By Andrea Perkins
Last year I wrote a brief post on the importance of bringing the rhythm of the liturgical year into our homes. This is something that I, together with my husband, am continually learning how to do. We have a young family (three children ages 5, 3, and 6 months), and in this season of life it can sometimes feel like we’re taking one step forward and two steps back as we seek to establish lasting habits and traditions. Three lessons stand out from these early years. First, great plans always fall flat if what we expect of our children is not developmentally appropriate! A young family is constantly changing and growing, as is our life of faith together. Second, it takes time for a family to fall into proper orbit around the Church year. Third, no two families are alike, and so the particular way they live out the calendar will vary. We can only do our best, work diligently and prayerfully, and trust that by God’s grace it will come together.
We should always remember, though, that the best way to help our children meaningfully engage the Church year is for us, as parents, to live the liturgical year. The first and most obvious way we do so is through faithful attendance at mass and participation in the life of a local parish. Each person and family should also look for ways to bring those liturgical themes and rhythms into the "domestic church" -- that is, the home. Within the life of the home, each family will have to determine what “works” and what doesn’t. Thankfully, we have the help of our tradition, a local parish community (hopefully) -- and good books!
We have found books for children particularly rewarding in living out the rhythms of the Church calendar. Therefore, I am always on the hunt for good children’s books (they are not all created equal!) that tell stories of Scripture and Church history. It’s especially fun to keep some books “special” and interesting by only pulling them out during certain liturgical seasons or feast days. Doing so draws out and emphasizes a certain sense of wonder inherent in the rhythm of the Church year.
To that end, Earth & Altar is launching a series titled, The Christian Year in Story. Each month Earth & Altar will highlight and review a particularly helpful book or set of books to serve as a resource for parents, godparents, and parishes seeking to build a library of formational books.
The first in this series is Enid M. Chadwick’s fantastic little volume My Book of the Church’s Year, first published in 1948 and recently reprinted by St. Augustine Academy Press.
My Book of the Church’s Year by Enid M. Chadwick
The Church’s story is a great story--one that enfolds each of our little stories, bringing meaning to our lives year after year. The story never gets old; it only grows richer and more beautiful. This valuable book draws out the theological meaning of the Church’s story, making the central events of our tradition accessible to the youngest child among us.
Enid Chadwick (1902–1987) was an Anglo-Catholic who was, according to Bishop Chad Jones, “for all practical purposes, the official artist of the restored Anglican Shrine [of our Lady of Walsingham] throughout much of the twentieth century.” She took great pains to include wonderful details both in the illustrations and in the theology of My Book of the Church’s Year. As Peter Kwasniewski points out in the introduction to the recent reprinting, Chadwick’s book “is informed by a deep Catholic love for the seasons of the year, the feasting and fasting, the great holy days, the pageantry of the saints and their stories, the underlying rhythm that connects nature, culture, and sanctity.” Later he refers to it as “a colorful tapestry,” and there couldn’t be a more apt description.
Little ones will enjoy flipping through the pages and admiring the images, while early readers will find the simple titles and descriptions very accessible. Older readers will be able to take in the bigger picture, recognizing the arc of the liturgical year, references made to our Eucharistic theology, and the timeline of Church history. Even parents may find themselves challenged to learn more about the Church’s feasts as little ones ask questions about the symbolic details of the illustrations!
Let’s take a closer look.
The Feast of the Epiphany: In this simple, two-page spread we learn where the feast falls in the Church year, what it celebrates, and the great theme of the Epiphany season: namely, the life-changing gift of Christ’s incarnation for the whole world. In the days following the feast of the Epiphany on January 6, we are reminded of other important manifestations or “showings” of Christ: as a youth in the temple, where Jesus expresses his divine mission to be about his Father’s work; in the waters of the River Jordan at his baptism, when the Spirit descends upon him and God’s voice identifies Jesus as His Son; and at the wedding in Cana where Christ’s public ministry begins with the miracle of turning water into wine. So much learned from two small pages!
There are many wonderful entries to choose from but I want to point out two more that are particularly engaging.
For Lent Chadwick lists the three disciplines we pursue in our quest for holiness: prayer, fasting, and almsgiving. You’ll note, though, that she helpfully identifies how these disciplines help us achieve holiness. They are our weapons! Prayer is our weapon against the devil, fasting against the flesh, and almsgiving against the world. In simple and accessible terms she has helped us realize how Lent prepares us to better serve God by putting to death those things that would hinder us.
For Pentecost she has the descent of the Holy Spirit infusing small illustrations of each of the sacraments, beautifully pointing to these seven ways that God’s Spirit is at work, through grace, perfecting our nature.
I could go on but will leave it to you to explore more fully. This book should be a staple in the Anglo-Catholic home! It is available for purchase from St. Augustine Academy press.
Andrea Perkins lives in Oviedo, FL with her husband, Fr. Mark, and three children. She is a parishioner at St. Alban's Anglican Cathedral.