Catholic Toys as a Window to Christ {Giveaway!}

The Great Purge has begun in our household and we are taking no prisoners. The useless and ugly are out, the useful and beautiful are in... bringing a breathe of fresh air and a home prepared to welcome Christ this Christmas.

I knew this time was coming. I have been preparing for it and watching for and seeking out Catholic artists to fill our empty hands and spaces with peace. With Christmas not too far off, I knew I had to get a handle on incoming kid stuff. My searching has led me to many beautiful treasures. These beautiful "Keys to Mass" from Juniper Plum are the second recent discovery I'm sharing with you. Enjoy, be inspired, and stick around for a great giveaway!

Want to know what happens when the eldest homeschooled child of 12  grows up? She paints. She loves. She changes the world... one act of beauty and at a time.

When Kathryn Cordes's mother enrolled her in her first art lesson at age six, she ended up being featured in the local newspaper... not because of her artistic talent (although there is that), but because of the unusual way she held her pen. She went on to become an iconographer and a caretaker of little souls. She told me the rest of the details of her story and instead of heavily editing as I'd planned, I am sharing the whole thing with you. Because I just couldn't say it any better...

"My mom worried, because no matter how hard she tried to teach me the correct way to hold my pen, I would keep doing it 'my' way. She was advised to leave me alone and I would correct it myself when I was older and more self conscious…but that never happened. I liked being different!"

"When I was around 18, I started iconography. I took lessons from an iconographer at our parish during the summers and also took an intensive course. After graduation from college I married my childhood sweetheart, and my painting supplies were packed away in anticipation of the babies we were hoping would come fast and furiously.  Well, God had a different plan. Like always, His plan was so much better and more wonderful than mine, but it took a lot of tears for me to see that. We were diagnosed with unexplained infertility, and all of a sudden I had all this time on my hands. We wanted desperately to adopt, but as a young married couple just starting out, we had a long way to save first. I started tutoring and every penny I made went into our adoption savings. In my free time, I started painting again. I wrote icon after icon to pray through my pain and process my path to surrender and trust in God. I started teaching and was asked to write several large icons for some parishes. I finally became a Mommy in 2008 with the adoption of our daughter, Verity."

"My 'Keys to Mass' idea started with my Mom. I am the eldest of 12 kids, so my younger siblings are still pretty young. My Mom made Mass books for my little sisters with short prayers written on laminated pages that went with each part of the Mass. I loved the idea and wanted to make something similar for Verity, but she was still too young for prayers. I wanted something that would draw her attention to Jesus in a way that she was capable of at such a young age. She loved my colorful icons around the house, so my idea for the "Keys" was born. Even though she was still too young to read, I wrote little prayers on the backs so that as she grew older the "Keys" could evolve from a toy to a prayer book."

"One thing I love about icons as opposed to other forms of religious art is the symbolism. We say "writing" an icon instead of "painting" an icon because it is actually writing theological truths in symbols rather than painting a likeness. Every color and shape means something. Icons are called "Windows in Heaven" because the subject of the icon (Jesus, Mary, or a saint) comes through the icon as through a window to speak to us. Icons are not so much pieces of art to be admired, but more conversations to be entered into. None of my icons are signed on the actual icon because the writer of the icon is not me, but the Holy Spirit. He uses me to write what He wants to say. When my kids use the 'Keys,' I will ask them questions about each icon like, 'Can you find the three stars on Mary that symbolize her purity?' or 'Do you see how Jesus is always looking right at you? He wants to talk to you. What do you think He wants to tell you?' By doing this I am hoping to give them things to think about when they look at them on their own."

"As our family grew with the adoption of Gethsemane, Juniper, and Bosco, so did my passion for designing Catholic children's items. I feel strongly that the greatest gift I can give my children is to foster in them a love for and relationship with Jesus. With Him, they have everything. Without Him, they have nothing. I believe that one way to do this is to bring Jesus to their level. A way for them to crawl into His lap as it were. To get them used to wanting to approach Him. In this way I can set the stage for the harder times to come in life - Go to Jesus."

I hardly know what to add to that beautiful testimony but I'll give my brief review....

The "Keys to Mass" is a set of 11 holy cards which are smaller laminated versions of Kathryn's original icons. The prayers on the back of each icon are sweet and simple but not "dumbed down". After looking through the icons and reading the prayers, my eyes got a little moist... 

Yes... this is the kind of beauty that I want to saturate the hearts of my children.

I recently wrote a post about the secret to having well-behaved kids at Mass. In it, I wrote a bit about what I allow mine to bring (or not). Allow me to add to that section...

These "Keys to Mass" are a perfect toy for Mass. Buy them. Bring them. Give them as gifts.

Kathryn also sells Icon Lacing Cards which are so sweet. I purchased animal shaped lacing cards for my girls when they were smaller... but these are far more beautiful and I have them on my wish list.

Please visit Kathryn's shop, Juniper Plum, and browse her art prints and childrens' items. Her work is truly stunning and now that I know more about her, it is a great joy and privilege to support such a lovely Christian woman and her family.

(Yes... I'm finally using Rafflecopter... I am no longer a giveaway dinosaur)

a Rafflecopter giveaway

N.B. Yes, Cub's fingernails are rather dirty in the above photos. I chose not to photoshop that out because that's pretty real for families with littles. They play outside... they get dirty. I'm okay with that. (But not okay enough to exclude this explanation. *cough*)
Posted on September 19, 2013 and filed under "Catholic gifts", "Catholic toys", "bringing children to mass", "icons", "juniper plum".