Advent Playlists!

Last year I created an Advent playlist that was a mix of genres/styles…but it grew to over 50 titles. It wasn’t working for me this year, and I had found even more fantastic songs to add. So I have cut some tracks that weren’t my favorites and added some beautiful ones that I can’t believe I didn’t have on there already. Most importantly, I split it into two playlists — traditional and contemporary. (Psstt…the contemporary list features some new Advent music from Matt Maher. So good!)

I’m happy to share these with you. I hope you enjoy them for the next couple of weeks of Advent!

**If you aren’t already on my mailing list, sign-up so that you can be notified immediately when I post resources like this. I will probably be revising my Christmas playlist(s) soon and creating lists for Lent and Easter this year too.**

Thanksgiving, Martyrs and Intentional Celebrations

Today is Thanksgiving, and I’ve spent the week reading stacks of seasonally-themed picture books with my kids: books about Thanksgiving meal gathering traditions, funny books about turkeys, the history of the first Thanksgiving of the Pilgrims, and the story of Sarah Hale — who we have to thank (no pun intended) for our national day of celebration.

But today, for us Catholics, it is also another important feasting day; it is the memorial of St. Cecilia, a martyr of the third-century Church.

If you don’t know her story, she was sentenced to death by suffocation in the scalding hot steam of the baths, but she was unharmed after being locked up in them overnight. The second attempt to execute her was decapitation; but the executioner could not cut off her head, despite three hacks at her neck, and she was left bleeding to die. She lived for three days more. Her body was exhumed in 1599 and found to be incorrupt. Read her whole story; it is powerful…..but…not really the kind of “happy” tale that would typically come up today around your dinner tables.

But maybe it shouldn’t be weird if it did.

Perhaps our holiday celebrations have become commercialized and stylized to the point that we are totally disconnected from the weight of their origin. It might be a trite reflection to simplistically connect the these two feast days by emphasizing that we get to live in a country where we aren’t martyred for our faith, a country that brought the Pilgrims here in the first place to have a chance to worship and practice their faith freely. While that is true, I think that such a statement by itself still removes us a bit from the reality that we are memorializing.

These holidays and holy days — be they national or religious — exist because of real people and for profound reasons, of which we should not lose sight amidst all of our traditions. Our intentional celebrations are important. We shouldn’t forget or avoid remembering the harsh challenges that people faced, because it is the surmounting of those circumstances that brought about the events we celebrate — whether it be a people group that avoided starvation and settled a colony in the New World or a saint that exhibited impenetrable faith and won her heavenly reward.

Material icons often overtake the holidays’ greater significance: turkey plates for Thanksgiving, blow-up Santas for Christmas, Peeps in baskets for Easter. You know what I mean. I’m all about decorations, but decorations are not all these days are about.

As I sit with my kids and a stack of books, I’m not saying don’t read the silly one about the turkey; I’m saying read the hard one too. Tell the difficult story. These were real people, and their stories and circumstances deserve an empathetic response. These holidays and celebrations require us to enter into the stories of real people in history and see them as part of our own.

 

Copyright 2018 Jessica Ptomey

Young Hearts Experience Conversion Too

“I hate church!”

This had become a weekly outburst the moment our 5-year-old realized that it was Sunday…again. “I hate Sundays,” he would add. And when that didn’t get quite the response he was looking for, he would throw in, “I do not love God!”

Have you been there? Do you have one of these kids? I don’t think of myself as an overly sensitive or easily scandalized parent. I knew how to take these outbursts with a grain of salt. However, they did leave me a bit sad for him week after week. I started taking my convictions and beliefs about prayer for my children seriously, purposefully asking God to touch his young heart.

A few weeks ago after dinner my husband said he wanted the family to pray a couple of decades of the rosary together. We went for two decades, feeling that would be ambitious with our group of four kids under age eight.

It was so peaceful and beautiful.

All of the boys actually prayed each Hail Mary, fingering their wooden beads one by one. After the two decades, the boys didn’t want to stop. In fact, our anti-church 5-year-old kept right on with his Hail Marys (until he reached what he determined to be the end) while we ushered everyone up for bed.

As I tidied up downstairs, I could hear his excited voice talking to my husband upstairs. “I love praying!” I heard him say. Wow, I’m thinking to myself. He’s really getting into this.  I minute later he burst into the room with a radiant smile on his face. “Mommy, I love praying! I really do love praying…….and Mommy…..I do love God!”

Let me insert here that it had been a particularly rough day with behavior, and that family rosary had done a lot to restore my tired parent’s heart. But when I heard his words spoken with such sincerity, I could have easily relived that horrible day over again with joy.

He was experiencing a REAL conversion of heart. He was tuned-in to the voice of the Holy Spirit, and something profound had happened in his interior, spiritual life. He continued on excitedly as new realizations hit him. “Sundays…I will like Sundays now! I will like going to church, because I get to pray there.”

I hugged him and told him to remember this wonderful moment, because one day he would need to be reminded that he loved God, and therefore loved taking time to pray and worship in Mass. I knew this spiritual experience didn’t necessarily mean that he would always feel this way. Why? Because he’s a person just like me. Just as I forget the joy and privilege of prayer, he will too. Just like I need to be reminded that my feelings aren’t always leading me to truth, he will need to remember the truth when his emotions lead him astray.

This experience crystalized for me a truth that we parents must strive to keep forefront: just as the Holy Spirit continually converts our hearts, he is continually converting the hearts of our children as well. In fact, these young hearts are often closer to conversion on a daily basis than we older hearts are. Let us never act in a way that presumes to take over the Holy Spirit’s role in our kids’ interior lives. We are the parents. God is their Creator, and he is continually chasing after them with a love that never gives up.


**Full disclosure: yeah, he needed to remember a week later. 🙂

 

Copyright 2018 Jessica Ptomey