A Glimpse at the Book “101 Orthodox Saints” by Sarah Wright and Alexandra Schmalzbach, Illustrated by Nicholas Malara

Ancient Faith Publishing has just released a gift to the English-speaking Orthodox Christian world. Wrapped in a sturdy hardcover and crammed with art, stories, and facts, this gift is the beautiful book 101 Orthodox Saints, written by Sarah Wright and Alexandra Schmalzbach, and illustrated by Nicholas Malara. This book is a breath of fresh air, bright with color, alive with stories and facts, and filled to the brim with intrigue.

From its introductory pages, the photos and illustrations draw the reader in, and they become curious to learn more. What are saints? How does someone become one? What does it mean to venerate a saint? Who is called to be a saint? How can this book be used? All of these questions (and more) are answered in an engaging manner in the few pages at the beginning of the book.

The bulk of the book is a page-by-page alphabetical sharing of information about 101 carefully-selected saints from all regions of the world and from all generations, who cross both continents and time to breathe the life of Christ into the reader’s soul. An abridged version of each saint’s story is told on their page. The page also includes important details about the saint’s life (including a map of where they are from, several fun facts, and the dates of their birth and repose, as well as their feast day), their icon, and related photos. Artist Nicholas Malara’s rendition of each saint beautifully reflects their love for God and gives the reader a realistic glimpse into a moment of their life. 

The authors have sorted the particular vocations of each saint, marking their page with simple sketches explained in a legend at the beginning of the book. (For example, St. Columba of Iona was a priest, a missionary, and a monastic so there are three sketches right under his icon that identify him as such.) This marking system allows readers to quickly flip through, find, and read about all of the saints that were royalty (or fools for Christ, hymnographers, wonderworkers, etc.). The book includes a beautiful timeline that places Malara’s illustrations in the order of when in time each saint lived. The authors have also included a glossary that is both thorough and accessible, along with an extensive index. 

Young children will be mesmerized by the beautiful new friends they will see in this book. Some older children will flip through and read all of the fun facts, making connections between the saints in the book and the places and history they are learning about at school. Some will read the book from cover to cover. Even adult readers will “meet” new (for them) saints and be challenged to live in the same godly manner. 

This book offers 101 refreshing glimpses into what a life truly lived for Christ can look like. Each of the 101 saints’ lives are unique, and they differ in many ways. But all of them share one thing in common: their complete dedication to and love for Christ.

It is a good thing that this book is so sturdily bound. Whether it belongs to a child, a family, a Church school class, a Church library, or a classroom, it will be poured over again and again. And, each time the reader inhales a bit more about the saints whose stories are told in its pages, they will grow closer to God and to His holy Church. What a gift.

Reviewed by Kristina Wenger, educator, podcaster, co-author of Tending the Garden of Our Hearts

Purchase your own copy of the book here: https://store.ancientfaith.com/101-orthodox-saints/

A Glimpse at the Book “Nine Deer & Me” by Melinda Johnson

If an angel appeared before you, and told you to begin a journey to your true home, what would you do? This very thing happened to Saint Abigail, many years ago. “Nine Deer & Me” tells her story. 

Author and mother Melinda Johnson has given young Orthodox children yet another beautiful picture book to enhance their library. “Nine Deer and Me“ is a counting board book. But it is no ordinary counting book: this book encourages children to practice their counting in the context of a beautiful recounting of Saint Abigail‘s journey. 

Illustrator Amandine Wanert brings Saint Abigail to life in her simple, but eye-catching, drawings. Each scene includes items that readers can count each time they read.  Wanert’s playful use of lines and light enhance the charm of the animals and characters found in the book.

Readers will be encouraged by Saint Abigail’s diligence in following the angel’s directions. They will rejoice with Abigail to see how God provides for her along the way! And readers can count on being challenged to follow God‘s instructions in their own life.

Reviewed by Kristina Wenger, educator, podcaster, co-author of Tending the Garden of Our Hearts

Purchase your own copy of the book here: https://store.ancientfaith.com/nine-deer-and-me/

A Glimpse at the book “Little Lost Nun” by Melinda Johnson

Melinda Johnson’s brand new book, Little Lost Nun, published by Park End Books, is the tale of a tiny peg doll. The little lost nun doll is important to the narrative, to be sure. But what happens because of the small doll – the bulk of the book – is really about big love. The characters and events surrounding the little nun reveal the hope and kindness that are available to every person who listens when God’s love tugs at their hearts.

Nina and Tabitha do not know each other well on the day that they visit the monastery. That is the same day that the little nun disappears from her spot in the peg doll nun procession to the little church found in the monastery garden. One girl is quite upset by the other’s actions (and she has no idea what that one’s life is like, or why she does what she does). One girl experiences a big loss (that might actually be a huge gain). The girls do not spend any time together again until the end of the book. But, oddly enough, together is where they each find the love and/or forgiveness that they need. And they find it back at the place where their struggle began: in the monastery.

It may not look like it at first, but this book is also about the power of prayer. Readers will get a whiff of monastic life, and will feel the peace that surrounds a “mother” (in this case, the gerontissa, the head nun) who has no children of her own, but chooses a life of prayer and dedication to God. They will also catch the scent that is left in the wake of a “mother” who cares little for her own child or about God, and could care less about praying. Even young readers will observe the stark contrast between these “mothers” and the aroma of that prayer leaves in its wake.

Melinda Johnson wove the words of this story so carefully that children can read (or hear) it and feel its warm embrace. But even grown readers will step away from this tale of a “lost” peg doll and tuck it into their pocket for later pondering. The story in these pages opens its readers’ eyes to losses (whether their own, or in the lives of those around them) and touches their hearts with the hope that comes through prayer and forgiveness.

(Thanks to Park End Books for the advance reader copy so that I could write this, and to Annalisa Boyd for the peg doll so that I could include her in my photo!)

Reviewed by Kristina Wenger, educator, podcaster, co-author of Tending the Garden of Our Hearts

You can buy this book at https://parkendbooks.com/shop/little-lost-nun/, and a Little Lost Nun peg doll (hand painted by Annalisa Boyd) at https://parkendbooks.com/shop/little-lost-nun-peg-doll/

Kristina’s Note: A Cell for the Little Lost Nun Peg Doll

In the book Little Lost Nun by Melinda Johnson, one of the characters recycles things to create other nuns to keep company with a little peg doll nun. If you have a peg doll nun, you can do the same! If your little nun(s) needs a cell to live in, here is a pdf tutorial with some ideas of how to recycle things to make a cell.

Reviewing “A Sacred Beginning: Nurturing Your Body, Mind, & Soul During Baby’s First 40 Days” by Sarah Brangwynne & Sasha Rose Oxnard

A Sacred Beginning serves as a doula to the new mother’s soul: holding her up and encouraging her; while also strengthening her resolve and gently pushing her to do the hard work set before her. Sarah Brangwynne and Sasha Rose write from depths of insight garnered by experience. In their work as a therapist and a family physician, as well as in their personal lives, they have walked these 40 days time and again, holding each other (and others) up along the way. Through these pages the authors reach out to embrace their reader, bolstering her climb up the ladder of divine ascent; soaking her in the wisdom of the Church fathers and the Scriptures; and fortifying her with whispers of camaraderie.

The authors’ experience as mothers is not their sole qualifier for the writing of this book: they both also work in related fields. Sarah is a therapist and Sasha is a family physician. The marriage of their occupations with their personal experience with motherhood lays a sound foundation for this book. 

The introduction of the book lays a good foundation for the 40 days’ meditations, and readers are encouraged to read that part prior to meeting their new little one. The book is divided into 40 days’ readings, all focused on a step (or part of a step) of the Ladder of Divine Ascent. Each day’s reading contains a meditation, quotes from the Fathers and/or Scripture, and personal stories/encouragement from the authors. Many times the day’s entry will contain a look at a way for the new mother to practice what the meditation is about through a physical or spiritual exercise or a suggested journal discussion question.The book concludes with appendices of helpful, related information. Throughout the book, the reader is challenged to do the hard thing to the best of her ability, to ask for and accept help, and to bathe her mothering with prayer.

This book is full of encouragement, helpful quotes and insights, and support for a mother; whether she is welcoming her first child or her last. If the reader wades deep into each day’s reading or is merely able to dip in one toe, the waters will refresh her, buoying her soul as she cares for her new little one. Sarah and Sasha’s supportive words are right there with her, ready to hold her up as a doula does, and she will find that their words, in this book, truly have “got her back”.

Reviewed by Kristina Wenger, educator, podcaster, co-author of Tending the Garden of Our Hearts

The book is available for purchase here: https://store.ancientfaith.com/a-sacred-beginning/

A Closer Look at “The Good Samaritan: a Children’s Catechism” by Fr. Michael Shanbour: Lessons 12 and 13

This is the final portion of a series of closer looks at Fr. Michael Shanbour’s book “The Good Samaritan: A Children’s Catechism” (available here: https://www.wenorthodox.com/product-page/the-good-samaritan-a-children-s-catechism). This beautifully illustrated hardcover book houses an Orthodox Christian catechism that is intended to be read with children. Find our overview of the book here: https://orthodoxchristianparenting.wordpress.com/2019/12/11/gleanings-from-a-book-the-good-samaritan-a-childrens-catechism-by-the-very-reverend-fr-michael-shanbour/. In each post of this series, we focused on two chapters (called “lessons”) in the book. We have shared a synopsis of each lesson followed by a handful of quotes found within its pages. We have also occasionally included a few related links offering additional background or information to the parents. It is our hope that these posts will be a useful resource for parents who are sharing the book with their children, as families learn together about the Orthodox Christian Faith.

Lesson 12: Fasting

The twelfth lesson of “The Good Samaritan: a Children’s Catechism” begins with a reminder that true prayer is being with our best friend. The lesson asks the reader if they only think and talk when they’re with a friend, or if they use their whole body (for example, to wave or give a high five and to play) when they’re with their friend. Of course, the whole body is involved! It is the same way with prayer.

But how can we pray with our whole body? There are many ways, including standing to pray, making prostrations, reverently kissing things (and people) that point us to God, making the sign of the cross, etc. But the lesson also goes on to say that we can pray with our body by fasting.

The lesson speaks of how fasting shapes our obedience and trains our spiritual muscles. Just like we work out to make our body strong, fasting helps to make our spiritual muscles strong. It cites examples from the lives of the saints, including a story of one time when Fr. Arseny, in the Soviet prison camp, leaned on his fasting and prayer, and they made him strong (not just spiritually, but physically in this instance!).

This lesson makes it clear that we need to fast, not just because it is good for us, but because it is a necessary part of our spiritual life.

 

Here are a few quotes from the lesson:

***

“We love God and pray to Him with all that we are, and that includes our strength, our muscles, our bones, and every cell in our bodies. We can use our bodies to help our heart and our mind and our soul to pray, to be with God and to know Him better.” (p. 99, “The Good Samaritan: a Children’s Catechism” by Fr. Michael Shanbour)

***

“Fasting is forgetting about our hunger for food so that we can be hungry for God. If we fast properly, it helps us to focus our mind and soul and heart on the Lord. When we fast, we empty our stomachs in order to fill our souls and hearts more fully with prayer.” (p. 4, “The Good Samaritan: a Children’s Catechism” by Fr. Michael Shanbour)

***

“Saint John Chrysostom said that fasting is one wing and prayer is the other. Have you ever seen a bird fly with one wing? We need both wings if we are to fly spiritually toward God.” (p. 101, “The Good Samaritan: a Children’s Catechism” by Fr. Michael Shanbour)

***

Parents and older children will benefit from listening to this podcast about fasting from Fr. Thomas Hopko (of blessed memory). https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OgWh8C7ezNE

***

 

CHILDRENS CATECHISM - COVER, FRONT copy

 

Lesson 13: Almsgiving

The thirteenth lesson of “The Good Samaritan: a Children’s Catechism” picks up where the twelfth chapter left off: by reminding the reader that we need prayer and fasting, the two wings that help us fly to God. Then it goes on to state that we need more than those two things if we wish to fly to God. The third essential thing to help us grow toward God is almsgiving. Fr. Michael calls almsgiving the wind that will lift our prayer and fasting “wings” to God.

The lesson goes on to talk about how God gives us alms: He gives us love, rain, food, clothing, cheer… He knows what we need, and He gives that to us. The lesson explains that “alms” means mercy. It goes on to explain what mercy is and how important it is for us to give mercy, because of how merciful God is to us.

The lesson takes a look at how we should show mercy, or give alms: not loudly to get attention, but secretly. It cites St. Nicholas’ example, and explains that God’s rewards last forever. The reader is encouraged to share alms with others out of love, seeing them as Christ Himself. (The lesson includes the story of St. Martin, who shared his cloak with a beggar, and that night he had a dream in which Christ was wearing that cloak!)

The lesson concludes with a reminder that faith, hope, and love are the greatest things. Prayer shows that we have faith. Fasting places our hope in God. And Almsgiving gives God’s love to others while also growing His love in our own heart. This is why prayer, fasting, and almsgiving are so necessary to our Christian life: they are ways that we show that we are living out “the greatest things”!

May God grow all of us closer to Himself as we live in this way.

 

Here are a few quotes from the lesson:

***

“Prayer and fasting are like two wings. But almsgiving is the “wind” that lifts our wings upward to God.” (p. 105, “The Good Samaritan: a Children’s Catechism” by Fr. Michael Shanbour)

***

“The Lord is telling us to do good so that God will notice, not other people. Because then God will reward us. If we do it so that others will think we are good or special, we may become prideful and there is no heavenly reward in that.” (p. 106, “The Good Samaritan: a Children’s Catechism” by Fr. Michael Shanbour)

***

“People with little, tiny hearts have a really hard time loving and showing mercy. But God wants our hearts to be really big. Is your heart big? Can it get bigger? Are you giving alms so that you will have rewards in heaven?” (p. 107, “The Good Samaritan: a Children’s Catechism” by Fr. Michael Shanbour)

***

Faith, hope and love are the three great virtues of the Christian life. Everything we have learned in our catechism is meant to lead us to these qualities and to this virtuous way of life, so that we may be united to our one God and Father, through His Son, our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, by the power and grace of the Holy Spirit—the Holy Trinity, one in essence and undivided. Amen!” (p. 108, “The Good Samaritan: a Children’s Catechism” by Fr. Michael Shanbour)

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A Closer Look at “The Good Samaritan: a Children’s Catechism” by Fr. Michael Shanbour: Lessons 10 and 11

This is the sixth in a series of closer looks at Fr. Michael Shanbour’s book “The Good Samaritan: A Children’s Catechism” (available here: https://www.wenorthodox.com/product-page/the-good-samaritan-a-children-s-catechism). This beautifully illustrated hardcover book houses an Orthodox Christian catechism that is intended to be read with children. Find our overview of the book here: https://orthodoxchristianparenting.wordpress.com/2019/12/11/gleanings-from-a-book-the-good-samaritan-a-childrens-catechism-by-the-very-reverend-fr-michael-shanbour/. In each post of this series, we will focus on two chapters (called “lessons”) in the book. We will begin with a synopsis of each lesson followed by a handful of quotes found within its pages. We may also occasionally include a few related links offering additional background or information to the parents. It is our hope that these posts will be a useful resource for parents who are sharing the book with their children, as families learn together about the Orthodox Christian Faith.

 

Lesson 10: Repentance and Confession

The tenth lesson of “The Good Samaritan: a Children’s Catechism” by Fr. Michael Shanbour takes a close look at repentance and the sacrament of Confession. It begins by reminding us that baptism bestows the Light of Christ on us, but we need to keep the faith in order to grow that Light in our hearts. It talks briefly about what we can do to grow that Light: prayer, fasting, love, kindness, Communion, etc., are all ways that we can grow the fire of Christ that has been lit in our souls.

The lesson continues by taking a look at what happens when we sin: the fire in our souls begins to reduce. It compares sinning to shooting an arrow in the wrong direction instead of aiming at the target. The lesson goes on to teach its readers that repentance restores us when we sin.

The lesson talks about the parable of the Prodigal Son, comparing us to him, and reminding us that God is that loving Father, and that the Church is our home. Repentance, or the Sacrament of Confession, is how we come back to the Father and tell Him how sorry we are for what we’ve done. The lesson also returns to the medical reference that is a theme in the book, this time showing how confession is like coming to the doctor to show our illness (sin) and thus allow Jesus to begin to heal us.

The lesson finishes with encouragement to repent daily, and not to despair. Christ, our Doctor, wants to heal us. Confession is one way that we work together with Him, cooperating toward our own healing.

Here are a few quotes from the lesson:

***

“The newly baptized person is just a little baby Othodox Christian (even if they are eighty years old!). We have to grow and become stronger in our faith, just like a baby has to grow and learn to walk and talk… The Bible tells us after we’re baptized, after we receive the light, we need to continue to ‘walk in the light’ (1 Jn. 1:7). And if we do, the light of Christ in us grows and burns brighter and brighter.” (p. 82, “The Good Samaritan: a Children’s Catechism” by Fr. Michael Shanbour)

***

“What do we do when we’re playing and we fall down? Do we just stay there? No! We get back up, right? That’s what we need to do when we sin, too. And what do we call getting back up after we sin? It’s called repentance.” (p. 86, “The Good Samaritan: a Children’s Catechism” by Fr. Michael Shanbour)

***

“When we were baptized we received our white baptismal robe. The robe meant that our soul had been washed clean. When we sin we get our baptismal robe dingy and dirty. But a heartfelt confession makes it white and bright again.  Also, when we sin we hurt our soul, and we need medicine to be healed. We come to Confession to show Jesus our sin. And Jesus, our Physician, our loving Doctor, heals us.” (p. 87, “The Good Samaritan: a Children’s Catechism” by Fr. Michael Shanbour)

***

In this 15-minute video, Fr. Ted talks more about Confession. Older children and adults will benefit from hearing his talk. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QdfPrbjo2oc&feature=youtu.be

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Lesson 11: Prayer

 

The eleventh lesson of the book begins with a look at why we sin and need repentance in the first place: we forget God. When Adam and Eve walked in the garden with God, they could easily pray always: they didn’t forget God – no! They were right there, walking with Him! But after they chose to sin, they couldn’t feel His love as they once had, and love for Him began to be replaced with putting their attention and love on other things.

The lesson goes on to remind its readers that prayer is not just words: it’s a state of being with God. It tells a story from St. Herman of Alaska, when he wished aloud that he would love God with all of his heart, never forgetting Him and always being so happy to have moments with Him. He was expressing his longing to experience prayer as it was meant to be experienced.

The lesson goes on to discuss how to learn true prayer. First, we listen to the prayers of the Church. We pray as Christ taught us to pray. The lesson talks about other ways that we’ve been given words to pray: through the Bible, the Liturgy, and the Saints. Even the angels have taught us to pray! (The lesson tells the story of how we learned the Trisagion Hymn when a boy learned it from the angels.) The lesson finishes by encouraging us to pray regularly, and to pray the “Jesus Prayer.”

All of these prayers help us to reach our goal, which is to always be with God.

Here are a few quotes from the lesson:

***

“Now, do you have a best friend, or at least a very good friend? Do you love being with them? Do you think about them when you’re not with them? …This is how we ought to be with God; like best friends. Do you forget your best friend? No! And we should try not to forget God either. Do you know what it is called when we remember God? It is called prayer. Prayer is when our hearts are joined together with God.” (p. 91, “The Good Samaritan: a Children’s Catechism” by Fr. Michael Shanbour)

***

“How we pray to God, how we address Him, the words we use, are important. Our words have to be holy and humble and true. What if you said to your best friend: …‘You have three noses!’? It might be funny at first, but after a while it would make your friend feel like you don’t really know them or appreciate them for who they are. Our words to God should be truthful.” (p. 94, “The Good Samaritan: a Children’s Catechism” by Fr. Michael Shanbour)

***

“Saying the Jesus Prayer is like walking through a field in the same place every day. What happens if you walk over weeds and brush over and over? You clear a path, a road, right? If we use the Jesus Prayer a lot, we make a path in our heart that keeps us always with God.” (p. 96, “The Good Samaritan: a Children’s Catechism” by Fr. Michael Shanbour)

***

Listen to (or read the transcript of) Mother Magdalena (of Holy Transfiguration Monastery)’s talk about how prayer helps us to make Christ the center of our life here: https://www.ancientfaith.com/specials/st._ignatius_womens_retreat/prayer_as_a_means_to_make_christ_the_center_of_our_life_at_all_times

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A Closer Look at “The Good Samaritan: a Children’s Catechism” by Fr. Michael Shanbour: Lessons 8 and 9

This is the fifth in a series of closer looks at Fr. Michael Shanbour’s book “The Good Samaritan: A Children’s Catechism” (available here: https://www.wenorthodox.com/product-page/the-good-samaritan-a-children-s-catechism). This beautifully illustrated hardcover book houses an Orthodox Christian catechism that is intended to be read with children. Find our overview of the book here: https://orthodoxchristianparenting.wordpress.com/2019/12/11/gleanings-from-a-book-the-good-samaritan-a-childrens-catechism-by-the-very-reverend-fr-michael-shanbour/. In each post of this series, we will focus on two chapters (called “lessons”) in the book. We will begin with a synopsis of each lesson followed by a handful of quotes found within its pages. We may also occasionally include a few related links offering additional background or information to the parents. It is our hope that these posts will be a useful resource for parents who are sharing the book with their children, as families learn together about the Orthodox Christian Faith.

Lesson 8: “The Medicine of Immortality”

The eighth lesson of “The Good Samaritan: a Children’s Catechism” is called “The Medicine of Immortality”. It takes a closer look at Holy Communion, beginning by helping the reader to think through why it is that we call this sacrament “communion” in the first place. That is, because it joins us together in a common union. Communion joins us together as one with each other and with God.

The lesson goes on to explain how St. Ignatius of Antioch called Holy Communion “the Medicine of Immortality” because it unites us to Christ and allows us to live forever with God. The book takes a look at the institution of Holy Communion: when Our Lord served His disciples just before His death. We call this the “Mystical Supper” because of the Mystery of how Christ revealed Himself to them (and now, reveals Himself to us) through eating and drinking.

The lesson tells how in the Liturgy, we experience the Mystical Supper, Christ’s death, and His resurrection. It reminds us of Christ’s words “Unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in you” (Jn. 6:53). It compares someone giving a healthy kidney or donating their blood to help sick people with Christ offering us His Perfect Blood to heal our sick souls.

In order to be ready to receive that healing “transfusion”, though, we must prepare our hearts. The lesson reminds us to constantly prepare our hearts for Communion by the way that we live, including being kind, fasting, praying, and participating in the services at Church. When we prepare our hearts, they are ready for the healing that Holy Communion offers.

The lesson finishes by talking about gifts: we bring gifts (bread and wine to represent the good things in life, and to represent our own selves) to God. He transforms these gifts into His own Self: His flesh and His blood, Holy Communion. It is the greatest gift of all, and the very best medicine for us.

Here are a few quotes from the lesson:

***

“When we receive Holy Communion together from the one loaf of bread and from the one chalice, we become one: one family, one community, one communion, one Church. We even become one with the perfect Community, the Holy Trinity—the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit!” (p. 65, “The Good Samaritan: a Children’s Catechism” by Fr. Michael Shanbour)

***

“Have you heard about the notion of time-travel? …The Divine Liturgy is a kind of spiritual time travel. God does not live within time and His kingdom is beyond time… So, whenever we celebrate the Divine Liturgy we return spiritually to be with Christ at the Mystical Supper, at the Cross and at the Resurrection.” (p. 67, “The Good Samaritan: a Children’s Catechism” by Fr. Michael Shanbour)

***

“We also refer to the Divine Liturgy and Holy Communion as ‘The Eucharist.’ Do you know what this word means? Eucharist means gratitude or thankfulness, so every Divine Liturgy is a ‘Thanksgiving,’ a giving thanks to God for our lives and for all His gifts.” (p. 68, “The Good Samaritan: a Children’s Catechism” by Fr. Michael Shanbour)

***

Parents and older children may enhance their learning about Holy Communion and its gifts to us by reading this article: https://www.goarch.org/-/holy-communion-the-gift-of-eternal-life

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Lesson 9: “Holy Baptism”

The ninth lesson of “The Good Samaritan: A Children’s Catechism” helps its readers learn more about the sacrament of Holy Baptism. Just like we have to be born before we can eat anything, we must be born into God’s Kingdom through baptism before we can receive the healing gift of Holy Communion. Only when we are joined to the Church, Jesus’ Body, through Holy Baptism can we commune.

Fr. Michael uses the object lesson of walking around in a dark room and not knowing where the light switch is, to help his readers better understand their soul before being illumined by Baptism. Without turning on the light, we may get used to the darkness and maybe even forget what light is like, but with the light it is so very much easier to see where we should go and what we should do. Fr. Michael encourages his readers to pray for those who do not have the light of the Church and Holy Baptism.

The lesson goes on to take the reader, step by step, through the baptismal process, carefully explaining each part of the service and its importance. From “telling the devil to ‘get out of town!’” to the prayers preparing both the individual and the water to the anointing to the actual baptism to the new white robe and chrismation, all the way to the first taste of Holy Communion, each step is gently explained in this lesson. It is a thorough and child-friendly introduction to the sacrament of Holy Baptism.

Here are a few quotes from the lesson:

***

“And how are we born in the Church? What is the Mystery that makes us into a new person, as if we are born again? (Here’s a hint: When it happens, you should probably hold your breath. Another hint: We begin our new life with a splash!) Did you get it? Yes, it is the Sacrament of Holy Baptism!” (p. 73, “The Good Samaritan: a Children’s Catechism” by Fr. Michael Shanbour)

***

“The Saints teach us that when we are baptized in the Church we are illumined or enlightened. Do you know what that means? It means we are lit up; the light goes on inside us, because Jesus the True Light has come into us.” (p. 74, “The Good Samaritan: a Children’s Catechism” by Fr. Michael Shanbour)

***

“Now that they have been born into life with God in the Church, the priest leads them, with the Gospel Book in his hands, in a little walk or ‘dance;’ a dance of joy around the baptismal font. This shows that their lives will be led by Christ and revolve around the life of Jesus and His Church.” (p. 79, “The Good Samaritan: a Children’s Catechism” by Fr. Michael Shanbour)

***

In episode #71 of “Be the Bee”, host Steve helps older children and parents think about what it means to become an Orthodox Christian through constantly making the choice to follow Christ. He suggests that we are not just Orthodox through Baptism and Holy Communion (although both are certainly integral to our Christian Faith!), but that we also need to make daily choices to continue to follow Christ. Watch the episode here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EysL5aldWhg

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A Closer Look at “The Good Samaritan: a Children’s Catechism” by Fr. Michael Shanbour: Lessons 6 and 7

This is the fourth in a series of closer looks at Fr. Michael Shanbour’s book “The Good Samaritan: A Children’s Catechism” (available here: https://www.wenorthodox.com/product-page/the-good-samaritan-a-children-s-catechism). This beautifully illustrated hardcover book houses an Orthodox Christian catechism that is intended to be read with children. Find our overview of the book here: https://orthodoxchristianparenting.wordpress.com/2019/12/11/gleanings-from-a-book-the-good-samaritan-a-childrens-catechism-by-the-very-reverend-fr-michael-shanbour/. In each post of this series, we will focus on two chapters (called “lessons”) in the book. We will begin with a synopsis of each lesson followed by a handful of quotes found within its pages. We may also occasionally include a few related links offering additional background or information to the parents. It is our hope that these posts will be a useful resource for parents who are sharing the book with their children, as families learn together about the Orthodox Christian Faith.

 

Lesson 6: Holy Tradition

 

The sixth lesson in “The Good Samaritan: a Children’s Catechism” reminds its readers that God wants to embrace us with His love through Christ, who is our Healer. Our priest works as Christ’s “mouth” and “hands”. He helps to give us the “medicine” of God’s divine grace.

Fr. Michael compares God’s grace to a river, which runs through the Church in the form of Holy Tradition. The saints have lived holy lives in this Tradition, and passed it down to all of us. They have shown us through their lives what it looks like to live in the flow of God’s grace.

He also compares the Tradition of the Church to a few other things. For example, a treasure map. Just as a treasure map helps us find treasure, the Tradition of the Church helps us to become holy, to be closer to God, the greatest treasure that exists! Holy Tradition is also like the instructions for a Christmas gift: it helps us to know how to put the pieces of our life together in the proper way.

Five smaller “streams” feed into the “River” of Tradition. This lesson takes a quick look at them as well. They include the Divine Liturgy and the Sacraments of the Church; the Scriptures; the Seven Ecumenical Councils; the Lives of the Saints (and what they wrote); and the physical aspects of the Church (Holy Icons, the Church building itself, Church music). All of these things work together to flow the grace of God into our lives, just as many small rivers flow together into one.

Here are a few quotes from the lesson:

***

“…what is this medicine that God offers to heal us and lead us back to Himself? What is it called? It is called His divine grace. Grace is God’s own life. We also call it His power, His energies, and His love for us.” (p. 46, “The Good Samaritan: a Children’s Catechism” by Fr. Michael Shanbour)

***

“Holy Tradition is not just a set of ideas that really smart people made up one day, or even over many centuries. It is the way of living that brings the healing grace of God into our souls.” (p. 47, “The Good Samaritan: a Children’s Catechism” by Fr. Michael Shanbour)

***

“Holy Tradition is like the instructions for your Christmas present. Our Church Tradition provides us with instructions on how to live as a Christian and how the Church should function, so that we know God’s truth and grace is flowing into us.” (p. 50, “The Good Samaritan: a Children’s Catechism” by Fr. Michael Shanbour)

***

“What will you do with the Holy Tradition of the Church? Live it! Love it! And Lend it! Pass it down to others! When we do this, we become part of the River of Grace of Holy Tradition: when we practice it, protect it, and pass it down.” (p. 52, “The Good Samaritan: a Children’s Catechism” by Fr. Michael Shanbour)

***

CHILDRENS CATECHISM - COVER, FRONT copy

 

Lesson 7: The Priesthood

 

The seventh lesson of “The Good Samaritan: a Children’s Catechism” begins by reminding the reader of the River of Grace (Holy Tradition) that flows through the Church to the entire world. Certain men have been given a special responsibility to protect the River of Grace: these men are our priests.

In his typical child-friendly writing style, Fr. Michael reminds us that there are things we should not do when we go swimming, because they’re dangerous. To help protect us and keep us safe, there are lifeguards. In a similar way, in the Church, our bishops are like lifeguards. They help to preserve the Faith of the apostles. They appoint priests to be other lifeguards, since the bishops can’t be everywhere at once.

The priesthood is a gift of grace given to men who have been called by God to do this work. Jesus is our High Priest, and He gives the gift of the Priesthood to the bishops and priests of the Church. These men are not perfect, and they can’t become priests by their own power. Christ lets them borrow His perfect Priesthood, and gives them His power to do the work that they must do. This happens through the sacrament of Ordination.

Because of the gift that God gives to us by giving us priests, we can be baptized. We can be chrismated. We can receive Holy Communion. There are so many things that Christ does through our priest that lead us to God. This is why we pray for our priest and treat him with love and respect.

The lesson closes with a brief look at each of the ranks of ordination. It describes the work of the bishop, priests/presbyters, and deacons. The reader is reminded that the River of Grace flows through all of these men. It is through the work of their hands that Christ grows His Church.

 

Here are a few quotes from the lesson:

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“God has given to the Church special protectors to guard the River of Grace and keep it from being polluted. They guard the holy teachings of the Church. They also guard the holy things of the Church. Do you know who these guards are? …the bishops and priests of the Church!” (p. 55, “The Good Samaritan: a Children’s Catechism” by Fr. Michael Shanbour)

***

“Do you remember in the Divine Liturgy—the priest calls down the Holy Spirit on the bread and the wine, and they become something much more than bread, and wine?… something similar happens to make a man a priest. The church calls the Holy Spirit down to make a man something more than he was before. The Holy Spirit makes a change in him, and God’s grace makes him a priest, an icon of Christ, the High Priest.” (p. 57, “The Good Samaritan: a Children’s Catechism” by Fr. Michael Shanbour)

***

“…because the priest reflects Christ and His Priesthood—we should treat him with great love and respect, even though he is a human being and a sinner. Since he is an icon of Christ, we receive a blessing and kiss his hand when we see him. Because he brings God’s grace to us, we honor him, we pray for him and are thankful for him. We do this because of Christ, who is with the priest in a special way since the time of his ordination. When we respect the priest, we show respect for Christ, for  His Holy Church, and for the Holy Spirit who ordained him.” (pp. 58-59, “The Good Samaritan: a Children’s Catechism” by Fr. Michael Shanbour)

***

“Through the bishop, priests and deacons, the River of Grace flows abundantly to all those in the Church, bringing refreshment to the hearts of Christians.” (p. 60, “The Good Samaritan: a Children’s Catechism” by Fr. Michael Shanbour)

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Cross String Art Craft

Here’s a craft suggestion that may be helpful as we prepare to celebrate Holy Week at home as a family:

Cross String Art Craft

Materials: scrap of wood at least 3.25”x 5”; sandpaper; copy of cross template; 12 half inch finishing nails; hammer; paint/brush (optional); embroidery floss; scissors

Directions:
1. Sand any rough edges of the wood until smooth. Brush away the dust.
2. (Optional) If desired, paint wood and allow it to dry. Sand edges to “antique” the painted wood, if desired.
3. Partially nail each of the nails into the wood, in this pattern (adjusting as needed to fit the size of the wood). Leave as much of each nail exposed as possible, hammering it into the wood just enough to adequately hold it firmly in place. (Note: scale the pattern according to the desired size of your finished piece. Additional nails may be needed for larger-sized crosses.)

4. Select a color of embroidery floss. Tie its end to one of the nails, trimming the excess on the short side of the knot.
5. Wrap the long end of the floss around one nail at a time, working your way around the shape of the cross. Two or more times around the outside edge is recommended for maximum visibility.
6. To fill the cross shape, wrap floss around a nail, then cross it (inside the cross shape) to another nail and wrap again. Continue until the inside of the cross is decorated. (Note: play with different designs and crossover patterns to achieve the look you prefer. Many different looks can be created with this template.)
7. (Optional) At any time, tie off one color (around a nail, as when beginning) and begin with another, continuing until you are pleased with the results.

Note: If working with children on this project, decide in advance how much of it you wish them to complete on their own, and prepare accordingly. Some children can handle the nailing; others cannot. Extra adult assistance may also be necessary for the floss-wrapping process; especially for the tying-off of each floss. 

A Closer Look at “The Good Samaritan: a Children’s Catechism” by Fr. Michael Shanbour: Lessons 4 and 5

This is the third in a series of closer looks at Fr. Michael Shanbour’s book “The Good Samaritan: A Children’s Catechism” (available here: https://www.wenorthodox.com/product-page/the-good-samaritan-a-children-s-catechism). This beautifully illustrated hardcover book houses an Orthodox Christian catechism that is intended to be read with children. Find our overview of the book here: https://orthodoxchristianparenting.wordpress.com/2019/12/11/gleanings-from-a-book-the-good-samaritan-a-childrens-catechism-by-the-very-reverend-fr-michael-shanbour/. In each post of this series, we will focus on two chapters (called “lessons”) in the book. We will begin with a synopsis of each lesson followed by a handful of quotes found within its pages. We may also occasionally include a few related links offering additional background or information to the parents. It is our hope that these posts will be a useful resource for parents who are sharing the book with their children, as families learn together about the Orthodox Christian Faith.

 

Lesson 4: Jesus Christ

The fourth lesson of “The Good Samaritan: a Children’s Catechism” begins by reminding the reader that sin has made us spiritually sick, and we are not able to turn back toward God on our own power. We need a strong medicine that can heal us. It goes on to talk about how Jesus, the Good Samaritan became the medicine that we need.

In this lesson, Fr. Michael incorporates objects like an inside-out t-shirt and a sponge with water to help the visual and tactile learners better understand what Christ did in taking on our inside-out humanity and absorbing our sins to remove them and turn our humanity aright once more. The lesson talks about all of the things that Jesus set aright. He healed our broken/sick humanity; He broke the power of death over us; and He also raised us to a new, resurrected life.

The new, resurrected body He had was like Adam and Eve’s had been before they sinned. And He did not leave that body on earth, but took it to heaven with Him! Then He sent us the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, to help us to receive God’s life and light. Christ is the most powerful Medicine for all of us!

 

Here are a few quotes from the lesson:

***

“We needed medicine, not just for our bodies, but for our souls. We needed the light to be brought back to our spiritual eyes… Like the man in the Parable of the Good Samaritan, we needed someone to have compassion on us, to stop as we lay on the road wounded and half-dead and bring us back to life.” (p. 34, “The Good Samaritan: a Children’s Catechism” by Fr. Michael Shanbour)

***

“Jesus made our human nature alive again by joining it to God’s nature, taking all the sickness out. He re-made us by putting on what we’re made of. And now each of us can be re-made by putting Him on. That’s what happens when we are baptized. We put on Jesus Christ and his clean and healthy humanity. ‘As many as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ.’” (p. 36, “The Good Samaritan: a Children’s Catechism” by Fr. Michael Shanbour)

***

“Jesus has become our Medicine. He remade us by becoming Man, He destroyed the power of sin and death through the cross, and He rose from the dead to take away our sickness and fill us with His life!” (p. 38, “The Good Samaritan: a Children’s Catechism” by Fr. Michael Shanbour)

***

CHILDRENS CATECHISM - COVER, FRONT copy

Lesson 5: The Church

 

The fifth lesson of “The Good Samaritan: A Children’s Catechism” begins with a concise review, to remind the reader of what has been discussed thus far in the book. The bulk of the lesson focuses on “Finding the Medicine”, beginning by making a life connection. The lesson invites its readers to remember a time when they were sick and/or injured, and what happened: likely they were taken to a clinic or hospital, which provided them with the needed treatment and/or medicine.

The lesson reminds the reader that the Church is our spiritual hospital. Christ is the Great Physician, and in the Church we find the medicine that our souls need. Our priest(s) are like “spiritual medicine practitioners”. They receive their orders from Christ and then apply the “medicines” that we need to be spiritually healed.

The medicine that the Church offers is God’s life, the Holy Spirit, which is offered to us through the Church. We in the Church call this “God’s grace”. The lesson goes on to cite two examples from the Scriptures of God’s grace pouring into someone and healing them. Then it establishes once more that God’s grace is poured out through the Church, Christ’s Body, for the healing of our souls and bodies.

 

Here are a few quotes from the lesson:

***

“Then Christ Jesus rose from the dead, ‘trampling down death by death.’ He swallowed up Death with Life! (1 Cor. 15:54) He beat the devil at his own game! God planned a surprise attack. The devil thought he had a mere man, but instead he found himself face to face with God!” (p. 40, “The Good Samaritan: a Children’s Catechism” by Fr. Michael Shanbour)

***

“So where do we get the spiritual medicine that the Lord Jesus has for us by His becoming Man, dying, and rising again? It is similar to the doctor and the hospital. Jesus is the Doctor, the Great Physician, and the Church is the Hospital. It is in the Church that we find the medicines for our soul. The medicine is from Christ, who is the Head, but we find it in the Church, His Body.” (pp. 41-42, “The Good Samaritan: a Children’s Catechism” by Fr. Michael Shanbour)

***

“But how is it that God’s grace is in the Church? Because Jesus is joined to His Church as a head is joined to a body… Does your head go anywhere without your body? I hope not! …Your head is attached to your body. It is one with your body. The same is true with Christ’s body. Christ and the Church are one.” (pp. 43-44, “The Good Samaritan: a Children’s Catechism” by Fr. Michael Shanbour)

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