Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Review: St. Patrick's Summer

A Children's Adventure Catechism
by Marigold Hunt, illustrated by Theodore Schluenderfritz
Softcover, Sophia Institute Press, 2005, 288 pages
ISBN: 192883292

I recently read St. Patrick's Summer aloud to my children. They absolutely loved it! Frequently, they begged for "just a little more," and I enjoyed it so much that I often obliged.

The set-up: Michael and Cecelia need help preparing for their First Holy Communions, but Mrs. Murphy, their teacher, is at her wits' end. She says their questions would stump a bishop. So she asks St. Patrick to help and he does so in a most unusual way: by appearing to the children, showing them events from the past, and answering their questions.

As we read, I was delighted to discover:

  • explanations that really make sense to kids -- and adults
  • Michael and Cecelia are hilariously true-to-life
  • the saints are wonderful characters, full of gentle humor and fun -- people I would love to have for my friends.


Because this book was originally written more than a half-century ago, the Catholic Church's view on a couple of items has developed since its writing. These points are:

  1. The fate of babies who die unbaptized (ch. 5, pp. 81-2) is presented as definitely lower than that of baptized infants. However, the CCC says (m. 1261):
    As regards children who have died without Baptism, the Church can only entrust them to the mercy of God, as she does in her funeral rites for them. Indeed, the great mercy of God who desires that all men should be saved, and Jesus' tenderness toward children which caused him to say: "Let the children come to me, do not hinder them,"63 allow us to hope that there is a way of salvation for children who have died without Baptism. All the more urgent is the Church's call not to prevent little children coming to Christ through the gift of holy Baptism.
  2. In the story (also in ch. 5) St Patrick tells the children that the "Supernatural Life" that men from Adam to Jesus had access to was the same as the sanctifying grace of Baptism that we have access to in and through Christ. Whether faith in a future Messiah by those who lived before Christ's passion and death resulted in the same sort of grace as that which results from Baptism now is not clear, and a very difficult matter to understand. To treat it as if it were answered in such a simple fashion is to distort the truth. Such an assertion does not belong in a children's book; it's at best a source of great confusion and could well be false. Thanks to Maria Rioux for helping me clarify my concerns on this point.

I'd recommend this book as a highly enjoyable religion supplement for children in approximately grades 3-7, although all ages will enjoy it as a read-aloud.

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