Very Young Catholics in Your Home? The ‘Very Young Catholic Project’ Is for Them

This series of books is an effective way of communicating the beauty of the Church to young people.

A selection of ‘Very Young Catholic’ book covers
A selection of ‘Very Young Catholic’ book covers (photo: Holy Heroes)

I sometimes like to leave things out on the counter in the kitchen, the busiest room in the house, to see how my nine children will react to what is there. Of course, as any parent knows, I also know not to leave anything there that I hope to keep from them. The latest item left on the counter (on purpose) was a pair of books with brightly colored photographs of children on the covers — two books from the Very Young Catholic series by Emily Koczela.

The title of one book indicates that it is about children in Iceland, and the pages inside are filled with photographs of the children, their families, their priest, the activities the children enjoy doing, and the beautiful landscape of this extreme northern country. 

The text gives a vivid picture of what it is like to be a child in Iceland with their many stories, their value for family lineages, their love of Tolkien’s tales, the geographic features of their country, and, in the case of this family, their Catholic faith. These lessons are all communicated in the form of stories and conversations that are engaging for children, similar to the conversations they would have.

The other book’s cover indicated that it was about children in Kenya. This book, too, is filled with images of children, their families, their homes, and even some of the wildlife in Kenya, famous for its game preserves.

It tells stories about the lives of three children from different parts of Kenya, including the First Communion of the girl that appears on the cover. Koczela uses this opportunity to include some catechesis on the Eucharist, the Mass, and other beliefs of the Catholic Church.

I remember distinctly, while on a mission trip to a country in Central Asia, being surprised at myself for being surprised at the Christian presence in that country. I realized that I had always thought of Christianity from the perspective of an American, and I thought of Christianity as an American phenomenon. I realized that God was not an American, but he was and is the God of the whole world. These books gave me a similar impression.

The catechesis is more explicit in the book about the young Catholics in Kenya, but the teaching about Catholicism is embedded throughout both books, woven artfully into the stories and conversations. Each book gives a different cultural perspective as the faith is discussed in the context of family life in very different cultures with very different histories. The Catholic Church truly is Catholic, i.e. universal, for people of every color of skin on every continent. It is the same Mass happening continuously somewhere in the world, no matter what the language or the cultural heritage.

So, when I left the books out, it did not take long at all for my kids to pick them up and start looking through them. In fact, within a few hours, I had lost track of one of the books and had to interrogate the children to find out where it went. One child told me that he was surprised how similar their lives are to his. Another child told me that she was surprised how different their lives are from hers. 

Even in our own home, unity and diversity are on display. We are one faith, and we see that one faith from different perspectives, just as my children could read the same books and have different reactions. Children of every skin color are members of the Church, just as our natural and adopted children of different skin colors are members of one family.

Kozcela has teamed up with Holy Heroes to launch an online program to go with the books. The online program includes more photographs, questions and answers with Kozcela, recipes, games and other activities to make the Church around the world visible and accessible to young people. More information is available here.

Some philosophers have identified beauty as unity in diversity. It is not easy to gain access to the global perspective on the Church to see just how different we all are in the midst of the one faith that unites us. The Very Young Catholics series is an effective way of communicating the beauty of the Church to young people.

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