, have you found a good price for ground beef, Lucinda? Or, Lucinda, do you prefer chicken dishes??" Odd. And, try as I might, none of the advised strategies work for me. I am hopelessly name-impaired and probably always will be.

But names mean so much to us, don't they? I am quite attached to the spelling of my name - the biblical spelling - and get miffed when folks want to add that extra 'a' or if they mispronounce one of my children's names (it is Brigid not Bridget).

Names matter and how wonderful is it that our Lord knows us so well. From today's gospel - "My sheep hear my voice; I know them,"

God will neither forget our names, nor mispronounce it. He knows us so well which then requires our own response. In the gospel it is made clear - "and they follow me." We then are to know him and follow him. How well do we do this and with what passion and dedication? Do we need to use imagery? Do we need to repeat His name again and again so we don't forget?

Either technique works well with our God and He provides us the beautiful imagery Himself - He is a shepherd, He is a Father and we can remember His name every time we pray. Perhaps the familiar "Our Father who are in heaven" or perhaps the ancient - Te Deum - "You are God, we praise you; You are the Lord, we acclaim you; You are the Eternal Father: All creation worships you."

At your next LF meeting, make a point of calling each girl by her name, make a game of names or ask everyone to share how they got their name. Our names matter to us and they matter to God. He will call them when we finally meet - let us strive to live a life that ensures that we know Jesus' name so well, people might be tempted to think it is our own. What a joy to think that someone might forget I am 'Rachel, with no second 'a' and rather be reminded of our Lord and His love and mercy!

Monday, April 19, 2010

A Little Flower Welcome!

I usually use this column to pass along a bit of wisdom or ideas that are easy to write about and convey. Not this month. This month I really want for all of us to examine our attitude toward true charity, hospitality and kindness towards others.

I was inspired to write about this after the recent national news of the tragic death of Phoebe Prince in Northhampton, MA. This beautiful 15 yr. old was pushed to suicide as a result of the on-going bullying by a group of fellow students at her high school.
While I know that none of our groups would ever accept or condone such awful behavior from our children, I am concerned that we aren’t always as welcoming to others as we ought to be.
We have all been the ‘new kid’ at some point in our lives. Whether we have memories from our childhood of arriving new to a school or neighborhood; or moving into a new parish as adults - we all know what it feels like to be unfamiliar and uncomfortable. It is not a pleasant feeling.
Hopefully, though, we can all follow up those uncomfortable feelings with a memory of a child or adult who reached out to us and welcomed us. Maybe it was the kid who showed you where the bathroom was at school or the new neighbor who gave you directions to the perfect park in town. Finding a new, trustworthy friend is an unforgettable and powerful feeling.
But being brave enough - yes, brave enough - to reach out to others is a rare quality. It is easier to remain with familiar friends. Reaching out, not knowing how you will be received, can be unsettling. No one wants to be rejected. However, we are called to a supernatural charity by God and our baptismal grace to see everyone as God does and treat them as His children. This grace should give us the security in knowing that God will be there.
In all Behold Christ groups and programs I would hope that anyone entering the room would perceive a welcome unlike any they have ever encountered. It would be so amazing if they join a group never feeling any discomfort or lack of embrace. Imagine the change that be started by our small actions of acceptance. While we are not called as the first Christians to sell all we own, we called to be ‘of one mind heart and mind’.
Examining yourself in regard to this is not easy. But it is important that we as adults are modeling to our young people a true hospitality that welcomes everyone regardless. Regardless of their income, their clothes, their abilities or their formation. If we are striving to be Christ, bring Christ and leave Christ everywhere we go, we must reflect His own actions.
Berated by the Pharisees for hanging out with the wrong crowd, Jesus was a victim of their bullying. They wanted their words, their rejection and their attitude to change how Jesus acted and treated others. It never did. Jesus continued to welcome everyone. While He did not accept obvious sin, I don’t imagine He checked their clothing labels or their ability to talk about the current hot trends. Jesus took people where they were and then gently led them to where they needed to be.
Jesus was also shut out. There were many who did not welcome Him. We do not know of how many times He reached out to someone who looked at His clothes or His background (“What good can come from Nazareth”) and decided that Jesus just wasn’t cool or didn’t fit in. How many people missed out on knowing Jesus directly because of perceptions and false ideals of what the Messiah is supposed to look like?
Take a moment to think of your own group. Are there families or young people still on the fringes hoping for someone to really welcome them? Is there a real attitude of complete welcome in the group or has an air of ‘in-crowd’ and ‘outsiders’ been allowed to set in?
On the other side, are the girls themselves being modeled and encouraged to be truly charitable and hospitable? There should be no acceptance or tolerance for unkind words or actions from any young people towards any others. As adults, you need to moderate this and be aware of what might be occurring. The stereotype of small groups of pointing, laughing ‘mean girls’ might come to mind but it is often more subtle than that. Often it can be nothing more than a refusal to let someone sit down in ‘their circle’ because of what they wear or what they say. Any subtle attempt to exclude anyone needs to be eliminated.
This is a painful column to write as I have such high hopes that every group is a perfect model of Christian charity and love. But knowing myself and my own faults, I know this is not true or reasonable. I also know, from my own memories, of what it feels like to be both excluded and to exclude; neither of which bring up good memories. As a result, I might be called a zealot on this mission to make sure everyone feels welcomed.
Let us just agree that it is reasonable and Catholic to expect every adult to be a model of real hospitality and good manners and then commit to teaching and forming our own children to do the same. I know we will never accept outright bullying, name calling or abuse by our members but I also hope we never accept the subtle ways we can cause pain and divisiveness by a refusal to see it or act upon it when we do. We need to both keep our ‘inner Pharisee’ in check and be brave enough to stand up to it when we see it displayed by others.
In striving to find some Scriptural support, I reread the very short 3rd Letter of John which speaks a hint of such dealings. Written to a specific person - Gaius - it is writing about the failure of another person, Diotrephes, to accept some of the newer Presybters. It is not known, from the scripture notes given what exactly was occurring but I couldn’t help but think of this column. One line - “I wrote to the Church, but Diotrephes, who loves to dominate, does not acknowledge us.” - rung in my ears. Let us pray no one would ever say that about any of us.
Let us display trustworthy friendship and true charity to all. Let us strive to become a memory of welcome to everyone we meet, but especially those for whom such a memory is only an unfilled hope!
-Rachel Watkins

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Diocese of Fargo, ND

Little Flowers and Blue Knights are mentioned as options under the Youth Programs for the diocese of Fargo. Check out this link:

Monday, March 22, 2010

I lost my glasses and found some perspective

I have had my glasses for over a year now but continue to lose them regularly. I will admit that I don't like wearing glasses as they are an outward sign that I am getting older. When I was younger, I wanted to wear glasses like my best friend, Lorraine. She looked so much smarter and cooler in my eyes due to her glasses. She knew then, as I do now that wearing glasses is a struggle.

You need them to see clearly but you are weighed down both by the pressure they exert (however slightly) on your nose and ears and by the reality that they are there on your face - all the time. You seem to know you weren't born to wear these but they are result of our flawed bodies in a imperfect world.

So I spent last night and most of today without my glasses (hence my late post) and I really need my glasses to see clearly and go headache free. As a result, I was unable to do much of what I usually do and left to do only the essentials of my life. No late night post for you, no early morning e-mail check for me. I was left to keep my hands off the computer and eyes off of books. I could not do what was important!

I was left to do such things as dress my little ones and get my kids breakfast. I did laundry early and cleaned my room (hoping to find the glasses). I was reduced to a pre-computer life and I found myself out of sorts (which at times I took out on myself and my children with snippy answers and general grumpiness).

However, by mid-morning, I had to realize my mood was ruining everyone else's and I needed to make some apologies - to my children and to God. After that was done, I realized I getting quite a bit done despite impaired vision. In fact, I was doing the work I needed to do, really needed to do - the work God intended me to do. Perhaps, as my grandmother would say when things didn't go her way, God set some things aside so that what He wanted could happen without us (and our plans) getting in the way.

What God wanted this morning was children dressed and fed and household chores completed. Not that that doesn't occur every morning in my house but I usually do those mundane chores on my way to other 'more important' activities (those aforementioned emails and postings). Today, they were my only activity as I couldn't manage anything else with my fuzzy vision.

Taking care of my children should never what I do on the way to something else. As important as e-mail has become and as important as impacting on the world via the internet can be (just ask the Pope), our family is our first and foremost vocation and path to heaven.

I found my glasses - hence this post - but I am considering setting them aside each morning until after the important stuff is done. The e-mails can wait, a blog will still be there and a post can be delayed - a bowl of Cheerios and a Thomas the Tank Engine shirt might not!

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Looking for an alternative to Girl Scouting? Look HERE!

Recently, the Catholic Family and Human Rights Institute recommended Little Flowers Girls' Clubs as a Catholic and family friendly alternative to Girl Scouts.

Want to find out how to find or start a Club in your area?

To find a club: check with your local parish or Catholic homeschooling support group. Each group is run independently and there is no national registration of groups.

To start a club: Check out the materials on the website: and see what we have to offer to start your own club. It can be done at home, in parish, homeschool group or school! It is flexible, faith-filled and fun! Best of all, use the promo code: LEAD50 until March 31 and get all Leader's Manuals 1/2 price!

Don't forget to check us out on You Tube, also:

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Are you asking for your inheritance now?

Today's gospel is so familiar that I was taken off guard when, during Mass, I was struck by a new thought - am I asking God for my inheritance early?

The first son is so easy to 'not like'. He is eager to cast his father aside, run away from where he knows all is well, food is plentiful and life is good! He is not content to wait for his inheritance, he wants it NOW!

I have found, at times, that I am the first son who is standing at his father's feet with his hand out demanding his inheritance. I am not content to wait.

And what is our inheritance - heaven! Heaven!! That is what is waiting for us when we are done here. But, I want heaven now! Not only do I want it - I expect it!!

I want my life to be perfect, I want no more tears, no more illness, no more sorrow and I want it now! I refuse to accept, to believe that my expectation is not only as greedy as the son but impossible to grant. I am asking God for what I cannot have. What He cannot give because it is not for now, it is for later - forever! But, every day I demand it and every day I find ways to blame others (and God) when heaven is not here. And the results of my demands, my impatience for my inheritance is as awful for me and my family as it was for the son. Perhaps, even worse.

What does my impatience create? Stress and a lack of acceptance! I am short-tempered, harsh on myself and my family. I want heaven now and perfection now! In my greed for the future, I am missing out on the now, on what I am supposed to be doing right now. I am losing out on those 'immediate moments of holiness' that come along every moment, every day. So eager for what God has promised me for tomorrow, I am missing out on what He needs from me today!

Expecting my inheritance, heaven, now, demanding it now is a sign of disrespect for not only God but for all those around me. My inheritance is there - heaven is waiting.

Let us practice patience for ourselves and for our daughters by living a life that works hard on today knowing that our reward, our inheritance is waiting. Reminding ourselves of that truth, that reality will help us be more focused mothers and teachers. Let us keep our eyes on today and know that God has taken care of tomorrow!

Sunday, February 14, 2010

No blogging due to snow - But let's talk about LOVE!

We are still digging out from the four plus feet of snow here on the East Coast. This resulted in computer problems which have since been worked out.

And what a joy that I can post a bit of my nonsense on Valentine's Day when we celebrate love. Love for God, our Church, others and ourselves. Yes, ourselves. On a day when we tend to make sure everyone around us knows we love them, take some time to give yourself a little peptalk and love letter.

In today's culture, when family size is being debated on the cover of People magazine and public figures are publicly and unapologetically indiscrete our decision to be open to life and true to our vows and God's call can be difficult.

St. Valentine knew the power of a good letter (taking a page from Sts. Paul and Peter and the other NT writers) in encouraging his people onward during difficulties. Letters have power to build up or tear down. Take a moment to build yourself up.

Write yourself a love letter - tell yourself all that you do that make you proud. List your own accomplishments and celebrate being Catholic, faithful and proud of it.

While our family's have told us today, make time to tell yourself and set the letter aside so that you have it turn to when life gets you down.

And here's my love letter to you - thank you for carrying on. You all make me so proud of being involved in something so wonderful.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Another Therese, the Little Flower song!

If you are not familiar with Nick Alexander, songwriter and comdedian, you should check out his stuff. It is great! My teens love it and so do I. Here is a song on St. Therese to the tune of "Electric Avenue." Too cute!

Click at the top right to hear the song.

God bless, Joan

Sunday, January 31, 2010

We have our 'orders' (so to speak)....

Little Flowers is constructed (in part) on the well-proven educational theory that you work on one thing at a time and then move on. We use this methodology in all subjects. For example, in math we learn what each number looks like and then how to count before we attempt fractions or higher math such as 'imaginary numbers' (how can numbers be imaginary, wonders this homeschooling mom). We do the same in teaching our LF's a life of virtue. One virtue at a time, giving it our full attention, one piece at a time and then moving on.

This excellent method of learning is not our idea - as with most/all good ideas - God had it first. Today's second reading - the familiar 1 Cor. 12:31-13:13 - the wedding reading we all know. Hearing it today, I was struck by God's methodology. He takes one virtue - Love and then lays out to us one piece at a time what we need to work on to master this virtue. What a good idea! ;-)

Perhaps we might consider this for ourselves - Love is patient, love is kind. It is not jealous, it is not pompous.... and on and on. Perhaps if we take this virtue one piece at a time just as we ask our daughters with the virtues of LF we might find ourselves growing in love and how wonderful would that be? For we are reminded that while faith, hope, love remain, these three; but the greatest of these is love!

Our order would be patience, kind, not jealous, not pompous, not inflated, not rude, do not seek your own interests, not quick-tempered, do not brood over injury, do not rejoice over wrongdoing, rejoice with the truth, bear all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

Granted it is a list of 14 dimensions of the virtue to work on but we are up for the task as it is God's desire that we reflect Him in this love and while we are surely bound to slip up more than once (even in a given hour) we will prevail. For God assures us - Love never fails!

We will surely s

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Cool little video on Blessed Margaret Pole

It may make the girls go "oooh" when they mention how the headsman took 10 swipes at poor old Margaret's head, after all, we are talking Courage here (Wreath 2)but the visuals are nice.

Margaret was Countess of Salisbury under Henry VIII and Mary Tudor's governess. She was beheaded while in her 70's after enduring prison for years. She was beheaded for being a Catholic in 1541. Her son was Cardinal Pole, the last Catholic archbishop of Canterbury.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

New Year, New You!

If you don't know it, we put out a monthly newsletter from Behold The Child. I encourage you to sign up ( Here's a bit of what I wrote for the newest issue:

It is customary to make resolutions during this first month of a new year. We stand, feet akimbo, hands firmly on our hips and declare “This year will be the best year ever!” We are sure of ourselves in January, everything is possible with a new calendar in front of us and the graces of Christmas full in our hearts.

It seems that everyone does this regardless of faith; it is human nature to want a new start, a chance for a do-over and the hope for a better tomorrow. There has been a good deal of press recently concerning Gretchen Rubin who undertook remaking her whole life in one year - one idea/resolution per month. The resulting book The Happiness Project: Or, Why I Spent a Year Trying to Sing in the Morning, Clean My Closets, Fight Right, Read Aristotle, and Generally Have More Fun is being lauded by the media as project we might all want to undertake. Perhaps.

I applaud her desire to find more happiness as I am a big fan of happiness. Joy is after all a virtue but I doubt my own ability to decide what to work on. However, inspired to a degree by the thought of having a happier life I decided that my own life could stand a makeover. However, not wanting to rely on myself (or just anyone else) as I began I wondered who could I turn to for a role model. Being a woman it was natural that I seek another woman; a woman I could trust who had already lived a life worth imitating. You all know who I found don’t you? Mary!


Let our year begin with our first introduction to Mary in Scripture where we have her trust made so clear, so undeniable. Isn’t that how we want to approach this new year - trusting in God for all that God is asking? All the God wants of us? All that He needs from us? In Luke we witness her concern, her questions at the arrival of Gabriel, we are told she is troubled and she trusts God enough to voice it - “How can this be?”

That we may be so trusting. For God has much in store for us this year and we need to trust Him as it arrives. Trust that His plan is perfect and He only desires our good. We can voice our concerns as Mary does, we can wonder how it ‘can be’ but we will trust as Mary does.

If you want to read all of what I wrote, check out the website to sign up for the newsletter (which also includes some neat offers and other good stuff!).

(BTW - I have NOT read Ms. Rubin's book and therefore cannot recommend it but used it only as a reference to my own plan. I do plan on giving it a read when it becomes available at my public library and I'll let you know about it if you'd like. If anyone has read it and would like to share their thoughts - let us know!)

Monday, January 18, 2010

Ever Feel Embarrassed?

Forgive the delay - my dh is out of town for work and that always throws off my days :-)

That being said, how I am feeling (really embarrassed) as a result having forgotten to post last night as I so adamantly promised I would is a perfect lead-in to my post. How nicely convenient! Enjoy -

I am amazed by God’s ability to drop the smallest of hints into our lives that have the potential of having a huge impact.

Today’s gospel (John 2: 1-11) and accompanying homily from my wonderful pastor, Fr. Joseph Piekarski, is a case in point. The gospel is the ever familiar Wedding Feast at Cana. I love that story, I love the fact that Jesus’ first miracle is at a wedding! His presence there not shows the importance of marriage to God but supports our Catholic teaching on marriage as a sacrament.

For me, it gives me a real rush of joy knowing that God loves marriage enough to make sure it is a visible part of Jesus’ ministry. This is hugely important; maybe more so now than ever before when marriage is coming under attack from every side. I can almost get giddy knowing that a wedding party was the site of Jesus’ first miracle. And not only a party, but making sure they had enough wine! God is returning to walk with the man and woman just as He did in the garden and He’s bringing drinks along with Him! How fun and way cool is that?!

My pastor’s homily on the subject was wonderful as usual - he was bringing up some fine points about marriage in particular and doing a great job. I, however, was a bit distracted as I was at Mass with my children but not with my husband who was away on business. My two year old was being particularly feisty and eager to climb over, under and around me, his siblings and the pews. I was starting to feel a bit self-conscious about his behavior.

I was doing my best to follow Fr. Joe when one small comment rang in my ears as if he was standing right next to me. “Remember,” he said, “our dear mother, Mary, never wants us to be embarrassed. Never. Just like she didn’t want her friends at the wedding to become embarrassed by the lack of wine. She asked her Son to help so they wouldn’t be embarrassed. Don’t forget that when you pray.”

That struck such a cord in my heart; especially as I was becoming increasingly embarrassed by Damian’s antics at my feet. Mary doesn’t want me to be embarrassed! What good news that was to hear - news I had never heard before! In all the homilies, talks and retreats I’ve heard that have discussed this miracle, that fact was never said. Or if it was, I didn’t hear it. But I heard it clearly this time and what balm it has been in just the few hours since.

Embarrassment is something I really struggle with. Despite my desire to be the center of attention I never want it if I am doing something foolish or degrading; none of us do. No one likes being embarrassed and we will go to great strides (sometimes even sinful ones) to avoid being made a fool or appearing like one. As a parent, this desire to avoid being seen as foolish extends even more so to my children. I will go to great strides to protect them from humiliation or feeling awkward.

And here, I have been assured and shown in the actions of Mary within the gospel, that she - as every good mother - feels the same way I do. She doesn’t want me to find myself in a bind and seeks through her prayers and intercessions to prevent that from happening. It is very reassuring to know that she ‘has my back’ as they say.

Now, I know that not all embarrassment can be prevented and I will surely do something this very week that will cause a red face for either myself or my children (mothers of teens often run that risk). But, more importantly, I need to differentiate between those things that are singularly embarrassing (such as slipping down the stairs) and not of real import and those that may appear to be a cause of embarrassment but are not.

For Mary (and her Son) would never ask us to do something that is deliberately embarrassing. We may think this isn’t true - as much of what we do can appear to be embarrassing. Think about this. Is it your commitment to homeschooling, a holy family life, modesty in dress and moderation in your activities or language that may sometimes make you feel a twinge of embarrassment? It can come when the stranger in the store asks, “Are they all yours?” or when the aunt keeps prodding you about “socialization”. This is especially true if we living our lives with little or no support from our family or friends.

All of we do may seem embarrassing but it is only because the world rejects it as important or worthy. But only the world thinks that way. Jesus, King of the Universe thinks what we are doing is not embarrassing at all, but truly fine, great, awesome and worthy of His grace.

So, the next time your toddler is crawling all over you at Mass or you get rolled eyes from the neighbor when you tell them your son cannot come over and watch a horror movie marathon with theirs, don’t get embarrassed. After all - what is rejected by the world is often what is best:

“The stone which the builders rejected has become the cornerstone.

By the Lord has this been done; it is wonderful in our eyes.

This is the day the Lord has made;

let us be glad and rejoice in it.”

Ps. 118:22 (quoted by Jesus in Mt. 21-42)

Sunday, January 10, 2010

To Be Like Mary...

While we are celebrating the Year for the Priests (have you downloaded your FREE info from us yet??), I am going to focus my year on trying to be more like Mary, the Mother of God.

She is after all our best role model after Christ and being that we are both women and mothers, I often find her a bit more accessible. I can find myself talking to her throughout my day, asking her to take my concerns to her Son. No one can refuse their mother can they?? As many have said before me - "Through Mary to Christ".

As I look at her life I am struck with both the simplicity of the lessons she offers and how deep we can take those lessons. The first lesson I need to take to heart is her obedient docility to what is being asked of her. She is asked by God, through an angel, which would certainly sway any answer I would give, but what she is asked would give anyone pause. She is asked to bear a child, a son though she 'knows no man'.

Yet, she says yes. Her fiat comes without pause and often my fiats, when they come, come haltingly, hesitatingly and not without demands and a good deal of whining.

This first month I will be striving to be more docile to the requests made of me - from God, from my husband and my children. While I will not concede to every and any request as my children, friends and even my spouse are not God or angels (such as the third request for another cookie), I can certainly say yes to many of their simple (and do-able) requests that are merely a delay to my plans or my idea of how the hour should go.

And Mary could say the same couldn't she? Surely, the arrival of the angel and his message isn't how she expected her hour, day or life to go and yet she said yes!

I am the handmaid of the Lord, she says. May I have the ability to repeat those same words more frequently than I do at this time.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Fun Website!

Got a great email the other day from Vee who directed me to her website with tons of really cute saint and historical figure paper dolls for FREE! I'm hoping that Behold Publications can work with Vee to bring more creative stuff for Catholic kids in the future. Meanwhile, enjoy her site!

Sunday, January 3, 2010

The Feast of Epiphany

While the date is Jan. 6th for many, we have celebrated it today. There is much for us to ponder with this feast - the star, the prophecies fulfilled, the death of the innocents, the length at which the magi went to be able to sit at the feet of a baby. For me, I would like to think for a moment for those left behind - who was taking care of the homes they left while they traveled to find God and bring Him treasures?

As a wife and mother, this is often the role I take in my marriage. My husband travels far each day for his work and the majority of my day is spent alone. I look after the children and home by myself; including not only the care and feeding but the teaching. It can be a lonely day - day after day.

There is also the concern I live with as he leaves. He drives to the train and takes that into DC where he then gets a subway. I am worried sometimes. One day this past fall there was a tragic subway accident. It was my dh's train and a quick telephone call reassured me that by God's plan he worked late that night and wasn't on it. I imagine the wives, children and families of the three kings worried as well. While I can be reassured by telephone calls, those of the magi could not - no technological support systems back then. They had to rely on knowing that the trip they undertook was also God's plan.

And that is what helps those of us at home do what we do - it is God's plan. Just as it was God's plan that the magi travel far from home to find Him in a stable, it was also His plan that there would be those who stayed behind. God's plan includes everyone - not just the ones who leave and go. While we remember the three in story, song and poem we might want to think about those that stayed. They are also a vital part of the story. Just as my husband reminds me daily that he could not do what he does without me at home - the three magi could not as well. They were strengthened on their journey with the knowledge that everything was being taken care of home by people who loved them enough to let them go.

Before I conclude, I want to make clear that I am not making a statement about mothers who work outside the home as I know well that now, more than ever, many moms are doing just that because they have to, it is necessary. No, I am merely striving to make the point that we can think that what we do - either at home or at a job - is insignificant to God's plan because we aren't doing something heroic, remarkable or worthy of a song. What we do can seem so pointless because it is so mundane.

In those moments, when we are wiping off peanut butter faces or sitting through one more committee meeting we must think of our own dear patron. St. Therese, the Little Flower, makes it clear that nothing is insignificant or small to God when it is done with love, with purpose and as a part of His plan.

As this new year begins, consider both offering up all you do, every small, trivial task to God for His purpose and also striving to see all that you do as a part of His plan. While on some days we might wish that God asks us to take a long trip to some exotic location, the reality of that actually occurring is unlikely. Don't waste time wishing you were on a trip you were never called to take. Enjoy and celebrate the trip you are taking right now. As this trip, commonly referred to as a family still has God at the end. What will you be bringing him?

Friday, January 1, 2010

Happy New Year!

One of my resolutions to be more consistent on my blogging. As you all know, I am not. In giving this some real prayer I have come to admit that I am not a super Mom despite my deep desire to be one. No, I am just a regular Mom who has failings, sins and a lousy memory.

With that in mind, I am committing to blogging every Sunday with a new piece for your consideration. I hope to write something what will give you pause for the week, something to take to prayer or back to your group. It might be a something I've read or come across of a spiritual nature or of a more human nature such as a new game or craft idea. In the end, I want to write pieces that will make your vocation easier and help you to be glad you are a mother, a Catholic and one of God's gardeners.

For that is what we all are after all - we are God's gardeners - assisting him in our own little plot of earth; not unlike Adam and Eve. He has given us a piece of Iowa, Michigan, Florida or (in my case) Maryland and we are being asked to take care of it and be good stewards.

And, just like Adam and Eve, there are snakes in our garden. We have to keep an eye out for them, know what they look like and refuse - REFUSE - to talk to them! When we see them and hear their whispers we don't ever think we can do conquer them on our own.

We need to call on Christ and ask Him - much like we do our husbands when it is a spider in the corner (or am I the only one who does this) - to please come over and crush its head! I hope I can offer you some encouragement, ideas and support for your gardening adventures and ask you to feel free to offer your own!

So, welcome to a new year. Look for a new post on every Sunday and let me know what you think!