If there is a young child in your life—a son or daughter, a grandchild, a niece or nephew, or a neighbor—wouldn’t you want to see them develop a deeper friendship with Jesus? Wouldn’t it be wonderful, too, if they could understand and appreciate the Mass more fully?
Angela Burrin’s new book, Jesus Speaks to Me About the Mass, is one very engaging way to help everyone who shares this desire. Beautifully illustrated in full color, the book draws children in and gently helps them learn how to meet Jesus at Mass and how to hear him speaking to their hearts as the Eucharist unfolds. Combining a warm, personal style with an insightful use of Scripture passages, Ms. Burrin draws on her years of experience as an educator and catechist to help make the Mass come to life for young readers. As a mother who has helped her four children prepare for First Communion, I wish I had had this book years ago!
Connecting with the Bible. One outstanding feature of this book is its use of Scripture to help children understand and connect with each part of the eucharistic celebration. Fifteen chapters present the Mass step-by-step, each one leading off with a Bible story that sheds light on that particular section. And the choice of stories is spot on!
In considering the Gloria, for example, Burrin brings the reader’s imagination back to the angelic chorus at Bethlehem (Luke 2:13-14). And when she discusses the Prayer of the Faithful, she turns to the four friends who lowered a paralyzed man down through a roof (Mark 2:1-12). Stories and images like these can go a long way in engaging a child’s mind and opening up new ways for them to understand the liturgy.
The rest of each chapter draws out the connection between the Scripture passage and the particular part of the Mass. The explanations are clear and practical, offering specific suggestions of how the child can respond. Upon entering the church: “As you genuflect, say, ‘Jesus, I love you!’” At the Penitential Rite: “When you say, ‘Lord, have mercy, Christ, have mercy,’ picture your heavenly Father running to you and hugging you.” At the Sign of Peace: “If something upsets you, worries you, or makes you afraid, say, ‘Jesus, I know you are with me. Fill me with your peace.’”
Each chapter ends with a brief prayer that can help the child respond to the theme more fully.
Jesus Speaks to Children. The book’s title reflects its tone—it is written in the “voice” of Jesus, as if he were speaking directly to the reader. This can really help children to connect with him. They “hear” Jesus express his delight at their participation in the Mass, assure them of God’s love, and encourage them to pay special attention to specific parts of the liturgy. This personal, conversational tone conveys a crucial message: Jesus wants to speak to you directly!
In addition to the brief, informal prayer that ends every chapter, the book supplies several pages of well known prayers like the Our Father, Hail Mary, Guardian Angel Prayer, Act of Contrition, and Prayer before a Crucifix. Children can use these prayers as part of their own personal conversation with the Lord either right before Mass or after Communion.
Along with the prayers, the book’s last pages contain a wealth of useful information. There are pictures of things to look for in church: the sanctuary, altar, chalice, baptismal font, processional cross, and so on. These can make for a fun game of “I Spy” after Mass has ended. Also shown are the colored vestments—green, white, red, violet, and rose—that the priest wears throughout the liturgical year. (Be warned, though, that you will have to explain when and why each color is used!)
Unpack the Treasure Chest. Each section of Jesus Speaks to Me About the Mass is so rich that I recommend going through the book chapter by chapter over a period of time. Reading it all at once might be too much for young minds to absorb.
Before Mass each Sunday, the child could read one or two chapters, and then bring the book to church to review as the Mass progresses. This would give time to get the most out of each section, paying special attention to one or two aspects of the Mass each week. Taking it slowly can also give the child the opportunity to internalize Jesus’ words more deeply. Once you have gone through the entire book this way, the child could continue bringing it to Mass to help follow along.
When I first read Jesus Speaks to Me About the Mass, I was asking myself how effective it might be for its intended audience of young readers. For children, surely, the book is both instructive and inspiring as it draws them into a conversation with Jesus about something they do every week.
But as I kept thinking about it, I realized that this book isn’t just for children! The more I read and pondered Jesus Speaks to Me About the Mass, the more eager I was to go to Mass and meet Jesus more deeply.
Hallie Riedel and her family live in Adamstown, Maryland.
Jesus Speaks to Me About the Mass (hardcover, 48 pp.), is available from The Word Among Us at 1-800-775-9673 or online at www. wau.org.