Friday, December 18, 2020

                    Good King Wencelaos 

                             The Feast of Stephen




Sister Elizabeth V Roach, MM


        An ancient Christmas hymn begins, “On the Feast of Stephen, Good King Wenceslaos,. . .” Saint Stephen’s Feast Day is the day after Christmas.


Stephen was a deacon, a church person who served the poor in the time of the first Christians.


After Jesus ascended into heaven, the Apostles, closest followers of Jesus, were busy all the time telling everyone about Jesus. They told everyone how Jesus loved everyone and gave his life so each one of us could be happy forever.


The Apostles and their friends, also, shared their food with the poor, They went about healing people, too. Soon,  they needed someone to help them.  St Peter, the chief of the Apostles, had known Jesus. Jesus had told him and the other Apostles to tell people how God loved them.


 Peter needed help because Jesus always helped people.  Peter said, “We can preach, but we need help. We have to serve the poor.”


 Peter appointed some men to help serve the poor like Jesus did.  He called them “Deacons.”


        Stephen was one of these men. He gave out food to the needy. He helped the sick.   Some people did not like it that the  Apostles and their friends were helping people. They aaid, “Just stop that!”


        Stephen said, “But I want to follow Jesus.” Stephen  went right on serving the poor.


        The followers of Jesus claimed He was the Christ. People began calling them, the “Christians.”


        One day when Stephen went out to serve the poor, these people said, “Now is the time to stop him.”


        They took hold of Stephen, took him outside of the village and threw stones at him until he was so bruised that he died.


        Stephen was the first Christian to die as a witness to Jesus teaching.   He is called the proto-martyr.  Martyr means witness; proto means first.


        When someone follows Jesus with all his heart, we call that person  a  saint. Sometimes the Church picks some of these men and women, or boys or girls to be official Saints of the Church. The Church gives us a special day to remember them.


Hundreds of years after Saint Stephen, a good King, Wencelaus, was a very kind and generous nobleman in Bohemia.  He, too, helped poor people.  People liked to be around him. He was so good and kind that people felt happy just to see Good King Wenceslaus. They came to believe that just being near him was a blessing.  


The carol tells how Wenceslaus  went out to serve the poor on the day after Christmas, St. Stephen’s Feast Day.    One of his servants wanted to be with him.  Snow fell and the servant feltt  very cold as he trudged along.


 He wanted to follow Wenceslaus, so he stepped into the footprints of  Wenceslas. Suddenly, he didn’t feel cold anymore. Where Wenceslas walked his love for Jesus and the poor made the world a lovely warm place.


        If you learn the Christmas Carol. “Good King Wenceslas,”  you will learn that Wenceslas, the King of Bohemia was a lot like Saint Stephen.  They each followed Jesus by serving the poor.


        A poor person is ANYONE who needs help. They may be rich or poor, hungry, or cold, or lonely, or sad. They may be someone in your own home, -- a little brother who has no one to play with,  a  little sister who is sick today.  Do you have a neighbor who needs help carrying the groceries into the house, or a grandmother who likes a visit from you.


        Let’s look for ways to help others like Stephen and Wenceslaus? We can tell Jesus about it when we look into the Nativity Scene under the Christmas Tree! I hope you will also learn to sing, “Good King Wenceslaus.”


© Copyright  Nov 2020  

Friday, August 31, 2018

Help a child choose good friends!

For ages  8 to 12
FROM FRIENDS TO SAINTS presents the stories of five Saints. Each one knew how to make friends. Some were  born to biracial parents.  Some were born in one country, and served in another.  Among them, some were well off; others were poor. One was an orphan, one a lawyer, one a barber, another a soldier. Some were immigrants.   Some had exciting travel experiences, others loved to dance and sing and play the guitar. All of them loved God and the poor.  Read the stories and discover where they found their friends.

Monday, August 27, 2018

Saturday, March 3, 2018

Boys and girls from 2 to 8 will delight in the pictures and antics of Elephant Joan and her adventures with a cell phone. The story by Elizabeth V. Roach and the illustrations by Peggy Dawson combine to provide a child with early experience of respect for the environment and its inhabitants.

Friday, February 17, 2017

Gift for America


“Good  Morning, Christopher!” the tutor in a Catholic school said.
Christopher was a new student, six years old, in First Grade. He needed help with English, his second language. This was his first meeting with the tutor.
Christopher didn’t answer the tutor. He looked unhappy.
The tutor greeted him in Spanish.  .
When he still didn’t answer, the teacher asked if something was the matter.
“Don’t you feel well?  Are you sick?  Does something hurt?” She asked in English and in Spanish.
Christopher’s bottom lip trembled. He tried hard to hold back the tears.
At last, the words burst out.
 “The teacher screamed at me because I can’t read,” he said. The teacher was not his regular teacher, but a  substitute who came occasionally.
Now, the new tutor promised she would never scream at him. Together they did the lesson. He seemed happier when she took him back to his classroom.
Each day, Christopher and the new tutor met. His English improved rapidly.
Then, one day, Christopher, didn’t seem to want to begin the class. He looked pensive.
The tutor asked, “Is something the matter?”
Christopher struggled to say  all the words correctly.  “You know that teacher who yelled at me? She doesn’t yell anymore, because I can read. I asked jesus to help me, and he did!”
As the tutor got to know Christopher, she came to love him. He was such a thoughtful six year old. 
One day, Christopher came to the class with a puzzled look on his little face. He had just come from Religion Class.  He looked up at the tutor and asked, “What was before God?”
The tutor tried to answer, but she was amazed at the profound question six-year-old Christopher asked.
When she got home that night, she had supper with her family.
She told them about Christopher and his question. 
Her husband said,  “How fortunate we are that so many people from other countries come to America. Christopher is a gift. If he can ask questions like this at six, imagine what he will contribute to our country as he learns more and more.
“We have a deep thinker in this little child. We need to give thanks to God that he has led him here.” 
The tutor’s children bowed their heads as their father and mother prayed and gave thanks for Christopher and the gifts immigrants bring to America.
Then, they played a game to see who could name famous immigrants who have been gifts to America. 

They named scientists, doctors, statespersons and many others.  Can you name some?

Leoh Ming Pei: architect of East Wing of National Gallery, Washinton DC
Madeline Albright, Secretary of State
Albert Einstein,  Physicist
John Muir,  Naturalist
Joseph Pulitzer,  newspaper publisher

Felix Frankfurter, Supreme Court Justice

©photo & story Elizabeth V Roach 2017

Thursday, February 2, 2017

What Peace Looks Like

The following story was first published in The Maryknoll Classroom Program, a service for teachers. Programs for K-12 are available free to teachers who request them from Maryknoll Magazine.
 What Peace Looks Like
      Aron was taking turns with other children jumping over a large water jug. He was having fun, but missed the toys he had left back home especially his green bike.

     Aron and his family had left their home in Syria about a year ago, when he was 7. A war had started there, and his parents and grandparents decided it was not safe to stay. They could bring only the most important things. It was a long trip before they could stop. And they stopped here at a refugee camp. Now they lived in a tent, among hundreds of other tents and people. They had all left their homes because of the war. They were waiting to find out when they could leave the camp and where they could go.

     "Here comes the art lady!" shouted Aron's sister Estes.  She was pointing to Sister Rosemarie.
Sister Rosemarie took the children to another part of the camp.

     Soon they reached the art group. The children were all from Syria. The adults were from different countries, Canada, Poland and the United States.

     "We are a peace team," Sister Rosemarie explained. "All around the world, people are looking for peace. What does peace look like to you?"

     "Peace looks like me sitting with my family, all together,"  said Este.

     "Peace is being safe with no tanks and no rockets!" said Muhammad.

     Reza said, "Peace is playing outside by my home."

     Pile added, "And going to school!"

     "Peace means flowers and birds," Miriam said. "And trees, I miss trees."

     Aron looked around. There were so many tents, but he could see no trees.

     "Aron?" asked Sister Rosemarie. "Do you have a picture of peace?"

     "Riding my green bike, and going fast and laughing--and not feeling afraid at all!" he said.

      Sister Rosemarie smiled. "These are wonderful ideas,: she said. "Now let's all draw these pictures of peace."

     Muhammad painted circles and lines in yellows, oranges, and blues, colors that made him happy.

     Miriam drew trees, flowers and birds.

     Pile and Reza drew a school with children playing outside
     Este painted lots of people holding hands.

     Aron couldn't draw a bike, so he took the green paint, the color of his bike, and made big swoops of green.

     Every one shared ideas and became friends 'they wee happy because they were thinking about making peace.

Friday, January 8, 2016

Keeping Track of Time

             Nobody wants to waste time. Some save time. Others buy time. Some kill time.
Older people will tell you time flies.  Others say, time is money. Teenagers find time hangs heavy on their hands.  What is time? Do you ever wonder how people came to say such strange things about time?

Astronomers, physicists, and many others have been trying to solve the mystery of time for thousands of years.  Astronomers study the stars. Physicists want to know how and when time began. Accurate timekeeping is important for everyone from athletes to heart surgeons.

Twenty-thousand years ago, when no one had ever heard of minutes, hours or seconds, people noticed that the sun came up every day and the moon every night. They scratched lines and made little holes on wood and even on bones to keep track of time. They were the first time detectives gathering evidence.

Five thousand years ago Sumerians were a people who lived in what is present day Iraq. They watched the sun, the moon and the stars. From their studies they made a calendar with thirty-day months. Instead of twenty-four hour days, they divided the daylight into twelve parts.

Later, in Egypt, other people noticed a special star. It appeared every year, when the Nile River began to overflow and flood their land.  They invented a calendar with 365 days. The year they did that is called the first year of recorded history. Today we call that 4326 B.C.

Egyptians around 3500 B.C. built four-sided, tall, slender posts that tapered to a point at the top. We call these obelisks. The Egyptians watched the shadows their obelisks cast. The shadow moved from one side of the obelisk to the other as the day went on. Time detectives had discovered noon. At one time of year, the shadow was longer. At another time, the shadow was shorter. That longest shadow fell on the shortest day.  The shortest shadow fell on the longest day..
By the year 2000 B.C. the Sumerians and their culture had disappeared. Babylonians then living in Iraq knew nothing of the Sumerian inventions. They didn’t know about the thirty-day months the Sumerians had developed. So, the Babylonians divided the year into twelve alternating months. One month had 29 days and the next one had 30 days. Their calendar had 354 days.
Even before the Babylonians made their calendar, the Mayan people, in Central America, were watching Venus, the morning star. They had two different systems for measuring a year. For some, the year had 260 days. For others, a year had 365 days. Mayans kept detailed records of their studies. They came to believe that time began in the year 3113 B.C.  Eventually, their time studies became part of the Aztec System. The Aztecs became famous as time detectives. They recorded important events on large stones.  Some of these stones still exist.
Having a calendar helped a lot. Farmers could predict the times of the year when certain crops should be planted. Celebrations could be scheduled, and plans could be made for special occasions during the year.
 Soon people also wanted to plan their day as well as the year. So, they invented sundials. Egyptians probably made the first one.  It was made of a bar of wood or stone with a slightly higher crossbar at one end. The higher crossbar cast a shadow on the lower, longer bar.
Time detectives marked the places where the sun’s shadow fell for each hour, and even the minutes. Some sundials were very elegantly carved in stone. Even today sundials are used in many places.  They come in all shapes and sizes.

A sundial has two main parts. The face and the gnomon. The face is the flat part. The gnomon is the element that casts the shadow. To correctly tell the time, the gnomon has to point to the North Pole, or in the Southern Hemisphere to the South Pole.
Some sundials are huge and built in town squares. Others can be seen on the walls of buildings. A famous one in Milan has the form of a ship. 
In Frankfort, Kentucky, a sundial honors the veterans from Kentucky who lost their lives in the Vietnam War.  It is built so that, the shadow falls on the name and date of each war hero’s  anniversary of death. Located in a plaza that overlooks the State Capitol, it also tells time and serves as a huge solar calendar.
Over the centuries, time detectives worked hard to calculate the correct time.  Eventually,  they invented clocks. They tried water clocks, and. mechanical clocks with pendulums. Today we have quartz, computer chip, and even atomic clocks.

. For centuries, time was measured according to the earth’s movements around the sun, but clocks always had to be corrected. The “detectives” found the clocks could be slightly ahead or behind the sun’s time.  This is because the earth’s axis is slightly tilted and our planet follows an elliptical  route around the sun. Today, international agreements determine what time it is all over the world

Atomic clocks give us a very precise time. They depend on the natural frequency of the Cesium atom. Time detectives at the U.S. Naval Observatory say atomic clocks are still off by one millionth of a second per year.

Physicists have discovered many things about time. The Big Bang Theory tells us that the world is about 14 billion years old. But is that when time began?

The earth continues to twirl through the heavens. Astronomers discover black holes, new particles, and many other wonderful aspects of our world.  Physicists calculate their meaning; geologists examine the earth, and astronauts take photos. Yet, time still holds many mysteries! Do you think about time?  What is it for? Do you like time to yourself? Do you spend time with others? How do you use time?
To learn more about sundials: Look for the North American Sundial Society on the Internet.

You will find a list of sundials in most USA States and some other countries, too.