Years ago, Catholic religious education abandoned memorizing questions and answers from the Baltimore Catechism in favor of construction paper, glue, markers, and “God is love” posters. Those of us who were children in the 60s and early 70s were not inculcated with a vocabulary from which to easily pluck answers to faith questions, but we were still steeped in the rich Catholic tradition of grace rather than rules. The Gospel of Luke and epistles of John made so much sense to my childhood mind because I knew beyond a doubt that God’s love is everywhere and God loves everyone, especially the marginalized.
To the credit of parents and catechists during those decades, the words for how we expressed our beliefs were changing, including and especially those of the Eucharistic liturgy. The one thing we had to hold onto that transcended this was the vocabulary of rituals and symbol, the practices of our faith.
Lent was especially formative at this time, because the season came with a wealth of rituals and symbols. Fasting, abstinence, and alms-giving all had strong sensory elements. The Rosary and Stations of the Cross are a marriage of the words of prayer, actions, and images. Then there is the Triduum, the liturgical pinnacle of the Church year, rich with word and symbol, that leads us into the celebration of Easter.
Parents today—in contrast to those of 60 years ago—are incredibly fortunate because the words of faith and the language of symbol have been woven together in a wonderful array of media geared specifically for young Catholics. This week’s short list of CatholicsRead resources shows how our Church community continues to nurture the expression of our faith for our youngest members.
First, the Word comes alive in the Catholic Bible for Children from Catholic Book Publishing Corp. This collection of richly illustrated Bible stories for children—from the story of creation to the travels of Saint Paul—is bursting with text and illustrations that will both teach and delight children. Keep this on the bedside table to read from each night of Lent as part of your family practice of prayer.
The central ritual of our faith is the Eucharist, the heart of our sacramental tradition. The Real Presence, written by Claudia Cangilla McAdam and illustrated by Gina Capaldi, published by Ascension, opens up participation in the Eucharist and hows how God is present in this great gift. The age-appropriate story about Zedekiah and Abigail, two young cousins living in Capernaum at the time of Jesus, leads children to discover along with the characters something more important than their presents.
Totally Lent! 2022: A Kid’s Journey to Easter from Pflaum Publishing Group is the daily guide for your children from Ash Wednesday through Easter. Each day features a new page of reflections and activities, with weekly introductions designed to help young people explore Lenten practices and learn more about how their Church celebrates throughout the year. If you still haven’t landed on a Lenten practice for your family, this resource could be the one for you!
These three resources invite kids and families today to the practice of Lent, a gift they can hold onto for decades to come.
Therese Brown is the Executive Director of the Association of Catholic Publishers. She holds a master of arts degree in youth and liturgy from Catholic Theological Union in Chicago. She previously served as senior marketing specialist at United States Conference of Catholic Bishops Publishing Office. She is the author of Graced Moments: Prayer Services for the Lives of Teens (World Library Publications). She resides in the Baltimore area.