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Enriching Children’s Understanding of the Mass

In this Year of the Eucharist, parents looking to enrich their children’s appreciation of and engagement in the celebration of the Mass now have a new resource.
by Lisa M. Hendey | Source:
Catholic Author Interview with Anthony Mioni, A Child’s Missal
In this Year of the Eucharist, parents looking to enrich their children’s appreciation of and engagement in the celebration of the Mass now have a new resource. A Child’s Missal (Patmos, June 2004, hardcover, 32 pages) strays from the typical, cartoon-like presentation adapted by so many children’s worship resources. Rather, this high quality book incorporates elegant artwork, sacred scripture and color photography of the parts of the Mass to create a book that little hands will learn to respect and cherish.

I recently spoke with Anthony Mioni of Patmos, the publishing company responsible for the creation of A Child’s Missal to discuss this book and tools for Catholic parents hoping to instill a love of the Eucharist in their families.

Q: Anthony Mioni of Patmos, thank you for creating this wonderful resource for Catholic families, A Child's Missal. Before we discuss this beautiful book, please begin by telling us about Patmos and your mission.

A: Thanks Lisa, I’m really pleased to have the opportunity to talk with you and all your visitors about A Child’s Missal and Patmos. Patmos is a media publishing company in its first year of operation with big plans for bringing out more books and, God willing, other media in the near future. We are interested in helping adults, children and families to understand the liturgy of the Church and to bring the liturgy’s riches into their lives or maybe I should say, to bring their lives into its riches. We are committed to helping families to pray with the Church, which for many of us, means learning to pray in a fuller, richer, more beautiful way. (You can see all of our products at www.patmos.us) I’m glad you think A Child’s Missal is beautiful! We aim at making all of our products as beautiful as possible because to enter into the liturgy is to enter into the world of sacred beauty like the children in C.S. Lewis’ The Last Battle shouting “Further up and further in!”

Q: With this being the Year of the Eucharist, A Child's Missal would be the perfect gift for any Catholic child. What makes this missal unique and special?

A: A Child’s Missal is unique in concept and graphics. Conceptually it shows children how the parts of the Mass parallel particular events in Jesus’ life. The child is led to experience the Mass as a making present of the very actions of Christ’s life especially his Last Supper, Passion, and Resurrection. Further, children are invited to make their own lives one with the life of Christ, to live, die to self, and rise with Jesus. The parallel between the life of Jesus and the Mass are further reinforced and enriched by text and graphics showing how Christ life and sacrifice were foreshadowed in the Old Testament.

A Child’s Missal communicates primarily through pictures and symbols and only secondarily through text. We did this for a couple of reasons. First, this is the way the Liturgy itself communicates: through sounds, sights, smells, symbols not primarily the written word. Second, this approach opens up the missal both to children that can read as well as younger children who cannot yet read. Third, like it or not, movies, television, computers and other image-heavy media play a huge part in our world. This is the world that most children live in and prefer.

Q: I loved the role of the Guardian Angel in A Child's Missal as a guide and mentor for young Adam. Why was it significant to include this character in the missal?

A: I really like that feature too! In the first draft we had a little Dante being guided by Beatrice but we saw that the Guardian Angel would be better. The artist who did those wonderful illustrations is Adam Repka and his name works perfectly as the name of “every child.” We wanted children to realize that they each have an angel who always looks on the face of God in heaven, and that when they go to mass they really enter into that heavenly court where their angel always worships God. As the subtitle of Scott Hahn’s book The Lamb’s Supper says, the mass is “Heaven on Earth.”

Q: What age range are you targeting with A Child's Missal and what is your goal for this devotional resource?

A: Generally the missal is aimed at children between the ages of 4-10. Because it can be understood solely in terms of its images or with the read with text and images together, readers and nonreaders alike can use it. (A thirty-something friend of mine takes it with him regularly to mass and says that now he finally understands the mass!) Another way of thinking about it is that the missal appeals to both right-brain and left-brain learners. As far as the goal, A Child’s Missal is something we offer to parents, children, and the Church in the hope that it will draw children to the Lord who loves them so much.

Q: What advice would you give to parents of young children who want to assist their young ones in fully understanding the mysteries of the Mass?

A: Any parent who wants to inspire her child with love for the Mass must first learn to love it herself. This is a huge question, but I would recommend the practice of lectio divina as the best way of entering into the world of the Bible and the liturgy. Here at Patmos, we are busy preparing an easy-to-understand guide to help people begin praying according to this ancient way of prayer. A Google search on that term will bring some good resources. Parents who buy A Child’s Missal for their child should not merely hand it to them, but read through it carefully, and spend time discussing and explaining the Mass in light of what it teaches.

Q: What can families do to encourage reverence and prayerful attention during Mass?

A: The problem of attention is a hard one especially given that contemporary culture encourages the scattering of attention. The first thing to see is that the problem is not just something that comes up at Mass, rather it is a matter of cultivating a virtue or good way of acting that will be carried over to Mass. With this in mind parents should do all they can do to create a beautiful and orderly home and train their children to value beauty and order. This means taking positive and well as negative steps including eliminating music and other entertainment that hinders that full development of their child’s personality. This is a tricky business and takes a lot of prudence. But the most important steps are positive, because kids as well as adults are naturally attracted to the good, the true, and the beautiful.

Q: The artwork in A Child's Missal is truly spectacular. Please say a few words about the talented illustrators who collaborated on this project.

A: Thanks, I agree, and I give great credit to our artists who have put so much love and labor into illustrating our books. Two artists worked on A Child’s Missal: Sister Anne Marie McCormick did the iconic renderings of the scenes from Christ’s life, and Mr. Adam Repka did the Guardian Angel pictures and the illustrations that go with them. Sister’s work can also be seen in two other Patmos books: Rosary Book: The Joyful Mysteries and Evening Prayerbook. She is a self-taught artist who is currently studying icon writing under a Russian master. Mr. Repka works professionally as a decorative artist, and has done much work in the Eastern U.S.

If you like A Child’s Missal then you should certainly check out the art in our Rosary Book. It features big beautiful icons for each of the mysteries by Sister Anne Marie as well as smaller iconic illustrations by another wonderful artist, Silvina Juarez, a mother of six. (You can get a good look at this book on our website.) I notice that your site offers a lot of coloring pages. Your Moms will be interested to know that Patmos will be bringing out in a month or two, the first in a series of coloring books on the life of Christ featuring Silvina’s graceful and inspiring art.

Q: Thank you again for your time and participation in this Catholic Book Spotlight. Are there any closing thoughts you might like to share with our readers?

A: It was a real pleasure to have the opportunity to talk about our work. In closing I would encourage parents to take the time to discover the riches of the Church’s liturgy. In it they will find the strength and resources they need to truly and deeply nurture their families. C.S. Lewis said somewhere that “heaven is an acquired taste.” Well the taste that we need to acquire is a taste for liturgy since the Bible makes it clear that we will spend our eternity celebrating it. The fact that such a prospect sounds less than appealing to most of us shows how little we understand what liturgy really is. It is the mission of Patmos to provide the tools to individuals and family to help them acquire a taste for heaven.

For more information about A Child’s Missal visit http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0974174815/catholicmomcom

Lisa M. Hendey is a mother of two sons, webmaster of www.catholicmom.com and www.christiancoloring.com, and an avid reader of Catholic fiction and non-fiction.

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