Thursday, May 20, 2010
Comparison: Child's Guide to the Mass and The Mass Book for Children
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.
Finally, 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.