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Saints of Recent Decades: an Introduction

In our forthcoming blog posts, we will be focusing our attention on saints who have lived in recent decades. (We will use the term “recent” somewhat loosely, as some of them lived more than a hundred years ago, which most children consider to be very, very old.) Our intent is to provide a resource for you that can be used to introduce your Sunday Church School students to saints who they can see in icons but also (at least in most cases) in actual photographs as well. Seeing the photos can help the children to better grasp the reality of the saints’ existence, that they are real people who actually lived and struggled just like we do to live an Orthodox Christian life. It is our goal that along the way, all of us will “meet” new friends as we learn about these saints who have walked the earth more recently.

Each post will focus on a recent saint, offering a brief retelling of his/her story. It will also offer ideas of ways to teach your Sunday Church School students about that saint’s life. We hope that you will interact with these posts, leaving comments of other ideas or resources on each saint that you have to share with the community, as well.

Of course, it is up to you if and how you put these blog posts to use in your classroom. Perhaps you could share the saint’s story while the children snack (if your Sunday Church School class takes place after Divine Liturgy), before you begin your main lesson. You could adapt the ideas to your class’ needs and teach a full lesson on each saint. Or you could just offer an occasional lesson on one of the saints, working them in around your usual lessons. However you apply these posts, we hope you find them encouraging and challenging, and that they will cause you to want to strive harder to be the man/woman of God that He has created you to be. May we challenge our Sunday Church School students to do likewise!


Through the prayers of the Holy Saints, Lord Jesus Christ our God, have mercy on us and save us!

Here are some ideas and links that you may find helpful:

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What is the definition of a saint, and how does a person become one? Did you know that there are different categories of saints? What exactly is theosis? Why do we ask the saints to pray for us? These questions and more are answered in this blog which is important background information for us as we prepare to teach our Sunday Church School children about the saints.  http://www.goarch.org/ourfaith/ourfaith8044

Older children could read this blog together and discuss its application to their life. After all, sainthood should be our aim, for living a life of great godliness is the ultimate goal for every sincere Christian!

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One idea that could help your Sunday Church School students retain the information that you teach them about saints over the course of this year would be for you to have them create a “trading card” of sorts about the saint. It could feature a copied icon of the saint, a sketch that they make, or a photograph (if it is a recent saint), that is then attached to a 3×5 or 4×6 index card. Each student could then write a short description of the saint beneath the illustration (or on the back), or copy the troparion to the saint in that space. Perhaps something like this (only student-made): https://app.box.com/s/uvph2nn833y8gr1fj7yd.

Students could accumulate their “trading cards” in your classroom and have a whole set to take home at the end of the year, to remind them of these “new” friends that they met in your Sunday Church School class.

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There are so many men who have become saints. But there are also many women! We will feature both in our “recent” saint blogs this fall. If you want to see a list of women saints, here is one: http://www.antiochian.org/women/orthodox-women-saints

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Find a listing of each day’s saints, as well as links to more information about most of them here: https://oca.org/saints/lives This page is an excellent resource for a Sunday Church School study of the saints: students can look up their own patron saint, find out more about saints whose name day is on a date significant to the student, or use the page to “meet” new friends each time they visit the web page!
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“…What does a holy life look like in the twenty-first century? We tell ourselves, ‘Sure, people could live holy lives in the fourth century…there was no TV, internet, or any of the other temptations of our day!’ We doubt there are any saints who could have understood the struggles that we face.” Read on in this blog post about finding friends among the recent saints who are examples to us and can intercede for us. (Spoiler alert: we will be learning about many of the saints mentioned here, in the weeks ahead!) https://blogs.goarch.org/blog/-/blogs/reflections-on-a-modern-saint

 

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On the Feast of the Elevation of the Holy Cross (Sept. 14 or 27)

The Feast of the Elevation of the Holy Cross celebrates not one, but two important (but very much related) events in the history of the Church. In this feast, we celebrate both the finding of the Cross by St. Helena in 326 and the return of the Cross to Constantinople (and then on to Jerusalem) in 628. Here is a short synopsis to refresh your memory:

Although the empress Helena was 79 years old, she left on a journey to Jerusalem to find the precious Cross in the year 325. She had never seen a basil plant before this time. Just outside of Jerusalem, she noticed this unusual plant (the basil) that was growing all over the ground. The unfamiliar plant’s appearance and its location caused her to suspect that this was a special place. She decided to have her men dig at that spot in search of the Cross. It turned out that she was right! Three crosses were found in the ground under the growing basil. All three were tested on a sick woman (and/or a dead man – traditions vary), who had no response to the two other crosses, but became immediately well after touching the Cross of Christ. Many, many people came into Jerusalem when they heard that the Cross had been found. The leaders of the Church held the Cross up high for all to see. The people responded by saying, “Lord have mercy!” again and again.

Soon thereafter, St. Helena had a church built at the site, and most of the Cross stayed in that church, with a small piece going back to Constantinople. And so it remained for many years. In 614, however, the Persians conquered Palestine and stole the Cross. A few years later, in 628, Emperor Heraclius and his men were able to recover the Cross after defeating the Persians. At that point, the Cross was returned to Jerusalem, to the Church of the Holy Resurrection.

We celebrate both the initial finding of the Cross and its recovery with this fasting feast. It may seem odd to celebrate a feast day by fasting. But we celebrate the Feast of the Elevation of the Cross with fasting because of what we are commemorating: the Cross on which our Lord suffered and died. A fast is the most appropriate celebration of that. As we celebrate, we should also be renewing our own determination to follow Him and live our Faith to the best of our ability, even though doing so may cause us to suffer. In this way, our fasting feast can help us to become the kind of Christian we are meant to be.

Oh Lord, save Thy people and bless Thine inheritance,

Granting to Thy people victory over all their enemies.

And by the power of Thy Cross

Preserving Thy Kingdom!

We hope that you had a blessed Feast of the Elevation of the Holy Cross!

 

Here are a few ideas of ways to learn about this feast and to teach your Sunday Church School students about it. You can tuck them away for another year!

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Very young children (preschool-K) will enjoy these activities related to finding the Holy Cross: https://raisingorthodoxchristians.com/2015/08/24/elevation-of-the-cross-part-2-activities/

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Find a simple lesson, complete with two craft suggestions, to help children learn about the Feast of the Elevation of the Holy Cross here: http://myocn.net/elevation-of-the-cross-prayer-beads/

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Find a printable children’s bulletin about the Elevation of the Cross here: http://myocn.net/wp-content/uploads/2014/09/Childrens-Word-83.pdf

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Find thorough lesson plans on the Feast of the Elevation of the Cross at this site. (For example, here is the one for 10-12 year olds, http://orthodoxsundayschool.org/church-history/10-12-years-old/elevation-cross; and this one is for high school, http://orthodoxsundayschool.org/epistles-feasts-and-sacraments/high-school/elevation-cross)
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Older children will benefit from reading the articles about the cross, including its finding and its elevation (there’s also one on the wood that was used to make the cross), complete with color icons and some pictures found in this unique and very thorough bulletin. Reading the articles together can be a very good starting place for discussion! http://stpaulsgreekorthodox.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/09/September2016Bulletin.pdf

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On the Feast of the Nativity of the Theotokos (Sept. 8 or 21)

The very first feast of the new Church year is the Feast of the Nativity of the Theotokos, and it is a very good place to start! After all, the birth of the Theotokos is where many of the other feasts begin. In this feast, we celebrate the miracle which God worked in the lives of Sts. Joachim and Anna, who were His faithful servants, but were never blessed with a child. Childlessness was a hardship for them. They had reached old age and had borne no children! In those days, barrenness was considered punishment from God for sins, and thus everywhere they went, people could look at them and judge them as sinners simply because they had no child. In fact, when Joachim went to the Temple to make an offering, he was turned away by the High Priest because of his childlessness (remember, at that time it meant “apparent sinfulness”). It was at this point that Joachim went off to the hills to earnestly pray for a child.

Meanwhile, Anna was in Jerusalem at their home wondering where he was, while also praying for a child. While they were praying one day, the Archangel Gabriel appeared to each of them, telling them that their prayers had been heard, and they would be given a daughter whose name would be known through all the world. He told Joachim to go back to Jerusalem, and he told Anna to wait for Joachim at the Golden Gate. They both believed the angel and obeyed him. So when Joachim arrived back at Jerusalem, there was Anna, waiting for him at the Golden Gate! God kept His promise to them by allowing them to conceive the Theotokos.

So, why do we celebrate this feast? The Kontakion of the feast tells us why:
“By your nativity, most pure Virgin, Joachim and Anna are freed from barrenness, Adam and Eve from the corruption of death. And we, your people, freed from the guilt of sin, celebrate and sing to you: ‘The barren woman gives birth to the Theotokos, the nourisher of our Life.’” In other words, we are not just celebrating the miracle of Sts. Joachim and Anna’s release from barrenness. Through Mary, the child given to them, Christ was born. And through His birth, death, and resurrection, Adam and Eve were released from Hades; and we ourselves are set free from the guilt of our sin. So, why would we NOT celebrate this feast?!?

Below are some links that can help us learn more about the Feast of the Nativity of the Theotokos. Other links will help us teach our students about the feast. If you are not teaching about it this week, tuck the ideas away for a future year.

We hope you had a blessed celebration of the Feast of the Nativity of the Theotokos!

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“[The Feast of the Nativity of the Theotokos] is a celebration as well of the very first preparation of the salvation of the world. For the “Vessel of Light,” the “Book of the Word of Life,” the “Door to the Orient,” the “Throne of Wisdom” is being prepared on earth by God Himself in the birth of the holy girl-child Mary. The verses of the feast are filled with titles for Mary such as those in the quotations above. They are inspired by the message of the Bible, both the Old and New Testaments. The specific Biblical readings of the feast give indications of this.” Read about the Scripture passages in this article: https://oca.org/orthodoxy/the-orthodox-faith/worship/the-church-year/nativity-of-the-theotokos

This article is great background for any Sunday Church School teacher. It would also be a great discussion starter for older Sunday Church School classes, who could look up the verses being quoted and discuss the “type and fulfillment” that happens in scripture again and again, this time in the context of the life of the Theotokos.

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Find an explanation of the icon of the Nativity of the Theotokos, as well as a gallery of this icon as written by different iconographers, here: https://iconreader.wordpress.com/2011/09/08/the-nativity-of-the-theotokos-icon/
With middle-years students, look at the different icons together and find each detail mentioned in the explanation, and note how it is written in each icon.

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Find a plethora of information, as well as thought provoking and inspirational encouragement related to the Nativity of the Theotokos in this wonderful book: http://store.ancientfaith.com/heaven-meets-earth

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If you teach young Sunday Church School students, consider having a blue class day. Celebrate the birth of the Mother of God with lots of blue, the Theotokos’ color! Dress in blue; decorate the classroom with blue; eat a “blue” snack (including as many blue things as possible: maybe crackers with blue cheese or blue tortilla chips with salsa, fruit kabobs including blueberries, blue finger jello, etc.); you get the idea! Find this and other fun ideas, as well as a printable wheel for all of the feast days here: http://orthodoxsundayschool.org/epistles-feasts-and-sacraments/3-5-years-old/nativity-theotokos-0

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The Department of Christian Education of the OCA has a downloadable series of lesson plans on the Theotokos here: http://dce.oca.org/focus/theotokos
Lesson 1 is about the Nativity of the Theotokos, and is offered at 5 different age group levels. Lessons include reproducible pages of readings, icons, music, and more! If you are planning to teach a lesson on this feast, you will want to check these lesson plans to help you prepare.

 

NT Grab Bags

Bible Story Grab Bags: New Testament

Author’s note: As we conclude the weeks of summer break from Sunday Church School, it is time that we finish our preparations for the forthcoming year. Pulling together items that remind you of Bible stories and putting them in a “Bible Story Grab Bag” can be one way to do so. Bible story grab bags can be used throughout the Church School year as part of a lesson, as an attention-getter, as a “something-to-do-during-snack-after-liturgy-before-our-official-lesson,” or as a lesson extender if you finish your usual lesson before class time is over. (It can also be revisited at the end of the year. To review, just have each student pull an item out of the grab bag and tell something they remember about that story.)

Here are selections from the New Testament which could be told, along with suggestions of items that could represent each selection in an Old Testament Bible Story Grab Bag:

The Annunciation (Luke 1) – toothpick “spindle” of red yarn or sign that says “YES”

The angel visits Joseph (Matt 1) – angel from Christmas decor

Mary visits Elizabeth (Luke 1) – jump rope (St. John “leaped” in St. Elizabeth’s womb)

The birth of John (Luke 1) – slate with “His name is John” written in white marker

The birth of Jesus (Luke 2) – small nativity, manger, or star ornament

The wise men (Matt 2) – small bag with gold rocks, incense, sm. bottle of oil for “myrrh”

Simeon and Anna (Luke 2) – hourglass (representing how long they waited for Christ)

The escape to Egypt (Matt 2) – replica of the pyramids

Jesus comes to the temple (Luke 2) – slate and chalk (he taught the temple teachers)

The baptism of Jesus (Matt 3, John 1) – bottle of water or a dove

Jesus and His disciples (Luke 5) – a bit of fishing net

The wedding in Cana (John 2) – small wine glass

Jesus and the storm (Mark 4) – toy ship or a storm cloud photo

Jesus and the daughter of Jairus (Mark 5) – toy tiara

The Sermon on the Mount teachings:

Love your enemies (Matt 5) – stuffed monster

The Lord Teaches the Lord’s Prayer (Matt 6) – copy of the Lord’s Prayer

The parable of the Wise and Foolish Builders (Matt 7) –  jar of sand and a rock

The Good Samaritan (Luke 10) – bandages

The lost sheep (Luke 15) – toy lamb

The prodigal son (Luke 15) – fancy ring

Jesus feeds five thousand people (Matt 14) – 5 crackers and 2 candy fish in a baggie

Jesus walks on water (Matt 14) – small pair of water shoes

God shows who Jesus is (Matt 17) – glow stick flashlight w/ marker face “Jesus”

The Good Shepherd (John 10) – “shepherd’s crook”/brown tape-covered candy cane

Jesus comes to Zacchaeus (Luke 19) – tiny toy guy and a big toy tree

Lazarus (John 11) – toy person wrapped in a length of white crepe paper streamer

Mary anoints Jesus (John 12) – small bottle of perfume

The entrance of Jesus into Jerusalem (Mark 11) – palm branch

Jesus drives the merchants out of the temple (Mark 11) – toy dove in cage or dollhouse-sized table and coins

Jesus celebrates Passover with His Disciples (Mark 14) – small dish (for identifying Judas)

Jesus washes the disciples’ feet (John 13) – small bowl “basin” and washcloth “towel”

Jesus prays in the garden of Gethsemane (Mark 14) – praying hands picture

Jesus dies on the cross (Mark 15) – small wooden cross

The burial of Jesus (Mark 15, John 19) – piece of white cloth “shroud”

The Resurrection of Jesus (Luke 24) – large stone “seal for the tomb”

Jesus ascends into Heaven (Luke 24, Acts 1) – stuffed cloud or handful of fiberfill

Pentecost (Acts 2) – lighter (for when “the tongues of fire” came down)

Saul On the Road to Damascus (Acts 9) – spotlight or bright flashlight

Sts. Paul and Silas Sing in Jail (Acts 16) – piece of broken chain

St. Paul Writes Letters (1 Corinth 12, 1 John 4) – pile of letters tied together

Here are some helpful links that can help you prepare your New Testament Bible Story Grab Bag. We also shared these when we posted this (https://orthodoxchurchschoolteachers.wordpress.com/2016/07/01/bible-story-grab-bags-old-testament/) but are re-sharing in case you missed them :

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Create a simple drawstring bag to be your “New Testament Bible Story Grab Bag.” Here’s a very basic pattern that you could use to make the bag: http://www.diaryofaquilter.com/2013/06/easy-fat-quarter-drawstring-bag-tutorial.html

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Here are several other suggestions for storage for your storytelling “grab bag” (box? tube?): Decorate an empty wet-wipes container (see http://momstown.ca/2013/10/23/how-make-treasure-box-diaper-wipe-container/); a covered oatmeal tube or coffee can (see http://modpodgerocksblog.com/2009/09/delightful-toy-containers-made-from.html); or a paper-covered shoebox (this one suggests using maps, but any pretty paper would work: http://inmyownstyle.com/2013/09/map-covered-shelf-organizing-boxes.html) and store your story-starters in there instead of in a bag!
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Make story stones like this to include as your “story-starters” for the grab bag. To make your own, consider using an all-purpose glue (like modge podge) to adhere related pictures (hand drawn, photographs, or cut from magazines) onto smooth stones. You can then set the stones upright in sand in scenery, or in a timeline, etc, as you tell the story. http://www.poppitscupboard.com/p/home.html

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Gather actual items that represent the stories you want to tell to your class. These items will be your “story starters” which you will keep in the grab bag. They can be plastic or wooden miniatures, pictures or icons, or any significant item that shows up in a Bible story that will jog your (and your students’) memory. (You may also want to include a master list of every item, complete with its story and/or the scripture to which it belongs.) Here is an example: https://s-media-cache-ak0.pinimg.com/736x/71/00/b9/7100b98b14a9ac8423d9ca6dcda5d3e4.jpg

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Here’s a related Bible storytelling tip: Tell a story using several bags, each containing one item that helps to tell the story. (For example, this storyteller gives ideas for using multiple items and bags to tell the story of Creation: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y-Nu01DP_IQ.) Here are 12 Bible stories, already thought through for a similar project/presentation: http://curbsproject.org.uk/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/2014/06/Bible-Story-Bags.pdf

 

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On Mark 11:17, “My House Shall Be Called a House of Prayer for All Nations.”

Note: the Antiochian Archdiocese’s Creative Arts Festival 2017’s theme is the inspiration for this blog post. We will take a closer look at the theme, to help them to better prepare for the festival in case they participate. Whether or not they do, what we can gather from this passage of St. Mark’s Gospel is applicable to all of us, not just the children participating in the festival!

Have you ever thought about that time when our Lord went into the temple, overturned the tables of the money changers, and drove out the salesmen? Why did He do that? What can we learn from His actions? How can we apply this passage to our own life?

It all began with the Triumphal Entry, the glorious reception that Jesus was given when He arrived in Jerusalem. Even the fact that He was riding on a lowly donkey did not stop the crowd from singing His praises. But instead of glorying in that acclaim, He went straight to the temple and “looked around at all things.” (Mark 11:11) His means of entry into Jerusalem modeled humility and His choice to go directly to the temple exemplifies the priority that should be given to being in God’s house.

Something else is tucked into this passage that could easily be missed. The passage says that He “looked around at all things” but “as the hour was already late He went out to Bethany with the twelve.” This shows us something else: it models self restraint. After all, as He looked around, our Lord saw all of the greedy money-making happening in what should have been a very holy, completely God-focused place. He knew that it was wrong, and had every right to be furious about it. But instead, He left to be with His disciples, calmly choosing being with people over being frustrated about stuff.

The next day our Lord returned to Jerusalem, and went back to the temple. This time He “drove out those who bought and sold in the temple, and overturned the tables of the money changers and the seats of those who sold doves. And He would not allow anyone to carry wares through the temple.”  (Mark 11:15-16) He thus demonstrated the importance of keeping what has been set apart for God free from greed and from earthly stuff.

Once the temple was restored to its intended state, it could also return to its intended purpose of worship and godly teaching. And so Christ taught the people, saying, “Is it not written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer for all nations’? But you have made it a ‘den of thieves.’” This teaching was appropriate for the people who had gotten so accustomed to seeing (and doing) marketing in the temple that they perhaps didn’t even think about how inappropriate it was. It turns out that this teaching is also appropriate for those of us living 2000+ years later. Concepts that we can take from this passage include: honoring God’s house as a place to pray; welcoming all because God’s house is for everyone, regardless of nationality; and guarding against deceit and greed that can steal us away from right relationship with God.

St. Paul’s letter to the Corinthians pushes us to look at this event in an even more personal light. 1 Corinthians 6:19 reads, “Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God?” Reconsidering the account of our Lord’s cleansing of the temple from the perspective of our own body being a temple, set apart for God, offers us even more insights for our Christian life. First and foremost, we need to aim to live humbly as our Lord did, especially when things are going well and others are lauding us. Secondly, God should always be our first stop, whether we are looking for personal guidance or we are prioritizing our schedule (being in church at the Divine Services should be at the top of our list). Thirdly, we need Christ Himself to cleanse our hearts, drive away the greed and selfishness in us, and restore us to the way we were intended to be. Finally, we need Him to teach us: how to guard the holiness of His temple, keeping our bodies from being marred by greed; how to welcome all around us to worship Him as well; and how to keep ourselves pure so that we do not house thoughts and desires that steal our focus away from Him.

May the Lord indeed cleanse us, that we may each become a worthy temple that properly worships Him and welcomes others to do the same.

Here are some ideas of ways to help our Sunday Church School class (whether or not they will be participating in the aforementioned Creative Arts Festival) to learn about this passage:

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Here is a lesson plan on the personal aspect of cleansing the temple, geared to grades 3 to 6: http://www.goarch.org/archdiocese/departments/youth/youthworker/resources/cleaning

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Here is a printable page full of activities for kids, related to the cleansing of the temple: http://www.sermons4kids.com/cleaning_house_bulletin.pdf

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Find an attention-getting way to teach about the cleansing of the temple in this lesson plan: http://biblelessons4kidz.com/BL4K%20Database/New%20Testament/Jesus/LSN%20-%20Jesus%20Clears%20Temple.pdf

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If your students enjoy doing activity pages related to the Sunday Church School lesson, you will want to peruse the printables (at a variety of age levels) in this pdf about the cleansing of the temple: http://freesundayschoolcurriculum.weebly.com/uploads/1/2/5/0/12503916/lesson_11_jesus_clears_the_temple.pdf

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Older elementary/middle school students may enjoy re-enacting the cleansing of the temple by reading together this play imagining what it could have been like, from the traders’ perspective, before a discussion of the event: http://www.beau.org/~vickir/drama/play1.html

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Find varied age-level (for ages 2 – 12) lessons about Jesus cleansing the temple here. Click on “Year 2: Kings and Kingdoms,” then select your age level, and go to lesson 5 in that level, “Jesus Clears the Temple.” Find lesson plans, scripts/stories and reproducible pages at each level. http://resourcewell.org/children-ministry/curriculum/

 

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Learning About the Saints: St. Phanourios (Commemorated on August 27/September 9)

This morning when I checked my plans for what I would be writing about for this blog post, I immediately got goosebumps. Months ago I had planned that today I would write about St. Phanourios, but I had forgotten that plan until I was ready to begin. Mind you, St. Phanourios is one of my favorite saints, and I frequently request his prayers for myself and for my family. I am indebted to this saint for his multiple intercessions on our behalf. Time after time, his prayers have worked miracles for us, and we are grateful. But the reason for my goosebumps was because St. Phanourios’ prayers just worked a miracle for our family yesterday, so the timing is impeccable. But I’m getting ahead of myself. Let me tell you about this wonderful saint!

Very little has been passed down about the life of St. Phanourios. Around 1500, a previously-forgotten chapel was unearthed in a building project in Rhodes. All the icons in the chapel were disfigured or crumbling, but one was still intact. In fact, it almost looked freshly-painted, it was in such good shape. It features a young man named as “St. Phanourios,” holding a candle-topped cross. Surrounding the central icon are a series of twelve smaller icons depicting the saint’s refusal to give up his faith and the tortures that he endured in the process.

Because of the icon’s miraculously fresh appearance in the midst of rubble, as well as the evidence that St. Phanourios maintained the Faith through his tortures all the way to his martyrdom, the Church leaders in Rhodes agreed that he should be revered as a saint. A church was built in his honor on the site of the ruins. People began to venerate the icon, and they became aware that the prayers of St. Phanourios are blessed with miraculous intervention. Because his icon was found after being lost for so long, and because his name is derived from the Greek word  φανερώνω, or phanerono, which means “I reveal,” people began to ask St. Phanourios to pray that they would again find lost items and/or that they would regain their health. Time and time again, he has done so, and many people have been blessed through his prayers. Somewhere along the line, people began to bake a special sweet bread to share in thanksgiving for the saint’s prayers. (Some have said that he wants this bread to be baked, accompanied with prayers for his mother, who died outside of baptism, but that is not the official reason for baking it. Phanouropita should be baked as a request to the saint for help, or in thanksgiving after he has helped, then shared with an account of the miracle God has wrought through the prayers of His servant.)

Our family will be baking phanouropita very soon because of the most recent miracle God worked for our family through the prayers of St. Phanourios. It’s a long story, so hang onto your hat: Two and a half weeks ago, our son’s computer refused to turn on. Part of his schooling includes online classes, so he uses that computer to connect with his classes and his schoolwork is stored on that computer. He’s also a budding photographer and his most recent work is only on that computer. We really need that computer to work for him, so we prepared to send it to the company from whence it came so that it could be fixed. Unfortunately, this happened on the day before we left for vacation, and we had little on hand to properly package a computer, but wanted to get it off as soon as possible. So we grabbed old packing envelopes and tissue paper, thoroughly wrapped the computer in them, and packed it into a box so that when someone came home a few days later, the shipping company could schedule a pickup and it would be off for repairs before we all got home from vacation. After the pickup, we waited for confirmation that the computer made it to its destination, but we heard nothing. A week later, vacation over, we began to wonder where the computer was, so my husband began to call points along the shipping route to try to track down the package. Through a long and tedious process, we discovered that it had gone missing. We suspected that it had lost its shipping label, and my husband spent hours on the phone, daily, for many days, trying to learn all that he could. And of course we prayed, asking St. Phanourios to help us find the package.

We had many false leads, and there were a few times that we thought it had been found. But every time we’d realize that we had misunderstood or we had received automated confirmations that did not match up to reality. Two weeks after its shipping date, we were becoming convinced that the computer and all of our son’s work which it holds were gone. We continued to pray and ask St. Phanourios to intercede on our behalf, but it was beginning to look like the answer this time would be “no, you do not need to have that computer anymore.”

Yesterday morning my husband spent another hour or more trying to track the computer down: at this point, we were running into the limit of days when they may still be able to access images, etc., of the package. And then, suddenly, I had an odd email show up in my inbox. It was from a company from which I had purchased a humble bag of chai in support of a school choir fundraiser for one of my favorite choir buddies from church. The email told me that a computer had been mailed to their company because one of their mailing envelopes was found in the computer’s packaging, although the package itself had lost its label. Upon further contact, we’ve confirmed that the computer is ours. Glory to God!

I have no idea why the shipping company sent the computer to one of the many addresses stuffed in its packaging instead of looking at all of the packing envelopes, finding the common address on all of the labels (ours), and sending it back here. However, I am thankful that they sent it to an honest company who went to the extra lengths to find our contact information and reconnect us with this much-needed computer! We are grateful to St. Phanourios for his intercessions for our computer, and to God for allowing us to find it once again. We have the recipe for our phanouropita ready and waiting to be baked upon the computer’s return. And in the meantime, we gratefully pray, “Lord, have mercy on the soul of St. Phanourios (and on the soul of his mother), save them, and save us!”

Through the prayers of St. Phanourios, Lord Jesus Christ Our God, have mercy on us and save us. Amen.

To learn more about St. Phanourios, visit these sites:

 

See a photo of the actual icon of St. Phanourios that was found in the rubble so long ago, here: http://orthodoxtraditions.blogspot.com/2013/12/st-phanourios-great-martyr-newly.html

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Before you teach your Sunday Church School students about St. Phanourios, be sure to read this account of how he miraculously intervened and saved three stranded priests: http://www.johnsanidopoulos.com/2015/08/the-veneration-of-saint-phanourios-on.html

(Also on this page, you will find pictures of shrines that have been built to commemorate the saint, as well as the stories behind some of them!)

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Did St. Phanourios ever help you find something? You may want to make a batch of phanouropita and share it with your students, telling about the miracle as you do! Here’s a recipe: http://myocn.net/tradition-thanks-st-phanourios-finds/

Find another recipe for phanouropita in this lovely blog post: http://www.orthodoxmom.com/2010/08/27/st-fanourios-the-martyr-and-miracle-worker/

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Read a non-Orthodox testimonial to St. Phanourios’ help (and yet another recipe) here: http://leitesculinaria.com/51916/writings-greek-phanourious-cake.html

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Find a prayer to Christ, thanking Him for St. Phanourios’ help, and a prayer to bless a phanouropita here: http://full-of-grace-and-truth.blogspot.com/2009/08/prayers-to-christ-and-st-phanourios.html

Find the akathist to St. Phanourios here: http://full-of-grace-and-truth.blogspot.com/2009/08/prayers-to-christ-and-st-phanourios.html  

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This beautiful child-sized book tells the story of the finding of the icon of St. Phanourios. Although it is a small book, the illustrations are beautiful and your students will enjoy seeing them: http://orthodoxchildrensbooks.com/eng/index.php/Paterikon-for-Kids-11-20/18-Paterikon-for-kids-Saint-Phanourios/flypage-ask.tpl.html. You can also hear Dr. Chrissi Hart’s reading of this book in her “Under the Grapevine” podcast, here: http://www.ancientfaith.com/podcasts/grapevine/saint_phanourios

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Before class, print a copy of the icon of and troparion to St. Phanourios for each of your students. Find them together (as well as many other icons!) here: https://app.box.com/s/uvph2nn833y8gr1fj7yd

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Have a “Lost and Found” theme on the day that you teach your class about St. Phanourios. Read or tell the story of St. Phanourios. If you have personal examples of miracles that his prayers have caused, share them with the children. Before (or together, during!)  the party, bake a St. Phanourios cake to share. If your space allows it, play some games like “Sardines”or “Hide and Seek.” Perhaps you could have a scavenger hunt, or play a version of hide and seek where you have hidden items around the room ahead of time and the children must find them . For a craft, have the kids each make their own “lost and found” game such as  http://www.catholicinspired.com/2010/11/st-anthony-lost-and-found-game.html, only smaller (as suggested here http://www.kidspot.com.au/cute-diy-find-it-jars/ ). Be sure to pre-print and perhaps even laminate the list of items they’ll be putting into the jar, so that they have a nice game (the jar and the list) to take home with them. Every time they play with this game, they will be able to remember St. Phanourios and how he helps people find lost things!

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This page points to many resources about St. Phanourios: http://www.johnsanidopoulos.com/2015/08/saint-phanourios-resource-page.html

 

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Excerpts from “Getting Ready for Your Best Classes Ever,” an Article by Gerry Clonaris

Gerry Clonaris’ article “Getting Ready for Your Best Classes Ever,” published in PRAXIS, Spring 2016 issue, pp. 16-17, offers practical ideas for ways that Orthodox Christian Sunday Church School teachers can begin preparing over the summer for the year ahead. Here are a few bites of the article, to give you a taste of what it contains. First, he offers this encouraging challenge:

“What a blessing that we have been… chosen to lead the way in this most important ministry. And that is the very reason why we need to start our planning now for our coming year. St. Paul says it best in Philippians 3:12-14: ‘…forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead…’ Everything in our world is moving forward and if we are not also moving forward, we are moving backward. And that is something that we as catechists cannot accept.”

He goes on to offer a list of ideas of ways to prepare for the year. Here are three of them:

Lay out a plan for the year. Decide now how you want your class to develop and where you want it to go. What are you going to do differently to improve your program?

Include parents in the plan. Parents are key to your success. Plan to meet with them at the beginning of the year. Let them know what you will be teaching and encourage them to discuss each class session with their children. This one step will make your class a true learning experience and not just an hour of entertainment.

Read two books. Find one book that relates to your class topic and then also read one book on our Orthodox Faith.

He offers additional suggestions of ways to prepare, and concludes, “Serving in this great ministry is a true honor and a great experience for all of us. But it also comes with a great responsibility on our part… Planning and continual education are essential to our role as catechists…”

To read more, see the article in its entirety on pp. 16-17 of the Spring 2016 issue of PRAXIS. Visit http://www.goarch.org/archdiocese/departments/religioused/praxis for subscription information if you do not yet receive this helpful resource!

 

The following are some of the books listed as “suggested summer reading” in the article:

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A Commentary on the Divine Liturgy, by St. Nicholas Cabasilas, St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 1997. “…This work is… invaluable for all those who wish to understand more about the theory and practice of worship in the Orthodox Church.” Read more at http://www.svspress.com/commentary-on-the-divine-liturgy-a/.

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The Roots of Christian Mysticism, by Olivier Clément, New City Press, 2013. “By linking together a series of brilliantly chosen texts from the early centuries of the Church, the author lays bare the roots of the deeply mystical spirituality that has flourished among Christians throughout the ages.” Read more and find the book at http://www.newcitypress.com/roots-christian-mysticism-2.html

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Encountering Women of Faith, edited by Kyriaki FitzGerald, Holy Cross 2009 and 2011. Women theologians who have studied the lives of female saints write about their learnings, including how studying the saint’s life has affected their own personal life. Find the books here: https://holycrossbookstore.com/products/encountering-women-of-faith-set?variant=1018121227

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The Orthodox Faith by Thomas Hopko, St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 2016. Thousands of people have read these books by Fr. Thomas Hopko (of blessed memory) and have found them to be a helpful resource both to catchumens and Orthodox Christians. Read more about each of the four volumes here: http://www.svots.edu/orthodox-faith-series

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St. Nectarios of Pentapolis and the Island of Aegina, by Cleopas Strongylis, Holy Cross, 2012. Read about the life of St. Nectarios, as well as many of his letters, in this two-volume set: https://holycrossbookstore.com/products/st-nektarios-of-pentapolis-set

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Encouraged By the Scriptures: Essays on Scripture, Interpretation, and Life, by
Theodore G. Stylianopoulos, Holy Cross, 2011. A well-known Orthodox Biblical scholar offers his take on some of the scriptures. Find the book here: https://www.amazon.com/Encouraged-Scriptures-Essays-Scripture-Interpretation/dp/1935317229