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Life is tough. Nuns are tougher.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Crayola Calvary

Bear with me. We have a journey to make.  It starts out rather easily:

My oldest hates coloring. Maybe I should get the coloring book for him as a penance.


For the colouring books for Lent, one way to remove the element of fun, would be to limit the colour selection to three. After the child picks his favorite colours, only give him three different coloured crayons.

This in response to my admonition that everything doesn't need to be fun and that really, Lent is not about fun, it is about aligning ourselves with the suffering of Jesus.

But Stations of the Cross coloring books are fine by me, in full color, with the whole box of crayons.  I'm sorry for the confusion.  It isn't the coloring books to which I object, but simply how they are advertised as a "fun" way to teach children about Christ's Passion. 

 I think the truth is that Stations of the Cross coloring books are rather a child's version of meditative prayer.  A little kid has to look at that picture, understand on some level what's going on, and choose colors to illuminate the reality or the sentiment. 

Let me put it this way, as a little girl I LOVED to color. I loved a big boxes of crayons, I was always disappointed when the original tip wore off because the crayon sharpeners were never as good. I loved choosing colors. I loved everything about it.

And now, as an adult, I love to embroider.  Why? Because it's like coloring with thread!  I love looking at the amazing array of threads and I love all the old time dancing dishes and singing bananas patterns.  I don't get to do it very often, with all of my other duties and prayers and church and school.  But when I do, it's always a gift I'm making for someone, and the whole time I'm sewing away, I'm thinking of that person.  It just comes with the territory.

I have to imagine that that is what happens in a child's brain when he is coloring a picture of Jesus on His way to Calvary.  And essentially, that is meditative prayer.

If we were Buddhists, when we mediate, we would try to empty our minds.  But we're Catholics. When we meditate we try to fill our minds with thoughts of Jesus, His life and work, the people around Him, the times in which He lived and what we can glean from that and gain from that and how we can become like that.

Which brings us to part II of our journey:
Time to show my ignorance,what exactly do you do for the stations of the cross. I know it's got to be more than just walking around looking at the pictures and thinking about what they represent - but what is it?
Thank you in advance

First, get yourself a little Stations of the Cross booklet. There are prayers to say in there and usually there are points on which to meditate. That should get you going. But it's perfectly fine for you to stand in front of that picture and color in the details, the sounds and smells, the emotion and the pain.  And then you think about how and why that happened and your part in today's world of pain or the pain in your own soul.

Which brings us to part three.  Which is pretty involved. Tomorrow.


Sam! said...

Sr. Mary Martha, as a fellow crafter who appreciates quirk, spunk, and a good sense of humor. I would love to buy your singing diner plate/dancing banana embroidery or at least know where you get a pattern.

Peace of Christ be with you,

Martha said...

Oh, I just love embroidery!! I'm new at it, and not very good, but I adore it so! Dancing bananas remind me of my Grandma's kitchen. :D

Michelle said...

Just a note that the apophatic prayer tradition (the emptying of the mind you characterize as Buddhist) is very much part of the Catholic tradition!

See "The Cloud of Unknowing" for example.

Anonymous said...

I used to live in Winfield, KS, where Binney & Smith has a huge Crayola plant. Great place to take kids for a tour, you get to watch millions of crayons buzzing around on conveyor belts and thru various machines.

rose said...

Hi Sister Mary Martha,

I see there is a problem with walking around the new stations when there is no art at which to look. As a painter, I have been asked to participate in an exhibition where artists produce works based on the new(er) stations. I have station 12: Jesus entrusts Mary and John to each other. Thing is, I can't find it in the bible. Could you tell me where I can find it so I can help solve this new stations problem with new art?



Meghan said...

Hi Sister,
I've recently stumbled across your blog, and I love it! You have a great sense of humor, and a way of explaining things.

I understand that one of your favorite hobbies is patron saint matching; I could use your help with this. My husband is going through RCIA and is in need of a patron saint. He is a wonderful father, loves to study theology, play music... he also volunteers to lead music at a Christian 12 step recovery program (in his younger days, he was an addict himself). He has been debating between St. Michael, St. Thomas Aquinas, and St. Augustine, as well as a few others.
Any suggestions from you would be greatly appreciated!

God Bless!

Anonymous said...

@ Michelle- please click on this link to see what the church actually teaches about contemplative prayer, and warns about so-called centering prayer.


(Oh - and you might want to steer clear of that She Rev blog, too.)

mph said...

Rose, it's John 19:26 - 27.

Maria said...

Hi Sister Mary Martha,

As someone who has problems with compulsive spending and debt, is there a patron saint (or saints) to pray with? Mainly concerning debt.


Michelle said...


Thanks, I do know what the Church teaches regarding contemplative prayer.

The Cloud of Unknowing (for those reading this who do not know, I'm sure anonymous is familiar with the Catholic literature on mysticism starting with the Desert Fathers) is not about the modern phenomenon of centering prayer, but is a classic text on Catholic contemplative prayer written in the 14th century.

Anonymous said...

@ Michelle - you've probably already read all the relevant material regarding this topic. I apologize for sounding like such a "wise guy" in my post! I should have more clearly explained that The Cloud of Unknowing is not for the beginner. Instead, I came off sounding like I know more than you do. (How could I possibly know that?)
Anywhoo - Many who follow this blog are converts, reverts, or eager-to-learn Catholics who may not have had the benefit of an authentic Catholic education. I attended public school, and in my youth and zeal, would often jump at anything that sounded right to me. So, by way of friendly caution - what I meant to say is "Be careful. That particular book is not for beginners!"

For those who don't have time to read it in its entirety, here is a short quote from the article, written by Dan DeCelles, who refers to then-Cardinal Ratzinger:

Cardinal Ratzinger is not trying to hold anyone back from progress in prayer. Rather, he says, as we follow the leading of the Lord we should be careful to avoid the temptations that have historically ensnared Christians. The person who thinks God is calling him on to a deeper form of prayer should seek out "an expert in the life of prayer," for counsel and direction. Such a practice has a venerable tradition in the life of the church, he notes. "Christian experience has known of this practice from the earliest times, from the epoch of the desert fathers."

Again, Michelle, my apologies.
Sincerely, Br. M. Michaels

Sharon said...

Two great books which deal with authentic Catholic prayer are The Fulfilment of All Desire by Ralph Martin and The Better Part by Fr Bartunek.

CT said...

I thoroughly enjoyed this post, Sister Mary Martha, in every part of it. I'm going to participate in the Lent Meditation Exercises for the Youth tomorrow as a speaker, and I will touch the subject of Lent and sacrifice (and the Prodigal Son). One of the saddest things is that the young don't show moderation in ANY way during Lent, let alone sacrifice. Please include me in your prayers.

And I feel the same about embroidery! coloring with thread!!!!!

Michelle said...

@Br. Michaels,

There is more than either of us could say here about the contemplative traditions in the Church - and you may know far more than I about it.

Yes, the Cloud of Unknowing is not for a beginner, and a spiritual direction essential. But I fear that we are pushing people called to contemplation out of the Church by failing to point them toward our own contemplative traditions, so they wander off to things New Age or things Buddhist or...

May your Easter be full of grace and blessings!