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DEC 2016 | JAN 2017


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Contents WAIT FOR IT ....................................P.


FROM THE EDITOR Marilyn Rodrigues







Marilyn Rodrigues INSIGHT...........................................P.



SEASONAL NOTES............................P.33


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From the Editor Marilyn Rodrigues One of the most wonderful things about children is their surprisability. It’s so easy to surprise them, and their expressions of anticipation, followed by shock and glee, are a joy to behold! Maybe that’s one reason everyone loves Christmas; it’s a golden opportunity to delight and surprise each other. God is always pressing in, just waiting and wanting to surprise us with gifts of grace, especially in this period from Advent to New Year’s when we are so often busy and distracted. Sometimes the happiness God wants to give us is not prettily presented. It first presents as an ongoing hardship or acute crisis that is guaranteed to capture our attention. Think of St Joseph’s sudden problem of Mary’s surprise pregnancy. Or the family tensions we might have to deal with afresh each Christmas time. Though we are grown- ups, and have lost much of the easy suprisability of youth, God prepares awesome surprises for us. We appreciate them better if we’ve been looking out for them!

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Poppy's Story Emily Shaw As you gaze at the bright blue eyes, and cheeks rosy from teething, you might be forgiven for thinking that Poppy Hookway is simply another ridiculously photogenic baby. But Poppy is far from your average six-month old. She’s making a difference, one high five at a time, all thanks to her lucky fin.

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The lucky fin, a concept popularised by the main character in Disney Pixar’s movie, 'Finding Nemo', has become a colloquial expression to describe limb difference. Poppy’s lucky fin is her right arm; the lower part of which failed to form in utero.

If it were not for the strong faith of her parents, and their staunch belief in the dignity and sanctity of life, the world may never have experienced Poppy’s winning and infectious personality.

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Anastasia and Greg Hookway, who met while studying at Campion College in Toongabbie, west of Sydney, launched into marriage guided by prayerful discernment and the loving support of their family friends. Soon, they were expecting their first child. But God called their baby to His Heavenly home. Then they conceived their ‘rainbow baby’ – a term used to describe the blessing of a child following a miscarriage or pregnancy loss – but this baby’s story would not follow the usual course. It was during the routine 20-week morphology scan that Greg and Anastasia learned that their baby was going to be unique. “I will always remember the day we were offered termination,” says Anastasia. “Right there the tone was set on how some would value the life of my daughter. Right there my life, and Poppy’s life, exploded in beautiful purpose.”

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“In that moment, I was given a choice:

“I could choose to dwell and live in that grief and the ‘what ifs’ of life, or I could choose to take what we’ve been given and make something so beautiful, it’s bound to cause others to stand up and notice.” Despite the medical advice that claimed Poppy would be deformed and not worth the risk to her mother’s health to carry her to term, that she would be mentally impaired and could have Down Syndrome; the Hookway family took a stand. “It was as though our baby’s life had no value to them, that she was only the sum of her deficient parts,” says Greg.

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“What these medical experts failed to recognise was the value and dignity of her life. But we did, and we fought them. And we’ve never looked back.” Poppy Therese Hookway entered the world on January 14, 2016, two months early. She is missing her right forearm and hand, but there’s no sign of the mental impairment predicted. In fact, she’s right on track of her milestones and is the petite princess her parents expected from the start.

Their ironically named Facebook page, Hi-5 for Poppy, is a fun, and ultimately, life-affirming outreach that has catapulted their gorgeous daughter into virtual stardom. Already, Poppy’s story has touched thousands of lives, and saved others.

Now, Poppy's parents are working towards removing the stigma of limb difference.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR Emily Shaw is a former ACPA award winning editor now stay at home mum and blogger at

All photos accompanying this story are © April Autumn Ashlyn Family Photography except for the photo on pages 8-9 which is courtesy of the Hookway family.

“I heard from another mother the other day,” says Anastasia, “who was given a similar bleak outlook at her morphology scan. Somehow she found our page and it has given her the encouragement she needed to welcome her baby.”

They want only to show the dignity of every person and for the wider public to recognise that their daughter, along with so many others with limb difference, are not any less than a blessing. And that, perhaps, we need to change the yardstick of measuring a baby’s health away from counting ten fingers and ten toes. As Anastasia writes,

“There is so much more to our little girl than a missing arm!” You can read more about the Hookway’s story by following their Facebook page: Hi-5 for Poppy, or by emailing

A surprise Christmas Gift St Thérèse of Lisieux in her autobiography, The Story of a Soul, describes herself as being unable to do a favour for her sister Celine without wanting lots of praise for it. This bothered her because she wanted to be more giving, without expectation of getting anything in return. She also wanted to be less oversensitive, or “touchy”. But she found it impossible to change herself. This is what most of us have probably experienced from time to time, the frustration of not being able to change – the feeling of being stuck in bad habits, or ways of interacting that hurt ourselves and others.

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St Thérèse struggled with this oversensitivity for years, what we might call a poor-little-princess complex, but she couldn’t overcome it. One Christmas Eve when she was 14 she was (predictably) stung by a cranky comment from her father. They’d just got home from midnight Mass. She’d left her slippers, according to her family’s custom, by the fireplace for someone to place gifts in. He saw them, and, tired and annoyed, commented, “Well, fortunately this will be the last year!”

Thérèse later wrote that her father’s words “pierced my heart”. We can imagine what might have flashed through her mind: Why isn’t he happy for me? Is he annoyed with me? Is Christmas now ruined? Surprise | 13

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An extraordinary gift But something happened in the next instant, which she later called the “grace of my complete conversion”. “I felt charity enter into my soul, and the need to forget myself and to please others; since then I’ve been happy!...The work I had been unable to do in 10 years was done by Jesus in one instant.”

She doesn’t even try to explain how it happened. She doesn’t know, only that it did happen – and it was a gift. Heather King, author of A Shirt of Flame: A Year with St Thérèse of Lisieux describes the moment. It seems a little thing but for someone who had been so selfabsorbed, it was huge:

She gathered herself, allowed herself to experience but not be overwhelmed by the feelings of hurt, and marched downstairs like an adult to open her presents with gratitude, good cheer, and joy. This wasn’t just ignoring her feelings in favour of her father’s. It was an ability to give and receive in freedom of spirit. Without being stuck in neediness for the approval of her father, she was able to be happy, and her happiness brought him joy as a consequence.

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Freed from the need to please Joseph Schmidt in 'Everything is Grace', explains his belief that the Christmas gift St Thérèse received was freedom from the need to please: “Thérèse was pleasing her father, but not because she needed to please him in order to make herself feel connected and good. She was pleasing him now because, from the depths of her true self with a deepened sense of inner freedom, she could act in whatever compassionate, creative, and free way she was called to.

And pleasing her father was exactly what, on this Christmas night, she was called to do and wanted to do. “From the time of her complete conversion she would never walk on the path of accommodating others at the expense of her own true self. That is, she would never please others because in a selfindulgent way she needed to please them for her own sense of security, or closeness, or fear of separation. Now she would accommodate others in a spirit of freedom and creativity, and as an expression of real love.”

No martyrs here Making other people happy, for St Thérèse, wasn’t about being a ‘martyr’, or even about being a ‘saint’ in the way we tend to think about saints repressing or not having any needs of their own. It was about having the freedom to choose how she was going to act or respond in any situation.

She chose to be cheerful and loving towards everyone, but she was never again emotionally dependent on what others thought or her how they acted towards her. In an instant, she was cured of any tendency towards passive-aggression. After that Christmas Eve she had the great freedom of being able to love others, and being able to accept their love, without any strings attached. For most of us, this takes some time to achieve, maybe a lifetime. Even then, it’s still a gift of grace. St Thérèse, who mastered in one Christmas Eve night, gave credit for what this was – a really extraordinary gift!

Four tips for helping children to joyfully give and receive

Our homes and classrooms are much more peaceful when people are looking out for others, rather than themselves, and everyone is able to share both the work and the fun. We can help our children to develop the virtue of other-centeredness in fun ways. Here are four to try during the Advent and Christmas seasons.

See who to


When everyone sits down to Christmas lunch or dinner, let them know that no one is to serve themselves anything to eat or drink. No one can ask for anything for themselves either. Instead, everyone will look out for the others and make sure they have everything they need.

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Pass the


Keep a basket of Christmas crackers for the table. Pass the basket around, and each person who receives the basket, has to give a cracker or gift to the person who gave the basket to them. That is, each person first gives, then receives.

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Cushion baby Jesus’ crib

This is an oldie and goodie – with a twist. During Advent, get some straw and place it in a basket or box near your Christmas crib. Then, for every good deed someone does for you, you place a piece in the crib manger to cushion the baby Jesus. This will encourage children to do daily acts of charity, but also exercise a gratitude habit for things others have done for them as well.

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Christmas morning gift-giving It used to be a crazy free-for-all under the Christmas tree at our place. Until we reminded them that the focus is on giving gifts, as much as on getting them. One by one, each person collects a gift that is not their own, and hands it nicely to the recipient. For the first gift each person gives to a family member, they offer a hug, kiss, and/or a ‘Merry Christmas’ as well. It takes a little longer, but it’s much nicer!

ABOUT THE AUTHOR Marilyn is the editor of CathFamily. She also writes for The Catholic Weekly and blogs at She is married with five young children and lives with her family in Sydney.

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Why Catholics Celebrate the New Year Writer Jared Staudt states the case for celebrating New Year’s Day as a part of the Christmas feast, not just a secular marking of a new year.

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The marking of the dawn of a new year is no secular holiday, because time and history have been drawn into the coming of God into the world. We keep track of our time as either BC (Before Christ) or AD (Anno Domini – Year of the Lord) to demonstrate that Christ is the centre of history, the one through whom we judge all that came before and is to come. In the Middle Ages, there was great variance on the celebration of the New Year: March 1, March 25 (Annunciation), September 1, and even Christmas Day. It was the adoption of the Gregorian calendar in 1582 that eventually brought uniformity to the date of January 1. That day makes perfect sense for Catholics, even if we are fighting a resurgence of pagan excess surrounding the occasion. New Year coincides with the Octave of Christmas and is no coincidence. As we count our years from the birth of Christ, it makes sense to count our days from Christmas – thus the end of the Christmas season (or Octave) is the perfect time to mark the beginning of the new year. ABOUT THE AUTHOR Jared Staudt works in the Office of Evangelisation and Family Life Ministries of the Archdiocese of Denver. He and his wife Anne have six children and he is a Benedictine oblate.

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Celebrating the new year specifically as the anniversary of the birth of Christ transforms its character. Not only does it point to God’s coming into the world as the central point of history, it also emphasises that history has a goal.

The new year marks the new year of the Lord, belonging to the reign of Christ the King, a period of waiting in expectation for the full unfolding of God’s Kingdom. History itself has the same focal point as Christmas, the coming of Christ into the world, which is why Advent focuses on both of these comings at once. The celebration of the New Year in January, and in relation to a historical feast, breaks time out of a natural, repetitive cycle. History is not cyclical, or merely an absurdity devoid of meaning (one damn thing after another). We are progressively moving toward a goal from within history, even though this goal leads beyond the world to eternity. It is the coming of God into the world at Christmas which suffuses time with its ultimate meaning.


Chalking the Door a New Year’s or Epiphany house blessing

The practice of writing a special code over the entrance to a home with blessed chalk is a centuries-old traditional blessing of a home each January. It’s a reminder of God’s presence in our daily lives and a dedication of the year and everything that will happen during it, to God. It’s also great witness for our guests, not to mention that it looks pretty cool!

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How to do it Take a stick of chalk that’s been blessed, and write above your home’s entrance, 20 + C + M + B + 17. Ask God’s blessing on your home and family and anyone who visits you there. Invite Jesus to be a daily guest in our home, our comings and goings, our conversations, our work and play, our joys and sorrows.

The letters C, M, and B have two meanings. They are the initials of the traditional names of the three magi who brought gifts to Jesus sometime soon after his birth: Caspar, Melchior, and Balthazar. They also abbreviate the Latin words Christus Mansionem Benedicat, which translates to “May Christ bless this house.” The ‘+’ signs represent the cross and the numbers, the year.


Traditionally this was done after Mass on the Feast of the Epiphany in early January, with chalk blessed by the parish priest. It works just as well on New Year’s Day. More information and prayers of blessings for the chalk and home, click here Surprise | 29


God’s ‘big reveal’


Epiphany Gift Box ‘Epiphany’ means appearance, manifestation, revelation. You might be familiar with the idea of the ‘big reveal’ in the reality TV genre. God’s ‘big reveal’ to the human race came when Mary and Joseph opened the doors of their home to the strangers from the East – and by extension, all of us who would come after. The wise men themselves did some revealing – the gifts they chose to give to the newborn king of the Jews show the world everything important there is to know about Jesus. Children will love helping to make this gift box for Jesus for their prayer space, and learning about the significance of the gifts he received of gold, frankincense and myrrh.

Epiphany prayer service Light a candle and make the Sign of the Cross Read: The story of the wise men in Matthew 2:1-11 Discuss briefly: What do you think about this story of the wise men visiting Jesus with presents? Mention that the word ‘Epiphany’ means an appearance or revealing – when Jesus was born, God could be seen by the humans on earth for the very first time! Open the treasure box and select a child to take out a gift and lead the prayer on the card (download them below). Repeat for the other two gifts. Pray: Glory be to the Father and the Son and to the Holy Spirit. As it was in the beginning is now and ever shall be, world without end, Amen. Make the Sign of the Cross.

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Seasonal Notes

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Activities & Prayers ACTIVITY

Advent Water Wreath Can’t find purple or pink candles, or just want something different for your table or prayer space during Advent? Try our water wreath with its rich symbolism.


Christmas Card-o-Envelope Download our nifty environmentally-friendly Christmas card-o-envelope for a way to make a card and envelope from one piece of A4 paper.


The Intentional Family Eleven low cost ideas for creating fun memories and new family traditions this Christmas.

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St Nic Candy Cane Holder Upcycle some glass jars or old tins to make cute candy cane holders and remind the kids that their shape is actually modelled after St Nicholas’ bishop’s staff. Perfect for celebrating the Feast of St Nic on Dec 6. CRAFT/ACTIVITY

O Antiphon Advent Baubles Learn about the O Antiphons prayed in the days before Christmas, and print out these decorations to hang on your tree.


Make your own Jesse Tree Download the template to make your own Jesse Tree. Introduce your children to the many extraordinary men and women of the Hebrew Scriptures.

For more ideas and inspiration visit Surprise | 35

The Happiness Edition

The 2017 edition of our lifestyle bookazine is devoted to happiness! It’s available for bulk order to schools and parishes.

Order Now!

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One of the most wonderful things about children is their surprisability. It’s so easy to surprise them, and their expressions of anticipatio...

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