Santa Claus, toy commercials and holiday specials can muscle out the real meaning of the season for the youngsters.
But there is help to get the kids focused on Jesus for the real meaning of the season that starts (but doesn’t end) on Christmas Day.
The first is with a brand-new audio CD series called “Holy Heroes.”
Recently launched by Ken Davison, who with Jim Morlino, was co-creator of “Glory Stories” heard weekly on Ave Maria Radio and EWTN radio, “Holy Heroes” aims to help youngsters grow in the faith and get closer to Jesus. On board again as co-creator is Morlino along with Brian Shields, producer of the movie Thérèse.
Right in time for Christmas, this series in English and Spanish begins with “Holy Heroes — The Joyful Mysteries” — the first of a four-volume “Mysteries of the Rosary.” A short explanation introduces each mystery about the conception, birth and childhood of Jesus, then before each Hail Mary a child reads a Scripture verse describing that mystery so everyone gets a more complete picture in mind.
“It’s in a simple way the young children can comprehend, but it really is a family type of approach,” Davison said. Children recite the Rosary on the CD yet nothing’s done in “child talk.”
“When you pray the Joyful Mysteries, how can you not but have your mind focused on Christmas, the Incarnation,” said Morlino. “Praying those Joyful Mysteries with the extra scriptural foundation is really going to support that anticipation and joy that is coming.”
The “Holy Heroes” companion coloring book tells how this first CD also focuses youngsters on Jesus beyond Christmas. It’s called “The Childhood of Jesus/La Niñez de Jesús.” The beautiful illustrations are the work of former Disney animation artists. Captions come directly from Scripture.
Morlino envisions “Holy Heroes” can help introduce families into the beneficial practice of making the family Rosary a fabric of their daily life together. Already the “Holy Heroes” creators have a proven record of inspiring youngsters with 10 “Glory Stories” dramatizations of saints, mixing narration, actors, music and sound effects to restore what Morlino, the audio/video producer for the Legionaries of Christ in North America, called the lost art of radio drama.
The mother of four girls and one boy, the oldest 11 years, Jeanine Murphy of North Salem, N.Y., finds “the saints come alive in the stories” for her older girls. “Listening to the actors acting the story out takes it to another level for them,” she said
Murphy sees each saint’s special devotion to Jesus coming through to make for a role model for the children. As a result she’s looking into the “Holy Heroes” CDs.
“Holy Heroes” scripts in the works will complete the rest of the Rosary, add the Stations of the Cross, and dramatize stories of Bernadette of Lourdes, Father Michael McGivney and Archbishop Fulton Sheen for young listeners.
Davison said Dominican Father Juan-Diego Brunetta, director of Catholic Information Service for the Knights of Columbus, reviews all the scripts.
“We want to keep this ongoing and relevant,” Davison said. Parents and children can subscribe to receive the new “Holy Heroes” CD every month.
“Cat.Chat,” a new Catholic audio show to help kids learn and love their faith, has a fine focus for the season in Vol. 5 — “A Christmas to Remember.”
“With the series, kids learn the basics of the faith in different aspects,” said Gerald Montpetit, from Saskatchewan. Gerald and his wife Denise, a Catholic school teacher, are the creators and producers of “Cat.Chat.”
“They learn about preparing the manger of their heart for Christmas and not filling it with material things,” he said.
Music plays an important part in this series too. In this CD, traditional carols join original ones by Gerald like “Prepare My Heart,” one of his many Catholic songs for the series. Singers include Catholic recording artist Janelle and two combined children’s choirs.
Gerald and Denise came up with the dramatic scripts combining songs, prayer and interesting conversations about faith.
“A family is the core for each show, and Moses the Cat is the host on each CD,” explained Gerard Montpetit. “He’s a door that basically opens and softens the hearts of the kids to ultimately hear the message proclaimed on each CD.”
Moses helps the Montpetits fulfill their goal: “To entertain and catechize kids in the faith.”
Kids learn more about Jesus in other “Cat.Chat” stories, including “Mary Leads Me Closer to Jesus,” “Jesus in My Heart,” “The Mass Comes Alive” and “An Extra Special Easter Vacation.”
While “Cat.Chat” caters to 3- to 11-year-olds, “our target is the whole family so the whole family can grow with this, as well,” said Gerald. It has already led to memorable moments.
One rambunctious 7-year-old boy who knew nothing about the faith got a “Cat.Chat” CD from a friend. He listened to it over and over and then got the whole series. His non-Catholic parents ended up coming into the Church and the boy now feels God is calling him to become a priest.
“Obviously God was working in their lives,” said Gerald, “and “Cat.Chat” was one of the tools he used to bring this family into the Church.”
Advent, Christmas, and Epiphany in the Domestic Church was written by Peter and Catherine Fournier, founders of the family apostolate Domestic-Church.com. They draw from John Paul II’s writings, especially his 1981 Apostolic Exhortation Familiaris Consortio (The Role of the Christian Family in the Modern World) as they give practical advice and present activities on how to live our incarnational faith, beginning this season.
“To bring Jesus back into Christmas for children you need to make Jesus real for children — you need to incarnate him for them,” said Catherine. The Fourniers’ book shows how to make Jesus real for the kids.
One is to use stuffed cloth or plastic “playable” figures of the Nativity so youngsters can act out the whole story on the floor, like moving the Wise Men closer to the crèche each day. The book also teaches to “add incremental decoration of the home,” Catherine noted.
“You’re anticipating the birth of a baby,” she said. “With one decoration a day or a week you heighten that sense of anticipation of the birth of the baby Jesus.”
Catherine Fournier pointed out a second major way to re-focus on Jesus. “If you want to bring Jesus into Christmas, by golly you need to make room for Jesus,” she said. “There are a whole lot of distractions cluttering up our Christmas and that means there’s no room in the inn.”
The book centers attention on Jesus right through to Epiphany, as sparkling lights turn on, goodies are eaten and parties held.
“We end it with a big bang on Epiphany,” she said. Children can dress as Wise Men and dad leads a family procession from room to room, sprinkling holy water and blessing the house.
To focus on Jesus continues right away as children learn now is the right time to begin to “force bulbs” so daffodils, hyacinths and other flowers will bloom in time for Easter. Which leads to the Fourniers’ next book, Lent and Easter in the Domestic Church.
Focusing on Jesus this way stretches beyond one generation. Catherine said their oldest daughter Faustina now carries on the same traditions to focus on Jesus with her two small girls that she learned as a child.
Staff writer Joseph Pronechen
writes from Trumbull, Connecticut.