Reasons to Celebrate
Ann Applegarth recommends The Year Our Children: Catholic Family Celebrations For Every Season by Mary Reed Newland
THE YEAR & OUR CHILDREN:
Catholic Family Celebrations for Every Season
By Mary Reed Newland
329 pages, $19.95
To order: sophiainstitute.com
BY ANN APPLEGARTH
Here, just when so many parents need it desperately, is a beautiful glimpse into the sort of Catholic home that nurtured our grandparents’ faith, along with solid advice to help today’s mothers and fathers create a similar “domestic Church” for their children.
First published in 1956, this updated edition of The Year & Our Children brings to modern parents the faith, wisdom, experience and creativity of a wife and mother who raised six sons and a daughter — by the teachings of the Church, not popular child psychologists.
What exactly can children learn from a family celebrating the Christian year? Courage. Purity. The art of friendship. Wholesome use of the senses. Wise use of time and talents. Gratitude. Discernment of vocation. Respect. Generosity. A healthy understanding of suffering and death. In a word, sanctity.
Parents needn’t feel inadequate to this task. Newland, who writes as if she were chatting over a coffee, quickly reassures parents that, with the help of God’s love and grace, they are perfectly suited to their calling.
“We were a typical American family stirred by … the desire to draw closer to the Church and what she was doing as she moved from one season to another,” she writes. “We were seeking ... a life for our family that was wholly Christian and would allow us to grow in the knowledge and the love of God in the times in which we live. To see that the Church lived the year made the difference.”
For the Newlands, it wasn’t — nor can it be for any family — an instantaneous change. “We were a long time reaching the point where we fell naturally into the practices we now use to celebrate feasts and keep vigils,” she writes. “Because it was new to us, we were awkward, even embarrassed.” But, after years of learning by successes, along with “things that never quite came off,” they established the year of spiritual activities — the prayers, crafts, litanies, delightful family times, and recipes that celebrated the faith throughout each year.
Just like the seven Newland children, today’s Catholic youngsters need to learn the meat and potatoes of their faith and to understand the difference between martyrdom and the mindless violence that permeates 21st-century toys, computer games and entertainment.
For example, Newland tells children that two of the three St. Valentines were beheaded, that St. Lawrence was roasted, that St. Paul’s conversion involved “fright, cries, gritty dirt in his mouth, blood on the tongue,” that Isaiah was sawed in half — Christian truth that, unlike a sensational diet of “Doom” or reality TV shows, engages the whole child and sustains throughout a lifetime.
Because The Year & Our Children is also the endearing story of a particular family, readers would have appreciated a more detailed author’s biographical note and a photo or two. And, while the foreword mentions “the problem of working mothers,” those moms who must work would have appreciated suggestions for using the book’s ideas with a limited amount of time at home.
Yet any celebration of the Church year in a family’s life brings blessing, and parents who can embrace this powerful example fully will discover a sublime new richness of domestic spirituality.
Ann Applegarth writes from
Roswell, New Mexico.
- November 11-17, 2007