Collin will be celebrating his First Eucharist on Sunday, April 30th, which is less than a week away! To prepare, he's been participating in activities with other members of his Faith Formation class and completing the "Encounter with Christ: Eucharist" workbook at home. Later this week, I will get out some of my memorabilia from May 12, 1991, the day I received my First Holy Communion. The most exciting addition to our preparations has been a copy of "Your First Communion: Meeting Jesus, Your True Joy" written by none other than Pope Francis and published by the wonderful people at Magnificat/Ignatius.
I mean, who better here on Earth to prepare you for your First Eucharist other than our Holy Father? We've been reading little bits of it just before bed. It's the perfect guide for young people who are beginning to show a deeper understanding of their world and who are becoming capable of and interested in exploring the depths of their faith as they are further initiated into the Catholic church. This isn't a "baby book," nor is it a copy of the Cathecism. This is a book written to be read by elementary and middle school students, but anyone can enjoy it! Pope Francis' gentle, authoritative voice is comforting and engaging. He asks the readers questions, which Collin and I discuss, like, "Have you thought about the talents God has given you?" (Collin's answer: "I'm really good at watching YouTube videos" led to a conversation about how to fill our time on earth sharing the gifts God has given us...maybe that's what those YouTubers are up to...) Pope Francis makes abstract concepts, like the Holy Trinity, seem simple. At one point, he explains: "Our whole life is meetings with Jesus: in prayer, when we go to Mass, and when we do good works..." Pope Francis always has a way of making faith tangible.
I also like that Pope Francis is, like me, a fan of the exclamation point! There is so much joy to be found in these 40 beautifully illustrated pages. The exclamation points are a great cue to young readers that our faith is something worth celebrating. And in less than one week, we will be celebrating Collin's very important meeting with Jesus. We will leave Pope Francis' book out to share with our friends and for them to write messages to Collin on the pages designated for that purpose at the end of the book.
If someone you know is celebrating their First Eucharist, "Your First Communion: Meeting Jesus, Your True Joy," can be found at Barnes and Noble and Amazon.com. (You may just want a copy for yourself, anyway!)
April 23, 2017 10:20
By Robyn Barberry
Bedtime at the Barberrys is nothing short of a production. There are bathtime adventures, pajama races, and our own version of “circle time” where we discuss the events of the day and our dreams for tomorrow. This is followed by stories, including:
- perennial favorites like “Goodnight, Goodnight Construction Site”
- new selections from the St. Joan of Arc library (our fabulous librarian, Courtney McNiel, always finds the perfect books for Collin)
- a chapter from our latest page turner from the Magic Treehouse Series
We used to end with quick prayers of gratitude and petition followed by one of our favorite lullabies, but since Lent began, Collin has added a new element to our culmination of each day.
Rather than giving something up for Lent, he chose to say a decade of the rosary before bed. He has had lots of practice in Mrs. Pesa, Mrs. Stauffer, and Mrs. Amato’s classes, so the flow of Our Fathers and Hail Marys comes as naturally to him as breathing. We haven’t added on the layer of the mysteries yet, but that is soon to come as he delves deeper into Jesus’ life, death, and Resurrection during his preparation for his First Eucharist. Instead, we allow ourselves to drift into a peaceful meditative state with each click of the beads.
Frank, who is almost in Kindergarten, and Leo, who enters pre-K in the Fall, have started chiming in with us. They are familiar with Jesus and Mary, but the prayers that comprise the rosary are still very new to them. The other night when we were about halfway through our decade, I heard Frank whisper, “Hold us, Mary, Mother of God.” I felt a warmth come over me and smiled.
His words were not a beginner’s mistake. He was making an observation I never considered. When we pray the rosary before bed, we can imagine ourselves being rocked to sleep in our Holy Mother’s arms. When I find myself under duress, I begin to pray the rosary. Mary is holding me at those moments, too. Any time we pray a Hail Mary, we find ourselves in her loving embrace. I can’t think of anywhere else I’d rather be at times of need.
March 31, 2017 08:15
By Robyn Barberry
I have asked several friends, co-workers, and family members to write about what a Catholic education means to them. Previously, Gina Sabo, the Technology Integration Specialist, at St. Joan of Arc School in Aberdeen, wrote about why she chooses to teach in a Catholic school. Today, she reveals 5 reasons why she and her husband, Jon, have decided to send their 7-year-old son, Danny, to St. Joan of Arc. I'm blessed to have the Sabo family in my life at home and at school.
Why do I send my son to a Catholic School? by Gina Sabo
My husband and I have been happily married for almost 10 years. We have a beautiful, rambunctious, 7-year old boy, and two years ago, we had to make an important decision. We had to consider serious, life-altering decisions (I was in the middle of changing jobs) on where we would want our young impressionable child to start his formal education.
Now, my husband and I were both part of the “hybrid” Catholic School and public school upbringing. We had attended both types of environments at some point in our educational career, so we knew what each type of school brought to the table.
The public school our son would be attending had several amazing teachers, great after school opportunities he could participate in, and many of his friends would attend the same school. Their test scores were high, and they had access to the public library programs right next door. The before and after school program would allow for us to not make any major changes to our work schedules, however, it would cost as much for the Catholic School tuition. With that being said, it was a serious contender in our discussions.
The Catholic School we were considering had students who performed well on standardized test scores, and the student-teacher ratio was something public school teachers dream about. It offered Spanish, art, and music much like the public school, and SMART Boards, and iPads in every classroom. But the most important difference we saw in the Catholic School that was lacking in the public school was the spirit you felt walking through the front door.
So here are just a few reasons why we choose to send our son to Catholic School:
Like many families, we pray together as a family. We say grace at mealtimes and we ask our guardian angels to watch over us when things get tough. But we also try to pray throughout the day. When we encounter an accident while we are traveling anywhere (the store, long trips to see family, etc.) we always say a quick prayer for whoever was involved. We thank God for all the beautiful things we encounter in nature. At our school, we say morning prayers, Grace, a short prayer before classes start. Sometimes we even pray the rosary together as a school. My son is able to freely ask questions about his faith, and discuss how much he enjoys learning about God and praying with his friends. It is my husband’s and my hope that through our guidance and the continued support from the school, that our son turns to God in times of need.
Okay, so this may seem like an odd reason to send my child to Catholic School, but hear me out. Although uniforms can be expensive, most Catholic Schools participate in a uniform exchange program. This helps keeping the cost down for many families. Uniforms are also a timesaver in the morning. Although I have to remember if it is a P.E. day or regular uniform, I don’t have to argue over whether or not a certain shirt is clean. This allows for more family time in the morning before we trek to work and school. While in school, it is clear that it is time to focus on the learning, and not who has the best label or newest shoes. Everyone was created equal in the eyes of God, so why not extend that into the learning environment as well.
Wanting to Serve Others
In school, each grade level participates in outreach and service projects. Students make sandwiches for the hungry, collect money for the poor. This year, they participated in the Water Project to raise awareness and money for those who do not have access to clean water. At Christmas time, the school rallies together and sponsors a family. The students and their families gather gifts for those who are less fortunate. In our own families, we volunteer for Faith Formation Classes, take food to those less fortunate for Thanksgiving, and help out with other church-sponsored activities.
Danny paints a bowl for the Empty Bowls program
It is my hope, that through my husband’s and my example, as well as through his experience in the Catholic School, that our son sees that we don’t do these things just to give back to the community (though this too is noble) but, that we are following in Jesus’s footsteps, and he will continue to do so as he gets older.
It’s Academic …. But Not the Most Important Thing
Yes, learning is an important aspect of any school. However, it wouldn’t matter if the school had a state of the art Science lab, a robotics club, or drama. I am more concerned that my child becomes a kind, selfless person. The Catholic School practices the same values that we as parents “preach” at home.
Can’t Do It Alone
Jon and Danny Sabo on the first day of school.
Although I would like to believe that my husband and I would be able to provide all our son needs to have a personal relationship with God. That he will grow up to value his Catholic faith and upbringing. But I would be naive to believe that we could do that alone. Children learn from example; not only from their parents/guardians, but also from other children and adults. We do what we can at home, but in this day and age, we can use all the help we can get. I am so thankful for the community of our Catholic School. You see, our school is similar to the public school in many ways. But it is clearly more than just a school. It is a tight knit community. Our students, faculty, and parents come together every day in a community of faith and warmth. Something that has grown increasingly more important in a world of harsh realities. Our school provides an important space for our students to feel a sense of belonging and a safe haven to openly discuss their beliefs, hopes, and dreams. Yes, our school prepares their minds, but with the help of our Catholic Faith, it prepares their souls.
February 13, 2017 12:00
By Robyn Barberry
What is the one thing that every person in the world needs every day? Water. (5-13 gallons of it per day, to be exact.) In the United States, we are blessed to have access to an abundance of clean water for brushing our teeth, washing our clothes, our dishes, our bodies, cooking, and, of course, drinking. But over a billion people in developing countries, such as sub-Saharan Africa, do not have access to the very think that keeps us clean, healthy, and alive.
At St. Joan of Arc School, we always strive to care for others and the environment. So, when we were asked to participate in The Water Challenge, through The Water Project, Inc., all of us joined the cause. Participants are asked to drink nothing but water in a reusable bottle for two weeks and document the milk, juice, soda, and coffee they eliminate. At the end of two weeks, each person donates the money they saved by choosing water over other drinks. The goal is for each person to raise $23. A few months after the money is returned to The Water Project, Inc., donors will receive a report of where their money went, including GPS coordinates! It turns their small sacrifice into something big and important.
The idea is similar to the kind of fasting we do in Lent. The Water Challenge offers us the chance to think about those who have less than we do and to appreciate something we often take advantage. It also enables us to avoid the waste associated with disposable water bottles. Finally, it encourages us to take better care of our bodies by avoiding caffeinated and sugary drinks.
It was a rough start for many of the students, including my second-grader Collin. They were upset that they wouldn’t be able to enjoy the juices they ordered for hot lunch or the lemonade at our Chik-fil-a fundraiser night. It was a big change for little kids, but when teachers like myself rose up to the challenge, our involvement and the reminder wristbands they wore inspired the students to stay on board.
Now the students are excited about their small sacrifice to make the world a better place. Collin even got my tea-drinking parents involved. They send us photo updates to let us know that they’re drinking their H2O! (Now that we've got them hooked, we need to convert them to reusable water bottles!)
It’s not too late for you or your organization to participate in The Water Challenge
. If you’re not a fan of tap water, you can buy a filter for your sink or a pitcher for your refrigerator. Even my gym has an awesome water fountain filter! An excellent selection of reusable water bottles can be found in many stores and on Amazon.com. Nalgene, Camelback, and Tervis make excellent leak-proof bottles and cups in a variety of sizes. I’m a big fan of the coated aluminum canteens like the 32 oz. mint green one I have by Simple Modern. My water stays cold for 24 hours!
Since we started The Water Project I have more energy and am more aware of my water usage in other settings. I’ve been thinking about those who suffer because of their limited access to potable water. I hope that the money we donate can help make their lives better. Above all, I thank God for providing my family with a safe, clean source of the one thing we need most.
January 14, 2017 12:40
By Robyn Barberry
On the first day of creation, God said, "Let there be light!"
I said the same words the other day when my kitchen lights burned out -- while I was cooking dinner. So, while I sauteed greens under the dim light projecting from above my stove, Patrick ran out to Home Depot. He returned with new LED fixtures to replace the fluorescent bulbs overhead and reinstalled a blown glass pendant light he made.
When we flipped the switch, we could not believe how bright our kitchen was. It was pitch black dark outside, but daylight streamed through our kitchen. You could do surgery in there. The intense light highlighted every flaw: clutter, spatters we missed when wiping down the stove, hard water spots in the sink, crumbs on the floor...the list kept compounding.
Without delay, we began tidying and scrubbing the kitchen. The light led us to our problem areas and lingered until it was pleased enough for us to move on to the next project. (The fact that we had visitors arriving the next day certainly added to our effort.) By the time we finished, not only did we eliminated most of the ugliness from our kitchen, but we also discovered the beauty. Like the shiny turquoise cabinets, the nick knacks, photographs, and art on the windowsill, and an array of countertop appliances that save us time and energy. The perpetual presence of the bright light in our kitchen has compelled us to be neater, more organized people because our inadequacies and indiscretions as they pertain to housekeeping are far more visible.
We've heard over and over again that God is the light of the world. He summoned light to appear and used it to guide him as he created the universe and everything and everyone within it. God invites us to see the world under his light, which is infinitely more powerful than the LEDs watching over my kitchen, so he illuminates everything. He helps us to appreciate the beauty in all that is good, to warn us where darkness lies, and to see places in and around us that can be made better with a little bit of cleaning up.
In 2017, ask yourself: How can I increase the light in my life? The answer may be as simple as changing out a few lightbulbs.
December 31, 2016 04:29
By Robyn Barberry
After Mass this morning, Collin said, "Mom, I'm really scared of 2017. 2016 was such a good year and I'm not ready to see it end."
I stopped and thought about what he said. In many ways he was right. 2016 was a great year. God blessed us with Teagan. We managed to stay afloat financially so that we had a roof over our heads and food in our bellies. We love being a part of St. Joan of Arc. And, thanks be to God, everyone we love is in good health.
I began to consider what 2017 might be like. We could suddenly lose everything if an unexpected event drained our finances. We might lose our house, go hungry and struggle to pay school tuition and other bills. There's also the uncertainty of what a new president might bring our country. Someone I love could become very sick or die. That is my worst nightmare.
I didn't know what to tell Collin because all of the sudden I was a little bit afraid of a new year. We group our life's experiences into 12 months, 365 days and label them "good" or "bad" years based on the frequency or positive or negative events. But, sometimes we need to look at each year as a kaleidoscope of events rather than a polarized passing of time. On December 31st, we should look back at everything that's happened since January 1st and think about the ways we've changed and how we got there.
"We don't know what's going to happen in 2017, but we do know that God will take care of us, no matter what happens," I said. We talked about what things we have to look forward to, like his First Communion, our summer vacation, and adventures beyond our imagination. Life will be far from perfect, even in a "good" year, but as long as we remain faithful, God will protect us -- here or in the great beyond.
December 18, 2016 10:10
By Robyn Barberry
Last Saturday, December 10th, 2016, my parents, Collin, and I visited the Irish Railroad Workers Museum on Lemmon Street in Baltimore for their Irish Christmas Celebration. Alongside the apple cider, scones, and Celtic Christmas ornament crafts, we received a tour of two tiny row houses, one of which represented an Irish family’s home during the 1860s. A family not unlike that of my Irish immigrant ancestors. And surprisingly, a family not unlike my own today. A family that could have been mine, not so long ago.
The Feeley family lived in a space the size of my living room and dining room (and my house isn't very big.) James, the head of the household, worked long, hard days as a boilermaker at the B&O railroad, while Mrs. Feeley raised the children and took in extra money by doing other people’s laundry over their hearth, hanging everything to dry in the small yard where their outhouse was.
There was no running water. Food was purchased at the Hollins Street Market, a short walk away. A winding, narrow, trepidacious staircase leads to the second floor. As I carried 5-month-old Teagan up and down the stairs, I thought for sure we'd stumble and meet a certain death. I wondered how Mrs. Feeley managed to make the trip upstairs and down carrying one of her children and laundry and water.The Feeley baby slept in a cradle in the parents’ bedroom while the older children shared a bed across the hall.
A simple ball and cup toy kept the children entertained.
The family worshiped at St. Peter’s Church, where the children attended school. (You can see it from their house. )
Not all of the children lived to adulthood due to diseases, such as cholera and typhoid fever, the latter of which was the cause of a major epidemic in Baltimore at this time. But, the Feeley family prevailed, like my own, passing along their heritage and their faith to future generations.
In 2016, I complain that my house is too small for my four children, my husband, our two cats, and myself. But, when I compared it to the size of the little house on Lemmon Street, I am amazed at how blessed we are. My husband works hard as a farmer, while I spend a considerable amount of time at home with my children. We have a spacious kitchen and an extremely efficient washer and dryer (though I STILL can't keep up with the laundry), as well as indoor plumbing. Our tap water is filtered. I have access to fresh food from all over the world at Wegman’s, but prefer to buy fruits and vegetables from my local farmer, Brad, in the growing season. Last year, I took a nasty spill down the wooden stairs to my second floor, but I survived. (I'm still apprehensive when I'm carrying something or someone.) Baby Teagan sleeps in a cradle beside my bed, while her brother shared a bed across the hall up until a few weeks ago when they got bunkbeds. The iPad is my boys' favorite toy. We are active members of our parish, St. Joan of Arc, where my son goes to school and I teach art. (We can see it from our house.) I pray every day for my children to stay healthy and live long lives. I am eternally grateful for the medical care we have available to us, particularly vaccines to prevent the kinds of diseases that took the lives of many children.
After visiting the Irish Railroad Workers Museum, I look at my household and lifestyle through new eyes. What would my great-great grandmother say if she heard me complaining that the water in the shower was too hot because someone turned on the dishwasher? How would she feel if she saw me hydrating my flu-stricken sons with a magical potion called Pedialyte so that they could make a full recovery in just a few days? At the same time, how would she feel if she saw me walking my children to church on Sunday? My ungratefulness aside, I like to think that she would be proud. Our foundations on faith, family, and heritage have been passed down through the decades and preserved our Irish Catholic identity. Though modern conveniences, medicine, and workplace situations have changed, we should always remember where we came from and thank God for getting us here.
The Irish Railroad Workers Museum is located at 920 Lemmon St. in Baltimore and is open Friday and Saturday from 11 am - 2 pm and Sunday from 1-4 pm. I'd like to extend a special thanks to Luke and Cecelia for their hospitality and education.
December 17, 2016 10:23
By Robyn Barberry
On Oct. 17, I sustained a concussion when a metal fence collapsed on me. It brought with it a guy who was about a foot taller than me. It was a freak accident, but one that landed me in the hospital. I don’t remember much of the first week of my recovery. I slept while family members and friends took care of my children. I missed two weeks of work, which was probably the hardest part.
I don’t work an ordinary job in an ordinary place. I have the honor of being a Catholic school teacher at St. Joan of Arc in Aberdeen. My work is my second home and everyone there is family to me. While I stayed home and rested, other teachers and teachers’ assistants arranged to cover my classes so that the students were still getting their weekly does of art. They even planned on staying with me when I returned. Some of my school friends even helped me with getting Collin to and from school. One day he came home and said, “Everyone misses you mom! Especially me.”
Some teachers had their classes make cards for me. Some were funny, like the drawings of me that Lizzie and Seeley made for me. Others were beautiful, like the sweet scribbles annotated by our thoughtful pre-K teacher or the Halloween-themed card created by my student Roman, who is a cancer survivor.
One 8th grader made a tie-dye card and signed it from her entire family, with who I'm blessed to share my school and church life. Every picture and every message made me want to be back at school. Over and over again, I received messages that teachers, students, and their families were praying for me. How blessed I am to teach in a place where prayer is always welcome.
When I returned to school, I felt like an Olympian returning home for a victory parade. I was met with a receiving line of hugs, the first of whom was from my principal, one of the most caring and understanding people I've ever met. Even the big kids were glad to see me. One first grader wouldn’t let me go.
“I’ve missed you for years and years!” she shouted.
“Shh!” another girl said, “Her ears are very sensitive.” (As it turned out, our kind new librarian had talked to all the classes about my symptoms.) Even though I have a headache most of the time, I’m seldom bothered by the noises children make. In fact, the Kindergarten class sang a beautiful song for me. “It’s melt your heart,” a little girl said. It did.
“How are you feeling?” an upper school teacher asked.
“I’m getting there,” I said. (It’s my go-to response. I hate to complain, so I think it’s a nice way of saying “I’m not at my best, but I'm trying.”)
“I know you’re probably getting tired of us asking, but we do it because we love you!” she said.
I was definitely feeling the love, but I was feeling something else, too: mercy. All of these kind deeds were acts of Mercy, which is especially important as the Year of Mercy draws to a close. There will always be time to pray for the sick; to sing to them; to send cards, letters, and artwork; to help ease their transitions back to school; back to work; and to God’s kingdom.
November 02, 2016 05:17
By Robyn Barberry
We’ve all heard the saying, “Life is a Highway.” While some people might claim they want to “ride it all night long,” there are many of us frustrated by delays and accidents on our daily commutes and long adventures. Sometimes the road overwhelms us to the point where we need to sojourn to a rest stop and catch our breath.
For me, the quick moments of prayer and hour-long Mass I attend on Sundays are those well-needed breaks from the highway of my life. Being able to “pull over” and collect my thoughts and redirect myself is essential for giving me the energy to sustain the long haul.
But, what happens when I miss my exit and I drive too many long, hard miles alone? I steer off course. I am lost. My ability to handle the frustrations of my ride dwindles, and I find myself swerving into other lanes, broken down on the side of the road, or crashing. If I’m having a bad week, I stop and look to see if I skipped Mass on Sunday or haven’t been injecting my days with prayer.
The good news is that I can always find another place of respite in God’s love. And he offers free 24-hour maintenance. Just like I can pick up the phone to call AAA, I can check in with God at any time, remind myself of my blessings, and petition him for my needs.
Before too long, I’m on the road again, rejuvenated and ready to handle the obstacles ahead of me. I can roll down the window, turn up my favorite upbeat song, and relax knowing that God is my G.P.S.
September 29, 2016 10:32
By Robyn Barberry
For almost a year, we have been together. First you lived inside of me; then, in my arms. I haven’t left your side for longer than a few hours since the day you were born. On Wednesdays when your brothers were with your grandmother, I had you to myself. You’d nuzzle up to me in your carrier while we shopped for groceries. We were almost as close as when you were in my belly and there was no one else in the world but us. That was our time. No one can ever take those early days away.
Now, it’s time for you to share me with the rest of the world. Today is my first day back to work. It’s my first day being without you. But, it will be okay.
I teach art to kids in a small Catholic school so that I can provide nourishment for our family and for my spirit. My job could never bring me as much joy as you have in these past six weeks, but if I’m going to be away from you, I may as well be doing something else that I love. When I’m not your mommy, I’m Mrs. Barberry. And I like having both of those names.
I can’t carry you around all day while I teach. You'd be too heavy. You'd get messy. And, you’re so cute that my young students wouldn’t pay attention to me. The girls would coo over you and comment on your outfit like you were a runway star. Most of the boys would ignore you, unless you spit up. (They'd probably like that.)
My students would compete for my attention, too, because I can’t stop gazing at you or smelling you or kissing you or brushing my fingertips across your rose petal skin. When I’m at work, I need to focus on my students. But, from time to time I glance over at the photographs of you and your brothers on my desk. They remind me that I’m working to make a better life for you. (It especially helps when my students are acting up!)
Your picture is all I have of you today. The one of you draped in my wedding dress and veil on my desk and the one I took of you yesterday in the coral dress my students’ mom made for you. (It’s the picture I’d share with my coworkers when they asked about you.) I snapped one last picture of you in your pajamas before getting you dressed.
I drank in every drop of you, Sweet Tea, before your Daddy loaded you up for a fun day at your Lovey’s. I kissed you goodbye as Daddy walked out the door. The second he closed the door, I cried, just as I did for each of your brothers. Even though I knew you were heading to another place where you’d be held close and surrounded by love, I wished that I could be the one to share the day with you. I breathed in the milky smell of your pjs (the ones with the little teal and purple birds on them that your brother’s teacher gave you.)
Throughout the day, I kept checking the clock and counting the hours until we’d be together again. Your grandmother sent a picture of you to my phone. It made me smile and boosted my energy. Before I knew it, the workday was over and you were back in my arms. I asked about your day. You hummed and purred. That will have to do for now.
As much as I wish I could be there for every moment of your life, I can’t. Sometimes the only place where I can hold you is in my heart. I know I’m going to miss some milestones. You may say your first word to a grandparent. A babysitter might be the first witness to your first go-round on a bike. That first tooth might fall out when you’re in someone else’s class. But, I will be there when you need me instead of someone else. I’ll read to you. I’ll listen to you practice your recorder (but only if I can wear ear plugs). I’ll wait for hours with you at the MVA to get your first license. I’ll cheer as you walk across a stage. I’ll sob when you down that aisle. If you call, I’ll always pick up the phone. And I’ll never stop praying for you.
August 29, 2016 02:05
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