Category Archives: Books

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:

***

“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)

***

 

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)

***

 

A Handful of New Resources

We have recently come across a handful of new resources that can help Orthodox parents and educators as they instruct the children in their lives. We thank the authors for sharing electronic copies of these resources with us. We are sharing the resources with you in the order in which they came to our attention. We hope that you find them helpful as you instruct our young brothers and sisters in the Faith.

 

Philo and the SuperHolies VBS

https://www.mireillemishriky.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/02/Philo-Commercial.mp4?_=1  

Fans of Mireille Mishriky’s “Philo” books will be delighted to know that she has collaborated with Shereen Marcus (of Bridges to Orthodoxy) and they have created a SuperHolies-themed Vacation Church School program. This five-day program provides its purchasers with videos, crafts and activities, lesson plans including Bible stories, saint stories, and memory verses, and even “parent recap cards” that can further the children’s learning as parents ask additional questions about each day’s experience.

Each VCS session focuses one one or two SuperHolies each day. (If you are not familiar with them, the “SuperHolies” are the fruits of the Spirit). The session begins with a video featuring Philo and his “Super Challenge” of the day. The children are invited to help Philo to use a Fruit (or two) of the Spirit to help him overcome his challenge, and that Fruit, that SuperHoly, is the focus for the entire day’s session. Every session also contains a saint’s story and a passage or story from the Scriptures.

The program is designed to include two small group sessions for the children. In one, they’ll learn about an Orthodox saint who is struggling with a challenge similar to Philo’s. In the other, they’ll focus on a passage from the Scriptures that is also related to that struggle. There are planned activities, discussion suggestions, and even crafts that will support this learning. The goal of the day is to help Philo figure out what to do about his Super Challenge.

The program includes suggestions for each day’s opening and closing large group sessions (including the video of Philo’s Super Challenge of the day); two small group session lesson plans for K-1st, 2nd-3rd, and 4th-5th for each day; extra ideas (including game suggestions, songs, and videos) and the printable Parent Recap card for each of the 5 days.

Find more information here: https://bridgestoorthodoxy.com/collections/pathways

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Divine Liturgy Guide

Gina Govender has developed a Divine Liturgy book that can help children to follow along with key portions of the Liturgy. “The Divine Liturgy: A Guide for Orthodox Children” was illustrated by Althea Botha, and has been endorsed by Archbishop Damaskinos of Johannesburg and Pretoria.

The intent of this book is to provide children with instructions so that they can easily follow along in the Divine Liturgy. At the beginning of the book, a section called “The Meaning of the Divine Liturgy”, talks children through the liturgy and encourages them to look for ways that each part of the liturgy points to the life of Christ. The pages that follow walk the children through the liturgy by including actual portions of the liturgical text illustrated by a colorful watercolor-and-ink picture. These portions of the liturgy are shared in the book: Commencement, Prayers for Peace, the Little Entrance, the Readings, the Great Entrance, Spiritual Prayers, the Creed, the Mystical Supper, the Invocation & Sanctification, Supplication, the Lord’s Prayer, Holy Communion, Prayer of Thanksgiving, and the Dismissal.

The acknowledgements page of the book encourages parents of the readers to bring their children to church, even if they are wiggly and noisy. After all, “The presence of children is a gift to the Church and a reminder that our community is growing. As Christ said, ‘Let the children come to me.’” This book can help to welcome the children and involve them in the liturgy.

Inquire about purchasing the book here: https://www.facebook.com/pg/SAHETI-Pre-Primary-and-Playschool-PTA-154113824686210/shop/ (Notes: the price noted is listed in South African Rands, and at the time of this post, equals slightly less than $15, not including shipping/handling. The book is a fundraiser for upgrades at a Hellenic playschool/pre-primary school in Senderwood, South Africa.)

***

Super Secret TreeHouse Bible Club and the Prophet Micaiah

Author Mireille Mishriky has introduced a brand new series of children’s picture books! “The Super-Secret TreeHouse Bible Club” will take children on an adventure with a group of children who are struggling with the virtues. Along the way, the children in the Super-Secret TreeHouse Bible Club will get to know some of the lesser-known saints from the Bible. The first book, “The Super-Secret TreeHouse Bible Club and the Prophet Micaiah” walks alongside Marina, Theodore, and Marcorios as they learn why it takes courage to be honest, and how God blesses people who tell the truth.

Marina isn’t sure what to do because her friend encouraged her to lie, or she would no longer be her friend. Theo doesn’t know how to LIVE the Bible, as their priest said in his homily. Marco also doesn’t know how they can possibly “…not merely listen to the Word and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says”, but he suggests that they begin by praying. And so, they do.

A bird appears as they pray, and it helps them find a story in the scriptures about the prophet Michaiah, who told the truth when hundreds of others were lying. It landed him in jail. But in the end, he was right, and if the kings had listened to him and obeyed his words instead of the ones they wanted to hear, they would have been spared much heartache. Marina makes a secret wish, and the bird helps it to come true: the children get to meet the prophet Michaiah, who appears in their treehouse, and they ask him a few questions.

His wisdom helps Marina know what to do, and the book ends on a positive note as Marina and her friend Sarah come clean on what happened.

This book is available as an ebook, and you will find it here: https://www.amazon.com/Super-Secret-Treehouse-Prophet-Micaiah-ebook/dp/B085TBL5XH/

 

A Closer Look at “The Good Samaritan: a Children’s Catechism” by Fr. Michael Shanbour: Introduction and Lesson 1

This is the first 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.

 

Introduction: the Good Samaritan

 

The very first chapter (after the author’s preface) unpacks for its readers the parable of the Good Samaritan. It opens our eyes to see that the whole purpose of the Church is to help us heal from our sins. The lesson recounts the Good Samaritan’s story in its entirety. Then, piece by piece, it unlocks each significant detail of the parable, showing how that part of the story relates to humankind throughout history, as well as to our own life. These elements help the reader to understand how St. John Chrysostom and other saints have interpreted this parable.

The parable of the Good Samaritan is foundational to the rest of the book. Each of the 13 lessons that follows comes out of that introduction. Each pushes the reader to better understand a particular aspect of the Faith. Throughout the book, the reader will find opportunity to take frequent looks back to the parable of the Good Samaritan and see how that lesson’s theme is reflected in this helpful story.

Here are a few quotes from the introduction to the book:

***

2. The man travels down from Jerusalem to Jericho.

Do you know what it’s like to go from Jerusalem to Jericho? You have to go down, down, down. It’s like a long hike from a high hill to a low valley. So, Jesus is telling us that Adam went from a high place to a much lower place. What is the Lord trying to say to us? He is telling us that Adam sinned.” (p. 4, “The Good Samaritan: a Children’s Catechism” by Fr. Michael Shanbour)

***

4. The man was left half-dead.

Now the story shows us what sin does to us. Sin makes us sick. It hurts us. It brings darkness and spiritual death into our minds and hearts. God created us to be like Him and to have life, to be well. Sin distances us from God and makes us sick or unhealthy…” (p. 5, “The Good Samaritan: a Children’s Catechism” by Fr. Michael Shanbour)

***

8. The Samaritan puts the man on his donkey and takes him to the Inn.

The Inn was like a hospital. People went there to find rest, to be cured of their sickness and to be well again. What does the Inn represent in the story? The inn is the Church! The Church is the hospital for sinners—you and me.” (p. 7, “The Good Samaritan: a Children’s Catechism” by Fr. Michael Shanbour)

***

Parents and older children will benefit from reading more about the Good Samaritan and how this parable relates to the Church and our own life, in this article: http://saintandrewgoc.org/home/2016/1/13/on-healing
***

CHILDRENS CATECHISM - COVER, FRONT copy

 

 

Lesson 1: Paradise

 

The first lesson of the book takes a close look at the beginning of the world, as God created it. He created the whole world and its creatures. Then he created humankind and put them in a special place, a joy-filled place, the beautiful garden of Paradise, called “Eden.”

The lesson describes paradise, citing many church fathers’ descriptions. Fr. Michael adds child-friendly insights along the way. For example, as he describes the grass in Paradise, he suggests, “Perhaps Adam could take a nap by rolling up the grass like it was a soft mattress or blanket.” Throughout the lesson, the descriptions are colorful and easy for children to understand.

The lesson tells how Adam and Eve lived with God so closely. But, even though they lived a life that was so close to Him, they still had a lot to learn so that they could grow to be even closer to God. It exerts that the level of spiritual growth in the context of Paradise is what God intended for humankind: that we would be able to care for His world and grow closer and closer to Him.

The lesson helps its readers to see that Paradise was like the Church. It was heaven on earth. God intended for the whole world to become that way. He wanted all of it to be a place where we could live in closeness to Him.

But He also gave humans the ability to make choices. He wants each of us to choose to love Him. He does not force us to love Him. Adam and Eve made a choice to turn away from Him. Sin is the choice that they made which turned them away from Him.

 

Here are a few quotes from the lesson:

***

“In the garden of Paradise, the air was completely pure and sweet, and breathing made one remember the Lord (kind of like Church incense does)! The weather was always beautiful. In paradise it was never too hot or too cold. There were no tornadoes or hurricanes or thunderstorms that could scare or hurt any living thing. So Adam and Eve did not need a house to live in, or even clothing to protect them from the elements.” (p. 12, “The Good Samaritan: a Children’s Catechism” by Fr. Michael Shanbour)

***

“Paradise was not just a place outside that Adam and Eve could see and touch; it was also how God lived in their hearts. Paradise was also inside Adam and Eve because God lived in them and spoke to their hearts… God gave them the Tree of Life. This Tree was like Holy Communion, and they could have eaten of it eventually if they had remained in Paradise.” (p. 13, “The Good Samaritan: a Children’s Catechism” by Fr. Michael Shanbour)

***

“Do you remember in the Divine Liturgy when the priest lifts up his hands and extends an invitation to us? ‘Let us lift up our hearts! Let us give thanks unto the Lord!’ This is an invitation to be like Adam and Eve in Paradise, to do what they failed to do. Do you know that in the Divine Liturgy we experience Paradise for a little while? Do you experience it? (Or do you just feel bored and tired?)” (p. 14, “The Good Samaritan: a Children’s Catechism” by Fr. Michael Shanbour)

***

Parents may find it helpful to hear this short homily on how Paradise can be re-opened to us: https://www.ancientfaith.com/podcasts/prayingintherain/paradise_is_open

***

Gleanings from a Book: “A Journal of Thanksgiving: Record Three Years of Gratitude in a Sentence a Day” Compiled by Nicole M. Roccas

For many of us, it is nearly the end of a dreary winter. Although spring is just around the corner, the wintry series of gloomy house-bound days may be tempting us to despair. And now Great Lent has arrived, bringing with it its own set of challenges and hard (but beautiful) work. This is the perfect time for Nicole Roccas’ journal to become available, for we need the grace and challenge that it offers.

In “A Journal of Thanksgiving”, Nicole has compiled and edited a variety of quotes about giving thanks to God in all things. Instead of simply collecting the quotes into a nice little book for her readers to read, ponder, and likely, forget them, Nicole has upped the ante. Each quote appears at the top of a page marked for a specific day of the year, and is followed by three sets of lined spaces, wherein the reader is invited to record a sentence or two of gratitude for something from their day. The intent is for the reader to daily record their gratitude in this journal over a period of three years, welcoming genuine thanksgiving into their life in the process.

In a brief letter at the beginning of the journal, Nicole sets the stage for the reasoning behind its creation. She reminds the reader that thanksgiving has always been at the heart of Orthodox Christian spirituality, so we should continually be working toward endlessly offering thanks to God.The quotes she has selected for the book encourage giving thanks in the good things and for the beauty around us, always recognizing God’s provision for our lives. They also challenge us to give thanks in the struggles, the hardships, the ugliness in which we find ourselves, all the while recognizing God’s omniscience and wisdom.

The book is set up to follow a calendar year, beginning with January 1st. However, Nicole encourages her readers to just begin immediately, when they receive the book, and continue on from there. If, on any given day, one cannot think of a single thing for which to be grateful, never fear: the book ends with 33 thanksgiving prompts that will help anyone who is struggling in ingratitude.

Readers of all ages who wish to grow in their spiritual life will challenge themselves to embrace life with genuine gratitude that pours forth to God, heedless of their circumstances and comfort level. This book is a small step in that direction. Giving thanks – even just for one thing each day – for three years will begin to grow gratitude in the reader/journal writer’s life, and they will grow closer to becoming the person that they were created to be: a grateful, humble servant of God.

The timing of this book’s release is impeccable. After all, what could be a better time to begin the discipline of growing gratitude in our hearts than during Great Lent? May we all grow more grateful, not just during the lenten season – or even “just” for the three years it will take us to work through this book – but for the rest of our lives.

Find the journal here: https://store.ancientfaith.com/a-journal-of-thanksgiving/

Readers who are journeying through the book are encouraged to share their journey on social media with the hashtag #ThanksWritingAFP

Here are a few of the quotes from the book, to help you begin to think about giving thanks to God:

***

“Just as athletes win crowns by their struggles in the arena, so are Christians brought to perfection by the trial of their temptations, if only we learn to accept what the Lord sends us with patience, with all thanksgiving. All things are ordained by the Lord’s love.” St. Basil the Great, Letter 101 (January 2, “A Journal of Thanksgiving: Record Three Years of Gratitude in a Sentence a Day” Compiled by Nicole M. Roccas)

***

“Nothing is holier than the tongue that in distress gives thanks to God; truly in no respect does it fall short of that of martyrs.” St. John Chrysostom, Homily 8 on Colossians (February 18, “A Journal of Thanksgiving: Record Three Years of Gratitude in a Sentence a Day” Compiled by Nicole M. Roccas)

***

“Life-giving and merciful Trinity, receive my thanksgiving for all Your goodness.” Akathist of Thanksgiving, Kontakion 13 (April 11, “A Journal of Thanksgiving: Record Three Years of Gratitude in a Sentence a Day” Compiled by Nicole M. Roccas)

***

“We shall give thanks to You, O God;

We shall give thanks, and call upon Your name.

I shall describe all Your wonders.” Ps. 74:2,3 (June 25, “A Journal of Thanksgiving: Record Three Years of Gratitude in a Sentence a Day” Compiled by Nicole M. Roccas)

***

“We give thanks unto You, O King invisible, who, by Your measureless power, made all things and, in the greatness of Your mercy, brought all things from nonexistence into being.” The Divine Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom (August 31, “A Journal of Thanksgiving: Record Three Years of Gratitude in a Sentence a Day” Compiled by Nicole M. Roccas)

***

“Let us increase our thanksgiving—not in words, nor in tongue, but in deeds and works, in mind and in heart. Let us give thanks unto Him with all our souls.” St. John Chrysostom, Homily 19 on Ephesians (October 1, “A Journal of Thanksgiving: Record Three Years of Gratitude in a Sentence a Day” Compiled by Nicole M. Roccas)

***

“Do you eat? Give thanks to God both before and afterwards. Do you sleep? Give thanks to God both before and afterwards. Do all in the Name of the Lord, and all shall be prospered to you.” St. John Chrysostom, Homily 9 on Colossians (December 16, “A Journal of Thanksgiving: Record Three Years of Gratitude in a Sentence a Day” Compiled by Nicole M. Roccas)

***

 

Gleanings from a Book: “A Child’s Guide to Prayer” by Ancient Faith Publishing Illustrated by Tara Pappas

Ancient Faith Publishing has released yet another helpful book in their “Child’s Guide” series*, titled “A Child’s Guide to Prayer”. The simple explanations and prayers in this book are enhanced by Tara Pappas’ beautiful illustrations, and both help the book live up to its name. It will, indeed, be an excellent prayer guide for its readers. And its child-friendly size makes this book easily managed by even the smallest of hands.

The “Child’s Guide to Prayer” is conveniently divided into color-coded sections, making it very easy to identify and locate the various types of prayers by simply looking at the colored bar on each page. Each section contains a few sentences of explanation, followed by several simple prayers. The book is carefully written, using words that children can both understand and pronounce. The book’s sections include: What is Prayer?, Morning Prayers, Evening Prayers, Words of Faith, Prayers During the Day, Prayers for Mealtimes, Prayers for Family and Friends, Prayers of the Saints, Prayers to the Saints, Psalms to Pray, Communion Prayers, Prayers Before and After Confession, and Ways to Pray. The book concludes with several lined pages where children may write their own prayers and/or list the names of family and friends that they are praying for and how/when God answered those prayers.

Scattered throughout the book are Tara Pappas’ delightfully colorful illustrations. Some  of the illustrations feature children, others feature animals, and a few even contain appropriately-placed icons. Every illustration relates to the prayers in the section where it is found. The illustrations offer images from nature (both realistic and imaginative), and they add a brightness to the book, as well as just a touch of whimsy. At the root of every illustration, there’s a sense of deep peace. These illustrations make the reader want to pray, to join in, in order to also be able to experience such peace.

Parents and teachers who desire to help the children in their care to grow closer to God will want to add “A Child’s Guide to Prayer” to their library. While this book could be shared, children will certainly feel more ownership (and more easily able to participate) in a group prayer time if they each have their own copy. The prayers, teachings, and sweet illustrations in this book will engage the reader and lead them into a peaceful place, the place of prayer.

The “Child’s Guide to Prayer” is available here https://store.ancientfaith.com/a-childs-guide-to-prayer/

 

*Also available in the “Child’s Guide” series from Ancient Faith Publishing is the “Child’s Guide to the Divine Liturgy” (available here: https://store.ancientfaith.com/a-childs-guide-to-the-divine-liturgy/) and the “Child’s Guide to Confession” (available here: https://store.ancientfaith.com/a-childs-guide-to-confession/; we wrote about it here: https://orthodoxchristianparenting.wordpress.com/2019/04/24/gleanings-from-a-book-a-childs-guide-to-confession-by-ancient-faith-publishing-illustrated-by-nicholas-malara/    https://orthodoxchurchschoolteachers.wordpress.com/2019/04/26/gleanings-from-a-book-a-childs-guide-to-confession-by-ancient-faith-publishing-illustrated-by-nicholas-malara/)

Here are several “gleanings” from the book. These are chiefly quotes from the notes and little teachings found amidst the prayers:

***

“What is prayer? Is it just closing our eyes and saying words out loud in church, or bowing our heads and crossing ourselves before we eat? Prayer is talking to God and listening while God talks to us… We pray because we want to be with God and know Him better. We pray because He loves us more than we can imagine and we want to love Him back.” (p. 9,  “A Child’s Guide to Prayer” by Ancient Faith Publishing Illustrated by Tara Pappas)

***

“Saying a few prayers from your whole heart is better than saying a bunch of prayers just from your lips.” (p. 13,  “A Child’s Guide to Prayer” by Ancient Faith Publishing Illustrated by Tara Pappas)

***

“Remember, God wants to be in conversation with you. You are special to Him. Asking for His help, even in the small things, will help your relationship with Him to grow. Don’t forget to make the sign of the cross, which is a way of praying with your body!” (p. 35,  “A Child’s Guide to Prayer” by Ancient Faith Publishing Illustrated by Tara Pappas)

***

“God gives us friends and family so that we aren’t alone but live in communion together. Pray for those who are in your life, both during good times and when times get tough.” (p. 51,  “A Child’s Guide to Prayer” by Ancient Faith Publishing Illustrated by Tara Pappas)

***

“The saints in heaven are sitting near Christ, and they can join us in praying. Many people have received healing and had their prayers answered by asking a saint to pray for them.” (p. 75,  “A Child’s Guide to Prayer” by Ancient Faith Publishing Illustrated by Tara Pappas)

***

“Psalms are songs written to praise God. For thousands of years people have been praying the psalms to help them thank God, worship Him, know Him better, and ask for His help. Here are a few psalms for you to pray—in the Bible there are 151 psalms to choose from!” (p. 79,  “A Child’s Guide to Prayer” by Ancient Faith Publishing Illustrated by Tara Pappas)

***

“Divine Liturgy is a time of prayer from the moment we enter the church until we leave. Try your hardest to sing, worship, and pray from your heart throughout the liturgy.” (p. 97,  “A Child’s Guide to Prayer” by Ancient Faith Publishing Illustrated by Tara Pappas)

***

‘Did you know that a priest cannot perform a liturgy without other people praying with him? A Divine Liturgy needs both people and a priest, because when we’re having communion, God wants the community to pray together. It’s important that we learn to pray alone, but there is special power when a community of Christians prays together… your prayer matters!” (p. 108,  “A Child’s Guide to Prayer” by Ancient Faith Publishing Illustrated by Tara Pappas)

***

 

Gleanings from a Book: “Apostle to the Plains: The Life of Father Nicola Yanney” by The Saint Raphael Clergy Brotherhood

Have you ever wondered what it was like to be an Orthodox Christian in the plains of the United States in the late 1800s and early 1900s? “Apostle to the Plains: The Life of Father Nicola Yanney” offers a glimpse of the life of this immigrant who lived a faithful Orthodox Christian life in the American plains before there were churches available in the region. It follows Fr. Nicola through his immigration, his adjustment to life on the plains, his ordination, his intense years of service as a missionary priest, all the way to his departing from this life. American Orthodox Christians – especially those in the Antiochian Archdiocese – will do well to read this book, to expand their knowledge of the history of Orthodox Christianity in the United States.

Readers who have marveled at the experiences of Laura Ingalls Wilder’s books will see some parallels in “Apostle to the Plains.” The Yanneys also lived in a sod house for a period of time while they were homesteading. Although the Ingalls family’s experiences preceded the Yanneys’ by some 20 years, and happened largely in different states, both families suffered illnesses and loss. There were times when each family struggled to attend school or church (because there was none, or it was far away). And despite their hard times, both families endeavored to do what was right and persevered with dogged determination.

A large portion of “Apostle to the Plains” is dedicated to recounting the missionary journeys and busy life of Fr. Nicola’s years as a traveling priest, and at points these chapters feel a bit overwhelming. Even with today’s technology and travel infrastructure, his months of travel and the few weeks at home in between trips would exhaust anyone. But when the reader remembers that his travels happened more than a century ago, with much slower communication and more tedious means of transportation, what he accomplished is truly astounding. Fr. Nicola and his family clearly loved God and took their calling to be a priest (and the priest’s family) very seriously, and they embraced the reality of what that entailed.

Fr. Nicola’s life was far from easy: he left his home in Lebanon at age 19, with his brand-new bride (whom he barely knew) shortly after their wedding and moved to far away Nebraska, where they had to adjust to new language and culture, different weather, and near isolation from family; and where there was no Orthodox Church. The book goes on to share their trials in homesteading, the joys of births and occasional clergy visits, the sorrows of losses and deaths in the family. When Fr. Nicola was ordained to the priesthood, he not only was in charge of the parish in their hometown of Kearney Nebraska, but he was also charged with being the missionary priest who visited Orthodox Christians all over the American plains.

A large section of the book follows Fr. Nicola’s travels. When he traveled, Fr. would hear people’s confessions, commune them, baptize those in need of baptism, marry young couples, and do all the priestly things for the Orthodox Christians who were scattered about the many parts of the plains of the United States. He always tried to be home again with his boys for Christmas and for Pascha (and often for all of Great Lent), but his travels kept him away from them and his home parish for months at a time every year. It was not an easy life for him or for his family, nor did it provide enough financial income.

Fr. Nicola was generous to a fault. Throughout his life, he raised money to share with others back home in Lebanon, and to fund local causes. He and the family generously hosted guests for Sunday luncheons. He traveled extensively, at great cost to himself and his family – and his being away from home made him unable to work and thus make additional income. So he and the family had very little financially. In fact, they had so little that even with re-mortgaging their home multiple times, he was unable to pay $140 in damages from a lawsuit that had been brought against him and his parish! Fr. Nicola gave and gave and gave of both his money and his time, and had very little on earth to show for his generosity.

Readers may be surprised to find that this book offers a glimpse into the life of St. Raphael of Brooklyn as well. The saintly bishop ordained Fr. Nicola, and Fr. Nicola was under his jurisdiction for the rest of Bishop Raphael’s life. Fr. Nicola supported, honored, and admired Bishop Raphael and was justifiably sad when he departed this life. The saint’s passing not only removed him from his position overseeing the Syrian Orthodox churches in America, it also brought great division to those churches. “Apostle to the Plains” explains this division in a way that helps modern American Orthodox Christians to learn more about some of the struggles in the history of our Church.

Fr. Nicola continued to care for his flock right up to the very end of his life. He visited and cared for his Spanish-flu-suffering parishioners in his hometown of Kearney just hours before his collapse and death from that same illness. His sudden passing was a shock to his parishioners, the entire Kearney community, and the Orthodox Christians across the plains whom he had served so diligently.

The Afterword of the book, titled “The Legacy of Father Nicola” is a powerful ending, as it helps the reader to ponder how well the servant of God Nicola Yanney ran his race. It encourages the reader to look beyond Fr. Nicola (and the entire Yanney family)’s struggles, to see the victories, and especially to note his faithfulness. Reading this after having read the book’s account of his life, the reader cannot help but be encouraged in their own life to “know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings… [that they] may attain to the resurrection from the dead.” (from Phil. 3:10-11)

May Fr. Nicola Yanney’s memory be eternal!

You can purchase “Apostle to the Plains: The Life of Father Nicola Yanney” as a paperback or an ebook here: https://store.ancientfaith.com/apostle-to-the-plains-the-life-of-father-nicola-yanney/

Find additional information about Fr. Nicola Yanney, including interviews, videos, and slide shows related to his life and his gifts to the Antiochian Orthodox Church in America; a map of the states that he served; and more at St. George Orthodox Christian Church (the parish that he helped to found in Kearney, Nebraska)’s website: https://www.saintgeorgekearney.com/reverend_nicola_yanney

Here are some gleanings from the book:

***

“He would soon be married, and he wanted Martha and their children to live in safety and peace… In America, he could make a new home not only for himself and Martha but also for his brothers. If they all worked together, Nicola could send enough money to make sure that their father would live the rest of his days in comfort, cared for by loved ones who would remain in their village. To do this, however, Nicola himself would have to leave home.” (p. 23,  “Apostle to the Plains: The Life of Father Nicola Yanney” by The Saint Raphael Clergy Brotherhood)

***

“While Martha continued to refurbish the [sod] house, Nicola turned his attention to the rest of the homestead. He only had a few months to prepare. Both he and Martha had experienced light snowfalls in the foothills of Koura, but nothing had prepared them for winter on the open plains… In the worst weather, the family would be beyond the reach of help for days and sometimes weeks at a time. Stables and pens had to be built for their animals and more supplies had to be brought from town and stored for the winter in case the roads became impassable.” (p. 51,  “Apostle to the Plains: The Life of Father Nicola Yanney” by The Saint Raphael Clergy Brotherhood)

***

“Even without a church of their own, the Syrians celebrated Saint Simeon’s feast day together as they had back in Fi’eh, as well as Christmas, Pascha, and other holy days. Nicola especially desired to help the newcomers, knowing how difficult it was to keep his Orthodox faith in the foreign land, especially without a church or a priest. Though their gatherings were filled with folk songs, dancing, and food, Nicola always remembered to offer prayers and lead his friends in singing hymns, knowing that it was their faith that bound the small community together more than anything else.” (pp. 58-59,  “Apostle to the Plains: The Life of Father Nicola Yanney” by The Saint Raphael Clergy Brotherhood)

***

“The kindly priest was… interested to hear of Nicola’s education at the monastery school. One of the reasons for his cross-country tour was to find pious men who might be ordained to serve the scattered Orthodox Syrians. Hearing this, the Syrians suggested that Father Raphael meet the Yanneys… At nine o’clock in the evening, fifteen of the Yanneys’ friends piled into four wagons to accompany Father Raphael on the eighteen-mile trip to the homestead… As they drew near the farm, their singing and shouting grew louder. Several of the men drew out their pistols and fired shots into the air to wake their unsuspecting friends. The Yanneys came running out of their small home, astonished by what was happening, and fell at Father Raphael’s feet. The priest greeted them warmly.” (pp. 72-73,  “Apostle to the Plains: The Life of Father Nicola Yanney” by The Saint Raphael Clergy Brotherhood)

***

“With no other Syrian Orthodox priest living within a thousand miles of Kearney, Father Nicola had to serve his daughter’s funeral… At the conclusion of the funeral, Father Nicola placed his priestly stole on Anna’s head and said the prayer of absolution. He had arrived too late to hear her confession or to give her Holy communion.” (p. 146,  “Apostle to the Plains: The Life of Father Nicola Yanney” by The Saint Raphael Clergy Brotherhood)

***

“‘My dear Elias, may you be pleasing to God. Be the best version of yourself. Avoid crude and offensive talk. Do not joke coarsely or easily give your heart to others. Be conscientious of your health before anything else… I ask God’s special blessings on you, that you take care of your brothers and your fellow countrymen. Make me proud. Keep me posted about yourself and write me often so that I always know you are fine. I kiss your cheeks thousands and millions of times…’” ~ from a letter Fr. Nicola wrote to his son Elias (pp. 183,  “Apostle to the Plains: The Life of Father Nicola Yanney” by The Saint Raphael Clergy Brotherhood)

***

“Though he had been tending to his parishioners only hours earlier, Father Nicola was confined to bed—unable to rise, his strength gone. By late that night, he knew that he was dying and had little time left. Motioning weakly, he beckoned his sons to his side. He had left them on their own so many times, and now he was leaving them once more. Calling Elias, John, and Moses close, Father Nicola said goodbye as he struggled for breath. As they leaned over their father, he gave them a final word by which he himself had tried to live, whispering, ‘Keep your hands and your heart clean.’”(p. 247,  “Apostle to the Plains: The Life of Father Nicola Yanney” by The Saint Raphael Clergy Brotherhood)

***

“The legacy of Father Nicola Yanney continues to this day… In him we see a worthy model of the Christian life—one who was faithful in adversity, steadfast in suffering, zealous in evangelism, and selfless in serving others. Through the daily sacrifice of his priesthood, Father Nicola laid down his life for his friends in imitation of his Master.” (pp. 266-267, “Apostle to the Plains: The Life of Father Nicola Yanney” by The Saint Raphael Clergy Brotherhood)

***

 

A Closer Look at “Blueprints for the Little Church: Creating an Orthodox Home”- Appendix 1

 

Note: This is the final blog post in a series which offers ideas of how to build up the little church in your home, based on the book “Blueprints for the Little Church: Creating an Orthodox Home” by Elissa Bjeletich and Caleb Shoemaker. Each week we have focused on one portion of the book and shared the wisdom and ideas offered there. Find an overview of the entire book here: https://orthodoxchristianparenting.wordpress.com/2016/06/22/gleanings-from-a-book-blueprints-for-the-little-church-creating-an-orthodox-home-by-elissa-bjeletich-and-caleb-shoemaker/

We thank Elissa Bjeletich, Caleb Shoemaker, and Ancient Faith Publishing for granting us permission to share the book with you in this way. Purchase your own copy here: https://store.ancientfaith.com/blueprints

 

Appendix 1: Making Your Way Through the Liturgical Year

“Blueprints for the Little Church: Creating an Orthodox Home” concludes with a few appendices. The first one is extensive (48 pages), and is the only one we will be featuring. This appendix is an extremely helpful addition to the book. It goes through the Church year and offers suggestions of ways that families can bring the life of the Church into their little church throughout the year.

The appendix offers fun activity ideas ranging from suggested songs to recipes to related science experiments. It also offers suggestions and directions for simple crafts that families can create to enhance their celebrations of feasts or deepen the meaning of the season. The suggestions are as varied as the expected readership, and most of the activities/crafts can be adjusted to be done with children of a variety of ages.

In our opinion, this section of the book is the most likely for readers to revisit in the years that they have children living at home, because of its helpful suggestions for the feasts and fasts of the Church year.

If you wish to interact with the authors of “Blueprints For the Little Church”, you can connect with Elissa here: https://elissabjeletich.com/contact/ and email Caleb at caleb.shoemaker@gmail.com. You may wish to also check out their Pinterest boards at  https://www.pinterest.com/orthoblueprints/boards/.

Here are a few gleanings from Appendix 1:

***

(on Prayerfulness as one of the highlights of the feast of the Nativity of the Mother of God) “Here at the beginning of the liturgical year is a good day to spruce up the family prayer corner with the children. You might clean out the shelves, allowing children to dust and polish (and discuss) the various items you keep there. In addition, we might allow the children to create little prayer books, either copying down or printing up the prayers of your family prayer rule and binding them into little books…” (p. 176, “Blueprints for the Little Church: Creating an Orthodox Home” by Elissa Bjeletich and Caleb Shoemaker, Ancient Faith Publishing, 2016)

***

(prior to the Nativity Fast) “Younger children can visualize the preparation of a soft place for Jesus by creating a little manger out of a box and then slowly filling it with cotton balls every day, as they mark a good deed one for each day of the fast.” (p. 181, “Blueprints for the Little Church: Creating an Orthodox Home” by Elissa Bjeletich and Caleb Shoemaker, Ancient Faith Publishing, 2016)

***

(at Theophany) “On Theophany, priests all over the world perform the Blessing of the Waters, blessing vessels of water such as rivers, lakes, and oceans. Jesus’ sanctification of the waters is repeated every year. Imagine how many times a single drop of water may have been blessed in the last two thousand years!
…Try this visual demonstration of God’s grace flowing through water: Fill a clear glass container with clean water. Add food coloring… and watch the colored liquid slowly mix into the waters—just as Christ’s holiness has sanctified all the waters of the Earth.” (p. 188, “Blueprints for the Little Church: Creating an Orthodox Home” by Elissa Bjeletich and Caleb Shoemaker, Ancient Faith Publishing, 2016)

***

(on Great and Holy Friday) “As the hymn conjures the image of the Theotokos at the foot of the Cross, the idea of presenting ourselves—of laying our sins and our troubles—at the foot of the Cross is powerful… Invite children to write their worries, prayers, or sins on slips of paper and prayerfully set them at the foot of the Cross today. Talk with them about how we bring our broken and contrite hearts as an offering to our Lord, trusting that He will heal us and bring us to abundant life.” (p. 206, “Blueprints for the Little Church: Creating an Orthodox Home” by Elissa Bjeletich and Caleb Shoemaker, Ancient Faith Publishing, 2016)

***

(for the Feast of the Dormition of the Theotokos) “One day, as she [the Theotokos] prayed on the Mount of Olives, an angel told her that in three days she would join our Lord in Paradise, and he gave her a palm branch from Paradise. She returned home to prepare herself… then lay down on her bed and fell asleep in the Lord. There was a beautiful funeral procession: first, St. John the Beloved carried the branch from Paradise, and then St. Peter carried the censer… [as they] brought her to her tomb at Gethsemane.

…We might head outside and gather some branches or sticks and then decorate them like the branch from Paradise that the angel brought to the Theotokos… Children can… use whatever supplies you have on hand to decorate their branch: they might paint it and cover it with glitter or plastic gemstones; they might draw and cut out leaves or fruits and glue them on.” (p. 219, “Blueprints for the Little Church: Creating an Orthodox Home” by Elissa Bjeletich and Caleb Shoemaker, Ancient Faith Publishing, 2016)

***

 

A Closer Look at “Blueprints for the Little Church: Creating an Orthodox Home” – Chapter 9

Note: This series of blog posts will offer ideas of how to build up the little church in your home. The series will take a closer look at “Blueprints for the Little Church: Creating an Orthodox Home” by Elissa Bjeletich and Caleb Shoemaker. Each week we will take a look at one portion of the book and focus on the wisdom and ideas offered there. Find an overview of the entire book here: https://orthodoxchristianparenting.wordpress.com/2016/06/22/gleanings-from-a-book-blueprints-for-the-little-church-creating-an-orthodox-home-by-elissa-bjeletich-and-caleb-shoemaker/

 

We thank Elissa Bjeletich, Caleb Shoemaker, and Ancient Faith Publishing for granting us permission to share the book with you in this way. Purchase your own copy here: https://store.ancientfaith.com/blueprints

 

Chapter 9: Growing Up

The ninth chapter of “Blueprints for the Little Church: Creating an Orthodox Home” focuses on the opportunity to let our children go as they grow up. The chapter encourages the reader to consider how to best release their child(ren) into God’s care and nurture their children’s spirituality without a drop of coercion. We can offer and pray the Faith into their life, but each child must choose to live it for him/herself.

The chapter includes many quotes from saints, such as this one from St. Porphyrios: “Pray and then speak. That’s what to do with your children. If you are constantly lecturing them, you’ll become tiresome and when they grow up they’ll feel a kind of oppression. Prefer prayer and speak to them through prayer. Speak to God and God will speak to their hearts.” (p. 164) The chapter also offers numerous examples from the authors, suggesting what they have found/are finding helpful in this regard, in their own families.

This ninth chapter is in fact the end of the entire book, not just because it’s the last numbered chapter. The end goal—the aim of raising our children within the context of the little church—is not to merely offer an Orthodox Christian environment in which they can grow up. Rather, the goal of the little church is for family members to walk alongside each other as each of us chooses to live out our Orthodox Christian life. This chapter may seem to be focused on older children, but is very important for parents of younger children to read it closely, for it suggests attitudes and actions that must be successfully taught and modeled long before the children reach young adulthood.

Have a parenting question for the “Blueprints For the Little Church” authors? Connect with Elissa here: https://elissabjeletich.com/contact/ and email Caleb at caleb.shoemaker@gmail.com.

Here are a few gleanings from chapter 9:

***

“If we really believe the words of the prayers said at baptism and chrismation, then we cannot simply categorize children into ‘the future.’ They are the parish now, fully invested in what happens around them. If we are raising them in a consciously Orthodox home, in the little church and also in the larger Church, our kids will grow up understanding themselves as having an Orthodox identity.” (pp. 161-162, “Blueprints for the Little Church: Creating an Orthodox Home” by Elissa Bjeletich and Caleb Shoemaker, Ancient Faith Publishing, 2016)

***

“We should not fear this process of testing faith and inviting growth, but instead we should help guide it. We can teach our children who struggle with doubt to pray the prayer of the father in the Gospel, ‘Lord, I believe; help my unbelief!’” (p. 163, “Blueprints for the Little Church: Creating an Orthodox Home” by Elissa Bjeletich and Caleb Shoemaker, Ancient Faith Publishing, 2016)

***

“The most important thing we parents can do is pray. We can ask that God heal our children and fill them up with profound faith. We can call in the saints and beg help from the guardian angels who watch over them. We can talk to their godparents and get counsel from their confessor. We have armies of help within our reach, and we must call for them urgently at all times throughout our children’s lives.” (p. 164 “Blueprints for the Little Church: Creating an Orthodox Home” by Elissa Bjeletich and Caleb Shoemaker, Ancient Faith Publishing, 2016)

***

“After years of having credibility with our children, it can be very painful when the children grow into adolescents and stop trusting the information we give… In this process, we should expect to be humbled. God is faithful. He loves our children more deeply than we ever could, and He is always calling us back to His love and into His Church.” (p. 165, “Blueprints for the Little Church: Creating an Orthodox Home” by Elissa Bjeletich and Caleb Shoemaker, Ancient Faith Publishing, 2016)

***

“St. Porphyrios said, ‘It is not sufficient for the parents to be devout. They musn’t oppress the children to make them good by force. We may repel our children from Christ when we pursue the things of our religion with egotism.’ We must work to keep our ego out of this process, and to offer our children an Orthodox way of life without forcing and oppressing them.” (p. 167, “Blueprints for the Little Church: Creating an Orthodox Home” by Elissa Bjeletich and Caleb Shoemaker, Ancient Faith Publishing, 2016)

***

“Imagine your child is suffering and you cannot help—whether the child is sick or struggling, parents are eventually forced to recognize their own limits. Suddenly, we see that only God can help, and that indeed, our child belongs to God. We often forget that we are all God’s children first, and parents are merely trusted stewards of His beloved children. When there is something wrong with our children, when they struggle for any reason, we should first pray, ‘Lord, Your child needs You. Come, Lord.’” (p. 169, “Blueprints for the Little Church: Creating an Orthodox Home” by Elissa Bjeletich and Caleb Shoemaker, Ancient Faith Publishing, 2016)

***

Gleanings from a Book: “The Good Samaritan: A Children’s Catechism” By the Very Reverend Fr. Michael Shanbour”

Author’s note: Recently we became aware that the V. Rev. Fr. Michael Shanbour has finished writing his children’s catechism book, “The Good Samaritan”, and has published it with illustrations by Nicholas Malara. We inquired about the book, and Fr. Michael very kindly shared an electronic copy with us so that we could read it and share it with you. This fully-illustrated hardcover book is geared to children ages 6-12.

“The Good Samaritan: a Children’s Catechism” is an excellent resource for any parent or teacher interested in guiding the children in their care towards Christ and the Church. The book is thorough, addressing the basic beliefs of the Orthodox Christian Faith. Fr. Michael calls each of the 13 chapters a “lesson”, for they are set up as such, intended for an older Orthodox Christian to lead the discussion as the book is read together with a child or group. Each lesson focuses on a different portion of our Faith, teaching through stories from the Scriptures or the lives of the saints, as well as through questions about common experiences that we all share. The discussion leader/teacher can read straight from the book, or paraphrase, turning parts of the book into questions to facilitate the discussion. Along the way, Father Michael has included teaching tips that suggest active ways to engage with the text, as well as occasional endnotes which offer additional background information. Each chapter builds on the chapter before in a seamless manner.

At the book’s website, Fr. Michael offers a succinct glimpse at the lessons offered in the book. “In the catechism we are taken from life in Paradise (Lesson 1), through the Fall of Adam (Lesson 2) and the reality of sin (Lesson 3), and into life and redemption through Jesus Christ (Lesson 4). In the Church (Lesson 5) we then encounter Holy Tradition (Lesson 6), the dynamic “river” that runs through the midst of the Church and provides the living water for thirsty souls. The treasure of Holy Tradition then presents the Holy Mysteries of the Priesthood (Lesson 7), the Eucharist (Lesson 8), and Baptism (Lesson 9), along with Repentance and Confession (Lesson 10), all of which are essential for the health and salvation of our souls. Finally, Prayer (Lesson 11), Fasting (Lesson 12) and Almsgiving (Lesson 13) are shown to be the indispensable means of union with God and as lifegiving manifestations of faith, hope, and love.”

Fr. Michael crafted this catechism book over a period of many years. Through his work with the children in his parish (both as a youth director and as a priest) he was able to create this curriculum and test it with the children in his parish. In the author’s preface, he states “by the grace of God we present this catechism with the hope of not only enlightening our dear children with the unchanging truths revealed to the Saints but as a means of spiritual formation — that the Orthodox Christian Faith might become a living reality in their hearts and minds. We have tried to do so in a way that will engage their imaginative faculty in the most positive sense while maintaining and unbending faithfulness to the Orthodox scriptural-patristic tradition preserved in the experience of the Holy Church.“ (p.i)

The illustrations in this book are colorful and heartwarming. Nicholas Malara has a talent for creating age-appropriate and engaging illustrations that draw in the reader. His style varies greatly: we’ve admired his work before in the simple “Good Night Jesus” board book, where he uses a style perfect for toddlers; and we’ve gazed in wide-eyed admiration at his threatening dragon defeated by a mighty angel in “Sasha and the Dragon”. In “The Good Samaritan”, Malara has included a variety of children in the illustrations, and he has beautifully illustrated the Bible stories with unique perspective. His use of light encapsulates the message of the text and speaks volumes through his illustrations. He has infused the entire book with gentle reality which draws the reader in, engaging them further in each lesson. Malara’s illustrations are a joyful compliment to the text.

In its 100+ pages, this hardcover book helps parents, homeschoolers, and Sunday Church school teachers to better be able to teach their children/students about the Holy Orthodox Church and our Faith. “The Good Samaritan: a Children’s Catechism” can be purchased at https://www.wenorthodox.com/product-page/the-good-samaritan-a-children-s-catechism. (Note: funds raised from the purchase of this book will help Father Michael’s parish, Three Hierarchs Antiochian Orthodox Christian Church in Wenatchee, WA, to build a Church building. They are currently worshiping in a small modular building.)

Here are a few gleanings from the book, to give you a taste of it:

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“The title, ‘The Good Samaritan’, is inspired by Saint John Chrysostom and other Church fathers who, in addition to the more common moral interpretation of showing Christ-like compassion for those in need, have interpreted this parable of the Lord (Luke 10:30-35) as an icon or analogy of the entire economy of salvation. Through this lens we can perceive the Church for what she is—the ‘spiritual hospital’ for the healing of the sickness of sin, and the place where we receive the true ‘Medicine,’ Jesus Christ, through her sacramental, ascetical, and hesychastic Tradition.” (p. ii , “The Good Samaritan: A Children’s Catechism” by  the Very Reverend Fr. Michael Shanbour, illustrated by Nicholas Malara)

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“Our Christian faith can seem like a puzzle… Because there are lots of different pieces. But all of those pieces together make a beautiful picture. It’s a picture, or icon, of Jesus Christ with His Holy Body, the Church .” (p. 2, “The Good Samaritan: A Children’s Catechism” by  the Very Reverend Fr. Michael Shanbour, illustrated by Nicholas Malara)

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“… Everything in the church—icons, incense, vestments, the Bible, hymns, prayers, almsgiving, the Commandments and doctrines, fasting and struggling against temptation, liturgy and services, sacraments—have only one purpose: to heal us from sin and to join us to God. The cChurch is heaven on earth. Her job is to make everyone and everything holy and united to God. That is Paradise!” (p. 8, “The Good Samaritan: A Children’s Catechism” by  the Very Reverend Fr. Michael Shanbour, illustrated by Nicholas Malara)

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“Paradise—the place where God put Adam and Eve—was like the Church, heaven on earth. But God didn’t want Paradise to be a small place, or just for a few people. He wanted us to make the whole world Paradise. He wanted us to help make the whole world a Church; one big Church where people live with God and God with them. But Adam and Eve only lived in Paradise for a short while. God gave them the ability to make choices. He wanted them to love Him, not because they had to, because they wanted to. He allowed them to make the choice to reject Him and turn away from truth and life. That choice is called sin.” (p. 15, “The Good Samaritan: A Children’s Catechism” by  the Very Reverend Fr. Michael Shanbour, illustrated by Nicholas Malara)

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“Only one tree! Just one tree they could not eat from! That doesn’t sound hard, does it? It’s like when mom says, ‘You can play over here, or over there, and even way over there, but don’t go down there, close to the river!’ Why does she say that? Is it because she doesn’t want you to have fun? No. It’s because she doesn’t want you to get hurt, right?… But sometimes we’re tempted to do it anyway, aren’t we?… This is what happened to Adam and Eve.” (p. 20, “The Good Samaritan: A Children’s Catechism” by  the Very Reverend Fr. Michael Shanbour, illustrated by Nicholas Malara)

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“But when Adam sinned, the icon became dark and dirty. The icon was covered over by sins, like mud or dust covers over a window or a beautiful picture. Imagine a bright and beautiful icon of Jesus Christ. Now imagine that the same icon has been buried in the ground for many years. What has happened to the icon? It has become dark and dingy, dirty and dim. Can you see the image well now? No! It needs to be cleaned. This is what happened to Adam and what happens to us because of sin.” (p. 28 , “The Good Samaritan: A Children’s Catechism” by  the Very Reverend Fr. Michael Shanbour, illustrated by Nicholas Malara)

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“Have you ever put your shirt on inside-out? It looks kind of funny right? The picture on the shirt isn’t very clear and the tag is sticking out. That’s how our human nature had become because of sin. So how do you fix the shirt that’s inside out? You pull it off to make it right-side-up and put it back on. That’s sort of what God did for us. God’s Son, Jesus, put on our inside-out humanity and made it right-side-up by living a sinless life in perfect communion with God the Father.” (p. 35, “The Good Samaritan: A Children’s Catechism” by  the Very Reverend Fr. Michael Shanbour, illustrated by Nicholas Malara)

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“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  the Very Reverend Fr. Michael Shanbour, illustrated by Nicholas Malara)

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“Now, did you know there is a river that runs through the Church? There is a river of grace! It is what keeps the medicine flowing to all who need it. What is this river of grace? It is called the Tradition of the Church—Holy or sacred Tradition. The Holy Tradition flows from God the Father, through His Son, and by the Holy Spirit into the Church.” (p. 47, “The Good Samaritan: A Children’s Catechism” by  the Very Reverend Fr. Michael Shanbour, illustrated by Nicholas Malara)

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“God has given to the Church special protectors to guard the River of Grace and keep it from getting 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 first guardians where the apostles, who were selected by Jesus. But who became the protectors of Holy Tradition after the apostles? It was the bishops and priests of the Church! And it is the same today.” (p. 55, “The Good Samaritan: A Children’s Catechism” by  the Very Reverend Fr. Michael Shanbour, illustrated by Nicholas Malara)

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“We have learned that Jesus Christ is the Medicine that heals us and brings us back to life with God. His body and blood is the strongest medicine of all and fills us with God’s own life. As Saint Ignatius said, it has the power to give us immortality. What is immortality? It means living forever with God and with God in us. Would you like to live like that forever? That can happen if we are in communion with Jesus, if we are with Him and in harmony with Him and His Body..”(p.66, “The Good Samaritan: A Children’s Catechism” by  the Very Reverend Fr. Michael Shanbour, illustrated by Nicholas Malara)

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“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  the Very Reverend Fr. Michael Shanbour, illustrated by Nicholas Malara)

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“When an archer hits the target, it means his aim is good and he is shooting straight. But when he misses the target, there’s something wrong. His aim is off. The same is true for our soul. When we walk in the light of Christ, we are pointing ourselves toward God. We are hitting the target. But when we sin we are shooting in the wrong direction. We have missed the target of what God created us to be and to do.”(p.86, “The Good Samaritan: A Children’s Catechism” by  the Very Reverend Fr. Michael Shanbour, illustrated by Nicholas Malara)

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“This is how we are 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  the Very Reverend Fr. Michael Shanbour, illustrated by Nicholas Malara)

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“Fasting is prayer for our bodies. Because, as we said before, we are called to pray not just with our mind, but with our whole strength, with all our energy and focus, with our whole being, with our whole body.” (p. 100, “The Good Samaritan: A Children’s Catechism” by  the Very Reverend Fr. Michael Shanbour, illustrated by Nicholas Malara)

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“ Prayer and fasting are like two wings. But almsgiving is the ‘wind’ that lift our wings upward to God.” (p. 105, “The Good Samaritan: A Children’s Catechism” by  the Very Reverend Fr. Michael Shanbour, illustrated by Nicholas Malara)

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