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Sunday, June 21, 2009

The Book of Life by Henri Daniel Rops

Oh, what a delightful web we (can) weave,
When first we practice to succeed,
in re-telling the Gospel..

OK. I’m playing around with a favorite old quote, but Rops did succeed in a most- helpful presentation of the Gospel.

As a cradle Catholic (or long-time Christian), does it ever occur to you that maybe you’ve grown a little accustomed to… JESUS? I mean, you know the Christmas story inside and out, you can recite the Our Father and Hail Mary semi-conscious, and your relatives as far back as you can remember can recite who Jesus is, where he lived, his mom and dad, and his mission. So… do you ever wonder what it might have been like to be one of the first persons to ever hear of this man and have to wrestle with the question: “Who do you say that I am?”

To truly start to grasp the concept of the Incarnation, to realize that God became man so that His very nature allowed Him to die for the sins of all mankind and every individual man… changes everything. That dent in your new car is no longer even a blip on the radar screen of life.

I know we’ve heard this before, but it doesn’t mean it’s easy to grasp. (Especially if the dent was a hit-and-run.) My tween is currently reading (and getting a lot out of) a book on the history of the Church. But I want her to capture, even a bit, the unique and transforming time of the early Church. I want her wrestle with: Who do YOU say that I am?

When I ordered this book, I actually didn’t have high hopes. I was encouraged when I received it and found short chapters, black and white pictures, maps, and the parts of Jesus/Mary’s’ lives life broken into chapters, sections, and subtitles. I thought this made it more accessible to my tween, who is tiring of my enthusiasm for longer tomes of scholarly work.

She didn’t take to reading it on her own, so… I am reading it aloud to my broad range of tweens (8 – 13). And, I am chagrined to say, I am giving them coloring and craft ideas to do while I read so that I can keep them enthralled. Well… so I can keep them listening for a long period of time.

Because, besides the crafts they are churning out… they are getting something. Mainly, they are getting what I’m about to quote from the book, that I made them recite after me (yes, I did), several times before I commenced reading:

You see now how fortunate we are to possess this wonderful little book which brings to us so much light and truth. Every time you go to church on Sunday you hear an extract from the Gospel, but we should also follow it from beginning to end, for it is all beautiful and there is not a word in it that is not of value to us. It is of the whole Gospel that I am going to tell you in this book.

So maybe they didn’t listen with the greatest enthusiasm. They liked The Hobbit much better out loud. But the beauty of this book is that it is the story of the Gospel, told to tween-agers, as a cross between a textbook and an exciting chapter book. That makes it an above-average textbook and a worth-hanging-in-there fun read.

For parent like me with the ulterior motive of “bringing the gospel to life,” it scored above-average. I can recommend adding it to your curriculum as a supplement, whether you homeschool or not…

This review was written as part of the Catholic book Reviewer program from The Catholic Company. Visit The Catholic Company to find more information on The Book of Life.

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