Sunday, January 13, 2013

Off the Shelf: We and Our Children

This 1954 text has now been republished by Sophia Institute Press as How to Raise Good Catholic Children. I know because I happened to purchase copies of both!  Fortunately, The Book Depository was very good about the fact that this had happened because they had no description on their site and refunded the purchase price of one.  I actually happened to read the How to Raise Good Catholic Children copy because it was the first to arrive - but I believe they are same except for some errata which have been corrected in this copy.

Anyhow, I actually think the new title does the book a disservice because although aspects of it are pertinent only to Roman Catholics, much of it is a very sound basis for giving you child a strong Christian grounding in life.  Mary Reed Newland is such a clever writer that it feels like she is in your loungeroom having a good old chat to you.  Her book is littered with real life examples.  She covers ground from baptism, training your child in good behaviour, making your child feel secure, death and teaching your child to be a good student.

She starts by telling us that a child needs to know he is loved by God.  In toddlerhood he does not need to know the intricacies of who God is.  It is enough to know:

God made me.
God made me because he loved me.

Newland writes:
Without an adequate knowledge of God's love, the bottom drops out of everything.  A merely vague indication that He's somewhere about and loves them is a small comfort when they're really hurt and heartsick.

I learned this in a way I shall never forget.  After a nasty display of temper, prompted by something I can't even remember now, I found Monica, then six, watching me with concern.  When I asked her what she was thinking, she said, somewhat timidly "You said I mustn't be naughty if I want to be a saint, so I was asked God to help you not be cross, so you can be a saint."

That I had trampled all over her with my peevishness was a matter of deep shame, but above that, there was profound gratitude that, driven into solitude, she shared her solitude with God.  How terrible the loneliness of a child without God at such a time.

She also tells us how we can teach our children about the holy spirit indwelling since baptism. 

"God loves you so, dear, that it was not enough for Him to send you down to earth and then stand far away in Heaven and watch you.  He cannot bear to be parted from you.  So when you were baptised, at that very moment, Heaven opened and, faster than the wind, God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit came rushing down to make their home in your soul."

I had a good old chat about this with Ginger (2 1/2) and I can tell you it has had an impact.  Early this week, she started a monologue (these can sometimes be quite extended, particularly around lights out time LOL): 

"Jesus lives in my heart.  He will come out and I will say 'Hello'.   Jesus died for all his friends."

Ok, so she has the mystery of the Trinity a little muddled (but it perplexes seasoned theologians so she is not alone there) but its a start.  Also we are not really sure where the Jesus dying concept came from as we can only recall mentioning it to her when we read the Easter story back in April....and she surely wouldn't remember it from then.  Maybe seeing the crucifix at church?

One of Newland's ideas I loved was teaching children that work can be prayer. Newland says we can teach children to understand that work done for the love of God is as tangible an act of love as if they were to run to Him with an embrace.  

Not that tasks we hate doing are suddenly transformed into occasions of great spiritual joy but there's a great difference between doing them because you're told you must, and doing them because they can be applied to the sufferings of some other child somewhere, who has not bed to make, who must spend his nights curled up in a hole, shivering, started, unhappy, and with no one to care for him.

I have jumped about the book a bit writing this precis but goodness is this a sterling read.  I am sure I will be making good use of We and Our Children in the years to come.

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