Ordinary Time – July & August

These activities can be used both at home and in classrooms. They accommodate children between the ages of 2-8.
The Sacredness of Summer
Introducing Feasts and Seasons the Easy Way
Saint Stories for Ordinary Time
Summer Reading: Saints for Adults and Children

The Sacredness of Summer

Summer weather pulls us ‘outward’, as we spend more time socializing with friends, neighbors and family, traveling, along with a myriad of outdoor activities. It does not have the ‘pull’ towards reflection and prayer that Advent’s dark and quiet atmosphere offers. Still, summer is sacred time, as all time is. How do we combine this inclination to turn outward with a sense of God’s continual presence?

Use the abundance of flowers, vegetables, fruits, insects and leaves of summertime to help children see the sacredness of God’s created world in a variety of activities.

Read a beautifully illustrated version of the Christian creation story. Then help children begin to see God’s ‘handwork’ in the world around them.

Look for as many differently shaped leaves as possible in a confined area. Don’t forget bushes, flowers and weeds as well as trees! Marvel at the variety in shape, size, color (how many shades of green do you count?)

Touch trees and compare the colors and textures of the bark.

Another day, look for seeds. Maple trees’ ‘helicopters’ are fun, but do the children realize each one carries the possibility of another tree? What kinds of seeds do evergreens have? What about marigolds, sunflowers, etc.? There are many excellent children’s books about seeds and plants. (e.g. “A Seed is Sleepy” by Dianna Hutts Aston and Sylvia Long.)

Attend a farmer’s market. Are these lettuces different from the ones in the grocery store? What kinds of fruits grow in your area? Can you find different colors of potatoes? Smell different herbs.

Sow lettuce seeds in a window box. Keep a chart of when the seeds germinate, and measure them for height. Learn how to thin seedlings, and how to make a salad with your produce.

Dig for worms. Talk about how they benefit soil. Look for insects in the soil and on the sidewalk. Show interest (not squeamishness!) in these amazing, tiny creatures. Bring in children’s books on insects. (e.g. “A Butterfly is Patient” also by Dianna Hutts Aston and Sylvia Long).

In June, many nurseries have sales on annual plants. Have children plant flowers in pots.

And all the while, remind the children that all this is God’s gift to us. Do this simply by saying, “Look at the beauty of this leaf! God is such an artist to have made this!” “Thank you, God our Creator for all this!” “I wonder why God decided to have the robins kind of hop when they walk while ducks waddle?”

Your reward for this will be twofold: you will have the great pleasure of enjoying nature through the eyes of children, and you may come to feel the sacredness of summer yourself!

Introducing Feasts and Seasons the Easy Way

It is wonderful to introduce children to the many symbols and colors of our Catholic feasts. However, limited time may keep you from emphasizing this as much as you’d like.

One remedy is to have a ‘tree of feasts and seasons.’ Set up a small, bare branch (like an Easter egg tree) in your home or classroom. Create a supply of simple symbols and gather other symbols. Put these into large envelopes or zippered bags, and place all in a box. You will have everything you need at your fingertips to decorate for an upcoming feast! You can decorate for one feast (e.g. guardian angels day) or for a month of feasts (e.g. for October: St. Therese, guardians angels, St. Francis, Halloween)



To make:

Make very simple felt symbols by drawing a shape on felt, cutting out two of this shape, placing stuffing between the two shapes, and sewing around the edges. Create a ‘hanger’ by drawing thread through the top of the symbol and creating a loop, or use paper clips for hangers.

Materials needed:

Felt in various colors
Thread or embroidery floss
Fabric scissors
Stuffing (quilt fiber or cotton balls)

If you wish to embellish these:

Glitter glue
Fabric markers
Chenille craft sticks (pipe cleaners)
Wood craft sticks

Symbol suggestions easily made from felt:

Empty tomb
Triangle (Trinity)

To gather:

Many symbols can be purchased inexpensively in craft supply stores, fabric stores, and religious stores. (After Christmas and Easter, seek out sales on decorations that are religious). Ask friends who sew or craft for scraps or check out yard sales, too.

Ribbons in liturgical colors
Garlands of stars (angels, Mary, Christmas, Epiphany)
Angels (archangels, guardian angels, Advent, Christmas)
Heart garland (St. Valentine, Sacred Heart)
Tiny baskets (1-2”) (Lent for almsgiving, Easter, new life)
Small silk flowers
Bag of pretzels (Lent)
Tiny crosses
Finger rosaries
Candy canes (Good Shepherd, St. Nicholas)
Small plastic skeletons (Days of the Dead)
Picture holy cards of saints (punch a hole in the top and thread with narrow ribbon)
Very small stuffed animals (St. Francis, St. Martin de Porres, animals associated with Jesus, new life)

Saint Stories for Ordinary Time

There are many opportunities in our liturgical year to help preschoolers develop a Catholic identity. However, over these summer months of Ordinary Time, there are fewer significant feasts. Take advantage of this ‘quieter’ time to tell saint stories. For some children, this may be the beginning of a life-long interest in and devotion to certain saints.

Keep in mind that some saint stories would be confusing or even frightening for young children. Try using a topic commonly of interest to children: animals. There are delightful stories of saints who befriended or were helped by animals. These are certain to catch the attention and imaginations of very young Catholics!

You will have no difficulty finding picture books and other renditions of St. Francis of Assisi with a wolf, fish, a rabbit and a variety of birds such as a peregrine falcon and doves. For three stories, see www.americancatholic.org/features/francis/stories.asp. Also see Saint Francis with His Feather Friends. You may also want to search online for images of St. Francis with animals.

Another saint with an abundance of wonderful animal stories is St. Martin de Porres, who set the broken leg of a turkey, calmed a frightened and frightening bull who got loose in the streets of Lima, and cared for many a sick dog or cat. He and his sister, though very poor, started an animal hospital in her home. The most beloved animal story involving Martin is his compassion for the mice that over ran the infirmary where he worked. There are many pictures books of Martin, and this particular story is likely to be in some of them.

St. John Bosco is contemporary enough (1815-1888) that his stories are considered fact, not legend as that of earlier saints. In telling children this story, keep in mind the fact that there is violence behind it. John was often threatened by other people who disliked his work with homeless youth. One day, a huge, rather ugly dog showed up at John’s residence. No one recognized it or knew where it came from, but Grigio, as the dog was soon called, seemed to appoint himself John’s bodyguard. Numerous times he sensed danger before John did, and kept John from it, and at least once, Grigio let a would-be mugger know on no uncertain terms to leave John alone! As time passed, others began to see the merit in John’s work so the threats against him eased. One night, Grigio arrived as usual, but this time, he rubbed his head against John, lifted a tentative paw in farewell, and left. Years later, after John’s death, people were carrying on John’s work have reported having a dog fitting Grigio’s description also protect them. So there are hints that this canine was angelic.

There are other stories, with less detail. You can use these ‘story bits’ to introduce children to other aspects of a saint’s life. For example, St. Philip Neri sometimes said Mass with a chipmunk sitting on his shoulder; St. Sergius, a monk who lived in a wilderness area of Russia, befriended many forest creatures, and he shared his bread at dinner each night with a companionable bear; Kieran of Ireland also hung out with a bear, as well as a fox and wolf; St. Cuthbert spent a cold night by the sea, praising God when two little sea otters came from the water and warmed his feet. An eagle also fished for Cuthbert and the two shared the meal.

Enjoy sharing these stories with your little friends as they learn of some of God’s holy ones—animals as well as people!

Summer Reading: Saints for Adults and Children

An important part of our Catholic heritage, for adults as well as children, is stories of saints. Put saint books on your summer reading list for a variety of reasons:

Reading about the lives of saints can give inspiration, challenge, or comfort, depending on which saint you read about as well as your circumstances at the time. Jesuit Father James Martin has written a book on how certain saints influenced him at different times of his life. Reading My Life with the Saints (Loyola Press) may cause you to become curious about how saints affect you.

Familiarizing yourself with saints’ lives will give you something to draw on when you are in need. You probably know which saint is called upon when something is lost, but you may have other concerns! For example, Saints Cajetan and Joseph may give comfort to job seekers. If you are particularly worried about a child, turn to two very diverse saints: Monica and John Bosco. Why these saints? Read some good books on saints and find out!

If you read regularly, you may have certain topics that interest you and likely there are saints for those too. Love to learn about recent history? Read about the lives of holy people who experienced World War II: Josephine Bakhita, Edith Stein, Dorothy Day, Maximillian Kolbe, John the XXIII, Thomas Merton and John Paul II. Fascinated by Christian mysticism? Try Clare of Assisi, Catherine of Siena, Teresa of Avila, Therese of Lisieux, and Julian of Norwich—to name a few.

Consider saints associated with your hobbies: there are thirteen patron saints for gardeners, at least two for athletes, eight for bakers, three for motorcyclists, another three for cabinetmakers, beekeepers and musicians, as well as twelve for people who brew beer!

As you read, keep in mind that you can easily tell children about these saints. Which saints were your favorites when you were a child? Look for saints with attributes you would like to discuss, such as kindness and sharing—even moodiness! Saint Camillus de Lellis is a good example of someone who could be very crabby, but nice too. What child—or adult– could not identify with him? A saint who was silly was Phillip Neri. Particularly active kids enjoy hearing about people’s adventures. How about saints who were shipwrecked? Which saint could walk a tightrope (hint: he is mentioned already in this article!)

To get you started on your search for saints that inspire, challenge or comfort you, here is a different kind of challenge: research to find the patron saint of people who procrastinate. You will find his name is a pun. Don’t put this off!