Thursday, May 20, 2010

Comparison: Child's Guide to the Mass and The Mass Book for Children

Child's Guide to the Mass
At the beginning of our school year, I wanted to read a book with the children that would help prepare them for Sunday mass. We started with Child's Guide to the Mass by Sue Stanton, with illustrations by H.M. Alan.. The children loved it. They liked the little questions included in the text and the "hide-and-seek" items on some of the pages. In fact, they seemed to think the illustrations as a whole were fun.

Kansas Dad and I were not quite so impressed. First of all, the book seems to depicts a mass like a "folk mass" popular in many churches complete with a guitar player which Kansas Dad in particular dislikes. Also (and I realize this is a small point of contention, but it's my blog), the priest shakes hands with members of the congregation during the Sign of the Peace. Finally, it just made mass feel like too much fun, if that makes sense. Mass should be awe-inspiring and joyful...but not really fun.

It's not a terrible book and we do still read it if the children request it, but I was on the search for something else.

Next we tried The Caterpillar That Came to Church: A Story of the Eucharist - UN Cuento De LA Eucaristia (Spanish Edition) by Irene H. Hooker (with text in both English and Spanish). This book is recommended in Catholic Mosaic: Living the Liturgical Year with Literature an Illustrated Book Study for Cathoilc Children, but Kansas Dad and I didn't like it at all. It's not like the caterpillar receives the Eucharist or anything (which would be overtly wrong), it just seemed to give the caterpillar a little too much importance. I also didn't think the illustrations were anything amazing. I did read it to the children once or twice, but then we passed it on to another family.

The Mass Book for ChildrenFinally, I ordered The Mass Book for Children by Rosemarie Cortler and Donna Piscitelli with illustrations by Mimi Sternhagen. This book was a much greater success! The text follows the mass quite closely and includes phrases and words that build their mass vocabulary. The illustrations engage the children with a focus on the priest and Christ's presence at the mass. It seems to convey much more of the reverence of mass than the previous two, but is still focused on the little ones listening to the book. We've been reading it on Monday mornings so we all have some time to think about the book rather than rushing through it.

I still really like The Mass Explained To Children by Maria Montessori, but it will be better to use in a few years, perhaps as preparation for First Communion. It was also written before Vatican II, so there are some slight changes (namely that the congregation responds rather than the altar servers and that our mass is in English, though our parish does have a Latin Rite mass once a week or so).

Another resource the kids have really enjoyed is Vol. #4 "The Mass Comes Alive" from Cat.Chat. We haven't even listened to the entire CD, as we only have an excerpt from Lighthouse Catholic Media, but the kids love it. One of these days I'll order this and some others in the collection.


  1. Okay, so I was wondering for sure if you were Catholic, and now I KNOW. YAY!! My goodness, I really think I need to meet you sometime because I think we really have a lot in common. Loved this post. Thanks for the info. I have started doing some Faith Formation with Gemma, and there is soooo much out there, good and otherwise. I am currently reading "The Year and our Children" by Mary Reed Newland and really liking it.
    just finished the Montessori book (loved it!) and Guiding Your Catholic Preschooler (fair).

    Oh goodness, don't even get me started on guitars and drums and all that at Mass. ACK! As I have gotten older, I feel such a stronger draw to orthodoxy and just, well, not going to Mass to be entertained (by the music or otherwise). I love the Latin, the incense, the organ, chant, etc. and really wish we saw more of that in the western Church. I have a friend who is an Orthodox Christian, and always enjoy chatting with him. I really wish we had more options around here when it came to some of the Eastern Catholic rites.

    I'd love to chat sometime, can I bring you a meal when your babe arrives?

  2. So glad to see a book review on Mass books for kids. I think I've seen the one you like at the bottom in the Catholic Company's catalogue and have contemplated ordering it for Ira. We may just have to get it, since it sounds like a good one!

    Thought of First Son on Tuesday (Ira spent the whole day watching movies) because we watched "Larry Boy and the Angry Eyebrows." It was pretty cute! It was the first time we'd watched any of the Larry Boy videos.

  3. Monica, you can certainly bring a meal when baby arrives! I would never turn down food! Are you close enough to Michelle for a play date? We could all get together somewhere. I'm sure the kids would have fun. Also, have you read Parenting in the Pew? It's not Catholic, but very helpful for teaching about behavior at mass.

    If you're interested in Scripture, First Son adores his Beginner's Bible. It's not Catholic (of course), but he will tell you he knows everything in it, and he really does. It's amazing. (We have four or five children's Bibles of various persuasions, so we do have Catholic ones and more challenging ones, but I'm not going to complain about his love of the Bible stories.) And he loves all the saints stories he can get his hands on or that we read to him. The 2009-2010 homeschool books link in my sidebar lists the saints stories we read as part of kindergarten. I'm sure some of the Little Books of Saints or St. Joseph Picture books would be good for Gemma's age, too. (First Daughter likes them, but it's hard sometimes to know what she likes just because First Son likes them.)

    Michelle, the Angry Eyebrows is one of our favorites. If I haven't already, remind me to tell you a funny story about First Daughter and a guest priest that you'll enjoy once you've seen this video.

  4. We like the Mass Book for Children as well. I noticed an improvement in the kids' attention at Mass after we read it(that has somewhat lapsed however, we need to read it again, I think!).

    And we're not fans of the guitar/drum Masses either. I always tell my husband to offer it up if we end up at one of those. :)

  5. H of B, I should tell my husband the same thing. We're always joking about how caring for small children should decrease time in purgatory -- as long as we remember to offer it up!


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