New Graphic Novel Tells the Story of a Favorite Saint

Calling young readers who are fans of graphic novels: an exciting new saint biography tells the story of St. Maximilian Kolbe, who’s best known for volunteering to die at a concentration camp in the place of a total stranger, and whose feast we celebrate on August 14.

Maximilian Kolbe: The Saint of Auschwitz doesn’t just tell the story of Kolbe’s death, however: it celebrates the sacrifices he made throughout his life as he sought to serve God.

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World War II novels are popular summer-reading assignments for schools. While many of these center on fictional characters who make heroic sacrifices, Maximilian Kolbe tells how a Polish Franciscan priest faced persecution in Europe as he protected refugees of all faiths before his arrest in 1941.

Parents and teachers need not fear that the graphic-novel format dumbs down the story or reduces its impact. I found that this book was more challenging than many middle-grade novels and biographies, with sophisticated vocabulary and plenty of visual interest. Readers can’t skim a graphic novel and expect to understand its message: it’s a very concentrated format that demands a deep level of reader attention.

The graphic novel by Jean-François Vivier, illustrated by Denoël, depicts a man who from an early age was dedicated to the Blessed Mother and entered religious life before his 17th birthday, and spent the next 30 years establishing a religious group (The Militia Immaculata), a radio station, a wartime hospital, two monasteries (one in Japan), and a religious newspaper.

Celebrate the upcoming feast day of a devoted, tireless saint with the action-packed story of his life.


Copyright 2020 Barb Szyszkiewicz
Links in this article are affiliate links; your purchase benefits the author.

‘Though War Be Waged Upon Me’: Praying to St. Michael the Archangel

After the second wave of Church scandals two summers ago, my pastor requested and received permission from our bishop to lead the assembly in praying the prayer to St. Michael the Archangel after each Mass.

St. Michael the Archangel, defend us in battle.
Be our defense against the wickedness and snares of the devil.
May God rebuke him, we humbly pray, and do thou, O Prince of the Heavenly Host, by the power of God, thrust into hell Satan and all the evil spirits who prowl around the world for the ruin of souls. Amen.

It struck me, those first weeks as we all prayed together, that there is power in this prayer.

I did not know that there is so much more to the story of St. Michael and devotion to him until I read Carol Puschaver’s Though War Be Waged Upon Me: A Saint Michael Treasury of Prayer and Reflection.

though war be waged

This booklet, only 68 pages long, details interesting saintly connections with St. Michael the Archangel as well as encouraging the faithful to make frequent recourse to him in prayer.

Ask his help!
How wonderful it is when someone turns to you with complete confidence and asks your help! They know you are capable, they entrust their need to you, and they give you a chance to shine with your God-given talents!
Recite the Prayer to St. Michael often, and seek his intercession, especially in time of danger, trial and temptation.
Ask him for the gifts of spiritual, moral and civic courage.
Ask his help to know and discern right from wrong and act accordingly. (57)

I love how this brings home the truth that we don’t need to wait for the big stuff to happen to call upon the saints for their intercession. Indeed, we shouldn’t wait. We should keep them close. We wouldn’t want our loved ones to wait for situations to get completely out of hand before asking for our help, after all.

Learn to pray the Litany to St. Michael, the St. Michael Chaplet, and other prayers listed in Though War Be Waged Upon Me, and find the best way to keep this powerful intercessor close to you.


Copyright 2020 Barb Szyszkiewicz
This post contains Amazon affiliate links. I was given a free review copy of this book, but no other compensation. Opinions expressed here are mine alone.

Sweet Little Saints for Christmas in July

Little Drops of Water Christmas in July
Image courtesy of Little Drops of Water. All rights reserved.

It’s Christmas in July this week, and there’s no better way to celebrate than taking a peek at the cutest little Nativity scene! Little Drops of Water, a family business based in Portugal, created their line of saint figurines when Anna Amaral, now a teenager, asked her father to help make child-friendly toys that celebrate the saints. The company recently introduced special Christmas products, including its Nativity scene — and they’ll have a Santa coming soon.

Little Drops of Water Nativity
Image courtesy of Little Drops of Water. All rights reserved.

This is the Nativity I wished we’d had when our children were small. We eventually got a Playmobil Nativity set, but that is not appropriate for toddlers, with all the tiny parts! But a Nativity like this — it looks like wood, but it’s made of high-quality resin — is basically indestructible and child-friendly. This would be perfect to bring out each Advent so the children can help prepare for Jesus’ birth.

I’m really impressed by the workmanship behind these figurines. I first reviewed Little Drops of Water products in March of 2016, and my collection of figurines is still in great shape — even the Holy Family that sits on the very narrow windowsill above my kitchen sink. It’s taken more than one tumble into the dishwater, but the colors are still bright and there’s not even a chip or a crack. That’s a huge plus when you’re selecting toys for small children.

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Image courtesy of Little Drops of Water. All rights reserved.

Yes, I said “toys.” They’re religious figurines, but they’re made to be held and carried about in little hands or little pockets. Most of these figurines are 3 inches high (statues with crowns, such as Our Lady of Fatima and the Infant of Prague, top out around 4 inches) and they fit well in small hands.

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Image courtesy of Little Drops of Water. All rights reserved.

There are two dozen different Mary statues, ranging from the Madonna and Child to regional favorites such as Our Lady of Guadalupe, Our Lady of Fatima, Maria Pomagaj (Slovenia), and Our Lady of Lourdes — and more. In addition, Little Drops of Water offers dozens of saints, from St. Anthony through St. Therese. There’s even Padre Pio, St. Teresa of Calcutta, and the newly-canonized Fatima visionaries, Saints Francisco and Jacinta.

Francisco Jacinta
Image courtesy of Little Drops of Water. All rights reserved.

As Little Drops of Water is based in Portugal, the Fatima connection is strong. In fact, they are the number-one supplier of statuary in both Fatima and Lourdes, and they offer several products related to each. They also create charms, plush toys, and more.

Little Drops of Water offers free coloring pages and craft activities for parents, teachers, and catechists to download and use, and you’re invited to share your creations with them!

Shop at Little Drops of Water using the coupon code BN63EE5EA9Y6 and you’ll receive a 30% discount on your order! They also offer free shipping (always my favorite perk) on orders of $50 or more.


Copyright 2018 Barb Szyszkiewicz
Opinions expressed here are my own. I received a Nativity set and other figurines from the manufacturer for the purposes of this review.

On Barb’s Bookshelf: Saintly Inspiration for Kids

Barb's Book shelf blog title

November is the Month of the Holy Souls, but it kicks off with All Saint’s Day: a time to celebrate the saints we know by name as well as those whose saintly virtue is less well-known, but no less important to God. This November, encourage your children to learn more about the saints of the Church! Pauline Kids, a division of Pauline Books & Media, has published several books about saints — including one book about how to be a saint!

mary and little shepherds of fatimaLet’s begin with a peek at a book about the child visionaries (two of whom are now saints) of Fatima. Mary and the Little Shepherds of Fatima is a picture book just right for a bedtime story or classroom read-aloud. Written by Sister Marlyn Monge, FSP, and Jaymie Stuart Wolfe, this book recounts the experiences of Jacinta, Francisco and Lucia in 1916 and 1917, when they saw visions first of an angel and then of the Blessed Mother. This sensitive retelling of the Fatima miracles concludes with four pages about prayer, including instructions on praying the rosary, and a parents’ page explaining more about the Fatima visions.  This sweetly-illustrated book is perfect for children in kindergarten through third grade.

mary our motherChildren in this age group will enjoy Mary Our Mother, a coloring and activity book about (you guessed it!) the Blessed Mother. Coloring pages depict the major events in Mary’s life, and are interspered with activities encouraging children to think about their own families and ways they can help others, as well as Bible-trivia activities. My favorite section included coloring pages of apparitions of Our Lady, including Fatima, Aparecida (Brazil), Guadalupe, and others. Prayers such as the Memorare and Magnificat are also featured. I wanted to get some crayons out and color some of these pages!

legend of st christopherOlder readers who are into graphic novels will be thrilled to find graphic novels about saints among Pauline Kids’ offerings. The subjects of the two newest ones are St. Christopher and St. Clare of Assisi. In The Legend of St. Christopher: Quest for a King, Offerus, a young giant known for his great strength, sets off on an adventure that includes an encounter with the devil. When he learns about Jesus, he decides he wants to serve him instead of earthly kings, and is baptized and given the name Christopher. As his life changes, he observes, “God has filled me with joy and peace because I’m serving him by helping others.” Learn about his amazing experience when he encounters a little child in need, and why the Church calls him the “patron of travelers.”

st clare of assisiYou might think that the graphic biography of St. Clare of Assisi doesn’t include dramatic battle scenes. But there’s no lack of suspense when Clare slips away from her childhood home through an ancient tunnel, on her way to follow Francis and embrace a life of poverty. Saint Clare of Assisi: Runaway Rich Girl doesn’t gloss over the episodes of Franciscan lore that include kissing lepers and receiving the stigmata; Clare is included in the scenes of both of these events. And there is a battle scene depicting the Eucharistic miracle where St. Clare, holding the monstrance, defends her holy place and her city from an attack by the Saracens.

how to be a heroI saved my favorite book for last: How to be a Hero. “This book is a training manual,” author Julia Harrell notes in the introduction. The book is organized by virtue, with 11 saints matched up with the four cardinal virtues, three theological virtues, and four “little” virtues. Most, but not all, of the saints featured in this book are more modern-day saints such as St. John Paul II, Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati, Saint Charbel, and Blessed Chiara Badano, though St. Joan of Arc makes an appearance too. In the book’s conclusion, titled “You can be a hero,” the author notes that “there are as many ways to be holy as there are people” and encourages young readers to act virtuously. A Prayer for Virtue and Litany for the Virtues of the Saints round out the book, as does a discussion/journaling section titled “How can I train to be a hero of virtue?” Readers in fourth grade through middle school will enjoy this book.

 


Copyright 2017 Barbara Szyszkiewicz
This post contains Amazon affiliate links; your purchase through these links helps support this blog. Thank you! I was given a free review copy of this book, but no other compensation. Opinions expressed here are mine alone.

On Barb’s Bookshelf: The Franciscan Saints

In the month when we celebrate the Feast of St. Francis of Assisi (which is actually a solemnity if you’re a professed Franciscan), it’s only fitting to read about some notable figures among his followers. There’s a long list of official Franciscan saints, but author Robert Ellsburg did not limit the selection to canonized saints in his new book The Franciscan Saints (Franciscan Media, 2017).

Franciscan saints

I discovered quite a few surprises in the table of contents, noting that the foundresses of several religious orders of women in the nineteenth century were listed: sisters from some of these orders educated members of my own extended family. And once I saw that the table of contents was organized chronologically (by year of death) I immediately went to the back of the book to discover more about contemporary Franciscans notable for their heroic virtue.

Father Mychal Judge, OFM, was listed, of course. The first certified victim of 9/11 died as he ministered to others dying after the attack on the World Trade Center. Judge, like a few of the other figures who died since 2000, has not had his cause for sainthood advanced enough (yet) to be referred to as “Servant of God,” an early step in the canonization process.

Learn more about the process of canonization in this video from Busted Halo:

I was also surprised to learn that St. Roch, to whom many members of my family have had a particular devotion, was a Franciscan. (I probably shouldn’t have been surprised by that; for over 100 years my family attended a parish staffed by Franciscan Friars.) My grandmother had a relic of St. Roch — the first holy relic I had ever seen.

The saints in this book come from all walks of life: missionaries, princesses (yes, a princess!), poets, widows, martyrs, reformers, Secular Franciscans, prophets, mystics, stigmatists, and popes.

This book will be useful when members of my Secular Franciscan fraternity choose patron saints at the beginning of the year. We’ll have quite a few new names to choose from and new saints to get to know.

Teens preparing for Confirmation would do well to check out this book; the biographies of each saint are brief (averaging 2 pages) and include a quote (usually a quote from the saint).

I enjoyed this peek into the “who’s who of the Franciscan family” and flagged several saints for further study. If you like to learn about saints and you’re particularly interested in Franciscans, The Franciscan Saints is an excellent starting point.

Barb's Book shelf blog title


Copyright 2017 Barb Szyszkiewicz, OFS
This post contains Amazon affiliate links; your purchase through these links helps support this blog. Thank you! I was given a free review copy of this book, but no other compensation. Opinions expressed here are mine alone.

On Barb’s Bookshelf: Super Girls and Halos

Barb's Book shelf blog titleI always felt like female superheroes were for sporty girls who were physically strong, and beautiful too — and who could rock a form-fitting, skimpy costume.

Yvonne_Craig_Batgirl
By ABC Television – eBay itemphoto frontphoto back, Public Domain, Link

I did like that Batgirl’s real name was Barbara, like mine, but that was about it for my appreciation of superheroes.

I love that Maria Morera Johnson began her new book, Super Girls and Halos (Ave Maria Press, 2017), with a quote from the only superhero movie I ever liked: The Incredibles. Mrs. Incredible is probably the first “supergirl” I could relate to. She’s a mom. She worries about her family. She’s the most real superhero I’ve encountered.

incredibles

Comic books and action movies aren’t my go-to genre, maybe because I didn’t find superheroes relatable. My taste in comics, as a kid, ran more to Archie than to Wonder Woman, and you won’t find either Betty or Veronica in this book. But superhero comics, movies, TV series and video games are super-popular, and I think Maria has hit on the reason for that:

We can envision ourselves in the roles we see on the screen and respond to these courageous characters with admiration and appreciation for the fortitude or integrity they exhibit. Characters such as Katniss Everdeen and Wonder Woman often resonate with us because we admire their virtues. We might live vicariously through their fictional adventures, but can emulate their traits, such as courage or justice, in our daily lives. (viii)

super girls and halos

Let’s chat with Maria Morera Johnson, author of Super Girls and Virtues: My Companions on the Quest for Truth, Justice, and Heroic Virtue:

Was it difficult to pair up the fictional heroines with real saints?

The fictional heroines were easy — they are my favorites! The saints, however, had a way of finding me. A saint of the day would pop up when I was organizing the heroine’s attributes. Or I’d see a holy card and investigate. I mean, I’ve had these Catholic things around me, now they were suddenly coming to life! The most dramatic happened on vacation in Scotland when I encountered a small shrine to an Australian saint, St. Mary MacKillop. I’d say, the saints wanted to play with me, and I was happy to invite them along for the adventure.

Unlike the heroines who depend only upon themselves and the development of their human virtues, the saints, cooperating with God’s plan, receive the gifts of the Holy Spirit to help them grow in holiness. They accept God’s will in their lives, regardless of the sacrifice or tedium. This can be called heroic virtue. (xv)

Which saint/heroine pair was the most surprising to you?

I think Rey from Star Wars and St. Clare of Assisi caught me off guard. It was a tough section to write about, Justice, but it came together rather easily when I was able to find the right saint and the kind of heroic virtue that understands God is due our worship as well as our love. I think people understand Wonder Woman in a chapter about Justice, but Clare, who is peaceful rather than warrior, has raised some eye brows and a little head-scratching. I think I do the pairing justice, if you’ll pardon the pun.

As a lover of literature, I find that the most compelling, realistic characters are those that remain true to their natures. (xii)

Which saint or heroine do you think is most like you?

I definitely found Dana Scully from The X-Files to have a similar, or at least familiar quest for the Truth. It’s the most personal chapter in the book, where I talk about my own falling away from the faith and my struggle to come back. It pairs beautifully, I think, with St. Benedicta of the Cross, who converted to Catholicism after leaving her Jewish faith for atheism. Most of us are familiar with Edith Stein, and so she immediately popped into my mind for pairing with Scully. Dare I say these were matches made in heaven? I crack myself up … but I think there’s some truth to it!

As we move from the heroines’  stories to the lives of saints, we see how the cardinal virtues, strengthened by God’s grace, led these women to holiness. We learn through these saints that we grow in virtue by practicing the tenets of our faith, too. (xiv)

And now for some book-launch fun, courtesy of Maria Johnson! Enter her social-media contest for a chance to win a Wonder Woman plush OR a T-shirt featuring a truly Catholic heroine.


Copyright 2017 Barb Szyszkiewicz, OFS
This post contains Amazon affiliate links; your purchase through these links helps support this blog. Thank you! I was given a free review copy of this book, but no other compensation. Opinions expressed here are mine alone.

On Barb’s Bookshelf: Girlfriends and Other Saints

Teresa Tomeo’s spiritual writing has a style all its own; she’s funny without being shallow and she doesn’t hesitate to tell it like it is. Best of all, you don’t need a degree in Sacred Theology to benefit from her books.

I enjoy Teresa Tomeo’s books for women because she blends the lives of the saints with our everyday lives. Last summer I interviewed her about her devotional, Walk Softly and Carry a Great Bag. This week, Word Among Us Press will release her new book, Girlfriends and Other Saints–just in time for Mother’s Day.

girlfriends and other saints
I’m a fan of the cover art for this book–vintage-y fonts and really cute shoes! It’s a great complement to what you’ll find inside; a great mix of saintly wisdom for our everyday lives.

But what sealed the deal for me with this book was Tomeo’s examination of the story of Martha and Mary in the chapter titled, “Can We Talk?”

We often leave Martha right there in the kitchen with her sister and the Lord, seeing it as an “aha” or “gotcha moment” for all the anal-retentive and obsessive-compulsive types in our lives. We tend to maximize and celebrate Mary’s actions and minimize or criticize Martha’s words. But have we ever stopped to ponder the fact that Martha was being very honest with the Lord? Don’t we all want to admit that at times we have felt the same way as Martha did with the “Marys” in our own lives?…Martha needs to be taken out of the box and reexamined, especially when we see her interacting with Jesus in other, much more dire situations.

Could it be that Martha’s deep faith and trust in God…was what had allowed her to be so brutally honest with Jesus as she was busy preparing dinner? Can we talk? Well, Martha certainly could, because when it came to talking to the Lord, she didn’t hold back. Jesus used her honesty and comfort level in these situations to share some deep insights into the love of God. (33-35)

I am one of those people who particularly identifies with Martha in that famous story. There are stories of saints all through this book; you’ll definitely find one or more saints whose stories resonate with yours.

So if you take away just one message from this book, I hope it’s this: that the saints are there for you. There are one or more of them with whom you can identify, a saint that understands your personality as well as your plight. Let’s do our best to embrace the saints, both in heaven and on earth, all the holy men and women that God puts in our path to help us enjoy this life as we travel to our final destination (from Conclusion page 131)

Girlfriends and Other Saints would make a terrific Mother’s Day gift for the mom in your life, or for your best girlfriend.

The Fine Print: I was provided a copy of this book from Teresa Tomeo Communications for the purpose of this review. I was not compensated in any form for the review. Opinions expressed here are mine alone. Amazon links are affiliate links; thank you for supporting my website by purchasing through my Amazon links.

#WorthRevisit: When Kids Listen to the Homily

I’m looking back at a post from April 2006, when I discovered that sometimes my kids actually DO listen to the homily!

My children have never, EVER commented on a homily before, unless it is to remark (complain?) at the length of it.

Yesterday on the way home from church, Big Brother observed, “Father really dissed the Apostles in his homily today!” He was clearly impressed that this could be done. And I think it was good for him to notice and hear this message: those Apostles, even though they had been blessed with Jesus’ constant presence for three years, still managed to mess up! They fell asleep, denied Him, abandoned Him during the crucifixion, and locked themselves in someone’s second floor room, only to disbelieve the first few people (Mary Magdalene and the other women) who saw Jesus resurrected. And Jesus let them have it. But then he still let them lead His Church.

I remember that day, and I remember which priest gave that homily. He always made no bones about Peter’s tendency to speak loudly and think later, and about James and John, the “Sons of Thunder” and their overbearing mother with her entitlement complex.

More and more, I find it comforting that the Apostles weren’t perfect.  We tend to think that they (and the saints) were. But if we let go of that idea, and consider that they all found ways to mess things up, it can be a great comfort to us when we don’t get it right.

By Albertino Piazza  - www.bildindex.de, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=8665288
By Albertino Piazza http://www.bildindex.de, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=8665288

We’re not perfect. Neither were the saints. Neither were the Apostles. But Jesus picked them anyway. It’s good for us to realize it–and it’s good for kids to hear Father “dissing” the Apostles. Because in the end, God made it all work out.

worth revisit

I’m linking up with Reconciled to You and Theology is a Verb for #WorthRevisit Wednesday, a place where you can come and bring a past & treasured post to share, and link up with fellow bloggers!

#WorthRevisit: St. Therese

At daily Mass on Monday, Father gave me two hosts.

Actually, he gave most people two hosts, unless they receive on the tongue.

The gentleman in line ahead of me stopped, looked at his hand, and said to Father, “You gave me two.”

“Yes. Yes, I did,” replied Father, and continued distributing Communion to the other people in line.

After Communion Father mentioned that he should have said something before we all lined up. He was giving everyone two hosts because they want to deplete the reserved Eucharist in the tabernacle before Holy Thursday.

With two churches in our parish and a succession of substitute priests this spring, we have a lot of consecrated hosts in those tabernacles. So on Tuesday, when Mass is celebrated in the other church, we all received two hosts again (this time, with fair warning from Father before Communion.)

I expect that the same will be true today.

story of a soul tan classicsWhenever I receive a portion of a host, it makes me think of the moment in St. Therese of Lisieux’s autobiography, A Story of a Soul, in which she worries about only receiving part of a host:

I do not normally feel any anxiety about going to Holy Communion, but there was one occasion when I did. There had been a shortage of Hosts for several days, so that I had received only a small piece, and on this particular morning I most foolishly said to myself: “If I only receive part of a Host today, I will know that Jesus does not really want to come into my heart.” I went up, and to my joy, after a moment’s hesitation, the priest gave me two complete Hosts: what a lovely answer! (p. 105)

I actually like when I receive only a piece of the host, because it makes me recall an extra time, “This is my Body…broken for you.”

4c738-shirtofflame

For #WorthRevisit Wednesday I’m linking to my review of Shirt of Flame, which chronicles author Heather King’s year spent delving into the life and work of St. Therese.

…this is a saint to whom I don’t take easily.  A priest once described her in a homily as “immature, fussy, and a bit of a drama queen” and I’m inclined to agree.  I read her autobiography as a teenager, and I think it appealed to me more then than it does now that I’m fortymumble years old (I’m actually 50 now) and most of my idealism has melted away amid the cares and worries and chores of taking care of my husband and family.

That book got me reconsidering my opinion of St. Therese.

Have you ever found a book that completely altered your thoughts on a particular saint?

worth revisit

I’m linking up with Reconciled to You and Theology is a Verb for #WorthRevisit Wednesday, a place where you can come and bring a past & treasured post to share, and link up with fellow bloggers!

Little Drops of Water: Perfect for Easter Baskets!

Have you figured out what’s going in your children’s Easter baskets this year? Why not tuck in a little something that’s a real reminder of their faith, along with the jelly beans and chocolate bunny?

When I saw the prototypes for the Little Drops of Water figurines this past summer at the Catholic Marketing Network trade show, I was captivated. They are adorable!

little drops of water (1) sm

The founder of Little Drops of Water, Miguel Amaral, told me the fascinating story behind this product: it was dreamed up by his daughter, Anna, who’s a young teenager now, and who wanted to help introduce the stories of the saints to her younger brother and his classmates. The figurines began as drawings and are available as now toys, charms, refrigerator magnets and snow globes. There’s even a Nativity set coming soon!

These cute little resin statues stand about 3 inches high and are just right for little hands to hold onto. Plus, they’re not breakable like the religious statues my children were given as gifts. Those fragile statues were “look, but don’t touch” items that had to be kept on high shelves, away from little hands–and little eyes couldn’t see them (and still, somehow, the hands broke off the Blessed Mother.) Little Drops of Water are made to be handled by young children, and their cute little faces will make them irresistible.

At Eastertime, you might like the Divine Mercy fridge magnet! You’ll also find such favorites as Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta, Pope Francis, Our Lady of Guadalupe, St. Anthony, St. Patrick and St. Therese of Lisieux among the many collectible choices. In addition to the 24 statues in the original product line, 26 more are planned for this year and some of those are already available.

Check out their Facebook page for more photos, including pictures of statues in production–that was cool to see!

Little Drops of Water statues sell for about $15 and last a whole lot longer than a chocolate bunny! They’d be a great gift for First Communicants as well.

As for me, I’ve got the Holy Family statue sitting on my kitchen windowsill. What a great reminder to pray for my own family–and I don’t have to worry that it will break if it falls down into the sink.

You can purchase Little Drops of Water at their online shop, through The Catholic Company or at your favorite religious-goods store.

little drops of water (3) sm

The fine print: I received product samples for the purpose of my review, but no other compensation. Opinions expressed here are mine alone.