Saturday, November 13, 2010

Book Review: The Year & Our Children

The Year & Our Children: Catholic Family Celebrations for Every SeasonThe Year and Our Children: Catholic Family Celebrations for Every Season by Mary Reed Newland

I've been wanting to read this book for a long time and was very excited to have the opportunity to borrow it from Monica. (She was lucky enough to get a copy from Sophia Institute Press through their blogger review program.)

In this book, Newland writes through the year, telling of all the ways her family celebrated the feasts and liturgical seasons. This is not a book of crafts. There are a few, of course, but it's mainly a book of explanations of the feasts (and how to explain them to children), prayers, and prayerful decorations. So many of the exercises, activities and crafts she describes have a meaning associated with them that can be discussed as the preparations are being made. In fact, Newland insists the discussions themselves are the most important part!
The object of these customs is not simply to have customs. The popular women's magazines are full of pretty customs that relate to not very much at all. What we want our customs to do is to perfect in us the love and knowledge of God, assist us through the days and months and years of preparing for Heaven. We want to pray to the best effect. Praying with the Church day after day, we add our voices to all those in the Mystical Body who are praying with Christ, our Head, thus ensuring that we give honor and glory to our Father in Heaven.
I found so many ideas in this book for us to consider. I'm a firm believer in establishing traditions gradually. Each year I try to expand our liturgical celebrations. While it might be nice to do everything every year, I feel it unlikely to be successful, especially now when it seems to take most of my energy to take care of the minimal laundry, dishes and meals (even with Kansas Dad's help). So, we'll choose a few of these for this year, but mainly I noted them for future years. (I recently decided I need a liturgical year binder. Someday I'll get that made and will share it with you all. I'm sure others have already done something similar.)

Many of the feast and celebration explanations were not really necessary for me and a great many of them could be easily researched online. I thought a few of them seemed to go on rather long, too, like the extensive coverage for St. Patrick's writings. It is nice, though, to have such a complete record in one place. It would be possible to build all of a family's celebrations around this one book if one were so inclined.

Discussing the fest of St. Joseph, Newland writes a wonderful description of a very important part of our job as parents, helping children discover their vocations:
Vocation can mean only one thing to the Christian: the way to God. It is how He wants us to go to Him.
A vocation is God's secret. We see signs. We try to help our children discover their gifts and use them, but God is the only One who knows. Every day is an unfolding, and growing up is the discovering, but we can only wonder until it is revealed. And some never know, because the tragedy of our age--or one of them (there are so many)--is that men are dedicated to self-discovery, and discovering themselves, they often go no further, and never discover God. Self makes no sense without its relation to God. What is great out our selves is that they are made in the image and likeness of God, immortal, imperishable.
A few of my favorite suggestions:
  • a puppet show on the eve of St. Nicholas's feast day (what fun!)
  • handing out "soul cakes" (donuts) on All Hallow's Eve so the children can contemplate eternity as they're eating (I've always wanted to make donuts and now we have the perfect excuse...next year, when we don't have a three month old.)
  • celebrating the Apostles by making gingerbread cookies (or other cut-out cookies) decorated with symbols for each one and a guessing game before you can eat
  • painting a Christ candle during Advent which shows the Old Testament stories to explain Christ's coming and prefigures his coming. The candle is lit at Christmas to show Christ has come as the light of the world. This is my absolute favorite idea in the entire book and we are certainly going to do it together as a family once the children are older.
I found the tone of the book conversational and encouraging. There are a lot of things in here our family is unlikely to do anytime soon (like processing around the yard with homemade banners for feast days), but I found much here we would enjoy and think it will one day make a good addition to our library.
The will is tempered and made strong and pure only by its cooperation with the Holy Spirit. Here is where our choice lies. We choose to work with Him or against Him, and whatever our choice is here fortells our fruits.
The book is most certainly Catholic and would be less useful for non-Catholic Christians who would not be celebrating many of the feasts described. If any non-Catholic friends skim through it, let me know if you incorporate anything into your own family traditions.

Disclaimer: I did not receive anything in exchange for this review. I borrowed the book. Many thanks, Monica!

1 comment:

  1. You are welcome. I'm glad you liked it! I thought it was good too, and did a presentation kind of centered around it for my Catholic Motherhood group a few months back. It is nice to have many sources from which to grab good tidbits of information/ideas. Great review!

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