Thursday 29 September 2011

Second Spring Catechesis

Take a look inside, and help your child follow along with the new Missal translation!

Some years ago we started our own publishing with the idea of producing high-quality artwork in children's colouring books in service of an imaginative and symbolic approach to catechesis. That simply means that rather than talk to kids about religious ideas, we would show them. Our colouring books use the symbolic language of Nature and the Bible to introduce children to the mysteries of the Catholic faith. One of our books is written by Scott Hahn. The beauty and enjoyment of interacting with the illustrations means that the child enters more deeply into the symbolism and the "visual language" of faith - the same language we find in icons, illuminated manuscripts, stained glass windows, mosaics, and frescoes.

In developing this approach, Leonie Caldecott was partly inspired by Sophia Cavaletti. Leonie saw it as an application of the fundamental principle of the new evangelization: the intimate association of truth and goodness with beauty. This implies a vital role not only for intelligence and will but for imagination in religious formation. The Vatican has called for an “evangelization through beauty”, since this is the main way in which modern people can still relate to the Christian tradition and begin to grasp its meaning for them. But the first challenge was getting children to relate to the central act of worship, the Mass, which is why our lead title was always THE MASS ILLUSTRATED FOR CHILDREN, now issued in a revised edition, with improved illustrations and a text drawn from the new translation of the Roman Missal - so that the book can be used not only for colouring but as a first Missal, helpfully guiding the child through the unfamiliar prayers and responses of the Mass. (Order now, for delivery in October.)

Second Spring Catechesis involves taking the child, and the child’s sensibility and culture, much more seriously than most other forms of catechesis have done. It opens windows in the child’s imagination through which the vision of the faith can be transmitted, or (to vary the metaphor) it prepares the ground and plants the seeds for a later, more intellectual appreciation of the faith in the child’s mind. To nourish the child’s sense of mystery and of the sacred is essential for the healthy development of the life of faith and prayer through the difficult years of adolescence that lie ahead. The further benefit of exposing children at an early age to a wide range of rich and beautiful imagery lies in helping to perpetuate the best artistic traditions of Christianity. By fostering an appreciation of how icons function to express religious truths and support the interior life, Second Spring Catechesis thus complements and extends the work being done for an older age group by David Clayton in Thomas More College’s “Education in Beauty” program. Indeed David himself has illustrated two of our books for children, adapting his knowledge of traditional styles and techniques for the purpose. New titles are in preparation for next year, but in the meantime we hope you will order THE MASS for your parish or class, either through our UK distributor Prompt Reply, or if you live in N. America through our US distributor, Thomas More College, who can also give you current US prices.

Wednesday 28 September 2011

"I See All"

Consisting of around 100,000 little black and white pictures with captions, interspersed with many gorgeous full-colour themed pages like this one, I See All (click on title for link) was billed as the "world's first pictorial encyclopedia" when it started appearing as a part-work in 1900, edited by Arthur Mee. Like the more recent Look and Learn, which I wrote about earlier, it is available online or in ebook format. My family inherited a set of the bound volumes, and I remember poring over it as a child. The imagination of a child invests such things with an intensity of life and colour - and an "atmosphere" - that grown-ups have mostly forgotten, until perhaps they chance on an old comic book or encyclopedia and experience a wave of nostalgia. We learn more from these experiences of beauty than we can put into words. I will be featuring some of the colour pages from this publication in future posts. They may be useful or inspirational to someone.

Tuesday 20 September 2011

Purpose of education

At the end of Part Four of G.K. Chesterton's What's Wrong with the World comes this wonderful quote, which is worth pondering:
There was a time when you and I and all of us were all very close to God; so that even now the colour of a pebble (or a paint), the smell of a flower (or a firework), comes to our hearts with a kind of authority and certainty; as if they were fragments of a muddled message, or features of a forgotten face. To pour that fiery simplicity upon the whole of life is the only real aim of education...
I take this out of its context, where he is talking about female education in particular, to encourage you to go to the original. The passage ends with the famous motto: "if a thing is worth doing, it is worth doing badly".

Wednesday 7 September 2011


One way into a study of medieval history for some children is the aesthetic pleasure of heraldry - an imaginative delight in the visual symbolic language employed by feudal knights to distinguish themselves in battles and tournaments. The Church still has her own elaborate system of ecclesiastical heraldry, devising formal emblems for bishops and popes. Another angle would be especially appropriate for families reading Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings. Not only did Tolkien develop several viable languages for his "secondary world", including varieties of Elvish, but he even devised a series of mandala-like heraldic emblems for the different Elvish houses - you can find them online here or here. Some children will be fascinated with these, and they could be used in many different ways by homeschoolers (as I suggested in a previous post). For example, you could explore the symbolism of shapes and colours and how these relate to the story, or you could make black and white versions to colour in, or you could invent new ones (for example make a heraldic emblem for your own family or those of your friends). This in turn could lead you to compare Tolkien's symbology with traditional European heraldry. The subject also opens the door to possible discussions of symbolism in general, and of tradition, and of chivalry. You might like to read Chesterton on "pictorial symbols" in his book The Defendant, the chapter on Heraldry, or passages in his novel The Napoleon of Notting Hill where he talks about the "ancient sanctity of colours" and at the end of The Man Who Was Thursday where the six protagonists are clothed in symbolic vestments representing the days of creation... Then again, there is the whole subject of chivalry, that code of male ethics with which the Church tried to channel the aggression of feudal Europe in a more spiritual direction - but that calls for a separate post.