I was recently very pleased to be sent a book by a fellow Catholic mama, Patti Armstrong. She is a homeschooling mom of ten, and Catholic speaker/author. As you might have guessed, the book she sent me was one her very own: Catholic Truths for Our Children, published by Sceptor Publishers, Inc in 2006. You can find out a lot more about her and her ministry, as well as buy her book, from her website: raisingcatholickids.com
I read this 188-page, fourteen-chapter book in exactly fourteen days - a chapter a day. Armstrong introduces her book from the heart, expressing that it wasn't until her children began to grow, and she wanted to pass along the Catholic faith to them, that she realized, her catechetical knowledge was lacking a little bit. She had a good foundation from her years of being in Catholic school, but was missing a lot of links, namely, the true heart of most of Catholic doctrine. I myself have been there. I learned a lot of facts in Catholic school. You asked me what something was, and I could tell you. But ask me why something was... and I'd draw a blank. Once Armstrong knew she wanted to truly educate her children on the faith, she had to start with herself. From there, was she able to obtain and then pass on the full deposit of faith that our Church contains.
Armstrong's book has a nice flow to it, starting with the basics of Christian Faith and moving forward from there, each chapter covering an important topic, such as the Trinity and the Incarnation, Church Authority, and Our Blessed Mother to name a few. Throughout the book, she cites fathers of the faith, doctors of the Church, popes, official Church documents, The Cathechism of the Catholic Church, and of course, the Bible. In fact, she uses the Bible more than any other source to support each of the topics of faith she discusses, which is both refreshing and reassuring to any reader. It's a comfort to Catholics and non-Catholics alike to delve into these doctrines with the Scriptures as our helm.
Each chapter starts off presenting the topic, and the diving into a brief yet solid explanation of the doctrine. From there, Armstrong introduces several questions or counter-arguments that may arise as you teach these ideas to your children. In this, she is very thorough, which I think the readers will be grateful for. She doesn't leave you high and dry in front of a precocious eleven year-old, who is ready to throw all kinds of shockingly ingenious wrenches into what you thought was a well-crafted explanation of something. (Trust me, I know... I was once that precocious eleven year-old. And also a former junior high teacher. Kids are smart and deadly curious.) No, Armstrong gives you plenty of ammo. For example, right in the beginning, when explaining the most basic of all topics - the existence of God, you will come to a point in your conversation where you discuss God as the Creator of the universe. You will say that from Him, all things were made, and that nothing can be made without him. To demonstrate this point, you can ask your child to create something all by himself out of absolutely nothing.
At this point in the chapter, I was sold. I thought, "Ha! She's got you little kid! You can't create something out of nothing!" Well, fortunately for me, Armstrong thought ahead, and whether from her sheer wit or vast experience, she writes:
"If your child thinks he has outsmarted you by saying he could spit, or blow his nose or somehow put something into the room, counter that everything that your body produces comes from something that has been put into it. Our bodies are only able to exist if we do put food and water in. And only God can put life into the very bodies he made and they can only continues to live if we take in the food and water that he also created."
Genius! Well, first of all, bravo, young spritely child for your brilliant and courageous idea of spitting! But many more bravos to Armstrong for her simple, well-crafted rebuttal.
Folks, this is how the whole book is. Well-formed, theologically-sound, and easily-digestible explanations of some very fundamental, but often complex topics of our faith, always backed by Scriptures and various other sources. Followed by an array of possible questions, doubts, arguments, etc. concerning the topic, each which is then dealt with in a concise, intelligent, and elegant manner.
She ends the book on a note of encouragement, inviting and inspiring her readers to take the time to always pray as a family. She speaks on the importance of prayer in our lives, and gives many helpful suggestions of ways to pray with our families, and even includes many popular Catholic prayers.
Throughout the book, right through to the end, Armstrong exudes a humble brilliance, stemming from her own faith journey and parenting experiences. This book is a wonderful guide for any Catholic parent who is in the process of educating their children in the Faith. This book is also immensely valuable to those who are not Catholic, or maybe have fallen-away or are just not up-to-scratch on their catechetical knowledge, as a way to begin learning about our beautiful Catholic faith in a book that is and informative.
I would definitely recommend this book to parents of all kinds, and know for a fact that it will remain on my bookshelf for years to come, especially during the years when my kids decide to come up with some annoyingly clever argument involving snot or nano-atomical anti-matter or something. :)